GOLD

Peninsula Osa is not only the most biologically intense place on Earth, but also has wide-spread deposits of gold, platinum and other minerals – the product of volcanic actions millions of years ago.

During 2 years of dire poverty I survived by panning gold in our stream. I paddled upriver and traded the gold for supplies. It was damn hard work – standing in the cold water, digging down to bedrock, washing pans of material all day for a few grams. Occasionally, I’d find a nugget that allowed for a few luxuries.

There had been many gold mining operations on the Peninsula, but the government – in the interests of environmental protection – stopped issuing large-scale mining concessions. Still, there are many small-time miners working the streams with pans and shovels.

I saw a 16 pound nugget one time. Many years ago a gringo owned a mining operation across the Boca from me, on Isla Violin. One day, the front-end loader kicked out a little rock of gold. The worker jumped off the machine, rolled the rock into the bushes and went back to work. Later that night he snuck out of the dormitory, retrieved the gold rock and paddled away. He sold the nugget and had enough money to buy a lot and build a house and auto-repair business.

While panning and working our own stream, I ran into a vein of platinum. According to an assay done by the Ministerio de Minas, the concentration was .9 grams of platinum for every kg of material! But that’s a different story . . . .

Advertisements

Mental/emotional Illness

I read something about Donald Trump’s statement regarding US veterans with PTSD. He implied they hadn’t been strong enough to handle the grim, manly realities of warfare.

This brought to mind my own severe case of PTSD, and I offer this little story as an answer to both Donald and Hillary. (It’s a very personal story, but as a hermit in the rainforest I enjoy a bit of anonymity.)

I spent 13 months in Vietnam. I wasn’t part of a combat unit, but a few times I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially during Tet Offensive in 1968. I came away from that experience with nightmare images and a bad drug habit.

But the nature of my trauma is based on what happened after Vietnam. I had another year to go in the army, and the army in its great wisdom and glory assigned me to the Honor Guard at Fort Sheridan, Ill.

We wore beautiful uniforms – white ascots at our throats, white cotton gloves and shiny, patent-leather boots. The weapons we carried were also beautiful – old M1s, with all metal parts chrome-plated, and a walnut stock.

It was our job to act as pallbearers and honor guard for the men and women killed in Vietnam. We carried the flag-draped caskets, blew the bugle and fired the 21-gun salute.

The most hated moment of every ceremony, at least for us, was handing over the American flag to the mother, or father, or brother, or sister, or son, or daughter. We held a lottery before each funeral, and the loser was charged with this unpleasant task.

I lost the lottery a few times. I stood next to the casket, a soldier alone, holding the American flag in my hands, surrounded by grieving Loved Ones. I heard and saw their anguish and rage, and I knew some of it was directed at me. And I shared it. I had seen the war, and the utter devastating meaninglessness of it. But I could never say this out loud, much less to mothers and fathers. My grieving was deep and private. In fact, this presentation by the Honor Guard was supposed to lend meaning to the death of their child and friend – even a sense of “heroism.”

I approached the mother, said my little piece about “a grateful and sympathetic nation” and handed over the flag. Most mothers hugged the flag to their chests and screamed.

Those of us on the Honor Guard absorbed these powerful and passionate feelings. I had my heart broken so many times it’ll never get put back together again. Even now, forty-seven years later, tears roll down my cheeks as I pound on this fucking keyboard.

It’s important to remember that each death caused by our military means that 50 or a 100 people go into a state of grief and anger. Think of all the funerals. Most Americans have no idea what their government is doing in their name.

DOOM!

I’m a “Doomer.”

For the past few months I did research for a book I co-authored with a colleague at Arizona State. We read about economic conditions, social stratification, racism, sexism, neo-liberalism, consumerism, education, religion, war, nuclear weapons and climate change.

These are not joyful topics to dive into, but necessary to a fairly coherent awareness of social, political and environmental realities on Planet Earth. I came away from this experience with great sadness and anger.

During a recent trip to the US, these sentiments escaped naturally in conversations with friends and relatives. I learned quickly that no one wanted to hear it. I was called a “Doomer” by three different people.

The identity of “Doomer” is socially defined, but now that I’m a hermit again in the jungle, surrounded by plants and animals, I’m back to being Mike Loco – not necessarily doomed, but not saved either.

SNAKE TALE

We had a big rain storm last night. I changed the 5″ rain gauge once and it was filled again this morning — over 10″ of rain in less than 12 hours! Fortunately, we have the biggest drainage in the world right out in front. But the storm knocked out my Pelton system and I had to shut off the fridge, the freezer and lights. At 6 this morning I went up the mountain to investigate and discovered the rushing stream had completely covered the intake box with sand, rocks, leaves and branches.

I cleared away the debris and got the water flowing again. As I turned to go back home, I saw a huge boa constrictor passing on the trail only 3 feet in front of me. It was at least 9 feet long and 6 or 7″ thick — a beautiful animal. Although it surely saw me, it paid me no mind.

As the tail passed by me I reached out and stroked it. The snake reacted immediately — the whole body tensed, the head whipped around and rose up.

Whoa! I backed off . . . .

Syria

During a recent trip to the United States, I encountered friends who defended US intervention in Syria as “humanitarian.” Bashar Assad is a terrible dictator, they said, and he very badly mistreated some segments of his population. Therefore, according to this vocabulary of motives, US president Barack Obama has every right to demand that Mr. Assad “must go.”

These “humanitarian motives” are highly suspect. In the first place, the government lies. In the second place, the US has not only supported terrible dictators over the years, but also installed several terrible dictators.
The examples are many; Shah of Iran, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, several “regime changes” in Vietnam, and even Saddam Hussein, who was good buddies with the US for several years and received arms, cash and chemical weapons. The CIA coup against Allende in Guatemala in 1951 overturned a popularly elected government with a military junta, and for the next 30 years Guatemala was ruled by a succession of military dictatorships – by most estimates, killing over 100,000 people, many of them Mayan Indians.

The Shah of Iran ruled for over 20 years, helped by his deadly secret police SAVAK, which tormented, tortured and murdered all political opposition. Pinochet in Chile not only repressed and tortured his own population, but initiated the multi-country secret terrorist organization “Operation Condor” that murdered or “disappeared” an estimated 60,000 people.

These were terrible dictatorships, and all were supported by the US. It’s possible that Bashar Assad is also a terrible dictator. But that’s not his real crime. His real crime is that he’s an independent dictator – beyond the influence and power of the United States of America. And this is intolerable.

THE DANGEROUS BOOK BUSINESS

As a retired person I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life reading and writing. The last two years I was co-author of a non-fiction book which required lots of research and reading. The book will be published next month and we hope it’ll be used in a few universities.

While doing research for this book I was obliged to read other books and articles in a range of topics – education, consumerism, religion, climate change, war and neo-liberalism. I kept track of significant facts and ideas and filled my head with a smorgasbord of political and social science, along with chemistry, physics and climate science.

All this information spun together and coalesced into a hard nut of horror and panic. However, in writing for academia I had to be fairly restrained and sober. Also, I had to appear “objective” – that is, emotionally and politically neutral.

In this blog site, however, I can scream all I want!

What I scream is this: Millions of years of evolution, with humans and all life forms passing through various stages of development, all the ancient learning, arts and sciences, all the monuments to ourselves and the gods, all the achievements in innovation and invention, all the wars, all the love, hate, laughter and tears . . . now teeter on the edge of extinction.

This jerks my head around and turns my heart cold.