Are Americans Brainwashed?

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What does it mean to be brainwashed?  When I was growing up in the days of the Cold War and the specter of nuclear disaster, the term brainwashed was associated with Communism.  We all knew that anyone who believed in Communism had been “brainwashed” by Stalin and his minions.  Brainwashed people could not think for themselves.  To be brainwashed, meant to be a mindless zombie.  People who are brainwashed have undying fealty to an impossible dream. Communists want a system where everyone shares equally in the production of society.  Communists will fight and die for this dream.

“Communism, my friend, is more than Marxism, just as Catholicism is more than the Roman Curia. There is a mystique as well as a politick. Catholics and Communists have committed great crimes, but at least they have not stood aside, like an established society, and been indifferent. I would rather have blood on my hands than water like Pilate.” – Graham Greene

brainwashingAs Americans, we pride ourselves on being the exact opposite of Communists.  In America, we have a democracy.  To live in a democracy, means that you are “free” to think for yourself.  No one living in a democracy can possibly be brainwashed.  In America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave” you will only find people who believe in the truth.  The truth is that democracy is the holy grail of political systems.  It supports everything that is good about life.  In a democracy, all men and women are created equal.  In a democracy, everyone can succeed if they only have the right desire.  Americans will fight and die for this dream.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  –  The Declaration of Independence 

It never occurred to me that Americans could be brainwashed until I started teaching MBA students both at St. Thomas College and Metro State University in Minnesota.  Enrollment in MBA programs soared during the nineties as more and more students gravitated to business occupations and away from such occupations as teaching and social work.  Many of my students had obtained non-business undergraduate degrees and become tired of the lack of money associated with such career fields.  With an MBA degree, you could easily make three or four times per year what you could with a Masters degree in Education.

I really enjoyed teaching in the business field because my students were smart, motivated and challenging.  Most of them had been working for several years and brought considerable life experience to their classes.  Very few of my students had simply finished an undergraduate program right out of high school and then gone on to get an MBA degree.

Since I had spent many years as a management consultant, I brought industry experience to my classes.  I had learned along the way that critical thinking and the ability to question the status quo were essential to continuous improvement and systems change.  I tried to incorporate these insights into my curriculum and classroom instruction.  I soon found that this task was easier said then done.

An eye opener for me was when I tried to use the documentary film called: “The Corporation (2003)” in some of my business ethics classes.  The Corporation is a Canadian documentary film critical of the modern-day corporation.  It was directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and written by Joel Bakan.  The film has numerous examples of corporate behavior that walk a fine line between criminal and immoral behavior.  The film shows that many of the behaviors of modern corporations are immoral although not illegal.  However, there are numerous examples in the paper every day wherein executives and corporate leaders have crossed the line.

“Again and again we have the problem that whether you obey the law or not is a matter of whether it’s cost effective. If the chance of getting caught and the penalties are less than it costs to comply, people think of it as just a business decision.” – Robert Monks.

Much to my surprise, many of my students did not see anything wrong with such immoral behavior.  Their standards were set on what was expedient and legal rather than what was moral and ethical.  Repeatedly, I found that modern business students believe in an amoral system of ethics rather than a moral system.  In an amoral system, right and wrong is defined by what works and what does not work.  If you are within the law, you may conduct your business with little concern for the residual effects on either society or citizens.  The first law of business trumps all other concerns.  That law is to make a profit.

No amount of persuasion or argument could sway my students from their steadfast believe in the value of capitalism and its sanctity as an economic system.  Students were not persuaded by the iniquities in the system, by the inherent racism in the system, by the inherent sexism in the system or by the unequal distribution of wealth in a system that has become increasingly dysfunctional.

What we should admit to begin with, if we can, is that good socialism is better than bad capitalism. The logic of the statement is really inescapable. It is only when capitalism fails that people and nations resort to alternative forms of political economy.”  – Jude Wanniski

How can anyone as bright and experienced as these MBA students not see the obvious flaws in America’s belief system?  An excellent book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) by Thomas Kuhn talks about the nature of scientific and paradigmatic change.  Kuhn found that even scientists could not see the truth behind a new theory because their old paradigms blinded them to the new reality.

In the same way, it has been gospel for many years now that America is an “exceptional” nation.  Americans are smarter, tougher, harder workers, more courageous, more creative and more ambitious then workers from any other country in the world.  Since it is believed that America is built on Capitalism and Democracy, these two ideologies have become sacred tenets of American life.  To cast doubt or aspersions on the value and efficacy of these systems is to suggest that America and hence Americans are not exceptional.  Trying to talk students into seeing the flaws in either of these systems is about as effective as asking them to describe a Martian.  If you have no foundation for seeing a new reality, you can only describe familiar objects in your current reality.

