The 2nd of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Pleasure without Conscience.

A number of years ago when I first started graduate school, I was talking to a professor who had just purchased a brand new yacht.  This was nearly 30 years ago and I was pretty judgmental (I am hoping I am somewhat less judgmental today). I remember saying to him exactly what was on my mind:  “Don’t you feel guilty with all of the poverty and problems we are facing in this world, to spend your money on such an extravagant purchase?”  To this day (Perhaps, my continued naiveté) I remain both shocked and amazed at his reply.  “John, if I can afford it, I deserve it.”  I was shocked because it seemed so insensitive to the world’s problems and I was amazed because I had expected that someone who had earned a Ph.D. would have had a more reflective and thoughtful reply.  Instead, he simply parroted back to me what I had labeled as the “Protestant Ethic.”  According to Wikipedia:

“The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes hard work, frugality and prosperity as a display of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith. The phrase was initially coined in 1904 by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Somewhere in the course of the development of American Capitalism, guilt or perhaps conscience was replaced by the moral certainty that if you only work hard enough, you can spend your money as frivolously as you want to.  At least, this was the interpretation I drew and continue to draw from my understanding of the Protestant Work Ethic.  In some sense, I can understand this idea.  If you work hard, why should you not be able to harvest the fruits of your labor?  Why should you be expected to share with those who are less fortunate?  After all, how many of the “less” fortunate are “less” because of their own laziness, stupidity, inertia or lack of ambition?  Should I have to pay more taxes to support people who don’t want to work or whose entire goal in life is to eat their way to obesity, drink their way to liver failure or drug their minds to an out of this world zombie state?  Why should I have to put up with the lack of ethics that it would appear so many of the indigent and poor in this world have?  A study in England in 2009 found that:

Four out of five people see nothing wrong with stealing from their workplace – while more than half think it acceptable for a care giver to persuade an elderly person to rewrite their will, according to a new study.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1211629/How-80-think-OK-steal-work-study-reveals-wavering-moral-compass.html#ixzz2RU850BbL

In some sense, the Protestant Ethic is a direct refutation of the morals that I had been given in my early Catholic school training. Perhaps, that is why Catholics and Protestants did not get along in years gone by.  I remember every lunch break being told by one of the nuns or sisters at my Catholic school to be sure to “clean my plate.”  When queried why this was so important I always received the same reply “Because of the starving kids in India.”  Somehow, I was expected to feel guilty for these starving children in some far away country who did not have enough food to eat.  Was it my fault that they did not have enough to eat?  However, it was okay if I cleaned my plate and did not leave any scraps.  Kind of reminds me of when I go to a Chinese Buffet and it says on the sign posted:  “Please do not take more than you can eat.”  I weight 147 lbs. and scrupulously (well, sometimes) obey this admonition.  I watch the 400 lb. plus people with plates that are stacked higher than the Eiffel Tower and I wonder if they saw the sign or is it simply that they are on a diet?  See, there I go again, being judgmental.

Well, here it is nearly 30 years later and the question I posed to my professor colleague still seems quite legitimate to me.  When is it okay to indulge?  When can I binge? When is it permissible to go buy my brand new Ferrari or brand new yacht?  What would Sister Evangeline say if she knew I was spending $350,000 dollars or more to purchase a new boat that I might only use two or three times per year?  What would Martin Luther say?  I can imagine Luther saying: “Well, John, don’t worry about it. You are supporting the economy. Every boat you buy is a job for some boat builder in India or Pakistan or some other place where the kids don’t have enough to eat.”  “Thank You Martin Luther, now I don’t feel so guilty.”  Hooray for the Protestant Work Ethic!

Here is what the Gandhi Institute has to say about this issue:

Pleasure Without Conscience: This is connected to wealth without work. People find imaginative and dangerous ways of bringing excitement to their otherwise dull lives. Their search for pleasure and excitement often ends up costing society very heavily. Taking drugs and playing dangerous games cause avoidable health problems that cost the world hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and indirect health care facilities. Many of these problems are self-induced or ailments caused by careless attitudes. The United States spends more than $250 billion on leisure activities while 25 million children die each year because of hunger, malnutrition, and lack of medical facilities. Irresponsible and unconscionable acts of sexual pleasure and indulgence also cost the people and the country very heavily. Not only do young people lose their childhood but innocent babies are brought into the world and often left to the care of the society. The emotional, financial, and moral price is heavy on everyone. Gandhi believed pleasure must come from within the soul and excitement from serving the needy, from caring for the family, the children, and relatives. Building sound human relationships can be an exciting and adventurous activity. Unfortunately, we ignore the spiritual pleasures of life and indulge in the physical pleasures which are “pleasure without conscience.”

Fromhttp://www.rabbitadvocacy.com/gandhi_teachings.htm

A person I really admire is the teacher and prophet OSHO.  OSHO also believes that all the violence in the world comes from the need people have to address the boredom and meaninglessness in their daily lives. People who are bored and who feel that their lives have no meaning turn to violence and or drugs in an effort to fill their lives with something that excites them or makes them feel alive. The problem with such stimulation is that it never really fills the void and as with any panacea it is only temporary. The void returns and the need to find new or greater stimulation also returns.  The cycle is not broken by the search for outside stimulation since the only real meaning of our lives must come from within.  No matter how great the wealth we achieve, no matter how many titles we accrue, no matter how famous we become and no matter how many people want our autographs, this kind of stimulation can never fill the void that we have if we do not find real meaning for our existence.

Let us pose the central issue here (Pleasure without Conscience) in the form of series of questions. Each question puts a slightly different slant on the issue:  Here are some ways to reflect on the issue:

  • How much pleasure is it okay to feel before I feel guilty?
  • If I am enjoying my life, should I feel guilty?
  • Do I have to feel guilty if I am feeling great pleasure?
  • Does a sense of conscience have anything to do with my personal pleasure?
  • Do I need to tie the concept of pleasure in with conscience?

Depending on which way we posit the question we will come up with different answers.  Try the exercise yourself and see what you find as your personal answers. For me, I would answer some of these questions in the negative and some in the positive. Nevertheless, such a pedantic method of addressing the issue actually ignores what I think Gandhi was really getting at.  I don’t think this is an issue of us not enjoying our lives or not finding pleasure but it is more of what I have come to think of as a “Happy Days” issue. Do you remember the sitcom that ran from the mid-seventies to mid-eighties?  It featured Ron Howard as a too good to be true teenager and Henry Winkler as a thuggish type of Greaser.   The term “Happy Days” was associated with how many Americans felt about the period of time between the end of the Korean War and the beginning of the Vietnam War.  Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, I Love Lucy and the Mickey Mouse Club show were only a few of the sitcoms to depict a happy America where all was right with the world and Americans knew only bliss and prosperity.

