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Observations on China

 

 

 

 

The following is drawn from a university professor who has spent nine years in China. From my perspective it is always fascinating to hear the testimony of what it is like to live in a society that has not known Christianity and which has no God but the political leadership, where Caesar is God, and no gods, no ethics, and no general sense of how life should be lived apart from scrambling for money. When there is nothing else but Mammon and tyranny, this is what it is like. (Francis Fukuyama writes more generally about the corrosive effects of tyranny on social cohesion).

In a way, I sympathize with Chairman Xi’s emphasis on rule of law because in my experience laws/rules/norms are simply ignored.  They are ignored quietly so as not to embarrass the enforcer, however, frequently, the enforcer knows rules or laws are being ignored but so long as the breaker is not egregious, both parties continue to exist in a state of blissful ignorance.  Honesty without force is not normal but an outlier.  Lying is utterly common, but telling the truth revolutionary.

I rationalize the silent contempt for the existing rules and laws within China as people not respecting the method for creating and establishing the rules and laws.  Rather than confronting the system, a superior, or try good faith attempts to change something, they choose a type of quiet subversion by just ignoring the rule or law.  This quickly spreads to virtually every facet of behavior as everything can be rationalized in a myriad of ways.  Before coming to China, I had this idea that China was rigid which in some ways it is, but in reality it is brutally chaotic because there are no rules it is the pure rule of the jungle with unconstrained might imposing their will and all others ignoring laws to behave as they see fit with no sense of morality or respect for right.

I had a lawyer tell me about the corruption crackdown, and even most convicted of crimes, that people referred to them as “unlucky”.  As he noted, there was almost no concept of justice even if people recognized the person had done what they were accused of having done.  The discipline stemmed not from their behavior but they were cannon fodder for some game chosen by a higher authority.

China wrestles with these issues like clockwork every few years after a tragic incident goes viral.  A common one is when someone is run over by a car and pedestrians just step over the body until a family member finds the body.  The video goes viral, prompts a week of hand wringing, and then censors step in to talk about Confucianism and how the economy is growing.  There is no innate value given to human life as precious.

A friend of mine in China who is a Christian missionary, told me a story about a time he was invited to speak at the local English corner they had in the apartment development where locals would get together hopefully with foreigners and practice English. He was asked to speak on what is the meaning of life, perfect for a part time missionary. He said he knew what people would say having lived in China for sometime but even so was stunned at how deeply and rigidly held the belief that making money was the entire meaning of life. There was no value system.  There was no exogenously held right or wrong, only whether you made money.  With apologies to a bastardized Dostoevsky, with money as God, all is permissible.

I could talk at length about that what I have observed, but I am not a human rights expert and what type of cultural changes or evolution it engenders.  However, while the well known cases draw attention, these attitudes and responses set the tone for a culture where individuals, respect, and truth mean nothing.

This has impacted my broader thinking in that executive space (thinking of the United States but also applicable elsewhere) is that laws need to be enforced consistently not at the whim of the superior.  If the law exists it should be enforced and consistent, otherwise it should be removed.  Currently, the United States is going further and further in a direction where laws are applied inconsistently shifting from varying enforcement regimes under different executives.  Law is not law if the government can choose whether to enforce it. Law has become the whimsy of sovereigns prone to political fancy.

and much later in the article, after a discussion of the openness of the USA to immigration, he continues:

Conversely, China is a rising power but probably more importantly is a deeply illiberal, expansionist, authoritarian, police state opposed to human rights, democracy, free trade, and rule of law.  Just as we need to consider the state, speed, and direction of change in the United States, China has been deeply illiberal authoritarian for many years, is becoming increasingly illiberal, and is accelerating the pace of change towards greater control.  It both puzzles and concerns me having lived in China for nearly a decade as a public employee to hear Polyanna statements from China “experts” in the United States who talk about the opening and reform of China or refuse to consider the values being promoted. I was left mouth agape once when someone I would consider a liberal internationalist who values human rights informed me he was focused on business and would leave those other issues aside.  The values represented by China cannot be divorced from its rise and influence.

The rise of China represents a clear and explicit threat not to the United States but to the entirety of liberal democracy, human rights, and open international markets.  We see the world slowly being divided into China supported authoritarian regimes of various stripes that support its creeping illiberalism across a range of areas.  The tragedy of modern American foreign policy is the history of active ignorance and refusal to actively confront the Chinese norm or legal violations. The Trump administration is utterly incapable of defending the values and assembling the coalition that would respond to American leadership as they face even greater threats from China….

