How Can We Find the Truth?

Let us all agree with the universal bit of wisdom that the truth will set us free.  If we accept this axiom, then the problem becomes how do we find the truth?  What is the process or road or path or algorithm or method that we can use to find this elusive ineffable quality of life?  Anyone who has searched for the truth knows that there are many obstacles to finding it.  If you think Odysseus had a rough journey on his voyage home, it is nothing compared to the voyage you will take if you seek to find the truth.  The route to the truth is strewn with more pitfalls, dangers, villains, liars, thieves, and hazards than any other path in the entire universe.  If you take up this journey, you will find mirage after mirage of illusions, hallucinations, phantasmagoria, apparitions, fantasy, and chimeras all screaming that they are the truth.  The truth if it exists at all will be cloaked in a web of deceit and pretense.  The Internet will have ten million sites where you can find the truth.  Religious experts, psychologists, economists, historians, forensic scientists and lawyers will all tell you that they know the truth.  Every huckster and expert and authority will offer to sell you the truth for no money down.  You can buy the truth with cash, labor or your soul.  All you have to do is believe.  Believe in someone.  Who to believe in is the real question?

“The internet is full of crap.  For every piece of reputable information you’ll find countless rumors, misinformation, and downright falsehoods.  Separating truth from fiction is equal parts a mental battle and diligent research.”  — Thorin Klosowski

Most of us want a simple solution to a simple problem.  Unfortunately, most of our problems are not simple and most solutions end up being quite complex.  When we start looking for the truth (I am not talking about inner truths here. That is another process.), we soon find that our truth has more facets than the Hope Diamond.  Most truths are like a kaleidoscope.  They are not only quite multifaceted but they keep changing.  Depending on when, where and how we look at a truth, it will seem to be very different.  Let me give you an example.

I have always been fascinated with Lawrence of Arabia ever since seeing the movie with Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif.  When I was young, he represented a perfect example of a shining hero.  T. E. Lawrence was ethical, brave, intelligent, charismatic and someone who would stand up for the underdog.  He was everything I could ever hope or aspire to be.  As I became older and read more about Lawrence, I found that many other people did not share my opinion of him.  I found some who called the movie version of his life, a complete fantasy.  To others, he was a closet homosexual who exaggerated his exploits and his role in the Arab revolt.

“Lawrence suffered greatly as a result of the conflicts and contradictions in his nature. He craved fame, yet he hid himself and hated public ‘lights’; he was timid and feared his fame, fearing above all that others would realize his desire for it. This and his love of self-aggrandizement made him write things which had little to do with the reality of Revolt. I think, he was by nature inclined to exaggeration too; and as far as I could understand from John Mack’ s psycho-analysis, this was due to the inferiority complex which Lawrence always felt since he was a young boy, and which started when he learned that he was an illegitimate son and that his parents had never married.” —- T. E. Lawrence: true and false (an Arab view) — Lucy Ladikoff

So now I had a dilemma?  Who was the real Lawrence of Arabia?  Was he a hero or a charlatan?  I decided to read as much as I could about him in order to answer this question and to find the truth.  I found over a dozen books about Lawrence written by an assortment of writers.  Some of these authors did not think much of Lawrence.  Some idolized him.  One or two tried to present the Arab perspective.  I read through each of these books searching for the truth about Lawrence.

I highly recommend this process for anyone who is searching for the truth.  I used this same process about two years ago when I was researching the issue of immigration in the United States.  I read over a dozen books on immigration.  Some were pro, some were con and some tried to be factual.  I have written three blogs summarizing my findings on this issue.

I must warn you though that if you want to replicate my process for finding the truth you will encounter the following problems.  First, the number of books or papers on any given subject is beyond most of our abilities to read in a lifetime.  Second, the veracity and credibility of any particular expert is difficult to determine.  Third, every expert will have his/her own set of biases.  For example, relatives of Lawrence loved him.  His superiors were more skeptical about him and Arab authors wanted to tone down his role and build up their own role in the revolt.  How do you know who to believe or even if belief is the real issue?  Perhaps, truth is like the kaleidoscope and all perspectives have some value.  Truth may simply be a matter of perspective and where you are standing in the universe.

“There are no facts, only interpretations.”  — Friedrich Nietzsche

My friend Dick says “what is the point.”  It seems that no truth can be found in history or science or anywhere else.  To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, it is “all futile, nothing but futile.”  Why bother?  Furthermore, our search for the truth is complicated by the fact that new evidence and concepts and theories will continually emerge.  Each new concept will change our idea of the truth.  Given this logic, you have the foundation for little but skepticism concerning the value or ideal of truth.  Why bother?

I can only answer this latter question with the same reply that Mallory gave when asked why he bothered to climb a mountain.  “Because it is there!”  Perhaps this response seems like a cheap trick or an evasion.  No doubt anyone of a logical nature would like a more profound or at least erudite answer.  I promised a method for searching for the truth.  I have suggested a method.  The problem is that I cannot guarantee that my method will help you to find the truth.  I wish I knew of some other method that would render a better result with less effort.

There are other strategies for finding the truth that are much simpler but they are also much more dangerous.  You can trust an authority.  You can rely on someone else’s opinion.  You can try to find a simple answer in a book.  Each of these methods is problematic and to some extent irresponsible.  Too many of us have been taught to trust the experts or that simple answers to complex problems actually exist.  No doubt, there are times when it is necessary to trust others.  However, there are many times when you must think for yourself and make up your own mind.

I find the best solution is to regard each expert as a single data point in a universe of data points.  I try to look at as many data points as I have time to.  If a pattern starts to emerge from my perusal of a number of data points, I might suspect that I am looking at some version of the truth.  An inquiring mind should always regard such truths with a high degree of skepticism.  The truth you find today may turn out to be tomorrow’s lie.  Remember the unsinkable Titanic.  “The ship that even God could not sink.”  Truth is a lot like the Titanic.  It only takes one iceberg to send it to the bottom of the sea.

