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MedicalIamA flight medic from the army, prior U.S. Marine, reddit writer and current medical volunteer working abroad in Ghana while writing a reddit story, AMA!

Oct 24th 2016 by Salojin • 29 Questions • 71 Points

Hi, we are candidates of the Icelandic Pirate party and we have an election coming up on the 29th of October. These are exciting times in Icelandic politics because we are dealing with a post recession economy and the aftermath of the Panama papers leak where the Prime minister had to resign due to his connection with offshore accounts.

The Icelandic Pirate party got 5% in the last congressional election and are currently polling as the largest party at just over 20%. The amazing thing about that is not only that the Pirate party is the largest political party (by a slim margin) but also that the Independence party which has historically been the largest party by far is only polling at around 20%. The political landscape in Iceland has rarely been as exciting and the possibility for change is real.

We have MPs Birgitta Jónsdóttir and Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir and candidate Smári McCarthy here to answer your questions.

Proof: https://twitter.com/PiratePartyIS/status/789495086170140673

UPDATE: Thanks for all the questions so far! We're signing out for the evening, but we'll monitor the thread tomorrow at least and respond to any new questions. There are a few questions that haven't been responded to yet ─ don't worry, we'll get to them! Thanks again, and more fun soon! - Smári, Ásta and Birgitta.

Q:

Hello,

What kind of injuries are common and how do you treat them? Also whats one of the particually bad injuries you have treated?

A:

What are some of the most common misconceptions Americans have about Buddhism?


Q:

Many say that you score so high in the polls because of young people say that they will vote you because it seems "cool". Then the majority of young voters won't show up for the election day. Any thoughts about that?

A:

Ete se? (How are you, in Twi [CH-ree])

The most common wounds that I've seen are gashes and cuts from any number of bits of debris or the various types of labor that dominate the economy around Kumasi, Ghana. Suturing wounds is fairly common place, but the most common traumatic injury in Ghana is almost certainly motor vehicle collision. It's the most common cause of death by trauma in the nation.

The worst wound that I saw being treated was in Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and involved a fellow having nerve tissue repaired in his neck from where he was struck by a machete. I was not in that surgical team (that is waaaaaay above my skill level) but I got to observe the work. That sort of violence is really uncommon here and the patient came from far away, the state went out of the way to help the guy out as violent crime is pretty rare.

Other injuries include mining incidents or logging injuries as both forms of labor are particularly risky with the amount of massive machinery in operation at all times.


Q:

There are quite a few. Firstly I'd like to state that "Buddhism" covers a wide area both geographically and in time, and just like there are a variety of types of Christianity that developed over time, so to are there a large variety of Buddhist traditions, some of which have little connection to each other except for some of the most basic teachings of the Buddha. I will try to be as general as possible in my answer but I do admit to coming from one particular tradition which holds importance on the oldest teachings, so much of my answer may not be 100% accurate across all traditions.

One of the Biggest is regarding the Dalai Lama,whom most westerners, including myself in my pre-buddhist days, viewed as a sort of Buddhist Pope. This is in fact far from the truth as he represents only one school of Tibetan Buddhism which accounts for about 6% of all Buddhists. Like most westerners however the Dalai Lama was my first exposure to Buddhism, and is a respected monastic and public figure.

There is no centralization of power in Buddhism, with the exception of some Buddhist countries like Thailand where government and Religion are so intermeshed that monks hold government ranks and get titles. These powers however hold no sway outside of said countries and have no relation to the actual monastic rules of living passed down for 2600 years. Generally speaking every monastery, and every monk, is a "free agent", so long as they are following the basic vinaya, rules for the monks, and this is essentially done on the honor system. There are no bishops and cardinals and popes, no inquisitions and no excommunications.

Another large one is that Westerners get hung up on rebirth and other things related to the teachings. I think this stems from a judeo-christian upbringing. I myself did 12 years of catholic school, was an altar boy, youth group leader, the whole thing, so when I speak about these things I'm including myself and my own misconceptions as a westerner. In these religions you had to believe, or else you were a sinner, going to hell, etc. I'm a Buddhist monk, and i can't say I 100% believe in rebirth, and thats ok. The Buddha teaches us to question even our most deeply held views and beliefs, like the belief in a soul, a permanent self, let alone something like rebirth. We are called to come and see the truth for ourselves by examining our own experience deeply, and with insight begin to see things as they truly are, not how we wish them to be.

I suggest to many people who are interested in buddhism but get hung up on these kinds of things, that it is ok to shelve them and practice, as you will see the benefits of meditation and living by virtuous principles in the immediacy of your daily life as your mind changes and you become less judgmental, of yourself, and others.

I'll close out by also saying that due to the previously mentioned Judeo-Christian backgrounds, people are looking for something that is "like" a religion, but what you can try to get away with and not call it a religion, but a "philosophy" and things like this. Buddhism has come down to us in Asia through 2600 years and has become a religion, complete with all the trappings of it, rituals and ceremonies etc.

Each person doesn't have to take Buddhism on as a religion, and in deed people can remain whatever religion they were raised and take aspects of Buddhism that help them, this is common.

You also see today in the 6 Billion dollar mindfulness industry that it is also common to take the teachings of the Buddha and make them clinical and scientific. There is a wide range of practice going on, from the religious to the secular to the scientific, all of which stemming from the teachings of a bald headed guy in robes 2600 years ago.

A:

Ásta: Maybe. But we actually have good support in all age groups according to polls. Just that we are polling with around 40% support in the youngest age group, 18-29 years old. And it is true that it's a generation that's unlikely to go and vote. And I think that's concerning that young people are not showing up on election day.


Q:

My wife has done quite a bit of medical work next door in Togo. They specialize in wound care as it seems the tropical climates don't allow proper healing in many cases.

People often worry about how dangerous it is there. Nobody seems to understand that the most dangerous part of the trip is driving in Togo. Not to mention that there have been terrorist bombings in Brussels and Paris (her connection points) but no issues in West Africa!

A:

I have an anxiety disorder, and I think in general we live in a very anxious society. What are some tips for dealing with the everyday stress anxiety we encounter?


