Access and Isolation in Appalachian “Hollers”

When Social Justice Warriors from the urban conurbation of northern Virginia and Maryland decide to visit West Virginia and Kentucky, they leave their work behind and travel to vacation homes or visit whiskey distilleries.  In Hodgenville, Kentucky, sometimes they stop by the birthplace of the “Great Emancipator,” Abraham Lincoln, for a cone of ice cream (“dry” county!) and a quick refresher on how great is our indivisible nation. In West Virginia, they listen to, and perhaps even sing John Denver

Spatial Masterpiece of a Political Prison’s Cell

Prison cells share almost-universal physical characteristics: four walls, a door, a bed to sleep, a place to relieve oneself, and seldom a source of natural light.  Their specific use, however, depends on a cultural context; the four walls of a prison cell—and by extension the prison’s perimeter walls, too—can transform a purely physical imprisonment into something much different. This is particularly evident in prisons that house political prisoners. Two types of prisoners, common criminals and those incarcerated for political reasons,

Scale, Magnitude, and Power in Geography of Conflict

Every human action creates a certain degree of spatial impact.  Although their essential causes can be similar, outcomes of some actions are barely noticeable, whereas others can transform the course of humanity.  Conflict between rowdy Walmart shoppers on Black Friday has no different cause than wars between two or more countries—the actors fight for control over space, power, and resources.  What makes a difference between these two types of conflicts is their scale and magnitude of outcome. A midnight brawl

The Secret Team’s Methodology and Cultural Geographic Legacy

All conflicts in the world—whether local, regional, or global in scale—cannot be devoid of three fundamental components.  The first two are space (geography) and time (history).  The third aspect is culture; all human actions and reactions that occur within a defined space and time.  When identical methodology is applied to identical problems even in different space and time, outcomes can be similar if not identical.  In the context of origins and evolution of conflicts, their relation to each other, we

An Update on Prophets and Villains

Since I wrote The Time Has Arrived to Listen to the Prophets (full text below) some major changes influencing future geography of conflict have occurred.  In China, the “red tsar” has been inaugurated. Mr. Xi Jinping is China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. Meanwhile, China’s attempt to dethrone the global hegemon is entering another stage: “The new strategy is to enlist the energy markets’ help: Beijing may introduce a new way to price oil in coming months — but

Cultural Geographic Simplicity and Complexity of Europe

One of the more prominent intellectual fallacies is outsiders’ skewed perception of Europe as a region of cultural geographic simplicity.  Such a view stems from a superficial understanding of its complexity.  It is based primarily upon comparisons between Europe and seemingly more complex regions in Africa and Asia.  After all, explorers and colonizers did not venture towards distant and unexplored shores, deserts, and rainforests of Europe; their exploration of the world originated here and spread outward. For the modern day

From Creativity to Invention to Implementation

“Men collectively, for instance, never have a joint creative impulse, and rarely, any kind of joint positive impulse, except when it is instilled into them by one man. A crowd of people never painted a picture, wrote a book, composed a song, or spontaneously hit upon the idea of doing much of anything else that was constructive. Even in primitive societies, doing or building is the result of conference in which individuals speak their minds. The acts of crowds, when

Adverse Effects of the Adjective “Cold,” the Mental Valium for Geopolitical Anxiety

“The new Cold War is coming,” increasingly echoes in the American media’s editorials, talk show discussions, and comment sections on the Internet.  Closer attention reveals that the emphasis is on “Cold,” rather than “War,” as if the word war has lost its traditional true meaning. Perhaps it has, because the residents of the United States are in a perpetual state of war with something.  Terrorism, drugs, cancer, childhood obesity, illiteracy, poverty, diabetes, racism, social media, and insurance scams are just

Repercussions from Sidelining Geography in the American Cultural System

“Americans have to learn geography, because they are living now in a world in which they’re no longer isolated…and they simply will not make—will not be able to make—sense out of what they read in their newspapers and about the decisions their government makes unless they understand some historical and above all, geographical, relationships.” Henry Kissinger   American educational, corporate, and governmental spheres suffer from a well-documented spatial paradox.  Our interaction with the world has never been more complex, while

Kabul, Afghanistan’s Gordian Knot

The most difficult issue to discuss about Afghanistan’s future is that of ethnic groups, particularly their distribution relevance to political power.  Blindly ignoring it has been widespread among the foreign providers of funds for the country’s security and reconstruction.  Their actions resemble that of land developers near the San Andreas Fault, who hope that an anticipated cataclysmic earthquake will occur after they develop and sell the properties. People of various ethnicities do exist in Afghanistan and occupy territory they specifically

