Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Sunday, 19 June 2005

Blogs make dogs and cats love each other

Kitty snuggled up with the dog
Well, no, I took the quote entirely out of context, but it did make me laugh. On the one hand, I've never been able to understand why people think that blogs are "revolutionary". They're a great concept, but it's people who have the power to "change everything", not the medium. Last time I checked, people had been around for a very long time. And, looking at the way mankind's history keeps on repeating itself, we're gonna have a long wait until they do indeed "change everything". On the other, I just don't know who came up with this myth that cats and dogs don't get along, because I see the daily living proof that they do.

We could learn a lot from animals, if only we'd care to take the time to do so. When my dog found those three kittens four years ago, she sensed that they needed help and attention. She spent days and nights by their side watching them. She took it upon herself to wash bums, made sure they were safe and didn't stray from their box ... and she continues to do so.

Kitty was unwell last week. In fact, she was really poorly, didn't eat and just wanted to curl up for five days. And, like most kids when they don't feel very well, all she wanted to do was cuddle up with mum. (I mean more so than usual.)

At one point, Kitty had snuggled up to Holly's bum on the dog bed. I got up to go somewhere and Holly got up to follow me. I hugged her and just said quietly, "No, you stay there with Kitty: she needs you". Her ass was back on that bed before I even finished the sentence and she stayed. If I'd wanted her to do that for no reason, I'd have had trouble.

I positively encouraged it all week and, I am sure, it is as much to the credit of this love & comfort as it was to the *bad guy* (that'd be me) stuffing her with antibiotics and other medicines that taste horrid that Kitty is again herself, eating fine and coming out on long walks. What makes dogs and cats love each other is intuition, knowledge and understanding. Animals don't come with preconceived ideas about what breed is supposed to get along, and not, nor are they swayed by "propaganda". Different peoples could learn a lot from them.

Maybe blogs will hep? That is, only if they really WANT to.
Holly and Kitty out for a walk

Thursday, 9 June 2005

Poverty is the worst form of violence

It was Gandhi who, long ago, said that "Poverty is the worst form of violence" and, he saw the situation himself then, both in Africa and in India. It is incredible that the world still doesn't seem to "get it", but maybe it is impossible unless you've lived its awfulness, personally.

There can't be much worse than the constant battering a human body & spirit gets from not having enough nutrition, poor health, disrespect and no hopes of a way out of the situation - other than via an early death.

In this article from TIME by Mandela on Gandhi, the former South African leader says, "A great measure of world poverty today and African poverty in particular is due to the continuing dependence on foreign markets for manufactured goods, which undermines domestic production and dams up domestic skills, apart from piling up unmanageable foreign debts. Gandhi's insistence on self-sufficiency is a basic economic principle that, if followed today, could contribute significantly to alleviating Third World poverty and stimulating development."

This is something that has been becoming more apparent here in the last few years. When I first came to the Canaries, in 1992, I used to get visitors to bring me long lists of everyday items I couldn't buy here.

Go into any local supermarket now and you'll find racks full of familiar products, particularly those from the US, the UK and Germany. It's even becoming a struggle for my mum to find anything "typically Canarian" or that she can't get in England to take back as small gifts for her friends.

All these imported goods are wreaking havoc, not just on the balance of the local economy, but on the health of the local people, whose former healthy, natural diet is being replaced by all this imported, processed junk. That puts up healthcare costs and so the downward spiral begins.

Someone who sees the harsh effects of the debt problem, first hand, is "Claypot" (a pen name for a blogger in rural Zambia), who says "Debt repayments are making it impossible to respond to the health, educational and economic challenges facing Zambian people."

What gets me most isn't the debt itself (which is bad enough), but the restrictions that the IMF enforce to go with the loans.

Now, tell me if there is some fault in my logic here, but one of the best ways to combat poverty (or even pay back loans) would be to EDUCATE people so that they can work and become self-sufficient. But, as Claypot says, "... IMF restrictions means that the Zambian government cannot appoint more teachers, despite the fact that thousands of trained teachers are currently unemployed in the country."

Obviously, I don't know the full story behind this, but I can see that the result HAS to be that it almost ensures that poverty - and along with it ignorance, poor health, etc. - carries on to future generations.

Just tell me where there's a solution in this?

Claypot is right about the the rest of the world being oblivious, because "... they really just don't care, as long as it's not in their back yard."

However, as one commenter says, "We have to hold fast to the idea that there are good people who will ultimately pull us out of this."

And, again, I think she is right.

I just don't think it will be the people that most people expect it will be.

It won't be some world leader who suddenly becomes "enlightened" to the problem, that's for sure. Heck, how many times does history have to rinse and repeat to prove to us that we are NEVER going to take a blind bit of notice of assorted saviours, prophets and other "lunatics"?

