I never thought I’d ask this, but, what’s the point of keeping this WordPress? I post sporadically now that I’ve begun using my Tumblr as my “personal” blog site. The intention for this WordPress site has always been to publish short articles, op-eds, and essays, as well as “field notes” on my work–whether as a private detective or a writer or whatever else I do.

However, I haven’t had time to work on those article drafts. Yes, drafts, meaning I haven’t even begun writing the drafts yet.

I just want less web footprints. As a private detective, I shouldn’t be this visible in the public in terms of my identity and thoughts. WordPress has the best SEO of any blog platform, which is why professionals, businesses and superstar bloggers/personalities use it as a host. I don’t need or care for that kind of traffic. I could care less if anyone ever reads my crap.

But it has become extra luggage. I don’t need multiple fragments of my web self to be dispersed so widely. One blog, one mind. Blogging has always been a part of my life since I was a teenager, since I first created a Xanga account in 2003. So I will never stop blogging. However, I just need one centralized place to unload my notes, thoughts, marketing (for upcoming books/projects), etc.

I choose you, Pikachu!

Err…I meant, I choose Tumblr.

So yeah, this is my way of saying: I’m moving.

This is also my way of saying: We’re out of milk. Don’t you dare eat that box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch like chips. Don’t be a barbarian.

www.ra-qim.tumblr.com

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I found this in my old blog. I used to buy/steal magazines when I was younger. When I was done reading them, I’d get a marker and “tag” (that means to write graffiti on something, for those who aren’t familiar with the term) the ads.

The Long-Term Effects of Colonialism

There are several reasons why some countries are more developed than others. One of the factors is the interconnected relationships between colonialism, geography, culture, institutions, and the leadership in those institutions.

From examining different examples throughout history, and the effect they had on the present day, I found that various political dynamics, such as physical and cultural colonialism, partly explains why many developing countries are buried in a mountain of poverty.

During the 16th and 17th century, European countries began to exert their control over larger parts of the world. The Spanish and Portuguese founded colonies in what would be known as Latin America. Britain and France, on the other hand, began to colonize most of North America and the Middle East. These countries–which make up the power players of today’s European Union–also established colonies in Asia and Africa.

Colonialism gave European powers access to fund their own economic development by exploiting their colonies. This affected the growth of those very colonies long after they gained their independence.

Haiti is a prime example of exploitation by its colonial masters. In 1790, Haiti was recognized as one of the richest countries in the world due to its lucrative export of sugar, but most of its profits went to the French colonizers. After winning their independence in 1804, Haiti was forced to pay reparations to France, in which they had to shell out almost 80% of their national budget.

As a result, this impoverished Haiti and increased France’s income. European powers used lucrative forced labor to grow cash crops for the booming global market. Even though colonialism isn’t sufficient enough to be causal proof as to why some countries are more developed than others, it’s quite evident that, in terms of GDP, more than 20 countries that were once colonies are among the world’s poorest.

Factors include: the draining of resources, exploitation, and the inevitable dependency these developing countries grew accustomed to, which in later years helped feed the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These are two institutions that loaned large sums of money to developing countries, but with a high interest rate.

Another factor is geography, which continues to explain why many less-developed countries cannot make as much progress as the more developed ones. Some regions have more advantage than others in terms of wealth and power due in part to their location. Good soil for agriculture is one example of this. Different regions, such as the Nile Delta in North Africa and Fertile Crescent in Iraq, had the advantage early on to produce an abundance of grain products, because they had favorable soil. But these very regions were also exploited by many European nations by way of colonialism. In North Africa, the French and Italians divided the region amongst themselves, like pieces of a pie. Parts of the Middle East were under the control of the British Empire, such as Palestine and present-day Israel.

Civil wars and revolutions, both pre- and post-colonial rule, have also had its effects on the present-day inequality among developing nations, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Incidentally, many civil wars during post-colonial rule stem from the effects of colonization due to the re-mapping of traditional tribal lands and the installation of minority groups to rule over a rival majority, as was the case in Rwanda.

