Where Have All My Young Friends Gone?

As many of you know Pete Seeger died on the January 27, 2014 at the age of 94.  He was one of the greatest folk singers and protest singers of all time.  His mission in life was to spread peace through his music and songwriting.   The song “Where have all the flowers gone” is widely attributed to Pete.  If fact, Wikipedia gives the following etiology:

The first three verses were written by Pete Seeger in 1955, and published in Sing Out! magazine.[1] Additional verses were added by Joe Hickerson in May 1960, who turned it into a circular song.[2]  In 2010, theNew Statesman listed it as one of the “Top 20 Political Songs”.[4]

Where_Have_All_the_Flowers_Gone-_(film)I have taken the liberty of altering the verses of this song for my blog.  I was reminiscing on some old photos the other day about friends, dreams, hopes, aspirations and loves that are now long gone.  Perhaps my recent surgery has made me realize my mortality.  While I never thought or even hoped to live forever, I often felt that I might.  Friends were always telling me how strong, vital, energetic and healthy I was.  I prided myself on my condition and my ability to overcome the normal aches and pains of the world.

I would like to use each “modified” verse from Pete’s song to simply express some feelings that I have about life and death.  Meditations on life and death were the purpose of this song, so I am staying true to its roots and intentions.  So many great singers have sung this song that it is hard to choose one to listen to.  However, as with many of my writings, I encourage you to click on the link and then listen to the song as you read my blog.  For someone to sing this song, I can think of no one more fitting and appropriate then Pete Seeger:  Where have all the flowers gone?

Where have all my young dreams gone, long time passing?
Where have all my young dreams gone, long time ago?
Where have all my young dreams gone?
Young friends have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 

I grew up with hopes and dreams for my life and the world.  Like many a young man, I ignored many of these dreams or did not realize the dedication and effort that it would actually take to make them a reality.  I played around with having my cake and eating it.  I thought that those who had “made” it got lucky or as we used to say in my old neighborhood, “They got the breaks.”  Other friends plucked some of these dreams as many of them were common to our culture.  I grew up as a “Baby Boomer” having been born on the cusp of this new wave in 1946.  We were going to change the world.  We would end war, sexism, racism, greed, hunger and environmental damage.

Where have all my young friends gone, long time passing?
Where have all my young friends gone, long time ago?
Where have all my young friends gone?
Gone for careers everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Something happened though.  Protests were difficult.  The system did not change overnight.  Peace was elusive.  The people we thought wanted help spurned our offers.  We could not fix the world overnight.  The world resisted our best efforts.  So we decided to just fix ourselves.  Many of us went back to college, either on the GI bill or with loans, grants and parental support.  We decided that maybe it was the way to change the world.  On the way to our super careers, we got married, had children, got fat and simply wanted to escape from crime, poverty and man’s inhumanity to man.

We moved to the suburbs and bought three bedroom homes with swimming pools and decks in the back so we did not have to see our neighbors.  We joined self-help groups, learned transcendental meditation, vegetarianism and Gestalt Therapy.  Our focus turned inward and we started to look at the world through prisms of narcissism and self-interest.  If we could not change the world, at least we could make a fortune; have perfect kids and a perfect marriage.

Where have all the boomers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the boomers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the boomers gone?
Gone for mansions everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 

In a true irony of the dreams once held by boomers everywhere, the “Greatest Generation” had begat the “Greediest Generation.”   Hippies had turned into insurance agents and advertising executives.   Education for knowledge was lost in the need to obtain “marketable” job skills.  We turned inward and lost our souls.  Technology replaced our dreams for humanity.  Three car garages and a house on the beach or in the mountains became our driving mission.   MacMansions sprang up everywhere.  We became more concerned with the corporate vision statement then we did with the vision statement for humanity.

Of course, there were holdouts everywhere who became “old hippies” but they were derided as not being able to face reality.  The social revolutions we dreamed about became replaced by media and image revolutions.  What you knew was no longer as important as how you looked or who you knew.  Friends, followers and likes have become the norm for measuring social standing.  Gucci, Prada, Nike, Coach and other brand names became worth killing for or at least sacrificing our dreams for.   We wanted only the best for our kids, but the hell with your kids.

