Legislating Balanced Perspectives in Education  

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/southlake-texas-holocaust-books-schools-rcna2965

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There is a movement afoot all over the USA for what one might call, “Balanced perspectives in education.”  Every intelligent person understands that there is usually more than one perspective on things.  History and even science can be prone to paradigms that today are considered “absolute truth” but tomorrow are found to be wrong.

History is told from the perspective of the conqueror and tends to leave out minority views.  Science is based on theories which are formed on existing facts and evidence.  However, there is seldom enough evidence to prove any one theory to be 100 percent correct.  Science is a system of successive approximation.  Over time, new evidence is developed, and science revises existing theories.  In many cases, we have seen old theories replaced by new theories.

Thus, on the face of it, one might wonder how any logical or rational or sane person could question this new move to “Legislate balanced perspectives in education.”  Well, consider what I said earlier, “There is usually more than one perspective.”  The fact that there is more than one perspective does not render all viewpoints or opinions as equally valid, truthful, or accurate.  Some perspectives are more accurate than other perspectives.  Some theories are superior to other theories.  The new move is being legislated by stupid (yes, I said stupid) politicians and political leaders who know nothing or just about nothing about science and education.  The move to insure “balanced perspectives” is being dictated by politics.  There is no concern for the truth and there is no concern for science by those passing these laws to insure “balance in teaching.”

I propose a list of issues that should be taught without ANY balance in perspectives.  I propose this list because all the existing facts and data support the validity of these events or happenings.  Within ten minutes of thinking about this list, I came up with over 100 issues but in the interest of expediency, I will stick to my top ten.  I doubt any of you would want to hear my total list.  Notice my key word is NOT:

  1. The moon is NOT made out of green cheese (Perhaps Wisconsin Swiss)
  2. Elvis Presley is NOT alive and living upstairs in Graceland (He may be living in the basement)
  3. You will NOT go to hell for being LGBTIQA+
  4. If you do not support Trump, you are NOT a Traitor (Violent disagreement here in the Republican party)
  5. The world is NOT flat. (Not sure it is round either)
  6. White people are NOT superior to Black, Latino, Asian or Indigenous people
  7. Christopher Columbus did NOT discover America. (He wasn’t even looking for it)
  8. Christianity is NOT superior to other religions
  9. Greed in NOT good (Never mind what Michael Douglas says in Wall-Street)
  10. John Persico is NOT a genius (I can make an exception for this one)

A teen aged girl who lives in Texas came home from school one day and was met by her mom.

Daughter:  Our teacher was telling us about the Holocaust today when one of the other students said that his dad told him the holocaust never happened.  That the Jews made the whole story up for sympathy.

Mom:  What did your teacher say?

Daughter:  Well, the teacher looked at a list of “alternative perspective” issues that she keeps on her desk and replied, “You may be right.  Let’s look at the other side of this issue.  We will consider that the Holocaust is a made-up story, and that six million Jews did not die.”

Teacher:  On one side, we have millions of people who can testify that the holocaust actually happened.  We have video tapes.  Physical evidence of gas chambers.  Evidence of bodies.  Evidence of survivors.  Evidence of soldiers who liberated the camps.  Memoirs, written descriptions by noted people and the fact of the Anti-Jewish laws promulgated by the Nazis.

Teacher:  However, on the other side.  The side that disputes the existence of the Holocaust we have the belief that all of the evidence I cited above is “Fake.”  All of the testimonies are lies and part of a grand conspiracy to make Jews the superior race.  We have hundreds of right-wing nationalists and anti-Semite’s who believe that all the evidence supporting the Holocaust is fake and make-believe.

Teacher:  Now that I have given equal time to both perspectives on the Holocaust issue, we can move on to discussing the “Big Lie.”  That the last election was actually stolen from President Trump.

The following day the teacher was fired for not adequately balancing her view of the two perspectives concerning the Holocaust.

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An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.   — Mahatma Gandhi

We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion.  The great task in life is to find reality. — Iris Murdoch

Friends and Friendship: Part 2:

I confess I ended a number of friendships this past year.  I decided to simply “let go” of people who don’t call me or who do not seem to have any interest in whether I am alive or dead.  I can’t say this task was easy.  I have misgivings about when and how I have approached the effort.  My solution has been to simply not call or contact others unless they contact me.  I have for many years felt like I was the one doing most of the work in several “friendships.”  I am not sure whether it is the “parsimony” of old age (i.e., only so much time left on this earth) or simply laziness.  Somehow though, I thought: “Well, if they want to see me, they can call me for a change.”  Maybe it simply means that I do not care about friendship enough to invest the work they need.  I even had misgivings over my “best friend.”   I began to feel that we had drifted apart over the years and no longer had the basis for a friendship.

In Friends and Friendship Part 1, I described some basic theories of friendships and went back to the ideas of Aristotle to help describe what friendship is and the types of friendship possible.  I outlined my theory on the importance of intimacy to friendship.  Here in Part 2, I want to identify ten behaviors that I think are necessary for a true friendship.  I am not sure ALL of them are necessary (You may have good friends without all ten being present) but I do think most of them are essential for a friendship.  I would like to describe each behavior and why it is important and its role in helping to create a true friendship.  I think friendships take time and effort.  In this respect, I don’t think friendships are any different than a good marriage.  You can’t take your partner for granted and ignore them day after day and expect your marriage to last.  I believe the same is true for friends.

As you read my friendship behaviors, please remember that I am not advocating that anyone take their friendships lightly or that you simply jettison friends who do not meet my criteria. I am simply saying that if you want to have good friends there are some behaviors that are necessary to create, maintain and continue a friendship.  Given the need to invest time and effort to keep good friendships, the idea of 2,000 or even 200 Facebook “Friends” is ludicrous.  If you can maintain even one good friendship in your life, I would consider you lucky.

If the time comes and you decide to take stock of your friendships, please remember one thing:  You do not have to “let go” of old friends.  You can rejuvenate or refresh your friendships by once again becoming a friend.  If your efforts are not reciprocated over time (and not necessarily fifty-fifty) you might want to reevaluate just who you should spend your time and energy with.  This might sound “cold and calculating” but if you have found a better solution please send me an email or drop a comment in the box.   I would sincerely like to keep as many friends as I can and if there is a way to do it without time and effort; I have not yet found it.

1. Disagree respectfully:

I cannot imagine a friendship where we agree on everything 100 percent of the time.  However, I also cannot imagine a friend who would insult me, disrespect me or try to make me look foolish.  I would not call that a friend.  I expect my friends to listen to my ideas and even if they do not agree, to at least try to understand where I am coming from and not deliberately try to denigrate or diminish my theories or opinions.   I have no problem with friends presenting facts or logical arguments against said opinions, but I don’t believe a friendship can be based on disrespect unless it can be done in a caring manner which is sometimes possible but usually very difficult to effect.

2. Overcome anger:

I have often noticed that real friendships seem to start “after” friends get angry with each other.  Perhaps, more than the anger signaling the start of true friendship is the process by which you are able to overcome the anger with your friend.   If we can’t confront the anger with another, it is unlikely that we will become good friends.  I remember once going to a marriage seminar and they said there were three things you needed for a good marriage:   1. A communications process.   2.  A fight-fair process.  3.  A realistic budget.   I was very intrigued by the fight-fair process. What this entails is the ability to communicate with your spouse or friend about things that make you angry or disappoint you.  It goes beyond daily communication to encompass “extra-ordinary” situations that arise when something does not go as we expect it to.  For many of us, this is a daily event.  If you can’t communicate with and overcome your anger with another person, you probably do not have a true friendship.

3. Share common interests:

Perhaps, you met your friends at Curves or work or playing bingo.  We meet people all over and I allow that ninety five percent of the people we meet are simply acquaintances.  They never become true friends because they never go beyond sharing common interests.  Nevertheless, the sharing of common interests helps create a bond that is fundamental to a good friendship.  It is indeed possible to stay good friends with someone long after the initial interests have disappeared simply on the basis of the shared history that you now have with that individual.  For instance, you might have been on a trip together or been in the service together.  These shared memories act as the cement to continue to provide a sense of common interests.   At some point however, these former interests become faded and need to be replaced by new and more salient experiences that can be shared together.  Without such interests as a foundation, I have seen many former friendships simply fade away.

4. Help each other when in need:

There is perhaps no truer saying that “A friend in need is a friend in deed.”  The power of the feelings that are manifested towards someone coming to our aid in time of need is beyond comparison to any other single aspect of friendship.  I remember a good friend of mine who once told me during my divorce: “The hell with your ex-wife, I am here for you.”  I will never forget how grateful I felt towards him for the fact that he was willing to unequivocally provide me with emotional support when I needed it.  Friends may help you in many ways, but perhaps no help goes further than the emotional support that we provide towards friends when they need it.

