Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ground Squirrel Calls

Richardson's ground squirrels have 4 distinctive chirps. This is their interpretation.

Normal chatter: when talking amongst themselves the tone and cadence sounds like animal talking. Aperiodic communication, uneven tone. They are not alerted to your presence.

Oh shit!: If they let out a half-chirp and the no more sound as they dive into the hole you startled it and it crashed for cover. The local squirrels are aware of you.

Stranger Danger!: If they take cover near hole face and freeze, then they let out a periodic squeak about every 3 seconds. That means they think they are in hidden and are warning other burrows of danger. This is the perfect situation to fix them and shoot. If you can approach from concealment it's a straight shot.

Hey You!: If they are standing or squatting on back legs and emit a squeak - squeak in rapid progression they are calling to other squirrels to find them. They are not alerted to danger but they will detect any noise or movement.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Violence in pursuit of purpose

My throat-clearing yesterday, Buddhism and violence, was meant as a precursor to my next exploration:

Violence in pursuit of purpose.

Violence to some is abhorrent. I agree.

Violence to some serves no purpose.  To those I state, you do not understand.

All the universe for all time as we understand it is in a constant state of flux, by flux I mean energy and matter in transition. I won't describe this further but I instruct the reader to consider what any observer would see under Transport Theorem, how electromagnetic forces vary under Maxwell's equations, and of course the grandfather of all differential equations, the Helmholtz equations. If none of these awe you, then simply consider through Higgs waves (gravity) matter from across the universe is incessantly pulling on your every scrap of matter, from every direction, and will continue to pull on your remains once you cease to be whole.

There is no time nor space that is free from appearance or disappearance of matter. In fact, if you consider Lawrence Krauss' book

in fact matter can in deed appear from nothing. We can no more avoid transition than we can avoid death.

Buddhists do not fear death, if they understand, because to not accept death would be to not accept the aforementioned fact that matter and energy continues to flux without end. Even the universe, and everything in it, is posited to cease to exist at some eventual infinite moment we can only guess at. I won't mimic predictions here, because physics is incomplete at least because we can't explain dark matter. Not knowing what 70% of the universe's mass is makes any universal demise prediction as laughable as stating CO2 controls climate warming despite the fact that the trillion ton Sun, the solar energy forcing function, is discounted.

The second factor I would draw to your attention is the quest to know if mankind has free will. The great philosopher Immanuel Kant implored philosophers to work on three transcendental problems; the face of god, transcendental morality, and freewill of mankind in his Critique of Pure Reason. He also explained a lot about how other skeptics were practising more dogma than exposing it.

It's been almost 250 years since most philosophers ignored Kant, and soon with the help of MRI, CAT scans, and other natural philosophy (science) products we might soon explain the basis of that last problem faster than the entire field of philosophy could in 236 years of effort.

As Wittgenstein described, philosophers are expert at self-confusion. I digress.

Buddhists also do not hide nor deny the reality of death; any human that eats food is an accomplice to the death of other living things whether knowingly or not. No one escapes culpability. If you choose not to kill yourself upon learning this truth, then you choose of your own free will to accept your role in the death of other living things. Instead, Buddhists accept that sacrifice is necessary that we collectively may continue and serve a higher purpose. Death is not chosen, purpose is.

One cannot know right now if man has free will for certain. Let us make the case going forward with both possibilities.

To combine the two above factors:

If a man has free will he can choose to act, in some cases decide to act violently - to cause death to another living thing.

If a man does not have free will, he does not choose to act violently, but acts violently nonetheless. It appears in civil society that people do not randomly kill frequently enough, on the scale of billions, that this is not the predominant case.

All living things will die, to choose not to kill is to forestall their death until some future point in space-time.  In general, we choose not to act violently. That seems an odd way to describe it, but the fact that violence does not occur to us to be necessary is exactly the same as consciously deciding to act. I would submit that we subconsciously decide to not act - it doesn't occur to act -  more times than we consciously consider acting. But what accounts for an equivalence of the two ( choosing to not act (conscious) versus not choosing (unconscious) to act)? Logically, are they the same?

When one chooses to act violently, and one has free will, it is based on the reason that ceasing another's life at that moment serves a purpose. One has become aware of circumstances that make action purposeful. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are, it doesn't matter what the excuses are, nor the reasons. Conditions have changed that make violence important or necessary.  Necessary to whom? Necessary for what? Given above, are these even important?

To choose to end life is to purposefully change the condition of matter, now, in this moment, for a purpose. It cannot be otherwise as I have laid out. It could, in the case of non-free will violence, but as stated earlier that there are very few cases humans do that despite a multitude of compelling reasons one might ( greed, chemicals, boredom, apathy, pleasure, emotion, etc.). We decide to not act in almost all possible cases because ACTING SERVES NO COMPELLING PURPOSE.

To act is to become directly involved in the state of flux of the universe, to take possession of the course of events for another living thing. Humans are moral enough and purposeful enough to know how rare those conditions are.  But that also underlines why violence is important when those unique conditions exist.

