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.

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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

Ten Things I learned about Life from the 2021 Tour de France

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  1. Teamwork is essential
  2. Sometimes you have to go it alone
  3. The possibility of pain is ever present in our lives
  4. You will never know when you are too old
  5. No one is expert at everything
  6. Life is full of ups and downs
  7. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will not
  8. Energy output varies from person to person, but we all run out at some point
  9. You have to get up every day to stay in the race
  10. Quitting does not define a loser

In my younger days, I did a few bike races.  I raced a criterion, a hill and dale and a double century.  I was only an amateur and never had the time to race more.  I enjoyed bicycling and did a number a bicycle tours.  At one point, I was averaging almost 450 miles a week in riding. I gave up riding in my later thirties and concentrated more on running.  It was faster and cheaper to get my exercise running.  I could no longer use a bicycle for transportation as I was commuting distances that made bicycle riding less practical.  I was a good bicycle mechanic and I worked in two different shops doing bicycle repair work.

Every year, I noted when the Tour de France came around, but I did not pay much attention to the race or the racers.  This year, (2021), I watched the Tour races in the morning on my computer and then each evening Karen and I watched a video summary of the Tour stage for that day.  It was exciting watching the riders and I learned a great deal about bicycle racing and life in general.  I have identified ten key ideas that I want to share with you.  These are some of the insights about life that I had from watching the Tour.  I suppose one could get such insights from sitting under an apple tree or watching a baseball game.  Life offers many lessons if we simply open our minds.

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  1. Teamwork is essential

No one can win the Tour de France without the support from their team.  I do not care how good you are, you will not win without a team.  Much of the reason for this comes from the support that the team gives to its designated “leader.”  The “domestiques” are the team members who help the leader out in a variety of ways.  Running errands to get food or drink; providing technical support in case of a breakdown; and drafting or helping rein in other racers.

Every potential winner needs a team to provide support and assistance. 

  1. Sometimes you have to go it alone

CORVOS_00028264-002-650x433 (1)A winner will need to rely on their team, but great riders will often find that they are suddenly alone and need to finish the race on their own.  Perhaps their support riders are worn out or perhaps it is evident that the leader needs to charge ahead to gain time or prevent an adversary from gaining too much advantage.  The great riders know when you to use their team and when to go it alone.

Sometimes you have to strike out on your own and depend on your own resources. 

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  1. The possibility of pain is ever present in our lives

Crashing and falling happen quite regularly in the Tour.  Perhaps a rider is hit by another rider or as in the race this year, a spectator ran out with a sign and knocked a rider down.  This caused a chain reaction knocking several other riders down.  Getting hurt is inevitable.  Falling down at nearly 30 miles an hour is painful.  Riders have helmets but no other pads.  How badly a rider is hurt is simply how unlucky they are.  The possibility of pain and serious injury is the price we pay in life for almost any endeavor that we undertake.  Everything that we do in life has risks.

There is no way to avoid risks in life unless you stop living.

  1. You will never know when you are too old

Karen_webMark Cavendish when he was at his peak was considered the best sprinter who ever lived.  This year for the 2021 Tour de France he was almost not selected by any of the teams.  At 36 years old, most thought that his racing days were over.  To the surprise of all, Mark secured a contract with one of the Tour teams.  Even more of a surprise was his winning four stages in the Tour to tie the record of Eddy Merckx for most stage wins in the Tour de France.   Mark did not know he was too old to win.  There is a time to hold em and a time to fold em, but it is very difficult to know when that time is.  One thing is for certain, never listen to other people.

Don’t let chronological age define what you can and cannot do.

  1. No one is great at everything

unnamed (1)The Tour de France is comprised of three main types of riders.  There are the sprinters who are best on flat ground.  There are the mountaineers who excel at hills and mountains.  There are the general classification (GC) riders who are good at both hills and flat ground but are not usually as good as the sprinters and mountaineers at their respective terrain.  The GC riders are most likely the best all-around riders and may be able to win a few stages in both the flats and the hills.  However, the GC riders are much more concerned with their overall time and will generally forego racing with sprinters or mountaineers who may break with the Peloton in an attempt to win a stage.  There is lots of strategy involved in winning the Tour and I do not have the time or knowledge to say more about it.

The main point here is that you can be good but not great at anything and still be successful in life.

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6.  Life is full of ups and downs

The Tour de France is a bicycle race comprised of 21 stages.  It is run mostly in France.  The first Tour was run in 1903.  One stage is run each day and two days are inserted for rest days.  Some stages are mountainous and hilly while others are flat and curvy.  The mountainous stages can be almost 10,000 feet high.  One or two stages will be set aside as sprint runs.  Many stages are combinations of both flat and hilly terrain.  Overall, 200 of the best bicycle racers in the world will race for nearly 2200 miles.  The Tour is considered one of the most demanding and difficult races in the world.

Watching these races, you can see that the world is physically up and down.  Mountains, hills, valleys, flats, and curves.  Some days will be rainy and cold, other days will be hot and humid.  However, in some sense the ups and downs are metaphorical as well.  The riders who are up one day will be down the next.  One day a sprinter will win the stage, the next day a mountain rider will win.  The General Classification riders (Tour leaders usually) will change the “yellow jersey” day by day until one finally emerges as the front runner.  The winner is never certain as falls, bad ride days and simple exhaustion take their toll on each rider.