Those “Happy Days” for middle class White male Americans were not so happy for the rest of the world never mind the many groups and constituencies in the USA who were denied rights, served excessive prison terms, could not find employment and were often subject to abuse and/or lynching. I refer here to minority groups and women in the USA during our “Happy Days” period.  One could argue that either stupidity or a lack of conscience was a prerequisite for putting on “Happy Days” blinders. Kind of like those folks who miss the “Good Old Days” down south.  Those nostalgic summer days when the happy slaves would sing and dance all day long in the cotton fields.  At the end of the day, they would trudge happily home to their cozy cabins to sit by the fire-place and eat their fill of watermelon, sweet potato pie and Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Before going to bed, the young slaves would all have cute stories read to them by Uncle Remus.  Stories that would prepare the young slaves to get ahead in a world dominated by discrimination and non-citizenship.  No doubt migrant workers, women and many other minorities would have their own version of the “Happy Days” fantasy that dominated American Psyche for so long. In fact, there are many Americans who still believe in the “Happy Days” fantasy.

The point I am getting at is that no matter how you look at it, it is immoral and unethical to divorce Pleasure from Conscience.  To do so, is to be guilty of at best a form of benign neglect and at worst, a criminal conspiracy to keep other people degraded and denied the same opportunities as we might have.  Christians should all be familiar with many of Jesus’s teachings on this subject:

  • “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  Mark 10:25
  •  “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”   Mark 10:21
  •  “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”  Matthew 16:26

Clearly anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ could not put profit or pleasure above conscience. Jesus was all about helping others even at the expense of his own life.  His entire mission was to help those who were poor, sick or downtrodden.  Is there anyone who could do this without a conscience?  Perhaps we have focused too much in the past few decades on success and getting ahead.  This intense focus may have allowed many of us to put our consciences aside with the result that they seem to have atrophied or in many cases disappeared.  Too many people now measure success by how much money they have made and not how many people they have helped. Perhaps it is time we start focusing on conscience again.  Pleasure without conscience is simply hedonism.

Ok, time for questions:

What pleasures do you have that you may sacrifice your conscience for?  Do you think it is possible to have both conscience and pleasure?  What does it mean to have an “ethical” conscience?  Can we have too much conscience?  Do you think people should have more pleasure or more conscience?  Why?  What about yourself? Where do you fall on this issue?

Life is just beginning.

I wrote this blog more than four years ago.  Many have read it during the past few years.  With hindsight, I can see that we have gone further down the path.  Our political systems are rife with a lack of conscience.  Furthermore, this lack of conscience is justified by a “Prosperity Gospel” which preaches that:  financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. 

In other words, that God rewards increases in faith with increases in health and/or wealth.  Thus, if you are wealthy, you are a “true believer”, anointed by God and deserving of your wealth.  The poor and sick are not true believers and thus are deserving of their fate and little or no sympathy or help.

Too many of us have given up on conscience and have become more and more Amoral.  We don’t care what we do or the consequences of our actions as long as they are “legal.”  Unfortunately, the law has never been a good barometer for ethics and morality.  The law has too frequently been usurped by the rich and powerful to promote their own self interests.   A history of the Supreme Court decisions in the USA would show this truth as would the Nazi Laws in Germany during the 30’s or the slavery and apartheid laws that existed throughout history in many parts of the world.   Law does not make right.  It never did and it never will.

Are Americans Brainwashed?

Eshtebahi

What does it mean to be brainwashed?  When I was growing up in the days of the Cold War and the specter of nuclear disaster, the term brainwashed was associated with Communism.  We all knew that anyone who believed in Communism had been “brainwashed” by Stalin and his minions.  Brainwashed people could not think for themselves.  To be brainwashed, meant to be a mindless zombie.  People who are brainwashed have undying fealty to an impossible dream. Communists want a system where everyone shares equally in the production of society.  Communists will fight and die for this dream.

“Communism, my friend, is more than Marxism, just as Catholicism is more than the Roman Curia. There is a mystique as well as a politick. Catholics and Communists have committed great crimes, but at least they have not stood aside, like an established society, and been indifferent. I would rather have blood on my hands than water like Pilate.” – Graham Greene

brainwashingAs Americans, we pride ourselves on being the exact opposite of Communists.  In America, we have a democracy.  To live in a democracy, means that you are “free” to think for yourself.  No one living in a democracy can possibly be brainwashed.  In America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave” you will only find people who believe in the truth.  The truth is that democracy is the holy grail of political systems.  It supports everything that is good about life.  In a democracy, all men and women are created equal.  In a democracy, everyone can succeed if they only have the right desire.  Americans will fight and die for this dream.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  –  The Declaration of Independence 

It never occurred to me that Americans could be brainwashed until I started teaching MBA students both at St. Thomas College and Metro State University in Minnesota.  Enrollment in MBA programs soared during the nineties as more and more students gravitated to business occupations and away from such occupations as teaching and social work.  Many of my students had obtained non-business undergraduate degrees and become tired of the lack of money associated with such career fields.  With an MBA degree, you could easily make three or four times per year what you could with a Masters degree in Education.

I really enjoyed teaching in the business field because my students were smart, motivated and challenging.  Most of them had been working for several years and brought considerable life experience to their classes.  Very few of my students had simply finished an undergraduate program right out of high school and then gone on to get an MBA degree.

Since I had spent many years as a management consultant, I brought industry experience to my classes.  I had learned along the way that critical thinking and the ability to question the status quo were essential to continuous improvement and systems change.  I tried to incorporate these insights into my curriculum and classroom instruction.  I soon found that this task was easier said then done.

An eye opener for me was when I tried to use the documentary film called: “The Corporation (2003)” in some of my business ethics classes.  The Corporation is a Canadian documentary film critical of the modern-day corporation.  It was directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and written by Joel Bakan.  The film has numerous examples of corporate behavior that walk a fine line between criminal and immoral behavior.  The film shows that many of the behaviors of modern corporations are immoral although not illegal.  However, there are numerous examples in the paper every day wherein executives and corporate leaders have crossed the line.

“Again and again we have the problem that whether you obey the law or not is a matter of whether it’s cost effective. If the chance of getting caught and the penalties are less than it costs to comply, people think of it as just a business decision.” – Robert Monks.

Much to my surprise, many of my students did not see anything wrong with such immoral behavior.  Their standards were set on what was expedient and legal rather than what was moral and ethical.  Repeatedly, I found that modern business students believe in an amoral system of ethics rather than a moral system.  In an amoral system, right and wrong is defined by what works and what does not work.  If you are within the law, you may conduct your business with little concern for the residual effects on either society or citizens.  The first law of business trumps all other concerns.  That law is to make a profit.

