Archive for January, 2016
Having discarded Pluto as a real planet, we now once again have our real Number 9 planet. We cannot see it because it is about 56 billion miles from the sun, where we are a very neighbourly 150 million miles away from the sun. Where we take one year to orbit the sun, Planet 9 takes a leisurely 10-20,000 years. It’s a long time then since it got anywhere near the sun to possibly be observed by even the most powerful telescope. But two researchers, Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin, observed the movements of bodies within the Kuiper belt, where Pluto lives, and computer-modelling of the orbits of space bodies convinced them that there is a body about 10 times earth’s mass and 2-4 times our diameter out there inflicting its gravitational pull on these other bodies’ orbits.
So there it is, come in number nine, your time is up, you have been deduced. A magical number, is number nine. There is definitely something cosmic about it. It is the last number in the decimal system of 0-9. Ten is a combination of 1+0. It is the last and the limit of all that is. The ancients believe number 9 contains a hidden code that effects everyone on earth and reveals the great truth. Ok aside from the occultists, we can look at the interesting mathematical facts about number 9. Did you know that the sum of any multiplication equals nine? 2×9 = 18, 1+8 = 9; 6×9 = 54, 5+4 = 9,638 x 9 = 5742 —> 5 + 7 + 4 + 2 = 18 —> 1 + 8 = 9, And on and on it goes. Another little trick of #9 is that any number divided by 9 simply has no end. The final digit repeats ad infinitum. For example 8/9 = 0.8888…….; 50/9 = 5.55555555……; let’s try another one: If 12345679 (excludes number 8) multiplied by 1-9 multiples of 9 then the result will contain the numbers over and over. So:
12345679 x 9 = 111111111
12345679 x 18 = 222222222 —> 12345679 x 9 x 2
12345679 x 27 = 333333333 —> 12345679 x 9 x 3
12345679 x 36 = 444444444 —> 12345679 x 9 x 4
The weird flip side to this pattern is that if you add #9 to any other number, the sum of the answer is always the other number, not the nine. So
6+9 = 15; 1+5 = 6
2+9 = 11. 1+1 = 2
17+9 = 26; 1+7=8, 2+6 = 8
and on ad infinitum
Not sure what this means but I have a feeling if you work it out you will have solved the secret of the universe.
Ok so we now have a mysterious planet number nine in our solar system. The last planet in our decimal solar system if the Sun = 10. That is probably why ancient knowledge decided the decimal system was more cosmic than the ‘base 12’ or duodecimal system which was based on the number of Titans and Gods of Olympus. The duodecimal system actually has four non-trivial factors whereas the decimal system only has two non-trivial factors if that helps you differentiate them.
But why do we care? If Planet 9 is so far away, we will never see it, so what does it matter? Perhaps it matters because we have a quest. We have a curiosity born of intelligence. We want to know what is out there. We want to know who our creator is in the same way that those abandoned children on reality TV shows search out their birth parents. Everyone wants to know: ‘having created us, why have you forsaken us’? Fair enough.
But we, in Dunedin, New Zealand, live on a tiny dot of a planet that floats in a relatively small solar system (our sun is a dwarf sun) which is located in a remote corner of the Milky Way which itself is a remote little galaxy within the incomprehensible universe.
It sort of reminds me of an interesting part of a David Attenborough documentary about the Kalahari desert in Namibia. They filmed down a cave, named Aigamas cave, 60 metres below the desert, in which there is the earth’s largest known underground lake.Down in this lake lives a little fish named the golden catfish. It grows up to 16 centimetres long. It is an air-breathing fish and as such could move a short distance on land, like an eel. To the golden catfish, this lake of almost 2 hectares is the entire universe. They have no conception of the narrow portal that leads to a completely alien world of the Kalahari desert with its huge night sky above it and the rest of Africa surrounding it.
