Who Speaks for Integrity?

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When I wrote my series of blogs on the Seven Most Important Virtues, I neglected to add Integrity.  Limiting myself to seven, I felt that the seven I identified were more important than any other virtues.  This was simply a judgement call.  I have been challenged on it several times and indeed I challenge myself on the list.  There is hardly a day goes by that I wonder if I should not have numbered Integrity among the Seven.  Well, as they say, that is water under the dam.  What I would like to do in this blog is discuss Integrity.  What is Integrity?  Why is Integrity so important?  How do we get Integrity?  Finally, how do we sustain Integrity?

What is Integrity?

download (1)Integrity is everything to lose and nothing to gain, except your self-respect.  Integrity is standing up for what you believe is right even when everyone is against you.  Integrity is the ability to put compassion and kindness ahead of self-interest.  Integrity cannot co-exist with greed.  It cannot co-exist with lust.  It cannot co-exist with a thirst for power.  It cannot co-exist with a drive for money, fame, or fortune.  All of these elements are like Kryptonite to Integrity.  Kryptonite was the one thing that could rob Superman of his powers.  Lust, greed, money, fame, and power all have the ability to rob one of his/her integrity.

One example of a man without integrity was Goethe’s Faust.  Faust was considered the smartest man alive.  He was a genius and a consummate intellectual.  There was little that he did not know about or could not speak intelligently about.  Yet, Faust was unhappy.  Old age had creeped up on him.  His desire for youth and sex overcame his ability to think with the maturity befitting his status.  He sold his soul to Satan and in the bargain sold his integrity.  His lack of integrity lead to the death of another human being and to his own banishment to hell.

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There are many examples of men and women with integrity.  I think of the whistleblowers who sacrifice their careers and sometime their lives to report issues that might be dangerous to others.  I think of the journalists in countries like Mexico who risk their lives every day to report injustices.  I think of the prosecutors and law enforcement officers in countries where criminals have the ability to enact retribution and death when they are charged with a crime.  In all these examples, there is nothing for these courageous people to gain and everything to lose by their standing up for what they believe is right.  This is integrity.

Why is Integrity Important?

I believe that it is fair to say that never before in the history of America has there been so little integrity shown by our political leaders.  Right, Left, Democrat, Republican, Independent, it does not matter.  There are too many political leaders who are driven by greed and a desire for power.  You may argue with this analysis but when I see even a third of our elected officials calling for term limits, I will recant my assertion.  When I see a third of our elected officials with a plan to eliminate paid lobbyists, I will recant my assertion.

Political_Integrity_-_iStock.com-Bobboz_resizedPolitics is a sham in America today.  We have men and women who are elected for life and spend more time campaigning then they do in serving their constituents.  Public servants who start collecting money to run their next campaigns within days of winning their present office.  We have a system of government where money is the most important factor in who gets elected and who gets reelected.  Our politicians are more worried about losing votes than they are in the constitution or in protecting our democracy.  What Integrity is there in supporting a riot to overthrow a fair election that every court and every state in America found was fairly conducted?  The media seized on the outrageousness of the Big Lie to sell news.  The losing party seized on the credibility of millions of gullible supporters to buy the Big Lie and try to maintain their power.

imagesThe media in America has become another hallowed institution gutted by greed and a desire for more and more money.  Reporters, writers, and journalists in America today are more interested in selling advertising than they are in balanced objective reporting.  You can divide the news up by whether they lean Right or Left, Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican.  Each side has a mirror image on the other side of the political spectrum.  CNN is opposed by Fox News.  The New York Times is opposed by The New York Post and the Washington Post is opposed by the Washington Times.  One side supports the Right and the other side supports the left.  This is not balanced reporting, and no truth comes out of the dynamic between the two sides.  What both sides have in common are reporters who will report the most useless, tasteless, uninformative stories if they perceive that these stories will sell advertising or if they can figure out a clickbait title that will attract readers and thereby expose them to paid commercials.

I see few solutions to the problems I have noted above except to start holding our leaders and media to standards of Integrity that do not seem to exist.  This brings us to the issue of where Integrity comes from.

How Do We Get Integrity?

I do not believe humans are born with Integrity.  I do not think that there is a gene or DNA for Integrity.  Humans learn Integrity like they learn to speak.  The morals, ethics and traditions of any society become part of the fabric of learning that a child goes through.  Integrity is a virtue.  It may be valued more in some families and cultures more than others.  There is an Index of Public Integrity that measures five factors that the developers link to Integrity and is used to assess a countries capacity to control corruption and ensure that public resources are spent honestly.   The six scales used in this index include:

  1. Judicial Independence
  2. Administrative Burden
  3. Trade Openness
  4. Budget-Transparencies
  5. E-Citizenship
  6. Freedom of the Press

Idownload (3)f you want more of a description of each scale you can follow the hyperlink above.  The USA ties for 10th place with Great Britain on this index.  I can see some correlation with Integrity, but I can see many differences.  I think honesty is one component of Integrity, but Integrity is more complex than being simply honest.  An honest person can still lack integrity if they are unwilling to stand up for what they believe.  Cowardice and Integrity are incompatible.

Professor Stephen L. Carter of Yale Law School points out in his book “Integrity,” one cannot have integrity without being honest, but one can be honest and yet lack integrity. … Integrity in its bare-bones essence means adherence to principles.

You cannot buy Integrity.  You cannot inherit Integrity.  Fortunately, Integrity does not have a price tag.  It is open to everyone.  Young people, old people, women, men, and people from different ethnic backgrounds all can find Integrity.  I use the work “Find” because you must seek Integrity.  It is a treasure, and you must look for it.  You can acquire Integrity, but you can also lose Integrity.  However, you cannot give it away and no one can steal it from you.  It is one of the most unique treasures in the world.  So, where do we find this treasure?  There are three rules for finding Integrity.

  1. It must be something you value personally
  2. You must value it more than your life, your career or anything else that you might ever possess.
  3. You must not expect applause or accolades. It is more likely you will be criticized and condemned. 

If you can accept these three rules, then finding Integrity is easy.  Simply establish a set of morals, virtues, and ethics that you believe in and start standing up for them.  When they are challenged, you must speak out.  Your actions and behaviors must reflect our values.  Do not preach one thing and do another.  Do what you say you will do.  When you feel like taking the easy way out, you must take the road that leads to consistency with your actions and values.  The simple formula to remember is that:

Integrity = Morals + Behavior + Consistency

How do We Sustain Integrity?