Q:

Hi fellow pirates!

My name is Martin van Vuuren from the netherlands Candidate House of Representatives for Pirate Party Netherlands electoral list number 34.

How is it going over there? Are you all excited for being the biggest pirate party to date? I am excited to see how it unfolds that this party knows how to change the future for the best. I will be following the election through social media but i do wish you all the best since we are one big party worldwide.

Sincerely,

Martin van Vuuren

A:

A common issue that I've seen with wound management is terrible wound management.

For example: I watched a kid come in with sutures on his index finger from the second knuckle down to the base and a little bit into the webbing between palm and thumb. It was a bit of a hack-job by the doctor but it would essentially hold the tissue together for a decent recovery. The nurse then proceeds to bathe the injury site in alcohol, compromising the strength of the sutures and chemically ruining the fresh tissue being developed by the body.

Turns out that this is pretty much standard practice. They'll pour clear alcohol into fresh wounds, undiluted hydrogen peroxide into gaping bed sores, scrubbing away freshly healed scar tissue with iodine and such. It's the standard of care most of the nurses are taught and it generates some absolutely horrific scars and magnified healing times.


Q:

Firstly I'd like to state that meditation is not a "cure all". If you have an anxiety disorder and have not already i'd suggest having the help of a therapist working with your primary doctor etc. Although these days many therapists use "CBSRT : cognitive Based Stress Reduction Therapy", which is in many ways a fancy word for meditation.

That being said I'd also suggest the development of a daily meditation practice. There are no instant cure all tips I can give you to instantly make your anxiety disappear, you have to spend time looking inward to examine the root of those anxieties, and when you start to see them clearly, with insight, you begin to gain the power to not let them control your life. This is a gradual practice, a habitual mind training, that you get better at as you go along.

A way to start a practice might be that every day, for just 5 minutes, sit at your desk at work, in a chair at home, wherever you can get just a few minutes(or even just 1 minute) of quiet, and close your eyes, then follow your breath. Our normal anxiety of feeling busy will be telling us that we don't even have 10 seconds to waste because of this emergency or that deadline, but you will find that taking 5 minutes to pause and follow your breath, will pay off dividends after, because you will be calm, clear, and refreshed to continue on from there.

When you begin to start this process you will be assailed by thoughts every few seconds, this is normal, there is nothing wrong with your mind, at least not in this respect, as all of us have what is called the "monkey mind", in which the mind jumping from thought to thought is compared to a monkey jumping from tree to tree. So when you get taken away by a thought, and then its over and you come back to awareness, you should then with intention focus your mind back on your breath, and then when 2 breathes later you get taken away by a thought again, thats ok, don't judge yourself, just come back to the breath.

You are taking time to develop a basic mindfulness, a basic concentration that will allow you to develop an ability to calm your mind with ever more skill in the future.

One last tip that I find helps is counting. So when you take a full breath cycle(breath in, breath out), you count 1, after each cycle you make a single count up to 10, then you count back down to 1(1-10-1), continue counting at the end of each breath cycle back up to 9, then back down to 1 (1-9-1). You continue this counting up and down, counting one less each time (1-8-1, 1-7-1, 1-6-1) all the way down to 1-2-1, then you start over. This is a way of forcing your mind to concentrate and will help your mind come to concentration, from which calm clarity will result. So remember (breath in... breath out... count.... breath in... breath out... count).

I wish you success in working with your anxiety friend.

A:

Ásta: Hi Martin! Ancilla will be here on Friday I think! It'll be hell of a party ;) Everything is going very well - unbelievably. Much work, talking to all the people, and handing out too many brochures. I think some of the Swedish volunteers will try to stream the election night party so you can watch it unfold live!


Q:

OMG!! That's traumatic to me!

If you're still around, may I ask what sorts of wound care products you like/use? I'm a wound fan! I love all of the cool stuff I have at hand to treat wounds. Do you have access to things like medihoney, alginates or, even cooler, maggots? Clearly, there is a lot of suturing going on. Are you able to use stuff like dermabond?

Ever encounter wound vacs or ostomies?

A:

Do you regret anything?


Q:

I feel a little concerned that, in all this discussion, nobody's mentioning the original anti-intellectual-property stance that was sort of the core of the Pirate philosophy.

I've often heard that many of the awkward parts of intellectual property law are locked in via treaty. In the US, for example, we can't go back to "registration required" copyright, or a 14-year term, for example, without breaking treaties.

How can you handle that issue in a nation like Iceland, that can't just say "we're the biggest/richest/strongest, screw your treaty?"

Also, if you're Icelandic and Pirates, did anyone suggest branding as Vikings? My apologies for the horrible stereotype joke.

A:

Here in country there are no substantive or effective wound care products. There's the typical battery of ethyl-alcohol, methyl-alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, bacitracin, and sterile water. But that's really it. The high end medicated wound care tools like honey with silver nitrate or simple stuff like derma-bond simply isn't used. It's expensive and it's foreign and it's expensive because it's foreign.

Many of the locals will use aloe-vera on wounds to help facilitate healing and such, but most of the studies on aloe-vera are dubious at best and while some state there are some healthy benefits the claims carry with them some shaky evidence that is easy for the laymen to read, but not thoroughly researched and supported.

The best report was conducted by the University of Maryland and essentially concluded that its a common, simple and easy remedy for shallow injuries and that's it. Which is my long winded way of saying: there ain't much here for wound care.

The maggot thing is actually, likely, going to take off here when its efficacy is rediscovered. For those of you who don't know or are squeamish about bugs, the next sentences may not be for you. Maggots are the best wound care tool on Earth for combating necrosis secondary to ulcers or other circulatory compromise related tissue injuries. Healing and recovery times in patients treated with maggots as opposed to patients treated with "the standard of care" (not maggots) were between the range of 100%-85% more effective and faster. The reason for this is two fold.

  1. Maggots only eat dead tissue. Dead tissue is dangerous on the body because it is food for bacteria as well as homes for bacteria. As these sites fester with bacterial colonies the microbes will compromise more tissue, generating more tissue death and spreading the infection. Maggots shear away the dead tissue quickly and cleanly at a far more accurate level than surgical debridement.

