Gratefulness

If you enjoy reading my blog today, please see another blog I wrote dealing with this issue from the opposite perspective:  Ingratitude:  How it destroys our minds and hearts and souls

gratefulnessI want to talk about Gratefulness today.  It is the first in my list of the Key Seven Virtues that I think are worth developing.  Gratefulness is the opposite of ingratitude.  It is easy to fall into the trap of being ungrateful.  The world besieges us with evidence of our incompetence and faults.  Hollywood glamorizes the mundane and makes the rest of us feel inferior in comparison.  American Idol becomes the graven image that we now worship.  It is not an image of a gold calf or a prophet or a saint.  It is the image of success and fame and fortune that we all desire.  Even as I write this, millions of people are buying a lottery ticket in the hope of achieving instant wealth.  How many of these people are grateful for what they have?  I suspect many of them are very grateful in their daily lives, but it makes you wonder how grateful most people are when they will spend their money against all odds to become an overnight millionaire.  What don’t they have that they will buy if they do win?

Every Monday morning I start my day and my week with the following prayer:

  • I am Grateful for this new day and a new start. I give thanks for everything I have – especially my health, my friends, my family and my wife Karen.

I also say a prayer that my wife Karen will be healthy and happy.  She once mentioned to me that she appreciated my praying for her, so I have made it a part of my Monday morning start to the week.  My goal is to try to keep the thought of being grateful in my mind throughout most of the day.  I confess, I am usually able to keep it in my mind for about ten minutes at the most and then my day commences with the usual busyness and trivia that soon makes me forget my admirable goal.

If I were to rate myself on a scale of 1-10 of gratefulness, with 10 being the highest amount of gratefulness possible, I would probably give myself about a 2.  Nevertheless, I refuse to succumb to the Siren of Desire that drives one to buy a lottery ticket.  I do not want to win any money in a lottery.  I do not want to get any free money through a class action lawsuit.  I do not want to inherit any money from a dead relative or friend.  I admit I occasionally go to a casino and will play the penny slots for about fifteen minutes.  Karen has more patience and will play for as long as an hour.  We both allocate about ten dollars when we go for our “chance to win a fortune.”  We are usually at a casino for the entertainment or food.

My father was a gambler when I was young who lost a good portion of his earnings each week betting on the horses.  I learned from him that most gamblers were liars since they will only tell you when they win and never when they lose.  I still begrudge the fact that when I was growing up, my cousins (whose fathers were no richer) always had a nicer house, better clothes and more expensive toys.  My mother would regularly buy a lottery ticket and promise me that when she won, we would all be rich and never have to work again.  I always replied to my mother that if she put her dollar in the bank, she would have $1.01 at the end of the year.  It was kind of a joke.  When my mother died, my sisters and I had to cover the additional costs for her funeral.

I was reading a news article about two days ago about the continued recovery of former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords.  I was struck by a comment that was attributed to her in the article.  She said:

“I wake up every day grateful that I have a second chance at life and a second chance at service.”

When, I read this, I thought there could not be much more I could add to the subject.  Here is a woman who could be bitter and angry.  She could rightfully complain about her physical and mental handicaps.  She could endorse stronger sentences for criminals.  She could lobby for fewer guns in society.  She could preach for more prisons.  Instead, she continues to pursue a life dedicated to service and to doing the best she can every day of her life to help other human beings.  We all need role models like this to really understand what gratefulness means.

One of my favorite blog readers is my sister Jeanine.  I think she is perhaps my most faithful reader, usually reading and commenting on my blogs each week.  Last week she posted a comment which included the following quote.

“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” — Etienne de Grellet

She mentioned that one of her friends wrote this in her high school yearbook and she has never forgotten it.  She noted that she has tried to live by this quote in her daily life.  Judging by her friends and what they think of her and the efforts she puts out to help others, I believe my sister is also a person who does what she can to help others and who is also grateful for her life.

Let us pose the question:  What does it take to be grateful?

I would say that the virtue of gratefulness is composed of the following three abilities:

  1. Appreciating what we have. Savoring your life, your food, your health and your friends.  Like you would savor a tasty dish or appreciate a good song.  Appreciating the good and the bad.  Realizing that the bad makes the good better.