Integrity can be lost as well as found.  There are many examples of people who once were exemplars of shining Integrity but who succumbed to temptations for greed and power.  It takes a great deal of fortitude and courage to maintain a life of Integrity.  I think of people like Jesus Christ who was not tempted by the devil and went to his death for what he preached.  Pilate gave him opportunities to recant but Jesus refused.  Socrates went to his death also after refusing to recant his beliefs.  I would like to share the example of one more recent person of great Integrity.

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“María Santos Gorrostieta Salazar (1976 – 2012) was a Mexican physician and politician of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).  From 2008 to 2011, she served as mayor of Tiquicheo, a small town in the Mexican state of Michoacán.  In spite of three failed assassination attempts during her tenure as mayor, Gorrostieta Salazar continued to be outspoken in the fight against organized crime.  In a fourth attack, Gorrostieta Salazar was kidnapped and assassinated by suspected drug traffickers on 15 November 2012.” – Wikipedia

To this date, there has been no one charged and tried in connection with her murder.  How many people do you know who would stand up to a drug cartel after even one attempt on their lives?  Maria was a physician.  She could have lived a life of relative ease and prosperity simply by ignoring the crimes going on around her.  Instead she stood up for the law and standing up cost Maria her life.  Who is saying her name today?

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Like any skill or talent, you must practice it.  Practice is one means of sustaining Integrity.  Part of practice is an honest self-reflection.  Each day or week you need to ask yourself if you have been a person of Integrity.  What did you do that showed Integrity?  What did you do or say that allowed you to stand up for your values and ethics?  What did you do that was not consistent with your values?  How could you be more consistent with your values and behaviors?

There is a popular meme that says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice!  Practice! Practice!”  There can be no Integrity without practice, action, and reflection.  Stand up for your values and morals and you will be a Person of Integrity.  Every person who can say that they are a Person of Integrity is one more person that will help to change the world for the better.

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”- Bob Marley

 

Silence is Not Golden

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No one gets remembered for what they didn’t say.  If one wants to be remembered either they must do something worth remembering or they must say something worth remembering.  Non-fiction writers either write about something that they believe is worth being done or they write about someone who already did something that they thought was worth being done.

Of course, being remembered should not be the main point of life.  You can have a street named after you, a building named after you, a star named after you or hundreds of other items, but they are all ephemeral.  They will vanish sooner than the wind blows away.  They will melt away faster than butter.  Nothing in the world is really very permanent.  Bricks and bridges age and crumble.  Friends and lovers come and go.  Good deeds will be forgotten when you are gone as will bad deeds.  Life is mercurial, fickle, and impermanent.  Trying to be remembered is an exercise in wishful thinking.

We often try to hold onto life by buying, creating, acquiring, or building things.  The genius creates new theories.  The prodigy leaves people spellbound by their talent.  The entrepreneur designs new products and industries.  The philanthropist gives their money away.  We are all searching for something that will make us feel good about ourselves.  You cannot actually blame anyone since a humans’ life is quite short.

We may someday discover the meaning or purpose of our lives, but I doubt many people will do so before they die.  And even if they did, so what.  Will the world really be better that one man fought the unbeatable fight or reached for the unreachable star or is it only egotistical dreaming on our part?  We want to think that we were born on this earth for a reason.  Not one of us wants to think that we were an accident or that the only thing on our parents’ minds was recreational sex.

Existence is an osmotic process that links the needs of the outside world with our own inner needs, talents, and abilities.  Maturity comes when we stop simply looking outside of ourselves and start searching inside ourselves as well.  The good life is one that balances inside and outside focus.  This is the Yin and Yang of life.  When we find the alchemy that balances these perspectives, we find the true meaning and purpose of our lives.  But it is not etched in stone, and it may change several times before we leave this planet.  Life is always an evolving process.

I started this blog off by extolling the virtue of speaking out.  I believe that an injustice done to anyone is an injustice done to all of us.  Audre Lorde, an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist said:

“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself.  My silences had not protected me.  Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have?”

For much of my life, I have tried to be outspoken against what I perceive as injusticeI often wonder if I do not spout off too much.  One friend told me that “You fight too many battles.”  When I heard this, I thought of the comment by the Russian Anarchist Bakunin that he would stop being unreasonable when the world around him became reasonable.

merlin_2894829Two days ago, I heard a story that is worth being repeated.  The story brought tears to my eyes.  If you have already heard it, I hope you will not mind hearing it again.  I personally would like to hear it being told from every church pulpit, every congressional building, and every auditorium in America.  I would like to hear it being told every day until every person in America could empathize with what this young girl went through.  I would like to hear it being told until every person in this country would finally speak out and say “enough.”

Death of bullied Utah girl draws anger over suicides, racism” by Brady McCombs, 12/2/2021.

Ten-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor was a happy little girl with a sunny disposition who loved life and dreamed of being a professional dancer.  Even though she had autism, life was good for Izzy until this school year when in a new grade she became the target of racism and bullying.  Isabella was the only Black student in the class.  Now if you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs, you will know that 618ff27e9c519.imagethe issues of Meaning and Purpose that I addressed above relate to a certain position in life.  Namely, those of us who are secure enough in our environment that we no longer have to worry about food, shelter, and safety.  This is a luxury that does not pertain to all people.  In particular it did not pertain to Izzy.  She was a girl who because of her skin color and health had to face every day with a battle.  A battle designed by others to destroy her peace and serenity.  A war waged to undermine her very being by belittling, insulting, and abusing her.  Izzy did not have the time to think about the meaning and purpose of her life because she was too busy trying to deal with the very bottom levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Her mom was unaware of the bullying that Izzy was facing until one morning she found Izzy spraying Febreze air freshener on herself before school.  Brittany Tichenor-Cox had been wondering what was wrong with her daughter whose beaming smile had gone dormant after she started the fifth grade.  She coaxed out of Isabella that a boy in her class told her that she stank after their teacher instructed the class that they needed to shower. It was the latest in a series of bullying episodes that targeted Izzy, the only Black student in class.  Other incidents included harassment about her skin color, eyebrows and a beauty mark on her forehead, her mother said.

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On November 6th, 2021, Izzy’s mom came home to find that Izzy had hung herself.  Can you imagine finding one of your children hanging by a belt around their neck in a closet.  Their eyes wide open, their tongue bulging out and their face turned blue.  What would your reaction be?  Her mom blames the school system for doing nothing.  Despite repeated talks and calls to school administrators, the abuse had gone on for months.  Perhaps the school did not think that Black Lives Mattered.  But what about the life of a little girl with autism who wanted to grow up and be a ballet dancer?

