The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Opinions on Nuclear Power Waste?

Personally, I'd guess that about 20% of Americans are descended from slave owners/holders. Since the first slaves arrived in 1610, we have almost twenty generations of interbreeding. A far higher percentage of blacks probably have such blood than whites--representing rape, or at least sexual harrassment in the extreme. I don't have the math to work this out, but a snapshot of 1860 (1.4%) of Americans would hardly tell the story. I would love to see a well-thought out study here.

That said, I have no sense that someone descended from slaves should feel guilty about it. In fact, I don't hold slavery against the slave owners themselves. I don't blame people for being in synche with their social zeitgeist. I do, however, have great respect for the people who could rise above it. Jefferson wasn't a toad because he didn't free his slaves. He was just a typical landowner. Given that you "own" human beings, my scorn would be reserved for acts of unusual cruelty: torture, murder, forcible rape, etc. Anyone who has read "Lion's Blood" knows that I consider the capacity for self-delusion and cruelty to be as hard-wired as the capacity for kindness and clarity. And that, given the ability to exert power over other human beings, most men and women would find it difficult to go against the cultural current...to fail to oppose slavery, even if they themselves did not own one.

So...no guilt. Humans are just critters, after all. The only thing that irritates me is when people do the "it happened so long ago. What difference does it make?" Which strikes me as ignorant and/or hypocritical in the extreme. So I do tend to point out that the playing field is far from level, but I don't expect white folks to do anything new about it. Similarly, I have no tolerance for blacks who claim it is impossible to get ahead, etc. There are simply too many role models of people who have done just that. Hard to think of an arena in which there is not now a wonderful role model of possibility. My own life would have been very different if, for instance, I'd been able to read Steven Barnes novels growing up. I'm not sure what more we can do as human beings except try not to fall into the traps that snared our parents, and try to make the world a little better for our children.

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But I could NOT think less of whites without thinking less of humanity as a whole. And that I have neither the inclination or the temperament to do. We all feel alone and afraid, and the ways that cope with this are often rather ugly...but sometimes absolutely wonderful.

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Who out there knows enough about nuclear power to comment from a technical point of view? It has always seemed that the more scientifically educated people in my circle tended toward belief that we could handle it effectively. That sways me. On the other hand, there do seem to be serious issues about dealing with waste. That single concern strikes me as the most valid criticism. Pleading ignorance, I would request that those who have informed opinions about this issue, pro and con, place their arguments before us.

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Performed the first 4 days of TacFit as of yesterday, and back on Recovery today. It is FIERCE stuff. This is fitness at the level of warrior-readiness, something very different from even professional athletics. Olympic or professional athletes operate in the arena of the known, with rules and expectations about the type of fitness that will be required, and a manageable maximum penalty for failure. SWAT, firemen, police, military and especially SpecOps, must deal with chaos in the rawest form, and the requirements not only for "fitness" but intelligent spontaneous adaptation to hazardous environments is about survival, not championship rings. Even "functional fitness" (like, for instance, most Kettlebell programs) does not address this in the same way. By sequencing his programs to become increasingly complex rather than just doing more, harder, longer, we are dealing with the body-mind connection in an extremely powerful way. Improving proprioception increases data intake from the environment. Learning to re-orient after unexpected collision or other multipliers literally exercises the mind, not "merely" the body. What we have here, and what I have seen from the beginning of my relationship with Scott, was the same thing I was aiming at with the "rubber band" exercises in my novels of Aubry Knight, or the "Self-Directed Human Evolution" concept I've been working on for twenty-five years--approached through the physical doorway. Because TacFit is based in part on the Six Degrees of Freedom model, which in turn comes out of Shadow Yoga...combined with the idea from Hawaiian Huna that the body acts like a "black bag" for unprocessed emotions...man, the possibility just screams at me that when you return your body to its "original manufacturer specifications"--in other words, the movement options you had as a child--you must release the fear, rage, and grief we bond into our bodies. This in turn would effect perceptual filters. We approach the ideal of the energy, aliveness and 360 degree input of a child--with the wisdom of an elder (or at least adult.) This, in many ways, is as good as human existence can get. And because the machine language of the human nervous system is "survive. Move away from pain" and you can test this with the simple expedient of trying to hold your breath until you die. Can't do it, no matter how depressed you are. The hind brain will render you unconscious and go right on breathing. That implies to me that you can stand squarely on your right to live and breathe and reduce the pain in your existence.