No amount of persuasion or argument could sway my students from their steadfast believe in the value of capitalism and its sanctity as an economic system.  Students were not persuaded by the iniquities in the system, by the inherent racism in the system, by the inherent sexism in the system or by the unequal distribution of wealth in a system that has become increasingly dysfunctional.

What we should admit to begin with, if we can, is that good socialism is better than bad capitalism. The logic of the statement is really inescapable. It is only when capitalism fails that people and nations resort to alternative forms of political economy.”  – Jude Wanniski

How can anyone as bright and experienced as these MBA students not see the obvious flaws in America’s belief system?  An excellent book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) by Thomas Kuhn talks about the nature of scientific and paradigmatic change.  Kuhn found that even scientists could not see the truth behind a new theory because their old paradigms blinded them to the new reality.

In the same way, it has been gospel for many years now that America is an “exceptional” nation.  Americans are smarter, tougher, harder workers, more courageous, more creative and more ambitious then workers from any other country in the world.  Since it is believed that America is built on Capitalism and Democracy, these two ideologies have become sacred tenets of American life.  To cast doubt or aspersions on the value and efficacy of these systems is to suggest that America and hence Americans are not exceptional.  Trying to talk students into seeing the flaws in either of these systems is about as effective as asking them to describe a Martian.  If you have no foundation for seeing a new reality, you can only describe familiar objects in your current reality.

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Business students today are not critical thinkers nor or they creative thinkers when it comes to politics or economics.  Most of them have been brainwashed.  When I use this term, I mean it to signify someone who cannot think out of a box of concepts that has become their dominant world view.  Just as I suppose a die hard Communist would find compelling reasons to defend communism, die hard Americans can always find compelling reasons to defend America.  A brainwashed person cannot see another reality or even begin to envision what might be wrong with their weltanschauung.

“This is what economics now does. It tells the young and susceptible (and also the old and vulnerable) that economic life has no content of power and politics because the firm is safely subordinate to the market and the state and for this reason it is safely at the command of the consumer and citizen. Such an economics is not neutral. It is the influential and invaluable ally of those whose exercise of power depends on an acquiescent public.”  John K. Galbraith, (Power and the Useful Economist, 1973)

american flag of exceptionalisn

So, what am I getting at?  What is my point?  To find it, we need to return to the thesis of this article:  Are Americans brainwashed?  If we define what it means to be brainwashed as: “One who persists in the belief of something despite apparent evidence and facts to the contrary,” then I would suggest that the evidence points beyond a doubt to the fact that Americans are some of the most brainwashed people on the face of the earth.  It has little to do with experience in business, innate intelligence or amount of degrees accumulated.

malcomxron paul

A red herring in our acceptance of my conclusion is the common belief that brainwashing is forced.  Too often, we have the picture of an individual strapped to a chair being made to listen to propaganda or watch propaganda films.  The fact of the matter is that brainwashing can be covert and subdued.  I suggest another picture for brainwashing that is just as effective as “forced” brainwashing.  Picture the average American watching four or five hours or television every day.

Television Statistics.  According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.

During the average day, an American will have seen or heard between 300-700 marketing messages per day, including messages from the Internet and video gaming. – (Source: Phil Barden, “Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy”, 2013).  Much of the research on the role that advertising plays in consumer purchases suggests that it is mostly informative rather than persuasive.  In other words, it appears that consumers use the information to choose between products but are not necessarily persuaded by the advertising to buy any particular product.

dont-think

As a business instructor and former retail store manager, I am skeptical of the consumer research.  My firsthand experience in regard to the power of these marketing messages does not agree with the research findings.  Students and customers will repeatedly deny that advertising messages play any overt role in their purchasing decisions.  However, any observation of the buying habits of Americans will easily demonstrate a disconnect between what people spend their money on and rational economic sense.

Furthermore, when we look for the messages that “brainwash” many Americans we must look beyond Madison Avenue.  We have a cornucopia of messages bombarding Americans every day that serve to instill mythical beliefs in American exceptionalism, American patriotism, American heroism and American capitalism.  Let us look briefly at some of the beliefs that I noted earlier.

Americans are the hardest working people in the world:

The U.S. ranks 17 out of 38 countries in terms of average hours worked each year, according to the OECD, while Mexico, where labor laws cap the work week at 48 hours, ranks no. 1.  Workers in Costa Rica and South Korea work the second and third longest hours, respectively – Sept 2, 2016

Americans are the most creative and innovative people in the world:

In this area Americans do rank exceptionally high.  The Martin Prosperity Institute ranks 82 countries on a scale for creativity based on technology, talent and tolerance for new ideas.   Overall, America ranks second behind Sweden.  Note however that we are not number one in any category.

  1. Theodore-Roosevelt-PatriotismUNITED STATES

Technology Rank: 3

Talent Rank: 8

Tolerance Rank: 8

Global Creativity Index: 0.902

Americans are the toughest people in the world:

This is a very ambiguous category and an allegation that is difficult to attack or defend.  How do we define tough?  Is our military the most powerful in the world?  The answer would be yes.  Are our athletes the best in the world?  An all-time medal table for all Olympic Games from 1896 to 2016, including Summer Olympic GamesWinter Olympic Games, and a combined total of both shows that America has clearly dominated the Olympic games.  The top three countries in medal totals are:

America:  Total Medals:  2,804

Russia:  Total Medals – 1,204

Great Britain:  Total Medals – 875

American-exceptionalism

But if we define tough as a measure of resilience to strife and turmoil, we find that Americans are not in first place.  The FM Global Resilience Index ranks and scores countries across nine factors, illuminating their supply chain resilience and resilience in general.  Across political risk, exposure to natural hazards, and infrastructure quality, the index quantifies a nation’s ability to withstand a disruption and bounce back, so products can get to where they need to go.

“The latest version of the ranking, which comes from a Rhode Island-based insurance company, has Switzerland in first place, followed by Norway, with Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the central United States, Canada, Australia, and Denmark counting out the top 10 places.” – Fast Company 

Conclusions:

If Americans belief in the above ideas is false but we continue as a nation to keep repeating them ad nausea, does that mean we are brainwashed?  Or are we simply delusional?  I submit that the causality behind these beliefs is less important than the arrogance and hubris that they demonstrate to the rest of the world.  How can we expect to be respected and admired when we waltz around treating the rest of the world as though they are second class citizens?

