John Grisham’s Wonderful Sense of humour

Distinct features of Grisham’s novels are intrigues, struggle for justice and tough moral dilemmas for his characters. This kind of plot usually does not leave space for humour. Rather, it could be even detrimental to the main idea of it, distracting the reader’s attention and diluting suspense with unnecessary components. There is one of Grisham’s short stories though, that accommodates both suspense and humour: Quiet Heaven.

The very title is sarcastic, as it is the name of a nursing home where old people spend their last years, usually in deteriorating mental and physical health. The story is narrated by a sophisticated crook, who discovered the way to profit from other people’s misery. His previous job was at Heaven’s Gate, a similar final station for a human life. So, both in Heaven’s Gate and in Quiet Heaven, his experience was almost the same.

In the past, a few great authors wrote stories about the life in institutions where people, whose only expectation was death, found the last refuge. The best two novellas, which come to my mind, are Sanatorium by Somerset Maugham, and Heaven Has No Favourites by Eric Maria Remarque. There are certainly some others, but it is a matter of personal preference to consider only these worth mentioning.

Under the surface of an intriguing plot, both stories reveal the sad and merciless truth about human destiny. John Grisham however, had overcome the natural impulse for funeral mood and grim philosophy, which such places inflict on us. Instead, he adopted a sarcastic and humorous tone, which still did not obscure the serious thoughts of the author, but at the same time made the story fun to read.

Gilbert Griffin, a professional crook, applies for a job in Quiet Heaven, and is hired right away, as it is hard to find someone willing to accept a minimum wage for the most dirty and ungrateful work at night shifts. He does not mind, as his earnings will eventually amount to tens of thousands, or even hundred thousands dollars. It comes therefore as no surprise that his narration is coloured with cynicism, controversy and humour. After all, he deals with the nursing home staff, some of which don’t care about their patients. Actually, they are the targets in his schema. He will document their negligence, sloppy job and often cruelty, and take his finding to the court unless the management is willing to settle for a huge reward. Another trick is to rip the patients off with the help of a sleazy lawyer, if such opportunity exists.

His first target in Quiet Heaven was Lyle, an eighty-four years old man, whose obsession with women in his younger years progressed into mental disorder. Here is what one of the stuff members, a black lady in the kitchen, tells to Gilbert about him.

“Lawd have mercy, son. That’s the dirtiest ol’ man in the world. Can’t keep his hands off any woman, no matter how old. He’s grabbed nurses, patients, attendants, ladies from the churches who come in to sing Christmas songs. They used to lock ‘im up during visitation, else he’d chasin’ the girls from the families. Came in here one time, lookin’ around. I picked up a butcher’s knife and waved it at him. Aint’t had no problem since.”

            “But he’s eighty-four years old.”

            “He’s slowed a little. Diabetes. Cut off a foot. But he’s still got both his hands, and he’ll grab any woman. Not me, mind you, but the nurses stay away from him.”

Gilbert rents an apartment in a house belonging to a former madam, whose name is Ruby. As he soon discovers, she does not abandon her business. On the first Friday night of his stay, the life in the apartment above him is raging on, depriving him from sleep.

“An hour later, the clicking is back, and the bed is once again hopping across the floor. The hero this time must be either bigger or rougher because the noise was louder. She, whoever she is, is more vocal than before, and for a long and impressive while I listen with great curiosity and a growing eroticism as these two abandon all inhibitions and go at it regardless of who might be listening. They practically shout when it was over, and I’m tempted to applaud. They grow still. So do I. Sleep returns.”

Some philosophical ponderings of the crook are amusing. “In retiring homes, birthdays are a big deal, and for obvious reasons. You’d better celebrate ‘em while you can.” And then, after a short description of festivity, he remarks: “Each birthday might be the last, but I guess that’s true for all of us. Truer for some, though.”

And here is an excerpt about the Lyle’s birthday party:

“…At one point Wilma Dell gets too close to Lyle, who, off his saltpeter, makes an awkward and obvious grab for her ample ass. He gets a handful. She yelps in horror, and almost everyone laughs as though it’s just part of the celebration, but it’s obvious to me that Queen Wilma is not amused. …. Wilma disappears and is not seen for the rest of the day. I doubt that she’s had that much fun for years.”

It is a pleasure to read how Gilbert, devoid of any moral principles, discusses morality issues with madam Rudy. The topic of their conversation is a star prostitute, who works for Rudy.

“A nice girl,” I say, mindlessly.

            “She started working for me when she dropped out of high school. Terrible family. Couple of bad marriages after that. Never had a break. I just wish I could keep her busier. It’s so hard these days. Women are so loose they don’t charge for it anymore.”

            Miss Ruby, a career and unrepentant madam, is bemoaning the fact that modern women are too loose. I think about it for a second, then take a sip and let it pass.”

Wonderful! A brothel owner laments about low morality of our times! Indeed, who else will defend it?


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Indeed, why? Is there a compelling reason to send combat units, no matter how small, in the region saturated with hatred, armed conflicts, political and social instability, religious animosity and unreasonable political aspirations?
Russia has no serious political adversary in this region (yet), no vital political and economic interests in it, neither it has compelling ideological stimulus for expansion into this area, as had been the case at the time of the Soviet Union.

Russia knows too well how dangerous to meddle in the affairs of the Muslim world. The war in Afghanistan was good proof that military victory in this region does not mean the success of the enterprise. Even the mighty Soviet Union had to admit a total failure of its military campaign. Now Russia is in a messy geopolitical game where each player’s move is unpredictable and often defies logic. Alliances there may change overnight. Big international players, America, and European countries have vital political and business interests in this region. Aggravating relations with them is detrimental to the Russian economy and political stability. Is Russia in a good shape to meet these challenges?
A brief overview of the contemporary (March 2020) situation may bring some clarity in understanding of each player’s motives and serve as a foundation for further analysis. It might be not valid tomorrow, as any drastic change in temporary alliances, occasional military clash, or any other “Black Swan” event bordering absurdity might drastically change the reality and affect both the foundation and logic of analytical work.

Turkey and Russia.

At this time, Turkey and Russia have established reasonably good diplomatic and business relations. None of them wants military confrontation: they understand that it could spin out of control. Turkey is a member of  NATO. A serious military conflict with Russia could possibly draw in European countries and America. Understandably, it is in the best interest of all players to avoid a war and resolve whatever disagreements come along to mutual satisfaction.
However, beneath the surface of Russia-Turkey diplomatic (and so far successful) maneuvers lie a long history of distrust, animosity and profound conflict of interests. Turkey effectively controls the south part of the Black Sea and exits from it to the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, it stands on the way of Russian geopolitical ambitions. Russian military fleet would not be able to participate in conflicts in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East without Turkey’s consent.
Crimea is another sore spot in Turkey-Russia relations. After the Russian annexation of the Crimea Peninsula Turkey was strengthening its military, commercial and political cooperation with Ukraine. Russia considers these activities as subversive and hostile, a direct threat to its geopolitical goals.
Russia does and will do whatever it takes not to let Ukraine develop a strong economy and decent living standard for its population. If Ukraine ever achieves prosperity, it would be a bad example for people of the Russian Federation. It would demonstrate the superiority of law and order and true democracy over the Russian autocratic system. To prevent this, Russia initiates and supports local but exhausting military conflicts in Ukraine as well as forces that are in favour of strengthening ties with Russia.

Another sore spot for Russia is Turkey’s support of Crimea tartars. In 1944, the Soviets deported almost all Crimea tartars from the Crimea peninsula to remote places in southeast Russia. Since then, Crimea tartars struggle to get back to their homeland. Being predominantly Muslim, they try to draw the attention of the Muslim world to their struggle for the right to return.
If given a choice between Russia and Ukraine, almost all Crimea tartars are in favor of being a part of Ukraine. However, their ultimate goal is total independence, which they once had in their history. For Moscow, with its imperial ambitions, strategic military considerations for the Crimea Peninsula and spiritual attachment of the majority of Russians to Crimea, this is an anathema.
However, in our opinion, the problem with Crimea Tartars would not evolve into a serious confrontation between Russia and the Muslim world, including Turkey. Almost all Middle East countries have problems with minorities. Therefore, it is not an issue that they wish to address or criticize each other.