The concern is not over Chinese access to technology to facilitate economic development for a liberal open state. The concern is over the use of technology to facilitate human rights violations and further cement closed markets.  That is a threat for which neither the United States or any other democracy loving country should apologize for.

I should note that I like many other am concerned about the level of government surveillance on citizenry.  However, equating Beijing to Washington in many of these specific issues is simply non-sensical authoritarian apologetics.  Let me just briefly run through some of the enormous differences. First, some have argued tech firms gather data which is true but does not distinguish what happens to the data. Unlike China, the US government does not have free access to all electronic data.  Second, China uses control over electronic communication in vastly draconian cyber dystopia ways compared to the wide range of opinions that are allowed online in the rest of the world.  By simple comparison, Winnie the Pooh is censored in China while in the United States the debate is over whether some information should be restricted that is deemed inaccurate. It is nothing less than authoritarian apologetics to attempt to equate the two in any serious manner.

 

Elon Musk on artificial intelligence

Forty years ago I argued that the idea that we would travel through space in ships (mechanical canisters) to find extra-terrestrial intelligence was one of the dumbest ideas ever, and that it would seem to future humans to have been incredibly culture-bound mechanistic idea. I suggested that the way we would first start to experience aliens was through computers.

Well, dear readers, Elon Musk agrees with me.

The business magnate, who was being interviewed by Mohammad Abdulla Alergawi, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future for the UAE, told the slightly perplexed crowd: “One of the most troubling questions is artificial intelligence. I don’t mean narrow A.I  – deep artificial intelligence, where you can have AI which is much smarter than the smartest human on earth. This is a dangerous situation.”

He also warned world governments: “Pay close attention to the development of artificial intelligence.

“Make sure researchers don’t get carried away – scientists get so engrossed in their work they don’t realise what they are doing.”

When asked if he thought A.I was a good or a bad thing Musk said: “I think it is both.

“One way to think of it is imagine you were very confident we were going to be visited by super intelligent aliens in 10 years or 20 years at the most.

 “Digital super intelligence will be like an alien.”

It is normal

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The overwhelming impression I get of Moscow is that it is normal: advertizing, traffic, people, dress, customs, manners, commerce (lots and lots of commerce), shopping, monuments, museums. People are behaving as if they were not afraid. People are behaving like big city people do in Munich, Toronto and Sao Paulo. Getting on the tube and getting on home. Browsing in malls. Going to and from the gym.

The visa requirements are stringent. The Russian officials are sticklers for paperwork, but they seem to be human if there is an error. My visa had an erroneous entry, and I was sent to sit on a bench while they worked it out. Visions of being sent back to Ottawa without getting through the border went through my head. Also of being taken to mysterious places for long interrogations. Nothing is more disturbing than to be without one’s passport while foreign officials do unexplained things with it. In the end the bossman at the airport inspection station simply filled in a new visa for me. Note to visitors: read your visa carefully and check twice for errors. I thanked him and we parted with a smile and and a thank you: spasibo.

They are ripping up a large section of the sidewalks on Tsverskaya Boulevard, which leas into Red Square, to replace them with something grander and more suitable for pedestrians: flower beds, wider walkways, paving bricks. The upgrade involves massive amounts of machinery, most of it apparently German, lots of workers, and total disruption, so that everyone is walking on boards between fences decorated with pictures of writers and scientists from Russian history. Unlike Canada, the project will be done in four months this summer, and not be spread over two years.

Another sign of normality is The Moscow Times, where you can learn lessons in Russian etiquette, or read criticism of Putin, corruption, and ostentatious rich kids. I realize it is an English language publication, but it is good journalism.

The conference I attended was filled with Russian geeks and businessmen acting exactly like their European and American counterparts in the IT and Internet industries, looking for business, passing out cards, listening to lectures on how they handle denial of service attacks, transition to IPv6, and peer with one another’s networks.

I may have cause to change my mind by the time I leave, but my impression, superficial though it be, is that Russia has passed out of Communist fear-driven behaviour decisively. It must always be remembered, as Solzhenitsyn said, that the first and most serious victims of Communism were the Russians themselves. The rebound from that dark age continues. They need a hundred years more of peace and prosperity. I hope they get it.

I thought this quote from him to be particularly apt:

Today when we say the West we are already referring to the West and to Russia. We could use the word ‘modernity’ if we exclude Africa, and the Islamic world, and partially China.

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Getting to Denmark

Francis Fukuyama wrote that the object of all political development lies in “getting to Denmark”.