Accept that life is going to be full of ups and downs.  Just remember that after it rains, the sun will come out.

  1. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will not

king-of-the-hill-childrens-gameNo rider on the Tour de France has ever won all the stages.  Two or three riders have captured the Polka Dot (Best Mountain Rider), Green (Best Sprinter) and Yellow (Overall time leader) jerseys in the same Tour but no rider has ever won all 21 stages in one race.  We all have good days and bad days.  Some days we wake up full of energy and other days we should just stay in bed.

Karen my wife mentioned yesterday that being able to pick which days she gets up and which days she can linger in bed is one of the joys of being retired.  She noted that some days she just is not able to bounce out of bed like Tigger and meet the world with a full-on burse of energy.  She takes it easy some days and usually the next day, her energy returns, and she is out weeding the garden or trimming hedges.

Common wisdom tells us to honor the cycle of our lives, but most people are too busy being busy or rushing to get someplace to pay attention to this bit of wisdom. 

  1. Energy output varies from person to person, but we all run out at some point

p077x53mTour riders line up maybe 2 miles or so before the actual start line.  Two hundred riders will be almost welded together behind a pace car as they casually ride up to the start.  As soon as they reach the start line, they are off in a rush of cycles jostling for position.  A large mass of cyclists is called the Peloton and most riders will try to stay with this group for reasons of riding efficiency and aerodynamics.  Riding alone is more effort and energy wasteful than riding in a group.  Nevertheless, some game or crazy rides will try to leave the pack.  It may happen soon in the race or half way through the race, but eventually a breakaway group or individual will try to go it alone.  The boldness of these breakaway riders is thrilling.  Daring to challenge the best riders in the world by themselves.

You watch these riders, and the computer will show you how many are in the breakaway group and how far ahead they are from the Peloton in terms of time and distance.  Almost inevitably, (you could bet odds on it) the breakaway riders will one by one fall off the pace and be reeled in by the Peloton riders.  Seldom if ever does the lone breakaway rider stay in the lead for the entire stage.  The strongest riders in the world are in this race and there is undoubtedly a bell-shaped curve of stamina, endurance, and conditioning among the two hundred riders.  Nevertheless, no rider short of superman can stay out front each race for the entire race.  The advantage of a riding in a group, drafting and avoiding wind currents is too great for the individual loner to keep up a winning pace for an entire stage.

Respect your energy levels and do not try to be superman or superwoman. 

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  1. You have to get up every day to stay in the race

This sounds so platitudinous that I am almost ashamed to say it.  Every year a few riders in the Tour de France will drop out for one reason or another.  Sometimes it is injury, sometimes it is just giving up.  We all have days when we do not feel like we can go on anymore.

Yet, it seems as though we continually find excuses to drop out of the race.  The going gets tough and we quit.  We fall down and we don’t get up.  We get rejected and we give up.  We did not get the results we expected so we abandon our goal.  I once asked a friend who was an editor of several magazines what I needed to do to have a “Best Seller.”  He replied, “I could not tell you.  But I can tell you one thing, if you don’t write you will never have a best seller.”  I have never forgotten his advice.  Buying a lottery ticket does not ensure that you will win the lottery, but you can never win the lottery without a ticket.

I once heard that there are three kinds of people.  Those who do not know that there is a parade coming.  Those who will watch the parade.  Those who are in the parade.  Live gives us the possibility to choose which of the three people we want to be.  If you are going to be in the parade, you will have to get up and do something.  The parade will never come to you.

The race does not always go to the swiftest.  Often it goes to the steadiest.

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  1. Quitting does not define a loser

Primož Roglič was the leader in the 2020 Tour de France.  He was almost certain to win the Tour.  He had held the Yellow Jersey for the last half of the race.  His lead seemed insurmountable.  Then came a time trial day.  Tadej Pogačar, a rider from another team, did such an outstanding job in the time trial that he ended up ahead of Roglic.  Pogačar won the 2020 Tour de France.

Now it is time for the 2021 Tour.  Both Primoz and Tadej are back again.  This year Tadej is favored to win but Roglic still has a chance.  Roglic has a bad spill in the race during stage 3 and receives some injuries.  He gets up and continues the race the next day.  A few days go by, and it is clear that he is off pace.  After stage 8 Roglic quits.  He leaves the race.  Is Roglic a loser? They say only losers quit.

Less than a month later, Roglic finishes 28th at the Tokyo Olympics road race.  Four days later, Roglic competes in the individual time trial.  39 cyclists from 31 nations compete in the race.  Roglic wins the gold medal in the time trial with a winning margin of 1’01”.

Sometimes it makes sense to quit.  It is not true that only losers quit.  Some of the greatest people of all time have had days when they quit.  It is not quitting that defines a loser, it is never starting again.

Be realistic about those times when pressing on is not as smart as quitting.  History is full of examples of people who pressed on and were never heard from again. 

Conclusions:

There you have it.  The ten things I learned about life from this years Tour de France.  Rest assured I will be back next year to see what else I can learn.  I may even dust my bicycle seat off, oil my chain, pump up my tires and take a ride down the Gandy Dancer Trail.  If you see me coming, you should step aside as I am sure that I will be quite wobbly.