“This unchallenged faith in American exceptionalism makes it harder for Americans to understand why others are less enthusiastic about U.S. dominance, often alarmed by U.S. policies, and frequently irritated by what they see as U.S. hypocrisy, whether the subject is possession of nuclear weapons, conformity with international law, or America’s tendency to condemn the conduct of others while ignoring its own failings. Ironically, U.S. foreign policy would probably be more effective if Americans were less convinced of their own unique virtues and less eager to proclaim them.” – Foreign Affairs: The Myth of American Exceptionalism, Stephen M. Walt, 2011

Time for Questions:

Do you think many Americans are brainwashed?  Why or why not?  Do you think there are many beliefs that we as Americans hold that are false?  If so, where do you think they come from?  What do we need to do to see the truth?  How do we overcome mythologies that are constantly reinforced by special interest groups?

Life is just beginning.

The conservative version of American exceptionalism has become a password of sorts for candidates who want to prove their credentials to a right-wing America.” – Russ Feingold

 

Bully in Chief and Liar in Chief!

‘He is a bully’: Gillibrand hits back at Trump over demeaning tweet

Senator Gillibrand

Trump is not only THE Bully in Chief, he also is THE Liar in Chief. I am still waiting for one journalist to be honest and call this guy a Liar.  At least Senator Gillibrand has the guts to label this lowlife for what he really is. We have a President with NO integrity and a Senate full of politicians with not much more integrity. Do you think this poor excuse for a human being would still be president if even 1/4 of the Senate had the guts to speak out and call him for what he really is?  He no more deserves to be president than Benedict Arnold.  Time for more calls to impeach him.  Time for more Americans to speak out.  Let the waves of indignation and moral outrage roll down and sweep him out of office.

No bigger mistake has been made in the history of this country than the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States of America.

Time for Questions:

When will we impeach this lowlife?  What about the people who helped to put him into office?  Have they any regrets?  Are you speaking out?  If not, when will you add your voice to the chorus of people who have the courage and integrity to speak their piece?

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Life is just beginning.

Trump is not the end but the beginning.  We are going to see more rights for people in the world, more justice, more compassion, more of what will make American’s proud just as soon as we dump trump.

 

 

 

Republicanville USA — 2056 CE

freedom-is-slavery

I live in Republicanville USA.  It is a small town of about 1,500 people in the rural Midwest.  Today in my town, all the women are barefoot and pregnant and all the men are stupid and misinformed.  It wasn’t always this way.  Things started to change about 75 years ago, when Ronald Reagan became President.  My town had always been very progressive and liberal but we started hearing more and more about how we were being taken advantage of by the poor, those on government handouts and those too lazy to work.  The Republicans who in our town had always been a minority began to grow in numbers.  The more we heard about welfare cheats and welfare freeloaders and those on drugs taking advantage of us, the more my town embraced a new concept of democracy.  It was more like “every man or woman for themselves” rather than “all for one and one for all.”

obey-jesus-or-perish

Our U.S. democracy which had always prided itself on a separation of church and state seemed to forget the reason for this partition.  Increasingly, a group called Evangelical Fundamentalists became more popular along with their criticism of many progressive institutions.  Republicanville USA moved more and more to the right.  The concept of unbridled capitalism became enshrined as a religion and many people began opposing “big” government and taxes.  The Republican Party preached that the marketplace could provide for all social, physical and economic needs of U.S. citizens.  My town moved even further to the right.

trump-state-of-the-unionThis conservative trend was already well underway when in 2017, a billionaire real-estate developer named Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.  In addition to the hard core conservative beliefs of many mainstream Republicans, Trump added the once discredited idea of American Isolationism.  We would now put America first, no matter what.  No more negotiations with other nations unless it was clear that we got the better of the deal.  We would build a big wall to keep Mexicans and other immigrants out and we would renege on our trade deals with China and Europe.  About the only country that Trump liked was Russia.   Eventually, he agreed to give Alaska and parts of Canada back to Russia.

Trump came through on his promises to the Evangelicals that he would make America White again and put women back in the bedroom where it would be okay to grab their pussies whenever you wanted to.  Minorities were targeted for deportation and women libbers promoting abortion or equal rights for women were arrested in wholesale sweeps and sent to special detention centers for chronic complainers and protesters.

I would like to describe in somewhat more detail what my town is like now in 2056.  Things are a lot different than when I was born in 2017.  I will divide my discussion of these changes into three areas:  Family, Education and Social Issues.

Family:

another-day-in-paradiseI am 39 years old and have two children.  I have never worked (at least outside of the home) as women have not been allowed to work since 2022 when they passed the “Women in the Home Law” as it was popularly called.  The Federal government passed the law and it was ratified by every state and municipality in the nation.  Some places tried to hold out but the government cut off all funding to them until they capitulated.  This law effectively outlawed women working.  It also barred women from the military.  Ten years later (2032) they passed the “Mandatory Birth Act.”  This bill proscribes that every woman (physically able to) must give birth to at least two children.  Any woman who reaches the age of 32 and still has not given birth to two children is forcibly removed to a National Birthing Center where she will be artificially impregnated and kept confined until she has had at least two healthy children.  Sickly or unhealthy children are sent to Disposal Camps where they are “recycled” per official government propaganda.  No one is quite sure what happens during recycling but the children are never seen again.

Many gay women resisted the Mandatory Birth Act and the National Suicide Rate went up dramatically.  The “Fathers” (as our political leaders are now called) made it very clear that the country would be better off without such deviates.  Since women were no longer allowed in politics, the leaders of the nation decreed that they would all be called “Fathers” instead of being referred to as politicians or legislators as they once were called.

My husband works at a local mill where they make t-shirts for Japan, China, Brazil and some of the more developed t-shirt-workersnations.  Since banning imports of such items, we have created millions of jobs making goods that were once made in low wage countries.  The demand for such goods has skyrocketed but now we are providing them.  Unfortunately, the wages and education needed for such work is still low.  My husband did not finish high school but most men in our town do not.  The Fathers have repeatedly stated that real men don’t need higher education.  (I will talk more about education later.)

When my husband is not working, he spends most of his time watching football, baseball, basketball, golf or hockey.  I ammen-watching-game not allowed in the living room when his sports are on except to bring in some beer or chips.  This does not really bother me much as I have plenty to do with the kids, housecleaning, cooking and all.  I have my own TV in my sewing room where I can watch any of the approved programs for women.  We have 30 different “Women Only” channels where I can learn more about cooking and cleaning and how to be a good wife. There are some good romances and family drama stories that are occasionally on.  I look forward to watching these when the kids are in bed.

Our two children, Mary and John are 12 and 15 respectively.  Mary is in a finishing school for girls where they are preparing her for being a mom and wife.  She takes subjects such as homemaking, cooking, cleaning and parenting.  She has one more year to go before finishing school.