But imagine if that fish had a genetic desire to search for its DNA relatives beyond its own universe. ‘Why have you forsaken us, oh great Golden Catfish?’ It is, after all, what drives other fish species to travel huge distances back to their birthplace. And, with that drive, the golden catfish explores the edges of its known universe and finds a small underground stream that eventually finds its way to another river or swamp down in the southern rainforests. What a discovery. What a new world with sunlight above it instead of the darkness of its cave. Imagine the change in organisms to feed on, the change in temperature and the new creatures it would meet along the way. But it would not find any more little cave golden catfish; their cave environment has resulted in them evolving as unique to that little universe; and I am not sure they would survive meeting their closest dna relative in African rivers and swamps, the sharp-tooth catfish, which gets to an average length about a metre. But, if they made it to shore and crawled briefly onto land, they would then be confronted with all manner of terrifying flying insects and birds, crawling ants and scorpions; they would hardly comprehend larger animals of hippos or elephants; hyenas or lions; it’s life Jim, but not as we know it. At what point does the catfish wonder why he left the cave.
So why do we get so excited about Planet #9 and beyond? About black holes and space portals. We are far more intelligent and imaginative than a catfish. We have watched the entire Star Wars series as well as Star Trek. We would not just stumble unknowingly into terrifying alien worlds to become nothing but a rather unmemorable snack before lunch. We may believe we are the divinely anointed masters of all beasts of the land and birds of the air, but that franchise is only for this planet. We have no rights beyond our atmosphere.
Similarly in the Aegamas cave the Golden catfish rules all the organisms in its own little universe. But that doesn’t mean much if they come up against a metre long saw-toothed relative who doesn’t feel the same family connection or a scorpion looking for lunch. As a life-form they were created from base organisms just like us. Then they evolved over millions of years to the creature they are now.
If we believe that homo-sapiens evolution has been fast-tracked from primate beasts to become super intelligent species, then we are suggesting that, between us and the primary divine creation of all life from which our forebear primates evolved, there is an alien life-form that re-wired our brains and dna 200,000 years ago to achieve that intelligence. If we find them we should be prepared in case they may not welcome us as children, rather they may say ‘Hey look at our little monkeys, how did they get here?’
But I don’t know why I bother to write this. Fifty percent of my readership would not contemplate space exploration because, at the end of it, zero-gravity golf would just seem silly; the other 50% is of the firm conviction that ruling of the beasts and the birds is solely for the purpose of having them lightly sautéed in a brandy sauce, served with a pear and blue cheese salad and washed down with delightful chilled chablis; the thought of being a guinea pig for sautéed extra terrestrial is just disgusting. So I am fairly confident that neither reader got past the first three lines before disengaging. My words therefore simply go into the ether, just in case ‘they’ are out there and monitoring me: ‘I come in peace’.
Of course the other theory could well be that the sun itself is the 1st heavenly body, not Mercury, in which case, Neptune becomes #9 and the search is over.
The US of A rhetoric that is getting all the publicity is coming from Donald Trump with Sarah Palin singing harmony. And while he talks tough, the substance of his proposals is actually very defensive. His proposal is to build Fort USA. Ban all Muslims from entering. Build a wall to keep the Hispanics out, with armed Trump guards all along the watchtower. He is leading Americans into a siege mentality. Waving a sabre from behind a fortress.
There is an irony that Trump wants to build a fortress to protect Americans against foreigners who would bring violence upon their people and/or corruption of their culture. For only a couple of hundred years ago these westerners were the invaders who brought terrible violence upon the native Americans as they destroyed their culture. Karma would say they are getting a bit of their own back. They fear the Mexicans pouring across the border into Texas, while overlooking the fact that they stole Texas from Mexico in 1845. And from further afield they fear the Muslims who are counter-attacking decades of the USA intrusions into the Middle Eastern countries and actual invasion of Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan. Trump fears, probably correctly, that Muslim immigrants and refugees are a Trojan horse for Muslim terrorists, but of course one country’s terrorist is another country’s freedom fighter.