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

5. Don’t expect your friends to be perfect:

This is a simple but profound truth:  None of us are perfect.  If you constantly find fault with others, chances are you will not have many or even any friends.  It is not always easy to accept the faults in others.  For instance, I disagree with one of my friends over some of the people whom he calls friends.  I would not have a racist or a bigot as a friend.  I am willing to overlook many warts and blemishes in my friendships but I draw the line at liking or even tolerating people who hurt or pick on others.  Perhaps I should be more charitable.  I admit, I write off many potential friendships because I will not tolerate hateful attitudes towards others.  Nevertheless, I do recognize that the more that you can handle and deal with the imperfections in others, the more friendships you will potentially have.

6. Care about each other:

This might be the single most important bond for a good friendship.  Do you really care about what happens to the other person?  Are you willing to go out of your way to take an interest in their needs and lives?   Caring can take many forms and might be attending a funeral at one of their relatives or driving your friend to the hospital or giving them a ride to the airport.  A few years ago, I remember a friend who told me that whenever any of his friends were in need, he simply showed up with helping hand, or a pie or a shoulder to cry on.  He said that he did not ask the common question “How can I help you?”  He simply went ahead and tried to help without being asked or given permission.  His initiative seemed to me more powerful than the common refrain “Let me know if I can be of help.”  I would be much more grateful towards the friend that simply showed up rather than waiting to be asked.

“It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”
Marlene Dietrich

7. Occasionally reach out to each other:

I believe it is important for friends to have some form of regular contact with each other.  I cannot understand or believe that a good friendship can endure without some form of mutual interdependence.  Whether, you come by for dinner, attend a movie together, take a trip together or simply call or even email your friends, it seems (to me anyway) that friendships need some form of regular lubrication that mutual contact provides.

I have said that Facebook friends are generally not true friendships. They do however; provide regular contact between “potential” friends and people who you truly call good friends.  The simple “like” button provides a very powerful and instant means of letting others know that you appreciate, admire or support something they are engaged in.  I have given many likes and received many likes on Facebook and I always feel closer to those individuals who take the time to “like” or note some issue that I care about.  Liking is not a very big effort but it forms that sense of mutual contact that I think is the lubricant for a good friendship.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

8. Apologize when you hurt the other person:

Good friends do not deliberately hurt each other.  However, hurts both physical and emotional will often be inflicted.  I cannot tell you how many times I have bumped into Karen, stepped on her toes, or unintentionally inflicted some pain on her while we were together.  Fortunately, it was nothing ever very serious.   More serious to our relationship, has been the emotional pain and hurts that I have too often inflicted on her.   Some of them were intentional, some were not.   None were ever deserved though.   At such times, I think it is critical and essential to apologize to the other person.  Whether or not it was intentional is not the point.  The point is that you have hurt the other person and if you truly care about them, you want to know how you can help alleviate the pain.

A number of years ago, I was on the Oprah Winfrey show. The subject was apologies.  The expert that Oprah had on the show said that a true apology has three parts:  1. Saying: “I am sorry.”  2.  Listening to the hurt or pain you have caused the other person.  3.  Setting things right.  Part one, saying you are sorry is often the easy part.  However, many of us expect that as soon as we say we are sorry, the other person should forgot about it and get on with their lives.  Simply issuing an apology may not help the other person move on.  The difficult part is listening to the feelings, emotions and disappointments that your actions have led to.  People may all respond differently to different insults and individuals are responsible for their own feelings.  However, we all have feelings and in a good relationship you must care about the feelings of others.  Whether or not you have caused the feeling is a moot point.  Can you listen to and empathize with the pain that is in the other person?   This is often the only way; that they will be able to move beyond the pain and truly rejoin a relationship with you.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
Bob Marley

9. Kidding or joking with each other:

Insulting a person or demeaning a person deliberately is a far cry from kidding someone or even “roasting” another person.  The first is done with malice and hatred, the latter is done with love and admiration.  I have never been really good at humor and my efforts to be funny have often backfired.  Good friends are friends that you can joke with.  Of course, everyone has their sensitive spots and tolerances and knowing these are important to a friendship.  The deeper the friendship, the more likely you will have a greater tolerance towards each other in terms of how much you can push the boundaries of joking and ridicule.  Most of us have learned that texting, emails and online communications do not lend themselves to humor and spoofing.  That is why an entire arsenal of symbols 🙂 has arisen to show the other person that “no malice” is intended in our comments.  In our face to face communications, our body language readily communicates towards our friends our intentions and whether or not they are playful or benign.  I cannot conceive of a real friend who I could not joke with or make fun of from time to time and of course vice verse.

10. Trust your friends:

The amount of trust you would put in a friend might be the single most obvious indicator of how strong that friendship was.   But what do we mean by the word Trust?  We often hear the phrase “trust me” used today.  What does it mean to trust though?  ASU Online defines trust as follows:

Trust is both an emotional and logical act. Emotionally, it is where you expose your vulnerabilities to people, but believing they will not take advantage of your openness. Logically, it is where you have assessed the probabilities of gain and loss, calculating expected utility based on hard performance data, and concluded that the person in question will behave in a predictable manner. In practice, trust is a bit of both. I trust you because I have experienced your trustworthiness and because I have faith in human nature.

A friend is someone who you can expose your vulnerabilities with.  In Part 1 of this blog, I discussed the importance of intimacy to a friendship.  When we are intimate with someone, we are more exposed and more vulnerable.  There is no escaping vulnerability in a good friendship.  If you want a strong friendship, you must be willing to trust the other person and that means you must be willing to be vulnerable.  The fewer secrets you have with your friends, the stronger your friendships will be. The issue of trust is paramount here because who but a fool would share secrets with someone they could not trust.  The Internet is full of ridiculous instances of people posting, texting or sharing secrets with others who it became glaringly evident they could not trust.  Some of us are more trusting than others, but I think that most good friendships grow in trust as our experiences teach us whether or not the other person can really be trusted.  Thus, the final hallmark of a good friendship is trust.

Time for Questions:

Are you happy with your friendships?  Do you have some good friends?  How do you define friendship?  How many of the ingredients of friendship that I have outlined do you share with your friends?  Which ingredients do you disagree with? Which ingredients do you think I have missed?  What do you need to do tomorrow to have better friendships?

Life is just beginning.

Friends and Friendship: Part 1.

It is easy to measure friendship today.  Simply count the number of “friends” you have on Facebook and subtract the number of people who “defriended” you.  Multiply this number by the number of followers you have and divide by the number of people you are following.  This number or index will accurately tell you the number of friends you have in the whole wide world.  If you are not good with math and numbers, then simply call up each of your “friends” and see who will lend you a hundred dollars.  Another quick and easy solution to see how many friends you have is to count the number of your “friends” who bring you some chicken soup when you are home in bed with the flu.    

The subject of friendship has been written about since writing first began.  An advantage of friendship and perhaps one of its most enduring qualities is that you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your mother, father, aunts, uncles or other relatives.   While “blood” may be thicker than water, actual counts show as many dysfunctional families as dysfunctional friendships. (An observation extrapolated from my 67 years of experience as a relative and friend.)  Another advantage of friendship is that people seem to have more concern about being a good friend than they do about being a good relative.  To test this latter point, I went to Amazon.com and typed in “friendship.”  I found 57,722 books on the subject.  Next I typed in “relatives.”  I found only 20, 930.  Since this experiment did not seem very definitive I also tried the following.  I went to Google and typed in: “How to be a better friend?”   I found 1,470,000 hits on this subject.  Then I went back and typed in “How to be a better relative?”  I used the quotes to frame both question.  I found NO hits.  Not a one. NADA.  ZERO.  Go ahead and try it yourself.  Type in: “How to be a better relative?”   Here is what you will get:

   No results found for “How to be a better relative?”.

https://www.google.com/#q=%E2%80%9CHow+to+be+a+better+relative%3F%E2%80%9D

So there you have the second major or perhaps third major advantage of friendship.  Namely that people care about being a good friend but no one cares about being a good “relative.”  You are just supposed to love your relatives and that’s it.  End of subject.  “I love you brother.”  “I love you sister.”  “I love you Dad.”  “I love you Mom” are words taken for granted.  Your friends might regularly invite you over for meals and never say “I love you.”  However, your relatives may never invite you over for a meal, but they will not hesitate to say: “I love you.”  I guess love should be the subject of another blog, since the love of relatives seems to be something that needs better defining.  However, to return to the subject of friendship, let’s look at Aristotle’s three types of friends.  I will refer you to Amazon for more works on friendship.  Anyone reading all 57,722 books will receive a certificate as a bona fide “Friendship Expert.”  Simply mail me the ISBN number of all the books you have read or rip off the back cover and send them to me.  I will mail your certificate ASAP. 

Aristotle identified three types of friends.  I would like to compare Aristotle’s ideas on friendship to my ideas on friendship.  I wrote on the subject about thirty-five years ago and it was my first piece of paid writing.  It appeared in a Men’s Journal somewhere on the West Coast.  I regret I cashed the check as it would have been a nice souvenir and it was only for twenty dollars.  However, I was in graduate school at the time and twenty dollars seemed like a lot of money back then.  The title of my article was called:  “Male Friendship and the Three Types of Intimacy”.   I will return to my theories later, however let’s start with Aristotle since I give him a head start on the subject and much greater profundity.

