I was reared all over the world due to my parents’ peregrinating professions, that of an international consulting mining engineer [my father] and an exploratory geologist [my mother] and learned to make friends quickly even as a preschooler. As I became a little older my mother kept gently encouraging me to really get to know people, as in her view, “everyone has a (life) story to tell.” Fortunately I was pretty social, friendly and forward for a boy and enjoyed meeting people. It helped witnessing my parents having “foreigners” over to our home constantly for dinner and wide ranging conversations exchanging life experiences. I learned very early on that all one had to do to get a more than ordinary conversation going, beyond simply saying hello or how are you, was to ask people something about themselves. Almost everyone except a CIA or NSA operative responds positively to that opening conversational gambit and I early on learn to revel in the unique and never-the-same life stories that I would hear from children my age and even adults. As one might guess, I became quickly comfortable talking with adults.
And I suppose this is one of the earliest and most telling background reasons why I became a psychiatrists. I love hearing others’ experiences even when tragic and pained and that is how I answer the perennial ordinary citizen’s constant question to me of “how do you stand hearing all those sad stories?”
I am a self declared, unabashed geek and have been since my earliest years when I was an early reader. To put some very concrete oomph behind that self description, I would offer the following story. My father was a very bright man, a poor kid from East Texas, small place called El Mina, paradoxically enough as he put himself through college and became a mining engineer. That little township is but a memory, has not existed for decades and is now in the midst of a Georgia Pacific commercial tree farm. He was I suppose a geek in his own right and recognized the computer revolution in the early 1950’s. His idea of book to read to me at night for entertainment was none other than the early computer scientist, Norbert Wiener’s book originally published in 1948 [though he and I read the 1961 paperback edition] of Cybernetics, Second Edition: or Control and Communication…That was followed by books on cyber math, math systems based on base 8, etc. I was fascinated by all this and learned to keep my mouth shut about my exploding interests in this arena since if I mentioned in my primary grade school classes, classmates would haze and harass me and teachers except in parochial Catholic schools would peer at me as if I were an alien from outer space and hush me up abruptly and to stop distracting the class. I suppose most precocious geek types go through these kinds of experiences when one realizes you are so different that there will always be a chasm between you and most of your friends for years. This was only relieved when I hit more advanced grades and schools at an accelerated pace and found like minded geeks.
Well it gladdens my heart to read the now very current article in PC World, entitled, “EVE Online” players are solving real-world science problems” Meet Project Discovery by Hayden Dingman. Mr. Attila Szantner the co-founder of Massively Multiplier Online Science (MMOS, at mmos.ch) [I had never heard of him either, but with that first name….] was quoted as saying, “This is going to be the next big revolution in citizen science.”
A recent AP article, “Divided America: Rosy Economic Averages Bypass Many in US,: by Christopher S. Rugaber on June 9, 2016, utilized the typical economic stagnation found in Memphis TN to illustrate the lingering economic malaise that has dogged America’s slowest economic “recovery” in many generations. The recovery supposedly has been in effect for a couple of years now according to the economists’ indicators. But more and more these measures do not mean “squat” for the vast numbers of struggling Americans who are not wealthy, college educated and employed in professions favored by the emerging new information and technological age. Only a few weeks ago, the head of the Bank of England made a somewhat chilling speech in which he actually outlined and named broad categories of jobs that he predicted would be ELIMINATED almost entirely by robotic replacements, and automation of all sorts in the next 25 years or so. Although it was daunting to read, the kinds of jobs he enumerated were not surprised, those of the unskilled, undereducated, line production workers in all sorts of industries, customer services jobs etc. Much as this next industrial revolution might hurt the developed world, it could be truly catastrophic for the Third World economies so dependent on such modes of work and earning a living in the hundreds of millions, a demographic that dwarfs our own.
Mel Gibson’s 1997 movie “Conspiracy Theory” stars as Jerry Fletcher in which played the wacky paranoid Jerry Fletcher who saw conspiracies everywhere and had his own conspiracy newsletter, almost presaged the now more recognized emerging self-assumed ideology of the “targeted individuals” that was highlighted the day of this writing June 10, 2015 in the New York Times. It is a fascinating article and an uncanny almost eerie instance of art imitation life or perhaps predicting life and future reality. Almost prescient as some cinema works by talented directors and screenwriters sometimes produce.
Delusional fads, as I tend to call these fantastical false beliefs that have gripped our imaginations since the days of the Salem Witch Trials and other waves of social weird beliefs have come and gone for ages. Another movie that is another instance of the growing genre of Big Brother and Others spying on us all was Gene Hackman’s terse dark movie concerning an ex-“Agency” technical spy whiz who had retreated into protective extreme isolation. Enemy of the State from 1998 was a startling portrayal of the nightmares of the past few years’ revelations courtesy of Edward Snowden’s leaking of the extent of the NSA’s ostensible spying on everyone through the open digital conduits into our lives, from terrorists to citizens to world leaders, some of or closest allies.
This morning, June 6, 2016, I heard a story on the car radio from the regional NPR station from Mexico. I always sit up and listen whenever I hear anything about Mexico as I have a lifelong fondness for anything Mexican, in contrast to the lamentable anti-Mexican, anti-immigration hyperbole that seems so common nowadays much to my personal regret.
The piece was from an “inserted” American radio journalist who described riding in a several car private “convoy” of cars traveling over 250 miles into Mexico, up to Reynosa at the US-Mexican border. The families apparently made this trip several times a year. the families had moved to the US in the last several years, transplanting, themselves, their businesses and lives to the US out of fears for their own safety in the narco-terrorist dominated realities of Mexico. I was somewhat shocked to hear that the extended families had indeed experienced some of their relatives being kidnapped in past years which clearly influenced their collective decisions to relocate to the US. They returned to their hometowns to see older relatives, participate in family reunions and hometown gatherings and festivals. They did so taking extreme precautions usually arranging for police car escorts for defense and safety against bandits, kidnappers and the like. On this occasion, they were not able to have police escorts and the journalist’s anxiety and fear was tangible. Fortunately for all, they arrived safely in Reynoso. However, they experienced one close call when just behind them three young men stopped a car behind them.