Where have all my old friends gone, long time passing?
Where have all my old friends gone, long time ago?
Where have all my old friends gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 

Having read that the U.S. life expectancy in 2011 was 78.7 years, does not really do justice to the effects that human mortality have on you as you age.  There are several reasons for this including:  Accidents, murders, fatal diseases and the inevitable bell shaped distribution of “normal deaths”.  This latter fact means that if the average age of death is 79 years, then some people will die well before 80 and some will live much longer than 79.  The implications of this normal distribution of death is that I have gone to many funerals and observed many more funerals of friends and relatives who have died long before their “average” death should have occurred.  I have known joggers and marathon runners who have died of heart attacks or strokes in their thirties.

It seems hardly a day goes by when I do not hear of a friend or a friend of a friend who has passed away or been given a fatal prognosis for some malady they were never aware of.   The old adage about the only sure thing being “death and taxes” comes repeatedly to my mind.  In the last three weeks, we have had to purchase three sympathy cards for friends whose spouses or close relatives have passed away.  This trend only grows worse as you get older.  Instead of deaths each year, it becomes deaths each month and for me now it is close to being a death each week.  Who needs to be reminded about mortality?  The biggest questions become whether to try to attend the funeral, send flowers, send a card, send a donation or all of the aforementioned.   I don’t want to sound cynical.  This is simply life as you get older.  Thomas Jefferson once wrote to John Adams:

“There is a ripeness of time for death, regarding others as well as ourselves, when it is reasonable we should drop off, and make room for another growth. When we have lived our generation out, we should not wish to encroach on another. I enjoy good health. I am happy in what is around me; yet I assure you, I am ripe for leaving all, this year, this day, this hour.”
To John Adams, August 1, 1816

I have joked that after my surgery results indicated that the cancer was entirely removed, I could live to die in fifteen or so years from something else.   Actually, I was being literal and not really joking.  The mortality tables for an American Caucasian male who has reached 65 years of age, show that I have a good probability of living another 15 years of so.   That’s good news except that the way time flies when you get older, fifteen years no longer seems like a long time.  It is certainly not enough time for me to change the world and end war and hunger.  I guess I will have to work on something else, perhaps slowing time down some.  J

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to old friends, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 

Have you ever visited a graveyard?  They are one of my interesting places to visit.  I know that might sound morbid or strange but let me tell you some reasons why I think they are so interesting.  Once upon a time, my father told me that “I had nothing to fear in a graveyard.  I had more to fear from the living than the dead.”  I have always remembered his words and I fear no dead beings:  no vampires, no werewolves, no zombies, no ghosts, no goblins and no undead bother me in the least.  I do worry about many of the living though.   This is just one reason why I find graveyards as peaceful and contemplative places to spend a short time.

A second reason is my interest in history.  Many graveyards can tell you much about the past.  The inscriptions, dates, type of deaths, genealogy of deaths, place of death and manner of deaths are a treasure trove of interest if you have any curiosity in how people lived.  The history of many cemeteries and the history of those buried in these cemeteries is an encyclopedia of past life.  You can learn more in a graveyard than you can in many history books.

A third reason is the cultural diversity that one finds in cemeteries.  Certainly many countries differ in how they bury their dead and the accoutrements that are interred with them.  This alone is fascinating.  Karen and I have visited graveyards in about every country that we have been to.  Each country has some very unique features about their graveyards.  However, even within the USA and even within cemeteries in a single city in the USA, you will find a great deal of cultural diversity.  Some of it reflects social biases such as racism, where you find Whites and Blacks buried separately and some of it reflects religion (Jewish cemeteries, Catholic cemeteries, etc.) and some of it reflects economic status (rich versus poor) symbols and edifices in many cemeteries.

