National wealth is a powerful tool to dull the tempers of the people of a country - when people are materially comfortable, they're less likely to think in terms of principles, in some cases. Is this true? I've often heard it said, and it's easy enough to compare the Islamic Republic of Iran (broadly theocratic, but wiith good levels of education and moderately open institutions) to the management of poorer areas under theocratic forces, or similar cases.. but other details may explain these things better - in that case, perhaps Persia's long history of civilisation and societal expectations kept their theocracy less brutal. It's tempting to see the tactics of the struggle over Northern Ireland as being a counterexample, but how one conducts war and how one runs a state should probably be seen as separate matters. In much socialist and communist literature I've read, it is said that the revolution is near when the people are suffering, hence the dread that the revolutionary left feels when capitalism divorces the lower classes, across national borders, from the upper classes they support. Still, I don't know how solid the idea is. Hmm.
Last night, as I was getting ready to leave the 61c café, I bumped into an old acquaintence from my Coffee Tree days (a time spanning the end of my relationship with Debb to the end of my relationship with Nicole where I spent a lot of time there - maybe 2 years?). After reminiscing a bit and talking about other things, he mentioned Michael Moorcock, a science-fiction/fiction writer who also did some social commentary. He spoke highly of Moorcock's criticism of CS Lewis and Tolkien, and mentioned a criticism of Heinlein called "Starship Stormtroopers". From what I've heard so far, I likely will only agree with some of the criticisms (he described Moorcock as a political anarchist, IIRC), but he looks to be an interesting author to sample.
Touching back on the title and matters of wealth, I think it's interesting comparing the state of women in Afghanistan, several of them jailed for disobeying/fleeing their husbands (a disturbingly large percentage forced into marriage, often at a young age, see Osama) to Saudi Arabia, where an anonymous woman recently took the very bold step of suing the moral police for false arrest. The latter is tied into Saudi politics - the normal police are slowly gaining exclusivity over police powers in the kingdom, a trend that I think may lead to violence when taken far enough. It's interesting how SA, Iran, and some other parts of the Islamic world have forces like that - I'd like to understand what their power relationship is to the state, and how integrated they are with other state institutions where they exist. I suspect that a transition to rule of law (ideally managed by moderately progressive lawmakers without a mob mentality) is better for the welfare of women in those countries.
- I'm very disappointed that Afghani MPs are pushing for truce with Taliban remnants due to rising casualties. I realise I'm pretty hardline on this matter, but I don't think it should be acceptable for them to stop there until the Taliban and their supporters are completely eliminated. It's a shame that U.S. meddling fueled them in the first place - I regret that the Soviet Union wasn't allowed to swallow their country (purely tactical - at that point I don't think the Soviet Union should've been seen as embodying the hopes of the left)
- The USPS has created "Forever Stamps" which won't be affected by future price hikes. This seems incredibly shortsighted to me - it limits the ability of the Post Office to respond to increased prices, selling out their future for a (likely) burst in stamp sales now. It also creates a market for speculation - people who buy and hoard these now may not beat the stock market, but they will force the USPS to be playing a game they shouldn't really be playing. I suppose fiscal irresponsibility might lead them to actually use the funds from the stamps to invest on the stock market themselves... *shudder*
- The Iraqi parliament to undo nationalisation of their oil fields. Hopefully the companies will buy in and they'll be renationalised without recompensation.. It's more important that this is reversed eventually in the first place though.
- I'm disappointed but not surprised to see cultural efforts towards peace in Israel stygmied by a handful of rabbis - apparently their model of peace depends on separation, not friendship or marriage. Personally, I think blood ties are the most positive step towards peace (but not necessarily identity) in both that situation and anywhere where long-lasting racial/religious/etc tension exists, with close friendships and unified schools a close second. I remember how the film "Bulworth" had a quote by the politician main character suggesting that races of the world should interbreed as much as possible to put an end to racism - I've come to believe this, even though I see it as just a "good idea" - promoting it as an obligation seems too strong. It won't help put an end to non-racial matters, e.g. Catholics versus Protestants versus Orthodox, Sunni versus Shia, etc, but having "them" in one's circle of friends and ideally in the family acts as a strong psychological barrier against dehumanisation. Some identities and cultures would suffer, but I think that it's a price worth paying.