Speaking on inequality, Nancy Birdsall (1999) states:

”[…] the developing countries face special risks that globalization and the market reforms that reflect and reinforce their integration into the global economy, will exacerbate inequality, at least in the short run, and raise the political costs of inequality and the social tensions associated with it.”

Let’s take a look at two developing countries that have been both colonized, but whose trajectory, in terms of economy, have varied greatly: Brazil and Nigeria. The Portuguese colonized Brazil during the Atlantic slave trade and Nigeria was colonized by the English from 1861 to 1900. Many of Afro-Caribbean slaves ended up in Brazil, along with various European and Asian immigrants. Nigeria, meanwhile, stayed relatively heterogeneous.

Brazil has risen to become a member of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), while Nigeria developed well in its own right, though relatively poorer than Brazil. Having said that, let us not dodge the fact that the gap between the small percentage of the Brazilian population reaping the benefits of a booming economy and the lower-class is conspicuously wide. Both countries export agriculture, but Brazil was able to create an economic system that capitalized on this type of industry, whereas Nigeria couldn’t seem to find the right formula due to political corruption inherited from post-colonial fracturing.

There are many factors as to why both of these countries, though similar in political history, are on different levels. For one, Brazil has not only capitalized on their agriculture industry, but have also been business-friendly to many types of other industries, such as technology, architecture, livestock and Web-based entrepreneurship. Though Nigeria has the second largest film industry in the world (India has the largest), their market only caters to local and regional interests and the Nigerian diaspora, whereas India has made capital in its success of exporting Bollywood culture outside of New Delhi. Nigeria has also turned away many possible investors due to the notorious “African Prince Scam”, which has its origins in Nigerian internet cafes.

Economist Dambisa Moyo expands the big picture pertaining to inequality and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by stating that a culture of dependency, by way of celebrity-endorsed charities, has harmed the growth of the continent. Millions of dollars are poured into Africa, but little evidence has shown that this type of system works in a practical sense. What happens is that these countries become reliant on donors. Their governments don’t truly care about the people’s interest, and turn to private institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, despite the high interest rate. In turn, the debts of these countries skyrocket as poverty rates remain stagnant.

There are many variables that can be measured through a retrospective look at history, but since the economic and political systems vary, both in micro and macro levels, there is no accurate measurement tool in proving the cause of inequalities among different developing nations. For instance, during the height of the late-2000s global economic meltdown, Nigeria, along with the Philippines, another impoverished country with a long history of colonization, maintained a strong currency, while the dollar and euro decreased in value.

What can’t be denied, on the other hand, is the fact that imperialism had tremendous long-term repercussions. Historians like to play the “What If” game. What if Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia were never colonized? What if Western nations hadn’t become the superpowers post-WWII, but instead countries like Malawi, Azerbaijan and Chile had? The fact is that it will take a handful of decades more to see if colonialism will continue to haunt the countries it touched, or if the inequalities will eventually balance out.

Pokemon Trainer Club

I heard gunshots outside my window at around 3:20 AM. I live in a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood with an extremely low crime rate, so when you hear what sounds like gunshots, you definitely take notice. My tactical training took over and I crouched down behind my bed, away from the windows. I took my SBR out the closet and my 9mm and got ready to rock.

I did a clean sweep of the house, which was probably unnecessary, but it never hurts to be sure no one got in. There have been cases where burglars rob one house, get into a violent altercation with the owner, and then instead of fleeing to a getaway car, they panic and go into the backyard of a neighboring house to hide out. In some cases, they’ll try to go into that house to hole up or lay low because the police will arrive soon.

I turned off the light downstairs that I always keep on at night, so that anyone outside couldn’t see my silhouette or shadows. It also eliminates the glare on the windows, so that I can peer out to scope the situation outside. After smoking a cigarette and listening to any sounds around the neighborhood (it’s so quiet here that you can hear conversations from down the street). A dog was barking perhaps 10-15 yards away.