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“An ongoing investigation by the Justice Department has uncovered hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets over the last five years in Izzy’s school district against children of color. The probe also found physical assaults, derogatory racial comments, and harsher discipline for students of color.”

Child Suicide Bullying

Brittany Tichenor- Cox, center, joined by her sister Jasmine Rhodes, right, speaks about her daughter Izzy Tichenor, as hundreds joined the Tichenor family in mourning the death of 10-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor during a vigil at Foxboro Hollow Park in North Salt Lake, Utah, on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. Tichenor took her own life on Nov. 6th in connection to being repeatedly bullied at her Davis County school for being Black and autistic, according to her mother Brittany Tichenor. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

I am not alone in being appalled by the school’s reaction or lack of reaction to the abuse against Izzy and other minority children.  Thousands of people have reacted to this story with indignation and a demand that it be investigated.  The concern of so many people is a welcome development in light of the seeming apathy of too many people.  I still cannot believe that nearly 32 percent of possible American voters did not vote in the last election.  Elie Wiesel said that:

“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

What can you do to help overcome racism and indifference to the sufferings of others?  Can you write about it?  Can you join an organization to protest it?  Can you send money to a group that is fighting for the rights of others?  Can you stand up for people when you see that they are being insulted or abused?  Can you call the Utah Attorney General and express your outrage against this abuse that Izzy suffered?  Can you ask your church leader to say something today, tomorrow, and Sunday about the ongoing abuse that minorities suffer every day in this country?

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The more of us that take a stand for Izzy, the sooner this will really be the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”

Utah Attorney General – Protecting Utah. Protecting You.

Office Hours

Monday through Friday

8 am to 5 pm

Email:  uag@agutah.gov

General Office Number:

1-801-366-0260

Q’Anon Theory versus Critical Race Theory:  Who will win?

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In the right corner wearing the red trunks we have Q’Anon Theory.  Enjoying 12 wins and 38 losses, Q’Anon is trying to make a comeback.  In the left corner, wearing the black trunks, we have the opponent, the much misunderstood and maligned challenger Critical Race Theory.  Critical Race f1ec5ba1-d5cc-49e4-a163-f18f9fe04f31_1920x1080Theory (CRT) comes into this match sporting a record of 25 wins and 25 losses.  Both opponents have lost matches to Trickle Down Theory and the Birther Theory.  The winner of this match will face the reigning champion, The Theory of the Big Steal.

This match will be judged by a panel of three judges.  One from the right, one from the left and one dead center.  They will use the “Rules of Scientific Procedures” to judge the match.  The match will be scored on six criteria.  The contestants will receive one point for a victory on each criteria.  In the event of a tie, there will be a sudden death criteria to determine the winner.

The six criteria are:

  1. The_Scientific_Method.svgThe testability of the theory’s major tenets
  2. The predictive power of the theory’s major hypothesis
  3. The theory is empirically based
  4. The theory is concise, coherent, systematic, and broadly applicable
  5. The theory has the ability to explain the aspects of a specific area of inquiry
  6. The theory has the ability to describe the causes of a particular phenomenon
  1. Testability of Theory Tenets:

best-pizza-in-washington-dcA theory may propose various tenets.  That is the theory will assert specific things that belong with the theory.  For instance Q’Anon Theory proposes that a group of Democratic politicians who are pedophiles meet regularly in the basement of a pizza parlor in D.C. to plot nefarious schemes for taking over the world.  One of the major tenets of CRT is the notion that racism is ordinary and not aberrational.  To measure the Q’Anon Theory all we would have to do is find a pizza parlor in D.C. where a number of pedophiliac Democratic politicians meet.  This would be an easy tenet to test since the number of good pizza parlors in D.C. can be counted on one hand.

The tenet from CRT that racism is ordinary and not aberrational seems to me to be more difficult to prove.  Indeed since most White people would say that they are not racist, I do not know how you could prove this tenet.

The judges score it 2-1 for Q’Anon Theory. 

That makes it 1-0 for Q’Anon Theory.

  1. The Predictive Power of the Major Hypothesis:

A key prediction of Q’Anon Theory is that Donald Trump would institute a series of mass arrests to break up the group of pedophiles and send them all to prison before they could destroy the world.  This prediction has not come true yet, but it still remains a powerful possibility given his favored son status among many in America.  No doubt if Trump gets reelected we are going to see a purge of his opponents that makes Stalin look like Mother Teresa.worthpoint.com-1929-PRESS-RE-ENACTMENT-PHOTO

A key prediction of CRT is that by confronting the beliefs and practices that enable racism to persist while simultaneously challenging these practices we will be able to eliminate systemic racism.

My opinion is that Trump will have a good possibility of getting reelected and I am certain that if he does, heads will roll, and it will be the end of democracy as we know it in the USA.  They will continue to call it a democracy but with Trump knighted as President for life and most of his opponents in jail, it will not be the democracy that many people now believe in.  As for the CRT hypothesis, I don’t think that we will ever eliminate personal racism and as long as we have personal racism, we will have systemic racism.

The judges again score it 2-1 for Q’Anon Theory. 

That makes it 2-0 for Q’Anon Theory versus CRT.

      3.  The Theory is Empirically Based:

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A theory that is empirically based is one that is based on facts and data rather than opinions and emotions. There is a lot of emotions on both sides here.  Everyone knows how emotional the right-wing faction of white supremacists are.  This side is full of hate loathing and hostility towards all things not white.  Equally emotional have been the Black Lives Matter protestors who have engaged in numerous protest marches over the deaths of numerous Black males by police officers.  I think the judges will find it hard to give either side a point on this criteria.

Unbelievable, the judges give both sides a point on this one.

That makes the score 3-1 for Q’Anon Theory.

  1. The Theory is Concise, Coherent, Systematic, and Broadly Applicable:

No contest here I am afraid.  CRT theory is anything but concise, coherent, or systematic.  As for broadly applicable, it does apply to most white people, but the world is also full of non-white people.  To illustrate what I am talking about, here is an excerpt from one of the leading textbooks on CRT.