Aristotle’s ideas on friendship were part of his larger work The Nicomachean Ethics.  Aristotle divided friendships into three types based on the motive for forming them.  These three types were:  Friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure and friendships of the good.   

“Friendships of utility” describe encounters with others that are very commercial or practical.  There is no love or intimacy exchanged in such relationships and they are simply based on a quid pro quo type of arrangement.  For some, these types of friends would better be called acquaintances but I think acquaintances lack the level of commitment that is sometimes necessary in “friendships of utility.”  Many of the people we work with, have business transactions with or even network with on LinkedIn would fit into this category.  Such relationships are not very intimate but they can engender a certain depth of emotional attachment. 

Aristotle’s “friendships of pleasure” include those individuals who we enjoy being around or spending time with.  These are people we like because they are fun to be with or they make us feel good or they bring some level of excitement to our lives.  Many of these types of friendships involve some type of shared activity.  You might be on the same bowling team, church council, or simply hang around in a bar or coffee shop together.  The intimacy involved in this type of friendship is deeper than in “friendships of utility” but it is often is limited to the activity that is being jointly pursued.  Once the activity ends, often the friends go separate ways.  Such friendships may end unless there is some other reason to create a bond or another reason to interact together.  

Aristotle’s third and deepest friendship is the “friendship of the good.”  Such a friendship is based on the enjoyment of the other person for some “good” or character trait that the person exhibits and which you find compelling or attractive. You like the person not for what they can do for you but because of who they are.  According to Aristotle these are the enduring type of friendships since they are not based on utility or shared activities but on a mutual liking or affection between the friends.  As long as the character traits enjoyed by each friend do not change, the friendship will continue. 

While I find Aristotle’s three types of friendship interesting, I do not think they go far enough or deep enough to define friendship.  I think he comes closest to my idea of friendship with his “friendship of the good” but even that does not go far enough.  The major fault I have with Aristotle is that he misses what I think is the key ingredient of friendship, namely intimacy.  A friendship must involve intimacy or it is not a friendship.  Intimacy is the key ingredient for all “true friendships.”

Intimacy:

1. the state of being intimate.

2. a close, familiar, and affectionate personal relationship.

3. a close association with or deep understanding of a place, subject, etc.

4. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity or affection: the intimacy of using first names.

5. a sexual liberty.

6. privacy, esp. as suitable to the telling of a secret: in the intimacy of his studio.

I believe there are three types of intimacy upon which a friendship can be founded.  I do not include sexual intimacy here since for the most part, I am describing “non-sexual” relationships.  Relationships between lovers usually involve sexual intimacy but they do not have to include much if any of the three types of intimacy that I think are a key to a good friendship. It would be a better relationship if they did.  You will note though that it is frequently hard for ex-lovers to remain friends because once the sex part ends there is often little of the intimacy necessary for true friendship. 

I have labeled the three types of intimacy as: 

  • Face to face
  • Side to side
  • Back to back

Face to face intimacy is more emotional and affective and generally involves two people sharing feelings, problems, emotions, and issues that they would not discuss with anyone else.  Women are typically considered to be very good a face to face intimacy.  You can find women sitting together over coffee discussing any number of emotional issues.  Dealing with personal subjects with another party is central to face to face intimacy.  No gender has a monopoly on this type of intimacy but in the past, men were brought up to avoid dealing with emotions making such intimacy very difficult.

Side to side intimacy is doing and conative.  It is active and involves sharing some physical activity with the other party.  This could be working together, playing sports together, helping each other with some tasks or chores or simply taking a walk together.  This is an area where men in the past found much of their intimacy with other men.   Sports and other side to side activities were more condoned for men than sitting exchanging emotions together.  Time has changed and women are now as active in many sports as are men and we increasingly see men spending time with other men talking and sharing feelings.

Back to back intimacy involves a willingness to share risk or face a threat for the other person.  Soldiers develop strong friendships because of their need to rely on each other.  Police also develop strong friendships with their partners because of the element of shared risk and the strong need to rely on each other during emergencies and threats.  Any individuals that help each other during emergencies or dangerous situations can experience the type of intimacy that I call back to back intimacy.  (Just as an aside, I used this phrase before the term “I got your back” became popular but the current phrase  does express the essence of this type of intimacy.) 

A friendship may involve one, two or all three of these types of intimacy.  They are not all required for a good friendship.  A friendship based on only one of these types of intimacy can be very strong and profound.  However, all things being equal, a friendship based on two or three of the types of intimacy will be stronger than one based on a single type.  The caveat here is that when the intimacy no longer exists, there is a good chance that the friendship will fade away or become only a source of memories. 

In my blog next week, I would like to address some ideas for developing, maintaining and even enhancing our friendships.  I speak from having some experience at developing friendships but also at losing many good friends over the years.  Friendship much like love, romance, marriage or any other type of strong bonded relationship must be worked at.  A failure to commit to working on a relationship is the death knell for that relationship.  Bonds are only as strong as the glue that cements them together. When the glue loses its adhesion, the bond falls apart. The glue for friendships is intimacy.  Lose the intimacy and you lose the friendship.

Time for Questions:  

Do you have many good friends?  What do you do to maintain your friendships?  Have you ever lost a good friend?  Why?  What do you think you need to do more of to have stronger friendships?  Which type of intimacy are most of your friendships based on?  Do you have friends that fall into Aristotle’s three types?  Which ones?  How much work do you put into your friendships?  Do you put enough? 

Life is just beginning.

The 1st of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Wealth without Work.

Once upon a time in this great country, a model for attaining wealth and a set of rules to accomplish this objective stemmed from 3 basic beliefs.  These were:

  1. You worked hard, long and industriously.
  2. You attained as much education as you could absorb and afford.
  3. You treated all of your engagements with absolute honesty and scrupulousness.

Somewhere during the later 20th Century these 3 Cardinal beliefs (Above) about attaining great wealth were replaced by the following beliefs:

  1. Wealth can be attained at a gambling casino or by winning a lottery if you are lucky enough.
  2. Wealth can be attained by suing someone and with the help of a lawyer who will thereby gain a percentage of your lawsuit.
  3. Wealth can be attained by finding some means of acquiring a government handout for the remainder of your life.

Admittedly, not all Americans subscribe to the second set of beliefs and fortunately there are many who still subscribe to the first. Nevertheless, I think you would be hard pressed to argue that gambling, casinos, government handouts and lawsuits have not multiplied exponentially over the past fifty years.  The following are some charts which I think illustrate my points rather graphically.

global-online-gambling-market-by-region

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BG-welfare-spending-2018-ALL-CHARTS-page4-825_1

The nature of human beings is to want things fast and with a minimum of effort.  This is normal and not to be thought of as deviant or unusual.  However, as we age and develop more self-control and wisdom over our daily affairs, we learn to temper our desire for instant gratification with a more mature perspective.  Noted quality guru, Dr. W. E. Deming maintained that people wanted “Instant Pudding.”  For Deming this meant, change without effort, quality without work and cost improvements overnight.  Added together, “Instant Pudding” was Dr. Deming’s metaphor for the desire to obtain results with a minimum investment of time and energy.  Dr. Deming continually warned his clients that there was no “Instant Pudding” and change would take years of hard work and could not be accomplished without continued dedication and focus.

Unfortunately, our media and even schools today seem to emphasize the possibility of achieving success and wealth overnight.  Sports stars are depicted as suddenly being offered incredible contracts.  Movie stars are shown as going from unknown to overnight fame and fortune.  Singers and musicians seem to suddenly achieve fame despite being barely out of their teens and in many cases barely into their teens.  It would appear that everywhere we look fame, fortune and success happen overnight.  All it takes is to be discovered. This might happen if you can get on American Idol or be found by the right booking agent or obtain a guest appearance on a celebrity TV show.  In some cases, all it takes is the right YouTube video to accomplish overnight success.  One day PSI was an unknown Korean musician and in a few short weeks, he was celebrating success by a dinner in the White House and appearing at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration.  How can anyone dispute that all that is needed for fame and fortune is to be in the right place at the right time?

You may be asking “yes, but what exactly did Gandhi mean by this “sin?”  The M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence gives the following explanation:

“Wealth Without Work: This includes playing the stock market; gambling; sweat-shop slavery; over-estimating one’s worth, like some heads of corporations drawing exorbitant salaries which are not always commensurate with the work they do.  Gandhi’s idea originates from the ancient Indian practice of Tenant Farmers.  The poor were made to slog on the farms while the rich raked in the profits.  With capitalism and materialism spreading so rampantly around the world the grey area between an honest day’s hard work and sitting back and profiting from other people’s labor is growing wider.  To conserve the resources of the world and share these resources equitably with all so that everyone can aspire to a good standard of living, Gandhi believed people should take only as much as they honestly need.  The United States provides a typical example.  The country spends an estimated $200 billion a year on manufacturing cigarettes, alcohol and allied products which harm people’s health.  What the country spends in terms of providing medical and research facilities to provide and find cures for health hazards caused by over-indulgence in tobacco and alcohol is mind-blowing.” ‘There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed’, Gandhi said.

