Taking It to Extremes – Part 3 of 5 – Society versus the Economy

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Introduction: (Skip if you have read Part 1)

A number of years ago, I wrote an article about the famous “Golden Mean” of Greek philosophy.  The mean was basically a rule that said the best way of living is to balance extremes.  Another way of looking at what this rule implies is that evil or bad things happen when we over do something.  We need to take all things in moderation.  Thus, drugs, smoking, guns, watching TV etc., are not evil or bad in themselves but when we take them to extremes, they became dangerous and counterproductive.

Life is an ongoing struggle to find our proper balance.  However, it may never be a question of equal balance because the proper balance can never be static.  There are many dimensions or polarities in life where it is not really a matter of moderation or balance but more a matter of dynamically imposing a temporary order between two extremes.  The concept of Hegelian Dialectics comes to my mind as an aide in thinking about this process.

Dialectical thinking can be described as: “The ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most economical and reasonable reconciliation of seemingly contradictory information and postures.”  This is a much more complex process than simply balancing extremes.  The more I thought about it the more I decided to add a corollary to the Greek Rule.  Since I think time has easily proved the value of the Golden Mean, a corollary by definition is a proposition that follows from and is appended to one already proved.  My corollary is as follows:

John’s Corollary:

Anytime, one concept in a set of opposing concepts is allowed to dominate the other concept, extreme dysfunction will result.

I want to discuss this more by using five pairs of concepts that I think are critical to our world today.  I want to show you how the distortion created by proponents of each concept is dangerous to life as we know it.  I do not use the word dangerous loosely or frivolously or for effect.  The battle between these ideas is destroying life as we know it on this planet.   The proponents of each side of these polarities seek to destroy the proponents on the other side.

Rather than looking at things from a systems perspective and trying to dynamically adjust the system, opponents are driven to allow one idea to dominate to the exclusion of the other idea.  Witness the name calling between conservatives and liberals today.  Each side demonizes the other side and assumes God is on their side and Satan is on the other side. Liberals are evil to conservatives and conservatives are evil to liberals.

Here are the five pairs of concepts we will look at in the next few weeks.  This week we will look at number three on my list.  We have already discussed the “efficiency versus effectiveness” dimension in part one of this blog series and the “growth versus development” dimension in part two.

  1. Efficiency versus Effectiveness
  2. Growth versus Development
  3. Society versus the Economy
  4. Conservative versus Liberal
  5. Rights of the Individual versus Rights of the Group
  1. Society versus the Economy:

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Today we are faced with an epic pandemic.  This threat has led to a battle between those who want to protect the economy and those for whom society is more important.  This is not the first time such a battle has been waged.  Four thousand years ago Moses battled Ramses over the same issue.  Pharaoh Ramses had cheap labor with the Israelites.  The Egyptian economy was purring along.  Pharaoh did not want to change anything.  The Israelites were not so happy.  Their society was in chaos as it was being slowly but inevitably destroyed by Egyptian culture.  A few hundred more years and there would be no Israelites.  A leader named Moses decided his people must leave Egypt.  He first tried to convince Ramses to simply “let my people go.”  Ramses would have none of this idea.  He had a good thing going with cheap labor and he was not about to rock the boat.

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Moses decided to play hard ball.  He brought a plague to hurt the Egyptians.  Ramses was aggrieved and decided to allow the Israelites to leave.  However, at the last-minute Ramses changed his mind.  It was a question of what would be good for the economy or what would be good for the Israelites.  The economy won out.  Moses brought another plague and then another.  Each time, Ramses would acquiesce and then at the last minute he would change his mind.  He finally let the Israelites leave but once they were “on the road” he had his last-minute regrets again and sent his army to bring them back.  The rest is (as they say) “history.”

Fast forward to the world in 2020.  A pandemic more widespread and as lethal as any in history has struck the world.  The battle is again engaged between leaders like Donald Trump who care more about the economy and leaders who care more about society.  A false dichotomy if ever there was one.  Under John’s corollary, taking either position and ignoring the other position can and will only result in a destruction of both.  You cannot have a society without an economy, and you can not have an economy without a society.  But what is the purpose of each?  What is a society and what is an economy?

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A society is a group of people, perhaps a tribe, a nation, or a family that choose to live together to share mutual resources.  People that live together beget relationships that involve feelings of community that grow out of common concerns.  These feelings range from love to sometimes hate.  There is a mutual interdependence in a society that implies the good of the society is based on the good of the individual and vice versa.  Societies develop a strong bond based on this mutual interdependence.

An economy is a means of providing resources for a society.  It is the means towards an end.  The end being the perpetuity of the society.  No society can exist without an economy.  Social economies have existed since the cave people and at one point simply involved people hunting and gathering together.  In modern times, we see economies based on a much more complex web of “hunting and gathering.”  The hunting and gathering in a modern society may involve Internet hunting or gathering crops at the local supermarket.

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A supply chain exists in modern societies based on what economists’ call “comparative advantage.”  This involves multiple components of a supply chain each doing what they do best.  Farmers raise dairy cattle.  Dairies make milk.  Trucking companies transfer the milk.  Retail stores sell the milk and other dairy products.  Consumers work at some part of a supply chain (there are thousands of supply chains that exist in the world today) to earn money to purchase goods and services sold at one or more other supply chains.  This is a simple version of an economy.  The bottom line is that in the 21st Century, no jobs mean no money.  No money means no ability to purchase goods and services.  Ergo, you starve to death or rely on the charity of your neighbors in your society.

Since the Covid-19 Pandemic began, leaders seem to have chosen sides in a fruitless and ignorant battle between “society” and the “economy.”  Over and over again we have seen leaders propose one extreme position or the other.  “We must shut everything down or we must open everything up!”  In the USA, there has been endless wrangling over a second stimulus bill.  Instead of intelligently looking at the balance between society and the economy, both Democrats and Republicans have used the crisis to further their own goals and agendas.

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This lack of leadership of both parties directly dovetails with the lack of leadership set by the former President of the United States.  A man whose own agenda was based on keeping an economy going to further his chances for reelection.  For a man who scorned Marxism and socialism, he realized that the economy always plays a major role in the life of the common person.  He thought that if the economy was going strong, people would overlook the thousands of deaths of their friends and neighbors.  He created a narrative that the entire pandemic was “false.”  The deaths were false.  He claimed falsely that the hospitals were reporting everything as Covid-19 deaths when they were actually due to something else.  I personally talked to many Trump supporters who told me that doctors and hospitals did this because the reimbursement rates were higher for deaths due to Covid-19 than for other causes.

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I served four years in the United States Air Force.  I learned while in the military that a commander, whether of a battalion, a squadron or a platoon has a major responsibility to keep his soldiers as safe as possible.  Any military leader who recklessly and needlessly puts his or her soldiers in harm’s way will be tried and court martialed for “dereliction” of duty. Following are two examples from a Marine publication titled: “Leadership, Ethics and Law of War Discussion Guide for Marines” by Marine Corps University, Lejeune Leadership (2008)

“The platoon commander was charged with violations of Article 92 (Dereliction of Duty), Article 109 (Willful and wrongful damage to an automobile), Article 118 (Premeditated murder) and Article 133 (Willful and wrongful failure to safeguard the detainees) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on 1 Feb 2005.”