So I stayed in my backyard, in the dark, both guns hot, finger on the frame, ready to neutralize any perceived threat that enters my premises.

When I took the tactical course months ago, I actually thought that it was a waste of money. Although nothing happened tonight (thankfully), it made me realize that constant training–in anything–is very important.

Levi’s Ad

New favorite pants when I’m doing field work for criminal defense cases. It’s comfortable, matches well with any shirt I pick up off the floor, and my pistol fits perfectly in my front pocket. In the 2nd picture, you can’t even tell I have a 17-round handgun in my right front pocket. Black clothing tends to mask curves and outlines, but the pants are just well-constructed in general.

Directions to the Madhouse

I’m plotting the logistics of my project in southern Philippines. In this next trip, I’ll have the time to fully dedicate myself to investigating the human rights violations and corruption of the Philippine government and military. When I began the initial research work for this project, Benigno Aquino III was still the president. However, my research scope went all the way back to the Gloria Arroyo presidency. So now the entire investigation spans 3 presidential administrations. Each one of them–Noy, Gloria and Roddy–offers their own unique flavor to the smorgasbord of political ineptitude.

This is to say that I will be hitting each administration hard, regardless of their political party or ideology. This is also to say that I have my work cut out for me. Here’s a sample of what I will be investigating:

+ Theft of international disaster relief donations.

+ Misuse of tax funds.

+ Kidnappings and torture of political activists, NGO volunteers and witnesses.

+ Contract killings of journalists.

+ Assassinations of political opponents.

+ Police bribery and general corruption.

+ Corporate influence on politicians (bribery; kickbacks).

Now with major foreign terrorists establishing their presence in Mindanao, this whole project just became more complicated. I’m technically not investigating them. They’re terrorists. What’s there to investigate? They’re out in the open and showcase their grisly acts with pride. But this makes my field work more dangerous than it already was.

I’m not doing this project for a news company. I’m not even freelancing for a newspaper. The findings of this investigation will exclusively be featured in a bi-annual journal that I own and publish, called Dissertation, and which I will send to various human rights organizations and media outlets. This means I will not have the financial, legal and political connections of an organization like The New York Times, BBC or Al Jazeera English.

I’m on my own. I’ll have to supply my own bulletproof vest (not that I’ll ever wear it anyways). My own driver (which is fine since it’s easy to hire one in the Philippines). I’ll have to establish my own contacts, because I don’t have the expansive catalog of sources and fixers that a large news organization has. This is why I have to prepare everything in advance and make the right decisions now. My margin of error is very slim. I have to be on point with everything I do in this investigation.

To Last of Us / The Last of Us

“I loved the water of you, the snake of
you, everything amorphous and short-lived,

as I expected nothing to last of us.”

– Excerpt from Nommo in September, Hannah Sanghee Park

 

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only change forms: sparks create fire; atom bombs create explosions. I thought about this last Halloween, when we visited the family mausoleum. I sat in front of my grandmother’s tomb with a candle illuminating the dark crevices as it slowly melted to death. Since they are buried underneath the tile floors of the mausoleum, there was no choice but to sit, stand or lie above the deceased. It’s not disrespectful; that’s just the architectural design of the afterlife.

I laid down next to my grandmother, the way I did as a child when we used to share a bed in our small New York apartment, the way I laid next to her the morning she had a fatal stroke. I imagined that I could feel the vibration of her atoms. I imagined that it was the vibration of a rocket ship punching the stratosphere, her tomb as my backrest, and we were on our way to the edge of the universe as dark matter expands it. It will be a long ride. Spacefarers Michael and Taciana, grandson and grandmother, sailing through the cosmos.

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only change forms: sparks create fire; atom bombs create explosions. I thought about this years ago, while kissing her jugular notch, her straddling me in the backseat of her SUV.

“I’ll make love to you everyday,” I told her when she moved her face closer. She cried.

Words, too, can create fire. Sparks by Coldplay was playing softly through the speakers. I touched the frame of the window.