 

Dix choses que j’ai apprises sur la vie du Tour de France 2021

  1. Le travail d’équipe est essentiel
  2. Parfois, vous devez faire cavalier seul
  3. La possibilité de la douleur est toujours présente dans nos vies
  4. Vous ne saurez jamais quand vous serez trop vieux
  5. Personne n’est expert en tout
  6. La vie est pleine de hauts et de bas
  7. Certains jours, vous serez au sommet du monde et d’autres non
  8. La production d’énergie varie d’une personne à l’autre, mais nous sommes tous à court d’énergie à un moment donné
  9. Il faut se lever tous les jours pour rester dans la course
  10. Abandonner ne définit pas un perdant

Dans ma jeunesse, j’ai fait quelques courses de vélo. J’ai couru un critère, un monticule et un double siècle. Je n’étais qu’un amateur et je n’ai jamais eu le temps de courir plus. J’aimais faire du vélo et j’ai fait un certain nombre de tours à vélo. À un moment donné, je parcourais en moyenne près de 450 milles par semaine en équitation. J’ai abandonné l’équitation à la fin de la trentaine et me suis concentré davantage sur la course à pied. C’était plus rapide et moins cher de faire mon exercice. Je ne pouvais plus utiliser un vélo pour me déplacer car je parcourais des distances qui rendaient le vélo moins pratique. J’étais un bon mécanicien vélo et je travaillais dans deux ateliers différents pour faire des réparations de vélos.

Chaque année, je notais quand arrivait le Tour de France, mais je ne prêtais pas beaucoup d’attention à la course ou aux coureurs. Cette année (2021), j’ai regardé les courses du Tour le matin sur mon ordinateur, puis chaque soir Karen et moi avons regardé un résumé vidéo de l’étape du Tour ce jour-là. C’était passionnant de regarder les coureurs et j’ai beaucoup appris sur les courses cyclistes et la vie en général. J’ai identifié dix idées clés que je veux partager avec vous. Ce sont quelques-unes des idées sur la vie que j’ai eues en regardant le Tour. Je suppose que l’on pourrait obtenir de telles informations en s’asseyant sous un pommier ou en regardant un match de baseball. La vie offre de nombreuses leçons si nous ouvrons simplement notre esprit.

  1. Le travail d’équipe est essentiel

Personne ne peut gagner le Tour de France sans le soutien de son équipe. Peu m’importe à quel point vous êtes bon, vous ne gagnerez pas sans une équipe. Cela s’explique en grande partie par le soutien que l’équipe apporte à son « leader » désigné. Les « domestiques » sont les membres de l’équipe qui aident le leader de diverses manières. Faire des courses pour acheter de la nourriture ou des boissons ; fournir une assistance technique en cas de panne; et rédiger ou aider à maîtriser d’autres coureurs.

Chaque gagnant potentiel a besoin d’une équipe pour fournir soutien et assistance.

  1. Parfois, vous devez faire cavalier seul

Un vainqueur devra compter sur son équipe, mais les grands coureurs découvriront souvent qu’ils sont soudainement seuls et doivent terminer la course par eux-mêmes. Peut-être que leurs cavaliers de soutien sont épuisés ou peut-être est-il évident que le leader doit foncer pour gagner du temps ou empêcher un adversaire de prendre trop d’avantages. Les grands cavaliers savent quand utiliser leur équipe et quand faire cavalier seul.

Parfois, il faut se débrouiller tout seul.

  1. La possibilité de la douleur est toujours présente dans nos vies

Les chutes et les chutes se produisent assez régulièrement sur le Tour. Peut-être qu’un coureur est heurté par un autre coureur ou comme lors de la course cette année, un spectateur est sorti en courant avec une pancarte et a renversé un coureur. Cela a provoqué une réaction en chaîne qui a renversé plusieurs autres coureurs. Se blesser est inévitable. Tomber à près de 30 milles à l’heure est douloureux. Les cavaliers ont des casques mais pas d’autres protections. À quel point un coureur est blessé est simplement à quel point il est malchanceux. La possibilité de douleurs et de blessures graves est le prix que nous payons dans la vie pour presque tous les efforts que nous entreprenons. Tout ce que nous faisons dans la vie comporte des risques.

Il n’y a aucun moyen d’éviter les risques dans la vie à moins d’arrêter de vivre.

  1. Vous ne saurez jamais quand vous serez trop vieux

Mark Cavendish, lorsqu’il était à son apogée, était considéré comme le meilleur sprinteur qui ait jamais vécu. Cette année pour le Tour de France 2021, il n’a quasiment été sélectionné par aucune des équipes. À 36 ans, la plupart pensaient que ses jours de course étaient révolus. À la surprise de tous, Mark a obtenu un contrat avec l’une des équipes du Tour. Encore plus surprenant a été sa victoire sur quatre étapes du Tour pour égaler le record d’Eddy Merckx pour le plus grand nombre de victoires d’étape sur le Tour de France. Mark ne savait pas qu’il était trop vieux pour gagner. Il y a un temps pour les tenir et un temps pour les plier, mais il est très difficile de savoir quand est ce moment. Une chose est sûre, n’écoutez jamais les autres.

Ne laissez pas l’âge chronologique définir ce que vous pouvez et ne pouvez pas faire.

