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Lojah in Celtic-Folk-Punk

I was covered in Celtic-Folk-Punk at blogspot recently.

Lojah is a Native American-Irish folksinger from Pensacola, Florida. He describes his eclectic sound as Creolized Roots Music, influenced by Caribbean rhythms, Celtic melodies, and Southern American blues. His music is immersed in social realism, and arcane insight woven together with tongue-in-cheek witticism and a festive vibe. He is currently performing acoustic sets along the Gulf Coast.

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Pub Songs on Palafox” is a four song, lo-fi, EP recorded in the raw as a live-air production that captures the energy and sound of a Lojah solo performance as executed while busking downtown in competition with the various sounds of a bustling city street.

 Lojah begins with a rowdy Irish pub tune, “Dicey Reilly“, about a lush of a woman who spends her life crawling from pub to pub; a sailor’s favorite. “The Black Velvet Band” is another classic Irish ballad about infatuation, deceit and injustice which takes us out of the pub and away from the Emerald Isle to a penal colony in Australia. Following up is “Looks Like Jesus“, a rockabilly-blues styled piece and a Lojah original that tells the story illustrating the conflict between despair and ambition, shroud with esoteric imagery, set in the Southern atmosphere he calls home. “Miss Constance” concludes the record, a naughty Caribbean-styled tune about the perils of younger women.

Released 21 June 2013

Jay Moody (Lojah) – guitar, vocals
Recorded at Jinks Music Universe, Pensacola, FL


Sumble: The Origin of Toasting

Toasting is a peculiar custom in Western society.  Nearly everyone who has a drink makes toasts, but few realize that they are taking part in an ancient custom with roots in the old pre-Christian religions of Northern and Western Europe: the Sumble.

The Sumble is an ancient communion rite that was historically practiced by Germanic and Celtic peoples.  This rite is portrayed in the epic poem Beowulf and other sources of Germanic and Nordic folklore.  Sumble is closely related to the English tradition of Wassailing, popular especially as part of the Yuletide.

The majority of those whom actively participate in Sumble today are religious Heathens, practitioners of the old Germanic and Celtic religions.  They base their rite directly off of the 11th and 12th century Nordic customs as recorded in their respective texts.  In its most basic elements it consists of a gathering into a drinking hall, or a circle, a blessing or consecration is recited over the drink, a libation, and a sharing of the sacrament by the participants from the same vessel.

       

The sacrament is usually ale or mead, and historically it was served with toast.  This is where the term toast originates, as in drinking a toast.  A series of rounds of toasting take place.  In rites in which the Sumble is the central or sole focus there are typically a minimum of three rounds.  In traditional Heathenry it is standard for the first round to be dedicated to gods, the second round is dedicated to heroes and the third round is dedicated to ancestors.

The leader of the ceremony typically makes the first toast to a patron deity, takes a drink from his drinking horn.  Then, the next person in order makes his toast.  This continues in order until all have had a chance to toast.  Then that round is ended and the second round begins.  After the third round the rite may come to an end or it may continue.

If the Sumble continues any number of themes may be proposed.  Common themes are boasts in which the participants are allowed a chance to tell a tale of their own great successes.  Oaths may be sworn, goals may be professed, and gifts may be exchanged.  Open rounds may also be called in which anything of value may be offered to the community: stories, songs, poems, or prayers.  This may continue to a specified number of rounds, until the sacrament is completely consumed or until the participants have nothing more to contribute.

Read Next: The Tavern: Bedrock of Western Civilization


JJ Smith, the Balladeer

I naturally met JJ Smith at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola a couple years back.  Kilted in the tartan of the Lamont clan, JJ runs a show that is not just a folk music performance but a bit comedic shtick as well.  His crowd-interactions make for some of the evening’s high points.

JJ’s style stands out from the majority of the singers I’ve met on the Irish pub tour in several ways.  To begin with, his personalized renditions of the classics reveal significant blues, and American country music influences, which bring the Celtic style home to the American South.  Live, JJ makes use of a lot of bass runs on his guitar which often helps to add a subtlety and a sense of motion outside of the songs’ basic chord structures.