Without pain, there would be no suffering, without suffering we would never learn from our mistakes.  To make it right, pain and suffering is the key to all windows, without it, there is no way of life.” — Angelina Jolie

  1. Living in the present. If we worry too much about the past or think too much about the future, we are never able to just accept what is.  Violence is caused by too much dwelling on what happened yesterday.  Greed is caused by dreaming about what life would be like “if only.”  When we refuse to live our lives one day at a time, we inevitably get lost in a wilderness of whys, what ifs, and maybes.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”  — Buddha

  1. Service to others. I am not sure that I can ever overcome the lure of fame and fortune and success.  They are constantly in my mind.  Except when I am serving others, particularly those who are less fortunate than I am.  Perhaps the only path to developing the virtue of gratefulness is by seeing  and helping the down trodden, oppressed, sick, dying, wounded and poor of the earth.  There is no doubt that seeing the misfortunes of others up close has a salubrious effect on our mental attitudes.  It is hard to feel sorry for yourself when you witness people like Gabby Giffords, Steven Hawking, and Malala Yousafzai and see what they managed to achieve despite handicaps much more severe than any we might have.

“Too much self-centered attitude, you see, brings, you see, isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.” — Dalai Lama

I have a little device that I learned in my studies, a long time ago.  It is an algorithm for change. You can use it for changing an organization or for changing your own life.  It goes like this:

  • Awareness precedes choice
  • Choice precedes decision
  • Decision precedes action
  • Action precedes change

If we want to develop the virtue of gratefulness, we must first be aware of what it means to be grateful.  We must be aware of what we should be grateful for.  We must also be aware of our ungratefulness and ask ourselves why we feel this way and where it comes from.  Once we are aware of our feelings in this area, we must continue to maintain this awareness.

Next, we must use our awareness to make a choice.  The choice is simple.  Am I going to be a grateful or ungrateful person?  Am I going to see life as full of opportunities and a place of unlimited possibilities or am I going to see life as a living hell on earth?  The choice is always ours.  The choice to be grateful means that we must make a decision.   To live gratefully or ungratefully.

If we accept the decision to live gratefully, then we must take action on this decision.  We must express gratitude whenever possible.  But more than just words, we also need to help others who are not as fortunate as we are.  Regardless of how unfortunate you feel you are there are always people who are less fortunate.  Start looking for these people and ask yourself “How can I help them.”

The final step in the process will occur if you follow the above heuristic.  You will find that there are more and more things in your life to be grateful for.  You will start enjoying life more than you ever thought possible. You will become grateful for the little things in your life and stop waiting for the big things.  You will become a person who appreciates every day that is given to you on earth.  Each day will become the best day of your life.  Don’t trust me!  Try it and see.  Age, death, diseases will still be difficult but you will find that gratitude can replace the sorrows of life with an outlook that can find joy in even the most difficult of times.

Time for Questions:

What are you grateful for?  What are you ungrateful for in your life?  How do you cope with the inevitable blitz of commercials telling you how inferior you are?  What do you do to help other people who are less fortunate than you are?

Life is just beginning.

“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck.  But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness. ”  — Ellen Goodman

My Ten Favorite Whiskeys in the World – Part 1

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I became a whiskey drinker about fourteen years ago.  Before that, I could not have told one whiskey from another.  As far as I was concerned, any whiskey needed to be diluted with coke or tonic water.  The cheaper the whiskey, the better.

I have learned to love the taste of whiskey.  I love the savor of a wonderfully smooth Anejo Tequila or a single barrel Kentucky Bourbon or a Jamaican distilled Rum.  One of the great pleasures of the world is sitting around a fireplace talking to a good friend and sharing a superb whiskey.  However, until my run in with a waitress, I did not know anything about this magnificent pleasure.  Here is how I morphed from whiskey illiterate to whiskey cognoscenti.

images (3)When I grew up, we always bought the cheapest.  Karo syrup instead of Log Cabin, margarine instead of butter, bologna instead of capicola, Welch’s grape jelly instead of Smuckers, Velveeta instead of cheese and so on and so forth.  I survived high school on bologna sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and potato sandwiches.  Kids would always trade food in the lunchroom but in four years no one in the room would ever want any of my sandwiches.  In fairness to my mom, she did the best she could on the meager food budget my father provided.  He spent more money at the racetrack, or should I say with the bookies than he did on our household.  Thus, I developed no taste for the so-called finer things in life and this extended to my taste in whiskey.  As far as I was concerned and even knew, the cheaper the better.

