Korea – Mysterious Beginnings

Episode 23: Korea – Mysterious Beginnings

Foundations of Eastern CIvilization

Dr Craig Benjamin (2013)

Film Review

In this lecture, Benjamin explores the effect of Korea’s geography and climate on its early development.

He credits Korea’s failure to be subsumed by its neighbor China to its rugged mountainous landscape. Seventy percent of Korea is covered in steep mountains, making navigation between the East and West coast extremely difficult. Moreover unlike the majority of modern nations, it remains heavily forested.

Located in the same temperate latitude as Denver, it’s the same size as Britain and Utah. Surrounded on three sides by water, it shares a border with both China and Russia. Although separated from Japan by the sea of Japan, the archipelago is visible from the east coast of Korea.

Blessed with rich mineral resources (mainly gold, copper, tin and iron), Korea was the world’s largest gold producer during the first half of the 20th century.

It has only one (extinct) volcano Baikdu, also it’s highest mountain, with a volcanic lake associated with early Korean deities.

Owing to the steep drop of its mountains along its coasts, it has no significant bays or harbors suitable to facilitate urban development. Its three main river systems (which gave rise to its major cities) are Taedong in the North (location of North Korea’s capitol Pyongyang) and the Han (location of South Korea’s capitol Seoul) and Kum in the South.

As in China, there is archeological evidence that pre-human hominids (Homo erectus) using hand axes, flake tools and fire also migrated from Africa to Korea 500,000 to 600,000 years ago. Owing to the wide land bridge connecting China, Korea and Japan before the last Ice Age ended (and sea levels rose), similar remains and tools are found in Japan.

Paleolithic* remains show early humans lived in extended families in small caves or small dwellings in simple villages. They foraged, fished and hunted deer, wild board and macaques.

The Neolithic period saw waves saw waves of migrants who crossed the Yellow Sea land bridge. They lived in small dwellings heated by a central hearth, used distinctive pots used to store food from domesticated plants and supplemented their diet by hunting (of dogs, cats, water buffalo, boor, deer, dolphins and whales).

Neolithic** Koreans were ritually buried with jewelry and masks suggesting they believed in an afterlife.


*The Paleolithic, aka the Old Stone Age, is a period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools. It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools by hominids 3.3 million years ago to around 10,000 BC.

**The Neolithic, aka the New Stone Age, refers to a period characterized by agriculture and fixed human settlement between 10,000 BC and around 3,300 BC when bronze tools were developed.

Film can be viewed free on Kanopy.

https://www.kanopy.com/en/pukeariki/video/5808608/5808655

The Americanization of Mental Health Care

Crazy Like Us | Book | Scribe Publications

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche

By Ethan Watters

Scribe Publication (2010)

Book Review

This book concerns the imposition of American mental health standards across the entire world, including indigenous and Third World cultures. According to Watters, this approach assumes human beings suffer from universal emotional disturbances that are unaffected by cultural beliefs and should be treated “scientifically” like medical conditions. It also advocates the best way to achieve “mental health” is to throw off traditional cultural and social roles and engage in individualist introspection like Americans do.

Watters divides the book into five sections: the first concerns the global commodification of anorexia, the second the global commodification of post traumatic stress disorder; the third the distinctly different presentation, management and outcome of schizophrenia in Zanzibar and other African countries; and the the fourth the corporate marketing of “clinical depression” and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in Japan.

Part 1 mainly looks at the changing presentation of anorexia nervosa since the first case report in 1823. Back then anorexics were low income with somatic fixations of fullness and pain in the upper abdomen. During the 19th century, distressed middle class women were more likely to present psychiatrists with psychosomatic conditions, such as hysterical blindness or paralysis.

Owing to a complex  process Watters refers to as “symptom negotiation,” women presented with these conditions because psychiatrists recognized them as symptomatic of emotional distress. After World War II, it became more acceptable for women to acknowledge feelings of depression and anxiety and and diagnoses of hysteria became exceedingly rare.