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JJ hails from Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, Scotland, but has resided in St. Petersburg, Florida for the past several years.  While in the States, he has steadily toured the southeast and managed to produce two album releases: Druid Roots Going Home, and his solo album JJ The Balladeer.  They’re both great and very distinct from each other.

         

Druid Roots was a trio JJ was a part of, a rather eclectic mix of folksy styles.  The album projects a heavy Celtic theme with very noticeable elements of East-Indian drumming, country-western music, and a hint of rock and roll.   My favorite track is Stonehaven Waltz, a traditional sounding Celtic ballad, but the whole album is worth the listen.

The Balladeer contains 15 tracks of excellently produced Celtic ballads.  JJ’s resounding baritone voice coupled with the full and sometimes booming open strings of his guitar create layers of richness within each song.  The songs are mostly mellow, somewhat nostalgic pieces.  The highlights include Galway Shawl (my personal favorite); a cover of the classic U2 hit I Still Haven’t Found what I’m looking For; and Whiskey on a Sunday.


Ishmael, An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit: Book Review

Quinn, Daniel (1992) Ishmael, An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, New York: Bantam/Turner Books

Daniel Quinn’s award winning novel Ishmael is a compelling exposition of the author’s social and political perspective through the eyes of a gorilla.  The essential theme upon which the book is written is one that lays the blame of all our modern political and environmental perils squarely on the shoulders of the Neolithic agricultural revolution. The author’s reasoning is that agriculture is the beginning of human exploitation of the earth, other species and cultures.  Quinn further asserts that the world’s modern industrial agricultural society is unsustainable and destined to disaster. With these two premises established Quinn’s argument next follows that if the human race and the earth are to survive for much longer, industrial society will have to transform itself into a less exploitative culture. Ishmael­ has inspired an entire cult following of neotribalists desirous of bringing Quinn’s vision of a post-industrial society established on low impact kin based communities to life.

From its very first page Ishmael swiftly moves forward with a sense of purpose and profundity. As the story opens Quinn describes the unnamed narrator’s disgust at reading an ad in the personals section of the newspaper: “TEACHER seeks student. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” The narrator expresses his sense of disillusionment at this presumptuous author whom he figures is just another charlatan marketing a worn out fashion statement as a social and spiritual revolution. This opening acts as a hook that catches the reader by the sensation of a social revolutionary disillusioned from the experiences of one flaccid effort after another, never truly offering or accomplishing anything substantially alternative to the status quo. Although skeptical of this self-appointed guru, our unnamed narrator still decides to investigate the charlatan he’s sure he’ll meet.  Surprisingly, the guru is not a man at all, but a gorilla named Ishmael capable of deep philosophical thought and communication. The lesson he seeks to impart is an accounting of the collision course upon which he sees the human race and that which he believes is the remedy for it.

The blurring of reality and absurdity is implicit in the author’s narrative bringing to life the remarkably believable character of Ishmael. The author’s deep use of metaphor begins at the title of the book and the gorilla’s name.  Ishmael stands as a representative, a spokesman of sorts for the natural order of the earth, flora and fauna.  While the gorilla had lived in a menagerie he began to became self aware and learned to recognize a certain sound as referring to him; Goliath.  The name is strongly indicative of the manner in which gorillas, great apes, wild animals and the natural world is typically viewed by modern humans; a degraded, threatening, crude philistine to be conquered by our heroic civilization. But when Mr. Sokolow upon encountering the animal announces to him “You are not Goliath,” he is making a profound statement about his rejecting the greater society’s perception of the world.  This statement is further expounded by the name which Mr. Sokolow instead chooses to bestow upon him. Transformed from the image of the hulk which tormented the Israelites Goliath is renamed Ishmael; the disinherited son of Abraham who through no fault of his own was cast out from the Israelite race, deemed as little more than “a wild ass of a man.”

