Posts Tagged With: travel

The Extinction of the Unique

An army of demonstrators facing off riot police in Istanbul.

An army of demonstrators facing off riot police in Istanbul.

I’ve been steadily watching the ongoing riots and demonstration happening in Turkey the last week, it hits a bit close to home since I spent several years living and working there and consider it in some ways my second home. The names of the squares, the neighborhoods the news reports mention are all dearly familiar to me.

Kizilay, the center of Ankara.

Kizilay, the center of Ankara.

I left Turkey in 2002, just before Ergodan got in. In fact I actually had a run-in with him while he was on his election campaign. It was in the ancient city of Amasya. Me and a group of friends were there spending the weekend and staying at one of the old Ottoman houses which have since been converted into boutique pensions and hotels.

Amasya, sits along the banks of the river-valley of the Yeşilırmak River. Full of old, preserved Ottoman homes and tombs of ancient kings carved into the mountainside, it's a wonderful place to spend time. The region is also famous for it's apples.

Amasya, sits along the banks of the river-valley of the Yeşilırmak River. Full of old, preserved Ottoman homes and tombs of ancient kings carved into the mountainside, it’s a wonderful place to spend time. The region is also famous for it’s apples.

We were there to do some serious hiking and investigate the ruins and tombs of Pontic kings which have essentially been carved into the mountainside. We saw Erdogan give a speech in the town center and an American in my group yelled out “Hey Eddy” while frantically waving. Erdogan waved back but then when he realized we were a bunch of foreigners, looked confused and then stopped waving.

The Migros mall in Ankara.

The Migros mall in Ankara.

Anyway, I’ve returned to Turkey several times since then and the country becomes more unrecognizable each time I go. It saddens me immensely that the small things which made Turkey unique, like the Pasaji malls, the small old-fashioned cinemas and neighborhood weekly food bazaars (farmer’s markets) are disappearing quickly.

Weekly neighborhood farmer's markets or "pazaars" usually rotate around the city so everyone has a chance to buy from local farmers.

Weekly neighborhood farmer’s markets or “pazaars” usually rotate around the city so everyone has a chance to buy from local farmers.

Historical places which were off-the-beaten path like Olympos have been overtaken by mass-tourism, losing it’s charm and soul along the way. American-style subdivisions have swallowed up Ankara. You can easily mistake some of them for a suburb in New Jersey or California now. Mega-malls and multiplex cinemas are everywhere, and foreign franchises like Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, The Body Shop sit at every new corner.

Karum, is a super-posh mall at the base of the Sheraton hotel in Ankara.

Karum, is a super-posh mall at the base of the Sheraton hotel in Ankara.

I have many friends there who are involved in leftist politics and the litany of complaints just goes on and on. Turkey is awash with NATO money, condos, malls, resorts are going up everywhere. It’s the usual arguments for globalization, the classes and sectors most closely entrenched with the bureaucracy and with technocrats, profit the most while everyone else seems to experience nothing but diminishing returns. There are now restrictions to access to things like abortions, birth control, the Morning After pill and alcoholic beverages. There are even some shades of lipstick which are now deemed “inappropriate”!

Most of the Turks I know are very progressive politically and can’t stand what their governments are doing in their name. They don’t like the fact that Erdogan has gotten involved in the mess in Syria. They don’t like the fact that Turkey has such cozy military arrangements with the US and Israel. They don’t like the fact that journalists and activists who call for social reform and more freedom of the press are regularly jailed and imprisoned.

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Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows how much of a leftist, anarchist anti-globalization sympathizer I am. I hate the way the world is becoming more generic everywhere with each passing day. The blandness, the uniformity and in the name of “progress”. In that regard, I can understand why someone would become a Luddite. If I go to Japan, I don’t want to get off the plane to see another GAP, identical to the one at home. I want to see all the unique things, the foods, the buildings, the temples, the plants, animals, the geography, the farmer’s markets, the legendary fish markets which make Japan unique in the first place.

This could be, literally anywhere.

This could be, literally anywhere.

It’s not just countries transforming themselves to all look a certain way. I see it in the way people dress too. Everyone pretty much wears the same uniforms now. T-shirt, jeans, sandals/sneakers whether it’s Montreal or Mozambique. Everyone is eating the same food, burgers, sushi, soda pop. Everyone reads the same books, the same best-sellers whether it’s Dan Brown or Stephen King. People are even starting to think the same way and I’m noticing that it’s starting to take even greater reserves of psychic energy to maintain your uniqueness, to stay different and to stay outside the box.

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Talk to any scientist with even half a functioning brain and they will be the first ones to tell you that diversity, heterogeneity is a good thing. That having genetic diversity gives organisms genetic strength. That being in a state of homogeneity is dangerous for extended periods of time and leaves the species vulnerable.

This kind of homogeneity is not a good thing.

This kind of homogeneity is not a good thing.