Time for Questions:

How do you find the truth?  How effective has your method been?  How do you know when you are being conned?  Who do you trust to tell you the truth?  Why?  What truths are you still searching for?  Why?

Life is just beginning.

“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with.”  — Anais Nin

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans: Why They Were Once a Great Party but are Now the Party of Hate, Bigotry and Greed – AKA Donald Trump– Part 2

Last week, I started this blog about the degeneration of the Republican Party into a squabble of groups who do little justice to the values that made this country great.  I characterized these groups as follows:

  • Uneducated White Male Voters
  • Bigoted Voters
  • Greedy Voters
  • Fearful Voters
  • Religious fundamentalist Voters

These groups are relatively new to Republicanism and many of them albeit attracted to the messages of the Traditional Republicans actually have little understanding of the Traditional Republican values.   You may well ask:  “What attracted them to the Republican Party?”  I will attempt to answer this question.  I will also describe the above five groups in more detail.

There were forces both pushing and pulling these voters towards the Republican Party that started as far back as 1950.  The pulling forces included the attractive messages that they would hear from the Traditional Republicans.  “You too can be rich.”  “Trickle-down economics.”  “Say no to Big Government.”  “No new taxes.”  “Pro-Life.”  “Keep America safe.”  “We protect your rights.”  These messages were very compelling and attracted voters for a variety of reasons.  First of all, these messages built on the core Republican Values that I described in Part 1.  Second, they were taken to extremes by the new marketing techniques that infused politics in the latter half of the twentieth century.  Thus, the “Golden Mean” that I noted in Part 1 was sacrificed on the altar of marketing and political expediency to reflect messages that seemed “too good to be true and suspiciously unambiguous.”

Vote Republican and you too can live like the rich!

Pushing Forces:

The Pushing Forces include the following changes taking place in US society:

  • Demographic changes
  • Ethnographic changes
  • Economic changes
  • Religious changes

Each of these forces contributed in many ways to the movement of a large contingent of voters away from the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party.  We will take each one of these forces individually and see how it has contributed to the popularity of the Republican Party.

Demographic Changes include the aging of the USA population.  It is a well-known fact that as people get older they get more conservative.  The values of conservatism, safety, law enforcement, traditional roles for marriage, relationships and the role of women in society are all powerful forces that have propelled voters to the core value of Conservatism that is well established in the Republican Party.  Liberals (who fell in favor) were seen as wanting to change too many of the “normal” institutions in the USA.  Traditional Religious voters as well as older voters are generally inclined to support the status quo.  The problem  for many was:  “how do we hold onto a status quo that is changing right before our eyes?”

“The population is also expected to become much older.  By 2030, more than 20 percent of U.S. residents are projected to be aged 65 and over, compared with 13 percent in 2010 and 9.8 percent in 1970.”   —  Census.gov

Ethnographic Changes in the USA population include the influx of many groups into the country who hold values that are seen as “foreign” to traditional USA values.  It is one thing for new groups who are Christian to enter the country, but over the past fifty years or so, we have had a much more diverse array of ethnic groups from countries where Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism are the dominant religions.  Many of these religions are poorly understood in the US and the practitioners are sometimes seen as promoting anti-US values.  One example is the fear that many people in this country have for Sharia Law and the belief that Muslims want to overthrow the US Justice System and replace it with Sharia Law.

Partly responsible for a growing intolerance in the USA has been the fact that projections show that “White” people will become a minority in the USA in thirty years.  This gradual erosion of the White majority means that White people must accept a more diverse society in which White morals and values will be one among several other sets of morality and not always the dominant one.  This is hard for many people to take as Whites have always been in the power seat in this country.

“The nation’s demographics are on a clear trajectory: White people are dying faster than they are being born, which means they are on target to become a minority in the United States in 30 years.”  —  Whites projected to become a US minority

Economic Changes in the US economy started to noticeably impact the standard of living for many voters following WW II.  At first it was imperceptible.  There had always been changes in the economy with ups and downs, recessions and the Great Depression following WW I.  However, after WW II, we had a respite from anything that could be called “Global Economics.”  With the demise of Germany and Japan and the economic hardships facing Great Britain, France and several other European countries, we had the economic ball field to ourselves.  The USA economic boom was reflected in a period of rising incomes and relative prosperity.

1280px-US_productivity_and_real_wagesThe attached chart shows that while USA productivity has continued to increase since 1945, real earnings have been either static or on the decline since the mid nineteen seventies.  Whereas, we once had the playing field to ourselves, by the early 70’s the competition from other countries, particularly Japan, was beginning to erode the economic advantage we once had.  By the late 80’s, wages in the USA were being impacted by the growth of industry in countries where wage rates were much lower.  Foreign competition and increased levels of quality goods from other countries helped to erode the market dominance of traditional USA companies.

These economic changes have fallen particularly hard on voters in the USA who worked in what might be called “transitional” industries.  Agriculture transitioned to manufacturing during the mid-twentieth century.  Manufacturing transitioned to service beginning in the seventies.  Finally, service jobs have become increasingly high tech requiring computer skills and often advanced education and training.  People in the “Blue Collar” industries cannot be trained fast enough to fill the jobs needed in the new industries.

The recession in 2008 saw a loss of nearly 9,000, 000 jobs in the USA.  Economists like to refer to these job losses as “creative destruction” or as an “economic correction.”  The problem is that if you are the worker who does not have the skills to transition to a new job and you have a family to support, terms such as “Correction” do not help you to feed your family.

displaced-workers-3Recent statistics show that most of the jobs lost in the “Great Recession” have been regained. However, many of these new jobs are in lower paying industries or have gone to new workers with new skills in the labor force.  The number of underemployed or unemployed people in the USA remains high and a source of major discontent.  Our US system of reeducating workers is poor and in need of major overall.

The Republican Party and its messages have attracted many of these economically struggling voters to their party.  The Republican values of hard work, individual responsibility and economic self-sufficiency resonate well with a group bitter over their economic hardships and who view too many others as getting a free ride.