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Business students today are not critical thinkers nor or they creative thinkers when it comes to politics or economics.  Most of them have been brainwashed.  When I use this term, I mean it to signify someone who cannot think out of a box of concepts that has become their dominant world view.  Just as I suppose a die hard Communist would find compelling reasons to defend communism, die hard Americans can always find compelling reasons to defend America.  A brainwashed person cannot see another reality or even begin to envision what might be wrong with their weltanschauung.

“This is what economics now does. It tells the young and susceptible (and also the old and vulnerable) that economic life has no content of power and politics because the firm is safely subordinate to the market and the state and for this reason it is safely at the command of the consumer and citizen. Such an economics is not neutral. It is the influential and invaluable ally of those whose exercise of power depends on an acquiescent public.”  John K. Galbraith, (Power and the Useful Economist, 1973)

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So, what am I getting at?  What is my point?  To find it, we need to return to the thesis of this article:  Are Americans brainwashed?  If we define what it means to be brainwashed as: “One who persists in the belief of something despite apparent evidence and facts to the contrary,” then I would suggest that the evidence points beyond a doubt to the fact that Americans are some of the most brainwashed people on the face of the earth.  It has little to do with experience in business, innate intelligence or amount of degrees accumulated.

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A red herring in our acceptance of my conclusion is the common belief that brainwashing is forced.  Too often, we have the picture of an individual strapped to a chair being made to listen to propaganda or watch propaganda films.  The fact of the matter is that brainwashing can be covert and subdued.  I suggest another picture for brainwashing that is just as effective as “forced” brainwashing.  Picture the average American watching four or five hours or television every day.

Television Statistics.  According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.

During the average day, an American will have seen or heard between 300-700 marketing messages per day, including messages from the Internet and video gaming. – (Source: Phil Barden, “Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy”, 2013).  Much of the research on the role that advertising plays in consumer purchases suggests that it is mostly informative rather than persuasive.  In other words, it appears that consumers use the information to choose between products but are not necessarily persuaded by the advertising to buy any particular product.

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As a business instructor and former retail store manager, I am skeptical of the consumer research.  My firsthand experience in regard to the power of these marketing messages does not agree with the research findings.  Students and customers will repeatedly deny that advertising messages play any overt role in their purchasing decisions.  However, any observation of the buying habits of Americans will easily demonstrate a disconnect between what people spend their money on and rational economic sense.

Furthermore, when we look for the messages that “brainwash” many Americans we must look beyond Madison Avenue.  We have a cornucopia of messages bombarding Americans every day that serve to instill mythical beliefs in American exceptionalism, American patriotism, American heroism and American capitalism.  Let us look briefly at some of the beliefs that I noted earlier.

Americans are the hardest working people in the world:

The U.S. ranks 17 out of 38 countries in terms of average hours worked each year, according to the OECD, while Mexico, where labor laws cap the work week at 48 hours, ranks no. 1.  Workers in Costa Rica and South Korea work the second and third longest hours, respectively – Sept 2, 2016

Americans are the most creative and innovative people in the world:

In this area Americans do rank exceptionally high.  The Martin Prosperity Institute ranks 82 countries on a scale for creativity based on technology, talent and tolerance for new ideas.   Overall, America ranks second behind Sweden.  Note however that we are not number one in any category.

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Technology Rank: 3

Talent Rank: 8

Tolerance Rank: 8

Global Creativity Index: 0.902

Americans are the toughest people in the world:

This is a very ambiguous category and an allegation that is difficult to attack or defend.  How do we define tough?  Is our military the most powerful in the world?  The answer would be yes.  Are our athletes the best in the world?  An all-time medal table for all Olympic Games from 1896 to 2016, including Summer Olympic GamesWinter Olympic Games, and a combined total of both shows that America has clearly dominated the Olympic games.  The top three countries in medal totals are:

America:  Total Medals:  2,804

Russia:  Total Medals – 1,204

Great Britain:  Total Medals – 875

American-exceptionalism

But if we define tough as a measure of resilience to strife and turmoil, we find that Americans are not in first place.  The FM Global Resilience Index ranks and scores countries across nine factors, illuminating their supply chain resilience and resilience in general.  Across political risk, exposure to natural hazards, and infrastructure quality, the index quantifies a nation’s ability to withstand a disruption and bounce back, so products can get to where they need to go.

“The latest version of the ranking, which comes from a Rhode Island-based insurance company, has Switzerland in first place, followed by Norway, with Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the central United States, Canada, Australia, and Denmark counting out the top 10 places.” – Fast Company 

Conclusions:

If Americans belief in the above ideas is false but we continue as a nation to keep repeating them ad nausea, does that mean we are brainwashed?  Or are we simply delusional?  I submit that the causality behind these beliefs is less important than the arrogance and hubris that they demonstrate to the rest of the world.  How can we expect to be respected and admired when we waltz around treating the rest of the world as though they are second class citizens?

