Friday, March 31, 2006

A Review of: Essential Sufism

A Backdoor To Insights Into Islamic Culture

A Review of: Essential Sufism, James Fadiman & Robert Frager, Foreword by Huston Smith (1997) Harper Collins

During my mere three years of living in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates I endeavoured to take an open-minded approach to Islamic culture, mostly because the Emiratis themselves have taken such great efforts to offer specific tolerances to various religions, cultures, and lifestyles within their own nation. However, my attempts to learn written Arabic were pedestrian at best, I took a private tutor at home weekly for probably about a year in total. My reading ability never really progressed beyond the name tags of my students, and attempts to read stylized shop signs.
Part of my "block" was obviously simultaneous immersion in Islamic culture, which also entailed the occasional, seemingly half-hearted attempts at evangelisation, which I perceived fairly regularly as an opportunity to learn a little about Islam. However, regardless of the author, every book I found placed in my hands on the topic of Islam was often a very poorly argued justification for the superiority of one particular world religion over all others. Proofs almost inevitably mirror the claim that, "There is no God but God" which translates poorly as an evangelisation tool; or the claim that there is no religion but Islam.
I never really attempted to counter such simplified, "proof is a proof is a proof" logic. Therefore such texts always remained partially read and abandoned on my shelf. And when it came time to leave I found that those books did not fit in my bags or packing cases. Even in readings of Bernard Lewis I have often wished that such a knowledgeable academic could attempt to approach the heart of Islamic beliefs with the aim of expressing some of its greater, perhaps intangible virtues. However too often I believe Westerners in particular take a stance similar to that a woman I know, married and divorced five times that, "We in the West have nothing to learn from the Arabs."
In my travelling explorations of a few places in the Middle East, such as Egypt, the most poignant memory of the passage of time, or the depths of culture that reside there, or the inevitable discoveries of preceeding empires and dynasties long gone, themselves the remaining mysteries of the Nile, was observation of the villages surrounding in particular the Crocodile Temple, Kom Ombo.

At Kom Ombo I was fascinated more by the sizes of the guided crowds, the negotation of the confines of the ruins themselves by awestruck or bored visitors; it really depended on how long or how many ruins one has visitied as to the scale of the impact of historical sites themselves, which appears to fade over time or through repeated visits to various eventually seemingly similar monoliths. Long lines of perspiring generally European tour groups.

But basically my learning was in observing the scale or depth of archaeological excavations required to unearth Kom Ombo. Over thousands of years, the temple had slowly settled under the feet of generations of the fellas. Next to the temple was a cross-section of the layers upon layers of humanity which had slowly evolved up to present day. It looked just like a layering and layers upon layers of sediments and clays, soils and the trappings of civilisations compounded and compounded upon themselves.

So a book like "Essential Sufism" is in my mind a reasonable ouvre into the possible underpinnings of Islamic culture. These Sufis are the natural mystics of Islam, and as mystics, they share great similarities to other religious mystics. In general study of the mystics of various religions one may chance comparisons which offer reflective values, those which unite humanity in more variations of parallel than division. Thus a book like "Essential Sufism" offers much in general reference to contemplative learning.

That these records of early Islamic and some modern day Sufi wisdoms are pieced together in general topics of human interest make them accessible and non-threatening from a religious perspective. That is namely, one need not be a Muslim to contemplate and appreciate this book. In particular, it is abook of quality which I would compare to various translations of Lao Tsu. So if your interest takes you to affirmations of a transcendental human existence, fairly explored, fairly realised in readings of the ancient texts of early writers and readers, this book will satisfy a desire to engage some of the values which peace-loving Muslims continue to hold close to their hearts.

I will close with a quotation from the chapter on Love.

The secret of madness is the source of reason.

A mature man is insane with Love.

The one who has his Heart together

Is a thousand times stranger to himself.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Importance of Symbols, Symbolisms, and Patterns to Cross-Cultural Relevancies

The Importance of Symbols, Symbolisms, and Patterns to Cross-Cultural Relevancies: A General Discussion on "The Silent Language".
What in effect could be considered the greatest benefit to cross-cultural research has been its relevancy to international business globalisation of workforces, systems, logistics, transnationalism and product or service standardization. This relevancy has allowed the internationalisation of media advertising and promotion. But how does the wonderous recliner rocker fit into such phenomena?
First, you may find such an inventive and relaxing variation on the rocking chair to be fairly urbane, colourless, simply a consumer product. However it may be one of my first concrete examples of what happens internationally on a cultural scale of comparative change or variation as a result of the application of mass media marketing and promotion in local national economies and would of course have been revealed to me in 1996 in Samchon'po, Korea. Perhaps cultural change is imperceptible to members of various generational segments of world population, mirrored by examples of fast paced development, which is also difficult to track on a conscious scale. The introduction of new products, technologies, and endless features, to what degree does international business impact upon changes in local national cultures?
The generally poor international perspectives which national cultural identities espouse in their own populations also play a role in lack of out of awareness cultural changes, most individuals have few if any skills in observing international aspects or global sources of local innovation. Even if such local variation includes such furnishings as the simple glider rocking chair. It is possibly assumed that changes in technology or process, operations, or human resource functions are borne out of local needs assessments, local objectives, local market conditions, or local innovation. As I have stated previously it is in the interest of business to erase such intrinsic values from collective cultural consciousness and comparable variations in out of awareness knowledge of culture among individuals because questioning the impact of changing market dynamics on a cultural values orientation adds vexing difficulties to the cross-border mass marketing of mass produced products. If each national market required nationally determined variations to an extensive degree then the costs of customization would exceed the profit margins of producing and selling that product.
While on first and general analysis, such possible local misconceptions of supply and demand patterns, namely that they are exclusively determined locally, are as easily a result of ethnocentrism. To varying degrees, each cultural group tends to view change and innovation as being nearly exclusively local in origin, and has some causal relationship with the tenets of Clyde Kluckhohn's theories which mirror Edward T. Hall's. Such mirroring is reassuring, since both share early approaches to cross-cultural research. Namely, that it should have relevancy to non-specialists. These tenets would include that humanity shares biological patterns and characteristics in the development of culture, and most specifically that it is a natural tendancy for people to believe their own collective cultural beliefs and practices are the global standard of normalcy and naturalness; that the beliefs, values, and standards of normalcy of other cultures are strange, or more importantly, inferior or abnormal (Kluckhohn, Mirror for Man, 1949).

