Discouragement is a fairly recurrent companion these past several weeks for me - Paul too, but not always at the same time or over the same things.
The household maintenance tasks we've had to take on since soon after our arrival in January, were not expected. We had, what Paul and I thought was, a mutually beneficial caretaker arrangement with another party. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case and much of the time that we would have spent on MoreLife has instead been spent making repairs to, and modifying certain aspects of the house and property that I acquired in the dissolution of my previous marriage in October of 2000. The most discouraging part of it for me is that a person, for whom I had a great deal of respect (and affection) for many years, in essence took advantage of me by not providing anywhere near an equal amount of value in maintenance and security for almost 30 months worth of free housing. While Paul has found this most annoying (even angering at times), the discouragement has been more associated with some of the tasks we have had to take on, the time it has taken, the appearance of new ones almost daily, and the level of strength certain ones have required. In addition, he never thought he'd have to do many of these again, considering himself an apartment renter with a finished cottage for get-aways. He's joked with me that the house that I "came with" has turned out to be far more than he expected - in several ways. The bright side to this is that we're nearing the end of the tasks that need to be done before we leave for Toronto. Only one of the major items remains - putting the automatic timer system on the drip irrigation.
Last October we left Paul's old Acura Integra (1990) in Oregon with a person we trusted who had agreed to sell it in return for a 50/50 split of everything over $500. This fellow was quite enthusiastic about the car at the time, telling us how popular a model and year this Acura Integra was with college students. After a few emails, all communication with CA just stopped, despite phone messages left by Paul after we arrived here in January. Even an open post on sci.life-extension, where CA frequently posts, did not elicit any response to Paul's emails and phone calls. We had debated whether to drive up to Oregon to the last address of CA in an effort to retrieve the car, but decided that we couldn't spare the time or expense and the likelihood was strong that we'd not locate the car anyway. Paul had signed the title as seller and CA could legally claim that it was his despite the fact that the 3 of us knew better - no money had changed hands. It is a disappointment to realize that one's judgment of a person was wrong. Paul felt especially bad because he'd considered himself a good judge of character. He had corresponded many times with CA and had over a couple of years read and thought highly of CA's posts on sci.life-extension. We had dinner with CA that evening in Oregon before leaving the car with him and he appeared to me to be a forthright young man, an eager "older" student who was changing careers to nuclear engineering because, besides it being more interesting, it had more potential value for humankind. He expressed many individual freedom ideas during our meal conversation and would have liked to discuss more with Paul, but we were exhausted having driven virtually non-stop from Arizona. So it has been a discouraging event to realize that CA is not an honorable person, that he has in effect stolen Paul's car. It's disheartening to have anything stolen by a stranger, but it becomes sharply discouraging when it is done by someone who was a friend. To date I can't identify a positive aspect of this situation; I will say, however, that our new car, a Subaru WRX wagon, is nice to drive, but it too has features that have been disappointing. There have even been times when Paul bemoans ever letting go of his old Acura.
There have been other personal relationships that have been disappointing and even discouraging, but I am ever hopeful that with time the individuals will recognize their faulty logic. However, actions by the US government on its own citizens which have become increasingly oppressive in past few years are now moreso, even in areas not associated with "terrorist threats". Just looking at the draconian penalties included in a recent bill by Congress outlawing human cloning research is a discouraging thought for the future of scientific inquiry. (Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 (H.R. 534). H.R. 534 passed by the US House of Representatives and a similar bill under consideration in the Senate, also called the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 (S. 245); there is a competing bill, the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003 (S. 303).) Individuals wanting to proceed in or enter this area of investigation will of necessity go underground at great risk to their freedom, or go to some country where they can interact non-forcefully with others in this field without fear of fines or imprisonment (albeit, with more possible risk due to a likely lower level of overall technology). The same applies to those who wish to purchase the services of these researchers. Is there such a place? And if so, will it continue to be available under the enormous pressure of the US government? Actively intervening in the affairs of peoples in other countries by the US has 100 year history, expanding beyond precedence in recent weeks.
The geo-political scene in the past week has been a discouraging one to all non-interventionists individuals, no matter where they reside. For Paul and me, watching the war on TV has been a fascinating horror. It was especially upsetting to view video taken by the Iraqi government after the Gulf War I of Shiite prisoners in southern Iraq being beaten and then murdered. These were the same individuals who had enthusiastically responded to President G Bush the Elder's encouragement to revolt against Sadam Hussein. And when the revolt was at it's height but threatened by Hussein's Republican Guard, there was no US support - it was no longer in the "interest" of the US (according to Bush). The same PBS program also showed the almost limitless line of Kurdish refugees streaming out of northern Iraq as a revolt there against Hussein was being brutally crushed. It was horrifying to watch clips of these poor people scurrying for cover as Iraqi helicopters strafed. What was even more disgusting was to know (and hear again on the program) that here also US and allied forces were nearby but did nothing to help when much of the population had done just what they had been encouraged to do by the then US President. This is some of the history of the previous US military activity in Iraq and should be remembered in light of current events.