  2. Maggots secrete a molecule that stimulates cell growth and advances tissue recovery. I figure it's a matter of time before that chemical is identified and replicated, but for now the humble maggot has the monopoly. The maggots are grown in sterile conditions in a lab and exposed to the tissue in need for 12-24 hours and then immediately placed in an autoclave.

For more information on maggots, the Stuff You Should Know guys did a fantastic episode on the medical miracle of maggots. I highly recommend it, just not during a lunch break.


Q:

My answer probably wont be very useful but even before I was a Buddhist I had the mindset to view my experiences as a lesson to learn and grow from, so I can't really remember in my adult life ever regretting anything major I've done.

Of course growing up you do stupid things and maybe your caught and punished and you regret the action in that respect, that is a sense of moral shame which is a good thing as it helps to steer you in the right direction.

everything that has happened to me and that I've experienced has been a stepping stone to bettering myself, creating a more wise, friendly, and compassionate person inch by inch. I still have quite a ways to go down this Journey, but it's all about baby steps. It's important to have compassion and understanding for yourself as well as others, to drop the harsh judgment we often have about ourselves and what we've done.

This short Q&A answer I did might be helpful in further explaining how to deal with remorse and regret - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF9pUSVRRho

AFL - Acknowledge what you've done, forgive yourself(and others) and make amends for your action, and learn from it so you do better next time. Of course this is all easier said then done, which is why it takes practice in changing our habitual tendencies.

A:

Ásta: On the Viking, that came up. On the IP law, it's complicated. We are working with Julia Reda Member of European Parliament on the IP issue. But the problem is that we are bound by treaties and respecting those treaties is actually necessary to be part of stuff like, the UN and stuff. No country is an island in a globalized world, not even Iceland which is really an Island. The problem is that IP law is so twisted and that's the reason why we were formed in the first place, to fix it. But as many other IP specialists (Lawrence Lessig) we are moving towards tackling corruption and digital rights, because this is all intertwined. Copyright reform was just the starting point, but from there we have grown and it's awesome!


Q:

I had a similar motivation during my training: to save lives and practice prehospital care in my own capacity (within protocol of course). Being able to bring someone back provides a unique satisfaction, it's truly amazing! It seems you chose this profession with a great intention.

A:

I'm loosely Buddhist (the Chinese kind). I've never understood why monks aren't allowed to eat onions or garlic, but are able to eat eggs.

Care to explain?

Thanks


Q:

What is your position on climate change?

A:

I dig it. I like being able to help even if it's as easy to putting a band-aid on somebody. It's definitely a job in which you can very quickly see the rewards to what you're doing and I think "unique satisfaction" is probably the most poignant phrase I've heard that justly sums up the experience. I wish you luck in any task you choose, you'll be fine and even if you hit bumps in the road you can always reach out to the network of medics and veterans.


Q:

keep in mind that there can be vast differences between my patimokkha(monks rules) and Chinese ones. You might need a Chinese monastic to answer that question more specifically. I'll answer from my own rules.

I see nothing in the male or femaile monastic rules against onions, although there is for garlic. Here is the story for Garlic -

Now at that time the Lord, surrounded by a large assembly, was Kd 15.34.1 teaching dhamma sitting down. A certain monk had eaten garlic;² he sat down to one side, thinking: “In case the monks are incommoded.” The Lord saw that monk who was sitting down at one side; seeing him, he addressed the monks, saying: “Monks, why is this monk sitting to one side?” BD 5.196 “Lord, this monk has eaten garlic, so he sat down at one side, thinking: ‘In case the monks are incommoded’.” “But, monks, should that be eaten which, when eaten, can (make the eater) outside such a dhamma-talk as this?” “That is not so, Lord.” “Monks, garlic should not be eaten. Whoever should eat it, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”³

This is the most minor of offenses(dukkata), which can be cleared by confession. You can however eat garlic in case of illness and it is considered a "root medicine". For the Ladies its a bit more of a serious offense, but still among the less serious kind and clearable by confession.

Rules came about due to stories, or so the tradition says. This is the story related to why female monastics cant use garlic

At that time the enlightened one, the lord, was staying at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now at that time the Order of nuns was offered garlic by a certain lay-follower,¹ saying: “If these ladies need garlic, I (can supply them) with garlic.”² And the keeper of the field was instructed (with the words): “If the nuns come, give two or three bundles³ to each nun.”

Now at that time there was a festival in Sāvatthī; the garlic was used up as soon as it was brought in.⁴ The nuns, having approached that lay-follower, spoke thus: “Sir, we have need of garlic.” He said: “There is none, ladies; the garlic is used up as soon as it is brought in; go to the field.” The nun Thullanandā, having gone to the field, not knowing moderation, had much garlic taken away. The keeper of the field looked down upon, BD 3.244 criticised, spread it about, saying: “How can these nuns, not knowing moderation, have much garlic taken away?” Nuns heard that keeper of the field who … spread it about. Those who were modest nuns … spread it about, saying: “How can the lady Thullanandā, not knowing moderation, have much garlic taken away?” …

“Is it true, as is said, monks, that the nun Thullanandā, not know- ing moderation, had much garlic taken away?” “It is true, lord.” The enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying: “How, monks, can the nun Thullanandā, not knowing moderation, have much garlic taken away? It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased …” and having given reasoned talk, he addressed the monks, saying:

“Formerly, monks, the nun Thullanandā was the wife of a certain brahmin and there were three daughters, Nandā, Nandavatī, Sun- Vin 4.259 darīnandā.¹ Then, monks, that brahmin, having passed away, was born in the womb of a certain goose² and his feathers were made all of gold. He gave a feather one by one to these. Then, monks, the nun Thullanandā, saying: ‘This goose is giving us a feather one by one,’ having taken hold of that king of the geese, plucked him. His feathers, on growing again, turned out white. So at that time, monks, the nun Thullanandā lost the gold through too much greed; now she will lose the garlic.” “One should be pleased with what is received, for too much greed is bad. By taking hold of the king of the geese, one may lose the gold.” Then the lord having in many a figure rebuked the nun Thullanandā for her difficulty in maintaining herself …” … And thus, monks, the nuns should set forth this rule of training: BD 3.245 “Whatever nun should eat garlic, there is an offence of expiation.”

