- an archival site on the life and world of Shunryu Suzuki and those who knew him.

home        what's new        bibliography         interviews        stories     and more if you look around

Digressions                Excerpts-Articles 

5/31/4 - Happy Memorial Day from the staff of and assorted friends and neighbors. - DC

Mainly we're here to party. But while we were enjoying the day off, Stanley who has no function other than to cause trouble said we should remember the purpose of this day and toasted nine bows to all the people who have fought tyranny and also those who have, while in uniform, been unfairly and innocently caught up in destructive government madness, power plays, and greed. 

Speaking for myself, even though I have opposed, however feebly, all the wars I've been aware of in my lifetime, I've always gotten along with those who went because I do not put them down and I support, again, however feebly, their right to receive respect and just compensation for their sacrifices. I gave such a toast and all within earshot raised their glasses high. We mostly agreed in chatter that followed the toast, a few cynics scoffing, that we want a government that wages peace, but if it sends people off to fight and be killed and wounded physically and emotionally, our government bureaucrats, politicians, and policy makers should honor these warriors not just with high-sounding words, but with financial support, medical care, and an open ear to their needs and complaints. 

It would be interesting, our informal statistician Derek said, to see a study comparing those eager to go war and those opposed and which were more likely to sympathetically deal with the costly results of the likes of Agent Orange and Gulf War syndrome.

There was more memorial talk. Stanley said that as we pay tribute to the 16 million plus Americans who fought in WWII, let us not forget, as we so constantly do, the sacrifice of Soviet, British, French, Chinese, Vietnamese (like Ho Chi Min), Mexican, Australian, and other nationals in that massive struggle. Then he brought out an editorial from today's San Francisco Chronicle. In it, a survivor of the immensely heroic Normandy invasion, William Burke, writes about our debt to our allies, especially noting the Soviet role. Burke says that, contrary to popular belief, D Day was not the most important battle of WWII. He says that happened a year earlier in the biggest battle of human history [maybe] when over two million Soviet and German soldiers met and fought near Kursk. The scale of it all is so immense. Burke says that in that year the Soviets killed 890,000 German soldiers. A student of history here named Dennis-sips-red-wine says that for every German soldier that US soldiers killed, the Soviets killed ten. 

Tom, a pacifist, said he was against all killing and was only joining in on the toasts to veterans to keep up with the booze consumption. 

Derek said he was sorry to be dwelling on all this killing as if it were a good thing, but it's Memorial Day and he was glad that the Soviets broke Germany's back so that we all together could finish them off. And now they're good guys. Hooray! And Derek toasted Germany "which has recovered so well from that sort of madness which we are all subject to and which some of us are somewhat into now." What did he mean by that?

So we looked up Kursk on the web which led us to <> and got these figures: The Russians put 300,000 civilians to work building defenses such as tank traps. "Armour and troop concentrations were also built up by both sides with the Russians amassing 1,300,000 men, 3,600 tanks, 20,000 artillery pieces and 2,400 aircraft. The Germans also assembled a formidable fighting force which was slightly smaller with 900,000 men 2,700 tanks 2,000 aircraft. As well as the three premier Waffen SS divisions taking part."    Anyway, the Soviets lost 250,000 men in that one battle with 600,000 wounded. Burke wrote that seven million Soviet soldiers and twice that many civilians died fighting Germany in that war. 

Cynthia said that if we're into monuments for war heroes who have helped to preserve our freedom, she thinks we should consider one for the Soviets or Russians or whatever you call them now that there's no Soviet Union. We forget their oceanic sacrifice if we ever knew. When Russia wouldn't help us invade Iraq, I heard talk show hosts and politicians curse that that was the thanks we get for saving them from Germany. Hey - who writes the history here?

Then while I was opening another keg, Derek sat at the ole flat screen and got to looking up how many people died in recent wars and found the Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century <> which has all sorts of info in its war section on wars, deaths, atrocities, governments - it's really an amazing site which estimates 180,000,000 people died from organized government violence in the prior century. I remember a while back reading on a site like this, maybe it was this one, that more than half of the casualties in the prior century were the result of Communism. The site above lists Mao, Hitler, and Stalin as the three leaders responsible for the most deaths, their order being rearranged depending on how you look at it. And there are many lesser lists and charts and approaches.

In an email from Taigen Dan Leighton which underscores the madness of war, Josh White in the Washington Post in an article on pro football star Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire, said that 10% of our casualties in WWII died of friendly fire - that's 40,000. So we drank to all those we have fallen from friendly fire and I'm pleased to report that it's way down in these higher-tech days.

Then there was a toast offered by Dennis to George H. W. Bush, Bush Sr. (the one who said it would have opened a volcano of worms to overthrow Saddam Hussein), who  flew 38 missions in the South Pacific before being shot down. Those guys had nerve - they were flying right on top of Japanese ships so close in as to be one step away from being kamikazes. Blew the minds of the Japanese and blew their boats up too. And we toasted his son, Junior, for being a Vet of the Air National Guard. More than most of us did. I wouldn't put him down for that or for skipping whatever time in the guard he could. That's not something I don't like about him. It would be better though if he didn't try to hide little problems with his record or smear people that tell on him.