This makes Korea a constantly and consistently interesting, perhaps most interesting comparative cultural subject as through cross-cultural research it has repeatedly demonstrated a virtual inversely proportional cultural comparative to the western concept of "American" culture. In terms of relativistic perspectives, there can be little concept of relativity in terms of culture if one thinks one's own culture to be superior to all others. This has been examined in various comparative business management research studies. Koreans probably have generally one of the most ethnocentric perspectives on foreign cultures on the global market. Still, how does this relate to an example of what globalized business has contributed to such cultural values, exemplified in the recliner rocker?
Namely, such cultural values have been a boon to new product entry and multinational companies operating in many developing nations with high degrees of local ethnocentrism early realize that differentiation is not necessarily an issue, local consumption assumes local innovation. In terms of creativity, demands locally create a need for new products independently of global values which may have helped create the consumer needs for them. In cultures with rapid economic growth rates, does not cultural identity similarly change, adapt, and possibly become less intrinsic to absorb new values, products, consumption patterns, and symbols which attach themselves to all products and services? Are not thus extremely nationalistic cultures then in some ways fully subverted by foreign products, services, in effect possibly fully absorbing at the cost of local intrinsics for the values of multinational corporations through increasing consumption of their products?
There it was. A brand new building, a high rise, the tallest commercial building yet constructed in Samchonpo, Korea had recently been completed. The top floor had a panoramic view of the surrounding city, coast, and local mountains. The design of the interior was notably modern, with glazed light fixtures, faux panelling and veneers, as well as stylish tables with glider rockers. My collection of regular students, thus my regular customers were very endearing, not only out of a desire for language studies outside of the paid classroom, their values were often repeatedly known to me, mostly out of my own contributions to conversation. As a foreigner in Korea, I am often reminded that there are situations where my status as a dignified human being, with my own set of cultural values, beliefs and intrinsic knowledge, imbued not only through decades of growth and living in my own culture, but similarly influenced through a decade of global employment, travels and localized knowledge may at times be in question.
I am not an anthropologist, but I fully understand this quote attributed to Clyde Kluckhohn.
“The lay reaction is well summed up by the remark of an army officer. We had met socially and were getting along very well until he asked me how I made my living. When I told him I was an anthropologist he drew away and said, "Well, you don't have to be crazy to be an anthropologist, but I guess it helps.""
As a university student in the early 1990s, I worked in the tourist industry, seasonal employment which makes up a large portion of the seasonal income of residents of my region of Canada. My mother was also working as a tour guide at a local national park with nearly a million visitors a year. So quite by accident she made new friends with a retired couple from Crowley, Louisiana, who made occasional trips by car or camper to The Maritimes in summer. On their latest trip they had purposefully made a trip to a furniture factory in New Brunswick to purchase a pair of recliner rockers and matching ottomans.
According to them, the recliner rocker was a Canadian invention, and it was universally known among Americans in Louisiana, or Crowley, or their immediate circle of tourist travelling friends anyway, that the best quality recliner rockers on the American market originated from a New Brunswick furniture manufacturer. I have attempted research online on the veracity of this claim. However, perhaps it is similar to an urban legend? I could find no evidence. But such "cultural knowledge" is perhaps an example of the intrinsic, even if it is false or inaccurate. Or it is also an example of extrinsic change, perhaps the origins of the recliner rocker were never really important to Canadian consumers. Certainly I have found no internet claims that the recliner rocker is a novel Canadian invention. Even in the ensuing decade and a half, perhaps that factory is long closed, its workforce left unemployed and its industrial plant duly shipped or relocated to a Mexican maquilladora (or a Chinese one).
American travellers to Canada on holiday, or American travellers to any foreign country are fairly anomalistic, according to various reports I have read Americans per capita travel to fewer foreign countries or possess passports in fewer relative numbers than virtually any per captia developed world population on earth. However at the same time, I was impressed that a plain living, by many means average elderly couple could have such highly specific knowledge about a product or the incentive to take a trip specifically to purchase such a product. At the time I was amazed by it. And what amazes me does not often escape my memory.
So returning to class following a visit to the "Sky Lounge Coffee Shop" in Samchonpo (itself long closed) my students were eager to know, "How did you like the coffee shop?" My reply was that it was very comfortable, and the style was "very western". Such a comment was not well received, various students offered dramatic reactions; my students were appalled. "It is not is Korean..." was their collective response. Knowing what I thought I knew about the recliner rocker, I explained why I believed it to be western in style.
To some effect, I believe this comparative cultural and anecdotal information surrounding the recliner rocker illustrates the possibility that cultural values are only relative in relationship to complimentary global comparisons or outlooks. Enough variations exist to make particularistic comparisons measured and known, obviously in terms of international business, a highly profitable exercise. To some degree, various individuals of various cultures may be greatly interested in the actual exemplification of principles of the tenets and seeming maxims of early cross-cultural research including particular cultural differences which impact upon the globalized products and services they may be coerced into consuming (through advertising and manipulation of cultural values).
One may find concrete examples of cross-cultural variation in considering the relative origins of global versus local innovations, products, and distribution of services or new technologies, without necessarily any national cultural interest, knowledge, or collective programming in place as to the origins of such cultural changes. As my Korean glider rocker example possibly reveals, cultural values may be changing so quickly internationally that no differentiation between changes and deep-rooted local cultural values may exist in collective knowledge of out of awareness impacts. Everything is thus considered of local origin unless marketing determines foreign origin is a selling point or obviously of significant cultural content. Furthermore, such examples of intrinsic knowledge as that of the American couple, with information and knowledge currently impossible to communicate through mass media, marketing, or advertising may also exist which possibly suggests that it takes the anecdotal and non-scientifically gained information, which is equally unmeasurable scientifically to communicate beyond theoretical plausibility that culture in a globalized, multinational corporate trading world actually exists independently of the terms of trade, marketing, and advertising.
For many business-minded entrepreneurs, this might be too simple and thus unthinkable! Simply take a break. Intrinsically, enjoy a glide on a recliner rocker once in a while without fully deciding its cultural origins. It is an amazingly comfortable ride.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Silent Language (Part Two)

Review Part Two: The Silent Language (Edward T. Hall:1959,1981)

Chapter Four of this text considers the concept of major triads of culture from the perspective of the unconscious, and Hall begins with a review of Freud's systematic analysis of human behaviour, acts rather than words, symbols, patterns, and symbolisms in terms of significance and indentity. However Hall quickly points out that Freud represented an incomplete analysis or pattern of research relevance simply because he never came up with a real theory of communication.