Cemeteries are of also interesting because of who is buried there.  You may not meet too many famous celebrities in your lifetime but I guarantee that there are a whole host of them you can visit who are now resting in their graves.  Many grave markers are fascinating in the comments that have been engraved in them.  Boot Hill cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona is famous for its epitaphs on the tombstones.  One of my favorite books is Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters in which the dead speak out from their graves about the life they once lived.

New cemeteries are built to house the new generation while older cemeteries are eventually lost to the ravages of time and nature.  Nothing seems more striking then to be hiking someplace remote and come across an old cemetery from the eighteenth or nineteenth century.  Any cemeteries older than that and you would need to be an archeologist to find them.

Where have all my young dreams gone, long time passing?
Where have all my young dreams gone, long time ago?
Where have all my young dreams gone?
Young friends have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

What was it Shakespeare said about man’s life?  That it is but a walking shadow.  That we strut about on a stage as though we were important; but in reality, our tales will be told by idiots and our lives are merely entertainment and signifying nothing.  “Out, out, brief candle!”   Too brief for most of us!  We may wonder why we were not designed to live for two hundred or even five hundred years.

Do you remember the Twilight story by Rod Serling of the man who sold his soul for immortality?   The escape clause written in by the Devil was that he could die anytime he was tired of living.  He laughed since he thought he would live for a thousand or more years, however within weeks he had grown bored with life and he exercised his escape clause and died of a heart attack.   Be careful of what you ask for is very often an accurate statement.

We create dreams and hopes and our lives our fueled by these dreams and visions.  Some of us dream of the sacred, some of us of the mundane but perhaps more of us of the profane.   Many of us realize our dreams only to find out that we did not want them.  We often sell our souls much too cheaply.  The unintended consequences of life are always much greater than our imaginations could project.   Timothy Leary dies of Prostate cancer.  Jerry Rubin becomes an insurance salesman.   Abbie Hoffman commits suicide.  Huey Newton killed by former members of the Black Panther party.  Google goes from counterculture to mainstream culture.   Movies are made about Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.  YouTube and Wikipedia are accepted as legitimate venues for research and education.  Villains become heroes and heroes are found to be villains.   Not to become disillusioned becomes the real secret of happiness.

What goes around does not simply come around; it is morphed in the ever changing cycle of life and becomes something new and unrecognizable.   Dreams and hopes are continually recycled from one generation to the next.  Each generation takes its chance at the cycle in often vain attempts to make a difference.  Eventually they will run out of energy and steam and it is then left to the next generation to keep the cycle of dreams and hopes turning.

“Birth and Death are words we chose to describe the doorways in and out of a cycle. This cycle is connected to a larger cycle which awaits our return.  It is all just like breathing.  Remove the fear and judgment to recognize the same pattern as a principle everywhere.”
― Franklin Gillette

Time for Questions:

How does the cycle of life and death affect you?  Is it something you think about?  Do you see other cycles in your life?  Which cycles are the most important to you?  Does it do any good to try to change a cycle?  Can we make a difference or is it all fate?  How would we know if we did not try?  Where have you made a difference?  Where do you wish you had or could have made a difference? What stopped you?   What would you do different if you were born again?  What if you knew you would go on being born again and again?  How would your life be different?

Life is just beginning.

I have a good friend and we argue all the time about fate and destiny and what we can change and what we can not change.   I say we can make a difference and that life is not predetermined.  Each time we breathe we choose.  Does this make me an existentialist? I say my friend is a determinist but he has many compelling arguments which are often hard to dispute.

 

 

The Inadequacy Paradigm

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Have you ever felt that you were not pretty enough, smart enough, coordinated enough, talented enough, handsome enough, strong enough or fast enough?  If so, you were suffering from the “inadequacy paradigm.”  A paradigm is a model or template for thought or behavior.  Feeling inadequate is one of the major paradigms of American society.  The marketplace wants you to feel inadequate because then they can sell you products and services that will make you feel “ADEQUATE.”

hqdefaultThere are beauty products, breast enhancements, hair implants, plastic surgery, expensive cars, perfume, jewelry, large homes, designer clothes, college degrees and many other products or services designed to help you feel less inadequate and more adequate.  We all want to feel adequate which means we must somehow learn to escape or jettison our inadequacy paradigms.  The marketplace strategy involves spending huge amounts of money on a regular basis to escape the “inadequacy paradigm.”  This strategy is often a failure as money and products cannot provide for real happiness or address some of the cultural biases, prejudices, racism and bigotry that contribute to the “inadequacy paradigm.”

