The Nautical World...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Progression of Thought

"If you're not Liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not Conservative when you're 35, you have no brain."-Winston Churchill

Curious quote, huh? I quoted this a little earlier this week in a class discussion (I think I transposed it, but let's be honest, was anyone paying attention?). I wasn't referring to liberals or conservatives in politics, I mentioned this to introduce the idea of progression of thought.

We start out in life with a basic concept of things, and we mosey along and things change. When you're little an apple is red or green and grows on trees. When you're older it's sold for a dollar a pound, filled with vitamins A and E, is the base for almost all fruit juices, needs to be scrubbed thoroughly because of the latest salmonella scare, and is utilized as an organic fertilizer due the high amount of nitrogen. As we live, our thought progresses to include more information and our opinions change.

In my class I spoke of this as pertaining to the concept of Anthropology. I said that as we go through this class our thoughts on things are constantly changing. In this certain case we study the Inuits and at the beginning we are strongly in favor of letting them do what they want. We read some more and then we go back and believe they need restrictions and favor the opposition. Then next week we read another article and we are back to supporting the Inuit. We entered this subject knowing nothing or very little, but as we travel along, opinions are made and our thoughts shift back and forth.

The shifting of thinking happens with everything you do. Some cases have more dramatic shifts, usually when it is a new subject, and some thinking shifts very little. This needs to be remembered not just with yourself, but with others. I am not who I was 8 years ago. My thoughts have shifted back and forth and they continue to do so. I continually build and reshape my thoughts, and I make myself aware that everyone else does the same.

Progression of thought is a concept that is important to understanding people. To know the process is to better understand people and their habits.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Human babies are Worthless

I drove to Dallas this weekend to see my family. It was supposed to be relaxing, but my niece and nephew were present and killed that notion. I love them to death but I felt like hiding under the bed the whole time like my dog, Nikita. Little kids are crazy and have some unending source of energy, it just freaks me out. Sometimes they can be sweet, but a lot of times they are brats. Do you think kids were just as bratty back in the day?
When I watch these little banshees run around, I like to wonder if, hundreds of years ago, children in a tribe of Cherokee acted like that. I mean, was a lady walking around with a papoose with a kid screaming bloody murder? If so I would quickly condone infanticide. It sounds cruel, but I swear to god these kids screamed non-stop for 2 days. I mean they didn't scream the whole time, sometimes they cried, whined, yelled, or pouted. Do you think Ghengis Khan put up with that? I bet he did because I notice the common denominator is that no matter how cool or tough you are, when you have a kid, that goes down the drain. I'm sure Tom cruise is somewhere having to change a diaper or going to McDonald's to get chicken nuggets. Actually, no I take that back, I'm sure the Scientology elders are probably feeding his baby alien food. Well you get my point though.
I feel guilty because the more time I spend around children the closer I get to a vasectomy. I went to Disney World a few weeks ago, and it was one of the seven circles of hell. Also, little kids smell weird. Maybe because they are constantly pooping and snotting themselves. They are so high maintenance. I mean, if you have a bunch of puppies or kittens, all you do is leave some food and water out, and you can go out an do stuff. But not human babies. If you leave those little grubs alone for 10 minutes they are screaming bloody murder, and there is no way they can feed themselves. Why didn't Darwinism wipe us out a long time ago? If you look at how many times a human baby gets sick or hurt or something in one day, it's miracle we have made it this far. And look what they grow up to, that's even scarier. Toddlers are the most disgusting brand of human spawn. They no longer wear diapers, but just constantly pee themselves. They also require constant attention. I think thats why the Spartans invented the Agoge, a training camp that took them at the age of 7. Man, that was a good idea.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Eyes

Your eyes take in everything around you. They are unbiased and flood your brain full of data. Then your brain analyzes it, throws out the unecessary, keeps the necessary and their you go, there are your thoughts. It is a pretty unchanging process and that is basically what is happening every nanosecond of your day. I figured out something kind of interesting though, and allthough it might be common knowledge to some people, it was new to me.

Everyday you walk around like a robot, doing the same thing and processing things the same exact way. I am no exception, but I noticed a change in that when I was in high school. I got a summer job at a place called Metro Maples. It is a tree farm that grows all types of decorative Japanese and Chinese maples trees as well as different types of plants. I was involved in every step of the process from seedling to full grown tree. I learned what the leaves looked like when they needed water, were deficient of nutrients, or if they were healthy or sick. Pretty soon I was no longer walking into work, but I was walking into an abundance of life. I noticed all of the trees and all of the messages they were conveying. This also didn't stop at the farm. When I was back at home or in Florida, I could tell you how the rainfall was this week, or even last year. That experience opened my eyes to a whole new way to view things. It forever changed my perception of the world around me. It doesn't stop there either.