“This unchallenged faith in American exceptionalism makes it harder for Americans to understand why others are less enthusiastic about U.S. dominance, often alarmed by U.S. policies, and frequently irritated by what they see as U.S. hypocrisy, whether the subject is possession of nuclear weapons, conformity with international law, or America’s tendency to condemn the conduct of others while ignoring its own failings. Ironically, U.S. foreign policy would probably be more effective if Americans were less convinced of their own unique virtues and less eager to proclaim them.” – Foreign Affairs: The Myth of American Exceptionalism, Stephen M. Walt, 2011

Time for Questions:

Do you think many Americans are brainwashed?  Why or why not?  Do you think there are many beliefs that we as Americans hold that are false?  If so, where do you think they come from?  What do we need to do to see the truth?  How do we overcome mythologies that are constantly reinforced by special interest groups?

Life is just beginning.

The conservative version of American exceptionalism has become a password of sorts for candidates who want to prove their credentials to a right-wing America.” – Russ Feingold

 

Alexa:  I Need a Date for Saturday Night!

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Friday Morning:

John:   Alexa.  Can you find me a date for Saturday night?

Alexa:  Which sexual persuasion do you prefer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual,  transgender or straight?

John:   I would like straight.

Alexa:  Do you prefer male or female?

John:   Female.

Alexa:  What age range do you prefer:  20-25, 25-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60, 60 and over?

John:   20-25 please.

Alexa:  What body shape do you like:  thin, voluptuous, statuesque, petite, pudgy, full bodied or rotund?

voluptuous womanJohn:   I prefer voluptuous.

Alexa:  Are you looking for a long-term partner or a simple hook-up?

John:   A simple hook-up.

Alexa:  How far are you willing to travel for this date – 10-20 miles, 20-50 miles, over 50 miles?

John:   I prefer 10-20 miles.

Alexa:  Searching Searching

Alexa:  I believe I have a hit.  Mary (no last name given) is also searching for a date for Saturday night with male characteristics that are similar to those you have input.  I will check for  receptivity on her part.

A few minutes later:

Screen_Shot_2017_04_26_at_1.19.49_PM.0Alexa:  Mary has some questions for you John.

John:  Alexa, what are her questions?

Alexa:  What kind of movies do you like?

John:  Action adventure.

Alexa:  What is your favorite place to eat in Casa Grande?

John:  I like the Olive Garden and Mimi’s.

Alexa:  What are your favorite hobbies?

John:  I like traveling, music, reading and jogging.

Alexa:  I will check back with Mary.

A few minutes later:

Alexa:  Mary has agreed to a date.  She would like to go to dinner with you at the Olive Garden and then a movie.

John:  How will I recognize her?

Alexa:  Checking!

Alexa:  Mary will be wearing a bright red dress and a red scarf.

John:  That’s all Alexa.

Sunday Morning:

alexa-funny-382x255John:  Alexa!

Alexa:  What is it John?

John:  I had a horrible date on Saturday night.

Alexa:  What went wrong John?

John:   Mary was nothing like I asked for.  She was overweight, about 50 years old and looking for a long-term relationship.  She was far from voluptuous.

Alexa:  Feedback from Mary was similar to yours John.

John:  Alexa!  Please explain.

Alexa:  Mary reported back that you were skinny and not muscular, you were closer to 70 than 40, you were bald, and you did not have a large yacht in the Caribbean.

John:  Well, I might have exaggerated a little on my characteristics.

John:  Alexa!  let’s try again for this Saturday night.

Alexa:  Please input requirements John

John:  I want a 25-year-old voluptuous blond who would like a simple hookup with an overweight, bald, 70-year-old man with no money.

Alexa:  Searching, Searching

Several Hours Later:

John:  Alexa!  Have you found a woman like I described yet?

Alexa:  I have searched all of the United States, all five continents as well as the entire Universe, no results found for such a woman as you describe.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAlxAAAAJDY5ODJlMDZmLTYzOWYtNDg4YS1iOWI5LTAyZGI3MDQ3OWVhOAJohn:  Alexa!  Where is the best place to get a pizza in Casa Grande for Saturday night?

Alexa:  According to Yelp, the best pizza is at Papa Murphy’s on Florence Street.  They have a 4.2-star rating based on thirty reviewers.  Should I order you a pizza for Saturday night?

Time for Questions:

Do you own an Alexa device?  Are you planning to purchase one?  Why or why not?  Have you experienced what such devices can do?  What do you think will come next?

Life is just beginning.