When Mary turns 14, she will be eligible for marriage.  Her name will be put in a marriage registry.  If she is lucky enough and pretty enough, some up and coming town Father will select her for a wife.  Men who qualify due to income levels are allowed to have up to five wives.

woman-vacuum-cleaning

My son John is not in school any longer and he works part-time.  The Fathers decried that girls did not need schooling after the age of 13.  John hopes to get a job in the t-shirt plant where his dad works when he turns 16.  He quit school because we could not afford a private school for him.  Only the rich kids in town go on to education beyond the 10th grade.  Private schools are very expensive and the Fathers do not believe in funding education any more.  It has been emphasized that education is an elitist program that creates class divisions and makes some people feel more entitled than other people.   Most young men in our town will work in one of the mills or plants.

Education:

anti_public_education_propaganda_by_8manderz8-d5xz1cj

I have already talked about some aspects of our education system today.  Basically, most people do not believe in higher education anymore.  It is only for the rich.  All funds for public education were cut in 2035 when they passed the “Private Education Act”.  Most folks now send their kids to private schools through the 8th grade and then find work for their children after that.  Girls will be shortly married so school is not thought to be that important for them anyway.  They can learn whatever they need to be a good wife on the “At Home Wives Channels.”

students-1920-1950-9_jpeg

Boys from families with lower incomes can opt to go to privately funded vocational schools to learn such trades as t-shirt making, sneaker making, jewelry making, gun repair, taxidermy, and many other skills that might be in demand.  There is still some funding for such programs that is available for lower income families.  All public colleges have been closed now.  As I noted earlier, such schools were decried to be elitist and the Fathers were unanimous in un-funding them.

Boys from wealthier families go to the more prestigious private schools where they will learn such skills as: Leadership, Accounting, Business Development, Entrepreneurship and Medicine.  Law was abolished as a field of study in 2030 with the passage of the “No More Lawyers Act.”  This act basically made lawsuits illegal thus dramatically decreasing the need for lawyers in the U.S.

Courtrooms abolished “adversarial” trial procedures with the “No More Lawyers Act” and replaced the old-fashioned method of two people arguing trials with modern Computerized Forensic Tomography.  Using CFT, a cross section of the case and evidence pro and con is presented to the jurors.  All the available facts and data are reviewed and jurors vote on the verdict.  Trials are much more efficient and there is no need for lawyers.

Anti EducationLibraries are now mostly museums.  With the passage of the “Books Only Lie Bill” in 2038, all funds to public libraries were cut.  The Fathers decried that books did nothing but cause trouble and stir up discontent.  Anything citizens really needed to know could be found on the “Citizens Channels” offered by the government Department of Public Wisdom.  There are over 100 of these channels which are available on public TV.  They are on 24/7 and offer many programs for good citizenship.  Some of the programs are:

  • Disciplining your children
  • How to take proper care of your guns
  • Disciplining your wife
  • Obeying your supervisor
  • Getting along with co-workers
  • Obeying authority
  • Keeping a clean house

Social Issues:

Social issues or problems (as some people thought of them) have been mostly eliminated in our town.  Our Fathers banned minorities in 2040 with the “America for Whites Act.”  Under this act, no immigrants or people of color can live in the same community as White people.  In 2041, they passed the “Christian Only Act” making Christianity the official Religion of the USA.  All other religions were banned along with atheism and agnosticism.  The “Mandatory Religion Act” in 2042 made it a felony crime not to attend a Christian church every Sunday.

In our town, there is only one church now.  It the Fundamental Evangelical Christian Church for Christ.  We have two pastors who are both well versed in Old Testament theology.  They are fond of saying that “Heaven is for the obedient, the disobedient will all go to hell.”  We are taught that Jesus will come again before the end of the century to judge the living and the dead.  The good folks will go to heaven and the bad will burn forever in the flames of hell.

We still have crime in our community but not very much.  It is severely punished with public floggings, beatings and hangings.  Criminals are banished to work rehabilitation camps for hard labor.  Drugs are still a major problem but the new “One Strike Act” passed in 2050 decried that anyone caught with an illegal substance would face a mandatory life sentence at a penal colony somewhere in the South China Sea.

immigration-reform

Gay men still can be found but homosexuality can be punished under the “2045 Purity of Purpose Bill” with mandatory castration.  Boys are encouraged to be manly and any evidence of femininity in our boys is severely dealt with.  Our town brought back “town stocks” a few years ago, to punish any boys or men caught in homosexual activities.  These punishments plus the threat of castration have decreased the rate of homosexuality considerably in our community.

Well, I could tell you a great deal more about life in our town in 2056, but I have cleaning and cooking to do.  Furthermore, if anyone knew I was writing this I would be in big trouble.  Under the “Against Propaganda Law” passed in 2041, no one may criticize the government, any Fathers or any laws without official authorization from the local town council.  I could be publicly flogged or worse for saying these things.  Thus, for now I will just hide this away.  I don’t mean to be either a coward or a complainer.  Our Fathers say this is the Golden Age of America and that we are living in the greatest Christian country in the world.  Who am I to argue?

Time for Questions:

Are you living the good life?  Do you live the life you dreamed of?  Do you think you have a right to your dreams?  Do you think other people also have a right to their dreams?  How much authority do you think a government should have over your dreams?  What kind of dreams do you have for your children?  What do you call progress?

Life is just beginning.

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal.  He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves.  But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”  ― George OrwellAnimal Farm

Facts, Data, Evidence and the Search for Truth. How do we know what to believe anymore? – Part 1

truth-2I watched several shows the other day in which Trump supporters were interviewed.  People are as curious about his supporters as they are about Trump.  Given the unquestionable fact that Trump is a greedy sexist racist hate monger, why would anyone support him?  The assumed knowledge is that his supporters are a bunch of ignorant losers:  people who are uneducated or at best semi-literate.  However, the data and demographics do not entirely support this conclusion.  Many Trump supporters are intelligent educated and literate people.  These are also people who believe in the United States of America and care about their country.  What then persuades or convinces them that Trump is the right person for the job of POTUS?  His qualifications pose a questionable proposition that would seem to fly in the face of all known facts in the entire universe.  This dilemma strikes at the heart of the matter.  We do not know what to believe any more.  What is a fact?  What is evidence?  What is objective data?  Where can we find facts that are truthful (not really a redundancy)?