Over the past 70 years the USA have often joined in other people’s fights and they have enraged a lot of people off in their very short history. Up until the second world war the USA pretty much kept to themselves. They were busy little beavers because they were focused on creating their own new self-indulgent world of home and kitchen appliances to make their wiminfolks life easier and fast food outlets like A&W, the forerunner to KFC and Mickey D’s, to ensure starvation was never going to be a problem. Even today most do not have passports and most of those who have them do so because they are immigrants who needed them to come to America. Traditional America is very insular. They only joined world war 2 in 1942, two years after it started, when the Japanese bombed their Pacific outpost, Hawaii, which sits almost halfway between the Japanese and USA mainlands. The attack on their naval base in Hawaii spooked them and their response was the Manhattan project, the development of weapons of mass destruction. So they went into the European war arena to gather intelligence on Germany’s atomic and rocket building research and ‘recruit’ the German scientists and engineers who led the world in this area. In May 1945 Germany surrendered; four months later the USA dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That was soon followed by the Korean War then the Vietnamese War.
The USA became obsessed with technology, particularly military technology. In 1958 they put men into space and in 1969 they put men on the moon. While the British were developing computer technology during WW2, so were the Americans and in 1946 they announced the launch of ENIAC, Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, a giant brain. From that point computer technology was dominated by the USA companies of Microsoft and Apple. The technology was funded by the military and its primary purpose was military. They never used atomic bombs again in war, but that was because Russia also developed them and pointed them to mainland USA cities. Strange to think that it was Russia who most likely prevented Atomic warfare being used in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba or the Middle East.
The Crusades against the Persian Empire were supposed to have ended in 1487 but the USA have conducted their own Crusades there since WW2. They supported the Shah of Iran who was then overthrown in the 1979 revolution; then they supported Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war. Then they subsequently invaded Iraq, twice in 1990 and 2003. The United States was getting involved in many conflicts that were simply part of thousands of years of Persian tribal history. A friend of my enemy is my enemy. The USA made enemies.
Until 9/11 no-one took the war to mainland USA. But 9/11 made the Americans realise that decades of poking their M16’s into other peoples’ AK47 fights had turned the glare of the Arabs towards them. So what to do about it? They just continually upped the ante in the enemies’ homelands. Boots on the ground. A reality Star Wars for the global tv audience. They invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to eliminate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda organisers of the 9/11 attack and then in 2003 they invaded Iraq again in search of weapons of mass destruction. The most powerful nation on the planet, using the most advanced military technology imaginable, descending on Middle eastern tribes; and all recorded live on CNN. But if the Iraq and Afghan wars were meant to restore their military pride after Vietnam, they failed miserably. They did kill Bin laden and Saddam Hussein, but did not destroy the tribal conflicts. And there was something a little unsettling about seeing Barrack Obama and his advisors watching the assassination of Bin laden live on TV, as though it was a sports match. These Persians are people with an ethic the westerners do not comprehend. It is said if you go into battle with a Persian at your back, at least you know you will not die alone. There are a lot of people around the globe, from Vietnam onwards, who believe this is not the USA ethic in warfare. When the going gets tough, the USA at government level, cuts their losses and leaves their ‘friends’ to die.
I do not really think this is a religious war of Muslim against Christian. Those are just the uniforms adopted; the belief in afterlife that is necessary to persuade soldiers to face their deaths. This seems to me to be about people who seek revenge when they are hurt. That is what has caused the tribal conflicts in the middle east in the first place over tens of thousands of years. But with the USA and other western nations getting involved for their own commercial reasons, those regional tribal conflicts are now global.
As an unknown Afghan Taliban prisoner is reported as saying, ‘you have the watches, we have the time.’ And it looks like the USA’s time as the #1 global superpower is nearly over. The tough talking Donald Trump is saying: “Close the gates, build the walls.”