“1st Lt Lawson was charged with dereliction of duty for failing to account for LCpl Rother’s welfare by posting him alone as a road guide. He was also charged with disobeying an order for two violations: failing to post guides in pairs as Judgment Case Study 5 Dependability Proficiency as directed and failing to provide a roster of the guides to the logistics officer before they were posted.”

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We have a former President who claims to be the Commander in Chief, yet he violated every canon of military law by recklessly and needlessly putting the entire US population in harm’s way by his disregard for the lives of these people.  His actions resulted in the deaths of thousands and yet I hear no outcry for justice.  I hear no strong voices noting his responsibility for these thousands of deaths.  As the primary person responsible for politicizing this Pandemic, he must be held accountable for these deaths.  The liars and sycophants who supported him must also be held accountable.

I blame the Democrats for their continuing stupidity to face reality.  I blame the Republicans for their lack of integrity and for their greed.  Both parties have made the pandemic in the USA much worse than it needed to be.  The lack of courage on one side and the greed on the other side created a perfect storm for the Covid-19 Virus to spread.  As I speak, we are witnessing a spike and increase in cases that seems beyond belief.

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Part of the reason for the increase in Corvid-10 cases has been the rush by both parties to open the schools.  So-called well-meaning educators and health experts even supported this rush.  On one side it was the belief that “day care” was needed to get the economy going again and on the other side, it was the need for teachers and schools to regain income.  Both sides used such flimsy excuses as “students need socializing” and would not get it at home or “students would fall behind” if they did not have direct contact with teachers.  No one ever defined what “socializing” children means or how schools accomplish this.  As for students falling behind, were they talking about their ability to take these ridiculous standardized state tests which add little or nothing to a student’s ability to think and reason for themselves?   No one ever defined what these children would be “falling behind.”

I realize that I have digressed from my original thesis.  To sum it up, a failure to balance the needs of both the society and the economy has led to disastrous results.  Add to this, the overall lack of leadership by the US President and both parties and we have a crisis that has never before been witnessed in the USA.  Some of these same problems beset the rest of the world.  The stupidity we have seen is not simply a manifestation of American ignorance, greed, and short-sightedness.  The world abounds in bad leadership.  Will we learn anything from our mistakes?  Will we admit that we were so polarized that neither side would listen to the other side?  Will we make progress under a new President?  Only time will tell.

Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Malcolm X:  Police Brutality Speech

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Perhaps no speech that I can “reconstruct “has more relevance to our country today than the speech given by Malcolm X on police brutality.  I first “discovered” Malcolm X during the seventies.  I was in my early thirties.  I was totally enthralled by his ideas and his passion for his ideas.  I will not bore you with a history of Malcolm Little, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, or Detroit Red.  Each of his names signifies a life that Malcolm X lived through.  There are many books written about him.  He wrote many speeches and an autobiography.  There are numerous videos on YouTube of his speeches and talks.  I would highly recommend watching his debate with James Baldwin which I found to be thought provoking and relevant to the world today.

Malcolm X Debate with James Baldwin September 5, 1963

Malcolm X was an intellectual, a radical, a revolutionary and a man who had a family, wife, and children that he loved.  He was a man who was not afraid to speak his mind and to tell the truth as he saw it.  His truth telling got him into trouble and was the primary reason for his murder and assassination.  By the time of his death, he had created many followers and perhaps as many enemies.  The US government regarded him as a threat to the American way of life and democracy itself.  Malcolm X’s death was proof to a comment made by Bernardine Dohrn (Leader of the Weather Underground and once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List), that “You can say anything you want in America, until someone starts listening to you.”

Context:

Malcolm X, birth name Malcolm Little, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19th, 1925.  He died on February 21, 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in NYC.  His remarkable life spanned almost 40 years.  Few people have ever made such an impact in so short a time as Malcolm X.  Malcolm X was in the middle of a Civil Rights Movement that had America in upheaval.  After two hundred and fifty years of slavery, Blacks in America had endured another 100 years of systematic and overt legal discrimination in every area of the country.  Finally, sick of riding at the back of the bus, inferior schools, voter discrimination, inability to sit at a White restaurant or a White hotel, Black folks and many White folks started a movement to end racial discrimination.

One element of the movement led by people like Martin Luther King believed that “non-violence” was the answer to overcoming racial discrimination.  Another element led by people like Malcom X, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and Eldridge Cleaver believed in the idea that you meet fire with fire.  Malcom X said: “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”  There was a respect among African Americans for all of these leaders, but arguments abounded on what would be the most successful path to end racial discrimination.   Ironically, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X died by assassination.

Fifty-five years after Malcolm X’s death.  It is now almost 2021 and racial divides and unrest still permeate and separate Americans.  Slavery has been abolished.  Jim Crow laws have been overturned.  The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.  Nevertheless, racism seems as prevalent as ever in this country.  The number of White Supremacy groups has increased dramatically in the past twenty years.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Georgia, there are over 700 racist groups in the USA.  Noted politicians continue to make racist remarks and a soon to be past president of the USA openly applauds and supports these racist groups.

The Black Lives Matter Movement is born to protest the seemingly wanton discrimination and murder of Black men, women, and children.  Hardly a day goes by that a Black person is not egregiously murdered on some public street in America for the most trivial of offenses and many times for no offense at all, except being Black.  Walking while Black, driving while Black, sitting on your porch while Black are all possible reasons for a Black man or woman or child to be murdered in America.  The primary instrument of these murders is not the White Supremacist groups but the police.  The same police whose duty is to “Protect and Serve” and who all too frequently think this means to “Protect and Serve” only for White folks.

“On April 27th, 1962, Los Angeles police fatally shot Nation of Islam member Ronald Stokes. Officers mistook him and a group of Muslims removing clothes from a car outside a Los Angeles mosque for criminals. The conflict quickly escalated to a police raid inside the mosque, leaving a total of seven Muslims shot, one killed, and one paralyzed from a bullet wound to the back.

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Stokes’s death compelled Malcolm to engage in new dimensions of the black freedom struggle. He discovered a new center of political gravity by returning to the arena that had launched him: America’s racially scarred criminal justice system. Decades before protests against mass incarceration galvanized the black freedom struggle, Malcolm indicted the entire justice system as racist.” — Peniel Joseph, The Death That Galvanized Malcolm X Against Police Brutality

Against this backdrop, the words of Malcolm X ring as true and valid today as they did when he spoke them back in 1962 on a sunny day in Los Angeles, California.

Speech on Police Brutality: (Malcolm X comments in bold print)

1962 – Malcolm X

In order for you and me to devise some kind of method or strategy to offset some of the events or the repetition of the events that have taken place here in Los Angeles recently, we have to go to the root. We have to go to the cause. Dealing with the condition itself is not enough. We have to get to the cause of it all. (crowd concurs) Or the root of it all. And it is because of our effort toward getting straight to the root that people oft times think we’re dealing in hate.

2020

The KKK, the Proud Boys, The Aryan Nation and many other White supremacist groups are according to Homeland Security the most dangerous threat to America today.  They are responsible for numerous cases of violence and terror.  But while the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam were once labeled de facto as terrorist organizations, no effort has been made to label any (not a single one) White supremacist group as a terrorist organization.