Now, I'm not going to pretend that poverty in so-called Western "civilisation" is anything like that in Africa, but as numbers of unemployed and unemployable rise in most of those countries, so healthcare and education standards, etc., are plummeting.

Many are already finding that self-sufficiency is their only answer, with things like homeschooling and working from home. When that situation affects the vast majority and, the problem does effectively encroach every "ordinary person's" backyard, maybe they'll finally empathize and force a solution? (Provided we hang on to our rights to free speech and don't give in to the propaganda and fear mongering over security.)

Of course the other problem is that "leaders" will complicate matters by being hell-bent on "fighting against" these issues. For instance:

Claypot outlines the basis for a really simple solution, that, by harnessing people's nature instead of going against it, pushes them further in the direction they were already going. If you know anything about basic psychology or martial arts, you know this is easier and more effective.

So, you have folks in the US spending US$350 Billion on gambling every year. The usual "reaction" to this is make gambling illegal. That doesn't stop people gambling! In fact, all it really does is encourage crime and underhandedness so they can carry on getting their *fix*.

The simple solution would be to make all gambling institutions into government non-profits. The model is already in use in the US. A tribe of Native Americans operate a casino on a non-profit basis, with all the earnings going back into the community for educational and healthcare programs. (Source: Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure.)

It doesn't take a maths genius to see that you'd soon have your US$300 Billion to cancel the debts of the world's poorest countries.

That might sound hair-brained to you, but the fact is you'll always keep getting the same results from the same methods, so it is already clear that methods need to be changed. Drastically. That they aren't, I don't think is as a result of any real lack of creative thinking. There are just too many "playing it safe" to maintain their own positions of power.

Friday, 22 April 2005

Door-to-door house blessings

The late Pope John Paul II was so loved, by so many, including a great number of non-Catholics around the world. The day after Pope John Paul II's funeral, there was a knock at the door and opened it to find our new Pastor, two assistants and a Virgin (I mean Icon) standing outside.

(There was me still unwashed at lunchtime and the next-door neighbour there with his video camera. He is the local mayor's "trusted aide" and the town hall do edit various cultural films. So there goes their reputation!)

Anyway, they were doing door-to-door house blessings and would I like one?

Well, I didn't like to say that this house DESPERATELY needs one, well I did want to say it, but it was probably not the right thing, however, I said they were most welcome, but that I was not a Catholic and did this matter? Apparently not and so ensued a short ceremony where the blessing was said and I crowned the Icon and placed her Rosary in her hands (whilst feeling a right prat), but apparently I did this 'most artistically.' Afterwards the Pastor chatted with me (partly in English) and told me this very Icon had been blessed by Pope John Paul II himself.

They also left me with a card with a photo of the Icon and some photos of Pope John Paul II and, never mind what this means to me religiously (nothing at all), I DO feel honoured, or "blessed". It is certainly a memory I shall treasure.

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Welcome to Rabbit Rescue

A handful of bun
"Good Afternoon and welcome to Rabbit Rescue". 

Well, the human has taken a slight lead, by liberating another baby bunny from the clutches of three marauding tigers last night. The other day, I had locked the cats OUT to prevent them coming in with their catches. Boy, do they know how to play me at my own game! Bring it in and keep quiet about it, until they can surprise me, once we are all shut on the inside and I'm lulled into a false sense of security, because you think they can't come in with anything else then.

Yesterday was sunny and dry, so I opened all the windows to give the house a dose of fresh air. I'd gone to the utility room at one point to find three of the cats in there, when they should have been outside enjoying the weather. Another was lying on the floor of the back room, looking like he was watching a mousehole, so I suspected they were up to something, but if it had hidden itself and they couldn't find it, well, nor would I. I left them to it and promptly forgot about it.

After dinner at 6 p.m. (yes, they are creatures of habit), the cats are kept in for the night and they'd all settled nicely in the back room. This is normal, so I thought nothing of it. Until around 10.30 p.m.

There I was quietly minding my own business, when a screech erupts. When I go out back to investigate, sure enough, three of them had cornered the tiny rabbit out in the utility room. Obviously he'd hidden under something earlier and finally decided to venture out. And they were still waiting! Bullies! It takes three of them to torment the poor little thing. They should be ashamed.

No, I don't know if they're capable of doing this deliberately, but coincidence or not, it was pretty ironic in a "That'll teach her to lock us outside", kind of way.