That if you were to wipe out all varieties of say, rice, but just keep one or two strains for mass agriculture and plant all the fields with these two strains. In case a parasite or fungus is introduced and wipes out these two strains or rice, because you didn’t keep the other varieties which might have been immune to the fungus, you’ve now lost all your rice. That example can easily be extrapolated to humans, our minds, our opinions, our way of life.

Stay unique Folks, these are very homogeneous times.

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Categories: Ch-ch-ch-changes, Politico, Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Travels, Yoga | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

The Futility of Permanence

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away

-Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley

Visit any ancient monumental site, whether it’s in Egypt,

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Turkey,

Nemrut, Dag, Turkey

Nemrut, Dag, Turkey

Sri Lanka,

Reclining Buddha at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

Reclining Buddha at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

or even ancient Greece,

The Kouros of Samos, Greece

The Kouros of Samos, Greece

and you’ll quickly realize many of these ancient kings, emperors and conquerors were megalomaniacs, building this statue or that temple, like in Shelley’s poem, trying to stake their tiny claim in the face of eternity.

Unfortunately, monuments, cities and buildings eventually fall into disrepair or ruin. Things like climate changes, wars and the march of time have a funny way of doing that. History is full of examples of civilizations or cities disappearing altogether, like in the case of the River Menderes silting up the plains and thus precipitating the ruin of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus, or an earthquake swallowing a city whole in the case of Antioch or even a city being abandoned completely because the Uzboy river dried up  like the ancient Khwarezm civilization  in Turkmenistan.

All that's left of an ancient Kwarezm city, Turkmenistan

All that’s left of an ancient Kwarezm city, Turkmenistan

I will on occasion usually watch cheesy awards shows like the Oscars. The fanfare, the pre-awards shows where plastic hosts ooh’s and aah’s over the actresses (usually) gaudy gowns while acting like the actor or actress’ bit of acting work has somehow achieved world peace or cured cancer, and now the post-ceremony parties.

Scarlett Johannson and Isaac Mitzrahi in a major faux-pas on the red carpet

Scarlett Johannson and Isaac Mitzrahi in a major faux-pas on the red carpet

It shows up the worst of vulgar celebrity culture. I don’t care about the winners anymore since in my mind, the Oscars lost their credibility a long time ago (if you’re a serious film fan and want to know the movies worth watching, keep a close eye on the winners at the Cannes, Telluride, Berlin and Venice film festivals as well as the NYC and London Critics Circle Awards). It’s a popularity contest for those playing the Hollywood game and for insiders to come out and prance about like peacocks. Many people who go into film, and especially into acting or directing, I think are also striving for eternal immortality, maybe not in marble statues anymore like the old Greek gods and Roman emperors but definitely on celluloid. What is today’s winner quickly becomes yesterday’s trivia. (Think fast: Which film won “Best Picture” in 1974? Do you know? Do you care? Has it changed anything?)

Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

Mikhael Aivanhov had a wonderful quote on eternity and permanence (which I’m still looking for) which I read years ago, that even if you strive for permanence on the material plane, that eventually it will fall into ruin, whether it’s a political ideology, an invention or a monument. That often, very quickly after you die, even after all the hard work you put in trying to achieve something permanent or immortal, if you have an airport, hospital, an elementary school or park named after you, given enough time, these too will vanish and be forgotten. That the only thing that lasts are ideas and the spiritual work you accomplish out of that wisdom. That stays alive forever. One only has to look at the likes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the benevolent teachings of Buddha, Lao Tzu  and old JC, to see what impact their teachings and ideas have informed and transformed the world, in a good way, that even now, thousands of years later, their work and words  remains alive and vital. (In light of this, when I see an aging train wreck like Madonna doing her best to remain youthful and striving for immortality, it just comes across as sad…and tragic)

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From Aivanhov:

“What about things such as illness, misery, ugliness? Are inferior things also limitless and capable of expanding all the way to Infinity? No, there is a limit to evil, proven in physics by the fact that heat rises from 0 degrees Celsius, to infinity, whereas cold cannot go lower than 273 degrees Celsius below. The frozen particles block each other and pile up; when movement stops, the limit has been reached. Heat does the contrary, it dilates and expands the body, stirs the particles into movement and pushes back the limits of space. Space is infinite, it cannot be limited. We believe ourselves limited because we have never tried to go beyond our own experience, we think we are limited in space but we are wrong: above there is no limit.That is what led me to the conclusion that evil is limited in both time and space. Cosmic Intelligence did not intend evil to endure. It did not endow it with lasting power as It did good: the power of good is unlimited. That is the difference between good and evil, the only real difference. People believe them to be equally strong but they are not. The forces of Evil are not equal to the forces of Good. Therefore, in electing to go toward the positive pole, you enter into the realm of unlimited time and space, Infinity and Eternity, Cosmic Intelligence Itself.”
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Categories: Ascension, Ch-ch-ch-changes, False prophits, Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Shift of the Ages effects, Travels | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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