Rare in Hong Kong prior to 2000, anorexia diagnoses followed the original European pattern and were limited to low income women complaining of abdominal discomfort. Thanks to the growing influence of Western media, more recently Hong Kong anorexics present a more Western pattern involving distorted body image and a fatal obsession to be as thin as glamorous Western models and movie stars.

Part 2 mainly looks at the army of Western traumatologists who have descended on every global trauma side since the 2005 tsunami in Sri Lanka. The result has been rowing evidence that, contrary to popular belief, early psychological intervention does not prevent the development of later PTSD. Watters is critical of professionals who fail to recognize that PTSD is a distinctly American and individualist way of suffering for  society that has almost completely lost natural social mechanisms for coping with tragedy.

Part 3 looks at the the tendency in Zanzibar (and other African countries) to regard symptoms of schizophrenia* as evidence of spirit possession. The effect of this approach is to keep the so-called “schizophrenic” within their natural social group, rather than excommunicating them, as occurs in the West. This consistently results in a far better treatment outcome.

Overall African societies are more tolerant of community members who display psychotic symptoms. In African societies an external locus of control leads people translates into the common belief that people can control their problems only with support. In contrast most Western societies favor an internal locus of control, which tends to blame individual patients for their problems.

Part 4 looks at the big spike in suicides (more than 30,000 per year) in Japan during their brutal 1990s recession. Traditionally Japanese culture has long supported the philosophical belief that suicide is a perfectly sane and legitimate act of personal will. However thanks to a massive marketing campaign Glaxo Smith Klein (manufacturer of the SSRI Paxil), the Japanese were trained to link suicidal thoughts and personal suffering with clinical depression and seek Paxil prescriptions.

This, despite three decades of outcome studies showing Paxil is no better than placebo in alleviating depression and increases suicide risk in adolescents.


*Schizophrenia is a condition characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior and flat affect.

Suppressed Film: 1972 Free the Army Tour

Every 70s Movie: F.T.A. (1972)

F.T.A.*

Directed by Francine Parker (1972)

Film Review

This is a long suppressed documentary about tours conducted by Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Soul and R&B artist Swamp Dog and other anti-war actors and musicians during the early 1970s. The brainchild of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, tours featured songs and skits from newsletters published by serving GIs. They were performed outside military bases in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa and mainland Japan, the main staging areas for troops bound for Vietnam. It was enormously popular with troops.

Skits songs that were especially popular concerned “fragging”* and other forms of non-cooperation with officers, the Black Convention movement that formed among African American GIs, narcotics smuggling by the CIA and South Vietnamese Army and the blatantly sexist treatment of female recruits.

The film intersperses actual footage of tours with GI interviews at each of the bases. The majority of interviewees have been deeply politicized by their Vietnam experiences. The film also backgrounds the long time US occupation of the island of Okinawa. During their stay in Okinawa, tour members participate in a picket of striking Okinawa workers employed at the US military base. At the time, their average pay was less than a dollar a day.


*The title FTA refers to the tour’s theme song “Foxtrot, Tango, Alpha – Free the Army.” “Free the Army” was a euphemism for “Fuck the Army,” a parody on the 1970s Army slogan “Fun, Travel and Adventure.”

**Fragging refers to the deliberate killing or attempted killing of superior officers by the troops serving under them.

The film can be viewed free at Kanopy.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/fta

Why the US Lost the Vietnam War

50 year anniversary of start of Vietnam War - Daily Press

A Skeptics View of American History

Episode 19 The Real Blunders of the Vietnam War

Mark Stoler PhD

Film Review

In one of his better lectures, Stoler debunks a number of myths about the Vietnam War.

He traces the history of the war to the reversal of Franklin Roosevelt’s policy opposing continued French colonization of Indochina. With Truman’s initiation of the Cold War, the US sought to strengthen France’s suppression of colonial independence movements as a defense against communist expansion into Eastern Europe. Truman also saw Western control of Indochina as essential to guaranteeing US-occupied Japan’s access Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s rubber, oil and mineral resources in Indonesia and Malaysia.