  1. Personne n’est bon en tout

Le Tour de France est composé de trois principaux types de coureurs. Il y a les sprinteurs qui sont les meilleurs sur terrain plat. Il y a les alpinistes qui excellent dans les collines et les montagnes. Il y a les coureurs du classement général (GC) qui sont bons à la fois sur les collines et sur terrain plat, mais ne sont généralement pas aussi bons que les sprinteurs et les alpinistes sur leur terrain respectif. Les coureurs GC sont probablement les meilleurs coureurs polyvalents et peuvent être en mesure de gagner quelques étapes à la fois dans les plats et les collines. Cependant, les coureurs GC sont beaucoup plus soucieux de leur temps global et renoncent généralement à courir avec sp les coureurs ou les alpinistes qui pourraient rompre avec le Peloton pour tenter de remporter une étape. Il y a beaucoup de stratégie impliquée pour gagner le Tour et je n’ai pas le temps ni les connaissances pour en dire plus.

Le point principal ici est que vous pouvez être bon mais pas excellent dans tout et réussir dans la vie.

  1. La vie est pleine de hauts et de bas

Le Tour de France est une course cycliste composée de 21 étapes. Il se déroule principalement en France. Le premier Tour a été couru en 1903. Une étape est courue chaque jour et deux jours sont insérés pour les jours de repos. Certaines étapes sont montagneuses et vallonnées tandis que d’autres sont plates et sinueuses. Les étapes montagneuses peuvent atteindre près de 10 000 pieds de haut. Une ou deux étapes seront réservées aux courses de sprint. De nombreuses étapes sont des combinaisons de terrain plat et vallonné. Au total, 200 des meilleurs coureurs cyclistes du monde courront sur près de 2 200 milles. Le Tour est considéré comme l’une des courses les plus exigeantes et difficiles au monde.

En regardant ces courses, vous pouvez voir que le monde est physiquement de haut en bas. Montagnes, collines, vallées, plaines et courbes. Certains jours seront pluvieux et froids, d’autres jours seront chauds et humides. Cependant, dans un certain sens, les hauts et les bas sont également métaphoriques. Les coureurs qui sont debout un jour seront à terre le lendemain. Un jour, un sprinter remportera l’étape, le lendemain un coureur de montagne la remportera. Les coureurs du Classement Général (les leaders du Tour en général) changeront le « maillot jaune » jour après jour jusqu’à ce que l’un d’entre eux ressorte enfin en tête. Le gagnant n’est jamais certain car les chutes, les mauvaises journées de conduite et le simple épuisement font des ravages sur chaque cycliste.

Acceptez que la vie soit pleine de hauts et de bas. N’oubliez pas qu’après la pluie, le soleil se lèvera.

  1. Certains jours, vous serez au sommet du monde et d’autres non

Aucun coureur du Tour de France n’a jamais remporté toutes les étapes. Deux ou trois coureurs ont remporté les maillots Polka Dot (Meilleur coureur de montagne), Vert (Meilleur sprinteur) et Jaune (Meilleur temps global) dans le même Tour, mais aucun coureur n’a jamais remporté les 21 étapes d’une course. Nous avons tous de bons et de mauvais jours. Certains jours, nous nous réveillons plein d’énergie et d’autres jours, nous devrions simplement rester au lit.

Karen ma femme a mentionné hier que pouvoir choisir les jours où elle se lève et les jours où elle peut s’attarder au lit est l’une des joies d’être à la retraite. Elle a noté que certains jours, elle n’était tout simplement pas capable de rebondir hors du lit comme Tigrou et de rencontrer le monde avec une pleine énergie. Elle se calme certains jours et généralement le lendemain, son énergie revient et elle est en train de désherber le jardin ou de tailler des haies.

La sagesse commune nous dit d’honorer le cycle de nos vies, mais la plupart des gens sont trop occupés à être occupés ou à se précipiter pour trouver un endroit où prêter attention à ce morceau de sagesse.

  1. La production d’énergie varie d’une personne à l’autre, mais nous sommes tous à court d’énergie à un moment donné

Les coureurs du Tour s’alignent peut-être 2 miles environ avant la ligne de départ réelle. Deux cents coureurs seront presque soudés ensemble derrière une voiture de course alors qu’ils monteront avec désinvolture jusqu’au départ. Dès qu’ils atteignent la ligne de départ, ils s’élancent dans une ruée de cycles qui se bousculent pour se positionner. Une grande masse de cyclistes s’appelle le Peloton et la plupart des coureurs essaieront de rester avec ce groupe pour des raisons d’efficacité de conduite et d’aérodynamisme. Rouler seul est plus un gaspillage d’efforts et d’énergie que de rouler en groupe. Néanmoins, certains gibiers ou manèges fous tenteront de sortir du peloton. Cela peut arriver bientôt pendant la course ou à mi-parcours, mais éventuellement un groupe ou un individu échappé essaiera de faire cavalier seul. L’audace de ces échappés est passionnante. Oser défier les meilleurs cavaliers du monde par eux-mêmes.