        

Ishmael explains that all of the modern nations of the world whether England, Russia or China are descendants of these exploitative agriculturalists whom he designates Takers. Takers are acting out a myth that places them at the top of creation as the owners of the earth.  A different myth is being acted out by the few societies who exist in distant tribes and bands still living similarly to the pre-agricultural Mesolithic hunters and gatherers whom he designates Leavers.  Leavers do not see themselves as the masters of the earth, but as part of it. A society is always governed by a mythic theme and the difference between these two myths could not be more different.  The reason Ishmael says that all our social and political revolutions have failed to stop our eventual demise is because they have all failed to reject the Taker myth and simultaneously embrace the Leaver myth.

Ishmael explains that Nazi Germany was the inevitable result of the Taker’s myth being acted out and that this myth is still being acted out through the entire civilized world’s perception of, and behavior toward the natural environment. With the gorilla as instructor we are taught that the human race broke away from a sort of mystical interspecies ecological brotherhood, setting their selves and the world on a collision course to destruction by setting themselves up as gods who know the difference between good and evil, with the power to decide who should live and who should die.  Ishmael, the gorilla even uses the Genesis creation story as an example of a misinterpreted and incorrectly practiced narrative that has served to misalign the human race with the earth. The biblical fall in the garden, according to our gorilla mentor is really a story by which our pre-agricultural pastoralist contemporaries illustrated this severing from the natural order.  Once humans settled down and cultivated enough food to support a growing population they became warlike and expansive.

While generally well thought out and reasonable in his approach, there are several points in Ishmael’s interpretation of events that must be questioned.  He characterizes the farmers as the culture that victimizes the herding people’s and extinguishes all the other species, including the predators in their environment while completely exonerating herders for the destruction they also cause in the world.  Many forests have also been destroyed in order to create pasture land to feed the herds.  And there is after all a reason western folklore has always depicted the wolf as the antagonist of the shepherd.  Aside from this and a few other bits of artistic license taken by the author, Ishmael is a engaging book that stimulates deep reflection on our relationship with the earth now and throughout history.  To describe the course of our eventual demise Ishmael uses the image of a primitive, non-aerodynamic plane on its test flight plummeting toward the earth while the pilot looks down at the ground rushing up at him and says “well, it’s gotten me this far, no sense abandoning it now.”

Though classified as a novel, the majority of Ishmael takes the form of a dialogue between the unnamed narrator and the gorilla guru.  The message Ishmael hopes to impart to the world is that the human race’s only hope in continuing to survive lies in rejecting the myth of the Takers and embracing the myth of the Leavers.  The novel ends on somber tone, but one that imparts a motivating hopefulness and a sense of urgency.  Ishmael is an excellent book which should be read by everyone looking for real alternatives to the modern political and ecological turmoil engulfing the world.  We’re an inventive species.  It’s time to invent.


Gene Simmons, Profile of a Rockin’ Capitalist

Gene Simmons is best known as the fire-breathing, blood spitting demonic bass player of the record breaking rock and roll band KISS.  With multiple millions of fans the world over and across no less than three generations, Gene Simmons and KISS have experienced success that far surpasses that of the majority of eccentric musical acts that sprung up throughout the 1970s. Though many rock and rollers have come and gone in the years that KISS has rocked the earth, Gene Simmons is richer and more popular now than he ever during his band’s classic era.

Rock stars are typically not the best examples of financial wisdom; in fact they are usually the worst.  The unrelated natures of musical talent and financial wisdom detract from the music business as a viable path to wealth as it is.  Couple that with the unlikelihood of success and the well known frivolous spending habits and legal antics of those in the field.  This is why I get certain skeptical looks and responses when I cite Gene Simmons as inspiration for financial strategy.

There is a distinct line between Gene Simmons and most of the rockers that came before him or have shown up since.  This line is what has kept him and his partner in KISS, Paul Stanley on top for more than three decades.  While many millionaire rock stars squandered their wealth on extravagant lifestyles, Simmons conserved his money for future investments while slowly building the phenomenon that is KISS.

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Until the success of his hit show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, few people have had the chance to see just how financially savvy and down to earth the legendary rocker truly is.  Having taken the time to listen to Simmons’ message and philosophies, I have no doubt that even without KISS, rock and roll or a single musical note; Gene Simmons would have become a wealthy man one way or another.