Of course they didn't reckon on the fact that they also couldn't escape with it, so I was able to rescue it from them with ease. My mother is coming to visit in a couple of weeks. The rabbit had actually hidden in what will be her bedroom while she's here and I can't wait to see her face if they repeat this process and she's suddenly woken up, surrounded by wild animals! *Grin*

Monday, 18 April 2005

Bad Business In Bunny Land

Stock image of a Wascally Wabbit
It's all rabbits round here lately, but then it is Spring, so this is probably not surprising, but alas, this isn't only about cute, fluffy burrowers, because some *bad bunnies* have made people hopping mad. 

The BBC themselves kindly point us in the direction of a wonderfully witty blog, which is poking fun at the BEEB site's special talent for (mis)use of stock photos after a "headless zombie rabbit" incident - where, apparently, the "same" (stock photo) bunny loses his head one day, then gets a parking ticket slapped on his hutch the next. But that it would scare all the little kiddies (not to mention the big kiddy whose job it was to dispose of the remains), last week I could have provided the perfect graphic illustration for the former of the above stories, courtesy of cats Khan and Betty. One, sadly, I didn't manage to save in time.

Then this morning, I discovered Balu and Betty growling at each other over another specimen out in the utility room. This discovery was a little accidental, so Balu picked up the rabbit and ran through the house and out the front door. I managed to follow and catch up with him, despite an obstacle course of furniture, rocks and vines. For some reason, I can't run under everything like they can!

But, upon grabbing the offending cat by the neck, he let go of the rabbit - who foolishly, ran straight towards Betty. I couldn't get there in time and, even if I had, you'd have more chance getting a side of beef away from a full-grown lion than of getting near her. My vet calls her "la pantera" (the panther) for a reason!

Whilst I did try, unfortunately, this was the wrong move. She made a quick decision, which resulted in me being inches away and, unfortunately, looking straight at the bloodthirsty scene when she went in for the kill. All I can say is, at least it was swift. So, the current score appears to be: Cats 2 - Human 2

(Not counting the ones I don't know about, of course.)

Cats are killers. I accept that. And I am more than happy that they are able to live "normal cat" lives, but it still takes a bit of getting used to. You get a very strong stomach after a few years of er, "country living with pets".  

On the other hand, I probably should just accept that my cats are providing a useful service, because the rabbit population here has been escalating out of all proportion over the last few years. Indeed, just this morning while I was walking the vine terraces with the dog (accompanied by two cats, naturally), we stopped and chatted with the workers tending the vines. It seems that even the ingenious water trick (containers under the vines) hasn't prevented the numerous rabbits from eating the newly forming fruit this year, destroying both crop and livelihood. Naturally, the man is hopping mad (sorry, irresistible pun), saying *they* should do something to completely wipe out the rabbit populations in cultivated areas. I agree, something needs doing, but I doubt that would be the right solution.

The chance of getting all of the rabbits has to be slim and those remaining would merely reproduce at a faster rate to refill the territory available. The hunting season in August - November will reduce them and, it is probably better to continue with that rhythm. (Much as I personally dislike the idea of hunting, I accept it is a better solution than some alternatives - such as traps or poisons - both of which would also present greater risks for other animals.)

Last year there seemed to be so many rabbits, we were almost tripping over them every time we went out walking. In fact, one morning, Kitty was with us and there she was walking along (possibly daydreaming), when she suddenly came nose to nose with a fully-grown buck rabbit. Both took a moment's pause, taken aback, then went on their respective ways.

This we hadn't seen before and it led me to start wondering why.

Recently, I discovered the answer. Tourists!

If they call it tourist season, why can't we shoot 'em?

As usual, man is the author of his own folly. It also shows you, in one small cycle, how everything in nature is connected and why balances must be maintained. What worries me even more is that man in his infinite wisdom (cough) may well take to more environmentally damaging *remedies* (like poisons) in order to *cure* the environmental damage he has already done.

Anyway, it seems that the growing numbers of tourists visiting areas near where birds of prey nest are disturbing the peace of said birds, so they are not breeding in sufficient numbers to cope with the quantity of rabbits that are their normal prey. Hence, the rabbits are multiplying at the rate rabbits do, unhindered.

We do frequently see two to three pairs of these birds hovering over the valley, but the numbers have reduced. What really needs to be done is to control tourism more closely and create more nature reserves that they are not permitted to disturb, restoring the balance of nature so that the birds can reproduce, catch more rabbits and put money back into farmers' pockets.

These islands rely on tourism for their main economy, but this is not just at the cost of the environment, but creates a "robbing Peter to pay Paul" scenario, where those in tourism prosper at the expense of their kinsmen in agriculture. Both are important. It would never be good business to have all our eggs in one basket and this just isn't a sustainable option. These same tourists are disturbing the peace of the whales and dolphins that they go to view on boat safaris and they create daily traffic jams on our mountain roads through precious pine and "laurasilva" forest. And I just can't help wondering what they will come to look at, once all of this beautiful nature has been totally destroyed for their pleasure.