Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Best emperors pt.1

Ancient Rome is a place where most of us instantly think of gladiators and the coliseum, but one thing that bothers me a bit is that most people (who are not ignorant, just naive) believe that the emperors were crazy power- hungry maniacs who had no idea how to govern. Well, for the most part they’re right. The majority of the Roman emperors were political illiterates, military failures and total idiots (this is an opinion paper). Most preferred to stay in the capital to dictate orders, throw games and live a life of luxury. It’s really a wonder how the Roman Empire managed to stick together for 500 hundred years with all these imbeciles taking the thrown. Well, the answer is quite simple. The work of the few good emperors who actually did something worthwhile managed to keep the Roman Empire intact for such a great length of time. These emperors managed to make great political, economic and military decisions that keep the empire in place even if a total idiot took the reins of power after them. In the following notes I will say which emperors were the best and why. (Remember this is just my opinion)
Now of course I can’t write about the best Roman emperors without mentioning Augustus. Now in my view he was not the best, yes you heard right I believe that Augustus was not the best emperor there ever was. But he is on the list and here is why. He’s the guy who started it all! The man who reformed the decaying republic into a stable monarchy for the next .....70 years or so haha. This is why I can’t give him too much credit. The Julian- Claudian dynasty made the Osbournes seem like the Brady Bunch. But by himself, Augustus is considered the godfather of Europe! The empire would have easily torn itself apart after the death of Julius Caesar if it were not for him. The Republicans (also known as the optimates) were famous for making decisions that benefited themselves and not the empire as they claimed to do so. Their primary interest was to keep their power. The early popularis minds (who were for the people if you haven’t guessed yet) recognized that the power had to be shared to some point to keep the balance. The best example is probably the Gracchi brothers and their land reform laws that got them killed. Others like Marius, Cinna and Julius Caesar used the people to achieve greater power for themselves. So the two can’t be seen as two different political factions, but just had different ways to achieve the power that all senators craved. It was either through the long established laws and codes that had kept the republic safe (rich get richer, poor get poorer in other words) or go straight to the people for their opinion (the people were naive and easy to please). So neither method was in anyway better than the other.
So yea! Back to Augustus, fuck I get off track sometimes. Another reason why Augustus was so great was that he reformed the political machine that was the dying republic. Instead of magistrates directly taking care of all the business he introduced a system where freedmen and slaves would run the bureaucracy on the orders of the appointed magistrates (It is important to remember that senators in power were friends of Augustus) slaves and freedmen were much more trustworthy than fellow senators that could also strive for power. A second bonus to this was that they could be trained in a specific area of specialty such as finances, letter writing etc.
The last reason I think Augustus was a great emperor was that he reformed the army into the 40 or so legions that existed at the end of the civil war with Mark Antony into just 28. There was no way that the state could fund 40 legions! So it had to cut down. All these legions were based in strategically placed areas of the empire where they would most be needed (The Rhine, Syria, Danube, etc.). He also introduced the 25 year system that would be in place for quite a long time after wards. This was where legionaries signed up for 25 years of service, 20 as a regular soldier, 5 as a veteran (who were exempt from normal duties).
So yea these are my crappy reasons why I like Augustus. Don’t worry I got much better stuff to say about emperors I actually appreciate. But that will have to wait!

as usual I dont check grammar when i write these so dont care about it!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

China's evergrowing pollution and its causes

China is currently a rapidly growing power in today’s modern world, both economically and politically. Their population accounts for 20 percent of the world’s total, therefore it would be evident that any event or phenomenon occurring in China should attract attention. For the reader who is unaware, China is currently facing a grave problem concerning pollution, especially in its urban areas. Pollution is the man made contamination of the environment that may cause adverse effects (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2001). Some of these effects include the increase of asthma among young children and high mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease. Both of these adverse effects have been linked to the air pollution in urban China (Watts, 2006, p.719). The pollution occurring in urban areas of China is the direct result of heavy industrial activity taking place near cities and towns. This activity has escalated to the point where China is embarrassed to claim to have 16 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities within its borders (Watts, 2006, p.179).