“Our social world, with its rules, practices, and assignments of prestige and power, is not fixed; rather, we construct with it words, stories and silence. But we need not acquiesce in arrangements that are unfair and one-sided.  By writing and speaking against them, we may hope to contribute to a better, fairer world” — Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic “Introduction to Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge. 3rd Edition, 2013”

I read the above several times before I could decipher what they are trying to say.  This is a big problem for the Left since they are too intellectual and academic.  No one can understand what they are talking about.  Now you take the right-wing supporters of Q’Anon, and you have a group that is not hard to understand.  Here are some writings from Q’Anon theorists.

  • donald-trump-make-america-white-againEliminate all communists
  • Eliminate all socialists
  • Eliminate all democrats
  • Eliminate all liberals
  • Eliminate all immigrants
  • Eliminate all non-whites
  • Eliminate all gays
  • Get all women back in the kitchen

What could be easier to understand?  Nothing circuitous or incoherent about these statements.  I am going to have to say that Q’Anon theory has my vote here.  It looks like the judges all agree.

It is unanimous, the judges give Q’Anon a point on this one.

That makes the score 4-1 for Q’Anon Theory.

Well, that’s it folks. Even if CRT took the next two points, it would still be Q’Anon Theory 4 and CRT 3.  The winner is Q’Anon Theory.

Stay tuned for our next match when we will have Senator Rand Paul face off against Dr. Fauci to decide who should get any more Covid shots and if the new Omicron Variant is real or just fake. 

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A Lament for an America that I Believed In

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I sit here looking out my window and wondering what happened to the America that I grew up believing in.  A nation that was founded on the values of truth, justice, and equality.  The land of the free and the home of the brave.  A country dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Today, I look out the window and see a country that bears no resemblance to the place where I thought I lived.

I look out and see rich politicians marching through the streets asking for more and more money to support their never-ending campaigns.  One election is no sooner over, then another one begins.  I give money to one candidate, and I immediately get phone calls, emails, and texts asking me to support fifty more candidates.  I am not worth ten percent of what most of these people want but they act as though I along with other Americans are bottom less pits of money.

abcnl_ahmaudarbery_1635976650478_hpMain_16x9_992I look out and see lawyers with Magna and Summa Cum Laude degrees from Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Brown, and other Ivy League Universities who can fashion legal arguments designed to circumvent and pervert any sane person’s idea of justice.  They have corrupted our Criminal Justice System into a Criminal Injustice System.  The winner in a court room is the one with the most money who can hire the best and brightest lawyers.  An argument by one defense attorney claims that a self-styled vigilante shooting three unarmed people is a tragic case of self-defense.  Another defense lawyer for three murdering racists suggests that the victim in the case was shot because he had come to Satilla Shores “in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.”

st,small,845x845-pad,1000x1000,f8f8f8.u13I look out and see corporate executives who will ignore the danger posed to the environment and climate because they can make more money today than by creating a sustainable system.  I see too many people willing to “shop till they drop.”  A materialistic mentality that supports the greed endemic in Corporate America.  A focus on short-term thinking that drains the earth of the resources it needs for sustainability in order to reap mega-profits today.  The “hell with the future” is the motto of Corporate America.

I look out my window and see a country wherein 74 million people supported a man almost totally devoid of ethics, morality, character, or conscience.  People who knew that this man was defective but instead voted for him either because they were racists, sexists, greedy or selfish.  A country where too many people discriminate against others who are different in race, religion, or gender identification.  People who will vote for someone because he takes vengeance against groups they regard as enemies.  People who will vote for a bully who is a coward and a draft dodger.  People motivated to support the candidate that will promise them lower taxes.  People who demand their rights but ignore their responsibilities.

I look out and see people that claim to be Christians but who call for their political opponents to be killed or assassinated.  People claiming that ethics and character do not matter as long as a leader will support their particular religious beliefs.  People who believe that Jesus came to preach vengeance and retribution rather than love and charity for all.

I look out a window where my views of America and the world are becoming more and more appalling.  Each day brings another senseless mass killing.  Tomorrow brings an even more bizarre crime into my consciousness.  I process some of these visions with friends mainly to check to see if I am going crazy or if my mind is becoming warped.

1623107527880_nn_mal_ca_road_rage_shooting_arrest_210607_1920x1080Is there any meaning to what I am seeing?  Am I just getting too old?  Is my brain incapable of understanding things anymore?  Journalists are murdered because they report the truth.  Innocent people are slaughtered while they watch a Christmas parade.  A pregnant woman is shot eleven times on her doorstep.  Fifty or more people rob a series of stores in what the news calls “mass grab fests.”  A six-year-old child is killed in a car seat by some maniac with road rage.  There is no bottom to the bizarre.  No one can imagine what the next day will bring.  All attempts to discover what is causing these problems or how they can be stopped seem futile.  They are meaningless crimes without rhyme or reason in a world that George Orwell would never have imagined possible.  Up is down, right is wrong, facts and truth do not exist, everything is fake.  There is no sanity.

Interlude:

A friend of mine once told me that you catch more flies with sugar than vinegar.  An old maxim to be sure.  He wanted to advise me that if I expected to get readers, I needed to write positive helpful pieces.  Ideas that would help make people’s lives better.  Ideas that were useful and people could do things about.  I have no disagreement with that bit of wisdom.

CG-Mtn-Trail-SMLThis morning while doing a 4-mile run in the Casa Grande Mountains, I thought a lot about his advice.  I realize that much of what I have said above could be considered a rant.  I would like to think it was somewhat of a catharsis.  Another friend told me yesterday that I sounded like a man in despair.  I resonated with the word despair.  I regard optimism as ideologically unsound given our present world.  Many people have advised me to stay hopeful.  There is a fine line between hopeful and optimism.  I am not sure I can manage the divide.  Despair on the other hand fits my mood just fine.  Despair is defined as: “The complete loss or absence of hope.”

What does my mood do to my readers?  Well, I can always say “Don’t read my stuff, if you don’t like it.”  I don’t get paid to write.  I don’t sell you anything.  I don’t even put commercials up on my site.  On another level, I write for myself and no one else.  I mentioned the word cathartic before.  Writing is one way, I feel alive.  I gain some hope from sharing my ideas with others if only one person writes back and says “Yes, I agree with you.”

Hope springs eternal, right?  But we need some foundation for hope.  Can hope be built on fantasies, unrealistic ideals, and wishful dreams?  How does reality impact our chances for hope?  Can hope exist when reality denies any possibility of hope?  I am not sure I know the answers to these questions.  I think I might have to go on a quest for hope.  In the meantime, I will go back to my window and tell you what else I see as I look out at the world.