There is a visual problem here that perhaps underlies much of the current thinking about success.  The media loves to trumpet short success stories that will grab anyone’s attention. We are constantly bombarded with headlines such as:

Each of these sites (click on to hyperlink to the actual site) promises you overnight success or at least success in a much shorter time span than is realistic.  These ads are in the news, checkout stands, on TV and just about anywhere you turn around.  The constant daily bombardment of such ads creates a zeitgeist in which overnight success not only seems to be possible; but it actually seems to be the norm.  If you are not an overnight success, if you cannot become rich in days rather than years, if you contemplate a life of hard work to attain your fame and fortune, than something is wrong with you.  Anyone subscribing to the first 3 sets of beliefs I mentioned in the opening is a peculiar species today.  The most common belief about success in the new millennium can be summed up as:

I don’t have time to wait. I don’t have the patience to wait.  I don’t want to spend my life waiting.  I am entitled to success now.  Why should I have to wait?  I am as good as any of these rich successful people. If only everyone could see how good I really am, I would get the fame and fortune I deserve now.  If you expect me to shut up and work hard, I will leave and go elsewhere.  You need me more than I need you.

I believe that Gandhi and many of my generation would find such ideas very peculiar not to mention that they contradict certain universal principles.  Every time I hear of a new terrorist attack in this country or a new massacre at some workplace, I wonder how much the instigator was influenced by his or her desire for overnight fame and fortune.  In some bizarre out-of-this-world thinking, these maniacs equate their picture on page one of the news with a sort of glory that is accomplished by their bizarre and cruel rampage.  The more they kill or maim, the greater they think their glory will be.  We can look for all the “reasons” why but we will never find any “good” reasons for anyone to take such anti-social actions against others.  The paradox is that often the very people they hate are the ones they wanted attention or recognition from.

Ok, time for questions:

Have you raised your children to believe in hard work?  Are you one of the parents who want to make sure their kids have it easy?  How do you know how much hard work is enough?  Do you think you are entitled to success because you work hard?  What other factors play a role in success?  Is it fair that some people do not seem to have to work hard and yet still reap big rewards?  Do people today have it too easy compared to the immigrants that founded this country?

Life is just beginning.

Ingratitude:  How it destroys our minds and hearts and souls. 

One of the things that I think most of us try to do is make sense out of the senseless.  To do this, we apply various types of reasoning.  From economic to political to psychological explanations, we attempt to fashion a purpose or logic for the senseless that helps us to see some logic to seemingly random and violent actions.  Religious people use the term sin to cover many such acts.  Some say it is the work of the devil.  Psychologists use terms like paranoid schizophrenic or sociopath to convey some idea as to motive and underlying rationale.  More practical minded people look to motives like revenge, money, jealousy etc.

I have heard that Bertrand Russell said that fear was the main motive for all evil that is done.  This has a great deal of merit to it as an rally5underlying or foundation problem to explain many senseless acts of violence and mayhem.  We can see pictures today of people screaming at immigrants to go home and realize that many of these raging mobs are driven by fear.  Fear of job loss, fear of economic uncertainty, fear of being displaced and fear of strangers.

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” — Bertrand Russell

Another explagreed1024x768nation I have heard deals with greed.  It has been said that “Greed is not the worst of all sins, but it is the gateway to all others.”    Reflecting on this comment provides some very interesting insights.  For instance, why does anyone steal?  They want more than they have, ergo greed.  Why does anyone kill?  Typical answers would include:  To get more land, ergo greed; to get more money, ergo greed; to get something they want, ergo greed.  The more I thought about greed as an explanation, the more I could see it being a key cornerstone to almost all acts of violence and terror.  I was content to accept this underlying explanation until a few weeks ago when I attended my annual retreat.

This year at my retreat, it was noted that Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits had said that “Ingratitude” was the basis of all sin.

“Ignatius thought that a particular type of ignorance was at the root of sin. The deadliest sin, he said, is ingratitude. It is “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” If you asked a hundred people to name the sin that’s the origin of all evils, I’ll bet none of them would say ingratitude. They would say pride or disobedience or greed or anger. The idea that we sin because we’re not sufficiently aware of God’s goodness probably wouldn’t occur to too many people.” —  Jim Manney

I have to agree with Mr. Manney.  I had never thought of ingratitude as being a sin never mind the root of all evil.  I decided that this would be a good thing to reflect on.  Thus, for several weeks now I have been turning this idea over in my mind.  The more I think about it, the more I can see the validity in its premise.  Even more basic than fear or greed is the underlying ingratitude that starts the whole ball rolling.

tv_online_advertisingWe wake up feeling inadequate because we don’t have enough.  We look at our neighbor’s house and we become dissatisfied with our house.  We look at clothes that are in the malls and are not satisfied with our own clothes.  We look at cars, other people, other things like position, attention, status, respect and we grow more and more dissatisfied with what we have.  The TV ads surround us with our worthlessness unless we get more and more and more stuff.  Wants become needs.  We are smitten with greed and lust for these other things that we need and now must have.  We think that somehow we will be the person we want to be if we can only have more.  Our ingratitude for what we have now becomes greediness.  We become consumed by a desire to get these things we think will complete our lives.

As time goes by, the greed turns to fear.  What if someone else gets them first?  What if these new immigrants get the job that I wanted?  What if there is not enough to go around?  The fear drives an endless series of what ifs that can and eventually does turn to hate and violence.  Look at the crowds on the border screaming “go home” to the refugees looking for asylum and sanctuary.  These are people for whom ingratitude has turned to greed and greed has turned to fear and now fear has become hate.

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

I began to think about what I most wanted when I was a child.   It was mainly simple things.  I wanted freedom from fear.  I wanted to be liked and admired by others.  I wanted someone who cared about me.  I wanted to see hummingbirds in a garden each day.  I wanted to see Morning Glories blooming with their wonderful blue petals.  I left home at 18 to join the military.  Back then, I did not know what I wanted. I thought getting out of my house would help me find the freedom I needed to complete myself.  I felt inadequate but I did not know why or how or what would make me feel better.  Thus, began a lifelong search for myself.

Like many otherSuccess-is-liking-yourself-liking-what-you-do-and-liking-how-you-do-it.s before me, I thought getting success would be the key to feeling complete.  Success meant fame, fortune and admiration from the masses.  I would have money to roll in.  I would have girlfriends too numerous and beautiful to count.  I would have crowds thronging to hear my every utterance.   The path to success was uncertain but the laurels and rewards were  assured if only I could find the right stair way.  I looked everywhere.  I read everything.  I talked to everyone.  Success would come with hard work.  Success took risks.  Success was not an overnight phenomenon.  I needed to get an education first.  I needed to save my money.  I needed to invest.  Everything I did was still not enough.  I was not a success.

IMG_0745 (2)Yesterday morning, I walked outside and saw a beautiful blue Morning Glory on my back fence.  As I walked around the back of our house, I saw a small little hummingbird that was drinking at one of our feeders. I watched him for about five minutes and took the pictures you see here of the flower and small little hummingbird.  Inside my house, my wife Karen was still soundly asleep.  A better person and wife I could not want.  I have food in the refrigerator and a warm comfortable bed in a nice house to rest and sleep in.  My last medical report states that my cancer has been completely removed and there were no signs that it had spread.  Today, when I went out, I had two Morning Glories blooming.

I have disagreements with many people. I disagree with those who are prejudiced and racist. I disagree with those who think we cannot help others from other countries. I disagree with those who think that military action is the best response to world problems.  I disagree with those who think that we should not share and help others who are less fortunate in this country.  I disagree with those who are so certain that there is only one viewpoint and credo for existence.  I disagree with those who think that compromise is a sign of weakness.  I disagree with those who think that success is the secret to happiness.  (Please take a minute to listen to the Gratitude Song by Nichole Nordeman, it will bring joy to your heart)

I have finally realized that Loyola was right.  If I am not happy, if I am not successful, if I am not wealthy, it is because I am not grateful hummingbirdfor what I have.  I have what I need.  I may not have what I want, but what I want will never make me happy or give true meaning to my life.  Perhaps my life is best defined by the Morning Glories and hummingbirds.  It has only taken me 60 or so years to see that I am surrounded by the things and people that I truly need in my life.  I spent years looking everywhere for success and happiness and they were right in my own backyard.

One further confession I need to make. I backslide quite often.  I still have pangs of worthlessness and inadequacy.  If I were younger, I might succumb to these feelings and go skydiving, mountain climbing or some other form of glory seeking.  Maybe that is the good thing about age.  It no longer seems worth the effort to pursue glory.  Time to go visit the Morning Glories and maybe see a hummingbird.

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there….then I never really lost it to begin with.  –– Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz

Time for Questions:

What are you most grateful for today?  When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone you care about?  How often do you stop to think about how much you have to be grateful for?  Are you grateful for the things that really matter in your life?  What if you took time each day to be more grateful for your life?  What are you most ungrateful for?  How can you get rid of your ingratitude?