“A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.”Henry A. Wallace

When I was growing up in New York City during the fifties, many of the popular singers were Italian.  There was Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Dion, Dean Martin and many others.  Most of the famous male singers had traditional Italian good looks being tall dark and handsome.  My father (6’ 4” tall) fit this model but my mother was Irish.  I (much to my chagrin) took after my mother.  I was short (5’ 8”) light skinned, brown thin hair with very nondescript looks.  No woman ever looked at me twice in high school.  I did inherit a good brain and cannot attest which side it came from.  Nevertheless, brainy nerdy intellectual guys had no more demand among the attractive high school girls in the fifties and sixties than they do now.  Beauty would seem to always trump brains in our society.

Now there are many different aspects or subdivisions of the “inadequacy paradigm.”  There is a division for Blacks, Latinos, women, disabled, intellectuals, old people and of course poor people.  If you belong to any one or more of these categories there are special rules that will be directed to you to help you feel even more inadequate than average. (Racism and Xenophobia create their own paradigms of inadequacy which go well beyond Madison Avenue but are supplemented by Madison Avenue to a large degree).  As a White male growing up in an Italian neighborhood, my complaints will not doubt seem trivial to individuals in these other “inadequacy categories.”  Let’s look at each group and see if we can perhaps walk a mile in their shoes.  What would it be like if you were in one of these other categories.  Now, one caveat must be shared.  If you are White and rich, you will probably be able to escape the most noticeable effects of the “inadequacy paradigm.”  For rich White folks, money provides a means to ameliorate the more consequential effects of inadequacy.  Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you many other things to make you feel better.

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African Americans:

What is it like growing up Black in America in the 21st Century?  Has years of Affirmative Action, Civil Rights and even a Black President mitigated the effects of the “inadequacy paradigm” for our African American citizens?

I decided to approach a Black man who was walking down my street.  I started to walk towards him and I yelled out “Hey, I need to talk to you.”  He immediately threw up his hands, laid on the ground and starting shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  I hollered out “I am not a cop.”  He got to his feet and said “Sorry, just an instinctive reaction.  How can I help you?”  “Well, I said, I just wanted to ask you what it was like being “Black in America today?”

Brian Lipscomb, IT Professional and Web Programmer/Website Designer

“Once I got off a trolley in downtown Philadelphia and accidentally bumped into an older White woman.  She immediately said “Here! Take my purse! Just don’t hurt me!” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that she thought I was going to rob her.  When walking down the street, if a White woman is walking in my direction, they often cross the street or clutch their purse more tightly as I approach.  I guess I’m numb to it now, because I expect it.  I think that’s the sad part. There is nothing post-racial about our society.  Racism and prejudice have just become more subtle, more nuanced.”

Latinos:

Many Latino people in the USA have been residents since before the Pilgrims arrived.  With the annexation of Mexican Territory after the Mexican American War and the subsequent Gadsden purchase, many former Mexican citizens elected to become American Citizens.  The border between Mexico and the US was porous for many years with much travel back and forth.

Many Mexican Americans have families and friends still living in Mexico.  There has always been a White bias towards Mexican Americans and others from south of the border but recently this bias seems to have escalated.  Part of the reason for this lies in the drug wars but much of it is rooted in a xenophobia directed to Latinos who do not have traditional Northern European customs.   Latinos have become an increasingly larger segment of the population in many Southwestern cities.

But what is it like being a Latino?  We know that with the election of Donald Trump and his talk of building a border wall and deporting “Latino Rapists” that he has fanned the fears of xenophobia common among many Southwestern Whites.  There is no doubt that numerous Latino people residing in the Southwest and other parts of the USA are now uncertain about their future as US citizens.

