Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Monday, 13 October 2008
Tuesday, 14 October 2008 00:00

Me and my dreams

Some people have nightmares. Some terrible thing is happening to them, but then just as it is about to reach culmination they wake up screaming, heart pounding, gasping for breath. Others report dreaming that they are falling and just before they hit the ground they wake up. I seldom have nightmares, but when I do they go all the way or I escape.

When I was small I often dreamt that I was running as fast as I could to avoid being grabbed by some evil man chasing me. I could fly, but just couldn’t get off the ground to escape until the very last moment when I would finally manage to soar upward beyond the grasp of my pursuer. Or I would be falling at great speed toward the ground, but instead of waking up I would feel the jolt of my body hitting the ground and gaze on my crumpled body before calmly waking up.

Once I dreamt I was lying in a skid row hotel. Outside the neon sign was casting an orange glow through the window. Suddenly I was aware that someone had entered my room and was approaching the bed. He had a dagger in his hand and I felt its point against the skin of my chest and then heard the dull grating sound it made as it cut through my flesh. I slowly faded into unconsciousness as my life force seeped out through the wound. Yet another time I was accosted by a man with a gun who shot me in the chest and I saw myself fall to the ground and die. But in each of these two dreams, that wasn’t the end of the dream. My soul rose from the bodies and I went in pursuit of my assailants, but I woke up before anything else happened.

Once in my dream I was outside walking when I looked up and saw an atomic bomb floating down hanging from a parachute. Don’t ask me how I knew it was a nuclear device. I suppose in dreams we are endowed with special insights. Just before the device exploded I remember thinking that I was about to die and so according to popular belief I should be seeing a montage of all I have done in my life. But before this happened, the bomb went off, there was a bright light followed by shades of red, purple, yellow and green more beautiful than anything I had ever experienced before or since. I knew I was dead, but found myself on the sidewalk outside a big department store and there in every window was the enactment of some capital sin like a series of temptations. Before I could be tempted I woke up. Was God protecting me from temptation?

For me going to sleep is like entering a land of make believe. I dream a lot, but seldom remember the details when I wake up. Sometimes in my dreams I am disabled like in real life, but often I am not. Sometimes bad things happen, sometimes I do great things, but most of the time I am just enjoying life together with my friends. When I lie down to sleep, I look forward to the dream world I am about to enter and I’m seldom disappointed.

I just looked up interpreting dreams on the internet and it came up in .19 seconds with a listing of 233,000 files. I was informed that my dreams might be indications of deep inner problems or secrets; they might be my inner self crying out for help or God trying to communicate with me. There were persons urging me to write down in detail everything I remember of my dreams as soon as I wake up so that I can sit down later and interpret what they mean. I have tried and failed many times to keep a diary; there is no way I would ever persevere in keeping any log of my dreams. Besides, I feel no urge to know what they mean. If my life was going array or I was experiencing problems I could not handle, dream interpretation would probably be a good tool for exploration. But at least for the present I am content to leave the interpretation to others.

Sweet dreams, everyone.
Photo: C.Phiv
Tuesday, 14 October 2008 00:00

Hooray and alas for the national debt

The national debt is the money that a federal government owes its citizens or other nations because it had to borrow money to cover deficits. No country is born with a clean slate. The United States, for instance, came into existence owing $75,463,476.52 it had borrowed to finance the Revolutionary War. Every President wants to reduce the debt. The only one who ever wiped out the debt completely was Andrew Jackson in 1835 but it was soon back in the millions. Wars cost more than is raised by regular revenue; disasters, droughts, floods, storms, humanitarian assistance often exceed budgeted estimates. At the present time the national debt of the United States is over 9.8 trillion dollars. That of Taiwan is over 13 trillion N.T. dollars.

Every government needs income to cover its expenditures. So long as there is a balanced budget or, even better, more income than expenditure, the nation prospers. If, however, the expenditures are higher than income, then the nation in order to keep prospering has to borrow. The next year, not only must it meet all its ordinary obligations, it has to begin paying back the loan, so unless it increases its income to meet its increased financial needs, it falls further into debt.

