Americanized / The Dilbert Future – BONUS POST

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The first Bonus Book of the Week is “Americanized, Rebel Without A Green Card” by Sara Saedi, originally published in 2018.

According to this slim volume (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s family had a difficult time getting permission to live permanently in the United States, after fleeing the Iranian Revolution in the early 1980’s.

The author, born in 1980, provided a host of details on her family’s immigration ordeal, and her own life’s trials and tribulations (mostly First-World problems). Incidentally, she unwittingly wrote a line that would have subjected her to cancel-culture [In 1992]:

“…I’d personally reached peak frustration levels at our country’s complex and seemingly arbitrary immigration laws. I wanted to get on the first flight to Washington, DC, and storm the Capitol, but I didn’t, because any form of criminal activity would get me deported.”

Read the book to learn more.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “The Dilbert Future, Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century” by Scott Adams, published in 1997.

The author discussed his predictions, obviously at the book’s writing. One of them was particularly accurate:

“As dense as they [the children] might be, they will eventually notice that adults have spent all the money, spread disease, and turned the planet into a smoky, filthy ball of death. We’re raising an entire generation of dumb, pissed-off kids who know where the handguns are kept.”

(!!!)

Read the book to learn more of the author’s insights.

Ask A North Korean

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The Book of the Week is “Ask A North Korean, Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World’s Most Secretive Nation” by Daniel Tudor, published in 2017.

As is well known, North Korea is an insular dictatorship, one of just a few left in the world. From birth, its people are brainwashed into worshiping their supreme leader, the dictator. His leadership style resembles that of Stalin’s: threatening the oppressive social order will cause one to be arrested in the middle of the night and thrown into a political prison camp.

There is one-party rule (the Workers’ Party). The people are allowed: no free speech, no freedom of assembly, no due process, no freedom of religion (Christianity or any other), and anyone who does not work for, or is not a sycophant of the government is probably poverty-stricken.

Jail time or public execution awaits those who are caught in possession of videos or music from the West (likely the United States, China, Hong Kong or South Korea). A tiny percentage of North Koreans get a view of other cultures, but only when they are permitted to travel to China on business, or when they risk their lives to listen to radio broadcasts from South Korea.

The government owns ALL property of all of the people. It even used to provide limited amounts of food and goods to the people. But in the 1990’s, the country suffered from a famine that forced people to become creatively capitalistic in order not to starve to death. North Koreans living near the borders of China and Japan traded black-market consumer goods with them. They hunted, fished, bred domestic animals and literally prostituted themselves. Illegally, they sold alcohol.

In North Korea, the most economically powerful entities are those that obtain foreign currencies because they are affiliated with the government, which is an unavoidable behemoth of cash-only bribery and corruption. The people do not have credit cards or even bank accounts.

Cars, which are very few in number, are a status symbol in the country’s capital city, Pyongyang. Those who own them are likely government workers, who have drivers. The highly coveted job of driver requires obtaining a license that takes a minimum of three years to obtain. One needs to get training for the job, but first must achieve hard- won acceptance to one of only two driving schools in North Korea. Unsurprisingly, there is a black market in fake driver’s licenses.

A high percentage of North Korea’s population is in the military at any given time. For, males must serve a minimum of ten years; females serve seven. Exceptions include college graduates, who serve five years, and science or engineering majors serve only three. Ironically, malnutrition is widespread in the military, as North Korea does not provide its ranks with enough to eat (!)
Read the book to learn a wealth of additional details about North Korea.

Free – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Free: A Child and A Country at the End of History” by Lea Ypi, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appears to be credible although it lacks Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), Albania’s monarchist government and business leaders threw in with their Italian invaders in 1939. In 1944, the Italians retreated and Albania’s occupation by the Soviets resulted in one-Party rule. The practice of organized, monotheistic religions was banned, but Albanians worshiped a real person– a founding-father and WWII military hero named “Uncle Enver.” He severed Albania’s diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia after the war.

The Albanian author, born in September 1979, was indoctrinated to believe that her country was one of the freest on earth. Never mind that the common people had to stand in line for hours and hours daily or sometimes longer (they were allowed placeholders) to obtain such basic necessities as milk, cheese, kerosene, etc. through a voucher system. In addition, her childhood was fraught with lies about her great-grandfather and others in her family’s social circles.

Ironically, just as pedigree among the wealthy in the United States denotes social status, so the “biography” among ordinary Albanians determined whether one would be allowed to join the socialist (political) Party, and determined one’s reputation, and thus one’s work and social activities in daily life. It was guilt by association; one was guilty just by having politically unpopular ancestors, as had the author. Albanians were required, however, to attend meetings at their local civic associations.