The "Be Breathed" exercise is the simplest way I've ever seen. I've been in meditation and spiritual circles where it took them YEARS to teach techniques no more effective. If you expose yourself to all three streams of basic life stress (finding a mate, providing food and shelter, maintaining life and health) and you use breathing as a way of preventing stress from becoming strain...

Wow. Let me make it clear: in no way am I saying that this is the only path, or even the best. But it is astoundingly clear to me. The path is more solid than anything I've seen in a lifetime of searching. After all, if you strive along this path and I'm 100% wrong, the worst case scenario is that you end up happy, healthy, and loved. Not so bad. Seeing the rocks under the surface of the water doesn't mean there aren't bridges down the way. But after forty years of seeking, I have lost count of the bodies of the broken along the spiritual path. People who lost families, health, and fortune and ended up with nothing. Or people who sought intellectual knowledge and ended up alone and broken, never understanding that general knowledge has little to do with success or happiness. Or people who thought that if they just won that championship, or earned that black belt, they would finally be content with life. So sad.

One of the things I love about Connirae Andreas' "Core Transformation" work is that it shows clearly that if you BEGIN with the emotions you think you will get at the END, you experience life as transformative and ineffably beautiful and mysterious. You can get this starting with the heart space--feeling love for all people. You can get there from survival--learning to deal with death, sex, power, and fear. But you cannot do it working from your head down. It just doesn't work. Never seen it, not even once. Known lots of people who thought they could, but every single one of them broke at some point. The lucky ones were able to re-constitute their lives. The unlucky ones...jeeze, it is just too sad. My obsession with balance should tell you something about what I've seen in this sense, but I just can't go into it. Knowing good, decent, sweet, intelligent people who are alone, sick, and on the edge of absolute poverty just because they thought life could be negotiated with the mind "alone." Life is simply too complex to "figure out," but it can be experienced authentically, and honestly, with eyes open. The vast majority of what people talk about when they say "enlightenment" is no more than this.

13 comments:

Mike Ralls said...

Functional Fitness is an interesting thing. I work at a computer all day, in an office, so I my gym workout is my big exercise for the day. I really push myself, doing cardio around 2-3 days a weak, weight lifting at least 2 days a week, and yoga one day a week. A pretty good mix, and I'm dedicated to my workouts and prioritize them. I've cycled from Portland to San Fransisco and I love to take hikes and play outdoors. I'm in better shape than 95% of my office co-workers, I would guess.

That being said I took Monday off and had a three-day weekend in which my wife and I and her father laid linoleum tiles and made ourselves a new floor. Three days of laying tiles and doing everything necessary to do that (move furniture, etc) _exhausted me_, like you wouldn't beleive. It really drove home to me that there is a huge difference between gym fit and functionally fit.

>Personally, I'd guess that about 20% of Americans are descended from slave owners/holders.<

I'd say 100% if you go back far enough. Why stop at 400 years ago? Why does a slave in 1610 count, but not one in Imperial Rome in 300 AD? Hell, keep in mind that it is highly probable that every human being on the planet has an ancestor in common not more than two to five thousand years ago. Go back far enough and you will find a slave-owner somewhere in everyone's tree. And a saint. And a rapist. And a teacher. And everything else human beings have thrown up. Genetically speaking, we are the descendants of the entire successfully reproducing world of five thousand years ago.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,201908,00.html

"You would have to go back in time only 2,000 to 5,000 years — and probably on the low side of that range — to find somebody who could count every person alive today as a descendant.

Furthermore, Olson and his colleagues have found that if you go back a little farther — about 5,000 to 7,000 years ago — everybody living today has exactly the same set of ancestors.

In other words, every person who was alive at that time is either an ancestor to all 6 billion people living today, or their line died out and they have no remaining descendants.