images (2)A long, long time ago, (or so it seems now) and many whiskeys under the belt, Karen and I were returning from a trip to visit our daughter Megan who lived in Chandler.  We were at the airport awaiting a somewhat delayed flight.  We decided to pass the time in a restaurant near our gate.  We sat down at a table and I noticed a flyer on the table advertising three different Tequilas.  One glass sold for 2 dollars, another for 5 dollars and the third for 8 dollars.  I cryptically remarked that “This is a joke.  Only a sucker would pay 8 dollars since there is no difference between the three except the brand names.”  Our waitress overheard me and disregarding the caveat that the customer is always right, she intruded and piously announced “You are wrong, there is a big difference.  Would you care to try a flight with one of each?”  I could not let the challenge go and I warned her that I was not impressed by how much things cost, and I would let her know what I thought.  I assumed that I was getting the flight of three for free since it was her challenge, but she brought me the bill later and it included the cost of each drink.

I tried drinking one of each without looking at which one I was drinking.  One was smooth, one was sharp and throat burning, and one was in between.  When I looked at each drink I had tasted, the correlation with price was 1.0 or a perfect correlation.  The higher priced Tequila was the smoothest and the lowest price was the rawest.  I was chastised.  I was humbled.  I was dead wrong.  It was a valuable lesson and it started me on my journey to learn as much as I could about whiskeys.  I decided to start with Tequilas.

Over the years, I have gradually added Bourbon, Rum, Brandy, and the odd whiskey to my penchant for taste testing.  I cannot claim to have much knowledge of many other well-known whiskeys.  I once attended a Cigar dinner, and each serving was accompanied by a Scotch.  The cheapest Scotch was about 45 dollars a bottle and the most expensive was a bottle that retailed for 500 dollars.  It turned out that an in-between bottle that sold for 200 dollars was my favorite.

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I will tell you three more facts that affect my whiskey journey.  First is that I have never bought a bottle of any whiskey that cost more than 100 dollars.  I have bought plenty of low-priced whiskeys since I am always looking to find a diamond in the rough.  Such was the case with a bottle of Very Old Barton (VOB) which sells for about 12 dollars a bottle and as the bartender in the Kentucky Bourbon House told me, it is as good as many a bottle that sells for 50 to 75 dollars.  I bought one that day and have since bought a few bottles each time I get down to Bardstown, Kentucky.  You will not find VOB anyplace except Bourbon County where it is distilled and a well-kept secret to locals.  It is not the best bourbon I have ever had but it deserves the accolades that the bartender heaped on it.

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The second fact concerns how I taste test my whiskey.  I never taste test a whiskey unless I have a comparison to test it against.  For instance, I will test a Padron Anejo against a Don Julia Anejo or a Jose Cuervo Silver against a Camarena Silver.  I will ask my wife to pour me a shot of each and then with my eyes closed I will taste each.  I may sometimes taste a new whiskey against a number of similar whiskeys that I have in my pantry.  I have now had more than thirty Tequilas and over forty different bourbons.  I have only tested about a dozen rums.  Once I buy a bottle, it either gets finished off or I donate it to my wife to use as a mixer.  In my opinion, a good whiskey should be drunk neat and at room temperature.  No ice and nothing to dilute it, that includes water which some aficionados claim makes for a deeper taste.  As with many other contentions in the whiskey industry, I find this one to be bogus.  Every industry has their myths which are based more on emotions and less on logic.  The whiskey industry is no different.

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One example to demonstrate what I am talking about concerns aging.  In some types of whiskey, such as Tequila, Scotch, Bourbon and Rum, you will pay a premium for an aged or older bottle of whiskey.  I have had whiskeys from one day old to 30 years old.  Aging certainly makes a difference as it seems to help smooth out the bite that a younger whiskey will have.  However, as with any process, there is a point of no return.  Is a bottle of 25 years old Bourbon that may cost you 1000 dollars really better than a ten-year-old Bourbon that you can purchase for 35 dollars?  I think not.  Two years ago, the top-rated whiskey in the country was a Henry McKenna 10-year aged Bourbon.  This whiskey won the Gold of Gold award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2018.  It beat out every other type and brand of whiskey to win this award.  By the way, the prices almost tripled for McKenna and it is almost impossible to find this brand now.