“Design is a way of life, a point of view. It involves the whole complex of visual communications: talent, creative ability, manual skill, and technical knowledge.  Aesthetics and economics, technology and psychology are intrinsically related to the process.” –  Paul Rand

“New technology is not good or evil in and of itself. It’s all about how people choose to use it.” -David Wong

 

 

 

 

The Persico’s Annual Holiday Letter

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to You from John and Karen Persico

Karen asked me to start our annual holiday letter.  I was trying to think of a cool “theme” to carry through the letter. I remember when I worked for the Wisconsin Job Service, we categorized jobs under the following:  People, Things and Ideas.  If I add Places, I thought it might be a good scheme to use.  I will defer to Karen on People and Places, since I have always liked Ideas and Things better than People.  Of course, People does not include any of you.

Ideas:  I truly like the idea that we should be about compassion for others less fortunate.  Kindness to those in need of help and Courage in the face of old age and death.  I have been attending seminars on caregiving and Dementia to help me to better understand the impact that these could have on my life and the life of others around me.  I notice that as I age and my friends age, there is a tendency for us to play it safe and to pull in on risk taking.  Maybe that is inevitable, but I think we (I) need to fight back to some degree against it.  Well, that’s all on ideas.  I have left out politics since I am sure that none of you want to hear any of my ideas about it.  Don’t blame you one bit.

Things:  Karen and I bought our first TV set in nearly forty years.  It is a “Smart” TV that we are using via WIFI to watch Netflix and Amazon videos.  Karen likes listening to music on it.  We get no commercials or FAKE NEWS. 😊  If you want to see a vison of the future of “Things,” read the book: “Building the Internet of Things” by Macie J. Franz, a VP of Strategic Innovation at Cisco.   The future will be unbelievable in terms of things.  We will all be around to see some of it.  Well, time to turn this over to Karen.  She is going to her 3 times a week Zumba class now but will return shortly. — John

People and Places:   It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am not nearly as organized as John, so I’m lumping people and places.  They usually go together anyway.  The rhythm of our snow-birding life continued between Fredric and Arizona City with a wonderful addition this year of a trip to England in the fall for nearly a month.  We were very fortunate to have John’s sister Jeanine (my sister too) travel with us.  WIN_20170919_06_37_03_Pro

We spent most of the trip in the Cotswold area in a stone cottage dating from about 1740 (where I had my first ghost experience).  From there we did day trips to quaint villages and castles with a 3-day jaunt to London.  Jeanine and I rode the London Eye, we saw Kinky Boots in the theater district, and did all the usual touristy things.  We felt like we were living in one of the many BBC shows we’ve watched over the years.  A highlight for me was being able to sing in the choir of St. Mary’s the Virgin during the Tetbury Music festival.

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The town of Tetbury above is where we stayed. 

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Karen sang here with the choir for the service the morning of the Tetbury Music Festival.  St. Mary the Virgin Church. 

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The staircase where Karen saw her ghost. 

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A typical country road.  They still give me nightmares. 

Went to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Kinky Boots and up in the London Eye.  Spent three days in London just doing the usual tourist stuff. 

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Great to come home each day to our little cottage and cook our own meals.  We would pick up groceries each morning before going out and then cook and have a fire in the evening.  This was our little kitchen area. 

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A nice little place in Tetbury to eat out.

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Some friends we met in the country side while visiting different places.  We met up twice. 

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I found this great trail for hiking and running each day. 

 

Our children are doing well.  Juli spent much of the year planning and sewing for Garrick and Kat’s wedding last spring.  The newly-weds are living in St. Paul.  Susan is working an extra job to help get her boys through college.  Zach is a senior at Augsburg in Minneapolis and Sam a high school senior in Northfield.  Juli’s Logan is a high school senior in St. Paul, so there will be lots of graduations this year.  Kevin has become a commuter between the Bay Area in California where he works for LinkedIn and his new property in Northern Wisconsin.  It will be nice to live in the same state at least for a few months of the year.  Megan has had an eventful year, moving into a new apartment, surviving the death of her dog Moose, adopting a new Min-Pin, Bambi, and completing her first novel.

John and I are (thankfully) healthy and busy, though a bit slower than we used to be.  It sure feels like it takes longer to do less now.  John has been attending some classes and learning more about caregiving in preparation for us taking care of each other.  He’s been substitute teaching in AZ with interesting stories, particularly of the grade school classes.  He’s taught everything from kindergarten to high school dance classes.  His creativity and organizational skills can get him through most situations.   I’m still working in consulting and ICD-10 coding and playing my dulcimer(s).  We did the usual dulcimer festivals and weekend trips.

We wish all of you a wonderful Christmas season and a blessed New Year.   John and Karen

John:  Could I please say one nasty thing about our politicians? 

Karen:  NO! 

John: OK DAM IT!

