The Dysfunctional Mob

This is not a post about the novella I wrote, well novel really, but about the mob itself in our society or rather, all organized crime groups, because the dysfunctional niche they fit into blew my mind the other day.

In preparation for surgery on the 17th, I bought a physical book from a historical society.  The title is Crazy Cults and Secret Societies. Yep, sounds like my kind of book.  I was on chapter 6 when I was taken back for surgery.  Since I was the one going under the scalpel, I decided against my tablet and took an actual book instead.

However, it was chapter 4 when I made the stunning and startling revelation.  The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following definition for a cult:  A relatively small group of people having beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange.  We almost always think of cults in terms of religious beliefs, but shared beliefs is really the thing, shared beliefs considered weird by mainstream society that causes people to bond together is all that is required.

The Italian Mafia, the Russian Mafia, and even drug cartels in Mexico are in fact cults.  These groups have their own code of conduct and morality that it strictly enforces among those within the groups.  And even though today, most organized crime syndicates are no longer made up of members from a single family, they are still referred to as families, by both outside influences and the members, as a technique to make members feel obligated to follow the rules of the group.

Even as non-religious cults, organized crime does utilize brain manipulation techniques… what we would consider brain washing, to ensure that members remain loyal to them.  It is part of the reason I have always had some difficulty discussing and explaining the Russian mob in the Dysfunctional Chronicles.  The Russian Mafia is even less likely to be made up of family members and is even more fractured than the Italian mafia, which is the mafia group Americans are most familiar with.

Thinking about them as a cult, makes them easier to understand, and explain.  And to some degree, those that leave mob families do have to be deprogrammed, just like someone that leaves a religious cult.  This also explains why people don’t betray mob bosses more often.  It isn’t the fear of what might happen to them so much as an ingrained sense of loyalty created using the same brain washing techniques religious leaders use to keep their followers, following without question.

Next time you watch Goodfellas, keep this in mind and watch for the signs that they are indeed a cult.

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Just Because You Disagree With A Cultural Idea Doesn’t Mean You Can Charge In and Demand It Be Changed

I don’t know if any of you have been paying attention to the latest “we must protect our children” social media craze.  It showed up a few days ago in my news feed.  Child brides and oh the outrage.

I get it.  As a white female raised in a westernized country, the idea of being a child bride is abhorrent to me.  So I have to look it at without those entitlement glasses.  Most westerners see child brides as sexual abuse.  The truth is more interesting and diverse.  Most child brides are business arrangements or to improve the standing of the family with the child bride.  Or both.

Improved economic standing is a huge motivator.  Most of the families are dirt poor.  Just a day’s wage from complete financial ruin.  Having children is a financial strain as is birth control, if their religions even allow for such a thing.  Securing your 12 year old daughter a husband, means she goes to live with him and seriously, you aren’t going to marry her to someone else that is dirt poor, so she sees a significant increase in wealth after being married and possibly social standing.  No more searching for meals or making due with moldy bread and water for dinner.  The family also finds financial relief because they have one less mouth to feed.

Then there’s the real business collateral that can be made from a child bride.  You own a store in a poor section of the town.  However, Mr. T comes along and tells you he’ll pay you to marry your daughter, not just pay you a one time lump sum of money, but two more stores in better neighborhoods.  Suddenly your profits have increased, as has the social standing of everyone in your family.

People often forget that until the 1950s, child brides were commonplace in the US and children were property to use as parents saw fit.  The majority of us have an ancestor or two that was used to improve the standing of everyone in their family and provide some financial gain.  So while we stand in judgment of places that still do this, we really don’t have any moral high ground to stand on.  Furthermore, is it really better to condemn the child to a life of poverty and possible starvation than to allow her to be a child bride?

And people talk about the child not being of age to consent… but a lot of these places, a female never reaches the age of consent, because nobody gives a damn what she thinks or wants anyway.  And we aren’t pointing fingers just at countries in the Middle East.  The video everyone is so outraged about comes from Latvia or Lithuania, one of those border countries of Russia… meaning Europe.  However, if you really wanted to make a list, France, US, Canada, UK, Australia, and Germany are the countries where women experience the most freedom.  Almost everywhere else, women are property, especially a female child.

I don’t agree with it, but I’m not willing to spout off about how wrong they are in their beliefs, because they could do the same about me.  Hell, some people do.  I didn’t change my last name when I got married.  My husband told me keeping my last name didn’t make me any less married.