Religious Changes may just be the single most powerful force pushing many voters and citizens into the Republican Party.  Since 1900, the country has become increasingly secular and to some extent even non-religious.  The following comment is from “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore:”

“According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly.  As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church.  In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends.”

Many of the more conservative religions and branches of religions that may have splintered off from their mainstream congregations have migrated towards the Republican Party.  Again, the conservative family oriented values of the Republican Party have attracted many religious fundamentalists who oppose gay marriage, women clergy, abortion and creating a pluralistic culture where non-Christian religions are free to worship and practice their faiths.  These religious fundamentalists see the secular changes coming to our country as evil and anti-scripture.  They have organized many groups in efforts to resist these changes.  This is from the mission statement of one of these groups:

“The Christian Coalition is committed to representing the pro-family agenda and educating Americans on the critical issues facing our society. Whether it is the fight to end Partial Birth Abortion or efforts to improve education or lower the family’s tax burden, the Christian Coalition stands ready and able to work for you.”

Pulling Forces:

The Pulling Forces are the messages that voters hear from the Republican Party and which reflect its traditional core values.  However, as they play out in the media, these messages are largely nuances and alterations of the traditional core Republican values.  The messages have now gone through a process of “Madison avenue marketing” to make them more alluring and seductive to their intended audience.  It should come as no surprise that various voters are attracted to various messages.  Some of course may be attracted to all of the Republican messages.  Let us now look at each of the individual voting groups that I labeled above to see how the Pulling Forces (Traditional Republican Values) and the resulting messages have attracted each group.

Uneducated White Male Voters:

stupid republicanThis group is largely but not exclusively White Male and under educated.  They are generally blue collar workers and many of them had their jobs displaced by the rise of Global Economics with offshoring and outsourcing of their work.  New technologies and robotics have also taken many of the jobs that these group once did.  They have been attracted by several Republican messages.  From gun control to the value of free enterprise, these low educated voters have bought into the idea that a Liberal Government is out to take their rights away and make it harder for them to earn a living.  Many of them can rightfully blame the government (both Republicans and Democrats) for using their jobs to stoke the fires of Globalization.

This group is attracted to the rhetoric common among Republicans for restraints on immigration and decreased government regulations.  This group believes that if the USA government was not so big they would be much better off. They blame liberals for the laws promoting a Global economy and do not understand that education can help them.  They often are willing to vote against any kind of education bill.  Many of them were marginal students who were ill served by the education establishment in the past.  They are no supporters of teachers, universities or increased funding for education.   The Republican messages have amplified this anti-education theme to the point that Republicans are now deemed anti-science and anti-education and anti-immigration.  It is also very easy for this group to buy into the myth that immigrants have stolen their jobs.  They are lured by the type of messages that Trump has sent out castigating immigrants and particularly Muslims and Mexicans.

Bigoted Voters:

ignoranceThis group is not only uninformed but they are also misinformed.  They have already made up their minds on the basis of limited and misleading information.  They are biased, prejudiced and xenophobic.  The Republicans have had a bag of dirty tricks which probably grew out of Nixon’s escapades in the 70’s and have continued through such political shenanigans as the Swift Boat attacks against John Kerry, the manipulations in Florida with the voting ballots and the Karl Rove fiasco in Ohio.  This group is ready prey for the type of propaganda tricks that the Republican Party now use to lie, distort the truth and defame their opponents.

The Republicans seem to have thrown away any concept of ethics or morality when it comes to political elections.  A squadron of Republican Talk show hosts from Mike Savage to Ann Coulter keep spewing out lies, misinformation, innuendos and calumnies against opponents whom they have no qualms about personally attacking.  I would guess that many if not most of the “urban myths” that often dot the Internet have their genesis in some Republican think tank.

Some other recent examples include the “Birther” movement in which President Obama was alleged to have been born in another country and the messages sent out decrying his support of Islamic terrorists because Obama himself is alleged to be a Muslim.  Those Ignorant Voters who subscribe to these lies and innuendos come to believe so strongly in them that there is no changing their minds.

Greedy Voters:

greedy republicansThe USA has become increasingly materialistic.  Evidence of this can be seen in new traditions like Black Friday, Designer Lifestyles, Reality Shows and the narcissistic values that seem to be replacing traditional moral and ethical values in the USA.  A large contingent of students today are not concerned about how their chosen careers will help their country.  They are more concerned with how much money they can make when they graduate.  Greed has been on the increase in this country for many years now.  Republicans (always the party of the rich) were well positioned to capitalize on a bloc of voters who do not want to share their wealth.  Oaths for no new taxes.  Oaths to roll back taxes.  Oaths to block reforms in Welfare and oaths to block the creation of a more equitable health care system for citizens have become ubiquitous in the Republican Party.

“We were fed this lie that hard work and dedication will payoff.  That’s not true.  There are millions of Americans who bust their asses working tons of overtime or two or more jobs just to get by – just to survive.”  — Trickle-Down Economics, Greed and the Republican Party are Destroying American Values

Fearful Voters:

gated community with watch signA large number of US citizens today are afraid.  They are afraid of crime.  They are afraid of immigrants.  They are afraid of minorities and they are basically afraid of change.  The Republican messages have helped to drive this fear even further into the psyche of people in this country.  Everywhere you go today there are gated communities, security systems, concealed carry permits and people afraid to leave the perceived safety of their feudal like communities.

Part of this fear has come from the aging of the population.  As people get older, they get more concerned for safety and security.  Part of the fear has come from constantly reading about “crime in the streets.”  The news over reports and over emphasizes instances of crime and violence on a 24/7 daily basis.  Finally, a large part of this fear comes from constantly hearing messages about the imminent attack of terrorists and others who are supposedly jealous of our lifestyle and want to destroy our country.

“In a Pew Research Center poll conducted in September, 75 percent of registered voters surveyed said that “terrorism” was “very important” for their vote in the congressional elections. Also last month, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 57 percent of Americans surveyed thought Obama has been too soft on ISIL.”  — Republican ISIL fearmongering amplifies extremists’ message, experts say.