Simmons was born in Israel in 1949 as Chaim Witz to Flora Klien, a poor holocaust survivor from Hungary.  In his book Sex, Money, Kiss, Simmons recounts the experience that would set the tone for his financial future.  At the young age of five, he decided to earn some money by selling cactus fruit.  He would go into the desert and gather the fruit, wash it, chill it in ice water and remove the spines.  He would then cart it to the bus stop in time to meet the afternoon bus and sell the fruit to the workers unloading after a hard day on the job.

The future superstar came to the United States at the age of nine.  Even as an impoverished immigrant who couldn’t speak English, nothing stopped him from finding creative ways to earn an honest living.  Whether playing in local rock bands, typing term papers in college, dealing in classic comic books, or running his own science fiction fanzines, Simmons always kept his best financial interests in focus.  He avoided drugs and alcohol and all the other vices on which young people are prone to waste money.  When it came time to form KISS, Simmons and his partner Paul Stanley were financially stable enough to walk away from a deal with their band Wicked Lester in order to pursue their dream of forming the world’s most legendary rock band.

             

After achieving international fame with KISS, Simmons didn’t just revel in the spotlight.  He worked the business end of his craft to the best of his abilities.  Even with millions of dollars coming in, he budgeted, cut his expenses and planned for future opportunities or possible misfortunes.  He expanded his horizons.  He managed Liza Minelli for a time.  He acted as a talent scout, discovering Van Halen and eventually founding Simmons Records.

Gene Simmons has never stopped learning about business and building his financial future.  He has continually found new avenues to keeping KISS relevant and advancing.  He has acted in feature films such as 1984’s Runaway and in 2010 he played the voice of the Spirit Dragon in The Last Airbender.  He created the animated series My Dad the Rockstar for Nickelodeon, Mr. Romance for Oxygen, and he starred in the UK series Rock School.  The hit series Gene Simmons Family Jewels is beginning its 5th season.  Now, in 2011 Gene Simmons is a co-founder of The Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy, an estate planning service.

So how exactly does Gene Simmons represent a lesson on success?  Starting with the cactus fruit; even when he had nothing to invest, he found something he could acquire for free, and with some work others would pay him money for it.  When he had some capital to invest he pursued avenues that he was truly interested in; comic books, science fiction, rock and roll, and eventually KISS.

Even with the success of KISS, he has always kept his eye out for other opportunities to expand his business and market his brand.  Some might say that Gene Simmons’ wealth was acquired by luck.  But Gene would probably say to them “the harder I worked the luckier I got.”  As a result of his discipline and tenacity, today Gene Simmons is amongst America’s wealthiest people.

A person does not need to come from established financial means to achieve wealth.  All one needs is an economic atmosphere that encourages entrepreneurs, and the internal wealth that provides the psychological resources required to act wisely, decisively, experimentally, and consistently.  From a poor Israeli child to an American citizen in the highest tax bracket, Gene Simmons is an example of how Capitalism Saves.


Larry Kernagis: Nashville’s Chief Leprechaun

Larry Kernagis is distinguished as the Chief Leprechaun of the Nashville based Celtic band cleverly named Def Leprechaun.  With a full repertoire of classic Irish folk and drinking songs, Larry also tours as a solo act.  I was fortunate enough to meet Larry at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida during this summer.

As a skilled performer, Larry’s rich personality shines through his stage show.  He’s friendly and personable, and interacts with the crowd brilliantly, accepting requests or limericks from the audience, bringing them into the show rather than keeping them as simple observers. I’ve even been fortunate enough to sit in with him on a couple different occasions.

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Moody View author Jay Moody with Larry Kernagis at McGuire’s Irish Pub

Since many newcomers to the Irish music scene may not be familiar with the well known or regionally adapted responses to the classic ballads, Larry often takes a moment to bring them up to speed, making the evening a truly interactive experience. He also brings with him a set of “The Viking Pirate Captain’s DL Songbooks,” with the lyrics to over 100 of the world’s favorite Irish pub songs for use by the audience.
                 