The Government has only recently recognized the danger of the pollution it has helped to create through policies advocated by it in the past. Now, the administration of China is attempting to reduce the pollution and clean it up. Some figures that helped the government change its policies about environmental damage were the yearly health costs for the nation which peaked in 2003. In that year it is estimated that health costs due to pollution cost the health care system 157 to 520 billion Chinese Yuan (Chen et al. 2009, p.187). The direct source of the pollution, heavy industry, has been pointed out and blamed in many sectors. For example, in Beijing, the capital of China, the municipal government spent 67 billion Yuan relocating and shutting down inefficient factories within the immediate area (Watts, 2006, p.720).
Even with major efforts from the Chinese government, not all industrial sectors can be slowed down. The economic demand for Chinese goods is too high in the country and around the world. China cannot afford to stop or slow the production of consumer goods on the grounds of environmental damage. This dangerous mindset is leading to the exploitation of environmentally harmful sources of energy such as oil and coal. China is one of the few countries who receive most of their energy from coal. It is also the largest source of pollution in the country (Chen et al. 2009, p.187). Today, coal accounts for 75% of all the energy sources used in China (Chen et al. 2009, p.187). The largest user of energy in China is not the population, but the major contributors of the pollution, industry. Heavy industry in China accounts for 70 % of all the energy used in the nation (He- Zhong et al. 2007, p.6). This is a key issue since industry is the direct source of pollution in China.
The people of China have not gone untouched from the pollution created from industrial production. Since heavy industry began in the 1960’s the lifestyle of the Chinese people has changed drastically. One reason for this is the pollution in urban areas which have seen a larger influx of population over the past decades. A case study done in Shanghai in 2007 to analyse the effects of pollution in individuals living in urban areas proved to have alarming results. Of all non-accidental deaths of that year, 49.1 % were correlated to cardiovascular disease, which in turn was linked to the heavy air pollution in the city (Chen et al.2008, p.1184). This is an indicator that pollution in urban areas is detrimental to the health of the population. Another significant statistic is the rise of asthma among young urban children in China. Since 1990, this condition has risen 64% among these children (Watts, 2006, p.179). These statistics have caused much alarm among the people and the government, clearly indicating that drastic measures must be taken.
An understanding of the past is crucial in order to be able to comprehend the present political, economic and social situation in China. Today, China is a communist country running mix capitalist policies as well, but this was not always the case. Before 1949, China was struggling to find its place on the global stage. At this time China was a democratic republic that had a capitalist economic system. The Chinese received much aid from the United States in order to change the government from an imperial monarchy to that of a republic (Murphey, 2009, p.413). During this time, the events of World War One and Two threw the world into upheaval and drastic changes were about to take over China. One important event that occurred in World War One was the Russian Revolution. Led by their charismatic leader, Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Bolsheviks managed to take over the country and establish a communist government (Spielvogle, 2005, p. 505). After a civil war with the old regime the communist government firmly established itself and began to spread its influence over its borders into Eastern Europe and into China (Spielvogel, 2005, p.505). One individual that this influence was to touch profoundly was Mao Zedong.
In 1921 the Chinese Communist party was founded by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao (Murphey, 2009, p.380). Mao was a young university student at the time, but would eventually climb to the top of the political party. In 1925 Sun Yat Sen , the first president of the Chinese republic, died and soon afterwards the country was thrown into turmoil. Mao Zedong saw this as his chance to put the Communist party in to power. Over the course of 20 years, different campaigns were thrown by diverse political parties in order to gain influence in the country. The Communist party used guerrilla warfare in order to gain power in China (Murphey, 2009, p.381). This finally escalated into an all out war in 1946 between the Kuomintang and Mao’s Communist party (Murphey, 2009, p.381). The war ended in 1949 with a Communist victory on mainland China and the Kuomintang isolated on the island Taiwan (Murphey, 2009, p.382). Mao Zedong was the first to unite all of China under one rule since imperial times. He used this power to change to face of China through the use of extreme policies of “advancement”.
Mao Zedong placed a great importance on the advancement of China on the world stage, so he implemented many policies which drastically affected the economy and the people. The first is the well known “Great Leap Forward” which focused to the intensive industrialization of China. Heavy steel production and the involvement of entire communities were the focus of the 1958 reform, but it proved to have disastrous results (Murphey, 2009, p.414). The forced involvement of entire communities was of course a step towards today’s employment in the Chinese industrial sector, but such a shift was not possible at the time. Secondly, the heavy industrial production was also the first step in major pollution in China. After the failure of the great leap forward, China fell into economic turmoil and would not recover until 1966 (Murphey, 2009, p.415). In 1966, after dealing with the consequences of the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong implemented a new policy called the “Cultural Revolution”. This is one of the most infamous movements in history as it was the unconcealed persecution of intellectuals and political opponents of Mao’s Communist party. Universities were closed and its young students were assigned to “productive labour” in the newly revitalized economy (Murphey, 2009, p.416). This had a severe effect on Chinese society because intellectualism was not permitted and all had to work for the benefit of the state. This once again, was another foreshadowing of the heavy industrial production seen today.