In 1954, a major defeat at Dien Bien Phu led the French military to withdraw from Vietnam. Under the 1954 Geneva Accord (which the US refused to sign), Laos and Cambodia were awarded independence, while Vietnam was temporarily split at 17th parallel (pending reunification elections in 1956). The southern Republic of Vietnam was ruled by a French puppet government under King Bao Dai, and the northern Democratic Republic of Vietnam by Ho Chi Minh.

According to Stoler, the US government made their first major blunder in 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson refused to meet with Ho Chi Minh (seeking US support for Vietnam’s independence struggle) during the Versailles treaty negotiations. So he met with the Soviets. However the biggest biggest blunder was misperceiving the independence struggle (supported by the majority of both North and South Vietnames) ar in Vietnam as a Cold War proxy war sponsored by the Soviet Union and China. Stoler blames this mistake on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee and their successful purge of all major Asian experts from the US State Department.

Refusing to hold elections in 1956 (because they knew Ho Chi Minh would win), the Eisenhower administration replaced the king with a Vietnamese exile living in the US named Ngo Dinh Diem. They also massively ramped up military and economic aid to South Vietnam, emboldening Diem to begin a ruthless purge of Vietnam’s freedom fighters. Most went underground to join the Viet Minh (national independence cadres) Ho Chi Minh started in 1941. Calling themselves the National Liberation Front, they were known in the West as the Viet Cong.

Under Kennedy, the US responded to continuing Vietnamese unrest by sending in special forces (Green Berets) and allowing the CIA to assassinate Diem. The number of US “advisors” (to the South Vietnamese arm) in South Vietnam increased from 900 in 1961 to 17,000 in 1963.

By 1964, North Vietnam was on the verge of defeating the US puppet government in the South. Facing conservative hawk Barry Goldwater in the November election, President Lyndon Johnson (determined not to be blamed for losing Vietnam) increased troop numbers to 500,000.

This film can be viewed free on Kanopy.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/real-blunders-vietnam-war

Swedish Covid 19 Management: A Documentary

Covid, Tango and the Lagom Way

Directed by Claudia Nye (2020)

Film

This documentary was made by an Argentinian expatriate (and tango aficionado) who lives in the UK and is tired of being branded a right wing fanatic for questioning the benefit of social lockdowns. It She decided to visit Sweden, one of several countries (including Taiwan and Japan) that decided not to lock down their population.

She conducts a fairly long interview with Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s head epidemiologist, as well as interviewing Swedes she meets on the street.

In the absence of lockdown legislation, most Swedes over 65 chose to remain at home. Those with “comorbidities” that make them more vulnerable to severe COVID complications (eg obesity, diabetes, kidney/heart/lung disease, pregnancy) also voluntarily self-isolate. Although many Swedes now work from home and several universities have shut down, most schools and businesses have remain open and practice social distancing.

According to Tegnell, the Swedish government has no statutory powers over the Swedish Public Health Agency. The latter holds sole responsibility for enforcing public health measures.* As a general rule, the agency places responsibility on individual citizens to make good choices about protecting their own and others’ health. This contrasts with the US and other Europeans countries, whose governments (according to Nye) treat their constituents like children.

Tegnell indicates that Sweden’s COVID policy is consistent with the Swedish “Lagom” (translated “not too little, not too much”) way, which values balance above all else.

Nye goes over the COVID statistics with Tegnell At the time of filming (late 2020), 872 Swedes had died as a direct result of COVID 19 infection, and 5,813 and died “with Covid.” According to Tegnell this means they tested positive for COVID before dying from other causes.

In tracing total Swedish mortality over the last three decades, Nye finds the Sweden follows roughly the same curve as other European Countries. In fact, both Swedish and British epidemiologists agree that COVID mortality outside the 65+ age group is extremely low.

Nye also compares Swedish mortality data with that of nearby Finland and Norway. Overall mortality for 2019 and 2020 is roughly the same, with Finland and Norway experiencing a spike in mortality in 2019 (due to a a really severe influenza season) and Sweden (which experienced negligible influenza deaths in 2019) experiencing its mortality spike in 2020.