Religious Fundamentalist Voters:

911 Never Forget the Dangers of Religous ExtremismpsdThese religious extremists are attracted to the family and religious values messages constantly being sent by the Republican Party.  Anti-gay, pro-family, pro-god in the schools, anti-abortion, anti-women’s liberation messages are a theme of most Republican politicians today.  The dramatic changes facing religion in the USA since 1900 has seen a decline in the traditional role of church and pulpit in family life.  The increased number of working women, gay couples, divorces and abortions have fueled a desire on many conservatives to return to what they saw as the “good old days.”  This actually means the good old days for white middle or white upper class heterosexual males.  Not so good for women, minorities, disabled and poor people.

This group of voters believes less in a strict separation between church and state than that which was proscribed by our Founding Fathers.  They would put GOD back in the schools and in some cases declare the USA a “Christian Nation.”  There are many of these voters who have little or no tolerance for anyone outside their own religions.  These so called Christians are characterized by a strong proclivity to support capital punishment, war as a first resort for political persuasion and the Ten Commandments as a foundation for a morality for all citizens.  They seldom think of peace or diplomacy as a means of resolving disputes between nations.  They do not see the hypocrisy between their contradictory messages of pro-life and pro-capital punishment.   Furthermore, they are generally extremely literal and particularly narrow in their selection of Bible verses to support.

See the following short video for further evidence of what I mean.

Martin Sheen Burns a Hypo-Christian

Whither Goes the Republican Party?

trump-building-a-wallWhere should the Republican Party go?  A party that has endorsed the immoral in its political campaigning.  A party that fosters fear and war mongering.  A party that is against immigrants.  A party that is intolerant towards minorities.  A party that minimizes the role of women in society.  A party that discriminates against gay people.  A party that will not treat disabled people as respectable members of society.  A party that does not believe in the value of science or education.   A party that fosters a contradictory and out of date set of moral codes (The Ten Commandments) as a foundation for our nation’s morality (My spouse disagrees with me on this, but there is ample evidence of the hypocrisy inherent in the Ten Commandments. Who observes the Sabbath and foregoes work on Sundays?).  A party that has no compassion for the poor and underprivileged who may not have the ability to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”

Time for Questions: 

Where should the Republican Party Go?  You tell me please.

Life is just beginning.

“But my revulsion at the Republicans doesn’t begin and end with Iraq and Benghazi. It’s spread to many other issues over the years. Frankly, the GOP increasingly looks like a party in the grip of some form of hyper-partisan madness that takes self-destructive delight in alienating everyone who isn’t a far-right ideologue. What else can explain the up-is-down, black-is-white, counterintuitive perversity of the stances Republicans increasingly take in response to national news and trends?”  — I’m not a Democrat. I’m an anti-Republican.

Consider:

 

 

Republicans:  Why They Were Once a Great Party but are Now the Party of Hate, Bigotry and Greed – AKA Donald Trump– Part 1

dumb-republicansToday the Republicans have become the party of Dumb and Dumber.  The likes of Palin, Bachmann, Inhofe and Sessions are not so mute testimony to the fools that now dominate the Republican Party.  Add Donald Trump to the hand and you have a five ace hand of losers.  Every day, we read of some new evidence that shows how bigoted, hypocritical and vile the core beliefs of the Republican Party have become.  The leadership of the Republican Party seems to have no integrity.  Half of them spend their time trying to explain the inane and dangerous comments spewed out daily by their party nominee. A candidate so devoid of any character or morality that many in his own party are trying to dissociate themselves from him.  What is left of the party leadership are running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  There is no longer any true leadership in the party. Trump and his supporters are destroying what once was a grand old Party.  The party of Lincoln, which stood for freedom and equality has now become a party of fear, greed, intolerance and hatred.

Today, the Republicans even hate themselves.  They are now trying to destroy their star candidate for the 2016 Presidential elections.  A gross Neanderthal who equates money with character and morality named Donald Trump has upstaged the Party’s chosen one to rally the extremists who have now come to dominate the Republican Party.  The grand old Party which once attracted many progressives who believed in the power of the individual over the power of the state now is controlled by a clique or power structure which has no connection to the traditional core Republican values. (I will say more about these values in this blog)

“Republican voters view Donald Trump as their strongest general election candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights the sharp contrast between the party’s voters and its top professionals regarding the billionaire businessman’s ultimate political strength.”  – Steve Peoples and Emily Swanson  

In addition to those who I would call the traditionalists, the Republican Party has attracted a large contingency of supporters that we can divide into the following five blocs:

  • Bigoted Voters
    republican messages
  • Uneducated White Male Voters
  • Greedy Voters
  • Fearful Voters
  • Religious fundamentalist Voters

I will say more about each of these in Part 2 of this blog.   Suffice, it to say for now, that the voters in these five blocs have now taken over the Republican Party (I will also explain in Part 2 how and why this happened.)  Just like the Nazis took over Germany, the traditionalists in the Republican Party made a pact with the devil and the devil has now tinfoilhatrush3come to collect his dues.  The Traditionalists know that the candidacy of Trump will destroy the party.  There are indeed a large contingent of voters who will support Trump but by and large, the people in the USA are not so stupid or ignorant that Trump will be elected.  Mark my words on that!  Trump, who hates women, minorities, immigrants and anyone with a brain, will go down in defeat in the biggest landslide in history for our next Democratic president and he will take the entire Republican Party with him.  The stalwart traditionalists in the Republican Party understand this and that is why every day we see headlines like:

The Republican Party Tries to Take Out Its Front-Runner

“Trump has proven highly successful in manhandling a parade of bland Republican politicians. To him, Carson and Fiorina present different challenges because they both possess the outsider status that elevates them over Republican officials who have to deal with reality of some sort, and they symbolize demographic groups that are some of the biggest stumbling blocks for Republicans. The party wants to show the world that it has a black friend and a lady friend.”  — The National Memo

Returning to the concept of traditional core Republican values, you may well be wondering what they are.  The first core Republican value is freedom from intrusive government interventions.  The traditional Republican is not so much against big government as they are against a government that might try to dominate the will of the individual with the will of the state.  Hence, traditional Republicans hate the idea of gun control, federal regulations, government red tape, and government watchdog agencies.  However, they are not against “Big Military” since the military is seen as protecting those very values that Republicans cherish most.