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I look out and see a nation which was built on the assumption that checks and balances would protect a new democracy.  The legislature, courts, and executive branches would each provide a check and balance against the unbridled assumption of power by any one sector.  The basis for this assumption was the belief that each branch would have the best interests of the nation at heart and not partisan interests.  This of course was never 100 percent true but never has there been the divide and partisanship that exists in the USA today.

download (1)We have elected people that will support an insurrection against free and fair elections.  The most important element of Democracy.  People that prefer to ignore that on January 6th, we almost had a coup against democracy in America.  On November 17th, we had these same people vote to ignore the censuring of one of their comrades who parodied the killing of an opposition opponent.

The foundations and pillars of Democracy in America are rotten.  Jefferson believed that democracy could not survive without an educated informed citizenry.  Information would come from a free and impartial media while education would come from a system of free and impartial public schools.  The media today are nothing but paid shills for corporations who spend vast amounts of money on advertising designed to get people to stay in debt buying stuff that they don’t need.

81XUsTIXJxLI look out my window and see a public school system that is being dismantled by racists, bigots, elitists, and sexists who do not want the schools to actually teach anything that might be construed as controversial.  Two thousand five hundred years ago, Socrates was executed for trying to teach the children of the Athenian elite to think for themselves.  Schools and educators are still being attacked for trying to teach children to think.  How can our future generations create a better world when they are besieged with information that keeps them in a past that never existed and feeds them myths about the way the world works?

I look out and see people who are more worried about the shortage in Christmas trees and the price of gasoline for their vehicles than about getting a virus shot or the problems of global warming or environmental pollution.  Citizens who sacrifice at the altar of lower taxes while complaining about the rising inflation.  An inflation they blame on a President while they ignore their own cupidity and its relationship to the law of supply and demand.

The End?

Many so-called Christians say the end is near.  Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead.  I don’t believe that anyone is coming to judge anyone else.  I don’t believe that our planet is near its end.  I don’t believe that there will be any kind of a global conflagration.  I do believe that the end of the American Experiment is very near.  We should have a clock for democracy like the doomsday clock.  The doomsday clock is supposed to tell us how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making.  The present time of the doomsday clock is 100 seconds to midnight.  We need a “democracy clock” that would tell us how close we are to losing democracy in the USA.  I would say that we are at one minute to midnight.

74 Million Americans voted for a man who does not believe in democracy.  A man who does not believe in our military, our schools, our courts, our media, or our system of elections.  It would be foolish to think that these 74 million voters believe in any of these systems either.  Thus we have nearly 31% of our electorate who either do not understand democracy or would prefer an oligopoly.  We have 34.2 percent who did not bother to vote.  The remainder or 34.8% voted either Democratic or other party.

51FOE8gFffL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Will the USA survive?  All great empires have eventually declined.  It took 300 years for the Roman Empire to fall after it began its decline.  We are witnessing the decline of the American Empire.  How long will it take to fall is well beyond my ability to foresee.  If history is any indication, it will take many years and the decline will be gradual but punctuated by episodes of tragedy and elation.  The tragedies will far outnumber the elations.  Study any system in decline and you can see the gradual disintegration that accompanies all declines.  It is already clear that our Public Education, Political Systems and Legal Systems are in decline.  Trying to stop the declines is futile.  You cannot stop the decline of an old bridge or an old building.  You must rebuild from the ground up.  Sadly, I see neither the drive nor the desire to do the work that needs to be done to help restore democracy in America.

Organizations Trying to Make a Difference

https://www.demos.org/

Behind the Curtain:  The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy

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https://standtogether.org/

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https://www.raze.org/  RAZE’s mission is to educate, advocate and coordinate in rural communities so they may gain access to civic education, engagement opportunities and voter registration

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CoffeePartyON!
Jeanene Louden
http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/

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My Favorite Superheroes

Well, today it is time for something a little lighter. Violence and education in America seemed like two heavy topics and if you have read those blogs, you have probably had enough philosophy for a while. So today let’s talk about something that most of us can relate to. The topic is Superheroes.  Now depending on which generation you belong to you will no doubt have a different catalog of Superheroes. In fact, when I was a kid, I did not know what a Superhero was.  The term seemed to emerge somewhere in the 60’s when heroes became even more wonderful, awesome, spectacular, powerful and fantastic than any “heroes” who had gone before. But if we go back to perhaps the first heroes; we can find some equally powerful and spectacular men and women.  These first heroes include: Achilles, Athena, Atlanta, Diana, Beowulf, Hercules, Odysseus and Penthesilea. I am not enough of a historian to pretend to know how the ancients viewed these Superheroes or how they actually played a role in their lives. (A disclaimer here!  Many Superheroes are actually Superheroines. History is full of powerful extraordinary women who merit mention and I will try to pay homage to them as well. However, to simplify my writing I am using the term Superhero to include both men and women).   

In my youth (I was born in 1946) most of my heroes were cowboy and cowgirl stars who played in early movies made prior to WWII.  With the advent of TV in the early 50’s, many of these early movies were serialized on TV to provide content for the first stations.  There is no comparison to the elaborate system of content that is available to TV watchers today.  Many older people will remember only two or three channels that went off the air at 10 or so PM.  You could then sit and watch the channel test pattern that would emerge on the screen.  However, just before the test pattern came on, you would have a chance to hear the national anthem. It is difficult to imagine anywhere in the world today where you can’t find a TV program on anytime of the day or night.

This is an example of a test pattern from channel 4 in Dallas, Texas. 

My early heroes included such dashing figures as: The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash Larue, Cisco Kid, Zorro, Flash Gordon and the Phantom.  Some of the early women heroines that went from movie to TV included: Annie Oakley, Dale Evans and Calamity Jane.  Many of my other heroes came from comic books but only a few of them managed to get a TV show. I presume it was because the special effects of the time were not up to depicting the abilities necessary to show them as Superheroes.  Nevertheless, some early era Superheroes did make it to TV during the late fifties and early sixties. These included: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Some of the Superheroes that emerged in comic books during the sixties included: Electra, Thor, Hulk, Daredevil, Fantastic 4, Firestar, Prince Namor, Wolverine, Invisible Woman and Spiderman,(Just to name a few). The Hulk managed to get a TV show in the later 70’s, but the full panoply of Marvel Comic and DC superheroes that was emerging to supplant many earlier and now more boring and mundane heroes would have to await the technology for film making that we now have in the 21st Century. These Superheroes are now being depicted in our movies with a wonderful array of special effects that provide thrilling viewing and almost unimaginable lifelikeness.  Some of you will remember the early George Reeve Superman shows where you could almost see the strings attached to helping make him airborne.  Special effects have come a million miles in the last twenty years.