In the contemporary world Freud's research is hard to follow-up mainly because he believed the unconscious to be unknowable, thus few would support actively engaging in Freudian analysis and research today, just as at the time other psychologists like Harry Stack Sullivan found it equally useless. However, Sullivan stated clearly that the unconsicious self is unknowable or unrevealed only to the individual who seeks to sublimate aspects of self. Thus supposedly trained observers might make (and do make) significant progress in analyzing such dynamisms and behaviour patterns.

As Freud and Sullivan built upon anthropological research, so too Traeger and Hall built a theory based on expanding the meanings of their general areas of research in terms of culture. In terms of time, they posited that there are actually three kinds: formal, informal, and technical time. That these three then interact on a situational, and behaviour-based complexity unique in each and every culture on earth is posited. Thus each time format implicates the ten primary message systems, particularly exemplified in learning, awareness, affects, and attitudes towards change. It is in the process of change itself, dynamic cultural change, that Hall begins in observing the theories of Theodosius Dobzhansky useful in formenting an overall thesis of cultural change dependent upon similar variables to his theories on life itself. Namely that life came about not merely through chance or directed design but through the dynamic interactions of living substances themselves. Ditto for culture.

Similarly, culture in a changing environment requires adaptions which change constantly, such as survival or destruction, consisting of a core of behaviour patterns which are formal in nature but which are surrounded by informal adaptations, and variable rates of changes which can cause individual anxieties. Hall posits that the growth of analytical psychology in the cultural consciousness of western nations is a good example of how research and learning can become formally like a new religion with rigid precepts, dogmas, and mixed results.

However Hall quickly points out that individual influences upon cultural normatives exist mostly in the informal range and that real cultural change takes place in the realms of out-of-awareness formats where all changes as those in life may start.

Chapter Five: Culture is Communication

In this chapter Hall examines the symbolizations and communication of life which he describes as being a spectrum of various frequencies. That significant messages require little or no communication, but that individual relatedness, and knowledge of personalities takes far longer than brief introductions or short term events and situations. He presents a communication systems theory consisting of three parts:

  • Over-all structure (Like a telephone network but more complex)
  • Components (like the pieces of the network)
  • Message (Carried over the network)

Messages are then broken into:

  • Sets (Like words)
  • Isolates (Like sounds)
  • Patterns (Like grammar or syntax)

Dictionary Reviews

Dictionary Reviews

Teaching and learning the English language takes a battery of weapons and tools. Chiefly, one needs at times to recheck and reinform one's own understanding first before attempting to confirm the learning objectives of vocabulary among students.

Chiefly I would recommend anyone who is a learner and reading this review to run out and pick up one of these little oracles. In this age of technology I am amazed that students frequently spend upwards of two hundred dollars on translation electronic gizmos which leave a lot to be desired (price, slow & inaccurate reference, easily broken) rather than begin operating in the language at hand without the tiresome, slow process of the translation method. Translation methods have their place, but in junior high school, not in university language programs.

The difference is as great as attaching training wheels to every bicycle you ride. At what point in time does a learner ride an adult-sized bicycle?

1. The Oxford Dictionary of Current English: Best General Reference.

This would be my first choice of convenient pocket dictionaries. I prefer softcover editions due to price, you need only reinforce the covers with scotch tape or some other clear vinyl to maintain its shelf-life. I do not currently own this edition, I have been faithfully thumbing through a 1992 Edition for apparently fourteen years. It fits in among your regular books, requires no special shelf or dais. The beauty of older dictionaries in softcover is that over time they generally expand in size like a chia-pet. Weak bindings or dried binding glue can be renewed with a gentle ironing upon the spine with the silks settings of your trusty laundry iron.

2. Oxford Essential Business and Office Dictionary: Best Price Sleeper Winner.

I have recently price checked these and purchased this 2003 Edition as it is about two dollars fifty comparatively cheaper than The Little Oxford Dictionary here in ROK. The only real difference is that it adds a few business related chapters at the end. The rest is basically the same as The Little Oxford and did I mention it is cheaper? I hope OUP does not catch on in future why (if) they are selling so many of this edition.

3. The Little Oxford Dictionary (1998):A hardcover tough little book built to last forever.

This was the best value hard cover in Young Poong Bookstore at 10,000 won hands down winner of best little English book on the planet. Its structure and size mean it could probably be used for small scale trowel duties in exchange for a hand spade in a window garden if you had desperate need for a digging tool.

4. Collins Cobuild Compact English Learner's Dictionary (2004): Best reference.

It would be difficult to find another dictionary which so well defines usage in the English language the way this little mighty-mouse does. I once had a larger, more expensive edition given as a gift and then lent out and not returned (Grrr). Some people will not treat your books with the same respect you (hopefully) do. So keep it close on a chain if you have to. It is everything it claims to be.