This summer I got really into longboarding. Pumping and carving my way through the urban landscape brought a sense of peace and calm to my mind. I soon began to make a map in my head of all the best areas to longboard. And now when I walk to a new place, I no longer see malls or sidewalks, I see a concrete playground. When I'm running errands or going out to eat I'll spot a large parking garage and wish I'd brought my board. I'll see a vast parking lot and think about how cool it would be to skate that. Longboarding changed my perception of urban landscape forever.

These aren't the only two things that change my perception of the world, there are hundreds, and throughout my life I will gather many. This might be the key to our understanding of culture too. For Example, it is a common American stigma to dislike the French. Why? I think that answer has become convoluted and vague over the years, and we aren't really sure why. But I bet if we did a little bit of traveling in France and experienced their lifestyle, it would allow us interpret current events the same way they do and understand their thoughts on things. Our experiences not only define us, but they define how we interpret the world around us.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Cycle

I'm writing this as I sit in Orlando, a few hours away from coming back to g-town, missing my old familiarities and friends. It's really hard moving to a new place where you know noone, but I guess it's the cycle of life. Everything operates in a fashion of growth then comfort, and then death and dormancy. Growth in spring, comfort in the production and bounty of summer, death in fall, and finally dormancy in winter all building up to do it all over again with the next spring.

What I find most interesting is since I am coming from Florida to Texas, is that I'm using Florida values to analyze my new Texas home. Let me explain. In Florida I worked at a night club. There was a certain dress code that was acceptable, certain drinks that were the norm, and certain songs that were considered appropriate. Now in Texas when I go to a night club, I use those factors familiar to me and decide whether I deem that club worthy or not worthy. Now is that fair to judge a Texas club by Florida standards? No, probably not. That is what we refer to as ethnocentrism, or believing that your own culture is superior to all other or judging other cultures by your owns cultures standards.

My previous example is to illustrate how, throughout history, we have made many mistakes when encountering other cultures by being ethnocentric. The Mayans were considered savages by the Spaniards because they used stone tools and wore loin cloths, even though they had an advanced understanding of astronomy and extensive written records. They used their values to judge the Mayans, deemed them savage, and then wiped them off the map. This scenario, with differing levels of severity, plays itself out over and over again from the past and into the present.

So how do we prevent ethnocentric bias? I really don't think we ever fully can. I mean in order for a culture to succeed, the people need to have a certain 'espirit de corps' so that they can propel themselves further, and that being said they will believe they do things the proper way. That is where the bias begins and thats how the everything starts.

It's kind of an unfortunate inevitbality, but as we become more educated about the other cultures and the social dynamics of people we can prevent it from happening on such a large scale. I also envision that at some point we will become so educated that we can all coexist together without those social injustices. But then one day, we will be visited by a race of space aliens and it will all disappear. We will hate their food, their clothes, and their ways. We will judge everything about those slimy bug people by using our values and standards. It will be a death of our tolerance, followed by a period of dislike and then hopefully a rebirth of acceptance, and a period of comfort, all too be repeated again. So we are right back to our basic cycle of life.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mi Vida Colegio

So for the next several required blogs I have to write, they are just supposed to be editorials about various things of inspiration. Expect a lot to be about food. This week is my interpretation of college life and Galveston.

This subject was probably built more for the freshman in mind, but I'm sure my insights are just as legit but with just a very different perspective.

I spent four years active duty in th Marines, went to Iraq, traveled around, lived in Florida and got my associates degree and now I'm here, 25 year old veteran/transfer student--not your traditional case. So far I'm having a blast, I'm involved with way too many credit hours, extra credit assignments, clubs, and sports teams. I barely have a second to take a breath or stretch my legs but I kinda like it that way.

Coming here I knew the school was gonna be small, that was my preference. I enjoy small class interaction and being able to talk one on one with teachers. This school and the island are tiny, no matter where I go out to, I see people from class all around town. Definately a little bit of culture shock. It kind of allows me to take on a little more because I know many people in every class and even multiple classes, so it's kinda like networking to make sure you never miss a test or assignment. I just talk to other people I see from my classes throughout the day and kinda double check to make sure I'm caught up or prepared.

