Would the Real Menachem Kuchar Please Stand
Showering just prior to Shabbath, as usual running a little late, relishing warm soapy water streaming all over my body, scrubbing that which needs a little scrub, rubbing that which needs a little rub, my mind wanders as it tends to while pampering one's body, releasing the pressure valve built up over the previous week.
In this pleasant meditative state, I am vaguely cognisant of the little voice sitting behind my brain: who are you? how do others see you? are you achieving your potential?
I react in shock. What is this line of interrogation? From where do these thoughts originate?
Suppressing the questioner, I retain my focus on the whoosh of rushing water, leaving my mind free to meander. From within my trance I am slowly realising that perhaps these are consequential questions, an enquiry not to be suppressed, questions which must be faced. At the same time, I consider, I can have a little fun with these questions -- a mind game.
To summarise: What motivates me? What drives me? How am I perceived, by family, close friends, acquaintances, others I meet periodically. In this modern age, how am I viewed by my social network "friends" and "followers", and by readers and viewers of my various websites? Perception of ourselves by others is the clue to all other queries.
Drying myself, my mind still sailing, I hazard the trigger for these thoughts may have been a Facebook thread on which I commented, as I was switching off my machine a few minutes earlier. Then, in the midst of my musings, I recall that precisely three years have elapsed since I established this website. Perhaps, I ponder, an anniversary is an ideal time for introspection.
Aryeh started a thread earlier in the day with this Wall post:
Massive Radiation Cloud Heading Toward U.S And Canada.
Nothing new. No surprise here. Dutchsince posted this a few days ago. And it's in a couple of different regions of the U.S. and Canada, with clouds including caesium and iodine isotopes in "round and square, not natural, configurations".
And I appended a couple of recent links by Dutchsince on radiation clouds.
Aryeh then asks, "So what does it mean?"
Good question. He has provided me with an opening, a trigger for a rant. Never to miss an opportunity, I respond,
Aryeh, it means they are progressing along the line to one world government, with the occasional hiccup. One of the ways to kontrol people internationally is to have/create a common enemy or bogeyman. The cat is almost out of the bag on the man-made, human-caused global warming caper. A couple of countries may still sign "cap and trade" or "emissions trading schemes" onto their statute books, but people are waking up. They can no longer hide that we are entering a mini ice-age . . . .
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To the casual reader, does this last response expose something of my belief system, leading them to a view of who I am? Or is this purely the ramblings of
a) an idiot
In an attempt to answer this question, allow me to introduce myself. Myself as I view myself, or perhaps as I want you, dear reader, to view me. Keep in mind while you are getting to know me better that I am a devoted student of W. M. Marston, a contemporary of Freud. Light years from Freud's philosophy on personality, Marston studied the "emotions of normal people". Personality assessment questionnaires based on his work are premised on the fact that one can validly self-assess oneself as we all mirror how we are perceived by others.
A little on how I preceive myself:
What do I do for a living? (You call this living? ;-) My kids hate being asked, "What does your father do?" or "What is your father's occupation?" I don't think that is anyone's business. Especially not one that someone in a pseudo authority position like a school teacher should be asking a kid.
"Tell the teacher your father rises daily at 5:30 a.m., learns some g'mara, followed by his morning prayers." Surely that is more useful information to a pedagogue in a parochial school than "my father works for the taxation office". Of course the teacher may feel it useful to "know" someone in the tax office, or the police force . . . or that works for the government.
While I'm on pseudo bureaucracy -- here's a pet peeve -- why on every form you fill out in Israel do they ask "how many years of education you have?" I always write a number three years less than my age! I was enrolled at the university for ten years straight, so I must be super educated in the eyes of our pencil pushers.
I think some of my kids eventually took to telling their teachers that I work for the secret police or as a spy. After all I only kept 9 to 5 office hours for a short period of their childhood; otherwise I "work" at home "and around", and occasionally travel overseas. My friend, David Bedein, likes to assume people in our area who have no visible means of support, to be "informers" for one or another organisation, perhaps the shabak, the C.I.A., and even the K.G.B. and Stasi. Israel is the real melting pot. I'm certain there are also those informers who do have regular 9 to 5 jobs.
My friends are more clueless than my kids. What do they think I do? I do after all own the country's largest pizzeria, even if it is virtual. And I am a renowned photographer! . . . and noted author!
To be honest, I'm sure that most who have made my acquaintance, don't give damn. I don't drive a fancy car -- it's nineteen years old -- and I live a modest surburban lifestyle. I provide them little to be jealous of. That's certainly the best way to keep from blowing your cover. The Russians never bothered explaining this to Aldrich Ames. Perhaps they did, but he couldn't control his lust for fancy cars. Silly fellow.
Howard has known me continuously longer than anyone else around. He usually knows what I'm up to and what I might be thinking. We should ask Howard what I do.
