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Online Social Networking
ORRiginal Words
Thursday, 3 May 2007
When a friend doesn't come attention.
Topic: Relationships
I was in New York City yesterday. Later in the afternoon I ate dinner at my favorite French restaurant in the Theater District, Pigale's.

I asked for a booth in the far corner because I was there alone with only the faintest hope that a friend might show up--an email to a busy friend had gone unanswered. I must admit that I was in a bit of a funk about my friend not even taking the time to answer a simple email.

After ordering I finished ordering I look up to see a woman and her elderly grandmother were being seated by the waitress at a nearby table, about ten feet to my left.

From the very start the younger woman sat there across from her grandmother and IGNORED HER. One way or another, the younger woman spent the entire dinner on her cell phone (loudly, I might add), fumbling through the 'important papers' in her bag, or texting someone on her Blackberry. Over approximately forty minutes the grandmother tried three times to spark some sort of human interaction. No luck.

This 'scene' reminded me that it has almost been a year since my grandmother died, and how much I miss her. There are certain people in this world who never can live long enough, and she was one of them.

Normally, I would NEVER say anything in a situation such as this. As a stranger, what right do I have to judge another person's behavior? What could a stranger possibly say, without comming off wrong?

Despite the fact that my conscience kept telling me to say something, I resisted.

After finishing dessert I headed to the restroom.

On the way back to my seat the 40-something woman was walking directly in my path on her way to the restroom. There was no way to avoid passing her without practically bumping into her. She smiled. From the look on her face, she knew that I was the guy sitting next to her and her grandmother.

So I spoke to her.

How could I ignore such a clear sign that I was meant to say something?

I politely asked her how old her grandmother is.

She responded, "91."

I then told her about my grandmother. Admittedly, I fibbed a bit. Although her grandmother didn't look anything like mine, I told her that her grandmother reminded me of mine.

Then I told the truth. I simply told her that my grandmother had died last year and that she was lucky to still have her grandmother around. I smiled and moved on without another comment.

Nothing more than a simple admission to a stranger.

It actually wasn't embarrassing. It was a relief.

On my way out of the restaurant I took one final look in their direction. They were engaging one another in direct conversation.

In that moment I came to understand the real reason why my friend had not been there at Pigale's to eat dinner with me.

Posted by Peter David Orr at 11:00 PM EDT
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Saturday, 28 April 2007
My Response to a Friend's Blog, "MySpace, the Ultimate in Courage."
Topic: Online Social Networking

Myspace, the ultimate in courage

We've become a society shrouded in avoidance. We're quickly turning into a world where expression comes soley from our fingertips on a keyboard and faceless words eminating from your voiceboxes. We simply don't have to communicate face to face any longer. We write emails to avoid phone calls and we leave voice mails and send texts to avoid spending time with people. Sometimes we even leave those messages when we know the recipient isn't going to be around to answer. We all do it, don't deny it, I do it.

The interesting thing about myspace is that its become a social activity that provides us with courage to talk to people we would never think of approaching in the real, live three dimensional world. It's also a form of avoidance. Got nothing to do on a Saturday night? Why not get on myspace and "talk" to my friends? Why not work up the courage to tell someone they are handsome, pretty, funny and that their page "rocks"? We all do it, don't deny it, I do it.

My Response:

You have hit on one of the most important truths in all of human history.

The very same insight actually applies to all technological developments beyond face to face, verbal/non-verbal communication. It is all a matter of degree: the degree of personal removal from the original source, the degree of complication in the transaction, the degree of geographic remoteness from the original source etc.

One of the immutable truths of the history of techonology is that humankind's ability to create is always equal to humankind's ability to destroy. Destruction is an unavoidable context of creation and progressive creation carries with it an equal amplification of our destructive potential. This applies to social relationships as much as anything else.

Posted by Peter David Orr at 6:22 PM EDT
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The Word-Thugs are at it Again
Topic: Politics/History
In an interview printed in Germany’s Welt Am Sonntag the lead singer of Roxy Music Bryan Ferry, recently made the following comments:

"The way that the Nazis staged themselves and presented themselves, my Lord!

