Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 9th, 2016


Putting America’s Defense Spending into Perspective

Wouldn’t it be a strange world to live in if 50% of military spending was paid for by just 5% of the population?

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Every year, the United States government spends the equivalent of $3,300 for each working citizen on its military budget.

In aggregate, this grand total of $610 billion in defense spending amounts to about half of the dollars globally spent on the military.

With $216 billion spent per year, China has the next largest budget by far.

But, to get to a number even close to U.S. spending, the military budgets of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, United Kingdom, and France would have to be added together.

From another perspective, the amount of annual defense spending per working person in the U.S. is higher than the income per capita of 70 countries, including places such as Morocco, Nigeria, Nicaragua, India, and Ukraine.

This means that if somehow the people of Nicaragua were taxed 100% with all money going to defense, it would only amount to a budget 1.8% of the size of America’s.

Original graphic by: BofAML, Business Insider

Note: Saudi Arabia spend on its military budget as much as Russia, with far less potency.

India and Japan come close to France and England

Visual Capitalist shared this link
This map shows global defense spending by country –

A simple way to break a bad habit

When I was first learning to meditate, the instruction was to simply pay attention to my breath, and when my mind wandered, to bring it back.

Sounded simple enough. Yet I’d sit on these silent retreats, sweating through T-shirts in the middle of winter.

I’d take naps every chance I got because it was really hard work. Actually, it was exhausting. The instruction was simple enough but I was missing something really important.

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
Psychiatrist Judson Brewer studies the relationship between mindfulness and addiction — from smoking to overeating to all those other things we do even though we know they’re bad for…|By Judson Brewer

00:39 So why is it so hard to pay attention?

Studies show that even when we’re really trying to pay attention to something — like maybe this talk — at some point, about half of us will drift off into a daydream, or have this urge to check our Twitter feed.

So what’s going on here? It turns out that we’re fighting one of the most evolutionarily-conserved learning processes currently known in science, one that’s conserved back to the most basic nervous systems known to man.

This reward-based learning process is called positive and negative reinforcement, and basically goes like this. We see some food that looks good, our brain says, “Calories! … Survival!” We eat the food, we taste it — it tastes good. And especially with sugar, our bodies send a signal to our brain that says, “Remember what you’re eating and where you found it.” We lay down this context-dependent memory and learn to repeat the process next time. See food, eat food, feel good, repeat. Trigger, behavior, reward.

01:42 Simple, right? Well, after a while, our creative brains say, “You know what? You can use this for more than just remembering where food is. You know, next time you feel bad, why don’t you try eating something good so you’ll feel better?”

We thank our brains for the great idea, try this and quickly learn that if we eat chocolate or ice cream when we’re mad or sad, we feel better.

02:07 Same process, just a different trigger. Instead of this hunger signal coming from our stomach, this emotional signal — feeling sad — triggers that urge to eat.

Maybe in our teenage years, we were a nerd at school, and we see those rebel kids outside smoking and we think, Hey, I want to be cool.” So we start smoking. The Marlboro Man wasn’t a dork, and that was no accident. See cool, smoke to be cool, feel good. Repeat. Trigger, behavior, reward.

And each time we do this, we learn to repeat the process and it becomes a habit. So later, feeling stressed out triggers that urge to smoke a cigarette or to eat something sweet.

Now, with these same brain processes, we’ve gone from learning to survive to literally killing ourselves with these habits. Obesity and smoking are among the leading preventable causes of morbidity and mortality in the world.

03:06 So back to my breath. What if instead of fighting our brains, or trying to force ourselves to pay attention, we instead tapped into this natural, reward-based learning process … but added a twist? What if instead we just got really curious about what was happening in our momentary experience?

I’ll give you an example. In my lab, we studied whether mindfulness training could help people quit smoking. Now, just like trying to force myself to pay attention to my breath, they could try to force themselves to quit smoking. And the majority of them had tried this before and failed — on average, six times.

With mindfulness training, we dropped the bit about forcing and instead focused on being curious. In fact, we even told them to smoke. What? Yeah, we said, “Go ahead and smoke, just be really curious about what it’s like when you do.”

03:57 And what did they notice? Well here’s an example from one of our smokers. She said, “Mindful smoking: smells like stinky cheese and tastes like chemicals, YUCK!” Now, she knew, cognitively that smoking was bad for her, that’s why she joined our program. What she discovered just by being curiously aware when she smoked was that smoking tastes like shit.

04:25 Now, she moved from knowledge to wisdom. She moved from knowing in her head that smoking was bad for her to knowing it in her bones, and the spell of smoking was broken. She started to become disenchanted with her behavior.

The prefrontal cortex, that youngest part of our brain from an evolutionary perspective, it understands on an intellectual level that we shouldn’t smoke. And it tries it’s hardest to help us change our behavior, to help us stop smoking, to help us stop eating that second, that third, that fourth cookie. We call this cognitive control. We’re using cognition to control our behavior. Unfortunately, this is also the first part of our brain that goes offline when we get stressed out, which isn’t that helpful.