Vous regardez ces coureurs, et l’ordinateur vous indiquera combien sont dans l’échappée et à quelle distance ils sont par rapport au Peloton en termes de temps et de distance. Presque inévitablement, (vous pouvez parier là-dessus), les coureurs échappés perdront un à un le rythme et seront rattrapés par les coureurs du Peloton. Il est rare, voire jamais, que le coureur solitaire de l’échappée reste en tête pendant toute l’étape. Les coureurs les plus forts du monde participent à cette course et il existe sans aucun doute une courbe en forme de cloche d’endurance, d’endurance et de conditionnement parmi les deux cents coureurs. Néanmoins, aucun coureur à court de superman ne peut rester en tête de chaque course pendant toute la course. L’avantage de rouler en groupe, de dessiner et d’éviter les courants de vent est trop grand pour que le solitaire puisse maintenir un rythme gagnant pendant toute une étape.

Respectez votre niveau d’énergie et n’essayez pas d’être un surhomme ou une superfemme.

  1. Il faut se lever tous les jours pour rester dans la course

Cela semble si banal que j’ai presque honte de le dire. Chaque année, quelques coureurs du Tour de France abandonnent pour une raison ou une autre. Parfois c’est une blessure, parfois c’est juste abandonner. Nous avons tous des jours où nous avons l’impression de ne plus pouvoir continuer.

Pourtant, il semble que nous trouvions continuellement des excuses pour abandonner la course. Les choses se corsent et nous abandonnons. Nous tombons et nous donnons ne te lève pas. On se fait rejeter et on abandonne. Nous n’avons pas obtenu les résultats escomptés alors nous abandonnons notre objectif. J’ai demandé une fois à un ami qui était rédacteur en chef de plusieurs magazines ce que je devais faire pour avoir un « Meilleur Vendeur ». Il a répondu : « Je ne pourrais pas vous le dire. Mais je peux vous dire une chose, si vous n’écrivez pas, vous n’aurez jamais de best-seller. Je n’ai jamais oublié ses conseils. L’achat d’un billet de loterie ne garantit pas que vous gagnerez à la loterie, mais vous ne pouvez jamais gagner à la loterie sans billet.

J’ai entendu une fois qu’il y a trois sortes de personnes. Ceux qui ne savent pas qu’il y a un défilé à venir. Ceux qui regarderont le défilé. Ceux qui sont dans le défilé. Live nous donne la possibilité de choisir laquelle des trois personnes nous voulons être. Si vous allez être dans le défilé, vous devrez vous lever et faire quelque chose. Le défilé ne viendra jamais à vous.

La course ne va pas toujours au plus rapide. Souvent, il va au plus stable.

  1. Abandonner ne définit pas un perdant

Primož Roglič était le leader du Tour de France 2020. Il était presque certain de remporter le Tour. Il avait détenu le maillot jaune pendant la dernière moitié de la course. Son avance semblait insurmontable. Puis vint une journée de contre-la-montre. Tadej Pogacar, un coureur d’une autre équipe, a fait un travail si remarquable dans le contre-la-montre qu’il a terminé devant Roglic. Pogacar a remporté le Tour de France 2020.

Il est maintenant temps pour le Tour 2021. Primoz et Tadej sont de retour. Cette année, Tadej est favori pour gagner mais Roglic a encore une chance. Roglic a une mauvaise chute dans la course lors de l’étape 3 et reçoit quelques blessures. Il se lève et continue la course le lendemain. Quelques jours s’écoulent, et il est clair qu’il est à contre-courant. Après l’étape 8, Roglic abandonne. Il quitte la course. Roglic est-il un perdant ? Ils disent que seuls les perdants abandonnent.

Moins d’un mois plus tard, Roglic termine 28e à la course sur route des Jeux olympiques de Tokyo. Quatre jours plus tard, Roglic participe au contre-la-montre individuel. 39 cyclistes de 31 nations participent à la course. Roglic remporte la médaille d’or du contre-la-montre avec une marge gagnante de 1’01”.

Parfois, il est logique d’arrêter. Il n’est pas vrai que seuls les perdants abandonnent. Certaines des plus grandes personnes de tous les temps ont eu des jours où elles ont arrêté. Ce n’est pas d’arrêter qui définit un perdant, ce n’est jamais recommencer.

Soyez réaliste à propos des moments où il n’est pas aussi intelligent d’appuyer que d’arrêter de fumer. L’histoire est pleine d’exemples de personnes qui ont insisté et dont on n’a plus jamais entendu parler.

Conclusion :

Voilà. Les dix choses que j’ai apprises sur la vie de cette année Tour de France. Soyez assuré que je serai de retour l’année prochaine pour voir ce que je peux apprendre d’autre. Je peux même dépoussiérer ma selle de vélo, huiler ma chaîne, gonfler mes pneus et faire un tour sur le Gandy Dancer Trail. Si vous me voyez venir, vous devriez vous écarter car je suis sûr que je serai assez bancal.

Optimist, Pessimist or Realist

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Are you an optimist, pessimist, or realist?  I have a good friend who always says that he leans towards being a “guy whose glass is half-full.”  I guess he is a pessimist.  I know I am married to an optimist, because whenever I say anything negative about anyone, she will provide a contrasting optimistic perspective.  I tend to believe that I lean towards pessimism.  I like to think that I am a realist.  When someone asks me if my glass is half-full or half-empty my answer will depend on whether my glass is being filled up or emptied.  Nevertheless, I suspect many would find that my blogs reflect a rather negative view of life and humanity.