The primary motivation was tedium and money.  I am technically a small publishing house.  I would have had to change all my business paperwork and that involved a slew of fees.  Not to mention filling out all that paperwork again just so it showed my new last name.  And while the practice is not unheard of in the US, I still get comments from people about it.  I can’t imagine what sort of comments I would get if I lived in a more traditional community.

Expectations

If you look at the world from a single point of view, it looks flat. Does this mean the world is flat?  No it simply means I do not have a large enough view to see the curves, I cannot see the mountains and valleys, I cannot see the oceans, because one cannot appreciate the world from a single point of view.

The same is true of how we think.  A single point of view makes for a flat existence, because we cannot appreciate the topography when we are thoroughly entrenched into our single point of view way of thinking.

As adults, we should be flexible and receptive to other points of view, even when they disagree with our own, to help us keep the entire world in perspective, to keep it from being flat.

I do not agree with gun control.  Gun control doesn’t remove guns from the hands of criminals, it makes it harder for someone like me to own one should it become necessary for me to have one for protection.  Criminals are criminals.  If they obeyed the laws, they wouldn’t be criminals in the first place.

However, after the school shooting in Florida, my gun control beliefs needed to be re-evaluated some.  Should someone who has spent time in a mental facility be able to legally buy a gun?  It’s an interesting question.  Because most mentally ill people are not dangerous to society.  But there are always exceptions.  For instance, I am mentally ill, but I am not a danger to society.  Should my mental health history be held against me, should I decide to purchase a firearm for protection?

I don’t think so, but I don’t think so because it applies to me specifically.  What if it didn’t?  What if I couldn’t buy a gun simply because I was a woman?  That would annoy the piss out of me.  It would be arbitrary discrimination… is the same true if we make “have you ever been a patient in a mental health facility a deciding factor in gun ownership,” isn’t this also arbitrary since most of them are not dangerous?

I have never spent time as a patient of a mental health facility… So I waiver more on whether it is arbitrary or not, because it doesn’t apply to me.

Even as I write these words, I have no clear cut decision about it made.  And that’s okay.  Not only is it okay to be unsure about it, it’s okay if someone else disagrees with me and says it is absolutely not arbitrary, just like it’s okay for someone else to feel it is.  Those points of view are necessary for me as a person, because it allows me to see the topography because they are not my flat ambivalent point of view.

This is sadly my expectation of the world, for everyone to be open to thought.  To be open to hearing and thinking about a point of view that does not agree with their own.

I am big enough to admit when I am wrong and on this, I was wrong.  It would appear that lots of people enjoy the flat little world they live in, where they now nurture the tenets of the former Soviet Union; free thoughts are subversive and should be dealt with quickly and brutally to prevent them from spreading.

Then There Was No Sleep

WordPress confirmed that my post entitled Free Speech was removed because they received a complaint.  Okie dokie.  And that was followed by my inability to shut off my mind so I could sleep.

I am an internalizer.  I think about everything, turning it over and over in my brain until I feel like the thought might explode from the confines of my skull to become a living breathing thing.  I realize it isn’t healthy.  But I can no more stop it from happening, than I could stop a speeding, out of control freight train with a bubble blowing machine.

That’s twice since January that I have felt the wrath of a reader.  I was banned from my own Facebook page at the end of January, first part of February for swearing on my blog.  And now this…

In the six years since I began this blog and opened the HJ Facebook page, I have never been banned or had content removed from either my blog or my Facebook page.  But I have always talked politics and peppered posts with colorful language when it provides emphasis.  I have always tried to keep my posts tasteful, even when it was political or contained swear words.

Six years and suddenly this has begun to happen.  Obviously, something changed.  I don’t understand.  I welcome discussion, even when I don’t agree.  I welcome dissent.  We are not sheep, we do not need to blindly follow anyone. I am not starting a cult, agreeing to disagree is allowed.  As a matter of fact, agreeing to disagree is what makes the world go round.  It’s what keeps society civilized.

I expected some backlash when I scheduled my Free Speech post.  I expected the rampant supporter who commented that they hoped I got beheaded to have another nasty comment for me.  I expected at least a handful or more of my readers, to tell me that they support the President.  I expected discussion.  I expected that eventually we would all agree to disagree and at the worst I’d be called a name or two.

Instead, I was punished.  As the saying goes, sticks and stones… but these weren’t sticks and stones.  These were actions.  This was retribution, an action that speaks louder than any words ever could.  It is the opinion of the person that filed a complaint that I should not be allowed to voice an opinion that runs contrary to their own… Interesting.