"I'm talking about the films of Leni Riefenstahl and the buildings of Albert Speer and the mass marches and the flags -- just fantastic. Really beautiful."

According to Yahoo! News, Ferry’s comments triggered an immediate firestorm of anger from the “Jewish leaders in Britain, some of whom had condemned Ferry's comments and questioned whether he should be dropped by the Marks & Spencer retail chain that employs him as a model, welcomed Ferry's clarification.”

Of course, Ferry turned the supplicant, issuing as statement in which he apologized “unreservedly for any offence caused by my comments on Nazi iconography, which were solely made from an art history perspective.”

Thanks Mr. Ferry! You’ve just empowered the word-thugs again.

When an artist is so intimidated by the word-thugs that they cower like some spineless creature, freedom of speech and the press is in jeopardy. When the truth can’t be expressed without a negative media barrage and threats of personal ruination, there is something desperately wrong in a democratic society.

It is ridiculous for Mr. Ferry to apologize for a historic fact. The Nazi movement harnessed political theater better than any movement in the history of the world. Hitler’s adept use of art in the Nazi Party’s rise to power is a recognized fact. Historians from the great William L. Shirer to Telford Taylor have all given honest appraisals of the use of art and theatricality in Nazi Germany. They agree with Mr. Ferry’s original statements.

When people deny that an enemy can be beautiful or attractive they do so at their own peril. Why? Because, when others see the obvious truth, those dishonest appraisers lose credibility. This makes other ideologies—anti-Nazi in this case—more susceptible to criticism, to skepticism, to questioning.

Great art is great art and the best art is the most effective art.

In politics the best art can’t be separated from political propaganda.

The Soviet regime did equally terrible, inhuman deeds. Yet, anyone looking at the art and architecture of the Soviet era must admit to the stunningly effective qualities of Soviet-style art.

The use of art as propaganda is a sophisticated undertaking that has been used by every political movement of any consequence. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this sort of art wasn’t—isn’t—used by democracies. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the same wrong-headed persecutors of Mr. Ferry don’t employ these same arts.

The media whipping of Mr. Ferry is a form of mind control. This media sanctioned, Pavlovian, “conditional reflex” is actually a perfect example of art in the service of political ends.

Posted by Peter David Orr at 6:17 PM EDT
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America's First Entanglement with Radical Islam
Topic: Politics/History

There were many of the risks that the Founders of the United States of America faced in asserting independence. One risk involved exposing merchant shipping.

Without the protection of the British Navy and with the fledgling American Navy otherwise engaged in a constant struggle to break the coastal blockade Britain had constructed against the 13 rebellious colonies, the US merchant fleet was exposed to constant attack by free enterprise of another sort—piracy.

The worst of the piracy experienced by the new nation was found off the coast of Northern Africa, where American ships were regularly attacked, cargos pilfered and crews enslaved.

Pirates under contract by governments are properly called privateers. So let’s get this out of the way first. American merchant shipping was being attacked by privateers under the control of hostile Islamic regime.

The Algerian Pasha-Dey, Muhammad V ben Othman (1766-1791), commissioned corsairs to attack and subdue foreign shipping. The Regency of Algeria was a part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire that had been granted a great deal of autonomy in pursuing economic gain. Ben Othman was perhaps the most enterprising of the Algerian rulers during the 18th century.

The troubles caused by Islamic privateers in the Mediterranean led to a negotiated treaty with the four “Barbary States” of North Africa.

Even today, from time to time, you will hear racist African Americans lay claim to and attach their heritage to this part of Islamic North Africa. Of course, they do so out of ignorance.

Why ignorance?

It should be obvious to anyone, even with a very limited understanding of African history, that not all Africans are of the same race or creed. In fact, these Barbary Pirates were not the ancestors of African Americans. Rather, they were their first enslavers-- Arab, Muslim enslavers who subjugated the African natives. Arab, Muslim overlords dominated native Africans.