Brittany Escalera, College Student

“Being born in the United States, I am automatically a citizen.  I am an American.  But according to society, I’m “too” Mexican to be American.  My complexion is too dark to be American.  My dark hair and dark eyes are too Mexican to be American. I’m Mexican, therefore, I can’t be American…. Yet it’s not always just the language barrier that is a struggle, there are constantly stereotypes and racial slurs being put on us everyday.  Being from the south, I had to work extra hard at breaking this.  No not all Mexican’s are illegal.  Sorry Trump, we are not all the criminals, drug dealers and rapists that you claim us to be.”

Women:

Of course, I cannot speak for being a Woman in America.  But I do not have to be female to see that Women must also suffer from the “inadequacy paradigm.”

“As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant pointed out in a recent New York Times op-ed, when male executives speak up, they receive 10% higher competence ratings; when female executives do the same, their ratings from their peers are 14% lower.  Similarly, when male employees offer ideas, they receive higher performance evaluations; when women offer the same ideas, managers’ perceptions of their performance remain unchanged.”  — What’s holding women back?

If the bias in the workplace is not bad enough to insult many women, the bias they face in the home is even worse.  The rates of domestic abuse and rape in American society are shameful.  But perhaps the worse indicator of the “inferiority paradigm” for women lies in the number of women who think they deserve such treatment.

“The cultural acceptance of spousal abuse can be so pervasive that in some countries, large majorities of women say it’s acceptable.  In Rwanda, 96 percent of women say the practice can be justified, according to the World Values Survey.  About two-thirds of women in India and South Africa feel the same way.  The attitude is also held by large shares of women in countries across the religious and cultural spectra — China, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Uzbekistan, to cite a few. 

Even in countries where the vast majority of women don’t approve of spousal abuse, the share that do find it potentially acceptable isn’t exactly tiny.  It’s about 1 in 10 in the U.S. and about 1 in 5 in Germany.”  — Alarming Number Of Women Think Spousal Abuse Is Sometimes OKNURITH AIZENMAN

Many women are now worried in the USA due to the election of a President who openly bragged about his right to grab a women’s “pussy” because he was rich and privileged.  Many of his supporters were men and women who belong to fundamentalist religions that believe women have no place in politics or in the business world and that their only role is to bear children for men.  Thus, after years of battling to achieve equality with men, women now face the prospect of losing many of the hard-earned rights that they fought for and won.

Disabled:

One of my best friends committed suicide about a year ago.  He was a Cerebral Palsy victim who had dedicated his life to helping fight for more rights for disabled people.  He walked crablike and had to use walking sticks to keep his balance.  His head was always cocked at an odd angle due to his disability.  He was two years younger than I was and died at the age of 67.  Brian took his own life because he could fast see a time approaching when he would no longer be able to live on his own.  Brian was a fiercely independent man who struggled to obtain dignity in a society that does not always respect people who are disabled.

I first saw Brian when he would come into the town bakery to buy donuts or for lunch.  I was usually sitting with a bunch of locals who knew Brian and several had gone to school with Brian.  I was uncomfortable with the way they seemed to greet Brian and their response towards him.  It became disagreeable enough to me that I stopped my morning coffee sessions with this group.  Instead, I found a group of people at the library who met for coffee each day.  Brian was among the group at the library and we became good friends.

Brian told me many stories of how he was treated as though he was mentally disabled rather than physically disabled.  On several occasions that we went out together, it was clear that people wanted to avoid dealing with Brian.  For Brian, it must have felt like being a leper.  I am sure that much of the bias towards Brian was not intentionally hateful.  Nevertheless, it still was difficult for Brian to deal with.  Brian wanted to be treated as a normal person and not someone with a disability.  His strong desire to be normal ultimately led to his ending his life.

The following chart shows the changes in employment for disabled people in the USA since 1991.  Notice the “progress” is backwards.