We can all relate to this in our own experience. We’re much more likely to do things like yell at our spouse or kids when we’re stressed out or tired, even though we know it’s not going to be helpful. We just can’t help ourselves.

05:26 When the prefrontal cortex goes offline, we fall back into our old habits, which is why this disenchantment is so important. Seeing what we get from our habits helps us understand them at a deeper level — to know it in our bones so we don’t have to force ourselves to hold back or restrain ourselves from behavior. We’re just less interested in doing it in the first place.

And this is what mindfulness is all about: Seeing really clearly what we get when we get caught up in our behaviors, becoming disenchanted on a visceral level and from this disenchanted stance, naturally letting go.

This isn’t to say that, poof, magically we quit smoking. But over time, as we learn to see more and more clearly the results of our actions, we let go of old habits and form new ones.

The paradox here is that mindfulness is just about being really interested in getting close and personal with what’s actually happening in our bodies and minds from moment to moment. This willingness to turn toward our experience rather than trying to make unpleasant cravings go away as quickly as possible. And this willingness to turn toward our experience is supported by curiosity, which is naturally rewarding.

What does curiosity feel like? It feels good.

And what happens when we get curious?

We start to notice that cravings are simply made up of body sensations — oh, there’s tightness, there’s tension, there’s restlessness — and that these body sensations come and go. These are bite-size pieces of experiences that we can manage from moment to moment rather than getting clobbered by this huge, scary craving that we choke on.

 In other words, when we get curious, we step out of our old, fear-based, reactive habit patterns, and we step into being. We become this inner scientist where we’re eagerly awaiting that next data point.

07:17 Now, this might sound too simplistic to affect behavior. But in one study, we found that mindfulness training was twice as good as gold standard therapy at helping people quit smoking. So it actually works.

 And when we studied the brains of experienced meditators, we found that parts of a neural network of self-referential processing called the default mode network were at play. Now, one current hypothesis is that a region of this network, called the posterior cingulate cortex, is activated not necessarily by craving itself but when we get caught up in it, when we get sucked in, and it takes us for a ride.

 In contrast, when we let go — step out of the process just by being curiously aware of what’s happening — this same brain region quiets down.

Now we’re testing app and online-based mindfulness training programs that target these core mechanisms and, ironically, use the same technology that’s driving us to distraction to help us step out of our unhealthy habit patterns of smoking, of stress eating and other addictive behaviors.

Remember that bit about context-dependent memory? We can deliver these tools to peoples’ fingertips in the contexts that matter most. So we can help them tap into their inherent capacity to be curiously aware right when that urge to smoke or stress eat or whatever arises.

So if you don’t smoke or stress eat, maybe the next time you feel this urge to check your email when you’re bored, or you’re trying to distract yourself from work, or maybe to compulsively respond to that text message when you’re driving, see if you can tap into this natural capacity, just be curiously aware of what’s happening in your body and mind in that moment. It will just be another chance to perpetuate one of our endless and exhaustive habit loops … or step out of it.

 Instead of see text message, compulsively text back, feel a little bit better — notice the urge, get curious, feel the joy of letting go and repeat.

Note: How long can we maintain being curious for one addiction? If we are unable to concentrate on our breathing for a lousy couple of minutes?

The Young Jews Shunning Israel and Building Radical New Communities

Widespread social platform changed the information flow and bypassed the 6 multinational media conglomerates news manufacturing process

Growing up with the knowledge that you have a homeland, a country that was fought for in your name, to be a place of safety should you ever face persecution for your culture and your faith, is a comforting thought.

This is what that the state of Israel promises the eight million Jews living in diaspora communities around the world.

The Israeli Government is mounting the pressure for us to make the move there, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on Jews to relocate to the state: “I would like to tell all European Jews, and all Jews wherever they are: ‘Israel is the home of every Jew… Israel is waiting for you with open arms,'” he said last year.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“great radicalism of Jewish tradition, a tradition of dreamers, subversives, cosmopolitans, and counter-culturalists” by “putting loyalty to ideas of international justice over tribalism and parochialism.”

Young Jews who once saw Israel as their birthright are now shunning the state and finding community elsewhere.

The problem is, for many young Jews right now, the modern state of Israel feels far from a home.

A recent poll found that 47 percent of the UK’s Jewish population believe that the Israeli government is “constantly creating obstacles to avoid engaging in the peace process.”

Three quarters said that the expansion of settlements on the West Bank is a “major obstacle to peace.” Just under a third even said they wouldn’t demand that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Annie Cohen is a London-based student and member of Jewdas, a new non-Zionist Jewish organization based in London, which uses the tagline “radical voices for the alternative diaspora.” (Diaspora? But you are British. Are you Not? Do you have to be an Anglican in order Not to consider yourself in a diaspora condition?)

