CulturePolitics

Follow-up Story: Guns and American Exceptionalism

Follow-up story

https://myquest.blog/2018/02/18/guns-and-american-exceptionalism/

I was shocked to just find a blog posting entitled “How to Survive a Mass Shooting”, a full-on technical combat guide for American citizens. It’s professionally put together to sell the idea to buyers who seemed to be flocking to the post.

After describing some basic combat training techniques, the guide ends with the following:

“Stay vigilant, maintain situational awareness at all times, plan for the worst, and stay survival fit – body and mind!!!”

It’s a soldiers guide

[I WILL NOT provide a link to this!]

Is this really where we are in American society? I’m not surprised that it looks more and more like the USA is entering another period of civil warfare, but I am shocked that its happening sooner than I predicted.

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CulturePolitics

Guns and American Exceptionalism

“17 left dead in 6 short minutes of terror” read the latest headline!

The merchants of death and their cult of gun owners is still marching triumphantly in the aftermath of yet another mass killing spree at an American school.

As usual, there are only a few lone voices crying in the wilderness, demanding the US government take measures to stop the slaughter of innocents.

Do that many Americans really feel that the right to have unrestricted freedom to own and carry military-grade automatic weapons is more important than the safety of the people they love the most? Because, I’m sorry, that’s the way it looks to the rest of the world at the moment.

People from Australia, a country that changed gun ownership laws in response to mass shootings there, are quick to point out that their sensible laws have stopped this sort of mass bloodshed from happening on Australian soil.

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Culture

Toilet Hygiene!

Toilet habits are something that few people seem to be willing to share in a public forum. Sort of the bathroom equivalent of ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ I guess.

As adults, we may think of such discussions as being juvenile, remembering the ‘potty mouth’ jokes our mothers reprimanded us for telling at the dinner table when we were children.

Those of you who follow this blog are already aware that one of my main aims is to encourage readers to question cultural assumptions in an attempt to examine our own individual and collective behavior.

Of course, the habits we develop as children, based on our individual cultural conditioning, are usually those that we perceive as being ‘normal’ and therefore the habits we take for granted and practice most of our lives.

However, for the sake of personal and perhaps even wider social improvement, doesn’t it make sense to examine how those living in different cultures perform their daily rituals? And, personal hygiene is a notable part of those daily routines.

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Culture

The Pursuit of Happiness

From my experience, Westerners tend to complain about their lives and openly ‘seek’ happiness far more than those living in the developing world.

Am I happy today? Do I think I’m happier at this point in my life than I was when I was younger? Am I worried about how declining health as I age will affect my ability to be happy? What does happiness really mean to me anyway?

Ah, yes, happiness; that illusive commodity that we spend so much of our time pursuing by reading self-help books, attending workshops and seminars, going to private counseling/therapy sessions and in conversation with our closest friends.

Although many individuals and organizations have repeatedly tried to quantify this state of being by releasing an annual happiness index, the results have been unconvincing.

In her statistical analysis of happiness in various regions of the world, author Carol Graham sums up the difficulty of drawing conclusions about well-being based on Western points of reference in the title of her book “Happiness Around the World: the paradox of happy peasants and miserable millionaires.”

So, if happiness isn’t a product of prosperity, then what does create this much sought-after state of being?

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Human RightsPolitics

Standing Up for Palestinians

This is not an article arguing the pros and cons of the State of Israel’s right to defend itself against outside enemies that might want to do it or its people harm. Nor am I writing this to plead for or against the US Government’s decision to recognize the whole city of Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel. And, I’m certainly not going to pontificate that I have a solution to problems of coexistence in that region of the Middle East that date back millennia.

This is, however, a plea for the American people to speak out and demand that the US Government continue providing humanitarian aid for the neediest Palestinians at a time when the world is definitely paying attention and questioning almost every aspect of American leadership.

In case you haven’t heard or read about it, here’s what I’m referring to:

The US Government is withholding humanitarian aid to more than 5 million Palestinians across the Middle East as leverage to force the Palestinian Authority into a new round of peace talks.