“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.”  — Barnhill, John Basil (1914)

A second core Republican value is the right to earn and keep as much money as possible.  “You earned it; it is yours to spend.”  This is a value that still resonates with much of our society.  The idea being that if I work hard, I should be entitled to spend my money anyway I chose.  What Republicans and many people in the USA hate most is the thought of working hard to earn a pot of money and then having that money taken away by a government agency to distribute to some unnamed “others.”

“That government is best which governs least;” — Henry David Thoreau

A third core Republican value is the value of a capitalistic economic system.  This value overlaps to some extent the two named values above but I believe it is a distinct value of its own.  In the USA, we are and have been a country strongly against communism and to some extent socialism.  The values of these two economic systems are seen to be in direct contradiction to the value of free enterprise and a capitalist economy.

“A market economy based on private property, buttressed by the rule of law, is truly the best environment for mankind. People will work harder and with ingenuity if they know they have earned rewards from that labor. When the rewards are given to them for nothing, there is frustration and despair. Capitalism benefits more people than any other economic system. To work for oneself and reap the rewards is a basic human aspiration.” –Sally Julian, Writer of ‘The Case for Capitalism’

The fourth core Republican Party is a conservative approach to adopting new laws or changes to the US Constitution.  Traditional Republicans have long resisted change to the US Constitution as well as new laws that they see as infringing on the rights and dictates of the US Constitution.  Hence, the Republicans have resisted many changes in the Constitution which were intended to create a more equitable society for women, minorities, disabled and those below the poverty line in this country.

Part of this resistance lies in the belief that a government cannot and should not dictate how people chose to live their own lives.  If you want to be a racist, that is your right.  If you do not want to hire women and minorities and the disabled that is also your right.  This core value has resulted in a fundamental contention between those who say that the constitution must be changed to reflect new times and new circumstances and those who do not want to see changes that might infringe on rights or responsibilities prescribed in the US Constitution.

“Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”  — Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Kalamazoo, Michigan, August 27, 1856

The fifth core Republican value lies in the doctrine of fiscal conservatism (There are other important Republican values but I think these five are the most important).   Fiscal conservatism finds its roots in the theory of scarcity.  Money and time are both scare commodities and must be carefully managed.  Trends like cheap credit, government bailouts, deficit spending are anathema to a fiscal conservative.  A fiscal conservative wants a flat tax, balanced budget and strict guidelines for loans and government spending: “Thou shalt not run budget deficits.”  “Thou shalt not spend more money than thou maketh.”

Its-not-Obamas-faultI must confess, that I am not critical of these five core values.  I have long ago learned the value of juxtaposing opposite viewpoints so as to provide a clearer roadmap to truth and progress.  Every “ism” needs a counter “ism” and a system where the two opposing viewpoints can debate each other and Aristotle’s “Golden Mean” needs a democracy.  Capitalism must be balanced against socialism.  Liberalism must be balanced against conservatism.  Individualism must be balanced against collectivism.  One of the strengths of the United States has been its ability to allow opposing viewpoints and to strive to find a consensus among dissenting political perspectives.  Sadly, of late the constructive dissent of old has given way to a practice of destructive warfare between the two dominant political parties that has put the good of each party over the good of the country.

However, to return to the theme of this blog, the dumbing down of the Republican Party, the majority of the Republican Party now no longer seems to understand or care about these five core values.  Instead, the narrow-mindedness and shear obstructionism of the five voting blocs that I noted above have taken precedence over political compromise and searching for 1193-20120917-NoSmartPeoplethe Golden Mean.  The “Stupid Voters” are hijacked by the anti-intellectualism that has always characterized much of the political right.  The “Ignorant Voters” already believe that voting-republican1they know the truth and there is no persuading them otherwise.  The “Greedy Voters” want to keep as much of their wealth as they can and have no concern for the poor or needy.  The “Fearful Voters” are worried about crime, immigrants, health care, growing old and losing what they have already worked hard to obtain.  The last of the five Republican blocs, the “Religious Fundamentalist Voters” are worried that their biblical Christian God will be taken out of the USA and replaced by an obscure assortment of new Gods from various religions that are confusing and esoteric.

The Traditionalist Republicans (many of whom I know and hope still tolerate my views enough to call me a friend) are aghast at this assortment of new Republicans and their extreme uninformed viewpoints.  The Traditionalists could reach across the aisle and talk to their Democratic counterparts.  The Traditionalists realized the need for dialogue, discussion and compromise.  Furthermore, the Traditionalists also appealed to many independent voters (Which I am and remain to this day).  They appealed to us because we while we could ally ourselves with Democrats over many social issue, we could also see the value in the economic policies and positions often adhered to by the Traditionalist Republicans.

I can see the value in all five of the core Republican values I described above.  God Forbid, I would ever live in a country that totally extirpated even one of these core values.  Nevertheless, while I am for a balanced budget and against deficit spending, I can see making some concessions to Keynesian economics during times such as the most recent recession.  I am also for less government intrusion in our lives.  However, unlike Perry who could not name even three government agencies he would abolish, I can name ten I would abolish tomorrow if I were able to.  I am also against government bailouts.  I did not think GM should have been bailed out although I could concede with the value of hindsight that it may have been the right thing to do at the time.  And while I am against big government, I can and am equally critical of big unions.  Nevertheless, in my USA, unions and government would still have a place at the table.  I would like to paraphrase a part of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”

Let the Golden Mean ring from the hallowed halls of Congress!