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Intellectuals:

99632_origIf you have not read Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in America Life” I heartily recommend it. I have often joked that the worst discrimination in America seems to be saved for people who think.  Many companies trumpet their desire for “out of the box” thinkers.  This is usually nothing more than a well parroted display of self-deception.  What Human Resources and the company are really looking for is “people who fit in.”  People who are iconoclasts, people who are critical thinkers, people who rock the boat “need not apply here.”

Intellectuals include nerds, free thinkers, geeks and anyone who works with ideas as opposed to building things or throwing things.  Academics are often lumped in with this category since most people assume an academic to be a brilliant thinker.  This is very often a misplaced assumption.  People in the arts including music and theater are often very intellectual but they somehow manage to escape the opprobrium reserved for pure thinkers.

If you think I am exaggerating on the bias that is reserved for intellectuals, you should turn on any right wing talk show like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity and listen to them for a while. It won’t be long before they are attacking commie pinko faggot intellectuals for all the problems in America.

“There is a great superficiality in today’s evangelical world.  Many Bible-believing Christians share the contemporary case for self-gratification, emotionalism, and anti-intellectualism. Many people who believe in the Bible have never read it.” — Gene Edward Veith Jr.

I must mention one of the dumbest stupid-ass TV shows I have ever seen.  It is the epitome of anti-intellectualism in America today.  It is called the “Big Bang Theory.”  It is supposedly about genius and of course the geniuses in this show have Ph.D.’s but absolutely no common sense or interpersonal skills. They are also geeky with no athletic skills and about zero muscle mass on their puny frames.  This show portrays how much of America views intellectuals.

“Our big mistake in modern intellectualism is first and foremost its lack of nuance.  We have made science synonymous with atheism – a presupposed conception and yet, another means to non-sequiturs – and therefore, to a number of enthusiasts determined to go the further, anti-theism.  Hereby let us observe that science has long served best and should be, if none other, the one discipline, if at all possible, free of potential ideology, religious or anti-religious, and/or biased presupposition in order to maintain the authenticity and the reliability of its nature.” —–  Criss Jami

Elderly:

Every so often, my wife and I like to go to a Pow Wow.  I remember one of the first we went to and they had a free dinner for all attendees.  As we stood in line waiting our turn to get up to the food table, a young man came up and said “Oh Elders go to the front of the line.”  I said “I am not a Native American.”  He said “It did not matter” and escorted my wife and I to the front of the line with the other Elders.  Other Pow Wows that I have attended have had a special line for Elders.  I was pretty much blown away by this deference.  It was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated.

Many venues and shops have discounts for seniors or “Senior Days” where food is cheaper or there are discounts for those over fifty-five or sixty.  I am not impressed by these as you and I know it has nothing to do with “respect” for the elderly.  It has more to do with getting more of our money.  Respect for the elderly seems to be dwindling the older I get.

Both my wife and I have noticed that increasingly when we go to a clinic anymore with a health problem such as a sore hip or sore shoulder, we often get responses like “Oh, it is just part of getting old, you will just have to live with it.”  Instead of investigating to see if some our problem might be amenable to treatment, we are simply told to more of less “suck it up.”

“There is also a lack of recognition of the positive contributions that elderly people make to society.  The amount of unpaid childcare provided runs into the tens of billions.  Without this form of labor, fewer parents could work and gain fulfillment in their jobs.  Indeed, as some local authorities have recognized the 60 plus generation offer a huge reservoir of untapped energy for the voluntary sector.”  — Why do we treat elderly people so badly?By Paul Donovan

Poor:

The “poor” otherwise known as lazy, drug addicts, stupid, trailer trash, welfare bums, welfare cheats, handout recipients, bag people, curb people and homeless.  The poor in America are thought by many to be poor by choice and not by chance.  This makes it much easier to denigrate them and to blame them for their poverty.  When someone picks their lifestyle, it is much harder to be sympathetic for the choices they have made.