I think about my graduate students at the college where I have taught for many years.  These are students who are working on an MBA and are highly literate, highly educated and highly intelligent individuals.   Many of them already hold very well paying jobs and responsible positions in successful companies.   Nevertheless, the challenge that I continually face is to teach them the difference between facts, data, evidence and truth.  Despite their literacy, few of these students understand the difference.  This is a scary situation.  If these highly educated students do not understand the difference between these concepts, how can we expect the many uneducated members of the general public to understand and comprehend the essential elements of truth finding?  I say essential because facts, data and evidence are the three pillars of truth.  If you do not have these, you cannot find the truth.

liesSeveral problems make the issue even more complex.  In academia, we are dealing with a subset of life in which there is much less confusion over the truth since no one is deliberately trying to distort, lie or sell us anything.  There may be stupidity, lack of knowledge and even ignorance by many scientists and professors but the greed motive is much less tangible.  I am not saying it does not exist, but for most of my teaching career, I cannot think of anything I have ever tried to sell to my students and make a profit on.  I can say with some confidence that this is also true of all the instructors whom I have ever known or worked with.  The same situation does not exist outside of academia.  The marketplace is a vicious jungle when it comes to searching for the truth while academia is a tame zoo in comparison.

When we enter the marketplace and even more so in the political arena, the motive to convince us of something relies much less on elucidating the truth than it does on obfuscating the truth in order to sell us something.  Wells Fargo Bank wants you to open a credit account.  They don’t care whether you need it or not.  Volkswagen wants to sell you a car even if they have to hide the truth about pollution levels.  Every politician in America wants you to vote them into office.  They don’t want you to know the real truth about their competition or that they do not have all the answers to the problems facing our country.

Companies and politicians have a vested interest in hiding the truth from you.  Stories like Miracle on 31st Street where Macy’s sent people to Gimbels are few and far between and exist mostly in fantasy.  Similarly, stories about politicians with ethics such as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” have become legendary because they depict a reality that seldom exists.  Most politicians will promise you the moon to get your vote and most companies will not tell you the truth about cigarettes, drugs, food or anything else unless forced to do so by some form of government regulation or mandate.  It does not matter whether it will kill you or not as long as you buy it or elect them.

trump-versus-hillaryFinally, we come to perhaps the biggest ruse of all.  If anyone is searching for the truth, they will eventually enter into the Fourth Estate.  This hallowed ground is defined as:  “A societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized.  Fourth Estate most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or The Press.” (Wiki).   Thomas Jefferson believed that the two pillars of a democratic society were an educated citizenry and a free press.  Mark Twain was somewhat more skeptical about the power of the press and information to inform people when he noted that:  “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”  The truth seeker has been taught since early childhood that in the domain of the Fourth Estate is to be found the truth.  Little do they know the quagmire they have entered into or that the role of truth finding in the Fourth Estate no longer exists.

Today, the major purpose of the news (whether print or digital or video or audio) is to sell.  Sell, sell, sell, sell and sell some more.  Sell junk, sell drugs, sell expensive credit cards, sell stuff and more stuff.  Stuff you don’t need, won’t need and will probably never need.  The job of the media is to convince you that you do need stuff, that you desire stuff and that you cala_verite_par_jules_joseph_lefebvren not possibly live without stuff.

I once thought that journalists were a group to be respected.   This was based on the knowledge that they had often risked their lives and their reputations to bring us the truth.  Today, journalists are little more than pimps for advertisers.  They have sold their souls to the devil, descended into hell and may never come out again.  The measure of a journalist is not how much information they provide to the public but how many advertisements they can sell.  The changing role of journalists has made it even more difficult for people to find the truth.  Nothing in the news is remotely objective or unbiased any more.  Every paper, every station has their spin on things.  The spin is determined by who owns and controls the media.
Take polls for example.  As we go into the final days of the 2016 US presidential election, you can find polls that favor one candidate or the other candidate.  If there are seventy polls, half may favor one candidate and half may favor the other candidate.  There is no truth even in these so called unbiased statistical polls.  Many of my friends have suggested that the news media want the race to be close because this keeps people tuned in.  Much like a sports match, we would rather watch an event that had a pair of evenly matched contestants.  My friends have suggested that the news seems to do its best to insure that first one candidate gets major media attention thus elevating them in the polls and then it switches to the other candidate providing them attention that elevates their poll numbers.  I am not a big conspiracy theorist but this theory does seem to have some merit to it.

78-trump-debate-lies-758x426Regardless of whether the media intentionally want to keep the race close or not, there is no denying that the candidate who is the most obnoxious, the most outrageous and the most sensational will garner the most press.  Trump has been well aware of this and has continually manipulated the media into providing him billions of dollars in free advertising.   The fickle public seems to swing from one candidate to the other depending on who they see in the news.  Trump has undoubtedly benefitted from his ability to keep the press absorbed with his every utterance regardless of how inane they are.  He can tweet at 2AM in the morning and be assured that Fox News will carry his tweet on the 7 AM morning news.

stupid-trump-supportersHow then can we blame the general public, educated or not, of being uninformed or misinformed when most of our society is conspiring against them finding the truth?  It is a trap that I have fallen into when I have railed against the stupid, illiterate and uninformed Trump supporters.  Sadly, they are not to blame for their reliance on Trump to give them the truth.  The have certainly not found it in academia or the Fourth Estate.  I have some solutions to this issue but I do not have the entire answer to it.  I do have part of the answer.  It is quite clear to me that one must understand the difference between facts, data, evidence and the role of these three elements in helping to shape the truth.   In Part 2 of this blog, I will go into the subject of Facts in more depth.  In the following parts, I will cover Data, Evidence and Truth.

Time for Questions:

How do you know what to believe?  Who do you trust to give you unbiased information?  How much do you trust the news?  Are you satisfied with the quality of the information you get from journalists and the news?  What do you think we need to do to improve the quality of information the American public receives?

Life is just beginning.

“There’s a danger in the internet and social media.  The notion that information is enough, that more and more information is enough, that you don’t have to think, you just have to get more information – gets very dangerous.” — Edward de Bono

Towards a Policy of Diplomacy – Not War!

War-and-Diplomacy_3x2I was going to call this blog “how to get along with other countries?”  But the above title seemed more erudite and impressive.    As I start to write this blog, I wonder if anyone has a “policy” of diplomacy.  I will soon Google it to find out but first allow me to say a few words on the subject.  I would like to start out with no preconceived bias on the issue.  Of course, this could also subject you to my gross stupidity.  I may at best reinvent the wheel.

For the past two years, I have been reading the journal Foreign Affairs.  I am and continue to be surprised by what I perceive as the impressive understanding that the writers in this journal have concerning a broad array of subjects.  In each issue you may find articles dealing with war, politics, globalization, economics, environment and many other topics.  The articles often are juxtaposed with dissenting positions and many times there are follow-ups to previous articles with critiques and rebuttals.   The level of scholarship and experience of the typical author is almost always impressive.   If I sound like an advertisement for the journal, I am not ashamed to recommend it.

Reading this journal, I am relieved to find that many other people have seen the stupidity and arrogance that I often see in our foreign policy.  Let me state clearly though, that while the USA is guilty of many sins, I have been to thirty three other countries and I have seen the same stupidity and arrogance in every other country as well.