And so, if Trump closes the gates and builds the walls another global empire ambition will collapse as finally FORT USA becomes a reality TV show and we watch the season’s finale: The Hutts being driven out by the primitive, but valiant, Earthling cave-dwellers. Then USA will just sit at the United Nations table alongside Russia, England, Germany and Italy, other nations that once aspired to rule the world. But that may suit Donald Trump personally. He is first and foremost a businessman who is not, as far as I know, dependant on the military arms industry for his business. He invests in bricks and mortar not hi-tech. He possibly thinks that the tax money that goes into military activity could be far better invested in areas that are closer to his wallet. Who knows?
But while Donald Trumpets on about shutting out the Muslims, Persia’s most politically stable nation, Iran, having already agreed major security arrangement with Russia, is signing a major trade deal with China. A friend of my friend is my friend.
I am on a roll now about this new republic of New Zealand. So I think I would like to sort out the structure of our new republic this week so we can get on with other things. As a starting point I need to study other republics around the world and see if there is a model we can base ours on.
I will start with the big one, the US of A. It is a pretty complex system. In their Republican Constitution, at national level alongside the local town and city Councils, they have two houses: the Senate and Congress, oddly based on the British system of House of Lords and House of Commons. The purpose in the British system is so the Lords and masters, the unelected and wealthy minority, can over-rule any law the common people wanted. I guess that is the rationale behind the American system although the Senators are elected not appointed. In the USA, the Congress is the equivalent of the British House of Commoners. Congressmen serve two-year terms representing a local district. They are publicly elected in bi-annual elections. The President and Vice President have four-year terms. Prior to the presidential election the candidates for the two major parties go through a dress rehearsal full-scale national election to select the final candidate. In the final presidential election each state is allocated a number of “Electoral College Electors.” The number of electors is equal to the combined number of senators and congressman in the State. Congress appoints these electors and it is these electors who cast the votes for President and Vice President on behalf of the American people. The Senators get the longer term influence with six-year terms. With a third of the Senate seats coming up for election every two years. There are 100 senators all told, two per state. Senators can veto legislation. So the real power is with the Senators who have a six-year term and the power to block.
In theory the people get to vote their representatives, in practice we know that money elects them. Money, and a lot of it, is the only way individual candidates get the publicity necessary to get recognised; and positive recognition is the only way to get a respectable number of ticks on the ballot papers. So the ‘elected’ representatives owe their position and livelihood to those who ‘invested’ in them. Selected by teh rich to be elected by the poor. Like other investments they can invest at different levels, Mayor, Congressman, President or Senator. Investors demand a dividend and a commercial dividend may not necessarily be in the voting public’s best interest.
The USA was built on the democratic principle of government of the people, by the people and for the people. I am not sure the outcome, so heavily reliant on commercial investment, can truly be said to live up to that founding principle in the 21st century. The control of money is vested in the top of the USA Government structure and trickles down to the grass-roots. And with such a large structure there are many leaks and diversions on the way down. So lets see if we can reverse it for a better model. What if we went all the way down to grass-roots and created little community boards which would have primary responsibility for the infrastructure of their own geographic area and for the employment and well-being of their own community. Taxation would be collected at the community level and a trickle-up funding flow would be created. Welfare, for example, may become a community responsibility rather than being processed by a faceless bureaucracy. They could organise a community security team; authorise construction projects and build community assets. Each Community Board then appoints, apart from its office bearers, one representative to the City or Town Council.
The Local Council would be responsible for the infrastructure and interests that are common to more than one of the community boards. The common roads, water and power supply, local police, courthouse and prison. So from, say, twelve community boards we would have twelve democratically representative members on the Local Council. Each Council would then appoint, apart from its Mayor and office-bearers, one representative to the Congress. The Congress would then represent the interests common to more than one city or town: internal armed forces, roads and rail, etc. and they would appoint 10% of their members to the Senate.
The Senate would appoint the President and Vice President and this body would manage the international diplomatic and commercial relations, border control, currency supply etc.