5. (Barron's Business Guides) Dictionary of International Business Terms (2000)

Pricey but context relevant. This little whopper was written by a bunch of PhDs in New York or environs. It is a little early to gauge how much I enjoy using this dictionary but the fact that it was highly recommended by the best sales agent at Kyobo (the one guy who knows where everything is) was enough recommendation for me.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Review Part One: The Silent Language

One of the Originators of Cross-Cultural Research
Review Part One: The Silent Language
Edward T. Hall (1959, 1981)
This review is to highlight a basic element of research and possibly of interest to readers who might have little, if any interest in attempting to take the road less taken on the best possible goals. Namely, understanding cultural values in a way that is respectfully complimentary to the global age. There is often a misguided belief among many westerners, that "white people have no culture". Realistically, this myth has been perpetuated mostly through mass marketing and media penetration. Edward T. Hall among others of his period helped early define the differences between sociological and anthropological studies of global cultures and the lack of relevance that non-comparative learning might have in the present international business dominated world. He and others like him helped build the foundations of specifically the study of cross-cultural theories through early attempts to rationalize the differences and similarities between cultures proven most useful to international management research, multi-national, cross-border, and globalizing business corporations.
Mostly Hall notes in his introduction the purposes of this book: To explore the vast field of unknown, unverbalized, culturally relevant communication which the billions of this planet knowingly (and unknowingly) engage in daily. His interest is that the intrinsic silence of communication often communicates far more about individuals and collective cultural programming than the fields of lingusitics or anthropology could possibly evaluate. Notably, that which depends most on our definition of self, culture and awareness exists on the periphery of human consciousness, beyond awareness, in the depths of the unspoken.
Certainly in such an area, each is equally blind, and colourless.
In later interviews near the end of his life, Hall summed up that he believed his greatest contribution to the study of cultural communication was in his perspectives on the variations of world cultures in their approaches to time. So his first chapter essay is naturally, "The Voices of Time". One interview may be reviewed at:
In "The Voices of Time" Hall illustrates cultural variations in time perception with examples such as American businessmen attempting to navigate South American time contexts, such as scheduling meetings or using time references in a linear versus orbital relationship. He reaffirms that clock based time is naturally culturally bound and most closely aligned among cultures of Europe and some of their colonial descendants. However he contrasts research among the Navaho to prove that many non-western cultures have taken clock time on mostly as a novelty, similarly in the Arab world where clocks and watches remain more about prestige than linear time keeping.
Next, Hall progresses to an essay in Chapter Two titled, "What Is Culture?" He reveals that the first known western definition of the term can be traced to a certain E.B. Tylor in 1871. It is noteworthy that culture was not even an actual concept to be defined prior to the industrial age.
He states that for many decades, those leading up into the thirties, forties, and indeed the fifties when he was writing this book, a clear definition of the meaning of culture was perhaps only important to anthropological researchers rather than laymen. He reveals that it was in his collaboration with George L. Traeger that he began to attempt to analyze the question to examine five basic steps:
Five Basic Steps in the Defining of Culture
1. As in reading the notes of a compositional analyze the foundation stones of culture.
2. To connect the foundation stones (pieces or isolates) biologically to allow for cross-cultural comparison with conditions are uniform and repeatable, thus scientific.
3. To compile data and research methods that allow the teaching of cultural situations as languages may be taught without requiring empathetic qualities in the researcher.
4. To construct a theory of culture that is unifed and permits continued research.
5. To make the studies and findings relevant to non-specialists.
This chapter may be summarized through short quotation:
...we must learn to understand the "out-of-awareness" aspects of communication. We must never assume that we are fully aware of what we communicate to someone else. There exists in the world today tremendous distortions in meaning as men try to communicate with one another (Hall:1959, p. 29).
Chapter Three is titled: "The Vocabulary of Culture" and begins a description of explicit knowing in terms of individual orientation to culture particularly our comfort in the familiar versus discomfort in the unfamiliar. Hall defines American culture as constantly familiarity in externalities but intrinsically unfamiliar, vastly different locally, from one place to another. Early Hall admits he could find no one foundation or concept to explain cultural differences, particularly on the intrinsic level. However, with Traeger he evolved a series of criteria to illustrate attempts at defining culture.
Qualifying Elements of Culture As A System
A. Biological activities with deep connections to the past.
B. Able to conduct analysis of itself in isolation from other cultural entities, with various isolated components which could be arranged in levels of increasing complexity.
C. "Consituted as a reflection of the rest of culture and reflected in the rest of culture."
These are operational criteria or human activities defined as ten components existing as a primary message system.
Ten Primary Message System
1. Interaction:
Increasing in complexity on the scale of philogenetics.

2. Association:

Beginning from the joining of two cells, leading to the flocking of sheep, hunting in packs, staus versus deference, human organisational hierarchies.

3. Subsistence:

Nutritional requirements, special language behaviours, ranking of work.

4. Bisexuality:

(Not contemporary elided usage of the term) Sexual reproduction and sexual differentiation, the combinations of genes.

5. Territoriality:

Taking possession, use, and balance of life and usage of space.

6. Temporality:

The cycles and rhythms of life, concepts of time and association.

7. Learning:

Behaviour modification, adaptive mechanisms, and the various patterns of learning as agents of culture.

8. Play:

Joking relationships, intimately interwoven with learning, competition primarily as displayed in the west versus vast continuum among various cultures with wider specturm of vast degrees of enjoyment.

9. Defence:

Through warfare, religion, medicine and law enforcement, internal or external dependancies, cross-culturally various degrees of contemporary compartmentalization.

10. Exploitation (materials usage):

Elaboration or materials, in dress, tools, toys, books, signs of status, etc.

Hall admits that these systems are enormous categorizations with infinite degrees of particularisation. His set does ocrrespond with similar systems based analysis of culture over the interim fifty years of cross-cultural research. However his is one of the first points of reference on the topic and should be considered, while classical, the best starting point of reference for any reader truly interested in developing more than a relativist perspective on cultural differences. Which has only really evolved out of a mass marketing and mass media perspective (that would be my opinion on cultural relativism there).