Surprisingly, it is not the awesomeness or super-abilities of these later Superheroes which I most remember.  It is also not the most powerful Superheroes whom I most admired.  In fact, some of the heroes I most admired were some of the least awesome figures in terms of super natural powers. I admired Hopalong Cassidy because of his sense of humor and his kindness to others. I will never forget the scene where he brings his sidekick and friend Windy (played by Gabby Hayes) a pipe as a gift. I admired the Lone Ranger because he was a stand-up guy who would risk his life in the pursuit of justice. I admired the Phantom because he was always out to help others regardless of color or creed.  No neuroses, no melancholy, no sexual hang ups for my heroes. They did the right thing because they wanted to stand up for freedom and justice.  They put their lives on the line for no gain and without expectation of kudos, medals or even getting the girl at the end. In most cases, there was little sexuality depicted on any of these shows so the best we could expect was the hero might kiss his horse.

Well, of course, heroes and heroines change over the generations and my early heroes are just as unrealistic as the Thing or Captain America or Black Widow.  But what is the point of a Superhero or Superheroine anyway?

“Although we find it true that heroism is in the eye of the beholder, we do acknowledge that people’s beliefs about heroes tend to follow a systematic pattern. After polling a number of people, we discovered that heroes tend to have eight traits, which we call The Great Eight. These traits are smart, strong, resilient, selfless, caring, charismatic, reliable, and inspiring. It’s unusual for a hero to possess all eight of these characteristics, but most heroes have a majority of them.”
(Scott T. Allison & George R. Goethals, “Our Definition of ‘Hero,'” 2011)

We look up to heroes because they provide a larger than life portrait of the kind of people we want to be.  Every one of us has the potential to be a hero and a Superhero is simply a manifestation of the powers we now envision possible to possess.  Wikipedia says the following about the term Superhero:

“A superhero (sometimes rendered super-hero or super hero) is a type of stock character possessing “extraordinary or superhuman powers” and dedicated to protecting the public. Since the debut of the prototypical superhero Superman in 1938, stories of superheroes—ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas—have dominated American comic books and crossed over into other media. The word itself dates to at least 1917. A female superhero is sometimes called a superheroine (also rendered super-heroine or super heroine). “SUPER HEROES” is a trademark co-owned by DC Comics and Marvel Comics.”

However, if we include many of the early historical figures that I mentioned before in my list of Superheroes, we can see that superheroes went back much further than the usage of the term. (I am referring to such figures as Hercules, Achilles etc.) I would argue that each of these earlier Superheroes possessed the “eight traits” of a hero as well as most of the common traits of a Superhero that are described in the Wikipedia article on Superheroes.  (See the Wiki article for a description of these traits.)

Thus, throughout history, men and women have wanted to have role models that were larger than life to look up to and to help guide them in their behavior.  This desire to identify ourselves with those who dedicate their lives to helping others speaks volumes about the innate goodness of humanity.  The next time you feel like the world is not as good as it once was or that you live in a time of trouble and turmoil, think of the heroes and Superheroes that most people want to be like. You can then thank God that most people do not want to be like the villains that our heroes are continually battling.

Ok, time for questions:

Who were your heroes/heroines when you were growing up?  What did you most admire about them?  How did your heroes/heroines change as you aged?  Why did they change?  What do you most want in a hero/heroine today? Do you think children need role models?  Are role models the same as a hero/heroine?  How are they different?  Should we get away from the idea of Superheroes?  Are Superheroes just a Madison Avenue contrivance or do they serve a role in our society?  Who are your favorite Superheroes?  Why?

Life is just beginning.

ON WRITING, MUSIC, CHOREOGRAPHY, THE SEASONS AND LOVE

Allegro

What does writing have to do with making love? Can the changing of the seasons really be compared to an overture? What if on some primal level, we all live by an unseen rhythmic law? This law says that there is fundamentally no difference between making love and writing or between a brilliant piece of choreography and the changing seasons. Does the rhythm of the universe expect a form of symmetry to all of life? A regulated succession of strong and weak elements or of opposite and contrasting conditions becomes the master of all we do. The seasons come and go. The music ebbs and flows. Our love is gentle, passionate, sublime and tired. Mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights fuse with the spring and summer and fall and winter of our lives. The harsh gales of November echo in the overtures of Stravinsky and Beethoven. All things are one say the mystics. Is my writing one with all things? Can I form, norm, storm and perform even with mere words.

Adagio

Far be it for me to confuse philosophy with art. Greater men than I have said that there is a unity to life. We travel down our different paths often blind to the journeys of others who walk side by side with us: This one a carpenter, this one a computer scientist, this one a teacher, this one an artist and this one a hero. If I were a rich man, lord who made the lion and the lamb, would it really spoil your cosmic plan if I were a wealthy man? We are all dust in the wind but our rhythms echo down the halls of time. The most unforgettable and amazing repetitions will resonate as long as humans walk the earth. Coded in the numerous ways we have of capturing the rhythm of our lives: Some dynamic, some peaceful, some violent and some sad. We write our lyrics, pen our verses, create our stanzas and design our choreography all guided by the unseen law of rhythm. Now we are hard, then we are soft. Now we roar and now we snore.

Scherzo

Love is kind, love is considerate, love is not selfish. The waltz was a creation of times when love was more restrained. This torrent of mine was supplanted, extending my being, your challenge. The Tango alternates patterns of space and closeness with syncopated rhythms of violence and passion. Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go. Rock and Roll ushered in a wild abandonment of morality in the face of conspicuous sexuality. The rhythm of music often exhibits striking harmonies with the rhythm of our love lives. Can I be soft and gentle like a warm breeze but also wild and unrestrained like in the movies? What if I made love to the William Tell overture or would Shakira’s lyrics work better:

Baby I would climb the Andes solely
To count the freckles on your body
Never could imagine there were only
Too many ways to love somebody

Is it enough to alternate patterns of tenderness with patterns of inhibition? Shall I open with an allegro, then move into an adagio, followed by a scherzo and conclude with a rondo? Who would expect love to end without a crescendo? Should my love making follow the classical style or should it be more like a jazz piece?