In 1978, I had finished my Master’s Degree in Counseling and I took a position as a Manpower Counselor II with the State of Wisconsin in the Department of Industry Labor and Human Relations or DILHR as it was known then.  My job entailed working with the WIN or Work Incentive Program to help families who were receiving welfare (AFDC or Aid to Families with Dependent Children) find gainful employment so they could get off Welfare.  I also worked with the Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program (IHRAP) and the Labor Education and Advancement Program (LEAP) to help mainly Southeast Asian refugees in the IHRAP program and women and minorities in the LEAP program find jobs.  I worked with several other job training programs as well.  The bottom line of all my programs and effort was to help people find employment by which they would become self-sufficient.

Now there are two interesting points I want to make gleaned from my two years working in these programs with mostly poor and under-privileged people.

  1. None of the programs really went far enough in their benefits or stipends or financial assistance to really help as much as was needed by my clients.

I am not going to say that many benefits were not helpful.  We could offer financial incentives to employers, daycare benefits, transportation help and even some educational benefits.  These were in addition to the monthly welfare checks that many families were receiving.  Nevertheless, the key to getting off welfare was to provide enough education to help the client to break out of the cycle of poverty.  Only education would help those who wanted to climb the proverbial “ladder of opportunity.”  Unfortunately, the ladders that were being provided never seemed to have enough rungs in them.  Whether through stupidity, frugality or simply underestimating what was needed, many people could not get enough help to break out of poverty.

  1. Ninety Percent of my clients wanted to get off Welfare.

There is a pernicious and vicious myth that most people on Welfare like it and want to stay on it.  Nothing, could be further from the truth.  I worked with hundreds of Welfare clients and the clear majority (90 percent or better) wanted to find a good job and become self-sufficient.

Yes, I encountered some Welfare cheats and some Welfare dependent people who had little or no incentive to gain employment and lose their Welfare checks.  However, these were a small minority of the clients that I saw in my two years working with the WIN program.   Even these individuals often had severe handicaps either physically or mentally which would have made holding gainful employment near impossible.  The average person does not realize how many barriers and hardships face some of the poor in this country.

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.Ban Ki-moon

Conclusions:

inadequacy-cropWe have a pervasive problem that I labeled the “Inadequacy Paradigm.”  Much of it is caused by racism, xenophobia, prejudice, stereotypes and bigotry.  The majority of it is systemic and will need major changes in policies and institutions in this country to eliminate.  However, it is felt on a very personal level.  Feelings of inadequacy may be conveyed by others and cultural mores but they are received by an individual who assimilates these feelings into their psyche.  Thus, inadequacy becomes a personal problem and not simply a social problem.  Inadequacy is not “out there” it is right inside.  The vast numbers of suicides in our society are testament to the inadequacy that many of our fellow citizens feel.   This includes Whites as well as minorities.

  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the USA
  • 44,000 people die every year by suicide (2015)
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015.

What can we do to overcome these problems?  Clearly education and social support systems must be developed and deployed.  If we see the problem of inadequacy as something that is “not my problem” nothing will be done.  We have people who refuse to spend one dime of their taxes to help others because of selfishness and greed.  We have many who want to label America as a Christian nation, but they do not practice Christianity.

Any church that does not practice tolerance for the oppressed, charity for the poor and compassion for the needy, regardless of what religion they belong to, should not call themselves a Christian church.  They should call themselves a HATE church.  Hate leads to prejudice and bigotry and these are the primary factors in the Inadequacy Paradigm.  Destroy prejudice and bigotry and we will create a society with many more well-adjusted people.

Time for Questions:

What makes you feel inadequate?  Why?  What do you do about it?  How do you think you could help others who feel inadequate?

Life is just beginning.

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew.  I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”  — Hermann Hesse

 

 

The Man or the Office?  Which Do We Respect?

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Hardly a day goes by that I don’t wonder whether I should call him Chump, Asshole or Mr. President.  There are many decrying the use of my pejorative adjectives to describe our new president.  They say “Even if you do not respect the man, you must respect the office.”  This rule (I know not where it began) seems to have taken the form of “common knowledge” as though there was some ancient prescription that admonished us to always respect an elected or appointed official.