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When you walk through an exhibit of Ancient Egyptian art from the time of the pyramids, everything there was very likely created by one of your ancestors — every statue, every hieroglyph, every gold necklace.

If there is a mummy lying in the center of the room, that person was almost certainly your ancestor, too."

We are the World (of the successfully reproducing human population of 5,000-7,000 years ago) is _literally_ true. Each of us, contains part of all of them. The good. The bad. The average. The extraordinary. The slave. The conqueror. The priest. The artist. All of them became all of us. And someday all of us will become a new set of all of them.

Either someone's line will go extinct, or in a few thousand years they will be an ancestor to the entire human race.

Dan Moran said...

Mike's correct -- I did my figuring based on slaveowners at the time of the Civil War -- start moving back from that date, and the percentage of people with slave owners (and slaves, and murderers, and bankers) in their ancestry, goes up until it reaches certainty. It's improbable I had any slave owning ancestors at the time of the Civil War (with a single exception I know who all of them were -- my great and great-great grandparents) ... and they were peasant farmers in Europe, Ireland, and Iowa.

But go back a single generation before that and I don't know the names or professions of but one of them (my great-great-great grandfather was named Joseph Moran and lived in County Cork in Ireland) and God knows what they were up to.

There are murderers in there more recently anyway. :-)

Dan Moran said...

5,000 to 7,000 years

Really? American Indians crossed over the Bering Strait as far back as 12,000 years ago -- and all of them have interbred with Europeans in the centuries since Europeans reached the Americas?

I'm not disputing the assertion, but it startles me.

Dan Moran said...

That's "as recently as 12,000 years ago" ... not "as far back." The earliest migrations preceded that by some period.

Marty S said...

On the nuclear issue I'm not an expert on the waste issue, but from what I have read it sounds manageable and I'm with Obama on this one. One of the things that tell me waste isn't the real problem is a debate over the issue on CNN between Robert Kennedy Jr. and Cristy Whitman. Kennedy was against nuclear and his main argument wasn't nuclear waste, but that the fact that no private company would insure the building of a nuclear power plant was a clear sign that the government shouldn't either. Of course the main reason private companies won't insure the building of nuclear power plants is that suits and protests by anti-nuclear environmentalists make building a plant precarious. Shoreham was a completed plant that never generated a watt of power because the environmentalists kept it from opening.

Lorenzo said...

Nicely put on slavery and humanity. As a medievalist I have posted a far bit on the economics of human bondage: a fascinating subject, is a horrible sort of way.

As a descendant of convicts (i.e. people brought to a then British colony in chains) I would like to report that Australia, founded by criminals, is a notably law-abiding society. No ancestry-is-destiny there!

The thing with human genetics is, as one's ancestors roughly double every generation (at some point, you start getting "double-ups"), you have a powerful lot of ancestors who were doing all sorts of things and came from all sorts of groups.

But social patterns matter. Even though Arabs had a far longer pattern of slaving sub-Saharan Africans (the first anti-black discourses are medieval Muslim Arab ones and the trans-Atlantic slave trade essentially "piggy-backed" of the existing to-Islam slave trade) than the Americas, they did not develop much of an Arab-African subgroup because the children of concubines took on their father's social status and so many of the male slaves were eunuchs (the creation of which had a very high death rate).

One thing that I find silly is the "whole reparations for slavery" thing. Apart from the difficulty of claiming against your contemporaries for what one set of your ancestors did to another set of your ancestors, the relevant comparison--in strict compensation terms--is surely with those who were not taken as slaves. African Americans tend to be rather better off (in life expectancy, health, income, wealth, opportunities) than West Africans. An odd thing to be compensated for.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I did my figuring based on slaveowners at the time of the Civil War

FWIW, I was doing my mental estimate based on slave ownership since the beginning of colonial times (for which reason I had a mental estimate higher than yours and lower than Mike's).

Pagan Topologist said...

I had an operator's license for a university research reactor in the 1960's. My experience there and the experience of nuclear powered naval vessels convince me that nuclear power is operationally safe. As Steve says, the only issue is waste disposal. There was a calculation done and published years ago (Maybe it was an ANALOG Science Fact article?) that showed that high level waste can be stored on the moon at a cost of adding about 2% to the cost of the energy generated. Furthermore, I think there is container technology which is sufficient to contain the waste even in the event of a crash.

