Saturday, December 17, 2011

Musings on the Euro Crisis

Bench with Buoy, December 17

I've liked to snigger at the USA's apparent inability to govern itself out of a wet paper bag, in contrast to our competently-run social democracies on this side of the pond. The ongoing crisis of the euro has made it clear that I really don't have all that much to snigger about. This is a monetary crisis. It's about money. Money is not wealth. It's a representation of wealth. That means that there are technical solutions to it, whether it's about splitting up the euro into more reasonably functional currency areas, or coming up with a program to keep it together until the eurozone's economies converge enough to be one.

Yet we're clearly not able to come up with those solutions. We keep kicking the can down the road and hoping it'll go away.

I love the European idea. The EU and its predecessors have managed to bring an unprecedented period of stability, peace, and prosperity to what is historically probably the most war-ridden region in the world. Even now, we have countries queuing to join. It is a unique experiment in political history; a voluntary empire with no emperor and no single hegemonic people, family, religion, or political ideology. It's hardly surprising that it's not an easy thing to maintain, since we're in uncharted territory all of the time. I would really hate to see it go.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Talking Buddhism with Christians

Ghost of the Cathedral
Ghost of the Cathedral, Helsinki, 2005

I stumbled into a pretty fun conversation the other day. It was on the website/blog portal of the major national Christian newspaper, Kotimaa. There was an article there mentioning that December 8 is Bodhi day for Buddhists. A short discussion in the comments followed, mainly between one individual asking "what does this have to do with Christianity?" and others pointing out that even Christians would do well to know something about other religions.

That had inspired a slightly humorous blog post, freely translated as "When the Buddha had an insight: fur real nobody ain't really nuttin' at all." And more discussion. Pretty good and surprisingly well-informed discussion too. One guy had a pretty good idea of what Buddhism is about, even though he admitted up front that he doesn't really understand it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Istanbul Impressions

Flag Merchant
Flag Merchant, Istanbul, 2011

I just got back from a short jaunt to Istanbul. I had never been there before, which is kind of odd, really, because it's not all that far away—closer than Marseilles, for example. It is a quite an amazing place. Clich├ęd or not, it really is caught between East and West, a Byzantine history, an Ottoman past, a Kemalist present, and an unknown future. You can't help feeling that it's bound to return to its usual position of dominating the Mediterranean, like it did from Constantine the Great to Mehmed VI, with nary an interruption.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More on Copying, Stealing, and the Precepts

Please smile
Please smile, Brisbane, Australia, 2010

Since Jayarava appears to have banned me from commenting on his blog, and also indicated that he will be ending the discussion on intellectual property and the Second Precept, I'll post my thoughts here instead. A few interesting points were raised, and as stated, I think this is a topic that's important and tricky enough that it needs discussion.

First, I think Johannes made a very valuable contribution to the discussion by bringing up the parallel of taking a drink of water from a stream. He did it to point out that there is also "taking" that does not deprive anyone (noticeably) of anything, as a counterpoint to the argument that copying should not be regarded as taking because copying does not deprive the person being copied from of the artifact being copied. In this sense, copying is very much like taking a drink from a stream.