*This changed in January 2021, when the Swedish parliament gave itself statutory powers to impose lockdowns.

North Carolina’s Chinese-Owned Industrial Pig Factories

Soyalism

Directed by Stefano Liberti and Enrico Parenti (2018)

Film Review

The title of this documentary is somewhat misleading: it actually concerns the industrial production of pork for the growing Chinese middle class. Under our present globalized system of industrial agriculture, pigs raised on factory farms (both in China and the US) are fed industrially produced corn and soybeans. Most of this (genetically engineered) soy comes from recently deforested areas of the Brazilian Amazon.

Given the current US trade war with China, I was astonished to learn that a Chinese company (having acquired Smithfields in 2013) is operating gigantic factory pig farms in North Carolina. Most are located in the state’s poor rural (and black) communities that struggle with the toxic aerosols from the (illegal) open pits adjacent to buildings warehousing tends of thousands of hogs.

In addition to visiting North Carolina hog factories and their distressed neighbors,* the filmmakers travel to Brazil to film the massive soybean plantations, as well as local small farmers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by industrial soy production. Together with local environmentalists and indigenous activists, these farmers are fighting the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest by expanding soy plantations.

Predictably only a handful of farmers and international agrobusinesses are becoming fabulously wealthy, while more and more Brazilians struggle to feed themselves.

The filmmakers also visit Mozambique, where local grassroots organizers are successfully fighting the Pro-Savannah initiative. This is a (currently suspended) government initiative involving Japan, Brazil, and Mozambique. It seeks to drive local subsistence farmers off their land to create factory farms producing soy, cotton, and corn for export to China.

Most activists blame these trends on the continued drive, both in the industrial North and China, for cheap meat – irrespective of its quality. Sadly most Chinese consumers are totally unaware of the true cost of their cheap meat. Brazil’s GM soybeans are sprayed with massive amounts of Roundup and other carcinogenic pesticides. This results in serious potential health consequences for human beings who eat pigs that are fed on them.


*North Carolina has its own grassroots organization, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network fighting their exposure to health-damaging pollution and industry harassment. See https://www.facingsouth.org/2017/02/step-toward-environmental-justice-north-carolinas-hog-country

 

Despite Continuous Recession Japan’s Homeless Rate 1/7 of US Figure

Meeting and Helping Japan’s Homeless Part 4

LWIF (2017)

Film Review

In part 4, filmmakers interview homeless men living in one the Emergency Centers run by various NGOs. They also look at a street feeding and outreach program run by a non-profit organization called Sanyukai.

Part 5 looks at figures documenting the improvement in Japanese homelessness. In 2017, the official Japanese government homeless count was 5,534 – a private research group with did actual nighttime counts came up with a figure closer to 15,000.

This makes Japan’s level of homelessness roughly the same as Canada’s (8 per 100,000 population)

The US has 55 homeless people per 100,000 population.

The new Japanese number contrasts with close to 60,000 homeless (estimated by private researchers) in 2003.

Filmmakers attribute most of this improvement to the governments expansion of their Livelihood Protection Program. In 1995 only 880,000 citizens received Livelihood Protection. At present that figure is 2.2 million. At this point, nearly any Japanese resident with a home address can qualify.

 

How Japan Solved Homelessness

Who Are Japan’s Homeless? Part 2

LWIF (2017)

Film Review

Part 2 of this series looks at the history and demographics of Japanese homelessness. The country’s homeless problem began during the economic crisis of the mid-nineties, when companies either went bankrupt or laid off most of their workers.

Twenty to thirty percent of Japan’s homeless residents have criminal records that make it difficult to find jobs. Others have become homeless fleeing aggressive loan sharks. Most are reluctant to apply for Livelihood Protection (Japan’s welfare program) because it makes it easier for creditors to locate them.

Japan’s urban residents have little or no contact with Japan’s homeless. The latter are nearly all men. The presence of homeless women and children on the street would be a great source of shame to government and society.

Japan’s homeless tend to bed down under tents, tarps, or cardboard boxes in urban parks, on river banks, or in train stations and other public buildings.