In Libya, still torn in a civil war, Turkey and Russia have irreconcilable stands. Turkey supports government forces: it sends to Libya military supplies and even military personnel. Russia, on the other hand, supports rebels. However, in spite of their support to warring parties and indirect involvement in a military confrontation, so far, the two sides show restraint and prudence: they settle matters with diplomacy, open and secret, and keep good relations in all other spheres of mutual interest.

Turkey and Syria.

Both countries are predominantly Sunni. The Turkish population is 99% Muslim, of which 81% follows Sunni Islam. Syria population is 87% Muslim, the majority of which is also Sunni or some variation of it. Both countries are secular and, to some extent, tolerant of other religions. The animosity between the two countries, therefore, has nothing to do with ideology or religion. The culprit is a history of territorial claims and water distribution. It is unlikely that these issues will ever be resolved.
Turkey is against the contemporary regime of Syrian dictator Assad. Syrian civil war caused an influx of millions of refugees to Turkey (and Western Europe), which became a heavy financial, administrative and political burden on Turkey.
Another problem is the Syrian and Turkish Kurds. Some of them fight for independence; their cause could attract Kurds living in Turkey (from 12 to 20 million by different estimates), in Iraq and Iran. Syria supports the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which demands separation from Turkey. This is the cause of serious Turkey’s hostility toward Syria. Recent Turkey’s occupation of territory north of Syria is in part the result of Syrian’s support of separatist Kurdish groups.

Iran and Turkey.
Iran is mostly Shiites, but maintains friendly relations with Sunni Syria and supports the regime of Assad. Iran uses Syria as a base to harm Israel and to broaden its influence throughout the Middle East either via proxy, as is the case of Hezbollah in Lebanon or by setting up their own military bases, as it is in Syria. In spite of Turkey and Iran having conflicting interests in Syria and supposedly hostile branches of Islam, their relations so far are pragmatic and friendly. They cooperate in trade, tourism, and other spheres of business and culture. Although recently Turkey stopped buying oil from Iran to comply with the US sanctions, otherwise nothing changed in their attitude towards each other. However, each of them tries to spread its influence throughout the Middle East and beyond in the Muslim world. In Syria, their military presence could be the cause of a broader conflict.

Syria, Russia, and Israel.
Israel and Syria are long-time enemies with a history of hatred and wars. As there are territorial and water distribution issues, these two countries have no chance to settle matters at any time. At present, Israel regularly bombs Iranian military objects stationed in Syria and raids Syria territory to fight terrorists. Often Israel’s fighter jets fly close to the airspace controlled by Russians. Monitoring Russian and Israel activity in Syria requires coordination and cooperation, military and diplomatic; so far, both sides managed to do so and avoid accidents.
Israel and Russia have good business, trade, and diplomatic relations. Israel has about two million Russian immigrants who maintain connections with their families, friends and business partners in Russia. There are regular flights between the two countries, and their citizens are not required a visitor’s visa. There is secret diplomacy between the two, and likely some secret military cooperation and information exchange.

As can be seen from this brief overview, so far both players demonstrate a surprising restraint and goodwill in coordinating their military and diplomatic activity in seemingly irresolvable situations. There was no such precedent in the history of the Middle East, neither, considering such degree of complexity, in any other part of the globe. How long this unstable balance would last? And what Russia would gain from its involvement in such a tangle of interests and possible military escalation?

At present, Russia has two military bases in Syria: the airbase, located south-east of the city of Latakia in Hmeimima, and the naval facility located on the northern edge of the seaport of Tartus. No other country in the Middle East allows Russia to set up its military presence. Syria let Russia in out of necessity: Russia is the only significant power that supports the Assad regime both diplomatically and militarily. Obviously, Syria needs Russia.
On the other hand, the spread of Russian influence over the Middle East without Syria would become problematic. Without a military presence in the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, Russia would lose the status of superpower and its ability to counter the US policy.

For Russia, Syria is a good place to test their arms at work on the real battlefield. This, in turn, demonstrates to potential buyers of Russian military material how good Russian products are. Russia has a large, powerful military industry. Official statistics grossly underestimate its size, calculating it in US dollars. This distorts the picture: raw materials, labour, and maintenance in Russia cost a fraction of what it is for the US if compared with similar products and services.
Russia is the second (after US) world’s seller of military equipment. The use of their arms in Syria is a good demonstration of its quality, positively affecting its sales. By demonstrating its military power, Russia sends a strong intimidating message to all real or potential adversaries.
The military bases in Syria is an inexpensive Russian policy to show off the status of world power. Countries opposing the US influence may look at the Russian presence in the Middle East as a counterbalance to America.
For Russia, all of these come with significant risks. Hostility between Syria and Turkey can easily transform into serious military clashes. Should this happen, Russia and Iran would inevitably be involved: none of them can afford to lose Syria. They simply have no choice but to take part in the conflicts.
Turkey has even higher stakes in this game, and so far, it has shown no fear of Russia.

An important component of Russian strategy is the anticipated participation in  development of the Syrian economy after the end of the civil war. Restoration of the country’s infrastructure is a huge undertaking, and Russia hopes to be involved in most of it. Strengthening of Syria’s military and creating new branches of economy, such as manufacturing and high tech, is also on the cards, and Russia will be (or it hopes to be) a major player. There will be huge projects, lucrative contracts, and a lot of economic and political benefits both for Russia and for Syria. We do not discuss here how this development – if materialized – would affect Syria’s neighbours. For sure it would bring about a host of problems and conflicts with Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and perhaps some others. But this topic is beyond our discussion. Suffice it to say that peace in Syria, however temporary, is a must for the Russian strategy in the Middle East. If diplomacy fails to achieve this goal, winning the war would be the next option. And so it is for other interested parties.

Did Russia weigh pro and con of its global strategy? What if it gets involved in a war in the Mediterranean? What if a war starts against Russia at its western border? What if a war starts with China, Japan, or America? At this time all these scenarios seem highly unlikely, almost impossible. But history is a succession of improbable events, absurd motivating logic and wrong perceptions. Actually, we do not have to look too far back: WWI and WWII were started on the bases of mistrust, imperial fantasies of superpowers, miscalculations, and hostile (and, in retrospective rather stupid) ideologies. It is well concluded by George Friedman: “But national strategy must take into account implausible but catastrophic scenarios because common sense can evaporate rapidly.” (George Friedman, New US Strategy and Technology).

Particularly so it is in the Middle East, where common sense is a rarity. So, the question is, if it is the right time for Russia to take such risk? The war in the Middle East might not occur in isolation. There are other players looking for an opportunity to score accounts with Russia: China and Japan. There is NATO, which theoretically must side with Turkey, whether they want it or not. There is a factor of Russian weak economy and its unstable political regime (in spite of seemingly strong Putin’s hand and population support) that might tip the scale of a shaky geopolitical balance of power.
I think that Russian policy entails significant risk. The country is not ready for a large-scale confrontation with the whole world. Russia has no friends. There is no country that would side with Russia in case of a large-scale conflict. On the other hand, there are many who would side with Russia’s enemies. It is a risky game with existential dangers and hopes to rip benefits if it is won. But, as Warren Buffet said, “Hope is a very bad strategy”. The failure in this game could lead Russia to the confrontation with the whole world. Is Russia ready for it?


Non-fiction works by Alex Markman

Energy and the Future of Humanity

Putin, the Russian Elite, and the Future of Russia

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Not-so-distant Future of Humanity

This is an excerpt from the book “Energy and the Future of Humanity”. Will technological progress change the nature of human species? Will it affect geopolitics?

Chapter 14. Future of Humanity

What awaits humanity in the next hundred years? Although none of the contemporary generations would live that long, some of them will witness and recognize the new trends as they age. To understand social dynamics and its possible outcomes, it is not suffice to identify and predict the progress of technology. Of no less, or perhaps even of greater importance, are demographic trends. They all are interconnected, and the outcome of their interaction is a new trend, which is already traceable and could be extrapolated into the future.