Introductory Notes: The Dragon in the Land of Snows

Introductory Notes:
The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A Modern History of Modern Tibet Since 1947
Tsering Shakya (1999)
This title appealed immediately not necessarily because I have read a few of the Dalai Lama's books. It is a historical perspective and the author notes early on that it might necessarily hold great appeal neither to adherents of Chinese suzerainity nor supporters of independence and the the Dalai Lama. This being said Professor Shakya also notes that the period of his exploratory research has never previously been addressed.
Tibet as a nation has held the focus of the mass media credibly through the efforts of exiled Tibetans like the Dalai Lama. However the message is often filtered through the medium. And the message of mass media is once again, always skewed, while the message is also often adapted to suit the medium. Such are the challenges facing proponents of Tibetan independence.
In his introduction, the author notes that Tibet historically was a peripheral nation loosely and liberally draped under the fringe of a distant domain of China which existed itself as a loosely aligned number of kingdoms and local domains previous to 1913 when Britain attained considerable influence thereabouts through its interest in providing a buffer zone for its colonial interests in India versus the Chinese as a resolution of border issues prior to the First World War.
Following the Second World War and the Birth of Indian Independence from 1947, the British lost their immediate mandates for maintaining a presence in Tibet. Furthemore, the disevolving nationalist governments and battles in China destabilised particularly through popular Communist Revolution threatened the independent sovereignty of the Tibetan nation. The Tibetans began repeated appeals for political and military assistance from western nations, particularly the US and Britain, and India. However, none could willingly ratify or secure Tibetan nationhood out of deference to possible Chinese repercussions.
During this period the Communists in China were wedding a fierce nationalism to their desire to sublimate peripheral former vassel territories. Ultimatums issued directly and indirectly with the leadership of Tibet came about prior to the expulsion of Guomindang Government Officials in 1934 and were further driven by Communist fears that Tibet would succeed in developing solid political ties to the outside world.
The Tibetans naturally did their best to negotiate UN resolutions and effective international condemnation of Chinese aims within their nation. However the British repeatedly deferred the issues of Tibetan sovereignty to India, while India refused to address the issue out of concerns of appearing aggressive to the Chinese. The Americans appeared willing to take symbolic and concrete actions, but repeatedly deferred to British and Indian status quo. Quite simply, these not only prevented UN resolutions from being tabled, their efforts in preventing direct Tibetan negotiations apparently infuriated Chinese authorities, which perpetuated their first military attacks from May, 1950.

More On John Law

Review Part Two: More On John Law

Millionaire: The Philanderer, Gambler, and Duelist Who Invented Modern Finance by Janet Gleeson (1999)

My delay in continuing a review of this title has come about because of a recent change in employment and the settling in process of new schedules, routines, and responsibilities. My willingness to challenge the extent of my employment opportunities here in Asia has been influenced not only by a fairly thorough understanding of investment risk, but also a desire to build competencies in the field of international business. It is natural then that by some fluke of timing, availability, and most importantly, relevant skills and qualifications, that I have been taken on at my latest employment as a full-time lecturer at the Department of International Trade and Management of Daejin University, located on the outskirts of Pocheon City in Kyonggido Province, about three-quarters of an hour distant from Uijeongbu which is currently the last subway stop on the purple line extending from central Seoul.
The new dynamics of the position include employers and supervisors with a great interest and passion in international business with an understanding of the core concepts of the training needs of their students. My main mission is to increase confidence among my students but in addition, to exercise managerial training in the teaching of English as a Second Language to international business students. You could say it is the job I have been actively searching for, for nearly two years.
My attachement to working in the Korean Penninsula is noted, not only by my voluntary return but also in the surprising confirmation that my skills and training are actually specifically valued here, even if during my search for this job I may have doubted that at times. As I fully support the principles of self-actualisation in the achievement of personal goals, be they business or pleasure, I believe I have succeeded in attempting to encourage continual development in my own competencies out of a nourishing desire to follow my dreams and particularly an interest in profiting from the research abilities that learning about international business has added to my curiousity, wonder, and pleasure in approaching diverse topics, views, and cultural realities.
So the topic of John Law beginning from the early 1700's as presented by Janet Gleeson is a wonderful example of the early exploits of a daring risk-taker of his times. Through her research, Gleeson has opened not only an understanding of the human conditional relativism which comes and goes in global approaches to valuable knowledge in the areas of history, particulary that of business, but also the revelatory aspects of returning vital information to an age of information-driven relevancies which often miss the point of knowledge through a communalist rush to technologically change or alter its value. The more I read of diverse topics, in particular through well defined examples, such as the story of John Law relates, the more I am convinced that too easily mass media culture defines for individuals the relevancy of information, and that culture itself, through immeasurable changes, is less and less defined by individuals through altruistic or humanist essentials. None profits more from such paradigm shifts than global businesses themselves.
John Law as an integral character in the course of human studies of macro-economics theory and practice has often been overlooked in contemporary appreciation of the trail of economic development, from mercantile to global ages, simply because the leaders of such market-driven changes would prefer to distance themselves from the purity of his perceived strengths, notably gambling and perceived vices. What John Law was, what John Law did was extraordinary, and the establishment would rather attempt to increase the historical relevancy of Hume, Smith, or Keynes, typical fusty academes, and disassociate the historical speculative interests of robber-barons and their continued role in modern commodities, shares, and currencies exchanges.
John Law was a Scotsman and a peripheral figure in English affairs, however an excellent gamings tables winner, a man knowable and known among the aristocratic gamblers of his day. The people he influenced not only had money to make but easily also carried crowns and crown jewels to sell and much money to lose. Debts and losses may be a perpetual pleasure of the rich, as long as their creditors are satisfied to earn based on interests payments alone. One might say that is the ultimate keystone of bonds and debt interest earnings in the USA today. So Law as a gambler not only accumulated earnings but also liabilities. In his case, he was able to balance the two and make a name for himself as an economic philosopher at the same time. For a time.
In many nations of Europe during his time, their existed the desire to exploit the resources of the New World. Yet to do so required capital which even the richest financers might not always possess. In particular the monarchs and kings needed to maximize the return on their tax earning incomes, through the manipulation of capital flows and the comparative pricing which fuels international trade. However monetary policy, as previously mentioned was a weakest link in the system. Currency in precious metals could not be equitably valued within nations or across them. Such that the content of gold or silver in crowns, florins, ducats, or sous might easily fluctuate from one European trading capital to another, so that the smuggling of currencies from one place to another to extract higher comparative returns from it was common practice.
John Law was the first visionary to adequately address the issue, which was essential to the maintenance of governments in monarchies where the competitive edges depended upon development of new resources in the New World. This required agglomerations of capital never before witnessed to build shipping empires, trade centres, New World commodities production and distribution. His concept was simple and fairly taken for granted today. One must create central banks which issue paper currencies based upon the precious metals of the day, guaranteeing values for exchange to establish and maintain control of the value of products and services and extract their profits, namely in the ability to speculate and trade shares instead of goods, to finance bonds and loans for the development of new industries, technologies, and companies.
That this man was a foreigner in France when he was taken on through his connections to royalty to manage a national bank was a first. France was in a unique position of being for many centuries a highly developed nation in the extraction of maximum taxation from its population for minimum concessions in the areas of political, social, or economic reforms. However his reforms extended to tax services and government employment, long a method by which the elites could manipulate and profit from inefficencies which partially distributed the taxable incomes gathered through taxation service agencies and bled the governmental income through nepotisitic hiring practices.
His issuances of shares in the Louisiana Company highly developed the redistribution of assets through the upper middle classes but was such an effective pyramid scheme that the basics of its operation were also international in nature, drawing the essential investment incomes of Europeans generally and the British in particular, raising their own similarly funded schemes in development of The East India Company. Shares trading in France became a national and continental obsession as one might say it has become today in many nations. Mostly due to the noted rises in earnings profits and the measures of limitless possible gain or capital growth.
While Law maintained the speculative incomes the bank and its issues of paper currencies were successful. As confidence in the enterprise diminished, particularly through the realisation that The Louisiana Company was over-estimating its assets in the New World, coupled to instances of bubonic plague, trade cessations, and investment flight, various economic dynamics broke down. The demands for precious metals by industries in terms of payment and the investor's desire to redeem their shares for metals reduced the bank's confidence, which forced it to negatively revalue several times in attempts to purge its eventual collapse in paper currency eventually leading to stock collapse and the type of crises witnessed in 1997 in Asia or Russia, or seemingly ongoing in Turkey or Argentina.
The net effects were that Law became reviled, his notarious flight giving real insight into the terms "splinter groups" according to the treatments of roving crowds and the fate of carrriages though to contain him. His bank's owners profited enormously through the effective bankruptcy of a majority of their net credtiors, diminishing not only their holdings in earnings, but also their debt responsibilites while Law became an international scapegoat and eventually died liquidity poor in 1729 in exile in Venice.
However Gleeson's dynamic portraits of Law effectively draw the dualistic nature of his temperment, ethics, and true actions. He is defined as a fairly benevolent character, flawed, as was his system, but visionary. Even nearing his demise he wa one of the first to realize the potential investment values of artwork and in particular the investment value of fine paintings.
Furthermore, Gleeson paints him as the pioneer that he was, and gives him the econometrical credit that he deserved then, and now. His experiment was simply decades ahead, perhaps a century ahead of its time. Few early economists can claim such an experiment as their own.
The story of Law proves that a foreigners often do make their fortunes far from home.
A good risk worth taking in an increasingly globalized, however continually risk-averse world.
Gleeson has detailed the relevancy of reading her book simply through an extremely well developed tale-telling ability and a skill in arranging the record as it should be told. Her balanced story is not only excellent it is perpetually relevant.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Review of "War and Reconstruction 1940-1950" in European Economy 1914-2000 by Derek H. Aldcroft