The groups aim—according to its website—is to harness the “great radicalism of Jewish tradition, a tradition of dreamers, subversives, cosmopolitans, and counter-culturalists” by “putting loyalty to ideas of international justice over tribalism and parochialism.” The group is populated mostly by under-30s, and meets regularly, hosting cultural events and organizing political campaigns such as the refugee fundraiser “Beigels not Borders.”

Organized communities in the diaspora seem unwilling to reflect this change in attitudes. The list of active, major Jewish youth movements in the UK are Zionist in their entirety, offering “unparalleled opportunities to meet other young Jewish people and to have fun whilst exploring personal connections to both Judaism and Israel.”

Attempting to avoid these political fractures by sticking to synagogue is no more fruitful.

Festivals such as Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), the celebration of Israel’s creation, are now inescapable dates in the religious calendar. The Prayer for the State of Israel read in services week on week. Israel has been weaved into the very fabric of modern Jewish practice.

So in the summer of 2015, Cohen went to a week-long summit in Morocco, along with representatives from 10 other countries, to launch an alternative, international Jewish organization. “The outcome of these meetings feels really important, we’re just getting started, but we’re growing, and will start campaigning together soon,” she said. “It was an emotional experience to be sat for six days with people who care so much about ending the occupation. It felt so empowering, transforming our own communities, with people who had traveled across the world to be together.”

Organizations like Jewdas have been growing in number and popularity worldwide. In the United States, Hillel, the organization representing Jewish students, split over Israel. Campus branches calling for inclusivity and open discourse have seen no other option but to form their own organization. Young Jews in Australia, South Africa, and Canada have new local groups, too.

“What grew from trying to create spaces for Jews who shared anti-Zionist politics turned into something bigger, into somewhere you can be Jewish and not feel excluded for your views, where in fact they’re the norm,” Cohen said. “We can support each other, especially those of us in countries where organizations are already vocal in their support for the Palestinian struggle, we can help members in other countries who are trying to get stuff off the ground.

It can be lonely and isolating, when the comfort and familiarity of the world you grew up in feels like a place in which you don’t belong. The “self-hating Jew” stereotype becomes difficult to shake when your beliefs amount to betrayal in your wider community.

But these networks have the capacity to change things, to be a vocal advocate for a different type of Judaism, and put an end to the political isolation that those rejecting a Zionist narrative often face.

You could chalk these new feelings of detachment from the Israeli state up to a shift in government policy. Netanyahu’s Likud party was re-elected into power in 2015, veering further rightwards with its pledge to end talk of further withdrawals from occupied land. “If I’m elected, there will be no Palestinian State,” Netanyahu boasted on the final day of the campaign. (All candidates expressed the same promises)

But maybe its less the Israeli government’s policies, and more the YouTube footage of Israels actions—such as the July 2014 video of young Gazan children being shelled on a beach. This kind of harrowing, real-time footage that makes the Israeli Defense Force’s response that “the reported civilian casualties from this strike are a tragic outcome,” impossible to swallow, or put down to anti-Israeli Western media bias.

Moriel Rothman was born in Jerusalem, but spent his formative years in Ohio. Like many young Jews growing up in the diaspora, he hoped one day to make aliyah, a word that is literally translated as “going up” in Hebrew, and is used to describe Jews relocating to Israel.

“When I was a kid, my idea was to move to Israel, join the army, and live what it represented,” he said. Rothman returned to live in Jerusalem, but at age 22, his draft notice arrived, and he made the decision to refuse military service. “I spent a few weeks in jail,” he said. “I maintained a connection to the Jewish people, but the government and military state? Not so much.”

Today Rothman lives in Jerusalem, and is part of a network of Jewish activists called All That’s Left, a politically diverse campaign group united by disdain for the occupation.

When Rothman was 19, he lived in a Palestinian village inside Israel for a few months. For the first time, he saw Palestinians as people, which went against everything hed been taught as a child. “There are a lot of concepts to grapple with in this conflict, and I didn’t know any Palestinians personally,” he said. “I suppose growing up I learned to view this whole group of people as a political concept, so it was easy to paint this nation as a threat.”

From attempting to halt the evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, to supporting families facing their community’s destruction in the West Bank village of Susiya, Rothman’s Judaism is now inherently connected to this political struggle.

But for the majority of young Jews, who aren’t able to go and live with Palestinians and redefine their disaporic identity, social media has been key in changing attitudes.

At school I’d never heard the word Palestinian,” says Jordy Silverstien, a Melbourne-based Jewish academic who has abandoned her Zionist views. “For me, spaces like Facebook have been indispensable, I’ve met so many diaspora anti-Zionist and non-Zionist Jews around the world that without the internet I’d never have met.”

Before social media united them, many Jews struggling to confront the politics of the modern religion were forced to walk away from it. For years, groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians had operated on the fringes of Jewish society; political organizations, but with no broader community of Jewish practice taking shape.

But the community is changing, a new Jewish identity is being formed, one that’s distinct from Zionist politics. It comes at a time when dissenting voices and places of comfort, have never been more in demand.




February 2016

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