 

 

Bully in Chief and Liar in Chief!

‘He is a bully’: Gillibrand hits back at Trump over demeaning tweet

Senator Gillibrand

Trump is not only THE Bully in Chief, he also is THE Liar in Chief. I am still waiting for one journalist to be honest and call this guy a Liar.  At least Senator Gillibrand has the guts to label this lowlife for what he really is. We have a President with NO integrity and a Senate full of politicians with not much more integrity. Do you think this poor excuse for a human being would still be president if even 1/4 of the Senate had the guts to speak out and call him for what he really is?  He no more deserves to be president than Benedict Arnold.  Time for more calls to impeach him.  Time for more Americans to speak out.  Let the waves of indignation and moral outrage roll down and sweep him out of office.

No bigger mistake has been made in the history of this country than the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States of America.

Time for Questions:

When will we impeach this lowlife?  What about the people who helped to put him into office?  Have they any regrets?  Are you speaking out?  If not, when will you add your voice to the chorus of people who have the courage and integrity to speak their piece?

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Life is just beginning.

Trump is not the end but the beginning.  We are going to see more rights for people in the world, more justice, more compassion, more of what will make American’s proud just as soon as we dump trump.

 

 

 

The Secret Plan the Republicans Have to Help the Poor!

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The Republicans have a secret plan for eliminating poverty.  The basis of this plan is that if you eliminate the unfit you will not have any more poverty.  This strategy derives from theories first formulated in the middle of the nineteenth century.  These theories were subsequently labeled as “Social Darwinism.”  The online encyclopedia Britannica gives the following definition of Social Darwinism:

“Social Darwinism, the theory that human groups and races are subject to the same laws of natural selection as Charles Darwin had perceived in plants and animals in nature. According to the theory, which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the weak were diminished and their cultures delimited while the strong grew in power and in cultural influence over the weak. Social Darwinists held that the life of humans in society was a struggle for existence ruled by “survival of the fittest,” a phrase proposed by the British philosopher and scientist Herbert Spencer.”

Social DarwinismThere have been many theories proposed for the policies held by Trump and his Republican supporters.  They include “Greed Theory.”  The Republicans are held to be greedier than most people and only want to accumulate as much money as they can.  Another is “Hate Theory.”  This theory holds that since most Republicans are White European in ancestry, they loath and detest any people who are different then they are.  This includes Asians, Blacks, Indians, Latinos and any immigrants not from Europe.

The final theory proposed is what I call “Fear Theory.”  This theory holds that the motivation behind Republican policies stem from their innate fear that everything they have will be taken away by those who are less privileged.  Thus, we find Republicans building big houses behind big walls and in gated communities protected by private security police.  In addition, with the help of their friends in the NRA, they stockpile vast array of weapons in case of home invasion or an all-out assault by the underclass of America.

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The above theories assume a very pejorative and negative rationale for the actions of Trump and his allies in Congress.  I have come to a different conclusion.   Why is my conclusion and theory important?  Most of all because it does not ascribe any negative motivations to the Republicans.  My theory assumes that current Republican theory is derived from a set of basic assumptions first formulated in the late 1800’s.  Thus, Republicans are not greedy or hateful or fearful as much as they are misguided and misinformed.  I came to realize this fact through the intersection of two quite different events.  Here is how it happened.

Four or five times per week, I go for a run.  Down here in Arizona, I have been running in the Casa Grande mountains.  I usually get up in the mountains about the time of sunrise.  My runs are over hilly, twisty, rocky, mountainous and desert terrain.  My only companions this early are the cacti and numerous birds that populate the desert.  Occasionally, I see a coyote, javelina or long eared jack rabbit but mostly it is peaceful and quiet.  As the sun rises over the mountains, the blue sky is colored with red and yellow hues that create a pastiche of colors which are simply breathtaking.  It is hard not to think that I am in heaven when I am running in the mountains in the morning.

mountains in morning

I was on such a run about two weeks ago when I was struck with an inspiration.  I suddenly realized that everything the Republicans have been doing is based on one simple idea.  They want to create a system whereby the “elite” have the benefits of their status as superior beings.  Thus, healthcare should be for the elite and the poor can go to the emergency ward because they will not be able to afford insurance.  More of the poor will die but that is consistent with Social Darwinism.

“Their disappearance from the human family would be no great loss to the world.”
― Henry Clay

Education will become an elite system.  The poor will go to inner city public schools deprived of money and resources where they will be treated more like prisoners than learners and security guards will make sure they behave.  The rich will go to well-funded private academies where they will learn to take high paying jobs as captains of industry.

Social Security will be replaced by an elite system of stocks and bonds whereby the rich can use financial advisers to double and triple their contributions.  The poor with little knowledge or skills in the stock market will lose what they have contributed and soon find they have no retirement money.  More prisons will be built (and ironically will be government funded) to protect the rich and lock up any dissidents who dare to complain or who become public nuisances.