Scholarly understanding of demographics, and its correlation with technology, have undergone considerable transformation in the last 150 years. However, judging by contemporary forecasts, it is still under influence of Malthusian theory, whose ground was laid out by Thomas Malthus (1766-1834). Its essence is the concept that population grows is faster than food supply. This inevitably brings into play the nature’s mechanisms of equilibrium: epidemics, wars, famine, and other possible ‘positive’ (as Malthus had put it) factors, which reduce the population to match the food supply.

In essence, this was not so much a theory as an observation of facts and trends, projected into the future. Indeed, up to twentieth century this was a mechanism, which regulated human population growth. In general, this is the way the nature balances population of any species in animal kingdom. However, in the twentieth century the pattern of demographics had changed, defying the nature’s mechanism, as shown in the table 18 below.

Table 24. World Population Growth

Year millions
1700 682
1750 791
1800 978
1850 1,262
1900 1,650
1950 2,561
1999 5,978
2008 6,707
2014 7,215

Population growth since 1950s was exponential. Progress in agricultural technology and medicine led to increased food production, which growth was as fast, or even faster, than the population growth. But, at the same time, other forces and trends came into play, which carry with them the gene of destruction.

This is not a sci-fi fantasy: in the following discussion this notion will be supported by statistics and logical relations between cause and effect.

In the previous history of humanity, the population growth, along with the improved food supply, was attributed to fertility rate. The more kids a family could afford to feed, the more kids they produced. The limit was only a woman’s fertility rate, which is the number of children born per woman during her childbearing years.

No knowledge of mathematics is required to understand that at least two children per family are required to replace the parents and maintain the same number of people in a society. In reality, a fraction more than 2 children is needed for the same purpose, as different ailments cause mortality among the new-born, illness affecting fertility of new generations, etc.

In the last 50-60 years statistics shows that two demographics trends have developed, which had no precedent in the previous history of humanity: diminishing fertility rate, which supposed to slow or stop the population growth, and actual fast population growth. This looks like a puzzle: these two trends should not co-exist with each other. But in reality they work together.

If looked through the lenses of Malthusian theory, humanity entered the era of paradox: the better off a country, the less is its population fertility rate. Another words, the more food and better quality of life a family could get, the less is a number of children they are willing to raise. The table 25 demonstrated this, showing statistics of born children per woman in the some populous countries (excluding India).

Table 25. Children born per woman in 2014

County Births per woman
US 2.01
Australia 1.77
Russia 1.61
China 1.55
Germany 1.43
Italy 1.42
Japan 1.4
South Korea 1.25
Hong Kong 1.17
Singapore 0.8

The average number for all Europe (West and East) and Russia is roughly 1.6. Slightly larger is this number in poor countries, but nonetheless their fertility rate is quickly diminishing. What was the cause? After all, living conditions now are much better than in any time in the past.

There are a few interrelated factors. The most important one is accelerated urbanization in almost all countries in the world. As a UN report stated, “The urban population of the world has grown rapidly since 1950, from 746 million to 3.9 billion in 2014.” This means that “In 1950, 70 percent of people worldwide lived in rural settlements and 30 percent in urban settlements. In 2014, 54 percent of the worldwide population is urban.”

With urbanization, the following factors came into play.

  • Living space in cities is expensive, and overall conditions are not conducive to large families
  • Growing children is expensive. Most people decide to improve their living conditions rather than have many children
  • In rural areas in the past, having big family made sense: kids took care of their parents when they get old and helpless. When kids were in their infancy and in adolescent years, they were a work force, which helped their families with agricultural activity. In the city this is no longer a consideration
  • More people get college and  higher education. Couples postpone the birth of their first child until after the education is completed, and often for a later date. The time span when a woman can get children shortens
  • People born in educated family tend to get college and higher education as well, this way joining the population with low fertility rate
  • Women have different psychological disposition in urban areas. Most of them chose not be a slave to their kids and family, but rather opt to have education, career, and better quality of life.

Urbanization is irreversible trend all over the globe. It goes in parallel with increased income per family, growing productivity in agriculture and, with it, low fertility rate.

Another factor is improved quality of life due to technological advances. Because of it, life expectancy is on the rise. Although new generations come with diminishing numbers due to lower fertility rate, older generation live longer, this way affecting population growth. This is the primary cause of population growth in the last few decades.

To understand the actual affect of diminishing fertility rate and aging population on demographics, let us consider a fictitious situation: a small country demographics, in which fertility rate is 1, which means one child per family.

For the sake of simplicity, I present an imaginary Happy Planet Republic. It starts its life with 16 couples, total 32 people, all aged 25. Their fertility rate is 1. Its generation structure is shown in Table. 26.

Table 26. Happy Planet Republic – start

Generation Age Number of people Total Comment
1 25 32 32 First generation

Its demographics will progress under the following assumptions:

  • A woman’s reproduction years are from 25 to 50, which is statistically true for a one-child family.
  • Life expectancy is 75 years. Although more people will be older than that, their number does not affect reproduction years, and therefore has no affect on how many people are born from the following generations. Therefore, in long term the outcome will be the same.


Twenty five years later, the second generation is born. The demographics of the Republic is presented in Table 27.

Table 27.  Happy Planet Republic – 25 years later

Generation Age Number Total Comment
1 26 32 16 couples
2 1 16 48 Population increased

The second row shows that 16 children were produced by 16 couples. The first generation consist of 32 people, the second generation of 16 people, altogether there were 48 people.

50 years later (25 years after the second generation was born) – the third generation was born (table 28). This change is shown in table 28.

Table 28. Happy Planet Republic – 50 years later

Generation Age Number Total Comment
1 51 32 First generation
2 26 16 8 couples
3 1 8 56 Further growth

In the table 28, there are 32 people 51 years old, who started the Happy Planet republic. There are 16 people of the second generation, and 8 people from the third generation. The Planet grew to 56 people. Then, the cumulative affect of low fertility rate and aging population takes place. After another 25 years, 75 years after the Planet has started, the 4th generation is born. The Planet population suddenly drops the first time, as shown in table 29.

Table 29. Happy Planet Republic – 75 years later.

Generation Age Number Total Comment
1 76 0 Starters – no one lives
2 51 16 8 couples
3 26 8 4 couples
4 1 4 28 Drop 50%

In the table 29, the first generation, older than 75 years of age, disappeared according to the assumption that the life expectancy is 75 years. After initial robust population growth in the Happy Planet Republic, there is a sudden drop of 50 percent in the number of living people. The planet is now populated only by the second generation, which is 16 people, third generation, which is 8 people, and the forth generation, which is 4 people, born by 4 couples (8 people) of the third generation.

After 25 more years elapse (100 years after the Planet had started), the second generation reaches 76 years, and therefore will no longer be living. The total population of the planet will be as shown in Table 30.

Table 30. Planet Population 100 later.

Generation Age Number Total Comment
2 76 0 Second generation
3 51 8 Third generation
4 26 4 Forth generation
5 1 2 14 Drop 50% from previous

As the Table 30 shows, the second generation is dead, therefore its number is zero.

The third generation is now 51 years old, and its number is 8. The fourth generation counts 4 people, and the fifth generation is only 2 people. The total living people on the Planet now is 14. There is a further 50 percent drop in the number of leaving people on the Happy Planet.

Another 25 years elapse, 125 years after the planet had started (Table 31).

Table 31. Planet 25 years later – 6th generation

Generation Age Number Total Comment
3 76 0 Third generation
4 51 4 Fourth generation
5 26 2 Fifth generation
6 1 1 7 Drop 50% from the previous

The third generation (Table 31) is now dead. Its number is zero. There are 4 people living from the fourth generation, two people from the fifth generation, and one from the sixth generation. Again, 50 percent drop in population number.

This is the end of Happy Planet Republic. Although 7 people are still alive, there is no further reproduction possible, and therefore no generation replacement. In fact, the end of population in this republic would come much sooner, because in order to maintain infrastructure of manufacturing, healthcare, law and order, and other industries and services, some minimum population is required. When one of economy component is reduced to zero, the whole society would plunge into chaos, which will enhance acceleration rate of mortality and degeneration of all society.

I would call such population dynamics as “gerontology fertility law.” After a short period of rapid growth, in each following period of 25 years the population of Happy Planet shrinks 50 percent.