Eric Garner (43) “I can’t breathe” July 17, 2014

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1962 – Malcolm X

The White man is tricking you! He’s trapping you. He doesn’t call it violence when he lands troops in South Vietnam. (applause) Please, please, please! He doesn’t call it violence when he lands troops in Berlin. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, he didn’t say get non-violent. He said, “Praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition.” But when someone attacks you, when someone comes at you with a club, when someone comes you with a rope, when someone comes at you with a gun, despite the fact that you’ve done nothing he tells you, “Suffer peacefully.” (murmuring) “Pray for those who use you to spite me.” “Be long suffering.” And how long can you suffer after suffering for 400 years?

2020

The Black Lives Matter Movement has been mainly peaceful with only sporadic violence erupting throughout hundreds of protest marches.  But the right-wing media portrays the Movement as communistic, anarchistic, atheistic, and espousing overt violence.  When White people stand up for themselves, it is called “fighting for freedom” or exercising our constitutional rights.  When Black people and other people of color even speak out publicly against racist and violent discrimination, they are exhorted to remain peaceful and let the courts handle the problem.  But to people of color, hundreds of years of court decisions have often made matters worse.

Michael Brown (18) “I don’t have a gun.  Stop shooting.”  August 9, 2014

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1962– Malcolm X

The controlled press, the White press inflames the White public against Negroes. The police are able to use it to paint the Negro community as a criminal element. The police are able to use the press to make the White public think that 90%, or 99%, of the Negroes in the Negro community are criminals. And once the White public is convinced that most of the Negro community is a criminal element, then this automatically paves the way for the police to move into the Negro  community, exercising Gestapo tactics stopping any Black man who is in this… on the sidewalk, whether he is guilty or whether he is innocent.

2020

Donald Trump calls it the “Fake” news.  It is not fake news.  It is exploitative news.  It is sensationalist news.  It is news designed to sell newspapers that are full of advertisements.  The newspapers today as they have always been are on the side of so-called “law and order.” Without order, they cannot sell their newspapers.  Newspapers are owned by billionaires who cherish order and predictability above all else.  Chaos is not good for newspapers unless it can be turned into a story.  A Black murder is not news.  A White murder is news.  A Black woman raped or abducted is not news.  A White woman raped or abducted will be headlines for several days.

Amadou Diallo (23) “Mom, I’m going to college.”  February 4, 1999

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1962 – Malcolm X

Once the police have convinced the White public that the so-called Negro community is a criminal element, they can go in and question, brutalize, murder, unarmed innocent Negroes and the White public is gullible enough to back them up. This makes the Negro community a police state. This makes the Negro neighborhood a police state. It’s the most heavily patrolled. It has more police in it than any other neighborhood, yet it has more crime in it than any other neighborhood. How can you have more cops and more crime?

2020

How many Black people do you know who live in a gated community?  A Black person entering a gated community takes their lives in their own hands.  White people fleeing from the media’s obsession with crime, rape, mayhem, serial killers, home invasions have taken to gated communities like ducks to water.  If you can’t afford a gated community, then you join the NRA and stockpile ammunition and firearms.  If you are White, you never know when the Black folks will stage an uprising and come in to take your silverware or your blond wife.

Trayvon Martin (17) “What are you following me for?”  February 26, 2012  

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1962 – Malcolm X

There’s no case against the Muslims. It has no case against these brothers whom they shot down. And because it has no case, it’s trying to create a case. It’s trying to manufacture a case. And therefore they set up a grand jury hearing of the case so that they could hear it behind closed doors, and after hearing what we have to say then they’ll… their particular strategy or defense against the actions that they committed on that April the 27th.

2020

Whether or not there is a case seldom seems to matter.  How many times have we seen “Grand Juries” ignore evidence and let the perpetrators off Scott free?  Every time I hear of a Grand Jury taking a case in hand, I assume no charges will be brought against the offenders if the victim was Black.  I am not sure how they pick Grand Juries but if a deck of cards always turned up aces for the other side, you would sure as hell know it was a crooked deck.

“Ferguson grand jury props up a rotten, racist system.” – December 2014

“In Breonna Taylor grand jury decision, Berkeley scholars see grave racial injustice.” – September 23, 2020

“The Persistence of Discrimination in Jury Selection”June 2018

Kimani Gray (16) “Please don’t let me die.”  March 9, 2013

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1962 – Malcolm X

He told the brother; ‘Put down your hands.’ Brother was talking, he’s not a criminal. A man has a right on the sidewalk to talk with his hands. ‘Put down your hands, don’t talk with your hands.’ And when the brother continued to gesture with his hands the Officer grabbed his hand, twisted it around, ’round behind his back flung him up against the car and then that’s when hell broke loose. That was when hell broke loose. A struggle ensued; shots were fired by the police.

Breonna Taylor a 26-year-old African American woman was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, 2020.  She was asleep with her boyfriend when the police burst into her apartment at 12:40 a.m.  Police fired 32 shots supposedly in self-defense wounding Breonna’s boyfriend and killing an unarmed Breonna.  Even on the face of it, consider what everyone admits happened and ask yourself “Does it sound logical, shooting into a dark apartment at night over thirty times?”

Police need to defend themselves when threatened and should use reasonable force to do so.  However, putting yourself into a situation where violence is likely to occur (consider how many White gun owners would not draw a gun should anyone suddenly burst into their house) and then claiming self-defense is not only disingenuous but it is the height of stupidity.  In such a situation with bullets flying everywhere and only thin walls separating apartments, the police endangered innocent people and killed a woman against whom they had no charges.

Breonna Taylor (26) “Who’s there.”  March 13, 2020

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1962 – Malcolm X

And two of the brothers who were shot in the back were telling me that as they lay on the sidewalk, they were holding hands. They held hands with each other saying Allahu Akbar. And the blood was seeping out of them where the police bullets had torn into their insides. Still, they said Allahu Akbar and the police came and kicked them in the head. Police kicked them in the head telling them to shut up that noise while they were laying on the sidewalk in front of our temple. Kicked them in the head. Shut up that noise.

2020

George Floyd lay in the Minneapolis street under the knees of a police officer.  The officer’s knees cutting off the ability of George to take a breath.  The plight of George was ignored by two other officers who stood by while George was strangled to death by their lead officer.  George was stopped for possibly possessing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.

A week ago I was in a Circle K gas station in Arizona when one of the men standing just ahead of me in line mentioned that he had been given a counterfeit ten-dollar bill in another Circle K a few days ago.  He had decided to use it at this Circle K.  I guess he figured that they gave it to him, so they deserved it back.  Anyway, the clerk saw that it was counterfeit and declined to take it.  I was standing just behind him with my wife Karen and I asked to see the phony bill.  For the life of me, I could not tell it from a real ten.  The guy did not seem bothered and laughed it off.  No police were called.  No harm done.  No need to kill anyone.  No major counterfeiters at the Circle K.

If you have the stomach, watch the video below of the death of George Floyd.  Let me know if you can remember the last time a White man died like this.

George Floyd (46) “Mama! Mama!” May 25, 2020

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lirHz93qJ50&bpctr=1605987468

1962 – Malcolm X

We are oppressed. We are exploited. We are downtrodden. We are denied, not only civil rights, but even human rights. So, the only way we’re going to get some of this oppression and exploitation away from us, or aside from us is come together against the common enemy.