Let the Golden Mean ring from the esteemed corridors of the US Senate!

But not only that; let the Golden Mean ring from the benches of the Supreme Court of the USA!

Let the Golden Mean ring from State Capitals in the east to State Capitals in the west!

Let the Golden Mean ring from every school and university of America.  From every village, city, town and hamlet in this great country, let the Golden Mean ring.

In my blog next week, I will explore how the Republican Party let stupidity, ignorance, fear, greed and intolerance come to dominate its political agenda.  If you are a Republican, you might not like what you are going to hear.  However, if you are a Republican, perhaps the truth that I have to tell could help you to understand what you must do to restore the Republican Party to its rightful place in the US political system.

Time for Questions:

Are you a Republican? What did you find that you disagreed with in my blog today?  What did you agree with?  Which of the Republican voting blocs are you in? Why?  Do you think the Republicans will take the next presidency?  Why or why not?  If you are a Democrat, what did you like or dislike about this blog? Why?  What do you think I should have added?

Life is just beginning. 

Republicanism is the guiding political philosophy of the United States. It has been a major part of American civic thought since its founding.[1] It stresses liberty and “unalienable” rights as central values, making people sovereign as a whole, rejects aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be independent in their performance of civic duties, and vilifies corruption.  Wikipedia

What are the Myths and Realities of Marriage? — Part 2

Last week we looked at what I called the “Cons” or negative assumptions about marriage.  This week, we will look at some “Pros” or positive assumptions that one can make about marriage.  I offer both sets of assumptions with the thought in mind that “The truth will set you free.”  Marriage is not all sweet and sugar but neither is it all sour and vinegar.  A good marriage has its ups and downs but a really happy marriage will have more ups than downs.  Most happy marriages are based on a set of realistic assumptions concerning what marriage is all about and what it takes to make a good marriage.

  1. Marriage is a means by which two people can in time learn the true meaning of love.

Most of us are pretty young when we get married.  With the exception of second marriages, where naiveté can be attributed to a rebound effect, most naiveté in a first marriage is due to youth and inexperience.  Many second marriages show that often older people are no wiser than younger people.  Love in a first marriage is more about passion and infatuation than about true love.  Saying “I love you” about someone you hardly know means about the same as saying “I love my new car.”  You cannot really love anything or anyone until you have some history with that person.

Love is a learned trait.  Most of the time, we use love in a very simplistic and general manner.  Jesus said “True love is the willingness to lay down your life for another.”  I disagree with this definition.  I think this kind of love can be a form of courage or bravado even without any notion of love whatsoever.  How can you love anyone whom you do not know?  I might be willing to risk my life to save someone who is drowning in a frozen lake, but it would be ridiculous to think I love that person.

True love is closer to a passion that is based on respect and admiration and gratitude.  When you first marry anyone, all three of these traits may only exist in very rudimentary states.  Time and shared experience help bring more perspective to each of them.  Over time, we begin to respect each other as we learn more about each other and how we treat life.  We begin to admire our partners more as we see how they cope with problems and as we both sacrifice our own needs for the good of each other.  Gratitude is the highest state of love in a marriage.  When you are truly grateful for your partner and when you feel this gratitude in your entire being, you have arrived at the shore of true love.

“True love doesn’t happen right away; it’s an ever-growing process. It develops after you’ve gone through many ups and downs, when you’ve suffered together, cried together, laughed together.” — Ricardo Montalban

  1. Marriage is a system for raising a new generation that will carry on the best values of the old generation.

Parents have a responsibility to raise children who have sound moral, ethical and personal values.  Each new generation builds on the shoulders of previous generations.   It would be foolish to think that the values of the past should all be the values of the next generation.  The needs of each new generation demand new values to cope with problems and issues that could not have been foreseen by previous generations.  Nevertheless, there are many values and ideas from the past that an emerging generation should have knowledge and insight of.  Lessons from the past can help to inform the future and mistakes from the past can still have meaning and relevance to issues that are current today.

Parents have an obligation to help insure that any children that they are responsible for, whether adopted, natural birth or foster children, learn a set of values that will help them to be people who understand the concepts of discipline and integrity.  Too many parents see their children as means to their own end or as “mini” friends.  Helicopter parents, soccer moms and sports dads are all manifestations of parents who have little idea about their real obligations towards their children.   Such parents want to be “best” friends with their children instead of fathers and mothers.  Even worse, are the parents who want to live vicariously through their children and dream that their kids will live the lives that they wanted to live.

“To let them go on believing that the world is safe, that they will be provided for and achieve worthwhile things even if they remain stupid, shirk integrity, despise courtesy, and act only from self-interest, that they ought to rely on those stronger, smarter, and more able to solve their problems, would be the gravest disservice: to them, and to society as a whole.”  —  J. Aleksandr Wootton

  1. Marriage is a potpourri of passion, ecstasy, happiness, sadness, grief, anger and challenge.

I may be repeating myself here, but I want to emphasize that all marriages will have good days and bad days.  Some of the bad days will be due to poor judgement, selfishness and poor planning.  They are days that could have been in the range of your ability to change.  Other bad days will have little or nothing to do with you.  Friends will die.  Relatives will get sick.  Accidents will happen.  You and your partner will grow old.  You will have no control over any of these things.

Whether or not you can change things, what matters the most is that you and your partner can support each other through the ups and downs.  You need to expect that bad things will happen to good people.  When they do, how will you support the other person?

A number of years ago, my wife and I went scuba diving for the first time.  We had both received our PADI certification and done a few lake dives.  We decided to visit the Caribbean and do some scuba diving there.  We went to an island off the coast of Belize called Caye Caulker.  We found a dive shop on the island and scheduled a day of diving for a day or so after we arrived.   Karen had not had any experience with ocean diving.  I had done quite a bit of diving but it was many years before.