After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, China was about to experience a complete reversal of fortune for itself and its people. The newly appointed leader of the Communist party, Deng Xiaoping, initiated new free market reforms that would transform China’s economy (Benewick et al. 2005, p.23). Private businesses and the Chinese stock exchange were allowed to re-open after Mao had outlawed them in his regime (Benewick et al.2005, p.28). This rapidly encouraged the growth of industry and modernization was soon to take its permanent place in China. Xiaoping also established the right of certain economic zones to govern their economy on their own. This had a great effect on the Chinese economy since these zones chose to open themselves to foreign investment. Foreigners could now invest in low cost labour production (Benewick et al.2005, p.29). This encouraged the population to move to new destinations in order to make more income than the rural lifestyle would support. An example of one of these free economic zones is Hong Kong. In 1997, the British returned Hong Kong back to the Chinese government as part of a previous 1985 agreement (Murphey, 2009, p.493). Hong Kong to this day remains independent in almost all administrative departments except foreign affairs and national defence. The fact that Hong Kong retained its free market capitalist economy gained it much influence over the rest of the Chinese economy. To this day, China remains a communist country, but with many exceptions.
The topic of China’s growth and change over the past 40 years cannot be done justice in this paper alone. The best way to be able to explain this issue thoroughly will be through an interdisciplinary methodological approach. From this point of view it is possible to dissect and understand all the main components of China’s growing pollution problem. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary approach will give a broad range of information from diverse disciplines that otherwise would not be possible in another format.
The first approach to analyse China’s pollution issue will be through the use of political science. Political science is a social science concerned with the theories and practices of politics and the analysis of political systems (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009). Through the use of this social science the political actions of China will be analysed in how they have contributed to the country’s pollution. Through the use of political science, it can be examined how politicians have opened up to the world market since the beginning of the post-Mao era. Furthermore, how these politicians have exploited China’s resources to the world is also a topic worth revealing.
While it is true that the government is at the head of all changes in a country, it also has influence on other important parts of a nation. The second discipline approach will be that of economics. The economic sector of China is the direct source of pollution in urban areas. The industry performing at high levels to meet national and global demand emits a great deal pollution into the environment. This growing demand only creates more jobs. This in turn creates a greater demand from people receiving these jobs for higher end products of the urban lifestyle, such as cars (Abbott et al, 1999, 85- 86). The supply and demand theory can be applied directly to this situation. The idea of supply and demand is the base of all the economic advancement China is currently experiencing.
In order to understand the effects that the government and economy are having on the people of China, it is necessary to use the discipline of sociology. Sociology is the study of the interactions between different groups of people; for example, families. In this case different urban communities will be examined. The first group that will be analysed will be the large number of individuals leaving their rural homes in hope of finding employment in urban areas. Demographic transition theory underlines the reasons for this social shift between the rural life to that of an urban lifestyle (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009). The second group to be studied under the discipline of sociology is be the poor or in others words, the socially deprived that live in urban areas. The effects of pollution on this specific group, is a particular interests.
China is a country currently on the rise, but has some major issues to face because of this progress. The problem of pollution is presently at the top of the list of concerns for the Chinese as it has turned out to be completely out of control. On the other hand, the pro-growth economic policies encouraging industry exacerbates the problem. In all, the pollution that is detrimental to the health of the population living in urban China is the outcome of political policies, industrialization and social changes that have occurred over the past 40 years.