2020

We are experiencing an unprecedented acknowledgement of the systemic racism and White privilege that permeates our police departments, courts, prisons, and entire criminal justice system including juries, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.  Millions of people who once seemed blind to the overt discrimination that exists in American society towards minorities have now become “Woke.”  Once you become mindful of something, you can never go back.

Nevertheless, there are at least as many people in America who still deny that racism exists and who still see Black Lives Matter advocates as terrorists and criminals.  A new chapter in the history of civil rights in America has been engaged and only time will tell where it will lead.  The one thing I am sure of (beyond a shadow of a doubt) is that the words and life of Malcom X still ring down the halls of time with an unbelievable power to skewer and penetrate the hypocrisy of American society.  We must continue to move beyond the denial that allows deaths like George Floyd’s to happen on a regular basis in Black and minority communities.

“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” – Malcom X

P.S.

Two days after I wrote the above blog, I purchased a copy of the Arizona Republic newspaper.  I found a very disturbing article in it called “When Police Dogs Bite, No One is Accountable.”  It was written by A. VanSickle, C. Stephens, R. Martin, D.Brozost-Kelleher and A. Fan.  The date of the article was Sunday, November 22, 2020.  It concerned an investigation into the use and abuse of police dogs.  It was based on research sponsored by the Marshall Project and titled “Mauled, When Police Dogs Bite.”  The Marshall Project is a non-profit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.  The following is an excerpt from the newspaper which I think you will notice reflects on my above blog.

“Investigations into the police departments of Ferguson, Missouri and Los Angeles, California found that police dogs bit non-White people almost exclusively.  Police dog bites sent roughly 3,600 Americans to emergency rooms every year from 2005 to 2013 according to a recent study published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, almost all were men, and Black men were overrepresented.”  

Lest you think that most of the people bitten were hardened criminals who deserved it, the study found the contrary.  Most people bitten were unarmed and accosted for NON-Violent crimes like jay walking, problems with license plates, even a man looking for a lost cat.

The Goddess of Hypocrisy

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The most merciless Goddess of all is the Goddess of Hypocrisy.  But did you know that the Greeks and Romans did not have a Goddess or God of Hypocrisy?  According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word Hypocrisy:

“ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player.” The Greek word itself is a compound noun: it’s made up of two Greek words that literally translate as “an interpreter from underneath.”

This is a rather benign term for one of the most dangerous people of all time.  We commonly think of a Hypocrite as someone that says one thing and does another.  However, before we come back to how the Goddess of Hypocrisy was born and who her parents were, let us look at some examples of hypocrisy to see why I say she is the most merciless of all Goddesses.  Our first example must start with the Greeks themselves.  The very ones who conveniently never found or identified the Goddess.

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Once upon a time in old Greece, there was a man named Socrates.  You all know who Socrates was since the Delphic Oracle pronounced him the smartest man in the world.  That appellation came because only Socrates among millions of men (women did not count back then) knew that he knew nothing.  That’s right, Socrates really did not believe that he was smart and that is why he asked so many questions.  Smart people really understand that most of the world is beyond understanding.

Now you would think that the Greeks would be overjoyed at having the smartest man in the world live right in Athens.  And for little or no fees, Socrates was willing to help teach all the children of the upper and lower classes in Athens.  But if you remembered your history, they executed Socrates for teaching their children to think for themselves.  Can you imagine a country that even today we remember for being one of the first democracies in the world and they put old Socrates to death for educating their kids?  I believe that is why the Greeks did not identify a Goddess of Hypocrisy because they were big hypocrites themselves.  It is perhaps ironic that in the good old USA, a nation of hypocrites we do not think of the Greeks as being hypocrites.

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Which brings me to our second example of the Goddess of Hypocrisy exercising her evil in the world.  This example concerns the largest and perhaps oldest established organization in the world.  The organization that I speak of is called the Roman Catholic Church (RCC).  For centuries, the RCC has taught the evils of sex.  When I was a young boy growing up with fantasies of some of the girls in my junior high school class, I was prohibited by church doctrine from masturbating to any of these thoughts.  Masturbation was then and even now defined as some type of evil activity that would cause hair to grow on my palms and immediately identify me as a sinner and masturbator.

Go ahead and type in the following in Google: “Is Masturbation Wrong.”  Here is what you will get for an answer.  This comes from the site www.beginningcatholic.com/

  • The Catholic teaching on masturbation says that masturbation is always morally wrong.
  • Sex is intended to be both an expression of love for your spouse, and a beautiful means of procreation.
  • Sex is so special, powerful, and valuable that it is properly used only within marriage. If you’re not married, you should abstain from sexual activity.

I could expound on many other elements of sex that the RCC uses to create sinners and ensure a ready supply of penitents for their confessionals but I think just this example of masturbation is enough.  You might have already guessed where the hypocrisy comes in.  I know many of you are already thinking how can an organization that is rife with pedophiles be so hypocritical that they can condemn young men and women to hell for enjoying their own bodies.  You might think that this is a 21st century problem for the RCC but just look at the history of the RCC and you will see that a double standard on sex goes back many hundreds of years within the church.  If you are curious about how many Catholic Popes broke their vows of chastity see the following data on Wikipedia:  List of Sexually Active Popes/  This list is quite long.  Can you imagine how long it would be if it included priests?

Just a few months ago, it was revealed that a priest who I had always admired at the Demontreville Retreat Center (where I have made nearly 35 silent Jesuit Retreats) was having an affair with a woman outside the retreat center.  We were cautioned “not” to judge others less with be judged ourselves, but I have always been judged by a church that preaches one thing about sex but has another standard and is apparently infected by the Goddess of Hypocrisy.  I will not go into all of the allegations that have surfaced throughout the world concerning the sexual practices of the RCC.  It would fill a hundred books, but it would amply demonstrate the work of the Goddess that I speak of and her attendant evil.

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My final example of the egregiousness of the hypocrisy that this Goddess sows concerns the so-called “Pro-Life Movement.”  This is a movement also know more colloquially as the Anti-Abortion movement.  According to the adherents of this philosophy “All live is sacred from the moment of conception.”  I would assume this means that the moment my sperm unites with a female ovum, life begins.  Scientists, doctors, pro-lifers, politicians, and lawyers will argue this conception of life probably until the sun flames out and the world ends.  For our purposes, it is a red herring.  A needless diversion that obscures the real truth behind the Pro-Life Movement.  The real truth is the hypocrisy that these people are pro-life.  The reality of the hypocrisy is that they only care about whether or not a woman has any control over her own body.

Pro-Lifers can be viewed at dozens of Trump Rallies carrying their banners and signs but not, I repeat not wearing a mask.  They have repeatedly demonstrated at these rallies that they care little or nothing about the lives of other people that they might infect with the Coronavirus.  However, the hypocrisy of Pro-Lifers goes much deeper.  It extends to such issues as war, capital punishment, caring for the sick and needy and helping to protect immigrants and minorities from abuse, torture, death, and murder.  Show me the Pro-Lifers on the front lines of the “End Capital Punishment Marches” or the “Black Lives Matter Movement.”  Hypocrites one and all.  Hypocrites through and through.  Hypocrites well past the deaths of anyone except the so-called “unborn child.”

This concludes my examples of notorious cases of hypocrisy.  I could provide many more examples.  I think of Jesus calling the Pharisees hypocrites.  Indeed, on a personal level, I have often been infected by the Goddess of Hypocrisy myself.  But if you do not by now believe in the Goddess of Hypocrisy and the evil that she creates, I have little left to tell you.  For those of you who are believers, I propose that we need a name and history for the Goddess.