We suited up and went down.  We were partners on this dive and that meant that we would have each other’s back.  Karen has more problems with buoyancy control than I do but we finally got her weights adjusted correctly and down we went.  We descended with six or so other divers and the dive master.  We had a great time though Karen kept trying to bob up instead of down.  When it was clear that we had little oxygen left we decided to come up.  We signaled the dive master and most of the group also headed back to the dive boat.  We had stayed above 120 feet so the bends were not really a concern.  We still wanted to ascend slowly though as it always is a good idea to observe this protocol.  I rose with Karen until we reached the surface.  The water was pretty choppy on top.

When we hit the surface, I was feeling tired and I headed to the boat.  I totally forgot Karen and I took my tanks up and got on the boat. When I looked back to see how Karen was doing, she was still in the water. She was tired and having a hard time getting her tanks off.  Some of the other people were in the water and they came to help her.  She finally made it back in the boat very tired and exhausted and somewhat scared.  I felt really bad.  I had deserted her and thought only about myself.  It was somewhat hard for me to get out of the water and on the boat by myself but it was next to impossible for Karen.  I did not think about her and I felt guilty for the rest of the day.  I promised her and myself that from then on, I would make sure she was on the boat before I tried to get out.

It is not always easy to look after another person.  It is very easy to put our needs first and our partners needs second.   A key dilemma of marriage is how to put both needs first or how to know when one needs to go first and the other can go second.  Marriage presents us with endless possibilities to work on this problem.  Sometimes we will succeed and sometimes we will fail.  However, as with any worthwhile endeavor, the trick is to keep trying, keep working on things and when you fail to try again and to never give up.  The effort to care for another person builds trust in a relationship and this trust is the foundation for a good marriage.  Layer it with respect, admiration and gratitude for each other and you will live “happily ever after.”

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  — I Corinthians 13:7

Time for Questions:

Have you ever been in love?  How many times?  What do you think love is?  What do you think true love is based on?  How does one create true love?

Life is just beginning.

“You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end.  And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you yourself keep it.  But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word.  We are your friends, Frodo.” — ― J.R.R. Tolkien,

 

What are the Myths and Realities of Marriage? — Part 1

Recently Pope Francis said that “The great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say, ‘Yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. . . . They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”  This struck a chord with me because I see a great deal of naiveté, confusion and even hostility surrounding the idea of marriage.  Many people scoffed at and disregarded Pope Francis’s comment.  People want to continue their illusions and hate it when anyone tries to bring some clarity or truth out that might disturb their ongoing fantasies.

I think the Pope is correct though.  People do not really understand what marriage is about.  My blog this week and next week will look at the pros and cons of marriage in terms of the negative and positive constructs that determine what marriage is.  These constructs are much more important in terms of understanding what marriage is than the idea that it is strictly a union between a man and a woman.  This latter point only tells us who has traditionally been allowed to marry but not the reality of “what” marriage will actually involve.  Understanding marriage means understanding much deeper and less evident truths.  It means examining the myths that too many of us have regarding marriage.  These myths create a distorted view of marriage that makes it difficult to find true happiness with a partner.

Let us start with the cons or perhaps the negative realities of marriage.  Next week, I will cover the pros or the positive aspects of marriage.  It is important to recognize that life is always full of both Yin and Yang aspects of existence. The same is true of marriage.  By better understanding both, we can create marriages that are happier, more fulfilling and longer lasting.

Negative Realities of Marriage:

  1. Marriage is an asymmetrical relationship between two people that is most often thought of as a symmetrical relationship. 

Too many people think that marriage is a “union of equals.”  There is little about marriage that is ever equal.  No too people on the face of the earth are equal.  Equality sounds good in theory but falls flat in practice.  Each partner in a marriage brings different strengths and abilities.  Unless each partner is able to appreciate the nuances of these differences in themselves and their spouse, the marriage will be like an orchestra that only plays with a few of its instruments.  It is important that each partner in a marriage be able to honor, respect and cherish the idea of differences in each other and to help their partner manifest these differences.  This leads to growth and development rather than boredom and stagnation of a marriage.

“You know it’s never fifty-fifty in a marriage. It’s always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty. Someone falls in love first. Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride.”   — Jodi Picoult,

  1. Marriage is a union of opposites designed to keep the human race viable.

Despite the Bible story of the Garden of Eden, if humans had not been able to procreate, there would be no human race.  Fundamental biological principles point to the inescapable and inevitable fact of procreation.  Evolution or God (take your choice) created humans able to reproduce themselves.  Normally, this takes an egg and a sperm that are donated by each parent.  The resulting zygote will with proper care and nurturing grow into a facsimile of both parents.  The baby has the genotype of both parents in their DNA and at some point in their future can also reproduce and thereby continue the development of the species.

The above process sounds very clinical but it is also accompanied by a great deal of fun and pleasure which no doubt helps to insure that humans find sex enjoyable and desirable irrespective of the goal of perpetuating the species.  This latter fact has not been overlooked by both governments and religions which have often tried to yoke this sexual desire and passion to their own goals.  Thus, Hitler for instance gave medals to women having babies that would help grow the Third Reich.  The Chinese instituted a one baby per couple policy to control population growth.  The Catholic Church denigrates the idea of sex without the goal of procreation and masturbation is still considered a sin.  The Church’s goal is to channel sexual energy into creating more Catholics and thus ensuring that the religion as well as the race will continue.

You may well ask: “Well, what is the negative here with this issue.  Do not most humans look forward to the idea of sexual reproduction? Are not children one of the great joys for humanity?”  The answer to both questions is yes and will be discussed later.  Nevertheless, the negative issues are twofold.  First, the one I already mentioned in respect to the manipulation by both church and state of the function for their own purposes.  The second issue is more widespread and more problematic.  Many couples and individuals often do not put the well-being of their offspring as their first priority.  Too often, children are born to people who have no desire or ability to give proper care to them.  It has been said that you need to have a license to have a dog but any idiot can have a child without the means, motives or ability to take proper care of them.