The key thing is that there is only one election, that of the local community board member. The President was elected by a small community and his position is reliant on continuing to be elected to the Community board, continuing to be appointed to Congress by his Local Council, continuing to be appointed to the Senate by Congress and continuing to maintain the confidence of the Senate. The taxes collected pass up the line, they do not trickle down. So taxes are collected at community level, community projects are financed at a community level and a portion of taxes are passed up the line from Community Board to Council level. And from Council to Congress and from Congress to the Senate.
In theory it looks good, certainly democratic. A single chain of authority rather than so many elections to different compartments of the constitutional structure. It is of the people, by the people and for the people with the people in control of their own community and national funding. But would the trickle up be too slow to effectively allow the country to compete or even survive in the global community? And I wonder if in practice we just finish up with a government dominated by well-meaning soccer moms. Goldfish in a global shark tank. We may scorn the corporates and the money traders and the war mongers, but if the US dollar collapses against the Chinese Yen, life as they know it ends. McDonald’s becomes fine dining. The USA would be just like Italy after the Roman Empire collapsed and we will all look to China, India or Russia to be our new best friends. It has happened to every other empire humans have created.
I don’t think I have found the New Zealand model yet. This could be trickier than it first looked.
Ok, so if my 2016 resolution is to removing the presence of Great Britain on our constitutional flag, and as of today that resolve is intact, then I must prepare my mind for the logical extension of removing the Royal Family of Great Britain as the monarch of New Zealand. That done, we either replace the Windsor family with a New Zealand-based monarch or we establish a republic. In days of yore that would have meant war. But not today; I am pretty certain that the Queen has given our Prime Minister the royal nod over a picnic lunch that the royal we would be very comfortable with not having us hanging around her apron strings any longer.
Which actually brings me to my holiday read which was a very good book called “Shantaram”. It is a novel based on the experiences of Australian author and former criminal, Gregory Roberts, when he was living in India. He had escaped from Melbourne prison and made his way, via New Zealand, to the streets of Bombay. Initially he was repulsed by the slums of Bombay but eventually, to avoid the authorities, he had no option but to live in one. And even that option was a highly prized one for the street people in Bombay. A family missed out when he was allotted a shack. He came to genuinely love the people and the lifestyle of the slums; there was a system of community support and justice that put the outside world to shame. Domestic violence, religious fights, natural disasters of fire and monsoon floods were all dealt with and resolved communally. Their slum leader was appointed out of respect. He had no elected title of mayor, governor or senator nor inherited title of prince, duke or lord, but his wisdom ruled the 25,000 living in that one slum. His decisions were not questioned. His justice was accepted without challenge. And even though Roberts eventually made his way from the slums to a luxury apartment, courtesy of his services to a local crime boss, his heart and soul remained with the people of the slum.
That is not just the wishful imagination of a novel writer, even based on his own experience. I recalled a very serious documentary on television some years ago researching the difference between the slums of India and the ghettos in the West. The documentary concluded that the attitudes to life between the two groups could not have been more polar. The slum dwellers in India were a happy community which worked co-operatively, self-regulated and self-resourced. I would not be so naive as to suggest that, because it is communal, there is no crime. There will be thieves, but the crime of thievery depends entirely on who writes the laws. How much taxation and spending of taxation by the politicians and bureaucrats is thievery in fact if not in legal name. The 40,000 person bureau bash in the December Paris Climate change summit a case in point. There was a philosophical reference in the book about doing the wrong thing for the right reason. Some thievery will fall into that category.
On the other side of the world, those observed in the far more civilised, high rise ‘housing estate’ ghettos in the West lived a desperate and miserable existence. The residents relied on the faceless state for their welfare income that purchased the basics in life and they, in fact, prey on one another. The documentary concluded that the difference was that in the West the under-privileged were placed in high-rise apartments, physically separating each family, whereas the slums in India were on a single level and families lived and interacted very intimately. I would have thought the reverse to be true; I would have thought that a sense of privacy would make people happier than being so exposed, but in fact it would seem that the exact opposite is the reality.