The third fact I want to share with you concerns what I consider the factors that have influenced my selection of the ten best whiskeys.  They are as follows:

  • The level of alcohol that I prefer. Not all whiskeys come in different alcohol levels.  I have never found a Tequila at higher than 40 percent alcohol.  This seems to be the sweet spot for many if not most whiskeys.  On the other hand, Bourbons can go from 35 percent to 60 percent alcohol.  When it comes to bourbon, my sweet spot is between 45 to 50 percent alcohol.  You may prefer a Bourbon or a Rum with a lower or perhaps higher alcohol content.  Find what you like in a whiskey, it may make more difference than the price.
  • Small batch, large batch and single barrel are all used to demarcate Bourbons in the cask process. I have not found any of these to make a difference.  Likewise, the “Pure” Kentucky water seems like a simple marketing ploy to get you to stick with Kentucky Bourbons.
  • Many whiskeys are distilled with different formulas for ingredients. This may affect how well you like a whiskey.  I have not found a Rye whiskey or a Mescal that I like.  Bourbons and Rums may have a strict formula depending on where they are brewed, or they may be subject to a wide range of differences in terms of minor ingredients.  Taste will vary depending on ingredients and your preferences will depend on your tastes.  One of my favorites whiskeys is a wheat whiskey called Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey.  There are few whiskeys like this in the USA and given the amount of wheat we grow; you would think it would be as popular as corn or rye whiskeys.  Bernheim is a great whiskey for about 30 dollars a bottle if you like the taste.
  • The length of the aging process. I definitely believe that an aged whiskey “generally” tastes better than a younger whiskey.  The real issue is how much aging is enough to give me a smooth drink?  Is it just a matter of preference or does the aging process taper off at some point?  I subscribe to the latter hypothesis.  I do not believe that aging can continue forever and forever to keep making a whiskey smoother.  At some point, the benefits of aging either stop or taper off to the point that it makes no testable difference.   If you want to pay 100 dollars or more for a “older” whiskey, go right ahead, but I doubt you are paying for a better whiskey.  More than likely you are paying for the storage of the whiskey all those years that it sat in a cask.

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Next week, I will share with you my top ten whiskeys for sipping with a friend.  I don’t mind sipping by myself, but alcohol should not be used to cure loneliness or to drown out your sorrows.  I regard alcohol as any other treat in my life.  As the Greeks said, “All things in moderation.”  I like to share my drinks with a good friend, but I do not push alcohol on anyone.  I have a number of good friends who are recovering alcoholics.  When we socialize, we do it over ginger ale or coffee or tea.

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” — Mark Twain

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”  — George Bernard Shaw

“The light music of whiskey falling into a glass—an agreeable interlude.” — James Joyce

The Seven Greatest and Most Important Virtues for Humanity

christian_virtueI thought I would start the year of 2021 off with a positive slant.  Namely, some things we can all do or practice to be better people.  However, before anyone should pay any attention to what I am about to say, there are several questions they must ask themselves.  I would advise you that the veracity and hence credibility of an author is critical to your acceptance of what the author is trying to sell you or convince you of.  Do not buy an argument from someone who cannot be trusted.  Think about the comment that “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.”  An uncritical acceptance of any idea is dangerous to your own integrity and responsibility.  Hence, the questions I would want answered (If I were you) would be as follows:  Who is this writer to say what the “greatest” virtues for a human are?  How did he come up with these Seven Virtues?  What is the difference between a virtue and a value?  Is this an important difference or is he about to sell me another new religion?

Taking each question as noted, who am I?  What credibility do I bring to the subject? 

The-Virtue-ContinuumI would like to answer that I am a seeker of truth and knowledge.  I am very opinionated, often highly judgmental and have frequently been accused of being a “know it all.”  Many people would write my opinions off as being too liberal while others would say that I am too rational.  I place great value on being logical and trying to stay open to many possibilities.  I have been studying philosophy and religion since I was eighteen.  I have no degrees in either.  But the number of books and articles and stories that I have read number in the hundreds.  I have attended many different worship houses and types of religious services.  I was brought up as a Catholic until I rejected its teachings at about the age of 10.  When no one would give me a good answer for “Who made God?” I more or less decided that most religions were based on superstitions.