A:

Smári: We'd like to stop it from happening. A stable climate is even more important than a stable economy! In short, we'd like to fulfil our obligations under the Paris convention and then go even further than that. According to loftslag.is, an Icelandic website about climate change, the Pirate Party has the best environmental policy of all parties at the moment.


Q:

What part of Ghana are you in? I spent a month there as a mission trip and loved it. I stayed in Accra and Apam and did work in other villages and towns.

A:

Buddhism has no central holy book(s) like the Qur'an or the Bible, but what are some of the scriptures associated with the religion and its various sects? Or is it purely an oral tradition?


Q:

Hi there! As a citizen of Iceland in my twenties I have a few questions for you. I'd like to start by stating that I like most of what you are doing and what you have stood for so far. I will be voting for you in the coming election, unless something huge happens to sway my opinion.

Now. You guys have a huge following with the young people in Iceland. I'm wondering what you are thinking about doing for us. Life for students has, I think, never been harder than it is right now. The student loan situation is horrible and the Renting Market is in the gutter.

Do you guys have any plans to fix this? What are your thoughts on the renters market and what can be done to make things easier? Is the only option for students in Iceland to flee the country, just to be able to study what they want?

I would love a bit of insight :)

A:

Currently staying in a town outside of Kumasi called Tikrom. It's along the N6, Accra-Kumasi road, between Kumasi and Ejisu. For more specific instructions for locals, it is just south of Antoa.

There's a buncha Mormons running around here at all times. Were you one of them?


Q:

It started out as an oral tradition during the time of the Buddha, after his death it was codified in an orderly and cohesive fashion, and it was this grouping that was eventually written down a few hundred years later in Sri Lanka on palm leaves.

The closest to a central holy book you are going to find in Buddhism are the 4 Nikayas, and parts of a 5th. These writings are in every tradition and predate the split and creation of theravada/mahayana. In Theravada they are called Nikayas, in Mahayana called Agamas.

Just these four books are a small part of the overall textual history, and they cover close to 5000 pages of material. These books are -

  • Digha Nikaya - Long Discourses of the Buddha
  • Majjhima Nikaya - Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha
  • Samyutta Nikaya - Connected(by topic) Discourses of the Buddha
  • Anguttara Nikaya- Numerical(connected by number) Discourses of the Buddha.

I'm not too familiar with all of the Mahayana texts and sutras and how they are organized, but I know the Lotus Sutra is pretty much the biggest one.

A:

Ásta: Hi Snojo and thanks for your questions! I agree with you that life for the young has become worse, or at least, it hasn't gotten any better compare to other generations. I was a poor student very recently so I am familiar with the situation. It is necessary to fix some of the problems that we know of in the student loan system, and make part of it into a grant. Also - monthly payments of student loans would make students so much more aware on how much they're spending. AND that income roof that's put on students is absurdly low, it's so easy to just raise that. And just fix the whole attitude in this LÍN institution. I could go on and on and on on that.

We need more rental apartments, and we need the airbnb apartments that are basically just run as a hotel, we need those apartments back on the long term renting market. It's probably around 1000-2000 apartments that are on the airbnb market and noone keeps a home there. Also, we need relax a bit on the building regulations. Not everyone needs to have a car, thus, having a car cellar in every new building should not be a requirement.

Currently, in my opinion, the best bet is to leave Iceland. The only reason I'm in Iceland is because of this amazing opportunity that the Pirate Party has created. We have a chance of fixing so many things that are wrong and make Iceland into the country we want it to be, that I believe we can turn it into. There is hope - the grass is not always greener on the other side - but I seriously feel you and have been there myself!


Q:

No mine was through a baptist church. We put on vacation bible schools for the kids. I wasn't big on the religion aspect of it but getting them out of their homes and having something to do was nice. Also experiencing culture differences and what not.

A:

Celibate? What does celibacy have to do with finding zen?

To me it would seem like the opposite would be true.


Q:

What are your points of universal basic income and what would be needed to make it fair ?

A:

Christianity and Islam run hand in hand in this part of Ghana and it was really surprising and pleasant to see just how little either party cared about the religious preferences of the other. There are some who care, but there are vastly more who don't give a damn, and I think that's pretty progressive.

Especially in Africa.


Q:

I know nothing about "finding zen", not my tradition or anything the Buddha spoke about in the oldest texts.

In what ways would it seem "opposite" to you?

The purpose of a monastic is to end suffering and become awakened, to do that we cleanse our mind of attachments, clinging, and aversion, we in a sense "overcome our programming", one of which is the sexual drive of this human species. The drives to eat, sleep, and procreate are obviously quite strong, they need to be or else the species wouldn't survive to pass on their genes to the next generation and sustain the existence of the species.

That being said however a person can let go and train the mind to the point where innate habitual tendencies are overcome. This leaves the mind in a sate of peace and equanimity that is not caught up in the roller coaster of the typical highs and lows of a mind dominated by natural selection, genes, and an innate habitual tendency of the mind towards greed, hatred, and delusion.

A:

Smári: We see basic income as an interesting prospect to look towards long term, and have proposed a government working group to investigate which options there are for implementation and adoption. Short term, it's difficult to implement, simply because it costs so much, but there are some possibilities for moving in that direction alongside simplifications to the welfare system that would guarantee more people better coverage and fewer people falling between the cracks.


Q:

North, in Burkina Faso, they have a saying that the country is "50% Christian, 50% Muslim, and 100% Animist."

I won't say that there isn't occasional friction between the communities, but we in the west seem to exaggerate it way beyond the reality of everyday people there.

A:

Do you plan to tour and give teachings? So many of us live in rural/far out places where we really have no contact with monks.


Q:

does the pirateparty have any policy regarding taking harder action against parents that alienate their children from one parent ?

A:

So far the only friction I've heard about from another expat was that one of his volunteers wasn't allowed to perform evening prayer in the family house they were staying in. The host home matron just didn't allow it. The volunteer was shifted out of the home amicably and the host family was removed from the list of host homes. Everyone was pretty amenable but it was still took us aback.