Yes, witness the birth of a new Goddess.  One as evil and mischievous as any that the Greeks created.  And since she does not exist, let us birth and name this new Goddess and add her to the pantheon of Goddesses that the Greeks identified.  She needs a birth story (I would love to hear any ideas from you regarding her story) and in my next blog, I will write her story.  For now I will end with suggesting some names for her.  I am open to other ideas and if you care to share any suggestions, please do so in the comment list for this blog.  Here are my suggestions:

  • Phoneycia
  • Pretense
  • Tartuffe
  • Deceptor

11-26-2020

Here is an example of hypocrisy if there ever was one: 

“The Diocese of Brooklyn on Thursday cheered the Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily block Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s capacity limits at houses of worship in COVID-19 hotspots.”

Apparently to the Diocese of Brooklyn, lives are not as important as attending church on Sunday.  Imagine this from a major proponent of the so called “Pro-Life” Movement.  Pro-Life when it does not interfere with their collecting an “offering.”  

The Nightmare has Ended or Has It?

Nightmare of Trump

While part of the nightmare has ended with the defeat of Trump, the whole nightmare will never end until we can defeat Trumpism.  It will not end until not a single person will ever vote for someone like Trump again.  A man with no integrity, scruples or morality. 

Over the past 4 years, I have written sixteen articles about Trump and Trumpism in which I tried to explain the dangers of this man and his ideas to not only the USA but to the entire world.  While I can feel bad about the 70 million people who still voted for Trump, it is far better to think upon the 75 million Americans who voted against Trump and his policies.   

Trumpism is a failure to understand the principles of Democracy.  Thomas Jefferson said that democracy is supported by two pillars.  The first is an informed and educated citizenry.  The second is a free press with information relevant to the lives of the people it serves. 

Sadly, we have less of both structures in America today.  Our press is no longer free nor is it a reliable source of useful and objective information.  Our citizens are among the least informed and most brainwashed people in the world.  Our education system does not educate/ 

Biden and Harris have a monumental task ahead of them.   But it is not a task that can simply be delegated to politicians.  Each of the 75 million people who voted against Trump has a responsibility to help build a better America.  Expecting Biden and Harris to do the job for us cannot result in success. 

Success will only come when all Americans are engaged in the process of building a free and just society.  It will take all of us to create a country where everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

Trump’s End Game Strategy to Win the Election

The pundits and leading Democrats are howling that Donald Trump is off the rails.  They are crying out that he is deranged.  That he is incompetent and that perhaps the 25th Amendment should be invoked to remove him from office.  Recent tweets by Trump to indict Obama, Hillary and Biden for treason seem to be evidence to support his derangement.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  Trump is not deranged nor crazy nor any more incompetent than he has ever been.  Trump is just not playing by the same rule book that his opponents are using.

Pelosi introduces bill to create a commission on presidential capacity under the 25th Amendment

When I taught strategy, I would show my students that there were two broad categories of strategies.  Predictive strategy is looking ahead.  It is analogous to a chess game where you try to plan as far ahead in terms of what moves your opponent might make.  Emergent strategy “emerges” one move at a time based on the present state of opportunities.  It can also be called an “opportunistic” strategy.  Poker is an excellent example of a game that is best played using an emergent strategy.  A player bets or folds depending on each card that is drawn or what each opponent is doing in the present time.  There is no planning for the future.  A bluff is the most opportunistic of moves in the game of poker. 

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Trump has realized with each passing day that he is down in the polls.  If voting alone were to decide the election, Trump already knows that he has lost.  What his opponents are not fully grasping is that Trump has never played by rules used in a predictive game of strategy.  Trump is a master at playing the political game using opportunistic and emergent strategies.  Trump is like the jazz player or poker player that seizes the moment or even sets up the moment by creating the kind of chaos and confusion which throws his opponents off of their game.

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In Chaos Theory, Complexity Theory or Complex Adaptive Theory as it is also known, opportunities emerge from chaos.  The term Chaos to most people implies that something has gone wrong but operating at the edge of chaos is actually especially useful.  It is now an accepted fact that all large and complex systems adapt through chaos.  Systems must find the right balance between order and chaos.  Chaos opens up avenues for change, innovation and evolution that help systems bring order to a new environment or a new set of opportunities.  Donald Trumps game can open up opportunities that he can exploit.  Staying in the game as it is now evolving is a sure lose for Chump.  However, by stirring the pot enough, by creating enough pandemonium, confusion and chaos, the game may then present opportunities that he can exploit. 

One such opportunity that many are afraid of is that he will simply not step down.  However, there are opportunities that could emerge even before the election that he could exploit.  For instance, if Trump were to declare martial law, he could suspend the election and enact draconian measures designed to suppress future challenges to his position.  Martial law has been used before.  Alan Dershowitz notes the constitution is “Quite surprisingly silent on the issue of martial law and emergency powers.”  He goes on to say the following:

“What then could we reasonably expect from our courts if any American president during a period of dire emergency were once again to suspend important constitutional safeguards?  Our experiences suggest the following outline. The courts, especially the Supreme Court, will generally not interfere with executive handling of a genuine emergency while it still exists. They will employ every technique of judicial avoidance at their disposal to postpone decisions until the crisis has passed.” — The Hill, Does President Trump have power to declare martial law?, 6-3-2020, Alan Dershowitz.

IF the above comment does not scare you, then consider that the most recent poll shows 92 percent of Republicans are still planning to vote for Trump.  Would these Republican Senators who have supported his lies, immorality, incompetence, and lack of ethics act any differently than they have for the past four years to curb Trumps potential abuse of power?  When the polls are still showing 92 percent of Republicans support Trump, I doubt that there would be any support among Republicans to stop Trump from declaring martial law. 

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Many of Trump’s supporters would like to see him elected for life.  A large number of Americans do not believe in Democracy.  This is a fact that too few people have really grasped.  The USA is in a battle for its soul and that soul is called democracy.  Donald Trump is playing a game that his opponents do not understand.  Instead of thinking of him as crazy, they should realize that he is crazy like a fox.  Trump has gained power and will do anything he can to keep it.  Remember the famous quote by Lord Acton:

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you add the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” — Lord Acton, 1887

Wake up Democrats before it is too late.  The only way to beat Trump is to recognize the game that he is playing and to change the playing field.  It is unlikely that you will be able to beat him at his own game. 

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Please share this blog.  I would like to see that more people understand what Trump is trying to do.

PS:  See this article published on 11-12-20.  

“It’s exactly what I would have expected Trump to do. But even more troubling than what amounts to a straight-up coup attempt is the behavior of the rest of the Republican Party, which (aside from a handful of exceptions) is backing him to the hilt. Trump’s plot seems unlikely to work, but he is establishing a dire precedent.” — Ryan Cooper, The Week  

https://theweek.com/articles/949360/trumps-willing-accomplices

 

 

 

What Needs to Be Done Starting in 2021 – IMHO

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Getting Trump and his Senate sycophants out of office is only the first step in making America the country it needs to be.  The following is an agenda that I think would help to exceed the dreams of our founders and would meet the needs of citizens who want to live in a country characterized by true equality, true freedom, and true justice.  These items should be our “Second” priority after getting Trump out of office.