Larry is fluent on both banjo and guitar, switching between the two instruments frequently throughout the night, adding to the diversity of his style.  He plays to his crowd, and as the night progresses Larry might incorporate other well known American classics in the spirit of Jimmy Buffet and Elvis Presley, but he otherwise keeps the set tight with Irish tunes.

Larry Kernagis is originally from Chicago, but relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where he formed his band Def Leprechaun.  His performances make for an evening of ruckus and revelry.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to think of him not only as a great performer, but as a friend.

Don’t miss Larry Kernagis, whether he is in Pensacola, Nashville, or Las Vegas.  If you’re a little Irish or even just a fan, you’ll love Larry’s show.

Check out Larry’s band Def Leprechaun at their website here!


Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto: A Review

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1964 (orig. 1884), Washington Square Press, New York

Marxism is the bedrock and foundation of communism.  This tyrannical philosophy did not meet its end with the demise of the Soviet Union.  It is still very much an active threat to liberty today.  Proponents of Marxism seek to undermine capitalism at all points and they have learned to use the political system expertly to achieve their aims. What are those aims?  To centralize all authority over your life and finances in the hands of an all-powerful and uncompromising state, seeking global domination.

Marxism and the theory of communism are rooted in the essay Bourgeoisie and Proletarians by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, found in the Communist Manifesto, first published in 1884.

Class Warfare

The primary theme of Marxism is class warfare.  Marx opens his essay with the bold and all-encompassing  statement that the entire history of “all hitherto existing society” [later revised to exclude traditional “native” societies] is characterized by class struggles.  In short, there is always, in all situations class antagonism between an oppressor and an oppressed.  Modern “capitalist” society, he says is no different from medieval society. Instead of titles like “lord” and “serf,” we now have a dichotomous class distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  The only solution, Marx says is open and “violentrevolution.

bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie is initially defined as “the class of modern capitalists, owners of means of social production and employers of wage-labor” (57), but is eventually revealed to also include the middle class property owner. The bourgeoisie are driven by economic and technological development.  The historical development in these areas created “industrial millionaires”—the bourgeoisie, successful business people responsible for toppling Feudalism and creating a society where technology and education are available to all. Instead of creating a more liberated society however, Marx claims the bourgeoisie have only created “new forms of oppression.”  Marx believed that Representative government only serves to manage the affairs of the bourgeoisie.

                

proletariat

The proletariat is defined as “the class of modern wage-laborers who, having no means of their own, are reduced to selling their labor in order to live” (57).  Marx presents the idea of an isolated working class, a people without hope of improving their lives.  Marx argues that workers are enslaved by the bourgeoisie, most especially the manufacturer.  Once the worker has been paid by his employer, “he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.” (70).

The proletariat is supposed to represent the “immense majority” who own no property and supposedly have no power or control over their lives.  Their mission in life is to enviously destroy the property and wealth of those who do.  Marx explains that as wealth becomes concentrated in fewer hands, the bourgeoisie is shrinking in number.  Those who washout of the bourgeoisie, become proletarians (since Marxist theory only allows for these two “classes”).  These washouts “boost the intellectual acumen” of the proletariat.  Marx also recognizes that the “social scum” may be absorbed into the movement as a “bribed tool.”

Luddism

The bourgeoisie constantly strive for progress, causing older, less efficient methods of production to be replaced by newer, more advance technologies. Marx denigrates this, claiming that the economic value of labor is decreased because technological advancement makes jobs easier to perform.  Marx complains that this has caused women’s labor in bourgeois society to be worth as much or more than a man’s. He decries the fact that industrialism has put people on equal economic footing despite age or sex.  He also complains that technology has caused the world to become more integrated with disparate countries now sharing in each other’s cultures.

Modern industry offers commodities at such inexpensive prices that demand is created by the people’s  desire to obtain these inexpensive goods.  With the increase in industry, the proletariat grows and becomes concentrated in greater numbers.  Due to competition in the workforce, wages fluctuate, requiring worker’s unions to develop in order to keep wages at a fixed minimum.  On occasion riots are necessary to further the proletarian cause.