Even the cognitive dissonance people would feel about intervening, to act to defend, to act to attack, to act to hunt, to act to kill, are all conscious awareness events that an imperative purpose has arisen. This is not just instinct, it is not just reason. It is the unmasking of a purpose for violence.

That doesn't mean violence can't be for evil purposes. That doesn't mean violence can't be self-serving. It means that - from a holistic mindful perspective - it alone exists outside the means and the ends.

I am urged to remind you that inside Buddhism one can find nihilism - anarchy - and chaos if one chooses to interpret all I have said strictly on these facts alone. Even Machiavelli might find these ideas acceptable.

But the teachings of the Buddha more than any other implore all to remember that the state of all beings is suffering and finding ways to become more enlightened is the ultimate goal, not possession and not passion. All those evil nihilistic aims have a purpose which is roughly outside the scope. If you are killing for sport, for territory, for gain, you are not Buddhist in the slightest, you are not enlightened in the least.

On the other hand, killing to prevent murder, killing to reduce global unhappiness or increase global happiness, killing to prevent evil committing atrocities, to defend the defenceless, these can all be interpreted within the eightfold path.

For example, Samma-Kammanta  (integral action) means acting with integrity. "Right action" if you learn it in the West. Acting according to understanding, acting along the beliefs of Buddhism includes respect for all living things. What is more respectful than acting to prevent harm to others?

Samma-Sati (complete awareness ) can make you aware of impending suffering or evil about to be committed against the defenceless. 

In fact, most of these are easier to interpret these paths in Buddhism as complimentary in a capitalist society than Samma-Ajiva ( right livelihood ). Right livelihood expressly forbids exploitation and yet exploiting some advantage is the essence of commerce. To my mind, you are a more noble Buddhist wielding a sword than peddling a cart. But that is not my role to judge others, perhaps those same businessmen also conduct charity.

To act violently with purpose in the eightfold path it must conform to the following:

1. It must not be personal, it must not involve anger or other emotions arising from a familiarity of the target. That would be a crime of passion. The reason you are acting is because you are nearest to the danger or able to respond.

2. It must not be profitable, the loss of one is a loss to society and must always be the least worst option outweighed by the sanctity or survival of other life. If you need to shoot at something to prove your mettle or show your worth, hunt humans THAT SHOOT BACK. They are far more dangerous than any predator.  Pick up a rifle and join a civil war. Fight for something and risk dying for purpose. We will all join you shortly.

3. It must not be glorified. There is no trophy, no recognition because that is fulfilment of lusting and passions are never for the greater good. I don't shoot trophy animals. I don't revel nor parade what I do for anyone on earth.

4. It must not be without purpose. There must be an obvious, immediate purpose that waiting, stalling, negotiating, bribing, or any other mollifying action cannot solve.

5. It must not be indiscriminate. To act without focus is itself committing evil.

6. It must be impending. To act now means there is no other choice.

7. It must be completed swiftly. One mustn’t increase suffering of the target by not completing the act.  I shoot vermin that risk my friend's horses.  If those vermin are hurt and I can reach them I smash their heads in without the slightest hesitation. Last week I hit one through the neck and he was wounded writhing on the ground. Often they run into the hole to die, but this was a case for a coup de grace. If you can't imagine smashing your target's head in to end suffering, then don't begin violence in the first place. I sleep fine because I am at peace with my purpose but I'm not proud of it either.

Violence is always abhorrent, it is always the lowest of human effort and it tarnishes more than it burnishes. There is nothing great in violence. No one violent is great because of it.

But to not act violently when the cost is great is to invite more suffering and tragedy onto an already suffering mankind.

Violence with an enlightened purpose can coexist with the eightfold path.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Buddhism and violence

Despite all the yoga mats, meditation, and facile introduction of Westerners to Buddhism, many misunderstand the global tenets of Buddhism. They assume that it is outside the norm when compared to other religions. The biggest misunderstanding is that Buddhists would never use violence.

Here is a Thai example of Buddhists advocating violence in defence of attacks by global muslim jihad.

This next passage explains the eigthfold path:

The path is a process to help you remove or move beyond the conditioned responses that obscure your true nature. In this sense the Path is ultimately about unlearning rather than learning - another paradox. We learn so we can unlearn and uncover. The Buddha called his teaching a Raft. To cross a turbulent river we may need to build a raft. When built, we single-mindedly and with great energy make our way across. Once across we don't need to cart the raft around with us. In other words don't cling to anything including the teachings. However, make sure you use them before you let them go. It's no use knowing everything about the raft and not getting on. The teachings are tools not dogma. The teachings are Upaya, which means skillful means or expedient method. It is fingers pointing at the moon - don't confuse the finger for the moon.

Remember that Buddhism like any religion is occupied by humans, ones that don't understand, others that inject their personal interpretation into it, ones that fall accustomed to luxuries that the Buddha himself would blush at. Any religion drifts and repurposes reality as needed. I wrote earlier dispelling the existence of Buddhism itself.