  • Universal day care for all working parents
  • Develop a National Agency Against Racism and Sexism
  • Low cost Internet for all citizens
  • Term Limits for all National political offices – 2 six-year terms maximum. No holding any public office for ten years after
  • Expand Affordable Care Act to insure healthcare for all citizens
  • Major Education Changes – develop a 21st century education system (see my blog on this subject)
  • Infrastructure Plan (Biden Plan a Start)
  • Start Closing Military Bases overseas
  • Major Campaign Funding Reform
    • Repeal Citizens United
    • Abolish Lobbying
  • Limit Executive Privilege and Executive Orders
  • Limit for Supreme Court Tenure to 15 years
  • Restore fair representation by eliminating gerrymandering
  • Abolish the electoral college
  • Reform corporate law to restore the balance of power between workers and management.
  • Adopt a plan for immigration based on care and compassion for all human beings
  • Reform the criminal justice and legal system
  • Ensure that LGBTQ citizens have the same rights as all other citizens in the USA
  • Reform tax law so that it is equitable and fair
  • Work international to establish a global mandate for a stable climate that will include efforts on climate restoration, climate mitigation and environmental sustainability

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A Tale of Two Men

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It is a time of overwhelming greed.  It is a time of underwhelming altruism.  The hoards of poor and destitute and abused are still at the gates but the gates have been replaced by a wall.  The few that have managed to get over the wall or under the wall have found that their dreams of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been replaced by barbed wire fences and security police intent on finding and locking them up in cages.  In truth, there are no streets paved with gold.  The gold has long since been stripped by billionaires and the American dream has been supplanted by a Trickle-Down theory which the billionaires are cynically prophesizing.

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Through the country stride two men.  One man driven by money laden with stocks, bonds, and coupons for a cheap cup of coffee.  The other man driven by compassion with a calendar always full of dates to help someone else out.  One man has plenty of gold, the other man has plenty of time.  No two men could be more different.  One man represents the America that was.  The other man represents the America that could be.  The two men frequently cross paths and to some extent even like each other.  There is no hatred between the two but a mutual inability to understand the other’s motives has always existed.  Each thinks that the other is of unsound mind or to put it another way is “out to lunch.”  This is their story then.  I tell it from a neutral objective.  Strangely, I like both men.

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Tom is a white middle class male in his mid-seventies.  Tom is driven by the almighty dollar.  Hardly a day goes by that Tom is not trading or looking at his stock portfolio.  Tom (everyone agrees) is “all about the money.”  Tom is a Trump supporter.  In many respects, he does not fit the typical demographic for a Trumpist.  Tom has gone to college.  He worked at a white-collar job and he has one of the largest houses in the town.  Tom always dresses well, speaks well and never utters a vernacular word.  Tom has never owned a motorcycle and I doubt he has ever shot anything in his life.  He is the epitome of decorum and propriety.  He has kept himself in good shape and looks physically fit.  Indeed, he looks several years younger than his age.  Tom is soft-spoken and is the last person you could think of who would ever get in an actual fight with anyone.  

Tom prides himself on his frugalness, some would say cheapness.  He will buy a coffee at the local coffee shop and when it is time to pay, he will search the internet with his smart phone to find a coupon that will allow him to get 50 percent or so off the cost of an already low-priced cup of coffee.  But greed cannot be measured by cheap cups of coffee.  In some respects, it is difficult to separate greed from fear.  Many a conversation with Tom, I walked away thinking that it is not so much greed that drives Tom as fear.  Fear that the immigrants might take his house away.  Fear that women will take his job.  Fear that minorities will get his share of the America pie.  Fear that LGBTQ people will gain access to his bathroom.

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If it is true that Trump supporters are driven by fear and greed, then Tom (regardless of demographics) is the quintessential Trump supporter.  Tom defies the category of “Trump Deplorable.”  You can have an intelligent and civil conversation with Tom on many a subject.  Nevertheless, he defends Trump no matter what the issue.  Trump is his God and can do no wrong.  Despite Tom’s penny pinching, he is proud enough of his Trump affiliation that he has spent the money to purchase some Trump paraphernalia.  He proudly wears both a Trump hat and a Trump t-shirt.  This always puzzles me. 

Tom has never suffered poverty.  He lives well and has a beautiful lake front home with a mortgage long paid off.  He drives a luxury car with a brand image.  I am sure that neither NAFTA nor Globalism has ever been of undue stress to his finances.   Quite to the contrary, Tom has undoubtedly benefitted from the good that has come out of these policies.  Unlike the white rural blue-collar worker who saw his job and company go overseas, Tom has prospered in the 21st Century economy. 

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Ron is also a white male in his mid-seventies.  Ron did not go to college.  Ron was a blue-collar electrician until his retirement.  Ron grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.  Ron rides a Harley Davidson and when he was younger went on many a deer and elk hunting trip.  He still proudly has an array of rifles that he seldom now uses.  Ron has even won some rifles and given them away.  Ron can be difficult to talk to.  He is passionate about his position and not always willing to listen to others.  You cannot always describe his discussions with others as civil and polite.  Some people would describe Ron as uncouth.  He cares little about fashion or image.  He usually looks like he needs a good haircut.  If you did not know Ron, you would have no difficulty in putting him down as a Trump supporter.  You would be dead wrong.

Ron is a generous man.  He is one of the most generous persons I know.  Ron is not rich.  He has never purchased a brand-new car and he does not live on a lake.  Ron does not have a great deal of money, but he will often pay for my coffee and the coffee of others at our table.  Ron is most generous with his time.  Never a day goes by that he is not doing a favor for someone.  His generosity extends well beyond his immediate family.  Three years ago. Ron and his wife were given an award as Volunteers of the Year.  If anyone needs something or help with anything, they will call Ron.  I do not think of myself as “ungenerous”, but I am loath to admit that I sometimes think Ron is too generous with his time. 

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Politically, I would describe Ron as an independent thinker.  Ron gets a good pension from his former IBEW union and if there is anything he is proud of and will defend to the nth degree, it is unions.  He despises Trump and the Republican politics of greed and Trickle Down.  However, he does not defend the Democratic party either.  He has said that the Democrats sold too many Americans down the drain with NAFTA and Globalism.  It would have been one thing to pursue these policies if there had been some type of life jacket or safety net for the American workers displaced but the Democrats as well as the Republicans simply ignored the side effects of these policies. 

Ron is no racist, no sexist, no hater of immigrants.  If you talk to Ron about these subjects, you will find a man that is not fearful or belligerent towards others.  Whereas Tom would lock America down, Ron would tear the walls down.  Tom will deplore violent protestors.  Ron will deplore the violence that lead to the protests in the first place.  Ron loves to travel and meet new people.  Tom spends most of his days in the same town that he has always been and traveling the same safe pathways that he has always traveled.  Ron has taken several foreign students into his home on an exchange program and is always eager to hear stories about other people and other places.  Tom has a child who is developmentally disabled that he is a loving and kind father to. 

A tale of two men.  Both men married.  Both with families and children.  Neither man a criminal or drug addict or law breaker.  Both men admired by others in the community.  Both men loved by their families.  Both men with friends who speak and think well of them.  Men who are on opposite sides of any imaginable political spectrum. 