Everybody here is really nice so far, and I think that is because of a combination of reasons. First, we are Aggies. I mean I knew there was a lot of pride in being an Aggie, but people here really take it to heart, which is good, I love seeing people taking pride in what they are doing. Secondly, it is a small island. In fact an island off an Island. I am on Pelican Island and have to go to Galveston Island to get to the mainland, so it's like a small isolated microcosm. Thirdly, everyone here has a maritime degree, whether it be biology, admin, tranportation or studies, this place could definately fit the defination of subculture. All these factors together make for a student body that is pretty cool all around.

I went through several phases when I got here. As I looked around at the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike, I was depressed. I thought this place looked beat and I was kicking myself for turning down Univ Miami. But as I looked on I found a really cool community. You can surf, longboard, get great Mexican food, and so much else. Sometimes you just have to look a little deeper than the surface to see if you like or dislike something. I did that and I couldn't be happier. I'm having a great time living the Aloha lifestyle.

Islander by Choice.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do indigenous people have the right to control their own history and what is written about them?

Do people have a right to control their history and what is written about them? I think not. I also don't think that the larger occupying or migrating group does either. It should all be written down and recorded by a third party that has no other interest other than to record history. The reason I believe this is because bias plays a huge factor when a people write their own history.

Take North Korea for example. Their history books portray a completely different story of their successes and their struggles. Now I know they aren't a small group indigenous people, but they are just a representation on the macro level and can be applied to much smaller groups as well. All you have to do is take a history book from England and one from the United States and compare the story of the American Revolution. You will find that the stories differ very greatly, but if you picked up a book from Thailand (The only Southeast Asian country to never be colonized) that is written about the American revolution, you might find an unbiased report.

Now when a scholar enters into a situation where he is recording the intricacies of a culture, he has the duty to not publish erroneous facts but on the same hand he must not be afraid to publish something that the people might dislike or find untrue. All knowledge about a culture is fair game, we must learn everything from a culture, big or small. There is one little exception, and that is if a certain piece of knowledge is potentially a big money maker.

One example of this code of ethics is displayed by Ethnobotanists. They study the relationship between man and plants. One of the largest employers of Ethnobotanists are pharmaceutical companies. They send them into remote villages in order to speak with tradtional doctors in orders to find plants that can contribute to modern medicine. In fact, when you go in the drugstore 1 out of every 4 drugs in there were derived from plants, and 89% of those were found by talking to a local folk doctor (Balick, 2005, p. 25). Is it fair to go into a village and learn of a drug that will make billions of dollars in the U.S. and then compensate them with nothing? Absolutely not. Is it fair to learn of this drug that could save millions of lives and not produce it because it is the knowledge of this indigenous tribe and they have sole rights to it? The answer to that is no as well. So a happy balance must be found where everyone can benefit from the knowledge and the original keepers of this knowledge are compensated. This example was not mentioned just for the topic of medicine, but for any type of knowledge or practices that a people utilize that can be applied to another culture.

It is the duty of the scholar to learn report everything he can about a culture, but when the knowledge will result in a large financial gain for another party, the curators of that said knowledge, technique, or invention, should be compensated appropriately for protecting and developing it through time. By using this rationale, it in now way interferes with free inquiry or academic freedom.

Balick, Michael J., and Paul Alan Cox. Plants, People and Culture. 2005.

Monday, September 7, 2009

About me...

My name is Brett. I hail from Arlington, Texas but have been living in Florida for the last three years. I have recently moved to Galveston, Texas where I am in the Texas A&M at Galveston Maritime Studies Program.

Shortly after graduating high school I took a leap and joined the United Marine Corps. My occupation was infantryman but I was trained in a variety of skills from explosives, to radios, to Arabic. I was stationed in about 6 different states and over my five years of service visited many foreign ports. In 2005 I deployed as part of the 22nd MEU (SOC) to the coast of Somalia and eventually Iraq. In Iraq my unit was the spearhead of such operations as Smokewagon and Koa Canyon. I was honorably discharged in August 2006 and then served a year of reserves in the Marines and eventually switched branches to the Army National Guard where I continue to serve today.

Now, I live the life of a poor college student living off "pickles and pop-tarts" but I am always thankful for my past experiences. I enjoy traveling and have been to Europe and more recently Colombia (traveling is an obsession that once you have experienced, never ceases to torment your imagination). Many insights about life can be gained just by visiting another country and walking in the shoes of another culture for a bit. So besides school and homework occupying almost all my hobby time I enjoy cooking, reading, working out, and learning all types of new skill sets whether practical or not. One thing that I have learned in college is that when you are unsure of how to start or finish a paper, end it with a quote. So here's mine...

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats."-H.L. Mencken