In December 1990, there occurred a major political turning point in Albania’s history: free and fair multi-party elections; a turning point in its economics too, as its government heeded bad financial advice it received from Western powers, that invited corruption similar to that of Bolivia’s (See this blog’s post, “Jeffrey Sachs”). In the early 1990’s, for the first time (!), the author found out about or experienced: air conditioning, bananas, traffic lights, jeans, chewing gum, Mickey Mouse, AIDS, anorexia and plenty of other cultural givens the democratic peoples of the world took for granted.

Read the book to learn of the trials and tribulations specific to Albania’s people when they saw how the other half lived (hint: World Bank meddling, a civil war, education shenanigans and more).

Out of the Gobi

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The Book of the Week is “Out of the Gobi, My Story of China and America” by Weijian Shan, published in 2019. This volume richly detailed the hardships faced by ordinary Chinese people from the 1950’s onward.

Born in 1953, the author spent most of his childhood in Beijing. As is well known, the Communist dictator Mao Tse-tung finally achieved nationwide dominance over the Nationalist (allegedly democratic, but still horribly corrupt) Chiang Kai-shek at the dawn of the 1950’s. (For additional info on how Communism is different from Socialism and Capitalism, see the bottom portion of this blog’s post, “The Last Idealist”). Mao proceeded to do grave damage to his country, causing the deaths of millions from starvation and financial disaster (among other causes).

Beginning in 1965, Mao declared there would be a new world order in his country, in the form of a Cultural Revolution. One of many goings-on during this period was burning, destruction or confiscation of all books except for those by the authors Marx (Karl, not Groucho), Engels, Lenin and Stalin.

The evil West’s bourgeois lifestyle was violently stamped out by Mao’s private police force, the Red Guard (which consisted of mostly young, armed and dangerous radical hooligans– sociopathic sadists), which brainwashed schoolkids of all ages, up to university level, to make Revolution. They destroyed the statue of the Venus de Milo, and denounced the Russian classical novels. A couple of years later, chaos reigned, but Mao was still in control.

In autumn 1966, at thirteen years old, the author was brainwashed by the youth movement to go on a fact-finding mission in the countryside. The government did away with entrance examinations, and in fact, all formal schooling. For about three weeks, the author and his peers traveled around by trains, buses and on foot to personally witness the Revolution. At one point, they went on a hike in the mountains, retracing the steps of the Red Army. Their travel expenses were paid for, but the conditions were quite primitive.

Into 1967, upon orders handed down by Mao, the youths protested against Capitalism in a way roughly equivalent to “Occupy Wall Street” but they got bored. They were neither studying nor working. For, a few years prior, the dictator had successfully thrown the country into disarray, forcing the closure of not only all schools, but bookstores, libraries, parks, movie theaters and houses of worship.

Thousands of people disappeared, were abducted from their homes– to be jailed, tortured, killed, for so much as speaking, writing or acting in the least way, critical of the government. In the environment of fear and force, they were under pressure to tattle on others before they themselves were punished.

Schools in the author’s area finally did reopen in autumn 1968, but education was still lacking. The author’s “Worker-Peasant-Soldier Middle School” (grades nine and ten– after what would be American grammar school) had no textbooks but students were drilled only on Mao’s propaganda.

In the summer of 1969, Mao realized it was time to change tack by sending young people to the countryside, as they had been making trouble in the cities long enough. He kept them busy by inspiring them to do hard manual labor, and study revolutionary thought. The kids truly tried their hardest– they were blindly obedient to the cause of defending their motherland against Soviet aggression. In autumn 1969, the whole nation went crazy constructing air-raid shelters and tunnels.

The author was sent to the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. Again, conditions were extremely primitive. He and his fellows got military training. However, due to a weapons shortage, another platoon was chosen to receive (outdated, Soviet-made) submachine guns. None of the company leaders had any experience in battle, but they inspired passion in their subordinates, anyway. Under the blazing summer sun, there were vicious mosquitoes. It was freezing in winter.

The author described his physical and psychological suffering of the next several years, as his group strove to complete a series of months or years-long agricultural and infrastructure projects that actually produced a net negative effect on food production and quality of life.

In 1979, the United States resumed formal diplomatic relations with China. People in China queued up for hours and hours for all kinds of consumer goods. The author, by then a recent university graduate, reveled in his new lap of luxury– he had time to read for hours and hours, had enough to eat, and got a hot shower once a week.

Read the book to learn a wealth of additional information on: the author’s experiences in China from the 1950’s into the 1980’s (which involved a slew of health hazards) including but was far from limited to:

  • all his hard manual labor and psychological trauma;
  • his short stint as a medical “doctor” in 1971;
  • how he enjoyed the benefits of a student exchange program in the 1980’s; and
  • his troubles with the INS (hint– “… a mistake in the new letter: the date by which we had to leave the country was left blank… the INS had somehow lost our file…”).

This substantial volume reveals why, politically, economically, culturally and socially, and in quality of life– overall, China is still many decades behind America (never mind the propagandists who claim that China is allegedly becoming an economic powerhouse and will someday overtake the U.S.).