Technological advancement in the traffic of information has allowed the proletariat to interact to the degree that they can now more quickly and efficiently organize themselves into a political party.  Since the bourgeoisie has created an environment in which technology and education are available to all, the proletariat must now use those benefits against them to destroy the very source of those benefits.

Violent Revolution

The ultimate goal of Marxism is violent communist revolution.  The first goal of the proletariat is to stage a successful revolution in their own countries, and then unite throughout the world in order to create a communist world order.  Marx explained that the score can only be settled when “that war breaks out into open revolution and where that violent  overthrow or the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat ” (p 77).  To accomplish this, the proletariat must first organize themselves into a class and “wrest all capital, by degrees, from the bourgeoisie,” and “centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state” (p 93, emphasis added).

Statism

In order to support and maintain this statism, Marx planned to destroy the family by replacing home education with social education (p 89), and abolishing all personal property and inheritance.  He also planned to abolish countries,  nationality and all “eternal truths,” all religion, and all morality including Freedom and Justice (p 92, emphasis added).  In order to accomplish this goal: “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things” (p 116).

Conclusion

This is Marxism at its core: class warfare based on the politics of envy.  It looks toward an omnipotent state to manage the affairs of the people.  Marxism’s long-term goal is global communism, and the abolition of national identity.  It is anti-freedom and scoffs at ideas like justice, and  morality.  It views technological advancement as a detriment to society and ignores any concept of personal responsibility for the proletariat. This ideology is covertly and sometimes naively promoted under various liberal pseudonyms, often uncited in order to avoid the stigma of the word “Marxist.”  It is quite possibly the most dangerous philosophy at work in society today, especially for people who value freedom, independence, and justice.

The Communist Manifesto ends with these words: “Working men of all countries unite!”

What is Capitalism?

At the time that I originally wrote this, I was working toward my master’s degree in anthropology in college.  In a theory class we were discussing world systems theory, global economics and money.  At one point the professor made the point that there is profound difference between money and capital, and then posed the question “what is that difference?”  I was surprised to see that within a class of intelligent and well educated blooming social scientists, there was little clear understanding amongst my peers as to what exactly the word capital means.

This is particularly perturbing considering the fact that the idea of capitalism or “free market economics” as it also known, is often maligned within this sphere of academia.

Money and Capital

Capital is not necessarily money, but it’s usually spoken of in that context.  Money is a symbolic mode of exchange.  In our society the simplest form of money comes in dollars and coins.  People and governments agree that these particular bills and coins have a certain amount of value can be exchanged for goods and services that are perceived to be of a certain value in relation to money.  Of course it takes popular support and trust in the currency for it to be of any perceived value, and that calls for regulatory mechanisms from credible governing authorities.

Capital is money or any other resources used for investment and for production of goods and services in order to make a profit in a accordance with the law of supply and demand.  A portion of the profits are then reinvested in order to create even more profit.  To be sure, even somewhat abstract concepts like education, experience and time can be invested and can be thought of as a form of capital.  That old saying “time is money,” might better be thought of as “time is capital.”

Capitalism is a process or system that functions in terms of capital.

         

One of the biggest differences in the mindset of those who tend to succeed and do well financially and those who do not is that one of them thinks in terms of capital and the other thinks in terms of just money.  Baring radical improbabilities, a person’s net worth is going to be in large part reflective of their knowledge and understanding of economics and finance.

Language and vocabulary affect our thought processes which in turn affect our behavior.  Your life is your business.  If you plan to succeed financially in that business, you must think in terms of capital rather than in terms of just money.


The Ability to Drink Milk is an Evolutionary Advantage

There is an interesting article making its way around the interwebs these days telling you to throw away the milk ‘cuz it’s baaad for you ‘cuz lotsa folks got the lactose intolerance.

This is inaccurate and misleading information.  It’s really a vegetarian activist and animal rights argument masquerading as a health warning, making use of fake science in an attempt to add credence to a false premise that milk is bad for us.  They probably made up their statistics, but only about 10% of Americans are lactose intolerant, though virtually all Chinese and “full-blood” Native Americans are.