We were getting up to our windpipes with war talk so we agreed to turn off the computer and we also agreed that a lot of us are really fortunate not to have been involved in fighting and war. Like I said, I respect and support veterans though I'm not at all sorry I didn't go into the army. It was so easy for us to get out of being in the military in the Vietnam War. A lot of us marched against the war and worked to end it in various ways and got into different types of public service and were the sort of idealistic youth who would likely have signed up for the military in WWII. But no way were we going to that one. No problem with my vet friends.

We were reeling with all these casualty and battle figures [6,000 dead in 24 minutes long Guadalcanal naval battle] and the enormity of the suffering of all that warfare thinking there must be a way for the human race to evolve into a world without war. I disagree with my teacher Shunryu Suzuki when he said that there will always be war. Take it back shorty. Suzuki, incidentally, even though he didn't like militarism, as a priest insisted on publicly honoring the Japanese soldiers who fought in the war and brought a memorial to them to his temple when others in his town wanted to bury it because they were afraid that they'd get into trouble with the occupying US administration. They didn't.

So we quit talking about 20th Century war deaths, but we continued talking about war and threats of violence in general. There was a consensus of those who hadn't wandered off that we're well into an historical era where we're either going to figure out how to have a world without war or we're going to wipe ourselves off the face of the earth. Of course there is the possibility that governments could follow the (correct me if I'm wrong) Tokagawa example of banning guns etc and keeping it down to swords, but that was ruled out as unlikely. 

We all agreed, those of us who were paying attention to this line of thought anyway, that human governments are still pretty psycho and seemingly bent on self-and-other destruction and that the fact that Russia and the US still have enough giant nuclear weapons aimed at each other to kill everyone on earth is just nuts. Was nuts. Continues to be nuts. Our democratic system lets us get so out of whack on priorities - we spent tens of millions of dollars and endless media time focusing on minuscule peccadilloes of Bill Clinton when we could have been insisting that he work to get those nukes neutered. We go off and attack Iraq, clearly making ourselves less safe, when we should be clambering for those in power to get secured all the loose, mainly Russian, weapons grade plutonium and uranium that terrorists and rogue states can get their hands on. There are good people (like Sam Nunn) working on this stuff but it's hard for them to get anyone's attention. 

It seems that Americans in general think that since the Cold War's over that we don't have those problems anymore. It was offered by Derek, who is really into gradations, categories, and such, that we need some sort of rational systems analysis of threats to human life on earth so we could then go after those threats with resources commensurate with their degree of danger and likelihood of catastrophe. In his system lesser threats that are common such as burglary or flooding and catastrophic threats that are uncommon such as global thermonuclear war or rogue asteroids would all be deserving of lavish expenditures to assure our safety. We do the former pretty well, but the later, the threats to our species, get scant attention. We should remember Carl Sagan's admonition that we should at least reduce the number of nuclear weapons on earth to less than could kill us all. 

Practical Cynthia says we must state that a threat to the species is also a threat to the nation as there are so many who can't relate to the former while being overzealous about the later.

The conversation turned to 1984, then to 2004 and back a few years to Bill Joy's "Why the Future Will Not Need Us" which goes into how the advance of science puts technology with mischievous possibilities in nanotechnology, robots, biotechnology and such, increasingly within the possible grasp of those who haven't had such opportunities before - individual lunatics, small bands of fanatics, and whacko governments with limited resources come to mind. Hey - big governments can go crazy too. Reading this sort of speculation incites terror in the imaginative. Bad things may happen. People will want solutions.

There are the solutions based on carefully seeking the actual danger and calmly reducing the pool of enemies and then there is the solution of staggering about drunkenly slugging everyone who looks different and then there could be the solution of using other types of scientific and technological developments to create a world of total surveillance, a world where we live our lives in a virtual prison without the ability to be harmed or to harm others. And of course all sorts of other stipulations dictated by the views of those in charge could be imposed on us all too. I'm reminded of the peoples' hero turned despot from Bananas who decreed upon assuming power that everyone would from that day on have to wear two pair of underwear, and to make sure they're doing it they would have to wear them on the outside. 

If Moore's Law (The number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months) keeps holding true and whiz kids, being highly curious and well reimbursed, keep inventing new ways to use ever increasing computer power to help governments watch over and control people, then what's to stop human society from evolving into a system of total control? 

Cynthia said that the vast majority of people will not only not resist this trend, they will demand it. Frightening things will happen and, when they don't, government spokespersons will whip up the requisite fear to get the cooperation they desire. Everything will be so much easier to manage. 