A time in America when the divisions seen to outweigh any points of commonality.  When the divisiveness and polemics drive everyone either right or left.  When disagreement is called evil and rudeness and bullying substitute for politeness and civility.  When you are my enemy if your politics disagree with mine.  When truth is now called a lie and facts are now called fake. 

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Ron and Tom still sit down mornings at the coffee shop and talk to each other.  There is often passionate disagreement.  Ron will storm and foam at the mouth.  Tom will quietly state his position and seem somewhat amused at Ron’s vehemence.  I am not sure who has the most difficulty understanding the other but watching Tom and Ron interact is something like watching a TV sitcom.  Are Tom and Ron following a script that the rest of us do not know about?  Perhaps there is a script written somewhere that we are all following.  

“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will ­ adjust your lives, not the standards.” ― Ted Koppel

Debate versus Discussion:  Why Debates are a Waste of Time!

I wrote this four years ago before Trump was elected. As you can see from last nights debate, the situation has only become worse. There was little or no discussion or clarification of issues. The debate was a debacle which gave a black eye to America and shows how far politics under Trump has descended into madness and hysteria. God save our country.

Aging Capriciously

(Listen to the Debate Song, while you read my blog this week.)

berniedebateOnce upon a time, I thought debates were the answer to the question of “how do we discover the truth?”  I thought that if you put two intelligent people together and each took opposing positions on an issue, that through the interplay of ideas the truth would emerge.  If you think about this a bit, it is the basis for our judicial system in America.  One side argues for the defendant, the other side argues for the prosecution or against the defendant.   It is also the basis for an academic exercise called Dialectical Research or Dialectical Inquiry.

dialectical inquiryA dialectical investigation is a form of qualitative research which utilizes the method of dialectic, aiming to discover truth through examining and interrogating competing ideas, perspectives or arguments.  This latter method is often applied through the use of case studies in which students or investigators discuss…

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Character, Culture and Race:  From a White Perspective

What do character, culture and race have to do with each other?  That is the subject of my blog this week.  I believe that each of these concepts is not well understood by people in America or in any other country for that matter.  There is a science to understanding these concepts but there is also an art that comes from experience and living.  Both science and experience are necessary to understand each concept and their relationship to each other.  Since my experience can only come from where I stand, I note that I stand as a white, USA born, male in the early 21st Century.  Standing anywhere else would no doubt give me a different experience and a different perspective on these ideas.  Let me start with first defining what the term Character means to me.  I am going to give you my take and not Webster’s dictionary definition.

Character:

I think there are four major elements of character.  I believe these are: integrity, wisdom, tolerance, and courage.  Integrity is standing up for what one believes.  Integrity is the opposite of sycophancy.  Sycophants go along imageswith someone for an underlying motive or future advantage that they hope will accrue for their fawning behavior.  People with integrity do what they believe is right whether or not any advantage will accrue from their efforts.  People with integrity are consistent in their stated ideas and do not read the polls to see which way public opinion is blowing. 

It has been said that: “Knowledge helps you to make a living while wisdom helps you to make a life.”  Wisdom is the ability to as Father Sthokal would have said “Exercise discernment.”  The Greeks would have said that wisdom is the ability to exercise the Golden Mean.  The ability to live life in moderation and not to be seduced by extremes or excesses.  Many a smart people there are who you know are very stupid.  I see college professors who can see no further than the myopia induced by their academic disciplines.  Thus, they see everything through only one lens. 

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A favorite quote of mine respecting tolerance and courage states that:  “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.  The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.” — Ralph W. Sockman.  It takes real courage to stand up for what you believe when everyone is against you.  In the USA today, it takes courage to stand up for immigrants and poor people.  The greed in American life has prejudiced so many people who mistakenly believe that the poor and needy are taking their jobs or money away.  People are afraid to speak out because they are afraid that they will be labeled as Un-American. 

downloadTolerance is the willingness to respect and stand up for someone when you are in the majority and they are in the minority.  Difficult it is to speak out against your peers and tribe.  When someone has an idea that does not fit with the normal conception, the tolerant person will try to hear them out.  Tolerant people respect those with seemingly strange and weird or wild ideas.  The tolerant person does not say “That is crazy or that is a stupid idea.”  A recent example I think that shows both tolerance and courage is the song by Tyler Childers – “Long Violent History.”  You don’t hear many country singers supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or speaking out against racism. 

Character is not limited to any race, religion, culture, nation, or ethnicity

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Culture:

When I met my current wife Karen, she had an adopted Korean daughter.  Susan or Lee Hei Sook was six years old when Karen went though the procedures to adopt her.  She was an orphan who did know where her mom and dad were.  Many years later when Susan was out of college and expecting her second child she decided to search for her birth mother.  Through her amazing efforts, Susan was able to find both her birth mother and birth father.  I was fortunate enough to travel with Susan and Karen to Korea to meet both of them.  They had been divorced for many years and the story of Susan’s being sent to an orphanage would require a blog of its own. 

What is remarkable about the above story for me is Karen’s effort to help Susan retain her culture, heritage and language and even support her efforts to find her birth mother.  Karen cooked Korean food for Susan, sent Susan to Korean Camp each summer and learned how to eat with chopsticks.  Too many people in the USA believe that culture must be abandoned and that being having an ethnic or cultural identify is incompatible with being patriotic.  I know many of my generation who were not taught their parents’ language since there was a strong drive to become assimilated by many immigrants.  To desire to learn Korean would strike many of the “Greatest Generation” as a useless activity.  It did not strike my wife Karen this way.

Many older and younger people feel that our American culture is the best culture and that immigrants must discard other cultural affiliations in order to become assimilated.  The holy grail for Black people (at least as indicated by many white people) is something called integration.  This basically means abandoning any idea of “Blackness” and becoming as white as possible.  The same holy grail of assimilation or integration was foisted on many Native Americans.  Indians were forced to attend white “culture” schools and were not allowed to practice their native languages or wear indigenous clothing.  This rejection of culture has led to a considerable degree of prejudice and outright racism in the USA.  Witness the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. 

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What is culture?  Culture is a universal phenomenon.  There is no such thing as not having a cultural identify.  Culture is forged for every living human being regardless of where they live.  Culture is the norms, habits, rituals, protocols, traditions, and beliefs of a group that you identify with.  Everyone has a culture.  Even hermits develop a culture based on their habits and ideology.  Gangs, tribes, schools, companies, organizations, ethnic groups, countries, nationalities, and any group with a set of shared norms and patterns develops its own unique culture.  I grew up with an Italian father and a mixed Irish-German mother.  I always lived in an Italian neighborhood when I was growing up.  I never learned to speak Italian, but I learned many Italian swear words.  I hung around with a gang who were mostly Italians.  My family had one culture.  My gang had another culture. 

I went into the United States Air Force when I was 18 years old.  The Air Force had its own culture.  The Army had its own culture.  I would guess there is not a person on the face of the earth who does not belong to more than one culture.  I would bet that most of us can identify with many cultures.  Thus, the term “cultural appropriation” is rather quixotic in many ways.  On the one hand, people might feel flattered that you want to merge symbols of their culture in your own traditions.  However, many other groups feel insulted and abused by such appropriation.  I can understand Indians who think that white people have no right to acquire their culture.  When your culture has been denigrated by the majority group and you have been maligned for trying to practice your culture, outrage against any outside group using your cultural icons for profit or fame would be a normal reaction.