Life is just beginning. 

 

 

Do you read enough? Do you love ideas and books?

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Book time is my favorite time. This is when I am already past the “startup” of a new novel or the introduction to a new book and I find the time to just sit down and relax with it. I often go into an old bedroom in our house as it somehow seems more peaceful. It might be just before going to bed or sometimes when I have nothing to do. The world never seems more peaceful. It feels like hiding in a cave. When I was a child, book time was when I would go to the library. I discovered libraries at an early age and it was like discovering paradise.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Libraries were peaceful and quiet and full of all the ideas, fantasies, mysteries and great things of the world. I fell in love with books there. I probably love books more than anything in the world. I love them not only because of what they represent, but because of where they can take you and what they can make you. When I was young, I was taught that knowledge was power and information was a precious resource. The balance of power has shifted now due to modern technology and the internet. Perhaps today it is more important who you know than what you know. Nevertheless, I persist in my love of knowledge and theory and ideas. I am bothered however by one major shift in our culture.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  ― Charles W. Eliot

We seem to live in a society that is more and more obsessed by sports. It is a society where star athletes are heroes and computer geeks are nerds. It is a society that places more value on baseball, football and basketball than on books and reading. Perhaps foolishly, I dream of a society where towns have signs up for leading academic students , leading music majors, leading drama classes, leading art students and not just for the “Football champions of 03” or the “ Class AAA Baseball Champions of 2011.” I dream of a society where drama coaches, music coaches and art teachers are as highly paid as NCAA athletic coaches. I dream of a society where as many students show up to watch the debating matches and chess matches as show up for the basketball games. I dream of a society where there is no such thing as nerds and geeks and where developing brain power is as sexy as developing muscle power.

Questions To Think About:

Do you read enough? Do you value ideas as much as you value “who won the Super bowl?” Would you pay as much for a beautiful work of art or a ticket to the symphony as you would for a ticket to an NBA playoff game or a Super bowl game? Do you spend as much time reading as you do watching sports? Do you concern yourself with politics and culture as much as you do with popular NASCAR and Hollywood celebrities? Do your children? Why not? Do you think your life might be different if you valued ideas more? What might change?

The Great Divide:  An America Torn Asunder by Divisions

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I published the following blog a few months ago.  I think it needs to be more visible.  If you agree with the ideas in this blog, would you please share it with other people or groups that it might help.  Democracy is in crisis today in America as never before.  It has not ended with Trump being defeated since his followers and minions are still out doing their best to overturn Democracy in America.  Only an informed and literate citizenship can defeat these efforts.  

The number one subject for bestselling non-fiction books in the USA today concerns the chasm that separates Republicans from Democrats.  Rural voters from urban voters.  College Educated people from non-college educated.  Conservatives from liberals.  Fox viewers from CNN viewers.  Your facts from my facts.  Your truths from my truths.  Your lies from my lies.  Your views of reality from my views of reality. 

This divide is decried by all the pundits and experts.  Not one of the writers on this subject has anything good to say about the divide.  Perhaps they harken back to the old saying, “United we stand and divided we fall.”  Or the adage that, “A house divided cannot stand.”  Whatever the reasoning, no one thinks that a USA as divided as it is with nearly 75 million people voting for Donald Trump and 80 million people voting for Joseph Biden is helpful for our nation.  Keep in mind, it is not just the sheer numbers that alarm people, it is the magnitude of the crevasse that scares people.

hate-spesechThe abyss It is so big that there is no bridging it.  None of the sides can see the other side.  None of the sides has any common ground with the other side.  None of the sides understands the language that the other side speaks.  We might as well be earthlings talking to Martians.  There is no lingua franca.  Many of the “well-meaning” experts exhort both sides to try harder to bridge the gap or to work more diligently to listen to the other side.  It seems to be assumed that all it will take to jump the gulf is good intentions.  I cry bullshit on this.  As the old aphorism goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It will take more than good intentions to heal the wound that infests our country.

Before we can fix what ails America, we must clearly understand what brought this divide about.  What are the causes for this divide, and can they be healed?  I see three main causes for this chasm.  They are: 1. Greed, 2. Demonization, and 3. Media.  Let’s look at each of these three elements and see how they contribute to the divide and what if anything can be done about them. 

Greed:

Corporate greed and materialism have driven a wedge between the haves and the have nots in America.  A larger gap than ever before exists between the rich and the poor.  The number of people seeking free food and standing in line at food banks has only been higher during the Great Depression.  The requirements for a digital elite versus a computer illiterate fuels the growing income gap.  The Opioid Epidemic is only one symptom of this inequality in the USA.  Many people cannot afford medical care or adequate housing as well as food. 

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For years now, materialism has been touted as the backbone of American commerce by corporations and the media.  Inflammatory news events sell advertisements which drive people to the shopping malls, ball parks, restaurants, and performances.  Special events like “Black Friday” abound where people, “shop till they drop.”  There is a vicious spiral to these events since the final outcome is to keep people needy and wanting more.  The theologian Matthew Kelly says you can never satisfy wants only needs.  Pursuing wants will always leave you wanting more.  Eating, sleeping, exercise and love are needs that can be satisfied and will bring you happiness.  You can never be happy pursuing wants.

materialism and spendingThe wants advertised on the TV and in the media are never fulfilling.  We have a nation of brainwashed consumers who mistakenly think that more toys, bigger houses, more guns, and luxury cars will make them happy.  We are a nation on a never-ending treadmill of consumer materialism where like rats we keep spinning the wheel and hoping to find happiness, but happiness never comes, and drugs take its place. 

There is no sanity in our economic system.  It is a zero-sum game.  It is a great deal like the lottery.  Next week there will be 100 million losers, but one winner will get a billion dollars or more.  The value for the lottery keeps going up which entices more and more people to buy lottery tickets, but the number of losers also keeps going up.  Where do the profits for the lotteries go?  Not back to the people, regardless of what they tell you.  Our society is being sold hope where hope is the most elusive product in the marketplace. 

imagesAs the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the tensions in society grow ever more divisive.  We see more road rage, more senseless shootings, more violence between men and women, less loyalty between employers and employees.  The underpinning of society that should be based on human integrity and morality is replaced with an opportunism based on an amoral value system.  Whatever we can get as long as we break no laws is considered to be moral.  We see most politicians that have no commitment to anything except to collect more money so that they can stay in office.   Their highest goal is to help the rich get richer, which of course includes themselves. 

Jesus said that money is not evil, it is the pursuit of money that is evil.  The evil in America comes from a frenzy for more that separates Americans from each other.  Like a horse race where there can only be one winner, there are only going to be a few rich Americans and many more poor people scrambling to be the “King of the Hill.” 

I do not believe that the divide in this country can be erased until we eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor.  It is not simply a matter of conversation or discussion.  It is a matter of inequality.  A poor person cannot talk to a rich person unless they can shout over gated walls and armed security guards.  The biggest divide in America is between the haves and the have nots.  It is between the will haves and the may never haves.  The haves in America expect to have more and probably will get more.  The have nots do not know where their next paycheck will come from or whether they will be able to buy food for tomorrow.  No amount of discussion or listening skills is going to solve this problem.  

Demonization:

Speech-Bubble-Montage_2-1 (1)I am not talking about the devil here or about spirituality.  I am talking about a kind of insidious propaganda that has been spread by many groups and individuals.  In this propaganda, one side of America is labeled as moral, ethical, righteous, and just.  The other side is the opposite.  The other side is everything negative.  The other side is a composite of all the demons and evils that Americans believe in.  The other side are communists, fascists, atheists, anti-democratic, anti-patriotic and un-American.  One side is good.  The other side is evil incarnate.  You cannot talk to evil.  You cannot discuss with the devil why he wants your soul.  You cannot debate with Satan over the values that he has.  Heaven and hell do not have weekly discussion groups.  The language heard today, and what the media publishes drips with hate, innuendo, and disdain.  The language fosters violence.  I doubt the Founding Fathers ever conceived that the First Amendment would protect such speech.  There are three elements that contribute to a hate speech culture that demonizes the other side: 

  1. Malicious Labeling:

freehatespeechMalicious labeling is the name calling that goes on between both sides today wherein each side is labeled.  You can hear it on almost every talk show program in America today.  Name calling and name labeling.  Commie pinko leftists!  Intellectual elites!  Radical socialists!  Racist rednecks!  Fascist dictators!  Politicians, commentators, newscasters, and radio talk show hosts all use malicious labels to insult and demean those they disagree with.  What have we let this country become when we allow such name calling?  This kind of hyperbole demonizes the other side and creates a divide that cannot be overcome by rational conversation.