Mike Ralls said...

Dan,

It depends on if you think the Americas were really completely isolated for those entire 12,000 years.

If starting 5,000 ago an average of one Polynesian (or Proto-Polynesian, or Norse, or Uknown tribe member who was on a log that got swept out to sea) every two (or three) centuries managed to land in the Americas and join the breeding pool, then it's easily possible.

DNA anthropology is advancing quite fast. I'd be surprised if we don't have hard and fast figures on this within a decade.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"Olson and his colleagues have found that if you go back a little farther — about 5,000 to 7,000 years ago — everybody living today has exactly the same set of ancestors."

This is doubtful when considering populations long isolated from what we might gingerly term the human mainstream, i.e Eurasia and possibly Bantu Africa. For instance, consider that, prior to the English Invasion, Aboriginal Australians had no contact other groups apart from tenuous relations with Papuans for about 40,000 years. Before the Bantu influx, the San of Southern Africa may have been isolated from the rest of humanity since the species' inception!

Steven Barnes said...

I'm not against reparations in theory. As I've said, I would love to push a button and reverse the relative social positions of whites and blacks. Cool. But in practice, there is no way to do reparations "fairly" and I see the problems seriously outweighing any advantages. Insofar as American blacks being wealthier than West Africans--I agree that there are some material benefits. But I like what Chris Rock said: "(for black people) America is like an uncle who paid your bills and sent you to college...but molested you."

Shady_Grady said...

But social patterns matter. Even though Arabs had a far longer pattern of slaving sub-Saharan Africans (the first anti-black discourses are medieval Muslim Arab ones and the trans-Atlantic slave trade essentially "piggy-backed" of the existing to-Islam slave trade) than the Americas, they did not develop much of an Arab-African subgroup because the children of concubines took on their father's social status and so many of the male slaves were eunuchs (the creation of which had a very high death rate).

Maimonides and other non Arabs had justifications and arguments for superiority of their group (and/or black inferiority) at the same time or before medieval Arab writings.

Racism in Classical Antiquity

Shady_Grady said...


One thing that I find silly is the "whole reparations for slavery" thing. Apart from the difficulty of claiming against your contemporaries for what one set of your ancestors did to another set of your ancestors, the relevant comparison--in strict compensation terms--is surely with those who were not taken as slaves. African Americans tend to be rather better off (in life expectancy, health, income, wealth, opportunities) than West Africans. An odd thing to be compensated for.


This is an argument that often surfaces. It's often called the "Look At Africa" argument and is related to the "Arab Slave Trader" argument.

Arab Trader Argument

Look At Africa

The question really isn't whether in 2010 a particular black American would rather live in America than in some West African country. The question is what would the world have looked like were there not an Atlantic slave trade with all the associated suffering, murder, rape, etc. We can't know for sure. We can only speculate. But it's likely the case that the US would not be as rich as it is nor would some countries be as relatively impoverished. Slavery is an essentially parasitic process by which one group is enriched and another pauperized. Again, the relevant comparison for a Black American is NOT to a West African in terms of wealth but to his/her white counterpart in America.

An Israeli today is undoubtedly better off in many respects than his/her great grandparent was in Poland or Russia or even than another Jewish person might be in today's Russia. That doesn't mean that we overlook the Holocaust and say "well things turned out ok for you for the most part".

Although I think that reparations for Black Americans is a good idea and a fair one, I also think it has 0% chance politically of success and is beyond quixotic. That said though it's really interesting to me that reparations for blacks could be a huge hot button issue when right this instant the US government is going to pay $3.4 billion to various Native Americans for cheating them out of profits/title to land held in trust. This program began over 120 years ago and of course the original/initial victims are long
dead.

Lawsuit

As far as Black Americans being healthier than West Africans, it depends. I know that's not the case with hypertension. Black Americans have the highest rates of hypertension of any group in the world-which likely has something to do with staying in a "fight or flight" mode for too long.