Nothing else like that has happened yet.


Q:

most monks are usually willing to go places if offered. Most places take up a collection to have the monk flown/driven out to do a retreat or give teachings.

I already help do teachings here at this monastery, and I've been invited to other places. There is just not enough monastics or even lay teachers to meet demand though, and most Buddhists ARE quite separated.

I was the only Buddhist I knew in my daily life for almost 10 years of practice, until I moved to a monastery. I used the internet and dhamma talks on youtube as my guides then various books and the ancient discourses themselves as my guide. I would say that it's been my experience that the majority of western convert Buddhists don't have a tradition sangha near them.

A:

Birgitta: We don't have a policy on this issue yet, it is however clearly not in the interest of the child if either parent or their families are alienated from them. We as parliamentarians have always supported all reforms in this regard. The current framework around these violations against the rights of children is too weak and needs to be amended asap.


Q:

As a future Army Medical Service Corps officer, any advice?

A:

Are you worried one day you may not be able to turn back to lay life and live normally again? I.e you may be past the age of relationships kids careers etc?


Q:

What does your party have to do with pirates?

A:

I haven't really worked with any of them much, but here's the advice I give to any young officers coming into a unit for the first time:

Your sergeants are your best assets. They know all the secret routes, they know who the most reliable people are, they know the short cuts and the rule books, they know. They came from the E4 Mafia or the Lance Corporal underground, they want to do the mission and more often then not they're only happy when there is a real job to do. Some young officers hit their units and want to bend the world to their will, shake things up and really make it their unit. Don't do that, it'll alienate you from your subordinates in a heartbeat.

On the other side of that same coin; take the time to learn your staff. Just because that guy has a combat action badge doesn't mean he's worth anything. There's very little that should automatically generate awe and respect in the military. The majority of it is theater and strength of personality, so be ready for a lot of that, even in the medical settings.

It's gonna be some weird hybrid of MASH and Scrubs at all times and I think you'll be proud to have done it.


Q:

I was married in my 20s and long before I became a monk the practice lessened my need to attach to another person and I became quite content with myself. I kept myself open to the possibility of a relationship happening, but I never felt the need to go searching for one.

I was also 36 when I moved to the monastery, even if I had a kid now I'd be a senior citizen by the time they graduated high school. I also know that if I ever decide to leave the monkhood I have my previous skills and experiences to fall back on to get by. I'm not worried at all if I have to leave, although this is a fear for some which might keep them in robes even though they don't want to be.

A:

Ásta: Long story short: Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Sweden there was a bureau, the Anti-Pirate Bureau that was supposed to make sure noone was copying on the World Wide Web and the Internet. Because of ironic seriousness, some people started the Pirate Bureau and from there, someone had the splendid idea to start the Pirate Party. So yes, we have something to do with Pirates, in a digital sense of the word. But since then we have evolved into being a pro-democracy, reformist movement that supports civil and digital rights in any form.


Q:

On that note, I'm a Marine vet looking to transition into the Army. Any words of advice on cultural differences of things PS Marines should look out for in the big green machine?

A:

What was your biggest challenge walking away from your normal American life? How did your friends and family respond?


Q:

Do you think you get negative light because of the name? Because it feels like the older generation see it like Illegal Download = Pirate Party

A:

That will massively depend on the job that you're transitioning into.

The biggest cultural difference I have found is that, much like in the Marines but slightly more extreme, the difference from unit to unit can be staggering within the same battalions. There's certainly a much different tempo to routines and such and calling any sergeant grade from Staff Sergeant through to Sergeant First Class, "Sergeant" irks me in ways that makes the ghost of Chesty grab my short hairs and pull.

But, like in the Marines, learn the Army way of doing things and the Army protocols and you'll strive through the ranks and promotions. PT standards are slightly less stringent than the Marines, the marksmanship program is laughable, and the standard battery of knowledge the average soldier is supposed to know is reminiscent of the written test you took in bootcamp. End result? You'll be fine.

Welcome to the other beast.


Q:

without a doubt it was leaving my very close family. You do need to do a lot of letting go of these close connections when you become a monk. This is not to say you won't see them or have a relationship with them, but you are not part of their daily/regular lives anymore, and that is tough both on you and them.

My family and friends knew I was going to do this years before I did, but it didn't hit them until it got real and I really left, it was not easy for them.

A:

Ásta: Well, words only have the meaning we give to them. It hasn't been a problem so far.


Q:

So, calling portholes windows and hatchways doors huh? I'm coming from a combat background to a similar job in the army, so I'm sure there'll be the same flavor of games in new packaging.

There's very little that should automatically generate awe and respect in the military. The majority of it is theater and strength of personality, so be ready for a lot of that, even in the medical settings.

For anybody reading this AMA, this statement here hits the nail on the head. Thanks for doing this and blue skies, brother.

A:

And another reason on top of that is for uniformity of appearance. If one monk had a mullet, one had an afro and one had a shaved head the sangha would look like a bunch of misfits. But all with a shaved head they are a team.


Q:

What are your personal positions on the Icelandic Krona? Should it be swapped in near-future for a steadier currency (e.g. USD or Euro), should it be pegged to another currency or should we continue to use it?

A:

When I went over to the Army I had to transition to a new MOS, so I had to go to an MOS school. Now, I was lucky. I went to a school that was specific to people that were already MOS holders learning a new MOS. The result is that I wasn't anywhere near fresh out of bootcamp kids and was, instead, around a buncha long term veterans. Some were even other prior Marines. It was a good time and great training, but more importantly, it was a snap shot of how the other different MOS's behave professionally.

The combat arms MOS soldiers? They looked liked, moved lived, acted like Marines with way better Hollywood haircuts. The prior infantry guys that were transitioning into medics were routinely the best leaders and most reliable when we hit field effects training, which is what you should expect.

There will be different names and the dice will be a different color, but you're still playing Risk. Just from a different angle on the board. You'll fit in just fine, and if anyone gives you shit for wearing Marine insignia on your right sleeve you can tell them to eat shit.