Even more interesting is to consider the actual numbers of the countries, whose population growth is rather typical demonstration of the gerontology  fertility law. Japan is a good example, as the trend there is well established, and the first period of population meteoric growth has ended. Contemporary Japan’s fertility rate is 1.4. It is not the lowest in the region, but not the highest as well. Table 32 shows Japan’s demographics as of year 2014.

Table 32. Japan population 2014.

Age group Male female total
0-14 years 8,681,728 8,132,809 16,814,537
15-24 6,429,429 5,890,991 12,320,420
25-54 23,953,643 24,449,655 48,403,298
55-64 8,413,872 8,400,953 16,814,825
65 years and over 14,218,655 18,531,653 32,750,308
Total 127,103,388

In further discussion the assumption is the same as for the Happy Planet Republic: the average age of delivering a child is 25. Although in reality the number of births will be spread over the period from 25 to 50 years of age, the final number after the end of the period should be the same. For simplicity, the table 32 was re-arranged into the table 33.

The actual coefficient of growth for fertility 1.4 is applied to women only, which is roughly half of population. This is about 0.7, if applied to the whole population.

Table 33. Japan population by age group

Generation Age Number Total Comment
1 50-75 53,150,562 43% of population
2 25-50 41,726,981
3 0-25 29,134,957 124,012,500

25 years later, Japan population will change as shown in the table 34.

Table 34. Japan Population 25 years later

Generation Age Number Total Comment
1 75+ 0
2 50-75 41,726,981 46% of population
3 25-50 29,134,957
4 0-25 20,394,470 91,256,408

In another 25 year, 50 years from now, Japan population will be as in Table 35.

Table 35. Japan Population 50 years later

Generation Age Number Total Comment
2 75+ 0
3 50-75 29,134,957
4 25-50 20,394,470
5 0-25 14,276,129 63,805,556 Population shrinks 50%

Then, 75 years from now:

Table 36. Japan Population 75 years later

Generation Age Number Total Comment
3 75+ 0
4 50-75 20,394,470
5 25-50 14,276,129
6 0-25 9,993,290 44,663,889 Population shrunk to one third

Then, 100 from now:

Table 37. Japan Population 100 years later

Generation Age Number Total Comment
4 75+ 0
5 50-75 14,276,129
6 25-50 9,993,290
7 0-25 6,995,503  31,264,922 Population shrunk to 1/4

With the existing fertility rate, which likely remains the same or lower in the foreseeable future, in hundred years Japan will have just 25% of the contemporary population. In reality, population negative growth will accelerate, as fertility rate inevitably will reach 1.0 or lower, as it is now in some of Japan’s neighbours.

What will happen with the white population over the globe? The interest is not a simple curiosity. According to statistics, this race will be in the vanguard of those whose population grows conforms to gerontology fertility law.

Contemporary white population in the world is approximately 1 billion. Its fertility rate is approximately the same as in Japan, 1.4 per woman. The following numbers are a very rough approximation, but they are not meant to be the basis of an accurate forecast. Rather, they demonstrate the trend, and the final calculation does not differ much from the ones which use complex mathematical models.

Here is the dynamics of the white race demographics – Table 38:

Table 38. White Population in Year 2015

Generation Age Mln. Total mln.
1 50-75 460
2 26-50 322
3 0-25 218 1,000

Table 39. White Population 25 years later – Year 2040

Generation Age Mln. Total mln.
1 75+ 0
2 50-75 322
3 26-50 218
4 0-25 153 693

Table 40. White Population 50 years later – Year 2065

Generation Age Mln. Total mln.
2 75+ 0
3 50-75 218
4 26-50 153
5 0-25 107 478

Table 41. White Population 75 years later – Year 2090

Generation Age Mln. Total mln.
3 75+ 0
4 50-75 153
5 26-50 107
6 0-25 75 335

Table 42. White Population 100 years later – Year 2115

Generation Age Mln. Total mln.
4 75+ 0
5 26-50 107
5 26-50 75
6 0-25 53 235

The rest of the world will fair better, but not much. Urbanisation in all developing countries quickens its pace. Its current average fertility rate is just above 2. Therefore, the consequences for them will be similar to that of white race and Asian countries in Far East, such as Japan, China, Singapore, and others. The only difference is timing.


New trends in social life of affluent societies are precursors of the future upheavals. This has always been the case with new trends: whatever starts as a positive development, meant to improve quality of human life, turns out to be the cause of horrendous disaster. In the past, the primary goal of humanity was obtaining maximum food supply. But, as Ian Morris mentioned in his wonderful book “Why the West Rules-for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future”, when food supply grew, so did the human population of the society which achieved prosperity. In line with this grew the number of rats and mice feeding on waste, as well as viruses and bacteria, harmful to human health. Inevitably epidemics erupted, wiping out the majority of population.

Now, food production and supply is no longer a concern of an individual in the developed world. Its modern societies have enough technology and power to produce as much food as a society wants, and even more. Our medical science and its applications eliminated the risk of epidemics.

Our understanding of poverty and financial hardships has changed beyond imagination of previous generations, and more so in the eyes of really poor nations, who know better what struggle for survival and hardships mean. A very good explanation of contemporary “poverty” in the US is in the article “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About American’s Poor” by Robert Factor and Rachel Sheffield. (Sep. 13, 2014, in The Heritage Foundation).

According to the Census Bureau, a record of 46.2 million persons in America were poor in 2010. “In most years for the past two decades, the Census Bureau has declared that at least 35 million Americans lived in poverty.”  The numbers may make an impression that America is in the category of poorest countries in the world. The authors though did a thorough work in defining what it means to be poor in America. Below is the summary of living conditions of American’s poor.

  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • 92 percent of poor households have a microwave
  • Nearly three-fourths have cable or satellite TV
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as and Xbox or PlayStation
  • 43 percent have internet access
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV

Close to 90 percent of poor families reported that there was never a shortage of food, clothing and other bare necessities.

There are many other interesting facts and conclusions in this article. No need to mention them all: the point is, that the notion of “hardship” and “poverty” has changed to something completely different. If in the past they meant deprivation of food, clothing and minimal shelter, now the basis of poverty definition is a comparison of living condition of a particular income category with the wealthy.

How American poverty compares with other countries?

According to UN Census, the average space per person in 2009 in America was 829 square feet (77 square meters). In “poor” households it was 515 square feet (48 square meters) per person.

In Russia, the average space per person for all population is 237 square feet (22 square meters) per person. Russia was chosen for comparison because it is not exactly a third world country, but still not a developed country by any standard.

Statistics on living space of “poor” category in Russia is hard to obtain. But the above mentioned statistics is sufficient to illustrate the point. America’s “poor” person has 2.5 times more living space than the Russian average – not poor – person. We should assume therefore that an average Russian, by American standard, lives below the poverty line. However, the Russian population does not consider itself poor: a family of 4, having living space greater than 1000 square feet (93 square meters) considers itself fairly well-off.

In general, all conditions and concerns of survival, facing previous generations, are now removed from the daily life of modern affluent society. Care for children, care for elderly, even the care for an individual’s health now in greater part is the function and burden of society and its social services. So, the struggle of individuals for physical survival is over. There is no “survival of the fittest” rule: every one survives, the strong and the weak, clever and not so. Does it create a new notion of reality in new generations? If so, what are the trends? Here they are.

Adult children live with their parents.

Interesting facts about this phenomena are in the article of Jordan Weismann, In “State” – a blog about business economy: “Why Do So Many Millenians Live with Their Parents? Two Theories: Marriage and Debt”.

In 2014, according to the Census Bureau, 15% of 25-to-34 old Americans live with their parents. There is no shortage of attempts to explain this phenomena. The most popular among them are these: delayed marriage, rising student’s debts and unemployment. But there are adults who do not have a student debt, but still live with parents. The same author points out that “…living-at-home rates actually grew faster during the recession for young adults who never attended college than those who did.”

Consideration of economy is the easiest cause to point out. However, financial difficulties had been much more severe and widespread among previous generations. The root, therefore must be in mental disposition and social notions, which sets apart the contemporary society from the previous ones. It is a systemic interaction of economic and social factors, which creates new mentality in the affluent society.