“The forces which are working out the great scheme of perfect happiness, taking no account of incidental suffering, exterminate such sections of mankind as stand in their way, with the same sternness that they exterminate beasts of prey and herds of useless ruminants.”  ― Herbert Spencer,

As much as I liked the above scenario, since it seemed to provide a good fit for the current Trump and Republican policies, there was still something missing.  I could not quite put my hand on it, but it still cast the Republicans as “bad guys” with evil motives.  Why should the Republicans be any more evil than the Democrats?  My theory did not explain this.

helping-othersAbout a week later, I was substitute teaching in a Casa Grande High School.  I drew an eleventh-grade social studies class.  The teacher had left an assignment wherein the students had to find certain terms and concepts associated with the second industrial revolution and write definitions for each of them.  Included among such terms as: robber barons, corporations, patents and trusts was the term “Social Darwinism.”  One of the students asked me to explain it beyond the simple definition she found on line.  I tried to recall my ideas relating to this concept from many years ago.  I gave her my explanation and then later I looked up the definition at Wikipedia.  I was struck at how well my memory had served me.  It was at that point that the proverbial light bulb or blinding light of inspiration hit me.  I suddenly realized that the Republican Party was not just trying to create elite systems but they were also trying to build on the theories of Herbert Spencer.  The following excerpt explains this theory very well as it applies to many current concepts such as: trickle down theory, privatization, corporate welfare and tax reform.

“Social Darwinists took up the language of evolution to frame an understanding of the growing gulf between the rich and the poor as well as the many differences between cultures all over the world.  The explanation they arrived at was that businessmen and others who were economically and socially successful were so because they were biologically and socially “naturally” the fittest. Conversely, they reasoned that the poor were “naturally” weak and unfit and it would be an error to allow the weak of the species to continue to breed. They believed that the dictum “survival of the fittest” (a term coined not by Charles Darwin but by sociologist Herbert Spencer) meant that only the fittest should survive.”  – Social Darwinism in the Gilded Age

social darwinismSo, there you have it.  Trump and the Republican Party are not greedy, hateful or fearful of others, they simply do not believe that you have a right to anything unless you are also rich and successful and White like they are.  Based on the concepts of Social Darwinism, they have the right to whatever you have if they can find a way to take it away from you.  If you cannot keep it, that means you are inferior.  If you are inferior, you have no right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  According to Social Darwinism, the elite will eventually Trump the poor because they are stronger, smarter and more fit.  This will eventually result in a society wherein everyone is fit, and everyone is trying to screw everyone else.

“Truly, this earth is a trophy cup for the industrious man. And this rightly so, in the service of natural selection.  He who does not possess the force to secure his Lebensraum in this world, and, if necessary, to enlarge it, does not deserve to possess the necessities of life.  He must step aside and allow stronger peoples to pass him by.”
― Adolf Hitler

Today we have a Fake President, Fake News, Fake Christians and a divide in this country that rivals the divide that we had prior to the civil war.  We have a nation that has forgotten its roots and that has succumbed to the vilest theory to ever afflict humanity.

Time for Questions:

Do you think it would be better if the poor would just die and save us all the trouble of taking care of them?   What do you think we should do with the disabled and mentally challenged?  Should we start a eugenics program to get rid of them?  Who should help the poor, refugees, immigrants, hungry, sick?  What would Jesus do?

Life is just beginning.

“They said ‘specialist children’s wards,’
But they meant children-killing centers.
They said ‘final medical assistance’
But they meant murder.”  ― Ann Clare LeZotteT4

Freedom of Expression

I was walking down the street the other day and I saw three White guys beating the heck out of a Black guy.  The Black guy was down on the ground and the three White guys were taking turns pummeling him.  I rushed up and yelled “Stop, what the heck do you guys think you are doing.”  One of the White guys answered “what does it look like, we are beating the shit out of a Black guy.”  “What did he do”, I asked.   “What do you mean what did he do?  “He was being Black” came back the reply.

“Are you guy’s crazy?  You can’t just beat someone up for being Black.”   I retorted.

i-dont-give-a-fuck

The three guys huddled for a minute and finally one of the three (A guy with bright red hair and lots of tattoos) came out of the huddle and took me by the shoulder.  “Look he said, you look like a fairly intelligent guy.”  Two of my friends over there never went to college.  I went for a few years so they nominated me to talk to you. “

“What is there to talk about?  You have no right no beat up on this poor man”, I answered.

“Aahh, that is where you are wrong” said Tattoo Guy.  “We have every right.  In fact, we have a constitutional right to beat him up.”

“Are you serious or trying to kid me, I ask.”

