Weekly retrospective 20-04-2014

A slightly delayed post, due to Easter!

Spring has finally arrived in St. Petersburg. Yesterday and today had temperatures of 20 degrees celsius, clear blue skies, and bright, bright sunshine. It’s wonderful after the cold and darkness of winter. Patches of green grass are appearing, and the buds are swelling on some of the bushes and the trees. The pastel colours of the city centre, which looked faded and drab in the faint light of winter, now glow intensely in the late afternoon sunlight. It’s light now until just after 10pm, compared to 4pm when I arrived; soon, the sun won’t set and the famous White Nights will be here – that’ll be interesting!

Looking back, it’s been a very busy week, both personally and globally.

I had a revelatory experience in my martial arts class. It confirmed to me that there are aspects to some of the Russian fighting styles that aren’t found elsewhere; they focus on building a strong person, rather than just a strong fighter. That’s something to be treasured – but it also means that my teacher demands personal development across the board, not just in fighting techniques… and that’s turned out to be very challenging.

I’ve had problems sleeping since I came to Russia, so I started trying to actively address it rather than just hoping it would get better. I learned a lot from an article in the Independent, How to Sleep Better, as well as an article on the different possible sleep cycles and their effects. These have have been very useful in improving my sleep management; I’m still tired all the time, but I think I might have turned the tide…

I’ve lost a lot of weight as a result of coming to Russia, and I’m delighted with that! However: it just happened rather than being managed, so I need to be more proactive now in losing more weight and then keeping the kilos off; I quite enjoyed this article on Secrets of the Effortlessly Lean.

Moving to Russia on a 1-year contract was the first step in a five-year plan that involves moving on the Middle East and then back to China. It’s all been thought through in terms of reasons, pros and cons, and my strategic targets are pretty well defined. Even so, my resolution was shaken a bit by reading two articles about entrepreneurs establishing startups in Bali (Why entrepreneurs and digital nomads are settling in Bali) and Thailand (Want to be a successful startup? Settle in Thailand but register your company elsewhere). I’ve been to Thailand a number of times, and once to Bali. I would love to set up a company (maybe registered in Hong Kong, though) and live in Bali; it’s a wonderful place. Way back in 2003, I bought a book by Gaia Grant called A Patch of Paradise describing how she did just that, and it made quite an impact on me at the time. Maybe one day…

I don’t have any plans to live on a boat, let alone raise a family on one, but it was interesting none the less to read about people who’ve chosen that way of life. Dmitry Orlov, the commentator on the decline of the West, has also chosen to live as a sea gypsy. As I say, it’s not what I would choose for myself, but good for them!

The big theme of the week, though, has been geopolitics, where things that made no sense have become clear.

The key element of this has been research showing that the United States is no longer a democracy, but has become an oligopoly. That was the key point of a significant study conducted by academics at Princeton University. This conclusively demonstrates that the US government only enacts policies that suit the rich, taking that statement from political opinion to a proven fact based on the analysis of years of data. If that wasn’t bad enough, the US Supreme Court has just overturned campaign finance laws, effectively allowing the corporate sector to donate as much money as it likes to candidates who promote their interests. Some think tanks point out that this effectively makes bribery of politicians legal in the US.

With all of that being the case, US policy over Ukraine suddenly makes more sense. Why did they spend $5 billion getting the current government into power? Why all the drum-banging and sabre-rattling over a country where neither the US nor the EU has any history of involvement? Why all the talk of a military response to defend a state that isn’t actually a member of NATO, and where there are no treaty obligations for mutual self-defence?

Understanding that US policy is now set by corporate interests makes it all clear. The natural gas industry is using the crisis to advance its own interests – by scaring the EU nations into finding alternative (ie US) gas supplies. The US agro-industrial complex wants Ukraine’s farmland. In fact, lots of US corporations see huge potential profits in Ukraine if it can be brought into the US sphere. All this also explains why the US is misrepresenting some very unpleasant facts about Ukraine: Is Obama channelling Cheney?

Winning new territory to exploit is critical for an empire in decline. I’ve seen an increasing number of articles warning that a new economic crisis is building, but I haven’t had time to get a coherent overall picture yet. Still, the decline is global: see Grand Visions Fizzle in Brazil. Jason Heppenstall reviews Peak Oil, how it’s developing, and the consequences in Shooting the Elephant. Blogger escapefromwisconsin also gives a short overview of the consequences of Peak Oil here.

I read the news every day; I pay attention to what’s going on, and I have to say, none of it is looking good. The money’s all gone and we’ve made such a mess of the planet that even the prospect of radioactive waste being flooded by rising sea levels isn’t being taken seriously. Get out while you can, folks; from here on, it’s all about those with money screwing every penny they can out of ordinary people. Get out: 10 reasons to quit your job.

Things you could do: generate your own power. Dig an underground greenhouse. Maybe become a sea gypsy, or go live on Bali… Develop your own strategic plan, in any case – details of my online course on how to do this coming soon 😉







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