In reality there is a fascinating evolutionary story in play here.  You see, most humans can only digest lactose (milk sugar) as infants and young children by producing an enzyme called lactase.  At a certain age after childhood the gene that promotes lactase production switches off.  There is no scientific evidence that this is because milk is bad for the adult human.  It’s just generally unnecessary and does not provide any benefit in pre-agricultural societies since their dietary requirements can be met with meats and other resources found in the environment.

Milk consumption was only necessary to keep the child alive long enough to begin eating the bodies of animals rather than from the body of their mother.  Since there is apparently not any need or benefit to be able to digest lactose beyond childhood, there was never a need or function for an adaptation that allows humans to produce lactase beyond childhood.  It didn’t help us live longer or have more sex in our nomadic hunter-gatherer environment.

That’s just kind of the way evolutionary adaptations work.  They typically only serve the function that is needed to keep the individual alive long enough to procreate as often as possible and create as many genetic replications as possible (also called babies).

Probably around 7,000 years ago amongst European and African cattle-herding populations there occurred in an individual a genetic mutation.  No big deal; everything that makes any life-form different from a single-celled organism is the result of a genetic mutation.  This particular mutation allowed for our bodies to continue producing lactase as adults.

This mutation provided an evolutionary advantage by increasing the “fitness” of the individual so that he lived longer than most others and produced more progeny than those without this mutation.  Since they were now herding cattle they had access to milk in proportions unlike you’d find while chasing wild antelope.  It is plausible that there may have been food shortages of some sort that helped these milk-drinkers to outlive and outbreed less healthy people without the mutation.  It could have just provided for a healthier person in general, without any starvation drama.  Regardless, the ability to derive nutrition from more places is an advantage that can increase the evolutionary fitness of the species.

All the numbers disparities and mumbo jumbo of the vegetarians is not so cleverly presented to look like drinking milk is some freakish and “unnatural” thing because most humans do not have the genetic adaptation to produce lactase beyond childhood.  In reality, people of European and African descent have a somewhat unique genetic adaptation that allows us to derive nutritional benefit from milk well past our childhood, and this is an evolutionary advantage.   Enjoy it.

Quick Reference: Berkley

Note: I will give the author at “I waste so much time” credit for one thing: growth hormones in milk are a genuine concern, but then again harmful chemical additives in our food is a problem even when discussing Brussels sprouts.  Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin and the Secret to Jewish Success

Lapin, Rabbi Daniel (2010) Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money, Second Edition, Hoboken, John Wiley and Sons Inc.

LapinThou Shall Prosper is a fascinating exploration into wealth creation among Jews and the values within Jewish communities that encourage financial success.  It is organized into 10 separate chapters, titled commandments in imitation of the Laws given to Moses.  Written by Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi motivated by a desire to research and catalog the cultural traits that have contributed to this, making them available to all people.  The book promotes what Rabbi Lapin calls Ethical Capitalism.

I have always been fascinated by the subject of Jewish success.  It only takes a little attention to notice that Jews are disproportionately successful in business and finance than any other ethnic group in the United States, if not the world.  As Rabbi Lapin explains, this is not to suggest that there are no poor Jews.  But as the most consistently oppressed people throughout 3,000 years of history, the Jewish people could easily have been expected to cease existing altogether.  But they haven’t, and wherever Jews are afforded the slightest opportunity they tend to thrive.

Rabbi Lapin points out that Jews represent less than 2% of the American population, but in any given year may represent as much as 25% of the names on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.  Jewish households are also twice as likely to be wealthy as those of non-Jews.  This is a remarkable phenomenon that deserves to be explored and hopefully explained.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy enthusiasts might see all this as evidence of Jewish misdeed in acquiring wealth.* However, genuine social scientists understand that a better explanation lays in some set of cultural values being perpetuated within Jewish communities.  Personally, I have always seen this as admirable, like a mystery to be unraveled.  That’s why, when I found this book on the shelf, I didn’t have to think very long before I happily handed the clerk $24.95 (plus tax) and walked out the door with the book under my arm, ready to read.