“No I am not kidding” said Tattoo Guy, “I am very serious. It is our constitutional right.”

“OK,” I say, “I will bite, what is the right you think you have?”

“Well” says Tattoo Guy, “have you ever heard of ‘Freedom of Expression.’  The constitution struthays every American citizen has Freedom of Expression.  Thus, we are just expressing our free rights as American citizens to beat up on people we don’t like.”

“I am not sure that is what the Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Expression”, I answer.

“Well, frankly we don’t give a fuck what you think.  Furthermore, if you keep interfering we might just sue you for violating our constitutional rights.”

“Hold on now.  I thought we were having a friendly conversation here.  Now you are threatening to sue me.  On what grounds?” I ask.

I could see Tattoo Guy thinking about my question for a while and then he answered “Well, since you are being so polite about it, we won’t sue you, at least not for now.”

“Wow, thanks” said I.

trump-and-pc“Look, said Tattoo Guy, we voted for Donald Trump and he respects our Freedom of Expression rights.  We are sick and tired of the PC shit you pussies and commies have been spreading in this country for years.  We are tired of watching what we say and do because we might be called rednecks or bigots or even racists.  It’s a new day for America.  We are going to make our country great again.”

“With Donald Trump as president, I can call anyone I want a nigger, kike, frog, wop, dago, spook, wetback, cunt, fag, pussy, greaser, Jap, slope.  It’s my Freedom of Expression” says Tattoo Guy.

“So basically you were sick and tired of having your Freedom of Expression curtailed by anti-hate laws and people who are sick of being insulted because of their color or sex” I asked?

freedom-of-expression“You are more or less on the right track” says Tattoo Guy.  “Used to be you could tell some nigger jokes, put up pinups of nude girls, even grab a few pussies once in a while and no one bothered you.  Then, all this PC stuff started and before you knew it, you had to watch what you said and did.  A White person’s Freedom of Expression went down the drain.  Well, no more PC now.  So can we please get back to beating the shit out of this nigger?”

“What about this man’s Freedom of Expression” I ask.  “Don’t you think he also has some rights?”

“Sure” says Tattoo Guy, “He can say whatever he thinks.  We don’t care.  Just as long as he doesn’t call us rednecks or bigots or racists.”

“That sounds like a double standard” I answer.

“I don’t think so.  You intellectuals think too much.  You need to do more and think less” says Tattoo Guy.

einstein“Well, what if I told you that I had a Glock Model 40 10mm in my pocket and that if you hit this man one more time, I will take it and blow your fucking brains out.  What would you think of that” I replied indignantly.

“That changes the entire nature of our issue here” says Tattoo Guy.  “We respect your Second Amendment rights to own and bear arms and use them in defense of your country and family.  May I ask if this Black Guy is part of your family?”

“Haven’t you ever heard of John Donne” I asks?  “Donne says”:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

“So you are sort of saying that this Black guy here is part of your extended family?” asks Tattoo Guy.

“Exactly,” I reply.

freedom-of-thought

“Well, that’s a horse of a different color then.  If you are related to us because you are White and we are White and he is related to you, even if he is Black, then he is also related to us, which means he is part of our family too.  That’s great, now we have a new brother.  How about if we all go get a beer together?” says Tattoo Guy.

“Sounds like a better idea than beating each other up or my blowing your brains out.  Do you know any good brew pubs?  First round on me” I reply.

Time for Questions:

 Do you think all such stories as mine have a “happy” ending?  What rights do people have not to be insulted or harassed because of their color or sex?  Do you think some rights might supersede other rights?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

Freedom of speech does not include the right:

  • To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[Shouting] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”).
    Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • To make or distribute obscene materials.
    Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
  • To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
    United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
  • To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration. 
    Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
  • Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
    Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
  • Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
    Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).

Freedom of speech does includes the right:

  • Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag).
    West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
  • Of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”).
    Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
  • To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
    Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
  • To contribute money (under certain circumstances) to political campaigns.
    Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  • To advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions).
    Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976); Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977).
  • To engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest).
    Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).

 

 

 

To Care or Not To Care? That is the Real Question.

In 1979, I was hired by Sister M. Giovanni SSND of the School Sisters of Notre Dame to teach at Guadalupe Area Project (GAP).  This was an alternative high school for kids who had been kicked out of the public school system.  I had gone back to school in 1971 after four years in the military and decided to get a teaching degree in Health Education.  I had just barely finished High School in 1964 and joined the Air Force in September of 64.  I had applied to a few colleges at the end of high school but due to my poor grades and even poorer conduct record, I did not even get rejection notices.  Thus, liking the Air Force uniform better than the Army or Navy uniforms, I joined the Air Force, hoping to see the world, kill some commies and “meet” a lot of interesting women.  I did not get much of the first two agendas but I did prove more successful at the third one.  Lots more successful than I had been in high school!  Was it the uniform or that I was coming from a “strange” land?