The political situation of a country dictates how the rest of the nation will function. The government is in control of almost everything in a country and in the case of China, the Communist party attempts to control everything, even if it means mixing with capitalist ideologies. Over the past thirty years, the post- Mao government has opened up the economy to capitalist influences in order for the advancement of the country. An example of this is the open policy which encourages trade with outside partners on the world market (World Bank, 2009). This policy was established by the Chinese government so that industry would grow and become more productive. The down side of this policy is that as industry grows so do pollution levels. None the less, the Communist party has allowed two different economic systems to function within the country. Hong Kong is the main example. This has lead to the free market having an influence on the rest of China (Van Kemenade, 1997, p.141-143). This sway has allowed for the government opening up special economic zones. Like Hong Kong, these zones do not necessarily have to respect government regulations on the economy set for the rest of the country (Van Kemenade, 1997, p.141-143). The reason the government has endorsed this free market trend to occur is that it creates industrial growth, which in turn increases national income. Yet again, this does not come without the price of increasing pollution because as industry grows larger in China every year, the pollution levels will follow right behind.
Politics in china not only have affected pollution levels through the opening of economic zones and promoting industrial growth, but also through exploitation of resources. China is rich in resources and is targeted by many foreign investors for this reason. Where as in previous years under Mao Zedong the country was cut off from the rest of the world in terms of relations, now the present government encourages exploiting its resources to the rest of the world and for itself for profit (He- Zhong et al, 2007, p.6). One resource that China is infamous for abusing is man power. China’s immense population has allowed for the rise of cheap labour. This of course has lead to more foreign investment, which in turn creates more industries in the free market sectors. These industries working at high levels emit much pollution into the urban environment they surround. A second resource that China is notorious for exploiting is coal. Coal is the most widely used source of energy in China (He Zhong et al, 2007, p.6). Although government officials are aware of its detrimental effects to the environment, they do not cease its use or even limit it. An example of this is that the use of coal has grown 23.8 percent between 1990 and 2002 (He Zhong et al, 2007, p.6). Chinese politics are at the head of the decisions being made that are causing pollution to run almost unhindered in the nation. They have allowed the free market to aggravate the pollution issue through its expansion in China and the have allowed resources to be abusively used. This has all lead to the increase of detrimental pollution in the urban areas of China.
Even though the government in China makes all the major decisions, a closer look at the economic factors of the country are needed in order to understand the high levels of pollution in urban areas. The heavy industrialization in China is the direct source of all the pollution, especially in urban areas. This is because large numbers of homes are often located near industrial plants. It is no wonder why China’s economy is working at such a high level with such a demand pushing it. With 1.3 billion inhabitants, China is one of the largest energy producers and consumers in the world (He-Zhong et al, 2007, p.4). This heavy production of energy to meet demand, especially with the aforementioned coal, creates immense amounts of pollution that follow the development. Furthermore, the demand has risen over the past two decades. The annual average growth rate of 9.5% between 1980 and 2003 demonstrate this (He- Zhong et al, 2007, p.4).An example of this growth rate is the increase in the production, buying and exporting of automobiles. Automobiles are currently a serious issue when it comes to pollution in urban China (Brajer et al, 2006, p.350). These vehicles packed into the already cramped streets of urban China are one of the major causes of pollution in the country. 20 different automaker companies have expressed interest in opening plants in China that would manufacture around 500,000 cars per year (Livernash, 1995, p.30). This demonstrates the fact that China is currently on the rise with the economic prospects when foreign investors are showing up in large numbers for a great opportunity. The growing industry in China only creates more jobs in which there are more individuals who will demand higher end products of the urban lifestyle they have come to adopt (Livernash, 1995, p.25-26). This worsens the problem of pollution as the demands keeps on becoming larger in China and around the world.
The theory of supply and demand can be used in order to explain the reasons for China’s immense economic expansion since the death Mao Zedong. The theory states that as the demand for a certain product increases, the production of it will increase and the cost will decrease and vice versa in the opposite situation (Abbott et al, 1999, 85- 86). In China’s case there is not a “certain product”, but thousands if not millions types of different goods being produced every year. This high production demands jobs and millions are employed in low cost labour for the production of all these goods. The pollution emitted by the industrial plants working at such high levels becomes overbearing for the communities of the workers who have moved near their place of work. Since the demand for Chinese goods is so high, China can afford to sell the goods at lower prices and still makes profits. This is done in order to keep the demand steady or increase it (Abbott et al, 1999, 85- 86). The two lower ends of this are that this encourages more production/pollution because money is being made easily and the workers are paid less. The effects of the latter will be discussed in the next section.