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Climate Change:

Pessimist: “The end is near; the end is near.  We have destroyed the world with carbon pollution, and it is too late to do anything about it.  Nature magazine published a study which shows that Global Warming stated as early as 1830 CE.”

Optimist: “There is still time to do something about climate change.  Humanity has faced disasters before, and we always overcome them.  They thought that we would destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons, but we learned to use other strategies to deal with our differences.”

Realist: “Maybe we have just been lucky.”

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Corrupt Government:

Pessimist:  Politicians since the days of Plato and Socrates have always been corrupt.  There is no such thing as an honest politician.  Lying comes naturally to all politicians and the truth is only an inconvenience for most of them.  Politicians have become worse and worse over the years in terms of lacking morality and ethics.  They will always do what is expedient and they are all amoral.”

Optimist: “How can you make such a blanket generalization?  There have been many good politicians and many or them are very honest and moral.  Look at Marcus Aurelius, Rómulo Betancourt, Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew, Jimmy Carter, and Muhammadu Buhari.  These men were all honest leaders who fought for the welfare of their people and did it selflessly.  They were capable, incorruptible leaders who made a real difference in the lives of their followers.

Realist: “You win some and you lose some.  On the whole, it would seem that we have more leaders like Trump than we do leaders like Gandhi.”

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Education:

Pessimist: “Pouring money into education is a waste of time.  Kids are learning less today than they did in the early days of public education.  Half the kids in school are bored.  Teacher turnover is at an all time high and classrooms are chaotic.  Parents do not support teacher discipline anymore.  Schools have become jails for most students who would rather be home.  Kids today do not see the value in education because parents do not.  Schools are just factories for the more privileged to come out and get the high paying jobs in society while the rest of the pack will work for Walmart or McDonalds.”

Optimist: “We live in a more educated society today then even twenty years ago.  Education has been responsible for raising the standard of living the world over.  People are living longer than ever because of scientific advances in hygiene, medicine, and public health.  Without education, we would still be dying in our mid-forties instead of in our mid-seventies.  Kids today learn different things then when we were in school.  They are more visually literate, and computers have been a new tool that students today are using to change the world for the better.”

Realist: “We seem to take two steps forward and one back.  For every pro about education today, there is a con.  For every pro about technology there is a con.  We need to have a broader perspective on change that will enable us to embrace new ideas and let go of old ideas that no longer work.”  We simply keep adding pages to school textbooks without taking any out.”

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I could go on and on with examples of the quite different outlooks that life provides us.  Who is right?  I doubt that we will ever really know.  Many of the old sayings exist to provide us with some direction on how to live.  A friend of mine tried to convince me that writing should be positive and inspirational.  His motto was, “You catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”  According to my friend, people will ignore writing that is too dismal and negative.  It is his opinion that writers should provide a path forward to growth and development.  I told another friend the other day that “hope without action is hopeless.”  It is not enough to just hope for change, you need to do something about it.  I like to think that my writings provide a path forward.

Nevertheless, we are all familiar with the concept of being too “Pollyannish.”  Someone who is too Pollyannish always sees the positive in everything.  Pushing the envelope on optimism they become extremists who see a bright spot in every dark endeavor.  We sometimes refer to these people as wearing “rose colored” glasses.  A realist would argue that sometimes a bright spot does not exist.

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My writing instructor, Dr. Wedin informed our class a few weeks ago that the story of Pollyanna, a 1913 novel written by American author Eleanor H. Porter, has been grossly misrepresented.  In common usage, a Pollyannish person is someone who is too unrealistic about life and its difficulties.  I decided to watch one of the many movies based on the novel and found a quite different interpretation of young Miss Pollyanna.  One that I assume was more in line with the novel.  In the movie, Pollyanna is a young girl who faces her share of joys and unhappiness.  However, remembering what her father told her, she always tries to find a bright spot in life regardless of how difficult things may be going for her.  Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father.

As a man who has leaned strongly towards pessimism for most of my life, I found myself admiring Pollyanna’s attitude and efforts.  They say pessimists live longer lives but optimists live happier lives.  There is something about pessimism that wears one down and tires others out.  Friends, family, spouses, siblings, and children all have a difficult time being around someone who is relentlessly pessimistic.  Just as hope without action is useless, pessimism without a plan to change things is depressing, gloomy and dreary.  Would you rather be around a pessimist or an optimist?

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But what about our third choice?  Would you want to choose a realist for a life partner?  Is this the Golden Mean that the Greeks worshipped?  I think not.  The problem with being a so-called realist is twofold.  The first problem is that realism must be based on a foundation of facts and evidence.  Herein, you can immediately understand the problem.  It is difficult if not impossible to obtain evidence that will prove irrefutable and reliable.  Life is full of lies, half-truths, unsubstantiated facts and impossible to find evidence.

The second problem with realism is that it is not useful without a path forward or some means of making sense out of reality.  Knowing reality is meaningless if you cannot do something about it.  Finding the best path forward always involves a number of decisions that go beyond the facts.  For instance, if I decide that my car needs a new engine, will it be more cost effective to purchase a replacement engine or buy a new car?  You might be able to work out an equation to make this decision, but I guarantee you that there will be several unknowns in your equation.  Every unknown impacts the outcome of your decision making.  Then of course, there are what we call “unintended consequences.”  Charting the unknown, even realists must go into mysterious territory.