Ironically, the man in office now gave no respect to his predecessor.  Beginning with the birther conspiracy before Obama even took office and continuing right up until his election, the man now in office took every opportunity to denigrate and insult President Barack Obama.  Nevertheless, I am not using this as an argument to insult our new President.  It fails the test of morality in that we all know “two wrongs do not make a right.”

My dilemma stems from my difficulty with understanding whether we should assign respect to an office regardless of the character of the individual that might be in it.  Perhaps history could shed some light on this issue for us.  What does history tell us about this question?  Is it really a universal law that we must respect the office even if we do not respect the man?  Have people in the past always respected the office even when they disliked the office holder?  Should we respect the office or the office holder?

Let us go back to the time of Israel under the Roman occupation when Herod was king.  What did they say about Herod?

“On an appointed day, Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.  And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”  Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. …” — Acts 12:19-24 

king-georgeMarching forward in time to the period of the Revolutionary war when George the III was ruler of the American Colonies, what did they think of King George?  Here is what is written in the Declaration of Independence:

“A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Our second President John Adams was called a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” By James Callender, a supporter of Thomas Jefferson.

The insults were returned by Adams supporters who called Jefferson a “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

President Abraham Lincoln who is today revered by many as either the greatest or second greatest president in American history received even more scorn than Jefferson or Adams from his contemporaries:

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“George Templeton Strong, a prominent New York lawyer and diarist, wrote that Lincoln was “a barbarian, Scythian, yahoo, or gorilla.”  Henry Ward Beecher, the Connecticut-born preacher and abolitionist, often ridiculed Lincoln in his newspaper, The Independent (New York), rebuking him for his lack of refinement and calling him “an unshapely man.”  Other Northern newspapers openly called for his assassination long before John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger. He was called a coward, “an idiot,” and “the original gorilla” by none other than the commanding general of his armies, George McClellan.” —- Knowledge Nuts

I could cite pages of examples such as the above.  History is full of examples of insults levied against Presidents, Kings and many other office holders.  I listed only a few to show that insults against an office are nothing new.  However, does this make it right or are these insults simply a lack of character?  What are our obligations to an “office?”   This question might be posed in one of two ways:

  1. We should respect an office even if the office holder is not worthy of our respect.

Yes!  We should respect an office because it represents an agreed upon authority.  If offices had no authority, institutions would break down and there would be no rule of order.   Democracy is based on the acceptance of authority emanating from the will of the masses.  No one person is above the masses in a democracy.

No!  An office has no intrinsic entitlement to respect.  The respect for an office comes from the office holder and not the other way around.  To simply respect a title because it is a title is both illogical and dangerous.  One can think of the harm that was caused by the respect that the Fuhrer had in Germany because he was the leader even when many disagreed with his policies and his behavior.

quote-the-president-of-the-united-states-whoever-it-is-deserves-a-certain-level-of-reverence-chris-matthews-117-93-79

  1. We should only respect an office when the office holder is worthy of respect.

Yes!  People can only remain free and independent absent of an authority that comes solely from titles, ranks and names.  If we obey or show respect for an office that is in violation of ethics or morality, we give away our free will.  Massacres, murders and other atrocities often arise from a group mentality or an unwarranted willingness to acquiesce to authority.  An office is not entitled to respect unless the office holder imbues the office with respect.

No!  People must show respect to the institution or office regardless of who the office holder is.  We must recognize that in the case of Trump, millions of Americans chose him over Hillary.  To disrespect Trump is to disrespect the millions of citizens in this country who following the laws of the land duly elected him to the office of POTUS.

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Well, there you have it.  I think I have laid out the “two sides of the coin.”   Now it is time for you to weigh in with your opinions.  Do not sit this one out.  Put your opinions in the comments section and let me hear from you.

Time for Questions:

What do you think? How would you answer these questions?

Life is just beginning.

“In a few days, I will lay down my official responsibilities in this office, to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President: the title of Citizen.” — Farewell Address, President Jimmy Carter.

For another opinion on this issue, see the article by Jonathan Chait.

Must We Respect the Office of the Presidency?

 

 

 

 

 

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