:D


Q:

the shaved head and robes was the traditional method of distinction for the samanas of ancient india. These were ascetics and renunciates who renounced the tradition brahmanic culture and went out into the wilderness to do a variety of practices.

it is from this samana tradition that the Buddha came and begun the teachings, so the bald head and robes predates buddhism in ancient India.

others have already posted various reasons given, from lessening attachment, to lice, etc. These are all valid reasons traditionally given for the why, and they all make sense for the most part.

as for the "lord" again someone else mentioned this is just a 100 year old translation that someone decided to take from western culture and attribute to a word used for the Buddha. There are plenty of rules that seem odd today, and all the rules come with a story as to why they were put in place in the first place. Some monks adhere strictly to all the rules, others make allowances for modernity, there is a wide variety of ways monastics follow the rules, and differences in the rules themselves as they crossed time and space.

A:

Ásta: My personal opinion is that it's not a sustainable future currency as is, that is, we would have to have capital controls in order to keep the króna working as it has the past few years. The króna has always been the black sheep of iceland, yes it helped with recovering from the crisis but it is really expensive to keep. The Króna is the main reason why we have index linked loans with high interest rates and unforeseeable payments, and it's really expensive for the normla Icelander. I don't have much faith in Krónan, but I am willing to work with it since we are a strange country. I think pegging it would be an interesting option, or something similar.

Aesthetically I find the Icelandic króna kinda hillarious. It has fish on it. FISH. That's ridiculous, but quiet ironic as well. The fishing industry is the 'gold' of Iceland, the main export and money making machine. So that's something.


Q:

I had to go to an MOS school

I'm going to OSUT, so no luck on that front haha.

if anyone gives you shit for wearing Marine insignia on your right sleeve you can tell them to eat shit.

I'm not up on my army uniform regs so you'll have to pardon me, but what do you mean by that?

A:

Is there a Buddhist perspective on building a mars colony? (Keyword "Space X")


Q:

Having watched CPG Grey's videos on the pros(?) and cons of commonly used voting systems I am very interested in what your views are on the current voting system in Iceland, and more generally the model it is based on. Also, your views on voting single-person instead of parties! (persónukjör? veit ekki alveg enska orðið)

I personally think it's unrealistic to have a single person vote but I hear people mention it as a solution to the current system.

A:

No worries, I had to google OSUT. The Army loves its uniform candy, which is something I kinda miss about the Marines.

As a fun aside, an intel officer from an unnamed foriegn nation was drunkenly telling me how much he loves the U.S. Army uniform. He could tell everything about a unit by a single soldier. He could see what action they'd seen, the level of training of their soldiers, and what units they drew soldiers from. He bitched about how you couldn't tell anything from a Marine because our uniforms only show our names and ranks. Only a very minor few wear anything on our utility uniforms and I can't really think of anyone who wears any badges in a field environment.

To answer your question about the sleeves. On the left sleeve is the unit patch of who you are currently assigned. On the right sleeve is the unit patch of who you have deployed with (combat patch). Now, the Army tells prior-service Marines that they can't wear their deployment patches because you had to have deployed with those units while in the Army, but since the Army wants to wear so much chest candy all the time I choose to wear none and instead keep my 2nd Marine Air Wing patch proudly on my right arm.

How'd you manage to get stuck OSUT?


Q:

I follow Astronomy and have joked about being one of the first buddhist monks on mars. I also follow Space X's journey. It's not really conducive to enlightenment, but it is an indulgence I grant myself as thinking about space does help in various aspects of my practice.

There is no "buddhist perspective on space", but I say we should of been there long ago already.

A:

Smári here! There are both pros and cons in the current system, which is very similar to the Swedish and Norwegian systems: d'Hondt's method used to allocate within each constituency, and then a biproportional allocation used to allocate adjustment seats on a national level. The biggest single problem is that d'Hondt's method is less proportionate than, say, the Sainte-Lague method (well, a variant thereof) used in the other Nordic countries. If we could switch to Sainte-Lague, it would be a massive improvement.

By the way, I've written some software that simulates some of these systems, here: https://github.com/smari/voting

That said, there are some bigger things that can and should be done, and one of them is being able to select candidates directly rather than voting for a party list. There are a lot of different ways of doing this, from the (quite odd) Australian method of voting "above the line" (party) or "below the line" (people), to the method used in Finland, which allows for ranking within a party list. I honestly don't favour any specific method above others for use in Iceland (I have a number of ideas though). As long as we can even out the value of the votes between constituencies and increase the ability of people to choose their representatives more directly than they currently can, it's an improvement.


Q:

Ah yeah, I knew about combat patches, but I didn't realize Marines were represented in the fold. I'll have to dig up something for 1/2 ;)

I honestly thought you might be a buddy of mine on an alt until I started looking through the imgur album. Awesome work man. I've been applying to various orgs and NGO's throughout Africa and SW Asia but haven't really made any traction due to lack of a useful specialization.

I'm going to OSUT because I'm re-classing from MP to 11b with a shot at group. My recruiter tells me that I'll most likely get dropped into training around week 7, after the "bootcamp" phase, but my experience from the Corps is telling me to get ready to take the whole shaft.

A:

Will whaling still continue to be legal if you win ?


Q:

There's a phrase from "One Bullet Away" that I think can be applied to anyone in any starting career:

Grow where you're planted.

Whatever the Army decides to do with you, make sure you do the best damn job you can with it and you'll throw on stripes faster than you thought the tailor could stitch em'. The Army isn't shy about promoting and if you're hungry to take a leadership position they'll more than likely give you the chance to make a fool of yourself or shine like a polished gem. It'll come down to you, ultimately, but you'll get the chance. Just remember, the Corps thrives in a sucky environment. Make the most of what you get.

Good luck as an "Eleven Bang Bang". If you're still interested in volunteering abroad, Ghana is super easy and I'm here now and more than willing to help anyone interested in work to do here!