The aid money–$355 million in 2017—is for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), one of the largest organizations providing funds for services and infrastructure to Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While sitting opposite Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, US President Trump proclaimed, “That money is on the table and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

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CultureTravel

Oman Photo Stories #3: The South

When I say southern Oman, I’m referring to the governorate of Dhofar which borders on the Arabian Sea, Yemen and Saudi Arabia to the east, south and west respectively. This region includes the country’s second largest city, Salalah, which has a more tropical climate than the north, complete with coconut palms and a summer monsoon season known as the ‘Khareef’.

Salalah draws thousands of summer visitors from other Gulf countries who enjoy picnics surrounded by lush green (shades of which I’ve never seen before!) mountain landscapes and waterfalls, along with cool temperatures and misty, overcast skies. I lived and worked in Salalah for two years and must admit this region’s weather, white-sand beaches and unique variety of plants and animals, more akin to East Africa than the north of the country, made it my favorite.

This southern region is separated from northern Oman by 500 kilometers of barren, mostly flat and featureless sand desert. Making the torturous 10-hour drive across this moonscape between Salalah and Muscat multiple times alone (which surely places me high on the list of potential candidates for a mission to Mars!),  gave me plenty of time to ponder both the geographical and cultural differences that spring from such isolation.

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CultureTravel

Oman Photo Stories #2: North Central

I lived in the north central region of Oman for six of the eight years I worked as a university lecturer in the Sultanate. This region contains the vast majority of the country’s population, commerce and higher education institutions.

While more than 25% of Oman’s population lives in the Capital Area of Muscat alone, I worked and made my home in the Al Batinah Governorate’s administrative center of Sohar, a small industrial city on the coast about 2 hours northeast of Muscat and 2 1/2 hours southeast of the UAE’s popular destination of Dubai.

The cities in this region are Oman’s most prosperous and least traditional, although a drive into the countryside’s smaller villages quickly exposes the viewer to the Bedouin way of life where close family ties are far more prized than the glitzy excesses of city living.

North Central Oman

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CultureTravel

Oman Photo Stories #1: Musandam

Over the past few years, the Sultanate of Oman, where I lived and worked from January 2008 until August 2016, has received a steady stream of accolades from top travel publications such as Lonely Planet and Condé Nast Traveler.

Words such as ‘a hidden gem’, ‘a startling variety of beautiful landscapes’ and ‘rich in history’ have been used to describe this friendly and peaceful country located on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the clear waters of the Arabian Sea (part of the Indian Ocean).

According to Rough Guides:

Amid the ever-changing states of the Arabian Gulf, Oman offers a refreshing reminder of a seemingly bygone age. Over-development has yet to blight its most spectacular landscapes and cultural traditions remain remarkably undiluted, making the sultanate one of the best places in the Gulf to experience traditional Arabia.

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Politics

Being Politically Correct vs Showing Humanity

On Thursday, during a meeting of US Senators from both sides of the aisle who had assembled at the White House to discuss immigration reform, Donald Trump is reported to have labeled African countries (in general) as ‘shitholes’. It isn’t clear what he truly thinks of Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras, which were also being discussed at the time.
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) have voiced their disdain for the damage Trump’s words have caused to the world’s view of “American ideals and patriotism”. Why are these the lone voices of dissent within the President’s party?

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Nature

Trump vs Clouds

Ahhh, nature! It’s the elixir that’s required to soothe my tattered soul after dealing with the daily worries of this chaotic and distracting world we humans have created. And clouds; what about clouds?
I’ve always loved clouds. They’re one of the most transient visual features of our natural world, as they constantly change and re-form depending on the whims of the winds aloft. For me, clouds are a constant reminder of the impermanence of all things.
Being reminded of this fact somehow makes my problems seem totally insignificant in the bigger scheme of the universe. Personal ego is no match for the wonder and limitless perspective I have while gazing at the sky!

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