The simple fact is that living with parents was not an option in the past, but an easy choice at present. In the article of February 26, 2014, American Enterprise Institute, Mark J. Perry gives the following statistics, confirming this statement:

  • Over the last 40 years , the average home has increased in size by more than 1000 square feet [100 sq. meters], from an average size of 1,660 square feet in 1973 to 2,679 square feet last year [2013].
  • Meanwhile, the average household size has been declining, from 3.01 persons per household on average in 1973 to a new record low of 2.54 persons per household last year.

The author concluded that “… the average amount of living space per person in a new home has almost doubled in just the last 40 years – that’s pretty amazing.”

The primary socio-economic reason why young adults live with parents therefore is affordability. Why struggle, if the living space is available for free? Why marry, to share expenses with a spouse, if good living conditions are available without an effort to obtain them?

In the literature of social studies the trends of growing consumption, be it living space, food or luxury items, is considered as positive trends in affluent societies. But statistics hides a harmful psychological impact of availability of necessities on all society. It won’t go away even if (and when), the living conditions worsen due to energy crisis or other possible events.

Single-occupancy household.

There is another interesting trend, well-presented in the Fortune article (Solo Nation: American Consumers Stay Single, by Eric Klinenberg): American nation quickly moves to a single occupant household.

In Jan. 2012, “Only 51% of adults today are married… and 28% of all households now consists of just one person – the highest level in U.S. history.”

Particularly strong this trend is in big cities in the developed world. Further in this article, “Today more than 40% of households have just one occupant in cities such as Atlanta, Washington, DC,…this rate is similar in London and Paris, and even higher – a staggering 60% – in Stockholm.”

The single household occupants is a category located on the other end of the spectrum, being opposite to those who live with their parents. They are employed, have a good income and live affluent, often intense social life. As the above mentioned article states, “Their average per capita annual expenditure was $34,471 in 2010, … compared with $23,179 per person in the highest-spending families with children.”

Is this trend good for society? One point is clear: it speeds up the trend of decreasing fertility rate, pushing it down to one or none per woman. It also changes psychology and mentality of society, but its other behavioural consequences are not obvious at the time of this writing.

Increasing number of the mentally ill

This trend is an obvious socio-economic phenomenon. The better are the living conditions, the more mental illness is widespread. For instance, according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (Facts and Statistics) “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of the U.S. population).”

If the current tempo persists, the mental illness will reach epidemic worse than plague of cholera. The difference is though that cholera disappears at some point even without medication, but mental illness is not. It is hard to treat, total recovery is hardly possible. It takes its debilitating toll on work force, health system, and a society as a whole.

Single Parenthood

In the U.S., unmarried births rate among blacks jumped from 20% to 72%. Among whites from 2% to 36%, and in all groups from 3% to 41%. (National Center for Health Statistics). Similar trends recorded in other developed countries, and, in lesser extend, in the countries of developing world. As most single-parents are mothers with low income, poverty and lack of care are obvious circumstances that affect psychological and physical development of a child. Academic achievements in school, as studies suggest, is lower, and obtaining collage and university education is a remote possibility. The study shows that income level affects academic performance stronger than single-parenting, but the fact is that majority of single parents are mothers (83% in the U.S.) with a low income, often far below the poverty line.

According to EducationNext (by Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, Greg J. Duncan and Ariel Kalil) schooling completed from two-parent family in 2008 is above 35 percent, whereas from a single-parent family is below 25 percent. Even greater difference is the rate of collage completion: close to 40 percent for a two-parent family and below 10 percent for a single-parent family.

Since the time of this report, situation got worse. The point is that increase in the number of a single-parent family means the growing number of people living in poverty. Poverty breed poverty, affects educational level of a child, and leads to ant-social behaviour of those who gets deprived from a proper family environment.

Interesting data is provided in The New York Times (by Sam Dillion, Oct. 8, 2009)

  • High school dropouts are 72 percent more likely to be unemployed as compared to high school graduates
  • Nearly 80 percent of individuals in prison do not have a high school diploma

Decreasing demand for low-skill workers and ever-increasing number of school dropouts leads to higher unemployment and incarceration rate. In the same above mentioned article “…the collective cost to the nation over the working life of each high school dropout at $292,000.”

According to Frontline publication “Among dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24, incarceration rates were a whopping 63 times higher than among college graduates.”

Plenty of statistics is available on harmful consequences of single parenthood on the future of a child. But single parenthood rise is just one of social trends, traced in modern societies. It develops in close relations with other problems, thus affecting each other in an intricate way. Other developed countries have a similar trend. It progresses in parallel with accelerated proliferation of automation, robotics, and increased efficiency of production and service. If the trend continues, the crises, which magnitude is hard to predict, will take place in 2030. It will be caused by hundreds of million people, whom nobody needs and who have no place in the normal civilian life.

Biological deterioration of human race.

Robert Martin presents in his very interesting and informative book “How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction” a summary of reproduction scientific studies around the globe. There are a few trends, which have clearly been identified.

  • There is a convincing evidence of declining human sperm count. There is a certain minimum, below which a human reproduction is not possible. But even the count above minimum must be high enough to ensure a healthy reproduction. The author stated that as a result of diminishing sperm count, “it has become increasingly difficult to find sperm donors who meet the criteria set by fertility clinics. Himov-Kochran and her colleagues concluded that this rapid deterioration of semen quality among fertile semen donors may shut down sperm donation programs.” This goes parallel with other trends, which further exacerbate biological health of humanity: “Even more alarmingly, decreasing sperm count seem to have been paralleled by increasingly frequent abnormalities of the male reproductive system, including cryptorchidism, penis malformation, and testicular cancer.”
  • Artificial insemination became another cause of human biological degradation. Martin quoted another source that “…more than 3.5 million babies had been born world wide between 1978 and 2008 using IVF and related methods of assisted reproduction.” The consequences were far from being a pleasant surprise. “Multiple births have occurred in about one in four pregnancies, compared with only one in almost a hundred births resulting from natural conceptions. Moreover, more IVF babies are born prematurely, and perinatal mortality is almost 2 percent, double that for controls. … In a large-scale study of more than 60,000 births in Ontariom Darine El-Chaar at the University of Ottawa found that the risk of birth defects for babies born through IVF was about 60 percent higher than for those born after natural conception.”
  • A new trend was recorder in the US: a steep increase in the death rate of middle-aged Americans. According to Washington Post article of Nov. 3, 2015, it hits mostly white men and women ages 45-54 with less than a college education. As the author Joel Achenback put it, “An increase in the mortality rate for any large group in an advanced nation has been virtually unheard of in recent decades, with the exception of Russian men after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

In the same article, Jonathan Skinner, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, sais: “High school graduates and high school dropouts are 40 percent of the population…… It’s not just the 10 percent who didn’t finish high school. It’s a much bigger group.” The scientists explain that “…economic insecurity, the decay of communities and the breakdown of families probably have had some impact on death and illness rates, in addition to the nation’s opioid epidemic…”

This phenomena is exclusively due to psychological and social factors, and has nothing to do with physical illnesses, such as cancer, HIV, etc. I would call it a psychological side affect of the trends in affluent societies. There is ever increasing mental load on population, which has diminishing capacity to withstand it. Since the very childhood people live with the idea that money is the primary measure of success in life. But as with any talent, it is obviously not for everyone. There are other values of a human being, such as moral, or other talents, which seldom bring financial success, but they are largely neglected by most.

The farther we are from the roots of community and social structures, developed since the dawn of humanity, the more we prone to mental illness and, as a consequence, to physical decay.

This is not the full list of trends and their associated impacts on humanity. But statistics demonstrates without a trace of doubt that enormous forces of degradation march in parallel with technological and social progress.

All above-mentioned trends raise theoretical questions: are they inseparable companions of technological and social progress, or it is something in our power to stop or reverse these trends for betterment of advanced societies? If not, what their affect on a society could be in the distant future?

In this respect it is demonstrative to recall experiments of John Calhoun, who studied affect of different conditions on behaviour of social animals. The most famous one was conducted in 1968. Calhoun set up a “Utopian universe” for mice – a limited space where food, drink and other necessities were provided. There were no predators, no conceivable dangers for life. The experiment started with just 4 pairs of mice.