The politics and economics of China have changed its position in the world over the past forty years, but the repercussions of this advancement are being felt by the people making it happen. That is, the citizens of China who work in the industry that makes the country function. They are the man power of China, but still they receive all of the countries’ ills through the pollution in urban areas. The people of China have gone through much since the 1960’s, but recently they have bounced back. They have become the fuel for China’s new success in recent decades. Chinese citizens have changed much about their lifestyles since then. One example of this change in lifestyle is the move from the rural lifestyle to that of urban daily life. China currently has a floating population of 50 to 70 million people who are searching for jobs in urban areas (Livernash, 1995, p.25). The reason this causes pollution is the ability of the Chinese market to absorb so many workers willing to work for low wages. This in turn increases the productivity of many industries and causes pollution. China’s economic success allows industry to absorb many workers easily, but also puts these same workers at risk of losing employment during an economic slowdown (Andrieu, 2009).
The theory of demographic transition aids in the understanding of this flow of population from rural areas to urban areas. This theory states that as a country or area becomes more modernized or industrialized, large portions of the rural population will make a shift towards an urban lifestyle and attempt to find employment in urban areas (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009). The reason behind this is that there are more economic opportunities present in the urban centers than in the rural areas. In China this is the case, with the increasing numbers in the workforce driving higher production levels, this in turn increases the pollution present in the country.
The low cost labour and the tremendous number of workers in industrial plants have made it easy for industry to lay off workers in times of economic slowdown. This is important because of the citizens living in urban areas; the pollution affects those who are socially deprived the most. Large unemployment rates during economic slowdown cause heavy poverty pressures on China (Livernash, 1995, p.9). Having many unemployed individuals in urban centers creates crowding and uncomfortable living patterns. Two patterns that reoccur with China’s urban poor that has them more exposed to pollution are access to medical facilities and poor housing. The socially deprived who live in urban centers have less access to proper medical care and suitable nutrition because of their income (Chan et al, 2008, p.1193). This in turn makes them more vulnerable to pollution’s adverse affects and makes them a heavier burden on the health care system. The second trend that makes the urban poor more susceptible to the ills of pollution is poor housing. Often these individuals live in deprived neighbourhoods’ that are more exposed to industrial sectors or are next to occupied roads (Chan et al, 2008, 1193). The constant exposure to pollution sources causes these individuals to be susceptible to adverse affects. On the sociological level it is clear that the people of China are contributing to the country’s pollution issue, but they are also the most affected by it.
As of now, it has been indicated that pollution is an ever increasing issue in China. There is more than one reason why pollution is such an overwhelming issue compared to other countries. The first is that the government decides the policies which encourage pollution such as open markets, special economic zones and the serious overuse of resources. The second is the economy itself. The levels heavy industrial activity in China are amongst the highest in the world and the pollution levels indicate it. The industries must work at a high level in order to produce enough goods for the demand in China and around the world. The growing numbers of job opportunities being offered by the economic sector attract individuals to come and live in the urban areas of China in order to have a better life. This is part of the third reason for heavy pollution levels in China, societal trends. Through the use of the demographic transition theory it has been shown that people migrate from urban areas to urban environments in order to find better employment opportunities. These three factors all contribute to the growing pollution issue of China and all depend on each other. In this paper it has been shown that the pollution that is detrimental to the health of the population living in urban China is the outcome of political changes, industrialization and social changes that have occurred over the past 40 years.
The pollution in China is detrimental to the health of the citizens and decisions must be made rapidly in order for the country to remain in good form. Possible solutions to the pollution crisis are being implemented by the government such as cleanup programs. One example is the government funded cleanup effort to reduce NO2 emissions in urban areas (Brajer et al, 2006, p.363). A second well known government effort to reduce pollution levels is the Beijing municipal government’s removal and relocation of inefficient plants surrounding the capital (Watts, 2006, p.720). In all, it will be an uphill battle for China if the country plans on advancing itself on the world stage as Chairman Mao would have probably have wanted. China is becoming a global superpower in its own right, but an ailing population will not help the cause. The population of the urban centers, the most important areas in the country, must remain healthy and happy in order for China to become a true player in the world. The last superpower to ignore its people so that the country as a whole could go further and compete didn’t last to see the new year of 1992.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We don’t learn from history. Seriously, we don’t. It’s pathetic how stupid we really are. Of course there are numerous examples we could use, but by now people should know I’m always going to refer back to the ancient world. Back in the year 146 BCE, Carthage, the ancient trading super power of the western Mediterranean was razed to the ground and literally ceased to exist (of course there are always pockets of resistance, but they died out eventually). Its capital city, Carthage of course, was completely plundered, looted, burned, destroyed, razed and use another adjective you would like to add in there. Who were the perpetrators? The civilization we base our culture on at its very roots, the Romans. We have many things to thank the Romans for. Like our government, our laws and religious beliefs were given birth in the Roman world in some way, shape or form. Of course there is another art that they were the first to truly perfect, GENOCIDE! But that’s not what this blabber is about. It’s about how today’s situation in Iraq ( or I-RaK in American) is all too similar to the third Punic war that started in 149.
