Changing my brain

brain made of books
Books are definitely not the worst thing you can have on the brain.
Pixtawan via freedigitalphotos.net

I love reading, but haven’t done much of it in recent years. I started reading a couple of weeks ago, however. I have challenged myself to complete up to 30 books by 15th May. I know people that wouldn’t have any problems accomplishing this, but it is a major undertaking for me. Read more about this in The book challenge.

I’m not surprised that this does things to my brain. Many studies show that, and this might be one of those cases where we know the answer. We just need scientists to confirm it, as Medical News Today did in December 2013. In addition to making my brain work, I also get some new, fascinating ideas to ponder. I can feel the old, grey cells coming online again.

This is what I read in January:

A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L’Engle, 1962

A children’s science fiction book where a girl is the hero. I wrote about it in The book challenge.

Hva sa klienten?/ What did the client say?
Eivind Engebretsen

Writing different types of texts in a journal is an important part of the job for caseworkers in the Child Welfare Service. This book is an analysis of the rhetoric used in these texts. The book is written for students that want to work for the CWS, but it is also useful for the rest of us. The attitudes these caseworkers express can probably be found in other types of journals as well, like medical journals.

The Mis-Education of the Negro
Carter Woodson, 1933

An interesting analysis of what Carter Woodson saw as the biggest challenge in the African American community. One of his main ideas, as I understood the book, was that African Americans shouldn’t copy the existing culture, but be more proud of their own, as well as their own skills and interests. He was very critical at times and basically called his own community spineless. This is a rhetorical text and Woodson’s goal was of course to persuade African Americans to focus more on their own uniqueness, but I’m not sure he was always fair.

This book is naturally an important part of African American studies, but it seems to me that it has become of current interest again, and not just to African Americans. It is still important to think outside the box, to dare to be different. There is a tendency to focus too much on certain professions. So we have periods where everyone wants to become an engineer, a teacher, a real estate agent, a programmer etc.

The level of education in Norway is high, but there seems to be a trend now where we discourage education. The fact that most of the Western world has too low birth rate to maintain a stable society, and need immigration, should make us encourage the growing minority groups to use their minds. If the growing group of young people without any training is to succeed, they need to be creative and we need to allow them. I remember hearing about a young man, born in Norway by African parents. He wanted to become an airline pilot, but was told that he should try for something he had a realistic chance of accomplishing. He didn’t pay much attention to this advice and eventually became a pilot.

When I was growing up in a small town in Norway in the 80’s pizza restaurants and video rental shops started popping up. They were literally on every corner, and of course many went out of business. It seems like many do the same with rental properties today. Everyone wants to cash in without investing enough in these apartments.

I believe this book can inspire both immigrants and natives, as well as teaching them something about the African Americans. Too many Norwegians learn black history from reality shows.

CATSPAW
Joan D. Vinge, 1988

A Wrinkle in Time was a book my wife bought from the library at her high school. This is another book that got an extended life and was saved when the public library in Little Rock sold it. I say saved because the alternative was probably to treat it as waste.

Cat is half hydran (psion, psychic abilities such as telepathy), half human. Being half human saved his life in the first book, but he was a mess. There was a safeguard, a feedback that killed hydrans if they used their mind to kill someone. Cat killed a criminal psion in self defence and that crippled him. He wasn’t able to use his psion ability anymore.

He is kidnapped in the beginning of this book and forced to work as a spy/bodyguard for Lady Elnear, a member of the taMing family. They gave him a special drug that would partly restore his psion-abilities as long as he used the drug. The head of this family feel nothing but contempt for psions. His own daughter was one and he made her life a living hell. Cat finds himself in the middle of a brutal power struggle.

The taMing reminded me of people like the Rothschilds, the Waltons, the Ruperts, the Capetians etc. I don’t know how much of what we hear about them is true, but I suspect they don’t give a shit about the rest of us. This is a very exciting story, and I literally couldn’t put the book down. I was up reading until 2 this morning, and I’m going to finish it today. This wasn’t exactly a review of the book, but I might do that in next month’s summary of the book challenge.

I think it’s interesting that Vinge saw the way the world was heading. Granted, she didn’t write this book centuries ago, but as recent as late 1980’s. Maybe things haven’t changed that much, but I still feel she showed some prescience. I had just finished senior high school and started my 1 year mandatory military service when this book was published. The world didn’t seem that bad back then, but not even the old Labour Party in Norway talk about equality anymore. That world is gone, as this report from Oxam confirms. We are also monitored more and more, even when it’s not justified. The question we should ask ourselves is: At what price do we want protection from criminals, and is the threat necessarily as severe as the authorities say? Are we willing to give up personal privacy completely?

I think Cat has a questionable morality himself. He has grown up without a family and doesn’t have the normal concepts of right and wrong, especially in regards to sex. Being on his own he had to do everything possible to survive in a world that hated psions, which meant stealing and prostitution. He is 20 years old and he told one of the other characters in the book that he’d had strangers in his bed half his life. That’s what he had to do get food on the table.

This book also makes me think about something I read once, that we are one generation away from being savages. Every generation needs to learn ethics, moral and what it means being a good citizen. The church and a strong sense of solidarity in the community have played important roles in doing this. The church was a place where a family could get the help the state didn’t provide. They didn’t just get Bible-lessons there; but it was also a place families could get help bringing their children up to becoming the citizens any society wants. What happens when the church fails, or people turn their backs on the church, and there’s no one else to pick up the slack? I believe you get the regression we are seeing today. A pure form of anything hasn’t given us any alternatives to God (free love and do whatever you want, capitalism, communism etc).

I am usually not a fan of feminism. In Norway at least they tend to focus on completely wrong issues. When we are talking about religion some seem to label God as evil because men are. I do agree that men have exercised complete authority in most Christian organizations, and let’s face it, some decision the last 2000 years have been somewhat unfortunate for women (not to mention the savages and unbelievers outside Europe). We had probably avoided many of these counter-movements if we had done a better job. I came across a comment in The Guardian that illustrates the problem. I get the same impression on those rare occasions when I watch sport on TV. If it’s a women’s football match the commentators almost talk like these professional athletes are adorable, but fragile little children. They are so privileged because we allow them to play.

In a way I can understand why some feminists are angry, but I know from experience that being angry and using forceful methods isn’t always the best approach. I do acknowledge that it is sometimes necessary, however. Just not every time.

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