The population doubled every 55 days. It reached maximum 600 mice. As stated in Wikipedia, “This period between day 315 and day 600 saw a breakdown in social structure and in normal social behavior.” The changes were drastic and profound: aggression, absence of interest in breeding, and others.  Reproduction stopped completely. Homosexuality and violence, in spite of food abundance, were rampant. The mice population moved rapidly to its extinction. On the 1780 day of experiment the last member of this community died. The mice paradise ceased to exist.

In this experiment the limit of space was just a temporary factor. The more mice population died, the more space became available for the living. However, the behavior of society, once changed, had never reversed back to the “normal” mouse pattern. As Wikipedia put it, “…behavior patterns were permanently changed.”

We can easily detect similar trends in the contemporary affluent societies. They all lead to one outcome: shrinking population.

Aftermath of shrinking population

The first consequence of shrinking population is easy to deduce: collapse of construction industry. There will be plenty of space from the previous generations, which will cost virtually nothing. The only expense will be maintenance. The world will live, the first time in human history, with huge oversupply of the living space, available for everyone.

Small cities will be abandoned, as few or any jobs will be available or needed. It would be expensive, and actually not economical, to demolish them, and they will be exposed to natural decay. There are already cities and villages like these in Russia, Italy, and some other countries.

In the suburbs, the first buildings to be abandoned will be the tallest ones. As soon as tenants start leaving them, the maintenance cost will spread among diminishing occupancy, which will force the remaining tenants to leave faster. As living space won’t be a problem in big cities, the process will accelerate.

Collapse of construction industry will bring about many other far-reaching consequences. Industries supporting construction will collapse as well. Production of construction materials, construction machinery, communication, research and development, and related services will shrink accordingly. As population will be diminishing, the need for furniture and household items will also shrink to the level close to the maintenance of the existing items, or to the needs of their replacement.

As the productivity and living standard will be high, there will be no incentive to conduct research and development, or further increase productivity.

Apparently, fewer young people will be interested in obtaining college or higher education, as career won’t give much advantage over those who are not on the same education level.

There will be more people who do not work, than in any previous period of the human history. This will be not only because the scarcity of jobs. The main reason will be that people will not want to work. This is actually an obvious contemporary trend in the developed world. According to Time magazine, “Nearly 40% of people in the United States aged 16 to 24 say that they don’t want a job, accounting for a sizable portion of the 92 million Americans who are currently outside the labour force..” The number is 36.8 million! Just compare this mood to China, where any job is considered a great luck!

In all likelihood, because a widespread mental illness and lack of economic stimulus for work, the work force will shrink to the level insufficient to maintain the living standard achieved by previous generations.

With such great proportion of mentally ill and unemployed people it is reasonable to suggest that violent crimes will proliferate. With it, law enforcement industry will grow accordingly.

The socio-economic statistics reflects the overall trend of the human race: it is getting older as a biological organism. This aging has nothing to do with an average age of humans at any particular moment. This aging relates to humanity as a nature species, which has gone through its young years, maturity, and is about to enter the stage of decay. It will direct its mind towards further improving its living conditions, whereby accelerating its own degeneration. At this time it is impossible to predict all debilitating changes awaiting humanity. But for sure they will come: the more natural threats of survival we remove from our lives, the more unpredictable consequences we will have to deal with.

Our civilization has removed from its existence its main condition: survival of the fittest. Now we, as a society, are responsible for wellbeing of everyone, including those who have no ability, or no will or no desire to work hard to survive. This became a fertile ground for the seeds of degeneration and decay.

International Affairs in the Shrinking World

Since the dawn of humanity, acquisition of new territories was an important incentive for countries whose economy and military power gathered strength. It meant additional natural resources, exploitation of indigenous population, and wealth for the conqueror. In the not-so-distant future, it will no linger be an incentive. With shrinking population more territory will become vacant and of no use.

For almost every country, solar, wind and other sources of energy will be sufficient for providing energy needs. Conquering other territories and societies will become an obsolete idea from the economic point of view. The disputed territories – a painful issue in the contemporary relations among some countries – will cease to be the potential cause of military confrontation.

International economy dependencies, which began in the era of ‘Globalisation’, will expand even more. Even now, any disruption in moving goods and services in the contemporary international life could bring about serous hardships in affected countries.

However, there will always be countries like Russia, whose strive for acquisition of territories has nothing to do with the consideration of economy or wealth. It is just their way to ensure their dominance, to establish themselves as a great nation, without achieving prosperity and social progress to prove it. Russia is just an example: most likely this nation, for different reasons, will deteriorate even faster than the rest of the world.

Such countries will try to establish their dominance disregarding expediency and reasons of economical prosperity. The military potential of these countries will be significant. Should we expect a strong will of more peaceful countries to resist an assault?

Considering psychological decay of the most advanced nations, it is highly unlikely.

The will of the Western World to fight back and defend its value was weakening after WWI. A strong pacifistic mood spread over Western societies. Because of it, Western European countries made one concession after another to Hitler’s demands, until the disaster, even greater than WWI, had struck: WWII.

After WWII, the pacifist ideas spread over developed world in the form of ‘Peace Movement’. Its dominant thought was an unconditional surrender to communist assault in order to prevent nuclear holocaust. At that time the world already knew too well what communists would do if they come to power: mass terror and suppression of freedom, to name a few.

At present, a serious war against the developed world seems too remote a possibility. Its war technology arsenal is too big a deterrent to anyone. It ensures the long lasting peace for Western civilization. The longer the time of peace, the weaker the will of population and politicians to resist and fight will get. This is the low of nature: if something is not used, it will succumb to decay and atrophy.

To buy this book.


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Book Review: The Victim, by Eric Matheny

410GJ4wTGbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This review was first published on Blogcritics.

 A true work of literature is distinct from a purely entertaining piece of writing by its counterpoints. Usually, it is a combination of fine prose, suspense, philosophical thought and moral dilemmas, exacerbated by tough choices. Sometimes they leave no space for an acceptable compromise. All of these must be narrated as a highly entertaining story, which is the essence of contemporary novel. Eric Matheny’s, The Victim, has it all.

It is quite rare to find such a book in a humongous pile of publications produced by an independent press. With hundreds of thousands of new titles flooding the market every year, it is a prodigious task to discover the worthy ones. Luckily, I came across The Victim, by Eric Matheny. Its plot engrossed me with its dynamics and the vivid liveliness of the novel’s characters, all of them controversial at best. But this is what real life is about: deep inside, none of us is a pure angel or devil, perhaps with a few rare exceptions. And more so when we are confronted with a legal system.

While reading the book, I soon realized that it was written by a lawyer, with a deep theoretical knowledge of and profound practical experience in all legal matters, including investigation, court proceedings, penitentiary rules, and other activities. It shows in colorful description of court battles, discussions in lawyers’ offices, and actions outside the frame of the legal system. At times I caught myself thinking that I was reading a novel by John Grisham or Mike Connelly. Indeed, when I finished reading, I found a short author’s biography, confirming my guess at his profession.

As with most crime fiction, this novel begins with crime. It was not a premeditated crime, committed for selfish purpose. Rather, it was an impulse of moment reaction from the protagonist – Anton – to eliminate evidence of a tragic accident that he caused. He was young then, with a promising career in the years to come. It seemed to him then that all possible traces of the crime had been thoroughly wiped out. As often happens in reality, the case was closed due to a lack of evidence of foul play. Accidents happen. The only problem for Anton was his own conscience.

Years passed by. He became a lawyer, with a good family life – though not without problems – and successful career, which was gathering speed. But the feeling of guilt, which haunted him since the accident, morphed into a terrible moral dilemma when he knew that not all traces of his crime had disappeared. Defending his clients became practically impossible. The solution to moral dilemma was admission of the crime. The consequence of this was obvious: ruined career, years in prison, ruined life. Defending himself was a possibility but…

The novel is saturated with court drama, intense emotions, and a clash of interests and personalities. Characters in the novel live their own life, with peculiarities of their behavior, manners, and speech. For example, this is how one of his clients, a hardened criminal named Quincy, speaks in prison: “That lying’ ass, bitch-ass, punk-ass cracker! I done to my people git me a paid lawyer and this bitch says I should hung myself? …. No way, ain’t no cracker-ass lawyer gonna cook my goose.”