I continue to read and study and write in the hope and belief that continuous learning is critical to living a good life.  As Socrates noted “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  I want to examine all aspects of existence.  From good to evil, from logical to emotional, from predictable to unpredictable.  I want to understand and comprehend all of the mysteries of the universe.  Nevertheless, I am not trying to be omnipotent nor do I think that anyone can or will ever understand all that the universe holds.  The quest is the most important thing, but the results of the journey are also very important.  My goal is to dream the impossible dream.  I am dedicated to the idea that truth and knowledge will bring me closer to being able to live this “impossible” dream.  As the song notes:

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star (From Man of La Mancha (1972) music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion)

How did I derive these Seven Virtues?

In all honesty, seven is a good number for any set of factors since most humans can only remember between five to nine random numbers.  Seven is the mean for a large proportion of the human race in terms of memory capacity.  We note that many cultures have used seven as a sort of “perfect” number for deriving sets of values, ideas, virtues, and even mundane things like phone numbers and license plate numbers.

virtues_listGiven that one could easily comprise a list of ten or perhaps one hundred important virtues, why do I believe that my seven are the seven greatest and most important?  How do I have the audacity to make such an assertion?  I might have been sitting under an apple tree one day, or perhaps simply thinking about life at one of my yearly silent retreats at the Demontreville Retreat Center, when I compiled a list of seven virtues.  While I truly “value” these ideas, I understand them more as virtues than values.  I will address this difference later.  I decided that I want to live by these virtues.  Each day for the last fifteen or more years, I have selected one of these seven virtues to help guide me through the day.  Whether it is patience, kindness or courage, each day I start by reflecting on this virtue and trying to make it a part of my life.

How does my list compare to other lists?  One of the most famous lists of seven virtues is the Catholic Hierarchy of Virtues.  The top three in the Catholic Hierarchy are Faith, Hope and Love.  Of these, my list includes Faith and Love, though I use the term compassion rather than love. The next four in the Catholic Hierarchy are justice, wisdom, moderation and courage.  My list includes courage but not wisdom, justice or moderation.  This is not to say that I do not think these are important, but my list is based on feelings more than knowledge.  This is somewhat ironic since I believe that knowledge and wisdom are two of the keys to understanding life.  However, l cannot argue with the question: “What wisdom is there that is greater than kindness?”  Comparing my list to the Catholic list, I realize that I am emphasizing feelings over thinking.  I am emphasizing the heart over the brain and love over logic.  My final list of seven virtues includes the following:

  • Gratefulness
  • Forgiveness
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Faith
  • Compassion
  • Courage

Over the next several blogs, I will present each of these as virtues and explain why they are important and how we can go about integrating them in our lives.  I know and believe that we will all live better lives if we are living a life based on virtue.

What is the difference between a Virtue and a Value?  Is it important?

I would like to include the following excerpt from an article by Iain T. Benson called “Values and Virtues:  A Modern Confusion.”

“Now George Grant, the Canadian philosopher, whom I mentioned a while ago, made this point in an important comment on a CBC radio program a few years ago.  Here is what he said, “values language is an obscuring language for morality, used when the idea of purpose has been destroyed. And that is why it is so widespread in North America.” In North America, we no longer have any confidence that there are any shared purposes for human life. We don’t. It is that dramatic. Consequently, we cannot order any human action towards an end, because all means are related to ends.” 

Looking at the Oxford Dictionaries definitions of these two terms will also shed some light on the differences.

  • Virtue is defined as follows:
  1. Behavior showing high moral standards: paragons of virtue
  2. Quality considered morally good or desirable in a person: patience is a virtue
  3. A good or useful quality of a thing: Mike was extolling the virtues of the car
  • Value is defined as follows:
  1. The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something: your support is of great value
  2. The material or monetary worth of something: prints seldom rise in value equipment is included up to a total value of $500
  3. The worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it: at $12.50 the book is a good value

I think it is easy to see from these definitions that a value is generally something we attach to a product or service.  A virtue is more often attached to a behavior or character trait.  We value things, while we practice virtues.  A man or woman may be virtuous but we would not say they are “valuous”, in fact the word does not even exist.  We might say they were valuable, but then we would probably not be talking about their character but addressing their instrumental worth to us.  Therefore, I have labeled these critical seven behaviors as virtues.

-The-12-Lakota-Virtues-native-pride-33907515-700-630The danger in this discussion lies in your taking a sectarian or religious approach to my writings.  I assure you that I am not a religious person.  I may be a spiritual person but I do not think of myself in either of these categories.  I am an agnostic who wants to live a better life and help build a world that is a better place to live for future generations.  Living by these seven virtues is one way I believe I can contribute to this goal.

