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Thoughts on Nationalism

Joachim asks a good question in the comments -

I’d be interested in an expanded version of your thoughts on nationalism. My perspective is quite different – global problems require global solutions – but then you’re from the “USA! USA!” while my continent has been devastated by two world wars (more recently, consider e.g. the troubles in Yugoslavia.)

I think nationalism is like a catalyst or accelerator - it makes a place go more in the direction it's currently going. During a renaissance, nationalism makes more people excited to try new things, explore, invent, and expand. During a recovery period, nationalism encourages solidarity, a helping hand, and backing each other up instead of just feeling defeated.

It cuts both ways - in a beaten down, embarrassed nation that's paying reparations to the other side, nationalism really makes that anger and hostility get explosive - that's what Hitler whipped up. On the other hand, nationalism among the allies helped them carry on strongly, survive, and triumph. Keep calm and carry on...

Nationalism in North Korea translates to more loyalty to the insane regime, whereas nationalism in South Korea means hard work, modernization, and a high quality of life.


On The Shivering Butterfly

One of the simple concepts that you should know, before going into surgery and for life in general, is the idea of Langer Lines. Langer lines are a property of the skin. Under the first few layers of epidermis and dermis (fancy words for the layers of your skin), and above a layer of fat (we’ve all got it) there is a layer of connective tissue. This connective tissue allows for our skin to stretch, and to stay connected to our body (if you are curious about what happens when this goes wrong check out Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). Langer lines are the result of the direction of tension in the connective tissue. These will usually be in the direction that skin typically stretches. But they are unique to an individual.

In a lot of ways, the connective tissue is like the strings on a puppet. The strings don't do anything in and of themselves, they are being acted upon by other aspects of the body. For example, or hands don't actually have any muscle in them. When we want to make our fingers wiggle, its not our brain sending a signal to a muscle in the hand, telling it to move. It is more like the brain pulling on a string around the neck, and that string leads all the way through the arm, to the finger that you wanted to move.

(this isn't exactly right, wiggling your finger involves an impulse that travels in a nerve from your brain, to your spinal cord, than another nerve from there that stimulates a muscle in your fore arm. This muscle is attached to a tendon that is in you finger. When the muscle is stimulated, it causes tension in the tendon that moves the finger. Not sure how you wanted to work that in, but that how it goes) 

To expand on this metaphor, think of these puppet strings as a piece of rope. The rope itself is the connective tissue, and the Langer Lines are the direction that the rope is being pulled into, or the tension. Now coming back to the surgery concept, how incisions (cuts), are made will relate to the speed and the healing time, and quality afterwards. If you cut in the direction of tension, the cut will stay smaller, as well as heal nicely. Much like a rope under tension that is cut in the direction of the strands, the rope is able to maintain the stress. However, if the cut is made across the Langer lines, the incision will stretch, and it will cause scarring as the connective tissue regrows. In the same way, if you cut a rope 90 degrees to the direction of force, the rope will fray, and will eventually spill apart.

How this applies to other aspects of life. Where in your life, are you cutting your Langer Lines in the wrong direction. For most people, I think it would be there job. We all have commitments to our friends, family, health, well being and so forth, the real question becomes, is our job in line with these commitments, or is it out of step. Lets say you have 2 children, and they are just little bundles of joy. And you are working 60 to 80 hours a week to provide the best food, school, clothes, and experiences in general for them. But because you are working so hard, when you come home, you are exhausted and moody. All that you want to do is sit down, turn on the TV, and relax. Your kids want you to play with them, but you snap at them, accidentally. You apologize, and try to explain to them that you had a hard time, and just need sometime for yourself. And this gets repeated month after month. And it turns out to be a 90 degree cut to a Langer Line. The natural tension of your life pulls on it, everyday, eventually leading to a time where it just snaps. The relationship has been permanently damage. Your once loveable kids, have come to hate you and are incredibly rude. You wonder what happened. Where did it go wrong?

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