Of course there are other laws that will come into play such as Murphy's Law (named after the comedian) which, though less scientifically grounded, has a pleasant ring to it. So this observation and limitation of the individual by governments, and whatever large organizations are in play, will be, if Eddie's Law holds, thwarted by many unforeseen monkey wrenches, but I can't imagine that there won't still be a glacial trend toward unimaginable power in the hands of Big Nurse or by any other name (would swell as meat). And in this scenario our carbon based masters would make an alliance with silicon allies in the nanosphere. A few of us grocked her drift. We envisioned the entire planet being penetrated throughout with a decentralized ganglia of computerized surveillance and control mechanisms. Nothing private - not our deeds, not what's in our blood or skin or hair, not our thoughts. And immediate punishment for wrongdoing (as defined by random powers).

A reveler on the chandelier had a suggestion for how to deal with this seemingly inevitable future. One course, he said, swinging, which is structural, would be to promote decentralization of government, power, management, production, and just about any type of activity. That way it's harder to strike at each other - administration and decision making, energy production and sources, food, work places, play places - spread out. No more giant buildings and centers of government. Eliminate the big targets. That would possibly give us a more stable and less vulnerable civilization. 

But that's not really fundamental enough, called Cynthia while sweeping up broken glass. That doesn't stop us from loosing our freedom, though it might make many types of violence less effective.

"Democracy won't save us," an octogenarian neighbor named Sally said while freely distributing her own private herbal smoke, "as people will vote to be safe and vote how they're told by the most ads is safest." She said our leaders talk about democracy but forget about the importance of an enlightened constitution without which democracy is only a hope away from mob rule. There must be agreements we pass on that the majority or the government can't change without a super-majority. And, she said, we need in this constitution a Global Bill of Rights. - something we could all live with that lets us each live the way we want - as far as possible - without infringing directly harmfully on others. 

We have a meter here developed by Derek which supposedly measures the state of the threat to privacy in its range. The lower the reading the worse. The readings have been going down, he says, for years - since way before Bush Jr. If his privacy meter's increasingly lower readings and less reliable though impressive predictions of ever lowering privacy are true, while we're trying so hard to hold on to our right to privacy, buying a little time by fighting off these ever-increasing tidal waves of inorganic eyeballs, maybe, he says, we could secure a more promising future for ourselves by honing in on cementing our rights, guaranteeing that, even with the total loss of privacy, we have the right to do as much as possible - just about anything that isn't violent or ear splitting or something like that. I asked him if that's a fair assessment of what he had to say. 

"Do you have to use so many commas and stuff in your sentences," he asked me? "I mean, couldn't you have used more periods? I wouldn't have stated it that way." He was right.

We should be able to say, read, write, believe and think anything we want, to be with any people we want to be with, to have whatever type of consensual adult sex we want, to alter our states of mind by any means we choose [chemical, electronic, meditation, dancing, holding our breath] as long as it doesn't pollute the air or isn't thrust in the face of someone who wants to be left alone. Of course there have to be limits. You still wouldn't be able to scream "flood!" in a subway or sell plastic bags of ethanol to children but you wouldn't be subject to totalitarian or puritanical restraints argued by "this will be the end of society as we know it" or "what if everybody did it?" or arguments about protecting children from bad influences a la Socrates or the war on some drugs. 

Kenji, who works for Hewlet Packard thought the whole idea of a global bill of rights was wishful thinking that would get botched. He said that our best hope was for public input into the programming of the artificial intelligence that will inevitably run the, or be the total surveillance system that he agreed was inevitable. Or maybe even conspiratorial programming might backfire due to the unexamined habit of doublespeak that likely programmers have. For instance, if it were programmed with what a lot of sociopathic control freak politicians said rather than what they did  then we might be in good hands. 

"Hey, tell that thing that "freedom" is a privilege for those who are moral and can afford it," Kenji said in a bad Texas accent. "Sorry sir," he answered himself in administrative assistant dialect, "but  the AI's locked in - now we can't tell the riffraff with all those inferior values what to do. We can't bust them anymore. They have rights now." And then in Texan again, and sincerely with knotted brow, "This is troubling."

These are the sorts of things we were discussing here at's Memorial Day party today. But this serious talk didn't last much longer. Someone in the dark corner started laughing insisting that by tomorrow we will come to see the folly of all our conclusions, pointing out the lack of a realistic mystery variable in our calculations and scoffing at our arrogance to think we could control anything, even those who arrogantly think they will control us. She, I couldn't see who she was, said we can't decide what's going to happen, only how we react to it, and that everything is just fine if we don't fight it. A man stretched out under a table called out "that's right!" and added that all phenomena is mind created. "You sound like a bunch of materialistic atheists!" he snorted. I looked up at the wall to see the Lao Tsu quote: "You can't improve the universe." Now I'm cleaning up the mess we made before John, whose place it is, gets home. He has no idea I throw these wild parties every time he's gone.

Anyway, happy Memorial Day, kudos and respect to those who've been in uniform from a group of us almost none of which ever wore one, and we pray you're okay and being well-rewarded (not talking about you war profiteers) - rewarded with the rest of us with a world without war and with liberty and plenty for all.

Why the Future Will Not Need US  by Bill Joy from Wired Magazine

Digressions                Excerpts-Articles                    What's New