So on the one hand, it seems there are experts out there who have some really good advice and answers on what or how certain international affairs and problems should or could be handled.  On the other hand, it seems no one listens to the experts and instead foreign policy is based largely on emotions, machismo, avarice and stupidity.  I read recently that in 1928, a pact was passed condemning war as an instrument of foreign policy.

“The Kellogg–Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris, officially General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy was a 1928 international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.” Parties failing to abide by this promise “should be denied of the benefits furnished by this treaty.” It was signed by Germany, France and the United States on August 27, 1928, and by most other nations soon after.”  — Wikipedia

A total of sixty two countries signed the Pact.  In the USA, the Senate approved the pact by a vote of 85-1 with only one dissenting opinion.  Well, something most have been forgotten along the way.  How many wars have we had since 1928?  If my counting is correct, we have had 102 wars in the world since the pact was signed.   The web site Wars and Casualties of the 20th and 21st Centuries lists all the wars and deaths since 1900 throughout the world.

quote-a-congress-of-the-powers-is-deceit-agreed-on-between-diplomats-it-is-the-pen-of-machiavelli-napoleon-bonaparte-212040Thus, what seems like a very good idea (abolishing war as an instrument of foreign policy) is almost totally ignored.  Millions of people have been and still are being killed as the USA and other nations pursue war as an instrument of policy.  In some cases, it is advocated without any deference to reason as an immediate and primary instrument of policy.  First strikes and preemptive attacks are vastly more popular these days as the world deals with a host of international problems.  When Obama’s aide Marie Harf discussed other options than bombing terrorists as a solution to some of the strife in the Mideast she was trounced in the press and by many politicians as dumb and naïve.  However, when the war hawks in the USA Congress or any other nation are quick to cry War, nary a voice can be heard that challenges the sanity or even efficacy of war as an instrument of policy.  The world seems to believe that if we bomb the village, kill all the people and destroy any and all infrastructure, peace can then be resumed and we can all sleep safely and soundly tonight and forevermore.

“A country which proposes to make use of modern war as an instrument of policy must possess a highly centralized, all-powerful executive, hence the absurdity of talking about the defense of democracy by force of arms. A democracy which makes or effectively prepares for modern scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic.”Aldous Huxley

Well, now that you have heard some of my thoughts and opinions on the subject of war and foreign policy, let us see what Google turns up when I type in the phrase “Policy of diplomacy.”  I am going to enter it in brackets so it regards the term as one concept.

Here is the first page from our search:

About 213,000 results (0.38 seconds)

Top of Form

Search Results

A Progressive Foreign Policy—and a Whole Lot of Work …  https://www.americanprogress.org/…/a-pro… Center for American Progress  Oct 28, 2015 – Then as now, CAP supported a policy of diplomacy as the first option for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon—and military force …

Bush Aides Speak of New Policy Of Diplomacy in Central …  www.nytimes.com/…/bush-aides-speak-of-new-policy… The New York Times Nov 20, 1988 – LEAD: Aides to President-elect Bush said today that they were preparing a new strategy for Central America that would place less emphasis on …

Peace – Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations  www.colombiaun…. Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United…  In furtherance of the policy of Diplomacy for Peace, the Colombian government has received expressions of support from the international community and …  Obama’s foreign policy goes from war to diplomacy in State …

http://www.examiner.com/…/obama-s-foreign-policy-goes-from-war-to-diplo…Jan 29, 2014 – 28, 2014; Obama defended the new foreign policy of diplomacy over military might. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak. While the core President …

[PDF]Atomic Bomb: Ultimate Failure of Diplomacy – Library  library.uoregon.edu/ec/e-asia/readb/93s25.pdf  University of Oregon by S Frank – ‎Cited by 1 – ‎Related articles  conceived policy of diplomacy with both Japan and the Soviet Union. Before I present my case, however, it is important to step back and revisit the Anglo-.

Obama: Be War-Weary, Not World-Weary – FPIF  fpif.org/obama-war-weary-world-weary/ Foreign Policy in Focus  Jul 9, 2014 – Pursuing the current policy of diplomacy over intervention, Obama can achieve concrete results in several areas. In the post-Arab Awakening …

WomenCrossDMZ on Twitter: “Congressional briefing for … https://twitter.com/womencrossdmz/status/623392574636748800  Jul 21, 2015 – Congressional briefing for new U.S. foreign policy of diplomacy over war 4 P.M. today, July 21 2015, Washington D.C. pic.twitter.com/ …

The CNN Effect: The Myth of News, Foreign Policy and … https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1134513135 Piers Robinson – 2005 – ‎Performing Arts The administration had been moving toward a new policy of diplomacy that could have used military force, but this hadn’t involved setting up the special …

diplomatic-insecurityLooking at these results, I find that from 1988 in the first Bush administration through the Obama administration there is talk of a “new” policy of diplomacy.  It seems as though both Bush and Obama decided that maybe war was not as good an idea as diplomacy.  However, I do not find a specific written and described “Policy of Diplomacy.”  What is this new diplomacy that they are or have brought to the world?  Just for the sake of semantics, I went back to Google and tried typing in “Policy for Diplomacy.”  Hits went down from 213,000 to 17,800.  I perused several of the links and I still could not find any specific policy either for or of diplomacy.   So let us try to formulate our own policy.  Here are some key policy points that I think should make up such a policy.

  1. Under no circumstances can another nation be attacked or threatened with an attack
  2. Diplomats must be trained in cultural sensitivity, win-win negotiating and the language of the country they are stationed in
  3. Diplomats should be publicly vetted for their ability to respect other cultures
  4. Bilateral diplomatic discussions should always precede multi-lateral discussions
  5. Multi-lateral parties brought in to discuss a problem should be selected by an objective third party or a selected UN committee established for this purpose
  6. Mediation can and should be used as necessary by third party negotiators
  7. Arbitration should follow failed mediation efforts and may be followed by binding arbitration
  8. Disputes with any binding decisions may be appealed to the World Court
  9. Nations refusing to submit to the agreement of the World Court will be fined an amount determined by the court
  10. Economic sanctions may be used to collect fines
  11. All nations signing this policy will be protected by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force

These policy statements seem self-explanatory and are only meant as a start towards an International Policy of Diplomacy.  Some will argue that they are naïve and that is probably true.  It is undoubtedly “optimistic” to presume that war will cease to be a policy of diplomacy.  There is a saying that I like though.  It goes:  “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”  We need to start thinking about peace as a normal state of the world.  All too often, it appears that war is the normal state and peace only an interlude between wars.