Let me close by offering a quote from a sermon that has stuck with me recently.  It was written by a German during WWII.  Read it and think upon it.  Internalize it.  Try to understand the true meaning and why it is just as relevant today as it was nearly 80 years ago and I will try to decide what I want to do next…

They Came For The Socialists by Martin Niemoeller

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.  then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak up for me.

 

The Lemurs of India

Lemurs are small primates related to monkeys that can only be found in Madagascar… Maybe.  Probably.

Until recently, it was common knowledge that lemurs evolved to be small and cute because of the isolation they lived in on the island of Madagascar.  I say “used to be” because the origin of lemurs is now in question.

Fossils of lemurs have been discovered in India.  Except fossils of lemurs should exist in India.  Unless they are much older primates than any other in the fossil record and existed long before dinosaurs, during the days of Pangaea, the super continent.

Needless to say, the possibility that lemurs have remained mostly unchanged for eons of history is incredibly unlikely.  So how did the fossilized skeletons get to India?  It takes a long time for bone to become fossilized, with the softer minerals being replaced by harder ones, turning the bone into stone.

Have you ever heard of Mu?  It’s a lost continent like Atlantis, theorized to have existed in the Indian Ocean, most likely creating a large continent that stretched from Madagascar off the western coast of Africa to the eastern coast of India.

Much like Atlantis, there hasn’t been any evidence to support the existence of MU, but with the discovery of lemur skeletons in India in 2017, we may have to revise our opinions on the lost continent of Mu.

The first question is why aren’t there lemurs in India today?  Did they all get eaten?  Why would they only exist in Madagascar when they were once as far north as Kandahar?

According to Occum’s Razor the easiest solution is the answer.  The easiest answer is unfortunately still complicated because there is no single reason.  Best guess weather coupled with the lack of predators.  As Mu was covered with water the larger predators would have moved north, into India where the land mass was larger.

Madagascar was probably much higher ground than the rest of Mu and so the smaller animals, like lemurs took refuge at the higher altitude of Madagascar while the larger animals moved towards India where there were significantly larger land masses.  This would have left lemurs untouched since the last ice age ended about 12,000 years ago to evolve in seclusion on Madagascar without predators.

Immigrating into the US

The media has us convinced that to get into the US, Mexican citizens pay coyotes (smugglers) to bring them across the border in semi trailers.  This is not exactly accurate.

I had never even heard the word coyote until the last decade or so.  However, I did know a girl when I was in college who had come here as a child and neither her or her parents had papers.  They all eventually got them, but it took a while and she told me about having forged papers for most of her time in school.

They did not run through the desert and then wade across a dry Rio Grande and walk into Texas avoiding border guards in the dead of night.  They crossed the border in Texas to go visit her father’s brother in New Jersey and they just didn’t go back to Texas and cross the border back into Mexico.

In other words, they legally crossed the border from Mexico to the US and didn’t go back home.  As I understand it, if you live in central America or Mexico and you know someone in the US, that’s how you illegally immigrate into the US.  You don’t pay a coyote to smuggle you across as cargo in a semi trailer full of vegetables.  You only pay a coyote to take you across when you don’t know anyone.  Coyotes take you to an area that is populated by other Hispanic immigrants where someone knows how to forge you papers.

Now forged papers aren’t cheap so if you can’t afford them, you get a job somewhere they don’t ask for them and you save up to get them, especially if you have children because your kids will need them to go to school.  If you know someone here already, the fee to get papers is usually cheaper because the business isn’t exclusive, and competition drives down the cost.

Sadly it does mean that you will probably have to consort for a short time with some unsavory characters, but in the larger cities, they aren’t hard to find.

Nowadays most coyotes are also connected to the cartels and the days of truck loads of immigrants packed into semi trailers has decreased significantly because cartels have built drug smuggling tunnels into the US.  It’s safer to move drugs through tunnels than through mules or even through trucks filled with crates of coffee beans.  This means coyotes can also use the drug smuggling tunnels to smuggle people into the US.

Goliath of Gath

I was reading something about a giant skeleton found in the Middle East and there was speculation that it might belong to Goliath of Gath, this is the Goliath that David slew in the bible.

According to the story in the Bible, Goliath of Gath was around 6’10”.  Today it’s rare to get men that are 6’10”, but it isn’t so rare that we refer to these men as giants… but 2,000 years ago, people were shorter.  Much shorter.  One of the strange leaps that took place in the early 1900s is that people got taller.