My Vision for my life is “To live a healthy useful and wise life.”

My Mission is “To live one day at a time.  To be the best person I can be each day and to do the best I can each day to do good for the world.”   I hope I sometimes achieve at least some of these goals.

virtue is doing itIf I have satisfactorily answered the questions that I posed above respecting my integrity and credibility, I will now set off to address each of my Seven Virtues and explain why they are so important and the difference that I think they can make in our lives.  Look for my virtues over the next several weeks in my blogs.

Time for Questions:

What do you think of my list of seven?  What would you change?  Do you have your own list that you live by?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.  — Buddha

Taking It to Extremes – Part 4 of 5 – Conservative versus Liberal

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Introduction: (Skip if you have read Part 1 and Go to Part 4 below)

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

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

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

John’s Corollary:

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

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

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

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

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

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Part 4.  Conservative versus Liberal:

Being a Liberal was once a label that someone could be proud of.  Today it has become a name of scorn.  Those to the left of liberals including progressives and radicals regard Liberals much like salt that has lost its flavor.  Jesus said “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.” – Mathew 5:13

All too often Liberals seem to lack the desire to take a strong position.  They seem to prefer to walk a middle road that often goes nowhere.  Once upon a time a Liberal was defined as: “One who is open-minded and not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways.” — Meriam WebsterBasically, a liberal was someone who was willing to change and was quite comfortable with change.  The political definition of a Liberal was someone who was committed to individualism, liberty, and equal rights. Liberals believed that these goals required a free economy with minimal government interference.  Today, we have a new concept for liberals or “Neo-liberals.”  A Neo-liberal is defined as someone who believes “in market-oriented reform policies such as ‘eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers’ and reducing state influence in the economy, especially through privatization and austerity.”Wikipedia

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The definition of a “Neo-liberal is somewhat of a paradox since it contains many of the same concepts as we see in a definition of a political Conservative.  If you accept (as many pundits claim) that Democrats are liberals and Republicans are conservatives, then it would be almost impossible to tell the difference between a Neo-liberal, a Conservative, a Liberal, a Democrat and a Republican.

I have always hated to be called a Liberal.  The liberals that I knew seemed like the proverbial salt that had lost its flavor.  Bleeding hearts who were more than willing to give anything away as long as it did not impact their well-being. They would not stand up in the face of adversity and they always wanted to acquiesce when the going got rough.  Never one to stand up and fight, Liberals exemplified a Democratic party that I thought was beset by cowardice albeit they were always civil and polite.

But that brings us to the Conservatives.  This is the other extreme of my Conservative Liberal dimension.  Today Conservatives are the Tea Party zealots who have little in common with traditional Conservative values.  The current Republican Party has become the residence for what we should to be calling “Neo-conservatives.”

People hold signs at a Tea Party Patriots rally calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthcare law on Capitol Hill in Washington

People hold signs at a Tea Party Patriots rally calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthcare law championed by President Barack Obama, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 24, 2012. The Supreme Court will hear arguments next Monday to Wednesday over the fate of Obama’s healthcare law, a battle with legal, political and financial implications for the U.S. healthcare system’s biggest overhaul in nearly 50 years. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS HEALTH CIVIL UNREST) – RTR2ZTA0

“Conservatism in the United States is a political and social philosophy characterized by respect for American traditions, republicanism, limited government, support for Christian values, moral universalism, pro-business, opposition to trade unions, strong national defense, free trade, protectionism, anti-communism, rugged individualism, advocacy of American exceptionalism, and a defense of tradition and Western culture from the perceived threats posed by communism, socialism, and moral relativism.”  — Wikipedia

The traditional definition of a Conservative was someone who wanted to conserve or someone who did not relish or look forward to changing.  It was more of a careful orientation to established policies, procedures, and institutions.  Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines a conservative as someone who: “a: Tends or is disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions: Traditional conservative policies. b: marked by moderation or caution.”

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Once upon a time a grudging respect existed between Conservatives and Liberals as exemplified in the show featuring Gore Vidal and William Buckley called “Firing Line.”  Each side knew that the truth politically and socially lay in a balance or a dynamic Hegelian tension between the two ends of the continuum.  I often thought of myself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  In the old days, this would have had me with a foot in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  That day is long gone.  Murdered, assassinated, and executed by Right Wing Pundits and Corporate Capitalism that has no use for social benevolence or taking care of the sick and needy.