Should there be a series of very good prosperous years, the nation might even wipe out its debt, but in time the debt slowly accumulates. Every natural calamity, every war, every crop failure or epidemic adds to the debt and diminishes the ability to pay it back. As old loans come due, new loans must be made to pay the old ones off.

In these modern times, there is no country that does not have a large national debt. The borrowing of rich developed countries keeps them strong and prosperous and they are able to pay the debts as they come due. Not so the poor undeveloped countries of the Third World: their debts are driving them to ruin.

When these Third World countries gained their independence, they were not only faced with the task of repairing all the damages caused by their rebellions, they inherited all the debts that had been accumulated by their former colonial governments. This meant that too much of the funds needed for building up their infrastructures, alleviating poverty, providing jobs, healthcare and education had to be diverted to paying their debts, slowing economic recovery. There are other problems: most of the citizens are too poor to pay much income tax and many of the rich escape paying most of their taxes through loopholes; a large amount of money earmarked for development and relief ends up in private pockets through corruption; too much of the revenue from mines and oil wells and farms and ranches ends up in the pockets of the rich and international corporations; there are all too often droughts and epidemics and other natural catastrophes that stifle development. No wonder the poor Third World countries are finding it more and more difficult to diminish the debts which threaten to bankrupt them.

If it were possible to completely put an end to all graft and corruption and all the officials in the public sectors were competent and resourceful with sufficient local economies, many Third World countries now falling behind would once again have hope of survival. If all international creditors were to declare a five year interest moritorium with no extra interest charged on outstanding loans, many countries could begin to pay back their debts and dramatically increase domestic development. If all the foreign debts of Third World countries were written off by international agreement, the poorest nations would at once have a reprieve and should they manage to curtain local graft and corruption would have at last a real chance to rebuild themselves.

The rich countries are the ones to whom the poor Third World Countries owe their foreign debts. It is also the rich countries who are the ones responsible, at least indirectly, for why the loans had to be made and for why the poor countries find it so hard to pay them back. They did this over the years by taking advantage of superior firepower to occupy and rule, imposing unequal treaties, unfair sharing of profits, keeping the natives in a state of poverty and dependence, and only developing those parts of the infrastructure that were useful for their enterprises. Therefore it would seem that the rich nations in the name of compassion and justice should somehow intervene to remove or reduce the debts owed them in order to allow them to get back on their feet.

Who owns the national debt? When the government needs to borrow money it sells Treasury Bonds, Saving Bonds and other certificates. It is a form of investment for the lenders, because they eventually get their money back with interest. It is one kind of a safe investment, because the government is not likely to go bankrupt. So long as people go on investing, the lender can be pretty sure of getting his/her money back.

Who are the lenders? In the United States, for instance, 22% of the debt is owed to foreign countries and institutions; 58% is owed to individuals and local financial institutions like investment funds, insurance companies, pension funds, etc; the rest the government owes itself, because it also borrows from its special funds like the Social Security Fund.

This is when it hits me: I as all American citizens am one of the owners of the national debt: that is, some of the money the government borrowed was from my bank or from the social security fund, insurance companies, retirement funds, monetary institutions in which I have an invested interest. I remember when I was in grammar school during World War Two, we were urged to save our nickels and dimes and buy Defense Bonds. Each class was in competition to see who would buy the most. What we were doing with each bond we bought was adding $25 to the national debt.

Being able to incur a national debt is a good thing, because if the government could not borrow, the government could not fight its wars or provide all its services. Without borrowing, the government would have to raise our taxes to the breaking point. So long as the country can go on paying what it owes every year and can borrow what it needs, the country remains strong. But it is essential that every effort should be made to balance the budget and reduce the amount owed to reduce the amount of interest charged and lighten the tax load. Given the size of the present debt, it does not seem possible to wipe it out any time soon in the foreseeable future, though with good fiscal management and periods of peace and prosperity without natural disasters it can be substantially reduced.


Photo: C.P.

Monday, 13 October 2008 18:53




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