Children deepen, complicate, and test the “I do’s” of marriage. — Dr. David Stoop and Dr. Jan Stoop

  1. Marriage appears as a mirage of love, joy and harmony to outsiders.

How often have you known a couple who went through a divorce and your reactions were “I thought they were so happily married.  They seemed like the perfect couple.”  As we get older, you would think that most of us would have learned the truth.  There are no perfect marriages and there are no perfect couples.  The fantasy stage of marriage lasts for about six months and then the reality sets in.

The problem is that most people want to hide the authenticity of their marriage from their friends, relatives and even from each other.  “Everything is perfect.  We never fight.  We have no problems.  We agree on everything.”  Such seems to be the truth to those who are looking in from the outside.  The real truth should be obvious.  Any marriage without discord is doomed to failure.  Those who would protect themselves from disagreements and dissension will sooner or later be in divorce court shouting and screaming obscenities at each other.  The pent up frustrations of years of obsequience and servitude now become a torrent of disgust and animosity.

“All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principles of equal partnership.”  — Ann Landers

  1. Once we are married, we will live happily ever after.

No you will not.  Only in a fairy tale do people live happily ever after.  In a marriage, you will go through, suffering, heartache, jealousy, vindictiveness, lust, shame, anger and more sadness than you have ever thought possible.  You will (if you are married long enough) watch your spouse die and perhaps even some of your children.  My Godmother (my Aunt Mary) turned 102 on July 26th of this year.  She has seen her parents, grandparents, husband, three children and all of her six siblings die.  She is not a sad woman but instead rejoices at the long and mostly happy life that her god has granted her.  Many of us would wonder how she can be so positive for someone who has been through so much sorrow.

She once told me that she simply went on each day with a positive attitude to appreciate all that life would bring.  This meant being a good person, helping others and reaching out to make new friends and experience new things.  At 90+ years she was still volunteering at a senior center to serve meals and help in the kitchen.  If you want to live happily ever after, be prepared to accept the ups and downs of life and never quit.  Marriage is not a sprint but a marathon.

“Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory.”  — Abraham Lincoln

  1. Marriage is a legal contract that binds us until death do us part.

Pope Francis was right on the money here.  The marriage contract only binds most marriages until one or the other is sick and tired of the marriage.  Then, in less time than it takes to get a wedding certificate, you can get a divorce certificate.  You do not even need to specify hardships or malignant conditions in most States.  It is simply a matter of saying “I don’t” instead of “I do.”  The tired and clichéd vow spoken at most wedding ceremonies has become a thing of the past.  Like the dinosaurs, the idea of “until death do us part” is both obsolete and irrelevant.  The “in sickness and in health” part also falls flat.  Few in their early years have any real understanding of what taking care of a senior citizen will entail, particularly doing so when they become a senior citizen themselves.

People have always been able to opt out of a marriage through divorce.  Divorce was known in the time of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans prior to 800 BCE without written contracts.  In 800 BCE, written marriage contracts first appeared.  The reasons for divorce were probably very similar in ancient times to the reasons for most divorces today.  One study showed the following as the most common reasons for divorce in modern times:

The following chart shows divorce trends in the USA from 1860 through 2000.  As you can see, the frequency of divorces increased dramatically from a low of less than 2 divorces per thousand marriages to a high of 22 divorces per one thousand marriages.  My guess would be that the major difference in divorce statistics from ancient to modern times would probably be in the frequency of divorces rather than in the reason for divorces.

divorce rates

Today if you are tired or bored or annoyed with someone, you just go and get a divorce.  The idea of a vow is now considered quaint.  Love and honor have been replaced by narcissism and enlightened self-interest.  “What can I do for you” has been replaced by “what can you do for me.”  Loyalty and faithfulness are replaced by “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” and “It was just a little fling.”  When you can get a divorce in a Cracker Jack box, why work on things.  It is easier to play musical divorce and find a new partner and start over again from scratch.

The cycle is very clear:  “infatuation, passion, ecstasy, marriage, disagreement, disillusionment, hostility and divorce.  This cycle plays itself out over and over again in at least fifty percent of the marriages in the USA.  In these marriages, neither partner has ever learned the meaning of responsibility, commitment and hard work.  Until these concepts are grasped, the partners have no hope of finding a long term relationship.  Instead, these individuals fall into what has been called serial monogamy and hookup relationships.

“The remedy for most marital stress is not in divorce. It is in repentance and forgiveness, in sincere expressions of charity and service. It is not in separation. It is in simple integrity that leads a man and a woman [Or two people who love each other] to square up their shoulders and meet their obligations. It is found in the Golden Rule, a time-honored principle that should first and foremost find expression in marriage.”   — Gordon B. Hinckley

  1. Marriage is a cause of more anger, pain, misery, jealousy and unhappiness than perhaps any other institution on the face of the earth.

Did you know that when a spouse goes missing or is found murdered, the number one suspect is the other partner.  This is not profiling on the part of law enforcement.  It is a simple fact worked out from experience because the evidence shows that at least one third of all female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by male intimate partners — husbands and ex-husbands, boyfriends and estranged lovers. While both men and women experience domestic violence, women are far more likely to be murdered than men.  — http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/09/men-killing-women-domesti_n_5927140.html

DomesticViolenceKILLED7

These murder statistics do not even begin to describe the vast amounts of domestic violence that take place under the umbrella of so-called love and marriage.  Given the amount of abuse that women suffer, it is unbelievable that any of them would trust something as flimsy as a marriage contract or want to even take part in the ritual.  For many women, love, honor and obey means that they will have their brains beaten out if they fail to respect the macho image of their spouse.  I find it amazing that any woman in her right mind would want to enter into a marriage that has a high probability of resulting in her being battered and even murdered.  I suppose the old adage is very true that “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.” — Katharine Hepburn

Time for Questions:

Have you ever been married?  How many times?  What do you think makes a good marriage?  What have been the major problems in your marriage?  What did it take to overcome these problems?  If you have never been married, why not?

Life is just beginning.

“To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting; take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.”  — Criss Jami

 

 

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