What do I tell the tax man? Can you hide from him? If the taxation department's interest is solely in collecting fair taxes, then as long as you pay your taxes I don't think he cares too much. Report and pay.
Many taxation departments have a function beyond collecting equitable taxes. Governments use tax collection as a means of control and oppression. If they want to squeeze you, they possess the means to pick on you. The faceless tax men have been known to make a deal or two. Just meet our man every second Thursday and tell us what you've seen around town recently. What did Jonny say at the church meeting? Upon your acquiescence, your tax debt disappears -- until the time they require information on another of your neighbours. Once you sell your sole to the devil . . . .
There was a time, before they changed the tax laws, whereby if you worked overseas in your profession you were liable for Israeli taxes. However if you worked outside of Israel in a different field, you were not liable to pay income tax on this extra-curricular activity. I told the tax man I was a Computer Consultant. Given my B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of N.S.W., this is believable. When I travelled overseas for concert performances, I was legally permitted to keep all the money earned, tax-free. Nice arrangement. When I sang in Israel, I was liable to pay the same income tax as if I had written a computer program. I didn't bother singing locally. I even found a nice loophole. When I visited sensitive overseas installations, who retained my technical services, I sang computer programs. The invoice read "corporate entertainment".
OK. Now that we've established what I do for a crust, we should examine what I believe. This should be easy. I don't need to say much. It's all out there already. After all I have a strong web presence. On this website alone I have posted over two hundred pieces, some quite revealing indeed and, by my own "admission", none are fiction. Fiction is not for us second generation holocaust folk. My essays generate many emails from readers, many of whom I do not know, from across the globe. They comment, question, inquire and criticise. I assume most find me via search engines. In addition, social networking provides a fantastic opportunity to toot your own horn. My Facebook "friends" too, often comment as I post a new piece. I note all my new work to my Facebook wall.
That's why Facebook (and Twitter and LinkedIn et al) is important for artists like me. They allow me to disseminate the thoughts, ideas and philosophies I wish to spread. To achieve a following, you often need to be a touch outlandish (dictionary definition: conspicuously unconventional; bizarre) and dramatic. Truth stretching helps gain a following.
My photography site too should be revealing. Anyone following my published work knows where I've been, what I've seen and more importantly, how I saw it. Again this statement is premised on an acceptance that I was the photographer in that particular location.
This is confusing. Can I ever believe what I read or see -- on the web, in print, on film? Probably not.
Social networking is great and fun. Everyone seems now to be taking part. The fastest growing age group is women between 55 and 65, because this is the group that ignored home computers for the longest time. The whole world is now socially connected, by a maximum of "six degrees of separation". Is there a price for all this connectivity?
I have commented previously on problems emanating from social network use. Here is a sample of my opinions. I think the titles are indicative of the content.
The common thread in these articles opines that people reveal too much about themselves to who knows how many unknown readers, sometimes to tragic ends, including suicide and murder.
Can I feel safe in the assumption that (you have to select this option -- it is no longer the default) only "friends" see my posts, that all my potentially sensitive and private data is handled by only machine-to-machine protocols, that no unwanted, unknown human eyes ever "peek"; that correspondence sent via Gmail, Google's mail application, which it now seems a majority of the world's population are using, is not looked at by a mortal being, just one Golem reporting to another piece of software, which is solely responsible for throwing advertising at you, related directly to text in your private emails. I'm a programmer and find this just a little spooky*. Our kids seem to be freer in revealing personal information than we are. Are they less concerned about privacy, or have they been convinced that privacy is no longer of concern in this post-modern era?
The whistle was blown a couple of weeks ago when someone noticed that Apple's iPhones constantly record your physical whereabouts as well as your data usage. Everything! Your precious iPhone has tracked where you were, physically, and when, and also records which programs (apps as Apple likes to call them -- a much sexier name than program) you are using, what you are doing with them and the data you enter! Apple's spokesmen quickly released a statement claiming this data is only stored on your personal device. It is "definitely" not passed back to a central clearing house, even for program controlled, anonymous analysis. That could be true -- today. We all know these situations are fluid. Things have never changed more quickly than they do in our time -- and everything is speeding up.
So back to my original question. Do you, dear reader, know me? (Howard, are you still with me?) Apart from my site, I post heavily on Facebook and Twitter. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter. Note, that unlike Facebook, which claims only my chosen "friends" see my rants and status, Twitter is always open to any and everyone, worldwide, and not just to "followers". (Do yourself a quick favour -- peruse your list of Facebook friends and check you really know each and every one, and know them well enough to want to share your deepest, darkest Facebook posts. Any doubts? Hit the Unbefriend key -- oh really, they haven't yet added that feature! Apropos I find it a little funny that some of my "friends" have 2,000 "friends". The Facebook average is 130. Can anyone really "know" 2,000 individuals?)
Within all this web presence, we work on the assumption that what I am telling you is what I really think, what I really believe and what I am really doing. How sure can you be that this is true? Are there contradictions in my many writings? Am I telling the truth? sometimes? always? never? now?