If you read the story of David and Goliath, Goliath exhibits symptoms of gigantism.  Goliath has to be escorted onto the battlefield.  He complains of achy joints.  Both poor eyesight and achy joints and limbs are common side effects of gigantism. It makes me feel bad for him.  Essentially the Philistines exploited someone with a disability and David the hero of the story murdered someone with a disability that didn’t have many options in life.  He was tall enough that he probably didn’t have a choice about becoming a soldier, it was either that or starve to death… good chance his eyesight was poor enough that he couldn’t have been successful as a craftsman, not to mention he would have had to have special tools made for him (hand size is exceptionally different between someone who is 5’6″ and someone who is 6’10” or taller.

I imagine Goliath did not have a happy life.  Gigantism isn’t particularly common in European populations, including Middle Eastern populations who for the sake of this post I’m just going to lump in with Europeans (they aren’t Asian, African, or European, but a mix of all three and that is just complicated beyond what I want to deal with at the moment).  Most people with gigantism tend to be clumsy; they have exceptionally large hands and feet  and along with being tall, they have weaker hearts than the general population, the joints in their bodies suffer from cartilage malformation meaning their joints aren’t cushioned as well as they need to be for their large bodies leading to joint and limp pain that is mostly untreatable, poor eyesight, and many of them have trouble with speech making them appear to be simple minded, regardless of whether they are or not.  Today we know there is a reason for all this.  However, even Andre the Giant was teased and taunted in his hometown in France as being stupid because he talked slowly (his case is an interesting read if you are interested).

Goliath would have had limited prospects in life for things everyone else takes for granted; marriage, children (some people with gigantism suffer sterility), professions, and even where he could live.  Most likely a home would have had to be custom built for him and it was probably in a poor neighborhood of Gath (think ghetto like conditions here).  And also, most of his furniture would have needed to custom built, not cheap… Being a soldier for the Philistines was probably a bit of a blessing because it would have raised his social status and given him a fairly steady income, that other wise he most likely wouldn’t have had.

I can’t help but feel a little sad for Goliath.

Sewage and Skeletons

And it was announced what was found in the granite sarcophagus discovered in Alexandria, Egypt… Sewage and skeletons.  At least it wasn’t cats.

Sarcophagi aren’t made to be water proof.  Under a city as large as Alexandria, there is bound to be some issues with that.  Alexandria has had trouble keeping their sewer systems up to date.  So when the Black Sarcophagus was opened, they found raw sewage from some of the many leaks and breaks in Alexandria’s vast sewer system.  They didn’t find mummies because mummies tend to decompose when exposed to water.

There were three skeletons though.  One appears to have been killed by an arrow, but it will require months of investigation and testing to know for sure.  The other two are a mystery.  Much like why the three were buried together.  Sarcophagi are meant for a single body, much like a modern day coffin.  So why were the three buried together?  And why did they take the time to make a massive granite sarcophagus for all three bodies.  It is very unlikely that the thing was just lying around waiting for someone with gigantism to die so it could be filled.

It would have been less weird if the sarcophagus had held a giant skeleton.  It might also be one of the strangest burials found in Egypt.  Sarcophagi were a luxury of the rich.  Everyday Joe could be mummified and buried, but he wasn’t getting a sarcophagus to be buried in.  They are time consuming to make, not to mention the cost of materials.  And the bust… Well, mummies weren’t buried with busts of themselves.  The sarcophagus was carved and then decorated to look like the deceased.  So is the bust a recreation of what one of the occupants of the sarcophagus looked like?  If so, why does it look so Greek?!

I talked about the disappearance of Alexander Helios in connection with the black sarcophagus in my first or second posting… I’m going to bring that back up.  Alexander Helios was the son of Cleopatra and Marc Antony.  He just disappears from history.  Cleopatra was more Greek than Egyptian (her family was Macedonian) and Marc Antony was definitely not an Egyptian.  The bust looks Greek because it was done in a Greek style.  Since Helios was more Greek and Roman than native Egyptian, this supports the idea that at least one of the bodies in the sarcophagus is of Greek or Roman origin.  And even though Helios never ruled Egypt, he did spend time there as a child and was educated by tutors in Alexandria before he was kidnapped and given to Marc Antony’s wife to raise.

And since Helios was never Pharaoh of Egypt, it would make sense that he wasn’t buried in a pharaoh’s tomb.  However, since he was once heir to the Egyptian throne, mummifying him and burying him in Alexandria seems logical.  Also, pharaohs were often buried with staff.  In tombs this means mummifying servants and placing them in a tomb.  Helios didn’t get a tomb, but he still might have been buried with a few mummified servants.  So a hastily carved sarcophagus and multiple mummies in it might actually be the perfect resting place for Alexander Helios.

