As I wander through today’s newspapers, I am both in awe of and appalled at the capacity of the human being to do evil and bring harm, both intentional and unintentional,
The Venezuelan president, with a nation in an extreme financial and humanitarian crisis, refuses to take aid freely offered by the US that could easily keep many of its starving and very ill citizens alive. We’ve messed up the Panda Bear habitat, bringing them too close to the possibility of extinction (although that is improving slightly), and the upper caste Hindus in India continue to make the lives of the Dalit, the lowest on the caste hierarchical scale, truly miserable.
What’s up with us? Why have we humans expended so much energy in learning to torture and harm others? Certainly, there is killing and much nasty stuff in the animal world, but as rule, only for survival needs. Only we have perfected ways to hurt and maim and kill just for the fun of it.
And so, again on this day, I pray my way around the world and invite you to join me.
The trainwreck nation formerly known as Venezuela
So let us begin with this growing tragedy in Venezuela. If you are not familiar with it, this once-rich and comfortable nation has been run to the ground by totalitarian, uninformed, leadership. Here’s the latest. Because of the problem, hardly anyone who has had a kidney transplant can find, much less afford, the necessary medications to keep them from rejecting the donated kidney. They are dying like flies.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s cash-strapped Socialist regime prohibits most international humanitarian donations—including contributions of lifesaving medicines—except from a few remaining allies such as Russia. The authoritarian leader and his lieutenants have denied the country is in a humanitarian crisis and they consider international aid part of a ploy by the U.S. and political rivals to besmirch the government and open the door to foreign intervention.
Yeah, let’s be so insecure that we let our citizens die rather than accept help. That’s real leadership, right?
Stitch Fix problem
OK, I love Stitch Fix. As a committed non-shopper, and as one whose wardrobe was a truly bad shape, Stitch Fix has been a lifesaver. I am now adequately stocked with clothes that fit and that I would have never picked off a rack someplace because I am such a terrible shopper. HOWEVER, there apparently is a real possibility, despite the denials, that one of my items, picked JUST FOR ME, may also show up on a friend or acquaintance.
With 2.5 million customers and more than a thousand brands, Stitch Fix says the likelihood of any two people getting the same “fix”—or set of five items—is “nearly zero,” according to its chief algorithms officer, Eric Colson. In 2014, Mr. Colson conducted data analysis using a mathematical formula that concluded the probability of two sets with the same five items, “even after a million tries” was “extremely small.”
However, the chance of two or more customers getting one shared item out of five is “small” versus “extremely small” for five out of five, the company says.
Seriously Sexy Pandas
Keeping in mind that this is not an adults-only area, I shall be careful of my words to summarize this article, But male pandas are definitely studs.
Pandas occupy territories of up to 4 square miles, and they sniff out sexual opportunities by leaving scented status updates advertising their identity, sex, age and fertility on specially designated trees—the panda equivalent of Tinder. When a female comes into season, she rubs her scent on one of these communal message boards, attracting males who then compete for her affections in a sort of urinary Olympics. Female pandas prefer the males that leave their scent marks the highest up a tree. Scientists have described males adopting various athletic poses—“squat,” “legcock” and, most remarkably, “handstand”—in order to squirt their pee as high as possible.
The winning male celebrates his victory by having sex over 40 times in a single afternoon. Panda sex itself is a rough-and-tumble affair with plenty of biting and barking. Male pandas are incredibly potent: The semen of the giant panda contains 10 to 100 times more sperm than a human male. The female’s short fertility window—under two days each year—may even be an evolutionary adaptation to control population size, precisely because male pandas are so accomplished at procreating.
That’s just simply impressive. The poor, misunderstood panda–no wonder they don’t breed well in captivity.
The ongoing tragedy of the lower caste
And we think in the US that we have discrimination issues . . . Check out what lower caste Dalits in India face.
Dalit discrimination is not gently entombed in the past. In many parts of India, people still follow caste taboos, and often violently. Just last week, a mob of upper caste men in Gujarat hacked a young Dalit to death for riding a horse — lower caste people aren’t supposed to.
One website that writes about Dalit issues lists 116 forms of caste segregation still practiced. In many places, Dalit school children are forced to sit separately during lunchtime. And when it rains, Dalits are not supposed to use an umbrella in upper caste neighborhoods.
“Being a Dalit in India is like being on the battlefield,’’ said Dr. B. Karthik Navayan, a Dalit human rights activist. “Everyday and every minute you will be reminded of your lower caste position by language and actions and attacks.”
Hmmm . . . sounds way too much like what we in the US have long done to our minorities and what most of the world’s religions have also done to women, no matter what their color–although it is far, far worse to be a woman AND a minority.
Sigh. The human condition. No wonder we are all in need of redemption. It’s the Easter season. Time we all start living like those who have found again life after death and are willing to offer that life to everyone around us.