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Starting in 2000, I listened nightly to AM 1280 in Minneapolis, also called “The Patriot Radio Station.”  This station was a haven for right-wing commentators like Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Mike Savage, and Hugh Hewitt among many others.  Day in and day out, these fascists would spew out slander about Liberals.  Liberals were associated with all the bad in the world and none of the good.

I wrote a blog four years ago about these right-wing nutcases called “Bigots, Liars and Right-Wing Radio Talk Show Hosts.”  In this blog, I explored the lies, calumnies, slanders, and bigotry that characterized most of their discourse.  For seven years, I tuned into the station.  Sometimes, I listened during the day and other times at night.  Always it was the same drumbeat:  Liberals bad.  College Professors bad.  LGBTQ bad.  Socialists bad. Democrats bad.  Nowhere on any radio station in the country were people or talk show hosts using the same derogatory comments to define Conservatives.  I have no doubt that the lies and hatred spewed forth on this station as well as other right-wing stations have poisoned the USA population against the ideas of Liberalism.

I know I stated off with my own less than positive slant towards Liberals but my attitude has more to do with Liberalism as it exists today and less with the traditional notion of a Liberal person who is willing to change and accepts change when needed.  Similarly, I have nothing but the deepest respect for the traditional values of a Conservative who is oriented towards caution and discretion when it comes to change.  Nevertheless, which ever side I choose to be on, it goes without saying that according to John’s Corollary:

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

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Conservatives need Liberals and Liberals need Conservatives.  Many people are condemning the extreme partisanship that has divided America.  I could not begin to list all the books that purport to both describe this partisanship and propose to have a solution to end it.  Most of these solutions are what I would call “pie in the sky” or looking at the world through “rose collared classes.”  There are many reasons for the divides that exist.  I am not a big believer in the idea that simply condemning the partisanship will end it.  What is my solution, you have every right to ask?  Am I any more pragmatic and less naïve than many of the pundits out there?   Sadly, I do not think there are any fast solutions, and I am not sure how many that I might propose would be workable.  But here goes my short list:

  1. Just as Nazism was outlawed in Germany, we need to outlaw and label as terrorist organizations many of the right-wing groups that exist in America.
  2. We need to broaden the definition of hate speech to make it a crime to label people and equate them with evil just by virtue of their job or title. Unless an organization advocates violence and bigotry they should be entitled to respect.
  3. Establish a bi-partisan group to monitor media and to restore some balance to reporting in terms of objectivity and factual relevance.
  4. Expect schools to teach critical thinking and not simply recite facts for Standardized Achievement Tests. Students need to learn to see the pros and cons in any position or argument and to understand that the world is not black and white.
  5. Create a national award system for journalists and commentators that are able to bridge the divide between left-wing and right-wing positions and who seek to find a solution that is win-win.
  6. Create a higher standard for ethics in the Legal Profession. Today the Legal profession in the USA actively aids and abets the right-wing fanaticism that is fueling much of the hate in this country.

Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.  ― John F. Kennedy

I am open to other ideas.  If you would share any, please send them to me via email or post them in the comments section.

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

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Introduction: (Skip if you have read Part 1)

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

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

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

John’s Corollary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Malcolm X:  Police Brutality Speech

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

Malcolm X Debate with James Baldwin September 5, 1963

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

Context:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1962 – Malcolm X

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

2020

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

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

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1962 – Malcolm X

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

2020

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

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

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1962– Malcolm X

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

2020

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

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

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1962 – Malcolm X

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

2020

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

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

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1962 – Malcolm X

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

2020

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

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

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

“The Persistence of Discrimination in Jury Selection”June 2018

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

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1962 – Malcolm X

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

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

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

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

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1962 – Malcolm X

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

2020

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

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

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

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

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

1962 – Malcolm X

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

2020

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

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

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

P.S.

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

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

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

The God of Hypocrisy

evil god

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Phoneycia
  • Pretense
  • Tartuffe
  • Deceptor

11-26-2020

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

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

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

The Nightmare has Ended or Has It?

Nightmare of Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s End Game Strategy to Win the Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

What Needs to Be Done Starting in 2021 – IMHO

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

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

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