A:

Smári: To be honest, we don't have a policy on it either way. Personally, I'm definitely in favour of protecting ecosystems and the species in it. I'd happily get behind a whaling ban if the data suggested that it'd help the ecosystem, but I've seen data that suggests that the whale population might be threatening other populations in the sea... so I'm totally torn. Ultimately we need to do whatever is best for the environment. In the meantime, I do like a good minke steak, even if I wouldn't be too sad to not be able to have it again.


Q:

Thanks for your service. I'm a mechanic for the helicopters that our flight medics fly in. What kind of aircraft are you guys using in Virginia?

A:

Does CCP makers of Eve Online play any part in Icelandic politics?


Q:

I'm with the DC National Guard and we use the Blackhawk and Lakota. Both are good aircraft for their specific purposes but, secretly between you and me.

I really miss the wump wump wump from my jarhead days.

A:

Smári: Nope. They are fairly busy running a galaxy, and have no time for our pithy local affairs. :-)


Q:

Awesome. All of my experience is on Chinooks and Blackhawks, but I've just been assigned on the Lakotas. Which birds do you prefer for which jobs?

A:

I'm really interested in Iceland, but I'm unfamiliar with your political landscape. For starters, why are you called the Pirate Party, and why do you think you are currently favored in the polls?


Q:

The CH-47 is a power house, the picture from the imgur was taken from a 47 as we buzzed New York City.

The mission of the National Guard is primarily domestic and as a result the Lakota is pretty reasonable for that task. It's got a communication suite that's supposed to be able to integrate with civilian assets and carries a pretty civilian looking silhouette. However, it's a smaller aircraft with a series of lift power issues as well as some insidious issues with regards to hoist operations which is fairly specific to flood rescue and such. The pilots we have are all comfortable with the aircraft and our crew chiefs are all reliably ballsy with them, but having to pump fuel around to balance the bird because it's a bit of a VW beetle in the sky is a little unnerving.

The blackhawk is bigger, stronger, faster and has a much more reliable hoist operation attached to it on top of being a proven war-bird. But, it's a deployable asset and many of the guys in the unit have done 3+ tours in Afghanistan or Iraq and aren't in a massive hurry to go back. So both aircraft have their benefits and shortfalls.

A:

Smári: In short, there are 12 parties running in the current elections, polling from virtually nothing to around 22%. We're called the Pirate Party in reference to a global movement of Pirate Parties that popped up over the last decade. Despite our name, we're taken fairly seriously in Iceland, in particular because of our very aggressive anti-corruption stance, our pro-transparency work, and our general push in the direction of a more information-driven society with strong civil liberties.


Q:

What prompted the move to Ghana? Was working in the developing world something you'd always wanted to do?

A:

Yeah, so if you pass a law, it's got to be called the Buccaneer Bill right?


Q:

My wife works in international development and was seeking out a chance for operational experience in-country. Ghana came up with a real need for educational support and she put her CV in and got the posting. Her job is to help oversee the staff of Exponential Education as well as to look after me (her man child). One of the defining factors for why I became a paramedic is because it's a job that can travel and so I went with her.

Working in a developing nation wasn't ever a goal. Disaster response and other "sexy" events were a more motivating thing for me, but as I grew up and came to realize that working in the high stress, post disaster setting actually sucks the concept of sustained effort to help improve a developing nation is a lot more rewarding.

A:

Ásta: Lol. Yes.


Q:

How old were you when you started training to become a paramedic in the military? And how long did it take you to get qualified?

A:

Have you considered pirating Donald Trump's words and ideas? I hear they are the best words.


Q:

My paramedic training was done in civilian schooling utilizing the Post 9/11 GI Bill for education. I served in the active duty Marine Corps between 2006 and 2011 as an aviation electronics technician. I was 18 when I enlisted. Essentially working as a repairman to everything in the dashboard of helicopters and some VTOL aircraft. Upon my exit from the Marines I began to go to school for nursing, taking prerequisite courses and advanced anatomy and physiology classes in addition to psychology and other required stuff.

From 2011 until 2014 I went through the civilian training pipeline at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC, WHERE THE N STANDS FOR KNOWLEDGE!) learning how to become a paramedic alongside other veterans and veteran firefighters and police. It was a great training program that placed me in Arlington and Alexandria counties as well as clinical rotations at level 1 trauma facilities. I had made the jump from nurse to paramedic because of the field utilization of paramedics. Some time in 2014 I reenlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard to serve in the flight medic program. Having been the guy who fixed helicopters for a while I decided it was high time I ride the damn things.

The shortened version of your question is:

From civilian to basically trained and card carrying Emergency Medical Technician is a semester long program with other supporting classes. There's a psycho-motor evaluation to ensure you know how to apply medical interventions as well as a written test to ensure you know your medical interventions and their purpose. From EMT to Paramedic (Highest grade in EMT) takes about 1.5-2 years depending on the training program with some military training programs taking even less time. But they have a high wash out rate because of the strenuous volume of testing.

Once you get your certification you must maintain continuing education credits every 2 years or risk losing your certificate and having to retake the gigantic written exam as well as the psycho-motor portion.

I think I answered your question, sorry to drown you in details!

A:

Ásta: I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?


Q:

My friend is also a flight medic (in training). What do they do exactly?

A:

I have a chunk of pork in my mouth and I'm not planning on chewing it or swallowing it. Do you have any idea if it's possible for my saliva to dissolve the chunk and, if it is possible, can you say how long it will take for my saliva to dissolve the piece of pork?


Q:

The role of the flight medic in the military is medical evacuation.

Typically from hospital to hospital, but in combat conditions they will perform patient evacuation from damn near the point of injury to higher level medical care. This youtube documentary is a pretty succinct summary of the whole operation. The missions are nick-named "Dust Off" from the Vietnam war.

Tasks and duties assigned to the flight medic include assessing and treating life-threatening injuries as well as assessing and sorting out effective interventions both medicinal and otherwise. Essentially like working in the back of an ambulance. Except it flies.

A:

Smári: It is very hard to say. There are various important factors. Is it smoked or cured, cooked, or what?


Q:

That is an excellent question, and one which none of the people I have put this particular question to have bothered to ask. I suppose, for the sake of this question, we should assume that the chunk of pork is uncooked but nonetheless free of parasites.