“I think the political process has degenerated into name-calling and extremism, and I think that that’s unfortunate.” — Bill Bradley

  1. Anti-Government Diatribes:

extremismword_hp111319.1200x0I do not think that the Founding Fathers of our nation believed that Government was evil.  Certainly, they felt that there could be too much government intrusion on the rights of the populace.  They invoked certain safeguards to protect both human rights and states rights.  Nevertheless, they did not demonize government and not a single one of the Fathers ever referred to government as evil.  Edmund Burke, the famous English conservative said, “The government that governs best is the government that governs least.”  He never said, “government was evil.”  It has become common place to hear refrains denigrating the role and necessity of government.  This steady drumbeat of antigovernmental rhetoric has created a group of people that have no value for government and who support the idea that government should be abolished.

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”  — George Washington

  1. Legal Advocates of Violence

loyal white knights and aryan nations in texas july 2016 from vkdotcom_0A few years ago I began to wonder why groups like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Antifa, The Proud Boys and many other such groups advocating violence against the government were not labeled as Terrorist Organizations.  I asked a lawyer this question and he replied, “it is all politics.”  I found that almost all the groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” were designated as “extremist groups.”  This means that they are not illegal, and they have the right to organize, march, rally and basically spread their hate across America.  In 2019, The SPLC listed 940 hate groups across the USA.  If any of these groups was labeled as a “Terrorist Group,” they would be on the same list as the Taliban, Boko Haram, The Mafia, Mexican Cartels and Al Qaeda.  What is the difference between an extremist group and a terrorist group?  It might surprise you to learn that a terrorist organization is defined as follows:

In the United States of America, terrorism is defined in Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents”.

In general, terrorism is classified as:

  • The use of violence or of the threat of violence in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological, or social objectives
  • Acts committed by non-state actors (or by undercover personnel serving on the behalf of their respective governments)
  • Acts reaching more than the immediate target victims and also directed at targets consisting of a larger spectrum of society.

15963If this definition does not apply to the groups that tried to storm the US Capital on January 6th, 2021, I do not know what does.  Just yesterday the Canadian government labeled the Proud Boys as a Terrorist Organization.  This delegitimizes the group and takes their rights away.  For Canada, it is a start.  I am wondering when we are going to get started in the USA on such an effort.  The First Amendment was never construed to allow hate speech and the advocating of violent actions to overthrow the government.  Why do we not have the political will to outlaw these groups?  We seem to have little compunction in penalizing Black groups like the Black Lives Matter Movement or the Black Panthers.  We have a different standard when it comes to White Supremacy groups. 

The Media:

000f25f2-6bf0-11e9-994e-1d1e521ccbf6_image_hires_015902The newspapers, TV and the Internet are today the major carriers for the hate and vituperation that has spread across America.  On one side of the divide, we find the NY Times, the Washington Post and CNN News.  On the other side, we find the NY Post, the Washington Examiner and Fox News.  There are countless other purveyors of extreme and fanatical views.  Each side reeks of headlines supporting nonobjective views and biased reporting.  If objective reporting ever existed in the USA, it has been murdered and buried by the most pervasive media to ever exist.  The media carries the hate and violence that is created by politicians, pundits, radio commentators and hate groups and ensures that it gets widely disseminated.  Without the media, much of the divide would never have occurred.  Hate needs a platform to be spread and the media is more than happy to host anything that it believes will sell itself and its advertising. 

Conclusions:

We are not going to overcome the divide that separates Americans today by platitudes and wishful thinking.  No amount of holding hands or singing kumbaya together is going to unite Americans.  We have a systemic rot in our system that is caused by the extremism in politics and media that has created this divide.  We need to enact reasonable laws to stamp out this rot while also protecting free speech but not hate speech.  There is a difference between hate speech and free speech.  If we cannot figure this difference out, we will never close the divide that exists in America today.  You can defend the First Amendment all you want, but there are limits to everything and that includes so-called Free Speech. 

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Then-CIA director Gina Haspel said the US was ‘on the way to a right-wing coup’ after Trump lost the election: book

 

The Ten Greatest of Everything – To Me Anyway

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What does it mean to be the “Greatest?”  Is the “Greatest” the same as the “Best?”  I tried rolling both off my lips in sentences as follows, “He was the best person in the world.”  “She was the greatest person in the world.”  “Would you rather be the greatest or the best?”  “Usain Bolt is the greatest 100-meter sprinter who ever lived.”  “Usain Bolt is the best 100-meter sprinter who ever lived.”

I give up.  They seem different but I cannot tell why.  Let’s see what the good old dictionary has to say about this conundrum.  (Definitions from Oxford Languages.)

Best:  of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.

Great:  of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average.

As Winnie the Pooh says, “It hurts my head.”  Somehow I like “Great” better than “Best” so I will leave the distinctions and arguments to the linguistic experts.  For now, my list will be looking at people and things that I find are the “Greatest” to have ever existed.  I would hazard that if they were the “Greatest” that they are also the “Best.”

One further caveat before we dive or is it delve into my list.  No one is expected, must, should, or probably will agree with me.  That is fine.  You should create your own list.  Variety is what makes life interesting.

For each of my “Greatest”, I will list the criteria that I use in making my selection.  I presume that there are many different criteria that one could use.  Some of my criteria will be very subjective posing grounds for wonderful arguments.  As Tevye (in Fiddler on the Roof) said, “Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!  And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.  When you’re rich, they think you really know!”

So here goes.

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  1. Greatest Prophet – Jesus Christ
  • Criteria: Most followers
    • 2.1 billion followers worldwide
  • Honorable Mention: Muhammed
    • 1.5 billion followers worldwide

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  1. Greatest Book – The Bible
  • Criteria: Most sold
    • 3.9 billion copies over the last fifty years
  • Honorable Mention: Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse tung
    • 820 million copies sold

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  1. Greatest General – George Washington
  • Criteria: Most Heroic Activity
    • Passed on the offer to be crowned king or ruler for life
  • Honorable Mention: Simon Bolivar
    • A great military leader. He took the title of dictator but voluntarily resigned after leading numerous battles to liberate South America from Spain

Okay, go ahead and scream over my picks.  Tell me that computers, rating experts, number of battles and so on would show that Napoleon, Caesar, Hannibal, Alexander, Genghis Khan, Khalid Bin Walid or Subutai were the greatest.  However, I challenge you to show me one of these Generals who after winning battles against great odds and then becoming the country’s leader also voluntarily stepped down and did not take the mantle of dictator that his nation wanted to crown him with.

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  1. Greatest Empire – Egypt
  • Criteria: Longevity
    • From 3100 BCE to 30 BCE
  • Honorable Mention: The Pandyan Empire
    • This society of Southern India is considered by some to be the longest-lasting empire in history.

A criteria based on land mass would have yielded, The Mongol Empire, The British Empire, and the Roman Empire.  However, I think longevity is a better criteria of greatness than size.

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  1. Greatest Leader – Mahatma Gandhi
  • Criteria:  Most admired
    • Almost every list of greatest leaders has Gandhi on it. He might not always be in first place but if you averaged his position out, he would easily be number 1 as most admired leader in the history of the world
  • Honorable Mention: Nelson Mandela
    • Easily the second most admired leader in history. President Mandela’s struggles are epic as was his sense of forgiveness and charity.

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  1. Greatest Writer – Shakespeare
  • Criteria: Most influence on literature
    • In the English language, no one outside the Bible is quoted more than William Shakespeare
  • Honorable Mention: Plato
    • This is a difficult pick. Many would choose Homer, Dostoyevsky, Twain, Richard Wright, Kant, Goethe, Machiavelli, or Karl Marx.

So here is how I resolved Honorable Mention:  I typed in Google each of the following names to see how many hits I would get.  These are my results:  Plato, 185 million; Goethe, 69 million; Marx, 24.4 million; Homer, 80 million; Dostoyevsky, 6.2 million; Thomas Paine, 4.1 million; Twain, 60 million; Richard Wright, 3 million; Machiavelli, 12 million. Plato won by a long stretch.

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  1. Greatest Philosopher – Confucius
  • Criteria: Most impact on human thought/behavior
    • Tricky here to distinguish between a writer and a philosopher since they are obviously two sides of the same coin. However, given the population of Chinese in the world and the number of times that Confucius is quoted, I have to give the mantle of greatest to Confucius.  My sentimental favorite is Socrates, but I am not sure that he had the same impact on humanity.
  • Honorable Mention: Gautama Buddha
    • Leader of the fourth largest religion in the world.  The influence of Buddhism is felt in every genre of literature, in every religion and in the daily lives of every person living on the planet earth.  Some might see it as an esoteric religion since it is so different than the monotheistic religions.  However, it is just this difference which provides for so much of its influence on the world.  I cannot conceive of a world not balanced by both God and Non-God religions.

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      8.  Greatest Scientist – Albert Einstein

  • Criteria: Most lists of the greatest scientists
  • Honorable Mention: Marie Curie
    • Madame Curie comes up on almost all the lists of greatest scientists. She is one of the few people to ever win two Nobel Prizes in Science.  She is the only person to ever win two Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines: Physics and Chemistry.