To truly grasp the situation I’ve got to tell you guys a bit about the great Carthaginian Empire. According to the Romans (winners write history), the city of Carthage was founded by queen Dido. Originally a Phoenician princess from Tyre, she was exiled after her husband was murdered. She soon quickly escaped from Tyre (basically today in Lebanon, if I’m not mistaken, I’m trying to avoid Wikipedia). From there on, Dido and her “entourage” founded Carthage in 814 BCE, about the time of Homer if it’s any help. Carthage, basically today’s Tunis in Tunisia, was amazingly well placed for trade across the Mediterranean being at the tip of North Africa. For almost 450 years Carthage was top Dog in the Mediterranean. They were distantly placed away from the Greek, Macedonian, Persian conflicts in the east and so prospered because they had no competition. The situation in the world was Greek/Persian in the east and Carthage in the west. This worked out fine until the Romans finally truly came on the scene in the 270’s. The Romans had just come off defeating the Etruscans, Samnites and of course, Pyrrhus and so had the entire Italian Peninsula under their control beneath the river Po.
Now, I’m not going to get into detail about the first two Punic wars because they are lengthy and don’t have much to do with what I want to say. To sum them up I will say Rome won the first by sea battles (which surprises everyone since the Punic fleets were considered to be the best at the time). The second Punic war is the most well known because of two men, Hannibal Barca and Scipio Africanus. These two men probably rank as the best generals of all time, certainly my top ten. This war ended with the defeat of Hannibal at the battle of Zama in 202.
So to get to my point, the Romans put a series of serious diplomatic measures after the victories over Carthage. This included reparation payments, the seizing of territories such as Corsica and Sardinia and the reduction of Carthage’s naval capacity. After the second Punic war the Romans made it so that Carthage would have to pay Rome a certain amount of Gold every year, for 50 years. (I forget how much). After a few years of saving, Carthage offered to hand the entire sum due in one year, but Rome refused. They wanted Carthage to have the constant reminder that Rome was her superior.
For half a century Carthage made her payments and never was late on them either. Things were very peaceful between the two empires for a long time. This was the case until Rome received its last payment in 152 BCE. The Romans became instantly worried that Carthage would strike back for her revenge. This really wasn’t true. The Punic civilisation was in no condition to fight the now mighty Roman republic that now had territories in Greece, Macedonia and Anatolia (Turkey today). The Carthaginians had no interest in renewed military activity. They just didn’t have the means to do so. The Senate was aware of this and wanted to keep their prestige over that of the Carthaginians. Since the payments had stopped the senate felt that Carthage no longer considered itself to be under the dominion of the Republic. This was not the case; Carthage was a broken city that had lost almost everything in which it had 50 years previously. The people were only now coming back on the rise as a society. Still, the Romans did not like this.
Carthago delenda est! (Carthage must be destroyed) was the famous calling card for the third Punic war. The man who made this comment was none other than Cato the elder. In today’s standards Cato would be considered a conservative. He was well aware that a rising Carthage was a blemish on Rome’s image and therefore wanted it to be dealt with. But the trash that he and his supporters/comrades put out was that if Carthage would be on the rise they would pose a threat to the roman people (which is total bullshit) and soon enough the call to war was made in 149 BCE. Now this is where the comparison starts. We all know of the “They have weapons of mass destruction” B.S. that was splattered all over the media at the beginning of the decade. This was the doing of the president Chaney and his bitch, George Bush. We all know now that there were never any WMD’s. Thousands of people have lost their lives to a very pointless war like what happened in North Africa 149 -146 BCE. The superpower of the time walking into a broken defenceless country and just deciding to ransack it because they fucking feel like it! I have no problem with war. War is a justifiable means to an end in my view, but what happened in 146 BCE and 2000 years later is not war. Its needless massacre for no good reason at all. We don’t learn from history, but then again coming from the Bush administration now that I think of it, it doesn’t surprise me. People died to suit someone else’s very stupid needs The Republic’s “image”, or.... or.... I really don’t know what was happening in the heads of southern friends a few years ago.... oh I forgot OIL!!!