By this I mean less the actual country Denmark than an imagined society that is prosperous, democratic, secure  and well governed, and experiences low levels of political corruption. “Denmark’ would have all three sets of political institutions in perfect balance: a competent state, a strong rule of law, and democratic accountability. The international community would like to turn Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Haiti into idealized places like “Denmark” but it doesn’t have the slightest idea of how to bring this about. As I argued earlier, part of the problem is that we don’t understand how Denmark itself came to be Denmark and therefore don’t comprehend the complexity and difficulty of political development.

Certainly anyone who has seen the Danish movie “A Royal Affair” will have observed that Danish society in 1800 was in a state of feudalism that English society had left by the late 1400s: the peasants were enserfed, had no property in their lands, and were obliged by the noble landowning class for everything they grew. Denmark only became a constitutional monarchy in 1849. The revolution that saw the end of absolute monarchy in England happened 161 years earlier, in 1688.

How then did Denmark move so rapidly and effectively to become one of the models of the world for stability, progress, peace and good order?

I have no idea.

But after a recent trip there I am pleased to suggest several cultural attributes we could do well to emulate.

  1. It is okay to be clever. From this attribute much else inevitably follows.

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2. It is okay to eat meat and cheese. Charcuterie is a normal serving in a Danish wine bar/tavern. Note the subordination of vegetables to fats and proteins.

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3. Globe-embracing capitalism

Denmark is headquarters to companies as diverse as Lego and Maersk shipping. Lego is cuter so it  gets the photograph. See ‘cleverness’ above.

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4. Vikings (see globe-embracing capitalism above)

 

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Viking shipbuilding techniques should be studied.

 

5. Fit blond people

The people are remarkably fit-looking. Handsomeness and beauty cannot be achieved without breeding for it, and that implies an aesthetic sense and social arrangements whereby beautiful people were encouraged to breed and ugly ones bred out. It means women must always have had the power to turn down the proposals of ugly men, and vice versa. That means in turn that the chastity of daughters was protected by fathers  and brothers without turning guardianship of daughters into purdah. There may be other implications to high degrees of beauty in a population, but I shall refrain from poaching in the territory of American Renaissance.

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6. Architecture is taken seriously.

You may not like modernist architecture. But I have to commend a society where new building is not put up without thinking about how it will look in a hundred years. Below is the Danish Royal Opera.

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7. Copenhagen/København

The Danes turn the ‘v’ into a ‘u’ in places, so it is pronounced like Koebenhaun. A dozen times prettier than Amsterdam: no red light district, wider streets, less litter, with a couple of magnificent royal palaces.

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The Amalienborg (above) features four identical palaces built around an octagonal square, with suitably pompous fountain and statue of King Fredrik V on horseback.

 

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I recommend that you go there if you can.

Reports – of boogeymen

Morocco in March: cloudless blue sky and and a strange coolness in temperature. At night the wearing of a fleece or sweater is necessary. The ground as seen from the air is just now greening up. Fields appear to have been farmed since agriculture was invented 10,000 years ago. Snow still clings to the sides of the Atlas Mountains. Signs of human progress are everywhere: new airports, new roads, overpasses, highways, apartment buildings, and a complete absence of troops with machine guns guarding banks and street corners. Rather, the atmosphere is relaxed, francophone, and friendly.

Alcohol is broadly available. The people seem relaxed and polite. The King, Mohammed V, sits secure on the throne. Europeans come here as Canadians do to Palm Springs, to capture some sun and escape winter.

Turning my eyes back home, I confess a complete inability to summon anger at the Liberal governments: they have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing. They are reversing every sound move the Conservatives did:

  • requiring English or French language skills in immigrants;
  • enforcing transparency in union expenditures;
  • enforcing transparency in Indian band governments;
  • softening their stances towards pipelines so as to act as neutrals rather than planners;

and Blair Atholl knows how much more they are doing that is bad and has escaped my recollection. But I cannot bring myself to care, much.

Since I last posted I have been to New Zealand and Morocco. Both places seem to be doing well. The only advice I can give about New Zealand is to get there as soon as you can and stay as long as you can afford. Its summer is well timed to coincide with northern hemisphere winter, which is especially thoughtful of them. The landscape is beautiful, on both islands. Also, I must warn you that the southern hemisphere sun is less shielded by the ozone layer; you will toast more rapidly than you would have thought possible without hat and sunblock. I came back from a five hour excursion peeling and roasted red.