Review of "War and Reconstruction 1940-1950" in
European Economy 1914-2000 by Derek H. Aldcroft
Economic Orders Without...Order
According to Aldcroft by the later portion of 1942, virtual control of the larger part of Europe had been established and drawn under, to be considered ipso facto as the economic constituency of Greater Germany. He establishes that the nations of Portugal, Spain, Eire, Switzerland, Sweden, and Turkey, while considered semi-autonomous or of neutral-like qualities politically, were all in reality economic fealties, quasi-motos, all in virtual-alliance with Greater Germany simply through economic trade concordances and defacto dependencies. These velvet curtains and chains were attached to several regional economic tethers which existed in bilateral or trade financing arrangements. Full autonomies or "neutralities of chocolate" were therefore considered an unobtainable option. It was this collective nationalist movement following tariff barriers of 1929 which virtually guaranteed Germany its position as a principal international trade aggressor .
Among these economic vassals, Italy is described in greater detail as a virtual German satellite in the new order. However in its waffling style of alignment, it best exemplified the lack of real economic order overall in this perceived grand, new political order. The old economic order of course was completely dead with the end of the mercantile approaches to gold standards and trade financing, which effectively stunned itself with several unsustainable shocks, including those leading to World War One, as well as those delivered through under-regulated reparations payments options. The pyramid schemes of debts financing was finally supported or guaranteed with weak monitoring and market research into consumption and process capacities or sustainable growth internationally, where neither cycle trade policies applied to scales of production nor finance trading measures agreed to by national governments or corporate entities were considered sustainable or desirable options leading up to 1929.
Economically, the Germans had seemingly little to contribute to sustainable economic market trade principles either. Simply, Germany installed itself as a national fascist and forced resolution through military offences which guaranteed an industrial hub for itself which then meticulously vacuumed all available valuable commodities into itself; first in bilateral trade agreements with its less endowed neighbours, and later simply through massive state sponsored expropriation of capital, assets, financing instruments, labour, and commodities from its greater European conquests which included most of its former trading neighbours. Economically these former independent nations were already according to the accounting books indentured debtors.
So certain regions of Europe profited through concentration of especially incorporated manufacturing zones such as the Alsace-Lorraine, Luxembourg, or Polish Upper Silesia. These already were the jewels in Germany's mature industrial crowns, rich, efficient manufacturing assets which had for decades already served the purposes of German military expansion, as well as sale and purchase of developed production methods and assembly standards probably better than any produced elsewhere in the world up to that date. Aldcroft notes these direct bricks and mortar assets were industrially enormous plants and operations networks, all serving military aims. Previously indirect control of the rest of European industry excluding the UK was maintained through bilateral trade ties and colonial enterprises in regions of Poland and Russia. Military offensives drove German Divisions out to claim not only new territory but also old investment capacities and trade financing. This new order had few if any plans as to the administrative direction for its quickly gained domains once it had them within its cruel claws.
Aldcroft notes with detailed analysis the failures of German Economic Order.
First, no clear economic vision secured the economic affairs of Greater Germany. The only seemingly attractive economic concept to come out of German expansionism was the currency insurance plan forwarded by Walter Funk. His concept of a trade bank which could insure national currencies against crises and speculation fluctuations was the first step towards what would late be taken on as the World Bank by Keynes and White. Aldcroft does not note this in this section, but other sources confirm Keynes read Funk's currency insurance scheme and approved of it in principle as a solution to war reconstruction. However, Keynes made use of the plan as it included national currencies insurance schemes which would be self-administered, without oversight of larger economic creditor nations.
Next, German oversight in formulating a clear economic vision for its quickly acquired empire was also attributable to its exceedingly efficient territorial gains being made at a pace which out-stripped its ability to administrate effectively. Aldcroft notes that the Reich only had the capacities to begin planning its economic affairs at about the same time as it began losing its ill-gotten gains. Its economic capacity for growth had exceeded its economic ability to plan for it. So the conglomeration began to crumble for lack of internal cohesiveness. As world powers such as the United States and Russia began to redirect their economies, such was the period of German growth. The stable doors had been left open. However when these global powerhouses were ready to contribute to an Allied effort in removing Germany from the rest of Europe at full capacity, their goals were simply unstoppable. German economic and military blitzkrieg had then the advantage of short, easily won targets, in the right places, at the right times. With a long, drawn out battle for the continent, German economic and military capacities were vastly ill-prepared and under-resourced. The Germans had no long-term dynamics available other than Funk's economic rebuilding plans for acquired states.
Aldcroft notes that Germany's initial successes in Europe were not singulary due to its own efforts. He reflects and maturely evaluates that European nations themselves helped create the power vacuum which existed through the various peace treaties and appeasement policies enacted and maintained especially in Eastern and Central Europe. Following 1928-29, he notes that regional overdependence on German trade among a large number of weak and small states included massive trade deficits which were comparatively increasing when contrasted to western European trade with Germany. Quite simply, this guaranteed that Germany dominated these nations first and fastest in any early economic competition with other European powers.