I found this novel a highly entertaining reading. I give it 4 stars.



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A Cop and a New Immigrant without English

This is a true story. A new immigrant got a job of truck driver. His English vocabulary was limited to ‘yes’ and ‘no’. How he managed to get from Toronto to California is anybody’s guess. Not far from San Fransisco a policeman stopped his truck. That’s how the driver negotiated with the policeman.

“Your documents,” the policeman said sternly.  The driver took his papers from the glove compartment and handed them over.

“Where are you going?” the policeman asked.

“From Toronto,” the driver answered with a thick accent. This exhausted his English vocabulary.

“I am asking where,” the policeman insisted.

“From Toronto,” repeated driver. And then clarified: “Little English.”

“Oh, I see,” the policeman said politely. “What language do you speak?”

“From Toronto,” said the driver. “Little English.”

“Dam it,” grunted the policeman. “Do you understand at least something?”

The driver nodded in agreement.

“Yes,” he said. “From Toronto. Little English.”

“German?” asked the policeman. “French? Italian? We have policemen that speak some.”

The driver understood at last.

“Russian,” he declared.

“Nobody here speaks Russian,” said the disappointed policeman. “Some Spanish?”

“Spanish?” repeated the driver and the sparkle of joy lit his eyes. “Oh, yes, Spanish. Yes, yes.”

The policeman said something in fluent Spanish, expecting a lively conversation. He looked like Mexican: not tall, with distinctive features of Spaniard. His hopes died as soon as the driver opened his mouth. All of a sudden he began to sing.

“Bessa me,” he was singing. “Bessa me moo-oo-cho.” Here his Spanish was exhausted as well, but not enthusiasm.

“Lala, lalala, lalala, lalala, lala-a-a,” he continued to sing the well-known tune. A broad smile appeared on the dull face of the policeman.

“Bessa me,” started the driver the next round. “Bes-sa me moo-oo-cho.”

“OK,” gave up the policeman. “Enough.” But the driver was not able to stop.

“Lala, lalala, lalala, lalala, lala,” he continued.

“Would you bloody stop?” suggested the policeman with a note of irritation. In response the driver set off to another cycle.

“Bessa me, Bessa me moocho,” he kept on singing. The policeman stretched his hand to the driver, returning the documents.

“Go to hell, bessa me moocho” he said, unable to suppress a smile. The driver started the engine and went off, his song muffled by the roaring engine.



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Book Review: ‘Fat Chance’ – Wonderful Humor by R.J. Leahy

This article was first published in Blogcritics


Humor in literature has always been a precious rarity: just a handful of writers excelled in this field. Nowadays, when a massive commercial promotion of mediocrity is funded by big publishers, discovering a really good read in this category is less realistic than inheriting a big fortune from poor relatives. Fat chance, some would say. But I found one! Coincidentally, the novel’s title is Fat Chance, by R.J. Leahy.

A fabulous piece of literature, written by a true man of letters, it is saturated with laugh, wits, mystery, and weird personalities. Actually, upon some consideration, his characters may seem not that weird: we all meet them everyday, but fail to register their idiosyncrasy in our minds, not to mention that we miss to notice our own.

The story amuses you from the start. McDermott, a private investigator, sees a big woman running past the dinner window. “She laughed as she ran, trotting around the parking lot like some great flamingo with a glandular problem.” That’s how he introduces a female persona, who later becomes the object of his investigation. Her name is Patty Chance; she weighs about two-hundred and fifty pounds; everyone knows her as Fat Chance.

McDermott, having a few grey spots in his biography, took an offer to beat out of New York and drive a Mercedes to California. Quite unexpectedly his car stopped dead at a gas station in a tiny rural settlement in New Mexico.

A mechanic, with a tag “Jim” on his overall, examines the Mercedes. When McDermott calls him out “Jim”, as the tag indicated, the mechanic says that he is not Jim: the overall that he wears is not his. As he does not introduce himself otherwise, McDermott calls him “Not-Jim”, and mentions him later this way.

Not-Jim reciprocates. After he finds out that McDermott is a private investigator but has never solved a murder case, Not-Jim introduces him to everyone as a detective who has never solved a murder case.

Not-Jim found out that the fuel injector of the Mercedes must be replaced. To bring it from the nearest dealer should take about two-three days. That’s what holds McDermott up in this tiny town, where he got involved in investigation, local politics and personal intrigues of people around him.

For every personality that comes his way McDermott gives unforgettable description. In the hotel where he stayed, a fifteen year old local Indian maid appears in the story this way: “With the race to adulthood, her ass lapped her and was now waiting for the rest of her body to catch up.”

Being a New Yorker, McDermott discovers that the rural people have their own wits and wisdom, worth to discover. For instance, Casual, who takes care of him in the hotel, responds to his remarks with her own: “Honey, only good girls keep a diary. Bad girls – they ain’t got the time.”

Local sheriff takes from McDermott the key from the Mercedes and orders him to remain in town until the case of Fatty Chance disappearance is solved. The legal reason is that McDermott is a witness of something related to the case. The true reason though is different: the sheriff has no experience in serious investigation, as in his town nothing serious happens. He wants McDermott to help him with the detective work. Sheriff, having lots of free time, is also a real estate agent: he is not very busy with this either, as in this small place it is hard to find buyers or sellers.

It turns out that people in a small town are no less sophisticated than those who live in megalopolis. However, in a small place it is hard to hide whatever we consider private and confidential. Greed and lust possess many souls; absurd belief in cosmic aliens is not a rarity either. When this is exposed in a small community, the whole ordeal becomes hilarious.

Surely McDermott cannot miss the local bar. There, he gets acquainted with the barman, who later somehow takes part in the story. Here is his first impression of the guy: “His head was narrow and long, with angles in all wrong places, like he’d entered this word not through the womb, but a keyhole.”

The author’s pondering of approaching the middle age is both philosophical and melancholic. Charming as it is, it ends up on a humorous note: “The only signal we have that middle age is approaching is an irresistible urge to buy a sports car. Women get menopause. Men get a mustang.”

As a big-city guy, McDermott now finds its previous hectic life not as attractive as it had seemed before. His description of the sulky New York morning makes me laugh: “The transition from the gray haze of night to the gray haze of day is too subtle, even for the undead.” Don’t we all know this half-existence of the undead when we rush to 9 to 5 job?

Whenever McDermott encounters people who are not to his liking, he finds in them the most prominent and absurdly funny features. Here is what he says about the face of the local Indian chief: “I’d seen sun-damaged skin before but this one was ridiculous. I’ve thrown away better-looking shoes.”

No need to say more about the author’s sense of humor. It is up to the reader to discover and enjoy it – you can’t miss it, it is on almost every page, if not in every paragraph. Leahy is a master of slang, dialogs, and description of scenery. Add to this an intriguing mystery plot and suspense, and you’ll get the idea what this novel is for those who understand and appreciate humor and good literature. I give it five stars, as there are no more in the system.



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Donald Trump vs. Bob Rae

This article was first published in Blogcritics under the title Alternatives to Donald Trump’s Xenophobic Approach to Radical Islam Are Sadly Lacking

DonaldTrump-AWhy have terrorist acts become such shocking news items, and even one of the central topics of, political speeches? There were just sixteen people killed and twenty-one wounded, but according to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2015 in America the number of deaths caused by firearms violence was 13,049, and the number of injured reached 26,350. Perhaps the problem is exaggerated?

But we cannot wipe from our memory a long history of international terrorism—the recent shooting in San Bernardino, the 9/11 tragedy, and the fact that since 2001 the FBI has responded to and prevented twenty-five thousand terrorist attacks. Terror changed the way we live and think. No public mode of transportation is safe: the same is true for any public place or public gathering. For the media, I think what is much more surprising should have been a relatively small number of deaths from terror during these years, but a small number is never taken as great news. All of a sudden it is.