Recall that while the Dalai Lama possesses nothing and lives nowhere, his monk minders gather $400 per person per event to upkeep his personal well being despite that. Does this fully agree with what Buddha had in mind? While I am not here to judge another's personal interpretation, I hasten to point out there are many interpretations on many issues. 

The Buddhists you should least trust in interpretation are the dogmatic ones telling you a Buddhist can't do that. The ones that don't listen to the original meaning are just as guilty of hubris as christians or muslims.

The hang up word is "right" - right speech, right action, right livelihood...

Right in the dogmatic West is not the whole meaning.

"Right action" in the West means always do good, or never do wrong. But define what is wrong and right in a holistic Buddhist perspective? Good doesn't mean follow the law - even christians disobey the ten commandments and national law at will.  Are you certain that covers all action within a Buddhist mindset? The problem is that the original (eightfold) path guides you to decide what is best to discover (uncover) your true nature and contribute to well-being. You reach nirvana when you've shed everything else, when you attain perfection through the removal of imperfections. How you arrive was meant as a personal journey, not a church-directed one. Buddhism is not a lazy man's religion where your lot is measured for you and your role is obedience.

Thich Quang Duc killed himself in the 1960's protesting.

Does this look like a nonviolent act? This monk determined the greater good, the global happiness, was better served by his action for the benefit of others than to live in silence and contemplation as the world he knew burned.

Like anything else there is a tension between two competing goals. Global happiness and personal attainment can mean many things. If one's purpose requires violence to attain nirvanna then that is not excluded by 
Samma-Ajiva ( right livelihood )
Samma-Vayama (full effort )
Samma-Sati (complete awareness )
Samma-Kammanta  (integral action)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ground squirrel hunting

Richardson ground squirrels have infested the farmland around my home. They arrived from the East and now run roads and cause tripping hazards with hidden mounds anywhere that can hobble horses and humans alike.  Health care costs paying for surgeons would justify a culling season.

My friend has a farm and stables horses. He appreciates any help saving his horses. I use my soldier skills to help. Swords into ploughshares protecting livestock.

To hunt vermin efficiently one needs to understand them. I looked online and researched as best I could but since these are inglorious animals there's minimal information. I have hunted these animals for 3 years doing badly with trial & error. I've finally learned enough and killed enough to warrant documentation.

These animals have unique characteristics. Richardson ground squirrels are not blind or have poor vision so that you can sneak up and shoot them with shotguns at close range. People do get lucky but if you are trying to eradicate a region you need to get all of them not a few. They have bi-chromatic vision so unlike gophers they can see farther and can distinguish moving predators in colour. You will stand out through noise and motion. They will be alerted if you walk anywhere near their territory.

I will share with you my secret camouflage. In order to confuse them dress lower half camo earth colours. Dress top half sky in blue or grey. You seem half as tall so far away as a moving threat. This confuses them if they spot you.

Richardson’s are hard to see on the backdrop of brown burrows. Most times you will hear chirping to localize their direction rather than sighting. Once you hear them, you stalk and wait nearing the burrows. Position yourself with safe background and a good shot into the hole. Sometimes you need to approach from different paths to get a key firing arc.

Any sign of danger they rush back to burrow holes. Any alerted will evacuate 200m from the alerted zone. I strike a burrow then move downrange to attack unsuspecting mounds farther on then come back from various approaches once they resume normal behaviour.

They play in sunshine but even when distracted they are really fast movers so combined with watching your background there will be few slew to skew tracking shots safely. They run hugging the ground and they leap into holes.

If you miss the shot they might stand still or leap for the hole. The key behaviour factor is if they are in their safe zone or in the open.  When away from cover the primary instinct is flee. When near the burrow their first instinct is freeze. They will flee to the hole if they are caught in the open. Once they are near safety zone they will freeze and hug ground before scrambling for cover.

Richardson’s chirp or squeak to alert surrounding burrows. Approach downwind and be patient. Once alerted they submerge. If they are startled they chirp distinctly then run for cover. Once hidden, burrow members avoid exposure and signal others until the danger passes. They have very limited long term memory.

After about 5 minutes they will emerge to investigate. First, eyes up. Second, face up. Third, neck up. They sneak a look and then they will overcrawl the mound hole. These are the best conditions for safe shots.

The best case to shoot them is once they are alerted but at the hole face. They feel safer at the hole.

When they are in safe zone they will freeze assuming you can't see them. They freeze to avoid alerting you and many times I've missed these low bodies hiding in plain sight. Stumbling over hidden holes where brown blurs ran I've missed many concealed targets.

Do Richardsons cry out when injured? Depends. If you hit vital organs, I've never hit headshots, they will death chirp but still run into the ground. I can't tell how many I've hit because I can't be certain for all the times they escaped to die underground. I count popup heads after 10 minutes to confirm effects.

Most hits they will be silent as they run for cover or leap into the hole. They will make your hunting challenging. Using a 5.6×15mmR / .22 LongRifle against at most a 30 cm target is tough shooting compared to a 7.62mmX63mm versus a 3m long elk.

Audie Murphy learned to feed his poor Texas family shooting varmints. He went on to become the most decorated veteran after learning to shoot the hardest targets.