I am from the United States of America, and this is a question that is traditionally asked of our leaders at the highest levels. I would not assume that the same is necessarily true of Icelandic politicians, but I think that it is at least possible that the voters in your country would be interested in hearing your response as well.

A:

Uncooked, hm. I simply do not know. But as a Pirate, and having an endless thirst for knowledge, I suggest that we conduct some scientific research into this and get to the bottom of it.

In Iceland, the questions traditionally asked of politicians are, "would you like beer to be sold in grocery stores?" and "what do you think about the airport in Reykjavík?"


Q:

Will your party work to grant asylum to Edward Snowden?

A:

Ásta: The first bill we put forward in 2013 was on granting Snowden asylum: http://www.althingi.is/altext/142/s/0078.html But he technically needs to apply for it first though. So, it's up to him.


Q:

Will your party work to grant asylum to Edward Snowden?

A:

Birgitta: One person's Utopia could be another person's hell or at least that is the conclusion I reached after reading the The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. My personal utopia could only become real if I could dream it up with others. :) But I guess the poem Imagine is a good start.

Neither cats or dogs: I love wombats.


Q:

How do yiu typically handle people who assume your party is a joke?

How do you go about explaining what the Pirate Party really stands for?

A:

Birgitta: We don't come across many people that assume that we are a joke, it might have been an issue when we were being formed, but it is not really something we experience now.

We are a party that focuses on human rights in the digital era, with special focus on direct democracy. You can read more about our core policy, all our policy had to be based on the principles found there. http://piratar.is/en/core-policy/

You can also find more info here: https://newint.org/features/2015/01/01/democracy-digital-era-keynote/ and here: http://grapevine.is/mag/feature/2015/11/19/hacking-politics/


Q:

Birgitta. Every time a foreign media outlet interviews you, you are portrayed as potentially being the next PM of Iceland. Last time this happened was on Friday, when the Washington Post named you "possibly the country’s next leader". When you are asked by the Icelandic media if you want to be the next PM, you always say no. Why is that? Are the foreign reporters misunderstanding the situation? Have you ever tried to correct them?

A:

Birgitta: I tell them this is not what I am seeking and that we have horizontal structure. They want juicy headlines. Just like the Icelandic media play it out as if Katrin Jakobsdóttir will be the next PM, even if she has never said she wants it. You can have a look at my faq at my web page if you dont believe me :) http://birgitta.is/92-2/


Q:

On a lighter note, what are you going to do for the puffins? The world needs to know your stance.

A:

Ásta: I bet Smári wants to eat all the puffins since he was brought up in Vestmannaeyjar. I just want to cuddle them and make sure they are happy.


Q:

I took a picture of these puffins, and they say thank you.

A:

Smári: I don't want to eat all the puffins. Just a few. Sustainability in puffin hunting is important too!


Q:

Heyo! I'm an anthropologist and filmmaker in Iceland and have talked with Ásta about this before (sup Ásta) but would love to know what inspired each of you to join the Pirate Party and what you want to see for the future of Iceland. Also, based on my interviews with Icelanders all over the country the last year the consensus is that the next economic crisis is around the corner (folks say to count the construction cranes in the sky) - Do you think the next crisis in inevitable and what will the Pirates do to address the problem at the root? (I'm giving a paper on the Panama Papers, Pirates and Utopic narratives in Iceland on Friday at the University of Iceland so this is for SCIENCE!)

A:

Ásta: Sup Jen! Wanna hang out tonight? What inspired me to join the Pirate Party and actively do politics is after my stay in Iran in 2011. Iran being an authoritarian theocracy made me realize how privileged I am. Participating in a democratic society is not a right, it is a privilege and being a young woman, being able to participate in my democratic society and influence it.

On the construction cranes, the difference between this boom is that it is actually better financed than the previous construction crane invasion in Reykjavík. So hopefully this will not go bad. I believe another global crisis is inevitable, but I don't think it's going to hit Iceland as hard as the 2008 one.


Q:

What's your opinion of the British and Norwegian fishing industry near Iceland and do you plan on raiding it?

A:

Smári: We've won three cod wars against Britain. They had warships, we had awesome fishermen. Nuff' said. :-)


Q:

If you had to pick one Icelandic town you'd have to give back to Denmark, which one would you pick?

A:

Birgitta: That would be the notorious town of Fosshöfn, who is to blame for the gigantic sinkhole east east west of nowhere.


Q:

Will the pirate party be a non authoritarian form of government?

I'am a diligent endorser of the original endorsement of participant controlled governance. Wouldn't it be more simple to reduce power of state government and hand it to local government to be able to shorten the distance between voters and their representatives?

A:

Ásta: Well, the mission is to make a more non-authoritarian form of government, so, yes. In Iceland the distance between voters and local government on one hand and national government on the other hand isn't the same as you'd get in larger, more populous countries. But I generally agree with the notion of bringing the power back to the people.


Q:

What's your policy on renewable energy - how does it distinguish you from other parties, and what do you think other European nations should be doing with renewable energy that they are not?

Thanks, and good luck!

A:

Smári: Right now, Iceland's energy for electricity production and heating is almost entirely renewable. There are a few places where emergency generators are still used on occasion, but that'll presumably go away with improvements to the power grid in those parts of the country that have that problem. The remainder of non-renewable energy is fossil fuels used for cars, ships, planes and the like.

Current projections (PDF) suggest that with increased use of electric cars, we can reduce our use of fossil fuels substantially. The Pirate Party therefore has a policy to try to build out the infrastructure for EV's quite fast, so that by 2025 we can stop importing new non-electric cars.

What distinguishes us from other parties here is mostly the speed at which we wish to achieve the Paris agreement goals, but to be fair, there are other parties that have quite radical environmental policies too.

As for Europe, my personal (if heretical) opinion is stop shutting down nuclear in favour of natural gas. Nuclear is problematic in various ways as everybody knows, but right now natural gas (not to mention coal) is a much bigger problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Eventually nuclear should also go away in favour of renewables, in particular solar power and grid stabilization of various kinds ─ probably some mixture of batteries, molten salt, and other solutions.