But I digress…back to their enslavement of US Citizens.

Incredibly, in 1784, Congress decided to seek negotiations with the Barbary States. Yep, that’s right, the new America government attempted to appease the Islamic enslavers. How? By paying tribute and ransoms! They thought that the most inexpensive way to get American commerce in the Mediterranean moving again, to retrieve ships seized by the privateers, was to pay tribute and buy their freedom. The military option was deemed “too expensive.”

It pains me to write this, but John Adams actually argued in favor of this payment scheme. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was virulently opposed to the notion, citing that once we bought back the freedom of our citizens and paid tribute that there would be no end to future demands. Jefferson theorized that any nation that acted as a supplicant would be treated as such in the future.

Jefferson preferred settling the matter by force and argued that any number of nations in Europe that valued the freedom of the seas would probably be willing to form a coalition to end the menace. Alas, his arguments fell on deaf ears.

In 1786 Jefferson and John Adams took part in negotiations in London. At these negotiations, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, representing the Algerian side, was asked a poignant question by the US delegation: On what grounds does this extortion and enslavement continue?

The following is what Jefferson reported to US Secretary of State John Jay, and, in turn, to Congress:

“[their right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet (Mohammed), that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman (or Muslim) who should be slain in battle was sure to go to heaven.” [Oren, Michael B. The Middle East and the Making of the United States, 1776 to 1815]

Nevertheless, Congress opted for the “payment plan,” giving those who terrorized US shipping millions of dollars over a 15-year period—even though the payments came to nearly twenty percent of yearly revenues collected by the Federal government in 1800.

We had fought a war of independence to escape repressive taxes imposed by George III of Great Britain, but somehow allowed ourselves to kneel at the feet of a the 19th century equivalent of a tin pot dictator.

Things took a radically new direction with the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson as our third President in 1801. He sent frigates and Marines to the Barbary Coast to defend our right to freedom of trade and freedom from enslavement, with the solemn declaration that the US was willing to spend “millions on defense, but not one cent for tribute.”

By 1805 American Marines had landed in Egypt and marched west across the coast of North Africa to Tripoli. There, US Marines forced the surrender of the Algerian capital and liberated all American slaves.

Jefferson went to the brink, risking war with the Ottoman Turkish Empire, with the intense naval bombardment and shore raids conducted by US Marines all across Northern Africa. In the end, the Muslim Barbary States were forced to abandon slavery and piracy.

Ultimately, it wasn’t until 1815 that a full settlement was achieved. That means that the US had to endure 14 years of on-again, off-again warfare—one year less than the 15 years of disgraceful appeasement that preceded Jefferson’s actions.

When will America learn that we cannot buy our way out of these problems? Despite the fact that we have taken military action, we continue to pay more money to radical Islam than at any time before.

Buying friends does not, and has never, worked. Every time we buy oil from the nations that provide safe havens for terrorists, we sponsor our own destruction. Every time we send billions upon billions of dollars in financial aid and assistance to “moderate Islamic states,” that just can’t seem to control their own radicals, we end up sponsor terrorist acts against us.

We must attack radical Islam intelligently. That’s right, we must use military force because they cannot be bought off. But, the way we use military force is equally important.

Occupation of land is counterproductive, no matter how good our intentions might be. We should use our military might to destroy the infrastructure of nations that continue to sponsor or provide safe havens for terrorists and then establish an economic blockade. Without outside help these nations cannot rebuild or refit their industry and would cease to be any real threat to the civilized world.

Then we will find out if there really are people in the region who want to be free because the dictators and monarchies will be denied the funds necessary to stay in power.

We need to cordon them off from the rest of the world in every way possible. Let these nations decide internally what sort of government they want. If civil war erupts in these nations, let them fight it out without interference. No matter who wins, they will only be the rulers of a vast, unindustrialized desert—harmless to the rest of the civilized world.

Posted by Peter David Orr at 6:10 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007 6:16 PM EDT
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