Rondo

Whether goes my writing. I have written this in four parts to reflect my cosmic view of the rhythm of life. We form and norm and storm and then perform. Spring is the opening that brings fresh growth to our world before the bloom of summer. Summer brings the maturity and ripeness of life. Fall brings the storms and winds that signify our frailty and insignificance to the universe. Winter ends our symphony with the closure and solace that our work is done and our day is over. Our life, our work, our art, our thoughts all finished but with a hope to be reborn perhaps by someone who sees a need to continue the rhythms that we have started. Not really finality, but continuations that started before us, and will continue long after our memorials are put up. Perhaps, my headstone will have four verses or stanzas or paragraphs or perhaps like the newest greeting cards, you will be able to press a button on my tombstone and you will see a picture of me singing and dancing to a four part harmony.

Time For Questions:  

Does music teach you anything about writing?  Does music speak to you? Can writing be like a symphony?  How do you hear music?  Does it speak to you like a good poem or a good verse? What is your favorite kind of writing?  Do you ever think that the writing you enjoy could be like music?  What would it take to transform the music in your life into writing or the writing in your life into music?

Life is just beginning

How about writing your eulogy today?

Have you ever written your eulogy? A eulogy is a formal memorial speech delivered when someone dies and usually at their funeral. We have all been to a funeral where we were very moved by the oration that a friend, family member or pastor gave. Most of the time, these were written after the person died. Sometimes they hit the mark and really describe the person and other times not as well. What someone would say about us, might not be what we would want to say ourselves. Unfortunately, there is no coming back after the fact to write our own eulogy. However, you can write one now.

Why would anyone want to write their own eulogy you might ask? Not because you will be better able to tell the truth about yourself; though this would be a pleasant change from the usual glowing eulogies. The answer is because it can help you to see what is most important in your life. It will help you to address the issue of whether you are really working towards what is important. When you are dead and buried will you be remembered for what you were trying to accomplish in life? Perhaps not! But perhaps thinking about what you would like to be remembered for now can help focus you on your goal.

This is a common exercise in many human relations classes. It is very simple. Just imagine that you are at your own funeral. The speaker is up on the podium getting ready to talk about you to the assemblage of friends and families. What would you like that person to say about you? What activities, events, goals and aspirations do you want to be remembered for? Write them all down. You have now written your own eulogy.

Now for the hard part! Looking over your eulogy, how does it sound? Is it realistic? Do you think someone would really say that about you now? Why or why not? What would you have to do to change in your life to make your eulogy real? How much time do you have to change your life around? It is never to late too start!

The Ten Commandments of Capitalism

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People don’t go to church anymore.  They go shopping.  Capitalism is America’s new religion.  A religion is a set of profound beliefs that one hopes will lead to a better life.  The Christian religion has its Ten Commandments which embody some of these beliefs.  No one actually practices these beliefs anymore but that does not stop devout Christians from insisting that their commandments should be enshrined throughout America.  The only problem with this is that these are not the beliefs that people follow today.

I was laying in bed the other night and thinking about how Capitalism has become the real religion of Americans.  I suddenly realized that there was no explicit set of rules, precepts, or commandments that the faithful should follow.  There are many implicit or implied rules.  The implicit rules of Capitalism are somewhat obvious even if they are not etched on two tablets.

I have decided to take these implicit commandments believed by most Americans and make them more obvious.  I recommend that these be put up in bronze or stone or cement in every capital throughout the USA.  Following are my Ten Commandments for Capitalism.

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  1. You can never have enough

As they say, “He who has the most toys wins.”  You can never have enough.  Life is about getting what you deserve.  When you do get it, then you need to get more.  More money, more cars, more jewelry, more land, more clothes, the more you have, the more people will admire you and declare you a success.  Success in America means having more than anyone else.

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  1. Bigger is always better

From hamburgers to houses to car and even people, things in America are getting bigger.  People now own 5,000 square foot homes with three car garages, six bedrooms and four baths even though they only have 1.7 children and a spouse.  Hamburgers at Burger King weigh about ½ lb. and car engines put out in excess of 500 hp.  Americans are the most obese people in the world.  Capitalism makes everything bigger and fatter.  Hooray for Capitalism.

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  1. Greed is good

Ivan Boesky said it and Americans gave him a standing ovation.  Michael Douglas in the movie “Wall Street” paraphrased Boesky’s speech and exhorted his stockholders:

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.  Greed is right, greed works.  Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.  Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.  And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”  

I could not have said it any better.  The greedier we get, the more we get.  The more we get, the more we want.  The more we want the greedier we get.  It is the American way.  From politicians to business people to lobbyists, to car salespeople to real estate developers, the stated norm is to “maximize profits.”  To hell with the tree huggers and climate change advocates.  Success is predicted on greed.  Greed is human nature.  Greed is not good, it is great.

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  1. Shop till you drop

My half-sister every year gets up at 3 AM on the morning of Black Friday with a map, a schedule of stores, coupons, and snacks.  Like a general, she plots out her strategy, enlists her friends and relatives and launches a preemptive invasion.  Her goal is to get it before anyone else.  “It” does not really matter.  The process is what counts.  Shopping is the sacrament of Capitalism.  You must take your pennies and dollars and put them in the store where you can get the most for your money.  Saving is for fools.  Shop, shop, shop.  Superbowl Sunday is a prime time for shopping since many Americans are glued to their TV sets soaking up ads on what to buy the next time they go shopping.  Go to fashion stores, go to thrift stores, go to malls, go to Walmart, go to flea markets, go to garage sales.  But for heavens sake, shop until you drop.

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  1. Stuff will make you happy

There is only one reason for all that shopping.  It fulfills you.  It puts meaning and purpose in your life.  Without meaning and purpose, life is shallow.  We are all born with a hole in us that must be filled up.  You could fill it with religion, education, or philosophy but you can’t touch these things.  You can touch a new air fryer and you can soak in a new hot tub.  You can call all your Facebook friends on your new I-Phone 98. Nothing is quite as satisfying as stuff at filling the hole in our hearts.  Nothing until the next generation of I-Phones or Air Fryers come out.  But of course, then you can go shopping for the newest and latest and greatest.  You will never be so happy as when you have more stuff than you need.

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  1. Prosperity builds character

Those who believe in the Prosperity Gospel say that the richer you are the better, smarter, and more deserving you are.  God rewards good people with money and bad people get lumps of coal in their stockings not just at Christmas but throughout most of the year.  God wants everyone to be rich.