“This. This is my idea of a perfect world. I mean, not the car, the engineering is shit on this model, but you and me…and Chris Martin lurking somewhere in the background…and nothing else inside this bubble. I want to photocopy this moment and staple it all over my room until it’s completely covered.”

When we finally had to call it a night an hour before sunrise, I remember I had forgotten my eyeglasses in the passenger door compartment. She, still in the backseat, leaned forward to unlock the front door for me. I remember her silhouette, the arch of her back, her hair hanging down over her cheeks. I leaned forward and kissed her.

It sounds juvenile now, but that one simple, short gesture is tattooed in my mind. We’ve never had a normal relationship and something so normal, like a kiss on the lips, gave me a glimpse of what could’ve been if life, warfare, and heartbreak hadn’t gotten in the way.

When I got home, the residue of her favorite perfume, the same one she wore on our first date years before, coated my skin and shirt. It rubbed off on my pillow, my entire bed, until her presence in my dark, empty room eased me to sleep.

In Another Place, Another Time, I Loved You

“You don’t want love. You want a love experience.”

Knight of Cups

In the Tech Age, the “human experience” has become harder to define. Before, the “human experience” meant all of the things that a person experiences as a mortal on planet Earth: joy, grief, enlightenment, fear, anger and lust. These are experiences and emotions that occur naturally through our interaction with the world, with each other, through our five senses. Nowadays, experiencing the joy of listening to a beautiful piece of music for the first time, or seeing magnificent landscapes thousands of miles away from your home, can be achieved digitally.

Through synthetic realities–such as virtual reality simulations or simply photos online–we can feel and think we know the backstreets of Le Marais, in Paris, as if it were our hometown by navigating through it on Google Street View a hundred times.

When we are in love with someone, are we truly “in love” with them or are we actually addicted to the holistic experience of above-average infatuation (as I like to define the term “in love”)?

After all, humans are, to put it simplistically, sophisticated animals that learned to respond to external stimuli through complex processes in our mind (psychological) and brain (physiological/neurological) that was developed via evolutionary adaptation. We’ve also created social constructs, such as codes of ethics based on religion and laws based on those codes of ethics (and perceptions of the state as an administrator of public safety and order–e.g. why it’s illegal to run a red light or corporations are fined millions of dollars for improperly disposing hazardous waste).

Through these social constructs and psychological processes, we’ve evolved to become biological machines that are constantly thinking, analyzing and making judgments every minute or less. So how can we discern what it is love–which to this day still does not have a clear definition–and what is the love experience?

I once thought I loved a woman overseas. We wrote letters to each other, communicated online, and went through ups and downs like any other couple (although we were never officially in a relationship). We both admitted to each other that we “loved” or was “in love” with the other at certain points in our timeline. We’ve known each other for almost a decade. We’ve never met. Was love possible without physical presence, without physical intimacy, without shared memories of actually doing things together in person? Perhaps we were just in love with the experience of what we thought was love.

When I was 19, I wrote a poem about walking through the woods in the northern parts of New England. I was able to depict the scenery in vivid details, despite never having been to New England at that time, due to extensive reading and thorough visual research online. About 8 years later, I finally went to New Hampshire and when I stood on the ridge of a mountain after walking through a heavily wooded trail, I felt a sense of déjà vu.

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Did the “memory” I construct through my imagination when I wrote that poem and through web photos overlap with my actual first-hand experience?

I believe that first-hand accounts are important. I believe that seeking genuine experiences are important. If we rely heavily on second-hand information–whether through travel stories from a friend or YouTube videos–we can become susceptible to misinformation, deception and mind pollution. In fact, military and political propaganda is applied using this premise.

On a personal note, I believe that seeking “genuine experiences” like the love experience is just as good as seeking love itself. After all, what is love but an experience, right?

Do Everything

One thing you can’t say about me is that I can’t multitask. I’m currently working on a murder case gone cold and doing GIS research on eminent domain related to pipeline projects. Bless my Keurig machine.