Deconstructing Seattle’s Construction

The growth rate of Seattle’s commercial and residential construction, much of which I can observe from my home, has reached unprecedented levels.  Satellite imagery on Google Maps cannot keep a pace with the ever-expanding Amazon campus in South Lake Union.  Facebook and Google are also “sneaking in” their operational facilities closer to Amazon. Figure 1. Landscape of downtown Seattle, a tourist destination and a builders’ playground. (All photographs were taken by the author.) Recently erected residential towers designed for luxury

The War Between the States of Mind in Virginia and Elsewhere

A significant portion of contemporary Americans hold an interesting perspective on the War Between the States (aka: the Civil War).  They liken it to a Super Bowl game, an annual single championship skirmish in football in which the winner takes all. The losers cannot challenge the score and have to go home suffering the humility of defeat?  In 1865, two years after fumbling cannonballs at Gettysburg, the Confederate States lost and had to go home. War is a Spectator Sport

American Military and Intel, Planning and Operations; Knowledge of Post-Soviet and Russian Cultural Geography—Priceless

Paper Value Russian affairs specialists were among the first people in the Intelligence Community’s (IC) to experience an impact of post-9/11 environmental change. It began immediately in the fall of 2001. Almost overnight their expertise became obsolete.  They became dinosaurs with resumes whose value was equal to that of the paper they were printed on.  Hardly anyone in Washington D.C. area was hiring people with regional expertise in the post-Soviet geographic realm.  Many, however, were opening an inordinate amount of

Novi Cives: Saturation and Superficiality in Critical and Analytical Thinking

Winning Hearts, But Not Minds Despite an unprecedented access to information and means of acquiring knowledge, it appears that, as a society, we have chosen to rapidly descend into an era of anti-intellectualism.  The ongoing change is drastic and cultural implications are extremely serious. People today often perceive an invitation to a conversation about serious topics as a form of brain torture.  Such actions seemingly saturate one’s brain too much—unlike superficial and meaningless conversations contributing to nothing other than its

Humanitarian Intervention, Personification of Evil, Geography of Conflict

Inte(rve)ntions and Outcomes Conquest is conquest, not a humanitarian intervention with bullets.  People are aware of what it means and how it looks.  It does not have to be masqueraded by various idioms.  Historically, starting wars and hurting people just because they are (perceived) different from “us” was perfectly acceptable.  It was and still is a method of collective self-preservation via expansion of power upon others.  This cultural trait is as old as humans; the moral principles are seldom evoked

Tears-Soaked Afghan Roads: Reconstruction Potholes and Utter Incompetence

One way or another, all of the rapidly-dilapidating roads in Afghanistan lead to their node, downtown Kabul City.  They follow the money trail of operational incompetence and cultural ignorance.  This is why the title of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) report, Afghanistan’s Road Infrastructure: Sustainment Challenges and Lack of Repairs Put U.S. Investment at Risk, did not surprise me at all. Figure 1. Building bridges that work; compacted trash put to good use as a neighborhood bridge.

Geographic Illusions and Delusions in Contemporary Croatia

“Historical claims—and, in the context of central and eastern Europe, this means claims based upon medieval and feudal pretensions—have no relevance to the twentieth century.  It is one of the great tragedies of Europe that peoples of central and eastern Europe, with long historical memories and little historical sense, cling so obstinately to these illusions of vanished grandeur.”   Norman J. Pounds (geographer) The Scope of Geographic Imagination In cultural geographic terms, the “railroad tracks” in the Balkans run north to

Finger-Testing Somalia’s Size With Minimal Spatial Distortion

For some reason, a great number of people tend to equate geography with trivia; i.e., they perceive geography not as a science, but as an exercise in the memorization of facts, something that everyone can understand and do.  Once they realize that geographic analysis is actually much more complex—difficult for them to fully grasp even when informally illustrated by an expert—they opt for one of the following: Accept that they need to learn very important concepts, which takes time and

Differing Landscapes of Conflict Viewed from Low Earth Orbit

With the advent of commercial satellite imagery and freely available tools to use it, we can now analyze landscapes with a clarity previously reserved for spy agencies.  Google Maps/Earth has been a rather useful option not only for armchair geographers, but also for those of us who prefer doing field work.  To laymen, this tool allows an unprecedented access to Earth’s exploration from above. In the context of the geography of conflict, to be able to “visit”—via satellite imagery—regions and

Freedom of Movement and Travel is an Enemy of the State

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”