Being rich is a choice.  Poor people don’t really like money, so they choose to be poor.  They do not want to be  bothered with having to carry tons of cash and credit cards.  Rich people don’t mind carrying all this cash because they have chauffeurs, butlers, and nannies to help with the work.  Many people say that “money is the root of all evil.”  This is a lie spread maliciously by the Internet to deter people from going after the gold.  Jesus said that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven.”  If Jesus was alive today, I think he might be preaching a different message.  Something like, “Forget what I said two thousand years ago, times have changed.  There are few camels left in life and you can always take a taxi if you have enough money.”

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  1. Don’t worry about tomorrow

There is a great song by Van Morrison which goes as follows:

Don’t worry about tomorrow

That ain’t gonna help you none

Don’t worry about tomorrow

That ain’t gonna help you none

You’ve gotta live and take each day as it comes.

A great deal of wisdom is centered around the idea of living one day at a time and not worrying about the future.  Too many people fail to live in the present because they are too worried about what will happen tomorrow.  Doris Day sang the famous song Que Sera Sera,

When I was just a little girl

I asked my mother, what will I be

Will I be pretty

Will I be rich

Here’s what she said to me

… Que sera, sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que sera, sera

What will be, will be

 Capitalism is a system that follows much the same line of reasoning.  Don’t worry about the climate.  Don’t worry about the weather.  Don’t worry about pollution.  Don’t worry about water.  Don’t worry about the environment.  Live for today.  Get whatever you can today.  You might not be alive tomorrow, so why worry?  Remember Alfred E. Neumann from Mad Magazine.  His motto was “What, me worry?”  We need to worry less.  Don’t worry about whether the world will still be there for your kids or grandchildren.  Let them worry about it.

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  1. Nothing is more important than money

If capitalism had a beating heart, instead of “thump, thump, thump,” it would go “money, money, money.”  Love may make the world go round, but money greases the wheels.  Remember the Beatles song “Money?”

Now give me money, (That’s what I want)

That’s what I want

(That’s what I want)

That’s what I want, (That’s what I want), oh, yeah

(That’s what I want)

Money don’t get everything, it’s true

What it don’t get, I can’t use

Now give me money, (That’s what I want)

That’s what I want.

 I propose that more people think about money than anything else in the world, including sex.  To test my theory, I typed in “Sex” on Google.  Then I typed in “Money.”  Following are my results:

Sex:  10,590,000,000         

Money:  11,920,000,000

Money received 1.33 billion more hits than sex.  This result shows what the real priorities of most people are.  First it is money, then it is sex.

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  1. Never let anyone get in your way

 Let’s be real.  Nice guys and good women finish last.  If you want to get ahead in business, you must be ruthless.  You must be cut throat.  You must play ethical roulette (a business version of Russian roulette).  Machiavelli and Sun Tzu were too soft.  Read the “Mafia’s Guide to Getting Ahead.”  You must have no morals or ethics or qualms about being the bad guy.  Never do anything illegal or at least get caught doing anything illegal.  There is plenty of room for amoral activities that skirt the line between legal and illegal.  If in doubt, call a lawyer.

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 10.  Put some money aside for a rainy day

By rainy day, I mean a time in your life when you no longer have any friends, loved ones or anyone who cares whether you live or die. You will be on your death bed waiting for Lucifer to take you to your just rewards.  Like Herod, the day will come when you must pay the piper.  It won’t matter how much you have in stocks or your bank account.

The devil won’t have a signed contract for your soul but he will not need it.  You will have bought and paid for your place in hell many times over.  Every dollar, every ruble, every peso, every euro, every yen you coveted will have helped you to earn your place in hell.  Your funeral marker on earth may say some nice things about you but down in hell, you will be one of many who sold their soul to the highest bidder.

Jesus wisely said “What doth it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffer the loss of his own soul?”  Profoundly put, but alas seldom followed.

After Thoughts:

When I came home recently from a vacation to Europe, I had 5,865 spam messages in my promotions email folder on Gmail.  That equals 217 junk emails per day.  Never before in history, has so much been marketed and sold to people under the assumption that the marketplace is a dispenser of happiness.  I have written a five-part series on the evils of Corporate Capitalism, and I have written many posts about the dangers facing our civilization today from the excess of greed and profiteering which infest and assail too many cultures and societies all over the world.

My spouse Karen felt that many of the things that I was saying in this blog were too harsh.  If you felt this way when you read my blog, consider that 162 golf course owners in Phoenix did not want to accept a recent recommendation for a 3.1 percent cut in water usage.  (Some Arizona golf courses are pushing back against the state’s plan to reduce water use)  They proposed a counter recommendation for a 1.6 percent cut.  This on the heels of an unprecedented drop in the water feeding much of the Southwest from Lake Mead and a record drought with significant increases in heat.  What have we come to when water for golf courses is more important than water for crops and drinking?

In Wisconsin, where I live during the summer, the residents have been fighting the siting of a CAFO for the feeding of 26,000 hogs.  The operators of the “Concentrated Animal Feed Operation” do not care about the water, trees, odors, property values, soil, bacteria, or any other repercussions for their operation.  They are only concerned about the ability to make a profit.

The local residents have been fighting this potential development for nearly three years now.  It is big money against the little farmer and little land owner who object to the spoilage of their land, water, and lifestyle.  The property owners in Barron, Burnette and Polk County Wisconsin are fighting not only corporate money and greed but also elected politicians.  Politicians at both the local level and state level, many who support the development of “free enterprise” regardless of the externalities caused by the business operation.

Everywhere I turn, I see greed, waste, and short-term thinking based on profitability guiding human decisions.  The sad part is that Corporate Capitalism has become a religion.  And whereas faith in the old religions has waned dramatically in the past fifty years, faith in Capitalism to save us from hell has only grown.  Like some sort of communicable disease, the belief that Capitalism will provide a heaven on earth has become almost indisputable among a large majority of Americans.  I think the time is long past for soft pedaling the dangers of Capitalism.  I only hope that it is not too late.

 

Legislating Balanced Perspectives in Education  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mom:  What did your teacher say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends and Friendship: Part 2:

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

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

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

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

1. Disagree respectfully:

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

2. Overcome anger:

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

3. Share common interests:

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

4. Help each other when in need:

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

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

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

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

6. Care about each other:

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

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

7. Occasionally reach out to each other:

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

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

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

8. Apologize when you hurt the other person:

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

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

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

9. Kidding or joking with each other:

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

10. Trust your friends:

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

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

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

Time for Questions:

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

Life is just beginning.

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