The intervention that has taken place most recently, is convenient to this president. It is as much a distracting mechanism as was Bill Clinton's threat of attack on Iraq during the height of his Monica mire. The economy of the US is in a major dip - actually a recession, but few will use this politically incorrect term these days. Only the horrendous fact of terrorist destruction on US soil on 9/11/2001 has made it possible for this president to garner the extensive support for attacking Iraq, which may or may not have "weapons of mass destruction". The fact that North Korea is far more likely to possess these and the US definitely does - and extensive stockpiles of all types - are facts that currently the majority of USers (remember that there are other countries on the American continents) fail to keep in mind. This last is the most discouraging at times - the fact that, from the media reporting, the majority of US citizens think that it is perfectly acceptable for their government to attack another country - not to retaliate against an attack or only on those who otherwise initiate force, but rather to initiate force themselves much of it against innocent people who have never and would never initiate force themselves. If these individual USers (and anyone else) wanted to "liberate" the Iraqi people, they should be free to create a group similar to the French Foreign Legion and assist the anti-Hussein population. But for a government, which by its nature exists on the funds stolen from the people within its "jurisdiction", to initiate a war on another country is immorality on a massive scale. Most people have no trouble seeing the immorality of a person initiating force on another individual, and even when it happens between groups where the initiators can be identified. But somehow the scale of the current events reduces it to a video game for many (or maybe another TV "reality show"), though not for the families and friends of those killed, for those there who are maimed or for those with a conscience. Added 3/26/03 (And then there is the resemblence of this war to a movie plot. The long anticipated (and dreaded by many) is now available in living color on every TV. *Don't miss the credits on the poster* - they deserve everyone's attention.)
There has been so much deceit and distortion by the US government (and some media) that the fact that many are ignorant of what has transpired over the past 18 months since terror visited NYC is probably not surprising. Most USers are good honest people who have had very little direct interaction with government agencies. They don't use force or fraud on their neighbors, rarely if ever lie (except for the "white" variety, but that's another story) and do a decent day's work at their jobs (while probably spending more money then they make); so they expect that the people in high government offices are pretty much like themselves. The sad fact is that by far most people in government positions, whether elected or appointed, whether local, state or federal, are there because of the power that they have over their fellows - power that they would not have in a private company. And the higher the office, the more power possible - the more force at the disposal of the office holder. It is definitely discouraging at times that so many USers have been so manipulated by their own government, that the government education they have received has been so effective. How many people today question what they hear on TV or the radio, or what they read in the newspapers or at websites, specifically with respect to this military action? Critical thinking does not appear to be an activity in which large numbers of people engage, judging by the polls reported in various media. (Of course I also wonder about the accuracy and lack of bias of these opinion taking methods themselves.) Why else would many people register support for attacking Iraq only if the UN agreed, but when Bush sends troops in on his own, vast numbers of them resigned themselves and now "stand behind our President"? Even the US Senate voted unanimously to "support the President and our troops". This attitude of "our country right or wrong" is terribly thoughtless and incorrect. It shouts of sheep, individuals unwilling to examine and criticize the actions of a President and his advisors who are determined to continue and enlarge on the vision of Woodrow Wilson to make the US an intervening agent everywhere in the world. There is an enormous difference between a government protecting citizens of a country on their own soil (or even intercepting a clear and direct threat against persons and property within its geographical boundaries), and sending troops and firing missiles into other countries because they think there is a possibility that the government there may do the same or worse. The philosophical issues on this point and the entire subject of proper interaction between individuals (and groups of individuals) are ones that demand considered thought rather than dismissal as "too late". It is never too late to stop and actively think on whether actions being taken are right. While it is discouraging to see that so many USers do not consider any of this - or if they do they choose not take the moral path - it is encouraging that large numbers of inhabitants of other countries (also including a growing number of USers) are not in agreement and at least make that known visibly. How many of them understand the basic principle of non-aggression - not initiating force - is difficult to tell at this point, but at least they are in many cases visibly disagreeing with the actions of their own governments which have leant moral (if not physical) support for the US military action.
So while there are many personal reasons - and an enormous geo-political one - for being discouraged everyday lately, there are small but definite grounds for continuing to "plug away" at making our thoughts and practices known and elucidating their scientific and philosophic bases. The Internet allows us to quickly communicate with those who agree, and to (hopefully) persuade those who have not stopped to consider the consequences of their ideas and actions. MoreLife keeps on going...reminiscent of the Energizer Bunny ;>)