Living in little boxes all stacked on top of each other seems to result in disconnection, loneliness and despair. Being dependent on social welfare creates a sense of worthlessness. Communal living, even in a slum, brings connection, co-operation and actually happiness. Living in a shack alongside and connecting to thousands of other shacks appears, according to both the TV documentary and to Gregory Roberts, the best out of people. The high-rise ghettos are the solution of the big, out of touch bureaucracies; the Indian slums are organic, unofficial community solutions to housing needs.
So, back to the new New Zealand. When we revise our constitution, our fundamental basis for organising and running our country, should we review the whole concept? As a modern western society, are we getting too bureaucratic? Bureaucracy has a natural desire to grow bigger. Bigger is better they claim; more efficiency and greater scales of economics. High rise housing projects need big bureaucracies to create them and consequently bigger bureaucracies to create greater civilisations. Well that is the bureaucrats’ viewpoint. The counter argument is that the bigger the bureaucracy the further they are removed from the community. Their primary objective then becomes the growth of the bureaucracy rather than the well being of the community outside their insular universe. They can even operate almost independently of the democratically elected representatives of the people. Politicians may come into politics with the most noble of intentions but their ability, within any voting cycle, to change the way a bureaucracy moves tends to frustrate their noble intent. Bureaucrats tend to be career people, protected by New Zealand’s largest and most powerful union, the PSA with a membership of 58,000. A daunting prospect for the new member from South Otago.
In the creating of a new New Zealand, a post-colonial New Zealand, beginning with the flag change, one thing that we will know for sure and certain is that the bureaucrats will try to control the process; to achieve their own agenda. And we also know that agenda will be to create a greater bureaucracy. Ask Auckland citizens how their super city has gone? Once a super bureaucracy has been created, it is very hard to dismantle it. So as we face our new New Zealand, we need to be alert to what we want to achieve. And I would suggest teh one thing we do not want is a larger bureaucracy. If a civilisation is judged by the condition of its poorest citizens then the comparison between Chicago and Mumbai is very relevant. Put to us on paper, we would all unanimously say that to build housing for the poor and to pay them a benefit is the civilised and Christian way to approach poverty. But that approach does not take into account the destruction to the soul from the sense of hopelessness of being reliant for basic survival on the decisions a faceless, heartless bureaucracy.
Slum-dwellers have very little, tangibly, but they do have self respect, a sense of community and a sense of self sufficiency. They have a soul. I would never want to see a Mumbai slum in New Zealand, but even less would I want to see the soul-less high-rise ghetto housing projects. A more solid, organised housing construction is no justification for the loss of hope and self-worth through bureaucratic dependency.
When we do decide to change our whole constitutional identity we need to do so in a way that will facilitate the social structure that we want to represent our new nation. Forget the ‘trickle down’ mantra, we need to build the new New Zealand from the ground up. First we need to decide how the underprivileged class, those without capital, without family inheritance, without the resources for a meaningful, career-creating education will survive first, then build up from there. I do not have a solution but I know it must be achieved in a way that enables the self-worth of self-support rather than soul-destroying bureaucratic dependence.
The underprivileged need to be attended to first in the new republic. They could be helped with building materials but then left to build their communities themselves. They may be offered the means to grow, farm or catch food, but then left with the task of turning those means into food on the table. They may be provided with the means to manufacture clothing but left to the communal task of clothing themselves. Provided with the means of gaining an education but leaving them the option of taking the opportunity or not. The new republic could even allow such communities a level of self-governance within their community.
Creating hope and self worth in our most vulnerable communities is all about reducing the size and the intrusion of bureaucracy into their lives. Of creating communities that can take responsibility for their own survival and development and therefore retain and develop their sense of hope and purpose.
For hope and purpose are the essence of humanity. And it is the progress of humanity that should take precedence in the new New Zealand.