At my conferences I have been enjoying myself being cruel to Europeans and US Democrats about the prospects of Trump as President. What is it that makes Europeans so wimpy? As for Democrats inquiring into Canadian real estate, just tell them they can afford it with a 72 cent Canadian dollar.

They key in my opinion to understanding the US is that, on a scale of one to ten, their noise and hype level is set to 12, sometimes rising to 15. Setting it back to 4 or 5 is good for one’s piece of mind.

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I remain persuaded that Trump will win this thing, despite professional money favouring Clinton. I expect that, for every Republican going Democratic, 3 to 5  previously politically uninvolved Americans, and 3 Democrats, will come over to Trump.

But I can assure you that Trump acts as a boogeyman to the liberal imagination, like a Gahan Wilson monster hiding in the corner of the room. No amount of parental assurance about the lack of monsters under the bed is preventing the bien-pensants from wailing into their security blankets.

Bwa-ha-ha!!

 

 

 

 

 

Apologies to Los Angeles

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I do not know of any city that gets more grief in the United States than Los Angeles, except of course for Detroit. The public image is of LA is of a profligate place, Tinseltown, periodically scorched by brushfires, shuddered with earthquakes, and rent by eruptions of violence in its black sections, and the whole obscured by frequent smog.
I am here to tell you that LA is one of the most pleasant, civil, and interesting cities in the world. Yes, LA.
What the media coverage does not tell you is that you can find anything you want in Los Angeles: gardens that bloom in January, pleasant climate, nice intelligent neighbours, avant garde and traditional theater, grunge rock, fine art collections, totally amazing restaurants, libraries, and hundreds of square miles of beautiful houses, many of them quite small, where life is highly agreeable. In short, the media never tell you why 18 million people, or two thirds the population of Australia, choose to live in greater Los Angeles. Imagine Vancouver spread over hundreds of square miles, and only occasional rain. The sharp young mountain ranges are bare of large trees, and tower in the distance, some of them snow-capped.
By the way, the drought you heard of is over: the reservoirs are filling again.
What amazes this Canadian is the absolute absence of honking cars in the daily vexations of getting around the town, the fact that a big chopper will come to a complete stop at a stop sign, the civil nod and hello that you will get at the least excuse, and the abundant friendliness of people across many racial and ethnic divisions. They don’t tell you what it is like to live in a city where the average person is content, where people jog and run and walk in a climate that man was designed to live in without aggravation.
I thought however it was time for me to admit my gross error of believing the media image of LA, and it makes me wonder whether the media image we have of the world is equally out of place, skewed to the negative, and downright misleading.

Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is one of those places that challenge every libertarian’s ideas about how things should run. It is intensely left-wing in many respects: its citizens evince a strong social cohesion predicated on non-market values, the city enforces minute regulation of architecture, zoning and social behaviour, while a high level of government spending maintains social and municipal services. Yet Amsterdam also manages to show how capitalist it is in every store-front. In some ways, I thought, this place is a Potemkin village, and then thought “No” it is a Disney-like theme park maintained by millions of tourists and the willing cooperation of its citizens.

It seems to gather every hipster in Holland into one place: there are tiny stores selling electrical fixtures of the 1950s, micro-art galleries, baroque music concerts, weird antique stores of every description, ecological butcheries, and apartments which, when revealed by walking by, are contemporary art-galleries with dining room tables. Indeed, I was informed that the police check out every potential inner-city resident of Amsterdam; that to live there requires a permit. And the permit is issued if you are Dutch enough, which is to say,  willing to abide by the rules of the place, as the police may explain to you.

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Make no mistake. This place has rules, visible and invisible. Once, more than a decade ago, I was with a bunch of guys at a restaurant on one of the outer ring of canals. It was October, dark and cold. We headed out the door for a doobie, because it was a non-smoking bar. Eventually the young lady of the place came out and politely informed us that we could not smoke a joint in front of the place, because that might imply the restaurant tolerated dope smoking , but that we could smoke dope at the end of the block, at a construction site a few yards away. A Dutch compromise of behavioural zoning worked out precisely to the meter.

A place as well run as Amsterdam must run on behavioural zoning. Stuff allowed in the red-light district cannot be tolerated a block away from it. By the way, if you do not wish to find the red-light district, you can avoid it for your first seven trips  to the place, as I did. Nothing to see: move on.

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Indeed the charms and delights of Amsterdam are found in the walking around, in the architecture so carefully maintained, in the thousands of great bars and restaurants, in the amiable way the Dutch manage to live in the crowded spaces, in their friendly inhabitation of the place, in their tolerance of the tourists in their midst.