Part 3 concerns the Homeless Self-Reliance Law the Japanese government enacted in 2002. The new law created a number of Independent Support Centers to provide beds and meals on demand. This centers, which allow a maximum stay of four to six months, also provide, training, support and loans to help their residents find.

This government program is complemented by “poverty businesses,” non-profit organizations which have converted the dormitories of shuttered factories into emergency centers. Most allow a maximum two month stay, while they assist residents in applying for Livelihood Protection (ie welfare benefits).

 

Homelessness: Contrasting Japan and the US

Why Japan’s Homeless Are Different from North America’s – Part 1

LWIF (2017)

Film Review

This intriguing five-part documentary series contrasts Japan’s aggressive effort to reduce homelessness with the apparent indifference of the US government. In my view, the stark contrast makes an important statement about the shameful greed and corruption underlying the US political system.

Part 1: The series begins by examining why Japan has always had a much lower endemic rate of homelessness than the US:

  • Japan has much lower levels of drug abuse than the US,* although alcoholism and compulsive gambling are common problems contributing to Japanese homelessness.
  • Japan, which retained its mental hospitals when the US and other English-speaking countries closed theirs down (as a cost cutting measure) in the seventies and eighties.** The majority of America’s mentally ill either end up in prison or on the streets.
  • Japan has few, if any traumatized war veterans. The latter represent a sizeable proportion of the US homeless population.

*Japan has no paramilitary organization comparable to the CIA, which openly engages in narcotics trafficking as part of its strategy to destabilize regimes unfriendly to Wall Street interests.

**In the US, the community mental health movement Kennedy started never received full funding following his assassination. Instead the mental health centers he created to replace mental hospitals have experienced continuous budget cuts dating back to the Reagan administration.

The Role of the Industrial Revolution and Modern Warfare in Third World Colonization

History of the World Part 7 – The Age of Industry

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This second-to-last focuses on the role of the Western industrial revolution in facilitating wholesale colonization of the Third World: British opium wars launched against China to make the world safe for western industrial capitalism, the US Civil War, Japan’s war against their traditional Samurai class, and World War I.

In the middle of the episode, the filmmakers take a break from war to depict the brutal enslavement of the Congo (as his personal fiefdom) by Belgian King Leopold II and to re-enact the invention of the steam engine and railroad, as well as Leo Tolstoy’s efforts to educate and free his serfs.

Part 7 begins with the brutal opium wars the UK used to force China to open up to western trade. At the beginning of the 19th century, a massive British demand for tea was draining their treasury of the silver European countries had expropriated from South America. However because China refused to import western goods, the British had no legal way to get  this silver back.

They eventually fell back illegal opium smuggling to pry open the Chinese import market. The result was an estimated 17 million Chinese opium addicts by 1839. The emperor’s clampdown on smuggling led to a British declaration of war. China’s primitive wooden warships were no match for the gunships born of Britain’s industrial revolution. After two wars, the peace treaty the UK imposed ceded Hong Kong to British control and forced China to open all their markets to western trade.

Modern weaponry would also give the industrialized North a clear advantage over the agricultural South in a Civil War resulting that killed over 650,000.

When Japan refused to open their country to international trade, it was US warships that fired on their capitol in 1853. When Japan modernized their military with Western weapons and tens of thousands of new recruits, their elite Samurai class, solely responsible for centuries for the emperor’s protection, rebelled. In 1877 an army of 40,000 Samurai faced certain defeat against a modern military force with at least twice as many men and Western military hardware.

The segment about Leopold II’s personal conquest of the Congo (and its rich mineral and human resources) under the cover of a “humanitarian charity” is well worth watching. Likewise the one about German foreign minister Arthur Zimmermann’s efforts to form a military alliance with Mexico during World War I – to help them reclaim territory the US stole during the US-Mexican War (1846-1848).

Otherwise the openly anti-German propaganda in the final segment totally obscures the real origins of World War I, as revealed by recently declassified British and US documents. This is covered really well in James Corbett’s 2018 documentary The World War I Conspiracy:. The World War I Conspiracy