Time for Questions: 

What can we do to help stop war?  Can you support a policy of NO WAR FOR ANY REASON?  Why or why not?  What if we are attacked first?  Can we stop war from being an instrument of policy?  What ideas do you suggest?  What policies do you think we should have in our new Policy of Diplomacy?

Life is just beginning.

A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.”  — Hassan Rouhani

An interview with my friend Hana, when she was only thirteen years old – A play in one act.  

Once upon a time there was a very remarkable young woman and young man who decided to flee communism and come to the United States of America in hopes of finding a better life.  Leaving their families and at great risk to their own lives they managed to elude the authorities in their home country and find their way to America.  With hardly anything except the clothes on their backs and speaking no English Hana and her spouse found asylum in the USA.  With the help of some good spirited people, they began to construct a new life based on their dreams and abilities and not simply by adhering to the “party” line. 

Hana became a good friend of ours in the late 80’s when we met at Process Management Institute, where Hana was now an esteemed consultant as well as educator at the University of Minnesota. Over the years, we shared many thoughts and ideas together.  Hana was one of the most competent consultants I have ever worked with.  She was wonderful at combining both “high tech” and “high touch” in working with her clients.  She was very capable of applying TQM technology but equally capable of compelling the leaders in the organizations she worked with to make the needed psychological changes to adopt a “new philosophy” as Dr. Deming called it.  TQM was ultimately more a change in attitudes then a change in technology.  A point that Hana was quick to recognize. 

Hana will be 80 years old this July and she had a birthday party this past weekend in honor of the occasion.  I was invited to say a few words about Hana at the party.  A picture of her as a young girl inspired my thinking about what I would say.  I thought of how Hana must have been when she was young. With this in mind, I decided to write the following fictional account of an interview with her as a young girl.  I decided to compose it as a short one act play.  At the party, I asked a good friend Nancy Hoy to play the part of Hana, while I narrated and played the part of the young reporter from Prague. 

Setting:

The 1948 Czechoslovak coup d’état (often simply the Czech coup) –  was an event in February 1948 in which the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with Soviet backing, assumed undisputed control over the government of Czechoslovakia, marking the onset of four decades of Communist dictatorship in the country. Czechoslovakia remained as a Communist dictatorship until the Velvet Revolution of 1989.  More immediately, the coup became synonymous with the Cold War. The loss of the last remaining democracy in Eastern Europe came as a profound shock to millions.  For the second time in a decade, Western eyes saw Czechoslovak independence and democracy snuffed out by a totalitarian dictatorship intent on dominating a small country

The play takes place in Prague, 1948.  The Daily Prague newspaper has become a part of the Communist means of controlling the population and is looking for human interest stories.  It has heard of a young precocious girl who is the highest rated student at her school and they have decided to do an interview with her to help show the masses how wonderful life in a communist system can be.

Hana has been notified to expect a reporter from the Daily Prague.  Hana lives in clean 2 bedroom apartment with her mother, father and brother Jan.  Hana sits in a small chair near a larger sofa reading a book and waiting for the reporter to arrive.  It is a small but comfortable and very neat living room with a few pictures of relatives and friends on the mantle.

John:  (Knocking at the door. He is a young man of 25.  Medium height, blond hair. He has been very nervous lately and constantly has the feeling that someone is looking over his shoulder.  He has been warned to stay away from “compromising” subjects.

John:  May I come in?

Hana:  (An attractive looking young girl just turning 13.  Well-proportioned with short brown hair.  Her friends would describe her as elegant and very sophisticated.)

Hana:  Yes, please do.

John:  Hi, I am from the Daily Prague and I am here to conduct the interview with you.

Hana:  Wonderful, let’s get started.  Please sit down.

John:  Thank you. Well, Hana, I will begin by asking you a few questions.

Hana:  It’s Ms. Hana, if you don’t mind.

John:  Sure, Ms Hana.   Well, Ms. Hana, what would you like to be when you grow up?

Hana:  I would like to be President of the United States of America.

John:   (Nervous chuckle noticed by Hana) But you don’t live in the United States of America and even if you did, you could not be president because you were not born there.

Hana:  (Quite composed)  I am going to move to the United States of America and then change the law when I live there.

John:  Well, let’s just say that this might not work out; do you have a backup plan?

Hana:  Of course, I will become a rich and famous management consultant.

John:  But in Czechoslovakia system, only communists can become rich and even they are not allowed to become famous.

Hana:  Then I will go to the United States of America and become a rich and famous management consultant there.

John:  Why do you want to become a management consultant?

Hana:  So I can tell people what to do.

John:  Are there any other reasons?

Hana:  Well, so many companies are so poorly run and they need lots of help.

John:  How are you going to learn about business when you live in a communist system? Wait, I know, you are going to move to the United States of America.

Hana:  Right.  I will learn all about how to become rich and famous when I get to America.

John:  (More nervous now and deciding to change the subject) Could you tell our readers what your hobbies are and what you like to do for fun?

Hana:  I like to study, read and learn about new and interesting things.

John:  Yes, but what do you do for fun?

Hana:  I just answered you.  Maybe I did not understand your question.

John:  Well, like do you jump rope, play doll house or do dress up?

Hana:  What are those things?

John:  (Uncertain where to proceed) Well, I understand you are a very smart young student.  Do you like school?

Hana:    Yes, but recently they changed all the textbooks and they took out all the good stuff about the United States of America

John:  I have not heard about that but maybe it was because they thought it might be lies.

Hana:  Well, I don’t think that people should rewrite history just because they change their minds.  What about facts?

John:  (Quite nervous again)  I think you have a very inquiring mind.  You would make a good management consultant.

Hana:  (Very Serious) Do you know where I could find a good textbook on Management Consulting?

John:  I don’t think we have any of those in the library anymore.

Hana:  Why not?

John:  Well, in a communist system, nobody worries about how the system runs since it is up to the government to decide how things should be run.

Hana:  That does not sound like a very good idea. I don’t think they do it like that in the United States of America.

John:  Well, Ms. Hana, it has been wonderful talking to you.  Our readers will be quite pleased to see how happy and great life in Czechoslovakia is for you.

Hana:  (Very skeptical) May I review your notes?

John:  (Ignoring Hana’s request)  Well,  Ms. Hana, we always like to send our contributors a token of our appreciation.  Would you like a framed picture of General Secretary Joseph Stalin or Defense Minister Ludvík Svoboda?

Hana:  Could you send me a picture of Mickey Mouse?

The END: 

Time for Questions:

What would you do if you lived in a total dictatorship?  Would you risk your lives and those of your family to flee? Would you simply go along as best you could? How would you get started in a strange country where you could not speak the language?  How much courage does it take to start a new life?

Life is just beginning.

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