Well that’s it, forgive me for my rant and for my lack of knowledge of all this modern world stuff, but I like to always make a historical reference to something when I have the chance.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I went to the World Press Photo exhibition recently and I wasn't dissapointed it was actually quite interesting. I had to do this next thing for school,but I think everyone should take a look at it.

The photograph that I chose at the World Press Photo exhibition was that of a young Angolan fashion designer. The title of this picture is Focus Photo und Press Agentur. The photo was taken by a Brazilian named André Vieira. The photo is of designer Shunnoz Fiel who is part of a new generation of individuals in his country interested in design and fashion. The picture depicts him sitting on a green briefcase in front of a rack of cloths while holding several books on his lap. As the picture description explains, he is part of a generation that is profiting from the newly acquired “peace” in Angola along with its oil based economic boom. Angola over the past quarter century has been involved in bloody civil war ever since the country received its independence from Portugal in 1975. This short paper will examine how the World Press Photo takes the story of the young Angolan Fashion designer depicts Angola’s relation with common themes of the 20th century. These common themes include fights for independence, civil war and economic success.
As previously mentioned, Angola received its independence in 1975. Decolonization and independence are major themes in the 20th century. The Portuguese had control of Angola for almost five hundred years before letting go of it. During this time span the small Portuguese population ruled over the larger African population. The elite would often take advantage of the weak. An example of this would be forced labour even though slavery had already been abolished. When the breaking point of colonialism arrived the first independence movement occurred in 1961. By 1975 Angola had managed independence from Portugal. This is a theme that is heard loudly in the 20th century. The most famous case for independence comes from India and Gandhi’s non-violent protest movement against the British. The decolonization of countries and territories may have hurt the power of the colonists, but it gave new hope to those who were freed. This is depicted by Shunnoz following his interests in fashion and not being suppressed to do what the colonists have approved to be appropriate for the people of his country.
Civil war is a common theme throughout history in its entirety. Some of the most famous examples of civil war are that of Julius Caesar’s march on Rome and the war fought between the Union and the Confederacy for America in 1861. Civil wars of the 20th century include the Russian Revolution and the Chinese civil war that put Mao Zedong into power. The civil war fought in Angola was a product of an already ongoing war between the two superpowers of the time, the United States and the Soviet Union. The three groups fighting each other reflected the cold war and even though they had done their share in achieving independence for Angola, they could not coincide. The MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) took control of the country in 1975. They were backed by the communist States of Cuba and Russia while after the dissolve of the FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola) only UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) was left as opposition. Before it fell the FNLA was supported by the United States and now UNITA, the sole opposition, was supported by South Africa. The civil war went on until it came to an official end in 2002. The war lowered the quality of life in Angola for 27 years. That is why the picture of an Angolan fashion designer is so powerful. Being able to enjoy the luxuries of the first world is a privilege that he and his generation are experiencing for the first time in his country.
The last reason that Shunnoz’s picture in World Photo Press is representative of Angola’s relation with common themes of the 20th century is the economic boom his country has experienced. Angola’s major economic growth over the past decade can be attributed to the oil production that accounts for 85% of its national GDP. Beforehand, during the country’s colonial period it was known as one of the major food exporters in Africa. The transition of industrialization and development is a common theme during the twentieth century. Two premium examples would be India and China, which after they gained complete control of their respective governments began economic development. It is evident that when a country’s economy become more successful the standard of living rises for most of the population. Economic expansion is another common theme in the twentieth century. The most prominent example is the United States. With the exception of the stock market crash of 1929 and the depression that followed it, the United States has been overwhelmingly successful economically. The country is seen by many, including themselves, as setting the bar for the standard of living. Angola’s economic success allows its people to follow a standard of living somewhat similar to that of a first world country. This allows individuals like Shunnoz for example, to follow their dreams and enter into the fashion industry.