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  1. Greatest Athlete – Alexander Karelin
  • Criteria: Most wins by an individual, not a member of a team.  Over the period of his active wrestling, Karelin won 887 matches and only lost 2.
  • Honorable Mention: Serena Williams
    • To date, Williams has won 346 of her tennis matches. She is the winner of 23 major singles titles, most of any man or woman in the Open Era of tennis.

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     10.  Greatest Composer – Bach or Beethoven

  • Criteria: Most pieces composed, or most pieces played
    • I really could not decide on this one. Neither man had the most composed pieces but when you look at most played and how many each composed, there is little question that the two composers are the greatest of all time.
  • Honorable Mention: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • I personally like Mozart better than any other composer in the history of the world. I like Verdi, Puccini, and Bizet a great deal, but they are nowhere near as prolific or popular as Mozart.

Well, there you have it folks.  My list of the “Greatest” in the world.  I had fun doing this list.  It was a real challenge.  Too many choices making it very difficult to pick.  Looking up the criteria to use and looking at all the different opinions made it a very interesting task.

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” — Wilma Rudolph

Finding Fame, Fortune and Success:  Paths to Misery or Happiness?

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I have adapted an Osho (A noted Indian Mystic and Guru) story as follows:

Once upon a time there was a young boy named Vince who lived in Minnesota.  Every weekend when his chores around the farm were done, Vince would take his canoe out to one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes with his best friend and they would spend the afternoon fishing.  Somethings they would catch crappies, sometimes bluegills, sometimes even a walleye.  Sometimes they would not catch a single fish.  Striking out did not bother them one bit.  They were content just to be out on the lake together on a beautiful Minnesota summer day.

They would sit in the canoe casting their rods and talking about many things.  They would talk about school, parents, girls, and sports.  Often they would share their dreams and talk about what they wanted to be and do when they grew up.  One day Vince saw a large jet airliner going over head.  As he looked at the plane he said, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be an airline pilot and fly all over the world. That is my dream.”

Years passed and Vince followed his dream.  He became an airline pilot for what was then Northwest Airlines.  Later, like many other airlines they merged and became United Airlines.  Vince was a lead pilot for a jumbo passenger jet.  He flew numerous routes that took him all over the world.  He flew to China, Japan, England, France, and many other places.  He was one of the best pilots that Northwest had.

Twenty or so very busy years passed.  One day Vince had a flight that took him back to Minnesota.  He started from Paris, flew over the Great Lakes and was coming down from Northern Minnesota to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.  As his plane began the descent into the airport, he looked out the left side of the plane and noticed two young boys in a canoe fishing on a lake.  The scene brought back many happy memories to Vince and his eyes started to mist up.  He asked his co-pilot to take control for a minute while he cleared his eyes.  His co-pilot asked Vince if there was anything wrong.  Vince replied, “No, nothing wrong.  Just saw something that reminded me of my past.  One day I dreamed that I would be a pilot.  Now I dream that I am back on that lake with my best friend again.”

There is an old saying that goes “Be careful of what you ask for, you might get it.”  Of course, no one pays any attention to this bit of wisdom.  Imagine all the people who buy lottery tickets each day.   Now try to imagine any of them saying, “I better be careful, or I might win the lottery.”  We all want fame, fortune, and success.  We set goals that force us to live in the future and we forget how to live in the present.  Osho says that we can never be happy unless we can be happy for no reason at all.

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Some of you have read the story about my six friends and I who put together a “last man standing bottle” ten years ago.  Ken made a case for the bottle.  Jerry bought a name plate for the bottle with each of our names and birthdates engraved on it.  I bought a bottle of 120 proof Old Grandad while on one of my trips to Bardstown, Kentucky.   Ken and Brian have since died.  There are five of us left.  Jerry is the youngest at 74 and Dick is now the oldest at 81.

Jerry was put on hospice care about eight months ago.  I have been to visit him several times and he has joked about going to hospice care too soon.  Doctors had told him that he had only a few months to live.  Jerry has outlived their original estimates.  Friday afternoon, I received a call from Dick who had recently called Jerry.  Jerry is not doing well, and the charge nurse told Dick that Jerry would probably not make it through the weekend.  I have been wanting to stay away from any medical facilities due to the recent Covid surge, but I decided to mask up and go see Jerry.

I arrived at the clinic and was told I could make a compassion visit, but general visitors were not allowed.  I was advised to go to the main desk and see if it was okay with the unit for me to come down.  I received an approval and headed down to Jerry’s room.  The nurse on the unit met me at the door.  She knocked on the door to Jerry’s room but did not receive any response.  She went into the room and Jerry was asleep.  She woke him up and informed him that he had a visitor.

I walked into the room and Jerry was not looking very good.  He could barely open his eyes or even move.  His body was bloated, and his skin had dark splotches all over his chest, stomach, arms, and legs.  I said hi and he replied, “Hi John.”  I told him that the coffee guys (some of whom are on the “Last Man Standing” bottle) all said hi and that they wished him well.  This was somewhat of a fib.  Truth be told, Jerry was not well liked among some of the guys.  He seemed to enjoy making fun of and humiliating other people.  Over the years, this took a toll among the men.  Not many of them cared enough about Jerry to make a visit to see him.

Jerry had few friends.  I tried to be a friend to Jerry, but it never seemed to be requited.  I called him.  Visited him often at his home.  Helped him with a garage sale.  Took him to some medical appointments in the Twin Cities.  Invited him out to dinner several times and each year when I got back from Arizona, Karen and I made a point of having him over for dinner.  Not once did I ever remember Jerry returning any of my calls, stopping by to visit or even saying “Thank You” for anything I ever did for him.  Nevertheless, while I stopped the frequency of my visits with Jerry, I never gave up on him entirely.

This day, it was clear that it would be my last visit to Jerry.  I felt sad for Jerry.  He never had much.  The paradox was that he was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met.  Before his illnesses, Jerry was an avid reader who could discuss many of the great writers with exceptional insights.  Sadly, as his disease progressed, he read less and less and eventually gave up reading entirely.

I asked Jerry a few questions about his sister and other visitors.  Something I said elicited the reply, “Now and forever, mumble, mumble, mumble.”  “Jerry, I could not hear the last part of that.  You said, ‘Now and forever’ and something else.  Could you repeat it?”  Jerry replied, “Now and forever, all I ever wanted was a little attention.”  I was somewhat surprised at his comment.  I left a short time later.  I doubt I spent more than 15 minutes with Jerry the whole time.  I gave him some water and asked if he needed a nurse.  He was barely awake, but he declined any offers for help.  I told him goodbye.  I did not want to imply that it would be goodbye forever so I included the comment that I would be back after I returned from my vacation, and I would stop in to see him again.  I do not think this will ever happen.

I thought about Jerry’s comment on my way home.  Was his comment about “now and forever” some sort of delirium or was he actually reflecting on a core component of his life.  Was Jerry’s obnoxiousness and insults simply a way for him to get attention?  At this late stage in his life, was he lamenting his inability to get the attention that he so desperately desired?

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I began to wonder if a need for attention is the primary reason that most of us want fame, fortune, and success.  Rich people, famous people, celebrities all get more attention than the average person.  Think about all of the school shooters that you have heard of.  It seems that the main purpose for their rampages is attention.  There are many people who fiercely desire their five minutes of fame even if it means they get it by anti-social efforts.

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The irony is that fame, fortune, and success never bring happiness.  The more of these things you get, the more you want.  More is never enough.  More of things never satisfies.  Then the day inevitably comes when you are no longer famous.  Your money no longer buys you attention.  Your success is no longer newsworthy.  Your fame now evaporates like the morning mist.  Can you point to anyone whose fame and fortune brought them happiness?  We are brainwashed into thinking that wealth, fame, and success are stepping stones to happiness.  If only I am noticed and get attention from others, I will be happy.

To be honest, I am much like the person who buys the lottery ticket.  I have never had fame, fortune, or great success.  I have never been a great student, a prize-winning athlete, a rich business owner or won any medals or awards.  Years ago, I read all the books I could get my hands on to teach me how to be rich, famous, and successful.  Despite all my learning and education, I never rose above being an average guy with an average income and an average life.

Perhaps, I should be more grateful.  Perhaps, I have been very lucky. I have had a great life.  I have traveled widely.  I have many friends.  I married a wonderful woman and I have always been able to pay my bills.  What would my life have been like if I had become rich and famous?  My thoughts tell me that I would never have lived as happy a life as I can now point to.

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However, telling myself that is a little like someone telling me that I should be glad that my lottery ticket did not win.  Somewhere inside me is a yearning for the attention and admiration that I feel fame and fortune would bring me.  Something inside me desires to someday be “above” average.  I want to be on center stage and have all the spotlights on me.  I want to read in the morning papers, how great and talented I am.  John “The New Mark Twain.”

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I try to counter the above negative thoughts by reminding myself that I am really blessed.  I can walk down the street, and no one notices me.  I have enough money to be comfortable but not have to deal with hundreds of people who want more money from me because they think that I am rich.  I have a loving wife who I am sure loves me for who I am and not for my money or looks.  I have seen the world without a body guard.  I am healthy and would not trade my health for all the money in the world.