Essentially, opening it just deepened the mystery.  Fingers crossed that it’s solved in my lifetime!

Religion, The USSR, and The US

Here’s a little known fact; until the 1950s, neither the Pledge of Allegiance nor US Money had the words “One Nation, Under God” associated with them. Until the 1950s, the separation of church and state in the US was much more definite.  They didn’t pray before the opening of congressional meetings.  The Pledge of Allegiance was a little shorter, and our coins and bills did not say One Nation Under God on them.

Oh yeah, and kids could get in trouble for praying in school.  And participation in the pledge of allegiance in school wasn’t mandatory.  Which is why I get annoyed when I hear someone say “if we would bring back religion in our schools, we wouldn’t have school shootings.”

Yes, we would.  Religion or lack of religion has nothing to do with school shootings and religion wasn’t even a part of school or government until the 1950s.  Which is of course the era of the Red Scare.

The 1950s were a wild time.  The big bad Soviet Union had eliminated a large portion of it’s population and they were in fact sending spies to the US at an alarming rate.  Of course, it wasn’t just the US, it was most countries; England, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, pretty much every government was at risk of being infiltrated by the USSR.

Stalin was still in power.  Religion had been outlawed in the USSR and for some reason it was decided that religion could combat communism.  The government voted to add religion to government.  Money was redesigned and “One Nation Under God” was added first to coins and then bills.  The line was also added to the Pledge of Allegiance and it became mandatory to say the Pledge before classes begin.

The Pledge of Allegiance was political.  The reasoning was if we can get the children of spies to pledge allegiance to the country, they would turn their parents against the Soviet Union.  Also, it Americanized Soviet Children attending school in the US.  Adding the line one nation under God was meant to show the Soviet children that religion was not the enemy, Americans were religious and look at the lack of bread lines and look at how much better we are than the Soviet Union.

That’s it.  That was the reason for minting our money with the words one nation under god and adding it to the pledge of allegiance and then making it mandatory for school children to say it.

So next time you go to point out that if we had religion back in our schools these things wouldn’t happen, remember that allowing religion into schools is a new concept and that it was aimed at battling communism not bullied, unstable school children and that there were incidents of school violence even in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Opening the Sarcophagus

There was a news story the other day, they have decided it is vitally pressing to go ahead and open the black sarcophagus I blogged about the other day.  I’m shocked by this.  There is a reason Egyptian Archaeology has slowed dramatically over the years ans it isn’t that we’ve uncovered everything… it’s because sometimes we get terribly excited about cats and dogs.

Some years I ago, I believe five or so, we found a tomb in an area where no tomb had ever been found before.  It was very exciting to Egyptologists.  After all, we stumbled upon it so it probably hadn’t been raided by grave robbers.  Oh the riches that could be inside.  There was some hype because what they expected was a rich tomb of nobility.  We got cats and dogs.

To be more accurate, inside was hundreds of thousands of mummified cats and dogs along with some other animals.  The center piece appeared to be a mummified bull (they aren’t just sacred in Hinduism).  The discovery was still incredibly magnificent and important, but there wasn’t a lot of gold entombed with the animals and there was some debate about what to do with the animals.

And archaeology keeps doing that to us.  Especially in Egypt.  It isn’t the first time a tomb that held nothing but mummified animals was found.  There was a shrine to Anubis found in one of the cities that was filled with mummified dogs.  Makes sense really: protector of the Ka during it’s journey to the other side and he’s a jackal headed deity, so mummifying Fido-Amun upon it’s death and putting it in the shrine to Anubis must be a good thing.  Plus, pharaohs and vizers and other nobility get their own mummification and tombs and most people probably liked their dogs better, even in Ancient Egypt…

But politics is still politics even 4,000 years ago, the difference was you couldn’t say you thought your dog was smarter or more attractive or more capable of being a leader than Pharaoh.  In many instances, these thoughts about their dogs being smarter were probably correct.  Pharaohs tended to be a little inbred.

This means over the next few months, opening a coffin from 4,000 years ago requires precautions, they’ll open the strange sarcophagus and reveal what’s inside.  It might be a body to match the bust that was inside the tomb (it is possibly more of a pit than a tomb like we think about with Tut or any of the other Valley of the King burials), but it might also be dogs or cats or an Apis Bull or a crocodile.  Or it might contain unused mummy wrappings, because we’ve found those in a few sarcophagi over the years in places where mummies were made.

Should be interesting.

 

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