In conclusion, the picture of Shunnoz Fiel sitting on a brief case in front of some simple cloths says much to the viewer. It has much to say about how Angola’s recent history is tied in with general 20th century history. The story of independence from Portugal is one that many countries around the world have experienced; the civil war is a misfortunate event that many other nations have had to go through and the economic turnaround is the mark of progress that others have aspired for in the twentieth century. This short paper has examined examine how the World Press Photo takes the story of the young Angolan Fashion designer depicts Angola’s relation with common themes of the 20th century.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Buddhism first arose around the sixth century B.C.E. and its popularity grew because it was seen as a safe haven or escape of the harsh reality of the times. Buddhism which grew out of Hinduism was an attractive faith or way of life for those who wished to leave the life of warfare and ritualism that a growing Hindu empire was giving to them. Although Buddhism does share similar concepts with Hinduism such as karma and dharma, the main difference between the two is that Buddhism rejects the worship of a panoply of gods, but does reaffirm monotheism.
Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born around 563 B.C.E in the foothills of the Himalayan in Nepal and was the son of a minor king. He married at the age of 19 and had a son. After years of teaching and acquiring disciples, he died at the age of 80 somewhere between 485 and 480 B.C.E. This is all that is known for certain about Gautama Buddha. The legend has it that after seeing how miserable life can be for some individuals, Buddha left his family and riches behind in order to find the truth of why things were the way they were. In order to do this he owned nothing but a wooden bowl and a rag for clothing, he fasted and meditated often under a great tree. After 49 days of intense meditation he attained the truth of enlightenment.
Buddha spoke of the four noble truths (1) life is filled with pain and sorrow, (2) it is all caused by desire and wanting, (3) to end suffering one must become desireless and (4) desirelessness can be gained by the eightfold path of right conduct. These accounts of Buddha’s teachings were recorded in a collection of texts called the Tripitaka. Buddhism for its first centuries of existence remained a minority religion, much like Christianity, but soon began to expand from India to the rest of Asia.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Daoism is considered the second moral/religious philosophy of China. Daoism is hard to define because it values silence and inaction. To a Dao believer the observable human world is not what matters because what truly matters is the far greater cosmic world of nature. It is from the cosmos that Daoists believers must receive their guidance, but for here in this world Daoists receive their guidance from the DaoDeJing, the main text of Daoism. It is a collection of mystical remarks whose meaning even in Chinese is hard to decipher. The famous opening line of the text is “The name that can be named is not the eternal name”, which could possibly mean that truth cannot be put into simple words. Much of the content of the DaoDeJing can be attributed to Laozi. Although the present texts had several contributors Laozi is said to have debated with Confucius himself and to have later on disappeared at an old age.
While most Confucians have to attempt and improve the state of things, Daoists tend to “go with the flow”. In other words not try to do too much, just let things happen, be as natural as possible. As Daoism grew, it merged with folk beliefs, animism, worship of natural forces and belief in the supernatural. The development of priests, temples and monastic orders followed soon after. After the Han dynasty, Daoists began to practice magic and alchemy in pursuit of the elixirs of immortality. This varied experimentation with medicinal herbs contributed immensely to the growth of Chinese medicines and discoveries.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Although Confucianism is debatably not a religion, it can be seen as a set of ethical values and moral philosophies. Confucianism does avoid theology and the issue of the afterlife, but most individuals from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam have supplemented their own religious diets into Confucianism to provide what’s left out. Confucianism has had more impact on belief and behaviour than any of the great religions because most East Asians accept and follow teachings more thoroughly the ethical teachings of other faiths. Confucianism contains much knowledge about common sense, human relations, values, norms and socio-political patterns.
Confucius, the founder of Confucianism, was born in 551 B.C.E. and was the son of a minor official. He became a teacher and advisor to various rulers. Several students of his became disciples, and after his death they wrote down his teachings and expanded on them. The most famous of his followers was Mencius, who lived in the warring states period and sought after a solution to restoring order and social harmony.
According to the teachings of Confucius, people are born naturally good, but need education to stay that way. A quote from Confucius shows this idea, “Learning without thought is useless. Thought without learning is dangerous.” To continue, Confucius emphasized human-heartedness, benevolence, respect for superiors, loyalty and education. In a period were wealth and birth right decided the social status of an individual this was a view that was greatly progressive. It also reaffirmed the right of people to rebel against immoral and unjust rulers who had forfeited a mandate of heaven. But this cause a dilemma with the fact that Confucianists had to respect superiors.
In all, Confucianism was very much human centered and life-celebrating. Teachings say to take the natural world as a model, because it runs by rules. When asked about heaven and the afterlife, Confucius merely pointed out that we have more issues to deal with now that are more important than thinking of the afterlife.