Foreseeing the anti-Semitic arguments, early in the introduction Rabbi Lapin debunks the idea of Jews operating jointly as some sort of cabal, plotting their dominance over society.  In fact, Rabbi Lapin explains that Jewish communities are typically just as dysfunctional and full of conflict as most others.

Rabbi Lapin makes many points along the way regarding wealth, Jews, and the world, all of which are worth some serious consideration.

Education is Key

Lapin illustrates early on that education is very important to being successful in business and finance.  Jews, though not necessarily any “smarter” naturally than non-Jews tend to place a lot of value on literacy and a love of books.  Conversely however, Rabbi Lapin suggests that people holding advanced degrees are not necessarily more likely to achieve wealth.  They tend to do poorly with money, and often seek employment at universities rather than focusing on financial independence.

Popular Culture Promotes Poverty

Rabbi Lapin tackles the fallacy embraced by so many in society that business, business people, and money are somehow bad.  He illustrates how “movies and television conspire to make you poor,” showing that since the 1970s, business people are portrayed as villains twice as often as any other demographic.  The constant pushing of this message has effectively brainwashed the viewing public into accepting the narrative.  He confronts this fallacy by explaining that most wealthy business professionals have actually made their wealth by enhancing the lives of consumers.

Lapin also explains that popular culture vilifies wealth, but admires immoral behavior.  He illustrates this last point by showing that many of People magazine’s “Greatest Love Stories of the Century” were in fact cases of marital infidelity.

You Are Already in Business

Perhaps the most valuable lesson in Thou Shall Prosper, is one that is also asserted by many other successful people: the importance of understanding that we are already in business.  By virtue of being alive and independent, our lives are our businesses, whether we realize it or not.  We may even have a board of directors, such as our friends or family whom we ask for advice or guidance in financial matters.  Moving forward with this logic, I suppose we can count our spouses, children, or other dependants as our shareholders so to speak.  By illustrating this, Rabbi Lapin further explains the importance of not being a wage slave.

                   

Make Friends and Contribute to Charity

Wealth is created through human interaction.  In order to be successful in business it is imperative that one have a large network of friends that can help encourage you on your path to prosperity.  Rabbi Lapin does not suggest you should attend business oriented breakfasts and luncheons to make these acquaintances.  Such gatherings, he says are too full of self interest, yours as well as the other attendants.  Instead he recommends joining civic service organizations like the Rotary club.  He also recommends donating heavily to charity.  This sort of contribution raises your consciousness, and may contribute to a karmic increase in our own wealth.

Value the Wisdom of the Ancestors and Ancients

It is important to value ancient literature and history.  This helps you to see patterns in time and human nature, and to gauge the future in order to set goals.  This is not just a Jewish trait.  Many Asian businessmen also apply lessons learned from ancient Taoist, and Buddhist literature to their financial plans and aspirations.

Meditation and Reflection

Regularly disconnecting yourself from daily distractions like television, radio, and other external influences is imperative.  This allows you to clear your head and take notice of things that you might have otherwise overlooked or ignored.  These may be useful thoughts and fully formed ideas.  These are all things that can help you more accurately foretell and plan for the future.  Set aside a regular time and day for such activities during which you can be alone, away from distractions in order to do nothing but reflect on trends, ideas, and set goals.

These are only a few examples of the remarkable lessons that can be found in this profound book, but it only scratches the surface.

Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin is not a typical book on business.  It’s much more than that.  This is a book of finance, philosophy, religion, history, sociology, and self-improvement.  Much like any classic work of philosophy, and like the Torah by which much of this book is inspired, Thou Shall Prosper is not just a one time read.  It’s the type of book that needs to be read, reread, thumbed through, and meditated upon multiple times over in order to get the fullest use out of it.  I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to improve their life financially and spiritually.

* It is unfortunate that I or Rabbi Lapin would even feel a need to mention this, but due to the nature of the real world (and anyone who has spent any time on the internet will know), it must be addressed.