In the cases of Britain and France, these were unprepared for Germany's economic growth, vacillating between appeasement and rearmarment strategies for neary two decades up to 1939. As for the United States, it was on an isolationist bent since the 1920s. In any case, it appears to hover there on occasion (as yet again perhaps?) and was unprepared for economic or military attack. These nations through their collective lack of resolve certainly underlined the successes of Germany's blitzkrieg strategies. Specific but limited objectives marked Germany's territorial and economic victories. Its political threats were backed with sufficient force. This strategy served well up until 1942.
In evaluation of Germany's rate of expenditures Aldcroft most clearly defines the successes of its blitzkrieg measures. Thus German economic furnaces were not excessively large, but exceedingly hot. He notes that Germany and Italy in 1934 were registering annual increases of armorments production at twice the rate of increases found in the USA, the USSR, and France combined. This was the root of its economic and military competitive advantage. Its sustainable economic and military victories were easily based on a predator-prey economic relationship. As of 1938, German military production represented 52% of the combined outputs of the world's richest thirty nations. Comparatively it had only held 35% of that output in 1934. This increase in comparative rate of output of seventeen percent in four years, or an annual increase of 4.25 % in contemporary comparison to 1-1.5% annual growth being considered a stable rate of growth, was simply explosive.
In evaluation of German budgeting, the developed world at the onset of World War Two was little more than a third prepared to fight the battle. All nations in opposition had only a third of the necessary opposing economic or military forces ready. The rest of the world was not only a third prepared, it was only increasing its ability to combat Germany at a third the annual rate of increase required to equal Germany's preparedness. The Allied world then, was a collection of ill organized slow-pokes. So from 1929 or thereabouts, Germany was virtually four times ahead of the rest of the world in a fight for a global war. The balance of economic and military outputs determined its successes. The world in response took three to four years to tip the scales of production and capacities in its own favour. Germany had seen its victories through rate of increases of economic output, not through potential scales of future growth of production. As the shif took place in 1942, it took the world an actual twelve years to meet Germany's growth rte with its own comparable balancing of output.
Speed had sustained Germany's growth through economic blitzkrieg. The world was slow to respond, but when it did, the war entered an entrenched phase, strategic redundancies and failures on Germany's part were only delayed until that point. The shift was dynamic, German economic and military strategies were not. As the Allied efforts were taken into effect, the outlook and flexibility of resources, victory and limitless supplies ensured Germany's defeat. Germany's economic and military goals were short-term and implicated nearly 99.9% certainty of victory prior to 1942. As battles and forces grew in frequency and size of opposition, it became clear that diminished rates of success could be directly proportional to opposing strengths and falling probabilities of success. The dynamics of a continental war fought on two infinite fronts requiring infinite resources simply doubled probabilities of German failure. So thus 100% chance of failure multiplied by two was what the Germany military economy now faced as of 1942.
Furthermore, where German successes had once been supported by capacities of production and supply, manpower and supportive aligned trade pacts, conversely as its territory was retracted, the dynamics which effected its failures were again failures in production capacities, manpower, distribution, and collapsing networks of industrial output. Thus the success of German military economics was fully tied to the speed or rate of increase of its production rather than actual scale of output. This is also the paradox of German victories and defeats. Nearly every conquered nation was a formerly vassal trading partner. Not only were thier economic futures tied to German output and trade, but the strengths and weaknesses of each nation were well calculated. Such conquests almost appear needless considering the economic ties which existed, which already supported the German economic recovery from 1929.
The chief flaw according to Aldcroft, aside from creating a war with nations which were already clearly economic vassals, was the second front opening on Russia. The attack on Russia was not of great economic need, but more out of distrust and lack of cooperation. However this new front was expensive and vastly a failure. However within five months of its opening an area nearly five times the size of Germany was conquered. This area was mostly agricultural and contributed little to the German economy, especially with the scorched earth policy making it non-productive. In addition, the needless slaughter of millions of Russians and peasant farmers simply steeled Russians to repel these new invaders.
Aldcroft also blames the Pearl Harbour attack of 1941 for bringing the USA out of isolation and into a full-frontal push into German territorial gains. In effect, from the point the USA declared war on Japan and Germany, it now became a war Germany had no chance of winning. The focal advantages of a full-swing of US production capacities now being directed to defeating the axis powers would make their obliteration only a matter of time. Aldcroft notes that as of the period 1936-1938 the USA, the UK, and the USSR represented sixty percent of global productive capacities versus Axis Powers holding a slim 17% percent. An Allied build up in capacity on armorments, manpower, and mobilization took time, but would prove far superior to German capacities. These dynamics were fairly well know among axis powers. But actually knowing that surrender would be more prudent has never been a strong point among militaristic leaderships.
Allied production capacities began growing and peaked in 1944. In contrast, German growth had come and gone far earlier and cutbacks in military production had occurred as early as 1941 as it appeared to the Germans that the war in Europe was largely won at that time. Thus it can be determined that German economic and military flaws, prematurity among them, were mostly linked to an inability to plan for unforseen events, in fact, for years provocatively insisting that the world should unequivocally deliver them. Germany's most fatal flaw appears then to have been an ill-prepared and unaccounted for lack of strategic and global intelligence. The perception that blitzkrieg-type production increases and strategic victories were enough to repel infinite resistance to fascism would undermine such positions.
In the end, the belief that blitzkrieg economics was superior became an unreasonable assumption.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Variations on "The Clock of Life" by William H. Smith