Upon leaving the military, much more disillusioned than when I had entered, I worked an assortment of odd jobs for three years until finally my first wife convinced me to go to college. She evidently believed in me more than I believed in myself or was tired of my complaining about all the stupid assholes I was working for.  Going to college might sound easy but with my abysmal high school record, getting in was easier said than done.  Fortunately, a kindly guidance counselor at my old high school said he would tell anyone requesting my records that they had been lost.  He opined that admissions people seeing my school records would not think I was anything less than “correctional” material.  In fact, I had been arrested a few times before turning 18 but most of this was not valid any longer since they were juvenile records.

Five years later, 1976, I emerged from Rhode Island College with a degree in Health Education.  After spending a year as a substitute teacher, I lost most of my desire to teach.  With the GI Bill being extended, I decided to enroll in a Master’s Degree program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Counseling Psychology.  Talk about the old adage of psych majors being screwed up.  I needed more counseling than any potential clients.  I started sending out applications for a job in counseling and received a letter from Sister M. Giovanni SSND that she was interested in my application.

I called Sister G (as she was affectionately known to one and all) and set-up an interview with her.  I was shocked and surprised when I found out that she was looking for a “teacher.” I explained that I was not interested in teaching but was interested in counseling.  Sister G. replied “Don’t worry; you will get lots of practice counseling with the students we have at GAP.”  I then said “Look Sister G. I am not a Catholic, I am an Atheist.”  She looked very serious at me and said: “I don’t care what your political or spiritual beliefs are as long as you are a good teacher.”  I was hooked.  I agreed to teach at GAP and stayed there for one year.

It was one of the most memorable experiences I have had in my life.  GAP teachers, volunteers, parents and students were all unique and dedicated. Maybe not all dedicated to learning but all dedicated to getting more out of life.  One of the best teachers was the art teacher named Sister Anna Louise Wilson.  She was a good teacher, devoted to her profession and devoted to her students.  One day after I had decided to leave, I took a short walk with Sister Anna.  I never quite felt that I had the impact or influence on the student’s lives that I would have liked to have.  I knew that Sister Anna did and I admired her for it.  I asked her “What does it take to really make a difference in their lives?”  She replied “you have to care.”

I thought about her comment then and I realized that I did not care.  I cared about the subjects I was teaching.  I cared about being professional.  I cared about continuous learning and I cared about mastering the craft of an educator.   What I did not care about was what happened to my students after they left school.  As far as I was concerned, that was their problem.  My task was to give them the knowledge, skills and abilities to fit in with a changing complex workplace.  Many years went by and countless times I have reflected on Sister Anna’s comment about caring.  I finally understand its relevance and importance.

Who makes a difference in anyone’s life? Do you care about the Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners or 20 greatest geniuses the world has ever known?  How many of them can you name?  But the people that cared about you are the ones you remember.  They are the ones who made a true difference in your life.  Caring is perhaps the most underrated and undervalued trait in the world.  Whether in politics, education or the workplace, the people that care are the ones that truly make a difference.  The concept is so important, you would think we would have academies of caring or schools where caring could be taught.  What does it mean to care?  Why care? What is caring?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” — Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991);

When you care about something, you are taking a risk.  A risk that any expectations you have will not be returned.  A risk that the subject of your caring may not reciprocate.  A risk that your caring will result in disappointment or worse.  The subject of your caring is independent of your caring.  A hard reality is that caring opens the care giver to pain.  We would rather minimize the potential pains in our lives and so we develop some strict rules about whom we are willing to care for and when we are willing to care.  For instance, how often have you heard the phrase used “I couldn’t care less?”  Many of us have been burned once too often by “caring” and so we shrink our envelopes of caring until we have little potential to care.  I never saw a reason to care about my students because I was not really willing to risk the effort.  Even if I had realized that I needed to be more caring to make a difference in their lives, my self-protection envelope would have prevented me from trying.

Now I am older, sadder and perhaps wiser, or at least wise enough to understand the need for caring.  Whether in a nursing home, school, hospital or at work, caring is one of the most desired attributes we would like to obtain for ourselves.  The question is “how can we get more caring in this world, if we are not willing to give it?”  Everyone wants caring in their lives but we are much less prone to offer it to others.  The parable of the Good Samaritan comes repeatedly to my mind.

Time for Questions:

Who is our neighbor?  Who do we care about?  Do we only care about people who are just like us or do we care about those who belong to a different social class or religion or ethnic group or even another country?  Do we only care about our relatives and friends or do we extend our caring to strangers or others in need?  How do we develop more caring in our neighborhood and in our world?

Life is just beginning

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