You don't want to waste too much time. You like Groupon deals (just an example -- I could use almost any "comercial" site name here), but manicure and facials are not your macho thing. Please tell Groupon a little about yourself. You'll be amazed at how the deals now offered now seem tailor-made! They are. But not to worry, only non-human software is viewing your data. Sure, let them know you're gay or vertically challenged. You believe that it won't affect your employment prospects, even if you apply for a job with Groupon or Google.
The bloke down the road was in New York City a couple of weeks back. His brother handles his U.S. credit card for him. My friend drove to Baltimore to visit some old school mates. Returning in the evening, he took the wrong turn when entering the turnpike. Before he realised it, he was in Delaware. He regained his bearings, setting off back to N.Y.C. Should fill-up first. He did, paying by credit card. Nothing wrong with that.
Next morning his brother says, "How was Delaware? I didn't know you had friends there?"
"How do you know I was in Delaware?"
"You bought gas."
This time it was a person in the company, and not a program. As this card had never before been used in Delaware, the bank was ensuring that the card had not been stolen.
You can claim, probably rightly so, that this is good customer service. But be aware that wherever you go, whatever you buy, whenever you withdraw, data, no different from the iPhone story, is being accumulated. No wonder they want to create a cashless society. It's not just drug traders that should work cash only.
I assume they also do this in places other than Israel, though here we have a very high incidence of car theft and relatively few kilometre of road per capita. Insurance companies insist you install a G.P.S. tracking device into your vehicle. Ostensibly this is accessed only when you report your car stolen. Then they "jump" in, locate your missing vehicle and inform the police department, who drop everything they're doing and chase your car. Now the thieves can no longer hide from the long arm of the law. The G.P.S. device just keeps on transmitting, even after they rip out the battery, and the tracking equipment, and smash it to smithereens. Sounds good. Until I tell you that your car stolen in Netanya is in a body shop in Kalkilya within ten minutes, perhaps fifteen during peakhour. So for the system to be effective, you must realise your car was stolen within ten minutes of the theft. Unless you were accosted at knifepoint this is an unlikely scenario. And even if the trackers know exactly in which body shop your car is sitting, I can tell you for a fact no-one is going in there to get it out for you. My nephew's ute was stolen. It sat in Dhahiriya, south of Hevron, for three days, in a public carpark, before it was finally chopped. No army, no police, no ute. No-one was risking entry into a terrorist hornets nest. But the tracking worked!
An irony of the insurance situation is that if they are tracking you, they know when you are not at home. They know how far you are from home. They know how long the burglar has to "visit" your house. Last year, a well known English techie radio personality reported that, using his whiz-bang mobile phone, he photographed his new car, uploading it to the Net. It just dropped out of his mind, and he does this for a living, that he had just informed the entire world population of the location of his house which he was now leaving to drive to the office -- today's cameras embed location data into the JPG photo file. Anyone can see it. Sure, you can turn it off -- but the default setting is "on". He hadn't changed this settting. Have you?
I venture most people are not perturbed by this big brother situation. As they say, as long as you're honest, you've nothing to fear. I find this extremely over simplistic. Governments mime the privacy mantra. They also guarantee personal security. There is a strong contradiction in terms here.
Those who desire to control populations globally know that the best way to dominate is to provide a common enemy. Terrorism, environmental concerns, an attack on the earth by asteroids and a meteor, tsunamis and earthquakes -- lots of candidates. In order to prevent any of these, people seem willing to give up [some of] their personal liberty. Just visit any major U.S. airport. They refuse to profile passengers because this contravenes the holy constitution. But they will scan or x-ray down to your skin and treat you far worse than any Israeli soldier ever abused (in their language) a bomb-belt carrying Arab. That's permitted under the federal constitution.
Their obsession with liquids has nothing to do with exploding aeroplanes. If it did, every other country in the world would be worried about this phenomenon too. They aren't -- unless the flight is on its way to the U.S.
The Holy Zohar teaches that our world is Alma d'Shikra, the world of lies. It is apparent to those few people who are prepared to think it through, that nowadays this situation is worsening, both between man and man, and far more sinisterly, between governments or regimes, and Man, the citizens they profess to protect.
Does this mean that there are many liars out there and I must realise who is telling the truth and who isn't is I can navigate between them to survive? Or is the Zohar telling me that today the path to survival in our world is to stray from the honest course -- because that's just how it is. Can anything be taken at face-value any more?
I thank you dear reader for bearing with me to this point. I am glad we have had the opportunity to get to know each other a little better now.
Menachem Kuchar, 18th May, 2011
* Spooky I'm a twenty-three year old whiz kid programmer who loves pizza. I'm working back late. It's 9:30 p.m. and I've been on this chair for 11 hours straight. Suddenly an ad pops up on my screen -- a pizzeria just down the block who just happens to deliver. A godsend?!
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