My takeaway from my visit to Jerry is how much I wish that I could have left him with the five minutes of attention that he wanted.  The saddest part about Jerry’s life is that he could never let go of this need.  He acted as though by being cantankerous and il-tempered he would satisfy this need.  I think it cost him a great deal of the happiness that was always there for his taking.  We all respected his intellect and admired his reasoning abilities.  Each of us in our own way tried to overlook his insults and criticism.  It is tragic that he never realized how much his talents really meant to the rest of us.  We all knew that Jerry was one of a kind.

PS:  

Jerry died early this morning on the 13th of September in the year 2021.  If there is an afterlife, I hope Jerry finds the happiness, attention and recognition that he sought.  This is one of mine and Jerry’s favorite pictures.  Jerry had a great sense of humor.  He and Wilma posed for this picture at his garage sale a number of years ago.  It is of course a take off on the classic American Gothic.  Jerry liked it so much, he blew it up and kept a picture by his bedside.  This is how I want to remember Jerry.  A man of intelligence and humor.  

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Sex, Politics and War

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978-0-8223-6367-5_prThere is a war on sex by politicians.  There has always been a war on sex by politicians.  It is the longest running war in the history of the world.  It is not a gender war but a political war.  The goal of political warfare is to alter an opponent’s opinions and actions in favor of the state’s interests without utilizing military power.  Such warfare has been waged by the state against sex since the dawn of humanity.

In the USA, we have had political wars on race, drugs, poverty, crime, and terror.  None of these wars were officially declared as military wars.  Each of these wars were unofficially declared by the US government.   Not one of these wars has ever officially ended.  The war on sex has never been acknowledged either officially or unofficially.  It has never ended either.

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This fourth and final part in my series of articles on sex will look at how politics influences sexual activities  in the USA.  In my opening blog on sex, Sex from a 75 year old perspective, I used a metaphor in which I described sex as a continent that had two regions.  The Region of Permissions and the Region of Prohibitions.  There are three seasons for each region:  A Religious Season, a Cultural Season, and a Political Season.  In my second blog on Sex, The Region of Permissions and the Region of Prohibitions, I described the influence of religion on our sex lives in respect to what is permitted and what is prohibited.  In my third blog, The Influence of Culture on Sex, I discussed the Cultural Season of Sex and what impact it has on Permissions and Prohibitions relating to sexual activities.  In this fourth and final blog on sex in America, I will end this set of treatises by talking about the role that politics plays on permissions and prohibitions regarding the sex lives of Americans.

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The war on sex has been waged for two reasons.  The first is power.  The second is economics.  Each of these reasons has a distinct and differential impact on what Americans may or may not do sexually.  In some cases, the influence is directed towards women.  In other cases, it has been directed towards minorities; and in fewer yet still numerous cases it has been directed towards White men.

Power and Sex:

You have all heard the following comments:  a woman’s role is in the kitchen, keep them barefoot and pregnant, or a woman must be obedient to her husband.  Love, honor and obey is the traditional marriage vows for a woman.  Women have been servants to men since Eve brought the apple to Adam to eat.  Today we are witnessing renewed attacks on a woman’s right to control her own body.  Texas and the US Supreme Court have supported legislation that would effectively gut the right to abortion for a woman in Texas.

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The powers behind the “Anti-Abortion” movement hide behind the mantra that all lives are sacred.  That neither religion nor government actually abides by this mantra is easily shown by the hypocrisy of both.  Almost all organized religions in the USA have flocked to support every war that the US has started despite the numerous deaths that each of these wars has entailed.  In most wars since WW II, there is seldom any mention of the deaths of noncombatants on the opposing side.  For instance, recently 13 military personnel were killed by a suicide bomber during the evacuation of Afghanistan.  Few reports mentioned the 130 Afghanis also killed during this attack.  The deaths of our citizens and other citizens are accepted by most organized religions in the US who actively oppose abortion on the grounds that it takes the life of a human being.  The only lives they seem to care about are “unborn.”

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The Catholic Church has been one of the most outspoken critics of abortion.  Displaying a gross hypocrisy, they have for centuries ignored the rights of women for contraceptive devices.  Even more egregiously they have ignored the numerous babies murdered since they were born to bishops and cardinals of the Catholic Church.  These children are often born to nuns as well as female parishioners.

In February of 2019, Pope Francis acknowledged a longstanding dirty secret in the Roman Catholic Church — the sexual abuse of nuns by priests…. “These poor women are forced to leave their order and live alone raising their child with no help,” she says. “Sometimes they’re forced to have abortions — paid by the priest because nuns have no money.” — “After Years Of Abuse By Priests, #NunsToo Are Speaking Out.”

6094292e34af8d001859bd5aMen want to control the reproductive rights of women.  It has taken the #metoomovement to start some noticeable changes in attitudes towards the rape and sexual harassment of women.  Politicians are the most notable hypocrites when it comes to the rights of women to determine what is rape and what is not rape.  Ministers do not lag far behind in this hypocrisy.  I could list hundreds of cases of politicians and ministers being outed for sexual harassment of women.  I am sure that you have seen enough of these cases in the news recently.  Nevertheless, male politicians occupy a special zone when it come to their belief that they have an unrequited right to a woman’s body.  Control is power and power is politics.  Sex is war.  Women who want the right to determine how their bodies are used are combatants in this war of sex.

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However, woman are not the only combatants in the war of sex.  For decades if not centuries the White Male power structure in the US has waged a war of sex against minorities.  Asians, Blacks, LGBTQ people and Native Americans have all at one time or another faced laws that determined who they could have sex with, when they could have sex and where they could have sex or even if they could have sex.  Some theories equate sexism with racism while others argue that there were economic reasons to oppose unbridled sexuality.

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“As late as the 1950s, almost half of the states had miscegenation laws. While the original statutes were directed wholly against black-white unions, the legislation had extended to unions between whites and Mongolians, Malayans, Mulattos, and Native Americans.  McLaughlin v. Florida was instrumental in paving the way for the 1967 case of Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia. In that year, sixteen states still had laws that made interracial marriages illegal.” — Laws that Banned Mixed Marriages – May 2010

41V1UJoBQ1L._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_The battleground against mixed marriages and sex between opposing races and ethnic groups has now shifted to the issue of Gay sexuality.  I think the issues surrounding Gay rights clearly support the thesis that power is at the heart of many laws respecting sexuality rather than economics. (Economics does play a role and we will look at this role soon.) At the present time, there are no explicit statewide laws in 27 states to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. — https://freedomforallamericans.org/states/

The powers that wanted to control sex between race and ethnic groups have clearly lost this battle, but they have not given up the war to control sex in America.  The war has been rejoined in the battle for a woman’s reproductive rights and in the battle for Gay people to have the same rights as Straight people.

prolifeblogpic1 Sex and Economics:

Perhaps the most forceful proponent of the theory that economic reasons were behind the control of sex has been the psychologist Wilhelm Reich.  Europe and the USA have always included some of the most sexually repressed nations on the face of the earth.  Reich saw sexual oppression as being a tool of the ruling class to keep people coming to work on Monday and supporting the needs of the power structure for willing workers.  Reich and many of his supporters believed that true freedom could only come about with a sexual revolution that challenged all restrictive laws against sex.  This would include laws against polygamy, adultery, miscegenation, sodomy, sex before marriage and Gay sex.

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Reich came to the USA from Germany where he had been persecuted for some of his ideas and theories.  When he came to the USA, he found a number of famous and influential people who gravitated to his ideas about sexuality.  The US government was not so enamored with his inventions and ideas.  It began a second persecution which ended up in Reich being sentenced to jail where he died.  Many of his supporters thought he was harassed because of his beliefs in sexual liberation and sexual freedom.  “Ralph Nader in his book, ‘The Chemical Feast’ criticized the FDA for expending an inordinate portion of its limited resources on ‘great quack campaigns’, such as the ‘vicious’ pursuit, carried out with ‘frightening rigor’”, of Reich.”  — Wilhelm Reich: the man who invented free love

460992-sex-lies-politics-0-230-0-345-cropI read Reich’s book “The Function of the Orgasm” while in graduate school.  I was struck by his ideas and the realization of how suppressed sexuality is in our society.  We do not treat it as we would any other normal human need.  Instead, we pass many laws governing what is right and what is not right, and we allow Madison Avenue to shanghai sexuality for the use of manipulating the rest of the country into buying junk and stuff that we do not need.

I can’t say that I ever believed in the inventions that Reich promoted and quite honestly that some of his ideas did strike me as quackery.  However, it is not much of a stretch to believe that Capitalism, Fascism, Communism, and every other economic system needs people who are willing to get out of bed every Monday morning to go to work.  What if we were all truly liberated sexually?  What if it was okay to stay in bed and fornicate rather than go to work?

“You beg for happiness in life, but security is more important to you, even if it costs you your spine or your life. Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when your thinking will be in harmony with your feelings; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians, when you will have more respect for the love between man and woman than for a marriage license.”   — Wilhelm Reich

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