The annoyances of Amsterdam for the North American conservative are the arrogant sit-up cyclists in their damned cycling lanes whizzing by, who have rights of way against pedestrians and motor-cars;but more importantly,  in the idea that minute planning and regulation, formal and informal, could actually work, that a great capital of 17th century capitalism could actually be preserved more or less intact for centuries without  redevelopment, high rises, and modern architecture, but at the price of this regulation, that a highly capitalist people – including the hipster artists – might choose to live in a highly regulated way.

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Does this not send Ayn Rand spinning in her grave? I hope so. Amsterdam epitomizes every thing that Jane Jacobs had to say about cities, communities, and markets: that highly creative and capitalist places are one and the same, and that markets are embedded in, and contained by, societies, and that the rules of markets co-exist within non-market institutions and rules. Do yourself a favour. Read Jane Jacobs’ “Systems of Survival”, which is scarcely a hundred pages long, and see if your views of markets and society are not deepened.

Or join me for another ramble through Amsterdam, as we discourse about markets, societies, religious freedom, and how to hold them all together in some harmony. The walk will do us good.

 

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Driverless cars 2

This is from Matt Ridley’s blog:

In cities, driverless cars could cut congestion. A recent simulation at the University of Texas of a city with driverless cars prowling for business found that passengers need wait an average of 18 seconds for a driverless vehicle to show up and that each shared autonomous vehicle could replace 11 conventional cars. A study by Columbia University concluded that a driverless vehicle fleet could cut the cost of transport by 80 per cent compared with a personally owned vehicle driven 10,000 miles a year — not counting the reduction in parking costs and the value of time not spent at the wheel….

They will never be flawless, but nor are drivers. Insurance needs sorting out. Yet KPMG reckons that the driverless revolution may save up to 2,500 lives by 2030, and points out that Britain has a technological head start in all the relevant industries, so there is every reason to think we can become a centre of excellence in connected and autonomous driving, and get 320,000 jobs out of it.

Alongside this kind of stuff, I just cannot help feeling that a very fast train, built at glacial speed (half a mile a week) over many years of consultation, review and challenge as it punches through Nimbyland, and at up to nine times the cost per mile of French high-speed rail, feels like a white elephant waiting to happen.

 

 

Our driverless future?

A young engineer was speaking to me about the future of cars and roads. The addition of artificial intelligence to cars is ongoing, and will soon reach the stage, he says, where it will become clear that cars in certain urban areas will not be allowed to drive with human drivers at the wheel.

Such an outcome assumes a great deal of progress in resolving a host of issues, technical, social and political.

 

The implications of increased intelligence in cars – up to the point where humans can be replaced as drivers – go on and on.

  • ownership versus renting

If cars can be rented by the hour or by the occasion, the incentives to own a car may go down. Cars usually sit in the driveway or the parking lot for most of the day. Imagine that cars are basically taxis, and that the ownership (whoever they or it may be) cleans, maintains and provides cars on much the same basis as taxis, but with no taxi driver. You would summon a car as you would an Uber taxi, and it would show up at your location, but without the driver. Step in and the car will drive you to your destination.

  • traffic signals

Your community is strewn with stop signs, lights, and painting of signals on the road. Imagine that the driving rules for every intersection are communicated by local networks to the cars within reach of the signal, and that cars communicate by networks to each other in constant Bluetooth-style to adjust momentum (direction and speed). Once cars are self-directing, if the destination has been selected by the passenger, then a huge infrastructure of visual signs would be replaced with an electronic infrastructure. As a pedestrian, you may need a sign as to where you can cross, but the governing software of cars will ensure that, within the limits of the laws of physics, cars will not be able to hit you.

  • legal compulsion

It will be argued that the full benefits of the driverless automobile system will only be realized when people are legally obliged to switch over from the human driver to local network control. The law will compel drivers in certain areas to surrender control, and in all likelihood the car will simply adjust by becoming integrated with the local network, on the supposition that there is a private automobile entering the local network space.

The sign saying “you are now entering Such and Such” municipality also acts as the point where the car – not your car but “the” car – passes from the control of one network to another, just as a cell-phone call is passed from one tower to another. The car in which you are riding has become a physical instantiation of a telephone call.

The consequences  of this driverless system are expected to be:

1) drastic reduction in the amount of society’s resources dedicated to automobiles, as the use of each car intensifies. This may mean fewer cars, or less social investment in related automobile technologies, or lowered energy consumption. It may allow for quicker transitions to newer propulsion technologies.