So we arrive back to where we started.  Would you rather be an optimist, pessimist, or realist?  I would love to hear your comments on this question.  Please feel free to send me a reply.

Only send optimistic comments though.  😊

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

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Introduction: (Skip if you have read Part 1)

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

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

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

John’s Corollary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking It to Extremes – Part 1 of 5

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

I sincerely and whole-heartedly believe in this rule.  However, recently I was thinking about it from another perspective.  I was reflecting on the problems of government today and the extreme polarization that now exists in American politics.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Greek rule was not quite strong enough.  It needs something more.  Perhaps, an extension or a corollary to make the rule stronger.  There are too many instances, where the rule taken at face value does not do enough justice for the circumstances. 

For instance, when I was teaching business I always told my students that organizations needed to balance efficiency with effectiveness.  Efficiency is doing things right, while effectiveness is doing the right things.  Organizations do not need to balance these two concepts as you would a seesaw, but they need to be constantly aware of the tension and perhaps conflict that can exist between the two.  It is an ongoing struggle but never a question of equal balance because the proper balance will never be static.  There are many other polarities in life where it is not really a matter of moderation or balance but actually more a matter of dynamically blending and using synergy to impose a sort of order between the two extremes.  The concept of Hegelian Dialectics comes to my mind. 

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

John’s Corollary:

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

I want to discuss this more by using five pairs of concepts that I think are critical to our world today.  I want to show you how the distortion created by proponents of each concept are dangerous to life as we know it.  I do not use the word dangerous loosely or frivolously or for effect.  The battle between these ideas is destroying life as we know it on this planet.   The proponents of each side of these polarities seek to destroy the proponents on the other side.  Rather than looking at things from a systems perspective and trying to dynamically adjust the system, opponents are bent on allowing one idea to dominate to the exclusion of the other idea.  Witness the name calling between conservatives and liberals today.  Each side demonizes the other side and assumes God is on their side and Satan is on the other side.  Here are the five pairs of concepts we will look at in the next few weeks.  We will start by looking at number one in my list and following the order given. 

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

I noted that I used to teach these concepts to my business students to emphasize the role and responsibilities of a corporation or business.  Taken from a macro perspective, these two ideas might seem unimportant.  However, when you realize that our entire government and system of capitalism runs on both of these concepts, their importance cannot be understated. 

Business seems to sheer towards efficiency with less concern for doing the right things.  If they were more concerned with doing the right things, there would be less of what economists’ call “externalities.”  An externality is a side effect or consequence of an industrial or commercial activity that affects other parties without this being reflected in the cost of the goods or services involved.   Externalities can be either positive or negative in terms of their consequences for society.   Negative externalities include such issues as:  water pollution, air pollution, soil contamination, fumes, dangerous side effects from drugs and many others.  Businesses will invariably try to ignore the costs of these side effects and thus they get passed on to the society.  It is society and environment that suffers from the effects since the consumer or customer generally benefits from the lower costs of production guaranteed by the business passing the costs of the negative externalities on to the world. 

The opposite extreme is seen in government and this is the extreme reflected in how the government tends to manage its costs.  The government focuses on effectiveness.  That is trying to do the right things.  This is actually why we have a government.  The government exists to ensure that things needed by society are provided without regard to costs.  The “without regard to costs” becomes a problem because too often government agencies seem to provide services with little or no emphasis on cost management.  Senator William Proxmire was well known for his “Golden Fleece” award in which a government agency would be bestowed an award for its gross mismanagement of costs.  Over the past decades, conservatives have increasingly tried to take the management of many government functions away from various government agencies due to their gross negligence and ineptness when it comes to management of budgets and costs.  Unfortunately, when put into the hands of a business that is singularly bent on efficiency the quality of the service in terms of its effectiveness may suffer.  One example of this is with our education system. 

Conservatives and Republicans and even some Democrats have decided that public education is inefficient, and that business can do a better job of providing education to American students.  A business exists on a profit and loss model.  However, the idea of providing a quality education to all Americans on such a basis is flawed.  Schools that are democratic institutions cannot cherry pick their students.  In a typical public school, you have a bell-shaped curve of students in terms of both aptitude and attitude.  A private school or charter school will select students with higher aptitudes and attitudes.  This of course, begs the question of how and where the students with lower aptitudes and attitudes will get educated? 

The education of Americans youth becomes an either-or proposition with losers and winners.  No other solutions are looked at as groups coalesce around extremes.  Either we have public education, or we have for-profit education.  There are other solutions, but they involve a radical restructuring of our entire educational system which neither side wants to contemplate.  I do not see public education as the answer to education nor do I see private and for-profit charter schools as the answer.  See my blog on the subject titled:  “Creating a Twenty First Century Education System.”

I could point to dozens of examples of the stupidity of businesses that focus more on costs than effectiveness.  In my twenty some odd years as a management consultant, I worked with many businesses to help create a synergy between efficiency and effectiveness.  The Deming Philosophy exhorted organizations to use systemic thinking to create this synergy.  Much of my focus in consulting was with helping organizations do the right thing and to do things right. 

Conversely, when I was working with a government organization, I would help the organization learn to do things more efficiently.  I was often so frustrated with the inefficiency and economic stupidity of some government agencies that I thought they should simply be abolished.  When Governor Perry was asked which government agencies he would eliminate, he could not name three.  I could immediately think of six that I would abolish. 