Variations on "The Clock of Life" by William H. Smith

I first encountered this poem when my Dad etched it out on a board with a wood burning kit.
At the time, the author was unknown (?) but somehow the idea got put in my head that Frank Nitti had a handwritten copy of it in his wallet when he was found.

The Clock of Life
by Robert H. Smith, copyright 1932, 1982

The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.

To lose one's wealth is sad indeed,
To lose one's health is more,
To lose one's soul is such a loss
That no man can restore.

The present only is our own,
So live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in "Tomorrow,"
For the Clock may then be still.

Possibly the variation found in Nitti's wallet? :

The clock of life is wound but once, And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop At late or early hour.

Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will, Place no faith in time.
For the Clock may soon be still.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Educational Strategies for Char... an ESLer in the Asian Universe

Dear Char,

Bald guru's head is flitting and is honoured to amend your educational search with some pointers here. Bald guru says take the winds, not only of convenience but of strongest pulls. Flap those wings and fly. These suggestions are mere burblings in the crystal ball of a modern mystical babbler. There are opportunities out there for the taking. (Un)fortunately they depend on:

1. Location
2. Timing
3. Budget

Overarching significator: (A robust) "Research, Research, Research!"
(Trucker Ape says...)

Step One: Maximize income, return on investment should equate to no more than two to three years of payments and at least 75% increase in annual income. Do the research to find suitable educational upgrading which meets all three previous points.

Meet the three points, as Genghis Kang once rejoindered, "Never make a move on the mountain without the three points..." Bad things happen without the three points.

Pick a nexus and stick to it even if it equals the cost of a brand new is a goal. You must stab a point on the calendar with your skewers, a budget acquired with a rattling claw, and a chosen hut to hole up in for the duration even if it is made of moss.

Self-dedication and over the top efforts under such occasions can seem like unto a madness. Not only to others but especially yourself. You may feel lost and a failure if you do not meet your dreams' paths. But life has its own dreams to fill. Be willing to be filled with what life gives. But that is the flame as it is once lit and tapers ever turning to the darkness. But it is not darkness. The darkness is an unknowing of the light. However life's path is for the taking. It is lit but once. Fear is alone in not trying. Dispel fear. This is quality of life and rambling causes. Trust your instincts to know what is right. I ramble but only for the best reasons. I still love to read and write freely. Almost any topic gives me intellectual delight.

There are numerous streams which you may enter. Each one can determine the path. The path is exactly that and nothing more. Inspirational readings can be taken from the texts of Lao Tzu and Confucious' Analects on the path. Please mitre out confusions. I am talking about diffusion of thoughts, ideas, goals, and learning objectives as a useful path. Learning for the sake of learning. It has a 21st century price. But it is an ageless old longing of the human mind. Which makes reasonable prices worth the expense. It is a hunger - once quenched - which can never be up-rooted. It is... of course you is...the plant.

Step Two: Comparison shopping. For example, time out your next Asian holiday for example, to coincide with a pass into regional educational fairs either in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, et Think competitive advantages to being one of five to ten white faces in a sea of non-native English speakers to understand how quickly you may assume leadership positions in research, group presentations, content development, fact-finding,and proof-reading under such conditions. The trade get the grade you work for, and you learn to work with (sometimes) the hard to put to work? What is the advantage? Sterling English language skills, if you value them. Put them to work offshore. While you can still locally earn a crust of bread off your tongue and skin at the same time.
al. Pssst...Korea?

25-26 March, 2006
22nd Korean Student Fair
Seoul-South Korea

These are regional local Asian hubs for smart shoppers like you or me. As in, regional campus alignments of reputable western institutions are on line and operating locally.

Think competitive advantages to being one of five to ten white faces in a sea of non-native English speakers to understand how quickly you may assume leadership positions in research, group presentations, content development, fact-finding,and proof-reading under such conditions. The trade get the grade you work for, and you learn to work with (sometimes) the hard to put to work? What is the advantage? Sterling English language skills, if you value them. Put them to work offshore. While you can still locally earn a crust of bread off your tongue and skin at the same time.

Local consumers are buying and paying for it at reduced head costs. It is 25-30% cheaper...but it is the same model all around as mainlands.

Step Three: Look at the trends. For example, the hottest sellers at the moment are business and internet technology...there are others...remember what the trucker ape says?

Dan's Hot Pick for March, 2006

American University of Bulgaria! Wow! Look at those affiliations! A winner in my book. Affordable, quality, timing. All present. Go Bulgarian!

Search Tips

"American/Canadian/(Name a western nation)" in China/India/Vietnam/Japan/The Phillippines/Any developing nation where you can scrape out some butter ESL teaching on the sideboard...

The more you look at it, the more it makes sense. Buy in at one end, and see if you like it, then roll out to the home campus, where they are nearly bound to take you in with open arms...

Anyway, that is what a glass of beer does to an otherwise dry, analytical text on educational strategies.