2) legal liability will be need to be worked out between the software makers (General Motors, Toyota, Apple whoever) that make the car control software, the cities which install the driverless networks, and insurance companies for both sides.

Some of the negative effects will be:

1) loss of autonomy and privacy, but as computer technology invades everything, the loss of autonomy will long precede the transfer to the automated driverless system spoken of here. You are already being followed by your GPS and other technologies in your car, even if you still drive it. Mandatory guidance systems will not change the trackability of cars.

2) Every car will become like a taxi. The cleanliness, appearance, and maintenance level of your car will depend on the previous occupants, and on which company owns them, and some companies will be better than others. Given the human propensity for status distinctions, people will pay for better cars by belonging to better car-cooperatives.

Cultural and social resistance will take a long time to be overcome.

First, the software to run all this must work seamlessly and efficiently to figure out the dozens of social and safety rules that govern human transactions in every driving situation. Consider four-way stops which can be a ballet of mutual recognition.  The mutual interchange of signals among cars and the successors to stop signs and traffic lights must work out in a faultless protocol. WIll drivers be allowed to assume control, and in what circumstances?

This leads to the second huge issue: trust. It is likely that failures will become as rare and nearly as deadly as airplane accidents. Imagine a breakdown of signals, or the failure of protocols, on a highway where hundreds of cars are hurtling on autopilot. It will take a long while before people can trust the state of the system to be sufficiently  faultless that getting into a car is as safe as getting into an airplane.

Inconvenience is the third major reason for resisting. Private ownership of cars may be as irrational as the private ownership of power tools, from the perspective of efficiency of use, but people do not like systems of common or collective ownership for good reason. Some people are slobs, others neatfreaks. Some use their cars as mobile filing cabinets. So private ownership will likely continue, even in the brave new world of automated driverless cars. Thus the argument for the driverless car system is not an argument for the abandonment of private ownership, but it will increasingly make private ownership look as anachronistic as a CD or record collection.

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Landscape, Meat, Machines, and Smoking

I have been in Austria for the past week. Here are my observations:

  1. Landscape: The Germanic aesthetic insists that landscape should be beautiful. Trees seem to grow as if by permission only. It is, by and large,  a man-made landscape, and it is beautiful. It can only be kept that way by industrious care, and probably more rural subsidies than the Scottish economists who run Canada would allow. But the subsidies to rural farmers appear to buy relentless energy in land improvement. Example: a pasture will tend over time to have thistles and other plant life inedible to cows, unless they are removed by the farmer. In Austria they are removed, and cow pastures are large lawns. In Canada they are not, not because our farmers are lazy, but because they have not thought to do so.
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  3. Machines: They love machines. It is tractor-heaven. Every little farm has at least three of them. Plus numerous hay tedders, tossers, wagons, rear cutters, side cutters, manure spreaders, wagons with small crane log-grabbers and things whose function I could not figure out. My host’s neighbour has an upland farm. I went into the machine shed. Six chain saws. Immense amounts of tools, mostly powered by gasoline or electricity, all neatly arranged on shelves. This farmer’s arrangements and tool array were typical.
  4. Meat: It is okay in German lands to eat meat and to enjoy it guiltlessly. Pork especially: hams, prosciuttos, salamis, sausages. Entire restaurants serve nothing but cold cuts, fat spreads, boiled eggs and a few token vegetables, served with potatoes and dark breads. I love it.
  5. Beer: Need I say anything more?
  6. Smoking: They smoke a lot. Guiltlessly. I don’t smoke but I enjoy the attitude.
  7. Greetings: They seem to greet one another a lot, and nicely too. In southern German lands it is “Gruss Gott” [greet God – meaning, I think, “I greet you in the name of God”] or “grusti” [Ich grusse dich – I greet thee] is more religious than the “good day” of English, north German  and Scandinavian habits.
  8. Horses: They breed and ride them at all social levels able to own a field.
  9. Industriousness: They get the job done. They till and mow their fields, cull their forests, and build more and better machines to get the job done faster and better so they can have time to drink, smoke, and eat meat. It is no accident that Canada’s Frank Stronach, the car parts billionaire, is Austrian. He has a nation of tool builders and tool users behind him.
  10. Nature: See landscape. They go out into it and hike, climb, ski, walk, ride. They have national hiking societies more on the scale of the Red Cross or the Rotarians than our pokey little Alpine Clubs.

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What’s not to like?