Then, Donald Trump calls for banning Muslim immigration and even the entry of Muslims into the United States. Although Donald Trump does not intend to kill anybody, his declaration blew the minds of many politicians in all ideological spectrums to no lesser extent than the terror act itself. They all used vocabulary expressing outrage and indignation to demonstrate their allegiance to the basic principles of civility and governance. The almost unanimous consensus among them is that Donald Trump is dead wrong and not even qualified to run for president. As a result, the rating of Donald Trump rose to new heights.

It is a paradox, of course, and it needs to be explained by an objective mBobRae-Aind, but none happen to be around. On the contrary, emotionally and ideologically charged articles and speeches are plentiful. I found the most typical representation of popular views in the article Terror, Trump and Canada’s future, written by Bob Rae, the former NDP leader,  (The Globe and Mail, December 15, 2015). The core idea of it is that segregating a group on the basis of their religious or national (or similar) identity is wrong in principle and contradicts all the moral norms of Western civilization. There is no doubt that he is right. But…

There is no single word in his article suggesting security measures that would ensure the safety of the country’s people. What happened? Is there no danger from Muslim immigration, or there is another reason not to discuss it? Or it is just a taboo to discuss it? There shouldn’t be; after all, we are a democratic world first, and a politically correct one second.

If you asked Bob Rae this question in a small gathering, he would say—as all like-minded speakers would, I guess—that there are merely individual radicals among a mass of peaceful Muslims who have run away from war zones to safety and in search of a better life. We all have heard this argument from the left and the right, from Obama to Hollande to Merkel. But none of them—none, I repeat—support this statement with statistics. Peaceful, that’s it.

Actually, Barack Obama, the president of the United States, in one of his speeches gave us a hint how many peaceful Muslims are out there. He claimed that 99.9 percent of Muslims are peaceful. Another words, 0.1 percent of Muslims are violent terrorists. I made a simple calculation. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Therefore, there are 1,600,000 violent terrorists out there. Impressive. It seems that Mr. President had not thought long before he said that.

If a meaningful number of peaceful Muslims is not available, then perhaps there are other pieces of evidence that can give us a clue? For instance, to prove the point, peaceful followers of Islam could stage massive—as there are so many of them—demonstrations against acts of terror committed by people of their faith. There are thousands of imams around the globe who could condemn radical interpretations of Islam and the atrocities committed for its sake. Nothing of that sort has taken place.

We may hear our politicians argue that many Muslims are poorly educated and therefore not politically active. To understand the value of this argument it is sufficient to recall how the whole Muslim world erupted when a small newspaper published a few cartoons. All of a sudden it became the cause of violence, outrage, and terror in all—all!—Muslim countries and communities. There were hundreds of thousands of people participating in violent protests and crimes. There were deaths, destruction, and hate speeches. “Death to Charlie Hebdo” was the most popular slogan. Does Bob Rae know it? Of course he does.

It is quite obvious that politicians like Bob Rae do not connect two factors that are closely related: humanity toward Muslim victims of ethnic and sectarian wars, and the hostility of Islam, radical or not, toward Western civilization. The number of Muslims hostile to the West is staggering. This is demonstrated by polls conducted in the counties and also by open declarations of hatred from their political and spiritual leaders. There is also no proof that Muslims in the Western world assimilate well and accommodate the values of a country that offered them refuge. For good measure, each act of terror makes the assimilation of Muslim communities more difficult, thereby exacerbating the problem. Does Bob Rae know it? Yes, he does. He writes: “From Pakistan west to northern Nigeria, the forces of hate and extremism have captured many hearts and minds and intimidated and bullied many more.”

There’s no doubt that people with such antithetical convictions cannot coexist with even the most egalitarian society unless they abandon the original principles of their religion. So, what is Rae’s solution? Here it is: “Let us continue to reinforce the values and institutions, at home and abroad, that ensure we live in safety and freedom.” So touching.

Bob Rae is not concerned so much with security as Donald Trump’s popularity, which he explains as “a blaze of brutal self-promotion.” He completely ignores the fact that Donald Trump’s rating rose because he suggested a solution—whether it is right or wrong is open for debate. But no one else did that. But people are weary of political correctness, which prevents honest discussion and a businesslike approach.

Bob Rae says, in his quest for rightness: “Mr. Trump’s ideas are not simply ‘outrageous,’ or ‘ridiculous,’ or ‘unacceptable.’ He is a purveyor of hate, racism, and deep prejudice. This goes beyond ignorance…”

There is no need to list all the epithets. It is supposed to show that Bob Rae is not ignorant and that he has sufficient knowledge and moral stature to say so. But judging by his article, this is a big question. For instance, he uses a battered rhetoric to compare Trump’s ideas with events of the 1930s, obviously alluding to the Nazi ascent to power in Germany.

This is an interesting phenomenon of modern political speak. As soon as someone expresses ideas more radical than allowed by political correctness, they are quickly labelled Hitler and Nazis, in the hopes that the label alone is convincing enough. But in our time, the only regimes whose ideology resembles the spirit of the 1930s are in Muslim countries, most notably in Iran. I will repeat just its very well-known rhetoric: first, exterminate all Jews, and then fight other infidels until the total victory of Islam. Actually, the ayatollahs went further than Hitler. Hitler intended to exterminate only Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals, but let others live, albeit subservient to Germans. He did not care about religion and beliefs. Muslim radicals went much further.

Does Bob Rae know it? He surely does, but he saved the comparison with the Nazis just for Donald Trump. For Bob Rae and a similar breed of politicians, Donald Trump, who does not intend to kill anybody, is much worse than those who intend to kill most of humanity!

I write this not because I intend to defend Donald Trump or share his views. My point is that there are so many politicians who, in their delusion of ultimate rightness, become so ignorant and dishonest that they become a greater danger to society than radical politicians. To illustrate the point, I’d like to get back to the history of 1930s, as Bob Rae did, but compare the contemporary situation not with what happened inside Germany, but rather outside it. At that time, the Western world was obsessed with pacifism and leftist ideology. Almost all politicians—except for half a dozen like Churchill—had been doing things beyond admissible to give Hitler what he wanted in the belief that yielding to his demands would pacify him and prevent war. Churchill was desperate in his appeal to political common sense and in his attempts to convince European governments that Hitler could and should be stopped, that Versailles treaty had to be adhered to. To no avail. Only when the war started did the pacifistic madness end in blood and the power came to sober politicians like Churchill.

The war turned out to be a tragedy for Germany in no lesser extent than for all the other European countries. The scale of destruction and losses inflicted by the victorious countries is beyond comprehension. There are still debates about if such atrocity was justified. Rightly so. But there is no difference of opinion about the actions of the left-wing politicians and pacifists: it was their delusion and good intentions that brought us to the most destructive war in history. But Bob Rae did not mention it. He resorted to a totally false comparison—it is obvious that no mass killing, genocide, or preparation for technological extermination of humans of any faith are in the mind of Donald Trump, regardless how “brutal” his self-promotion is. Does Bob Rae know it? I assure you, he does. Why then does he ignore reality and adopt his no less “brutal” self-promotion? Because his devotion to ideology and political correctness makes reality irrelevant. Facts simply do not exist if they do not “reinforce” his values.

There is another very interesting phenomenon of our time: Muslims do not participate in this discussion, neither do they react to Donald Trump’s proposal. It seems that even the most Muslim-friendly politicians do not consider them partners in the solution of the Islamic threat. But without Muslim leaders and Muslim communities’ participation, no solution will be effective. Perhaps they are not interested in the discussion? Surprisingly, our politicians are willing to talk for them, but they are not interested in talking with them. This tells us something about their wisdom and ability to solve important problems.

Doubtless, the Western world’s politicians face a severe dilemma—segregating a group of people on the basis of their faith is morally wrong, whether they are Muslim or not. Donald Trump, it seems, stepped over the boundary of this principle. I expect his critics to say that Donald Trump was wrong because there is either no danger in mass Muslim immigration to the United States, or because there is a solution, and here it is. But they know too well that the danger is there, and they don’t know the solution. But we all need a solution, whether we are Muslims or not. If no one offers it, then Donald Trump will remain the only one who does.

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