Belonging to more than one culture does not necessarily mean that you should or must give up your identification with another culture.  Culture is a grounding for humans.  Culture helps us navigate life by adopting behaviors and norms that will help us fit in.  Culture is a means to share life with others.  As a veteran, I have many stories and fond memories of times spent with men whom I initially had nothing in common with.  Yet years later, I still enjoy meeting with veterans because we share so many of the same experiences concerning life in the military. 

“Culture does not make people.  People make culture.  If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”  — ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

Race:

What is race?  Scientists say that there is no such thing as race.  How can this be?  Employment applications, loan applications, credit card applications and hundreds of other official documents include demographic questions where you must identify yourself as Black, White, Native America, Asian American, Latino and sometimes Other.  Black people identify with Black people as members of a common race.  The same is true for Caucasians, Indians, Latinos and Asians.  If there is no “race” how can there be “racism”?  Yet, the concept of “racism” is enshrined in laws both for and against “racism.”  If there is no race, why do I see people of different colors and backgrounds who have common acceptance of the idea that they are different from me.”  What can we attribute these different physical characteristics to if not race?

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“Researchers who have since looked at people at the genetic level now say that the whole category of race is misconceived.  Indeed, when scientists set out to assemble the first complete human genome, which was a composite of several individuals, they deliberately gathered samples from people who self-identified as members of different races.  In June 2000, when the results were announced at a White House ceremony, Craig Venter, a pioneer of DNA sequencing, observed, “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.”  — National Geographic, Elizabeth Kolbert, March 12th, 2018

Most of the world’s citizens outside Africa originally migrated from Africa.  These early immigrants through genetic mutations and adaptation to different environments gradually gained different features.  The most predominant feature being skin color.  Skin color is not uniform throughout the world as we can see in places like India, Southeast Asia, China, South America, and even among the indigenous people in the USA.  Many people with “dark” skin coloring in the world would not say that they were Black or White.  I have been to more than thirty other countries.  I have noticed that “Black” people or people from an African Ancestry are not called African in these countries.  In the USA, we have used the term African-Americans but in Sweden, Africans are not called African-Swedes.  The same is true in many other countries across the globe.  Here in the USA, we seem obsessed with the concept of race.  Evidence shows that the genetic differences between individuals are greater than the genetic differences between the so-called “races.”

A randomly-selected American can be more genetically similar to a randomly-selected Korean than to a fellow randomly-selected American.  Similarly, a randomly-selected Ethiopian can be more genetically similar to a randomly-selected Norwegian than to a fellow randomly-selected Ethiopian.  This kind of occurrence is so common that simply comparing the genomes of two people will not help you classify them into what the world currently recognizes as their “race”. — Kristen Hovet, There Is No Such Thing as Race at the Genetic Level

But let’s get down to some common sense and away from science and genetics.  Adolf Hitler said that “Race” mattered more than anything.  Blood and Soil or “Blut und Boden: was a key ideology of the Nazi Party.  Hitler black-people-lynchedbelieved that German blood defined a German race which was superior to other races.  This superiority led to the extermination camps wherein “inferiors” were eliminated.  These inferiors included many people from other “races”, religions, ideologies, and with different physical characteristics.  There was one tribe of Germans and not belonging to this tribe was a potential death sentence.  Hitler set up a pseudo-scientific structure to discriminate between “True Germans” and other inferior “races.”  There never was and never will be a scientific basis for a German race, but this did not stop millions of Germans subscribing to the Nazi ideology of Germanic superiority. 

Conclusions:

prov-12-15If race does not exist but culture exists, what does this mean for group identity?  How strong should group identify be?  Should I sacrifice all for my group and fight to the death for my cultural identify?  What if I believe that my culture is better than your culture?  Could culture become just another banner to wave for those who want to commit acts of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of some perceived differences?  I think this is a distinct possibility and has indeed occurred throughout history.  How then can we have a cultural identify without resorting to racism and discrimination?

I think the solution lies in a hierarchy.  One hierarchy is evil and leads to racism and discrimination as well as genocide and war.  One hierarchy is good and leads to respect, tolerance, acceptance, and harmony among people. 

The Evil hierarchy puts culture, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, patriotism first and character is second. In this hierarchy, the notion of character is not as important as the notion of skin color, ideology, tradition, language, norms, and many other common bases for group acceptance.  You are first and foremost either a member of my group or not.  If you are a member of my group, I will then judge you on the basis of your character.  However, if you are not a member of my group, your character does not matter. You are evil by virtue of being an outsider and as an evil person, you need to be punished. 

The Good hierarchy puts character first and group identify second.  I don’t care if you do belong to my tribe, if you lack character, integrity, and wisdom then I need to deal with you accordingly.  I must of course exercise good character for myself.  I judge you first on your character.  I should also be judged on my character.  If we belong to or have similar tribal, ethnic, cultural, religious, ideological ideas or traditions, so much the better.  However, my relationship to you is based first on your character and only secondarily on which tribe you belong to.  I do not dismiss the importance of tribal or cultural affiliation.  If I am not of your culture or tribe, I will respect, understand and hopefully even be able to share some of your cultural traditions.  Diversity is a means of obtaining knowledge and ideas that can help us all become better than we are.

I will sum up my message here with the following points.

  • Race is a chimera and a substitute for genuine relationships with people
  • Racism is a negative stereotype based on ignorance and bigotry
  • Culture exists and is real. It can define us and allow us to lead more interesting lives
  • Culture if used as a measure of goodness or excellence can lead to prejudice and discrimination
  • Character is the most important criteria for valuing people
  • Tread lightly on all judgements of others

Here I must issue a warning and an extremely strict caveat.  Beware taking the role of judging others on the basis of what you think character means.  I have no doubt that character exists, but I would be very uneasy thinking that I should or could be the ultimate judge of good character or bad character.  Character is a little like quality.  Many say they know it when they see it but defining it can be very elusive.  If someone lies, cheats, steals, robs, rapes, assaults, abuses others or breaks the law, we may well think that they are a bad character.  On the other hand, a person who is honest, truthful, compassionate, and helps others may well be thought of as a good character.  However, time and circumstances may well render judgements made today as inaccurate in the future.  No one has the insight or knowledge to ever know the goodness or badness of another human being fully.

“We don’t care whether you are Christian or Muslim or Jew or Hindu; all we care is the goodness inside you because only the goodness inside you can make you a good human!” — Mehmet Murat ildan

“We are brothers and sisters not because of the color of our skin but because of what is inside of us.” —- J. Persico

Mother Nature doesn’t care if you believe in science or not

This fantastic blog was written by Jane Fritz. This article is a compelling argument why we must believe in science and how science can lead to the truth while opinions and instinct do not.

Robby Robin's Journey

It seems to be fashionable these days for people to pick and choose among scientific theories and advice, depending on whether they like the implications of that scientific advice. They may treat one scientific theory like the gospel and another theory like a hoax, to be ignored at all costs. It’s called the post-truth world: whatever we want to believe to be true is true and whatever is troublesome to be taken seriously is not true. How is this working out for you?!

As convenient as this is for personal and political decision making, presumably students are still taught and tested on established scientific principles. And while I can identify with not knowing the answer to every question on a science test, it never crossed my mind to just dismiss the question as wrong if I couldn’t get the answer. Maybe too difficult to understand without having done enough studying…

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