I am no friend of inefficiency.  Inefficiency is a crime upon humanity.  It robs people of valuable time and resources and money.  It makes life more difficult by waste and rework and a callous disregard for the abilities of employees.  I am also no friend of ineffectiveness.  What good are products and services if they cannot do what they were designed to do or if in providing their intended functions, the unintended side effects are a disaster for our society or environment.  Corporations need to provide a quality product that is wanted or needed by a customer “but not just at a price they can afford” but at a price that allows the negative externalities to either be avoided or addressed.  In other words, costs of pollution and environmental degradation must be paid for by the organization and its customers. 

I think you should now understand from much of my conversation above, the inherent dangers of not addressing both efficiency and effectiveness in the operations of any business or organization.  As I have argued, ignoring either concept or taking either one to an extreme will create a dangerous situation that will become dysfunctional to life.

My next blog will look at the battle in our world between growth and development.  This is a battle that is destroying our environment and lives throughout the world.  The following has been noted by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions:

  • Communities, builders, homeowners, and forest managers can reduce the likelihood and impacts of wildfires by:
  • Discouraging developments (especially residential) near fire-prone forests through smart zoning rules.
  • Increasing the space between structures and nearby trees and brush and clearing space between neighboring houses.

Thanks for reading.  Please leave any comments or thoughts you might have on my blog site.  Or email me at persico.john@gmail.com

National Academy of Science issues Garbage Report Recommending Schools Reopen in the Fall.

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“This fall, public school districts should prioritize full-time, in-person classes for grades K-5 and for students with special needs.”   So says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.  Many are using this report to endorse opening all education institutions FULL-TIME and even decrying distance learning as a failure.  If you want to read the full report, you can download it in PDF for no cost.  Go to:  Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This is one of the worst pieces of research I have ever seen in my life.  It is claimed in the report that “The report includes an updated review of the evidence from around the world and a set of recommendations on mitigation strategies for the corona-virus in school settings.”  In actuality, there is little factual data supporting a reopening strategy but a great deal of conjecture.  Some of the so-called findings would seem to support NOT opening.  For instance:

“there is no definitive evidence about what suite of strategies is most effective for limiting transmission within a school setting when students, teachers, and other staff are present.”

(145 Pages of this report is mostly information you could get online about the effects and history of the Covid Pandemic.)

“The existing guidance documents offer an extensive list of potential strategies but little guidance on how districts and schools can or should prioritize them.”

(Little guidance but they are making their recommendations to open the schools anyway).

“Many of the mitigation strategies currently under consideration (such as limiting classes to small cohorts of students or implementing physical distancing between students and staff) require substantial reconfiguring of space, purchase of additional equipment, adjustments to staffing patterns, and upgrades to school buildings.”

(When and how will this happen?  In the next month? Does this seem realistic?)

“The research community should immediately conduct research that will provide the evidence needed to make informed decisions about school reopening and safe operation. The most urgent areas for inquiry are: • children and transmission of COVID-19, • the role of reopening schools in contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in communities, • the role of airborne transmission of COVID-19, and • the effectiveness of different mitigation strategies.”

(This is a so-called research study but it recommends we make more research to find “evidence” about school reopening that they are already recommending to reopen.”

“Second, the committee determined that, given the short timeline for producing this report, an exhaustive, systematic review of all available guidance documents for schools and districts was not feasible.”

“The committee met virtually five times over a 4-week period.”

(The time spent doing “research” is ridiculous.  It is nothing but a cut and paste job that looks like it came from the White House.”

“If children do transmit the disease efficiently, as they do with influenza, for example, physically reopening schools could accelerate the transmission of COVID-19 in a community.  Data needed to answer this and other important questions are unlikely to be available by the time the decision to reopen will have to be made.”

(The Data will not be likely to be available, but we recommend anyway?”)

“Twenty-eight percent of public school teachers are over 50, putting them in the higher risk age category for serious consequences of COVID-19 (Taie and Goldring, 2020). On a survey of teachers, principals, and district leaders administered by the EdWeek Research Center in June, 2020, 62% reported that they were somewhat or very concerned about returning. Any plans for reopening will need to address these concerns.”

(So how do we protect the teachers? Administrators and Parents?)

There are five major reasons this study offers for reopening the schools, but they give little evidence to support a true analysis of the costs/benefits for reopening.  Nor do they offer any alternatives. They are as follows:

  1. Many families rely on schools for daycare.
  2. Schools provide meals
  3. Schools provide mental health counseling and health care
  4. Schools are a center of social life
  5. Minorities and disadvantaged youth will fall behind wealthy children who have better home access to the internet and distance learning. 

My response to the above issues:

  1. We need national daycare as well as national health care for all.  No question.  But are schools the right place for day care services?  Is reopening going to solve our daycare problem?
  • Many schools have already made arrangements to help provide needed meals.  We do not need to reopen the schools to do this.
  • In Wisconsin there is 1 counselor for about every 470 students in the state.  (See data from “https://www.schoolcounselor.org/asca/media/asca/Publications/ratioreport.pdf)  It does not seem very likely to me that much mental health counseling is actually going on.  This ratio is even worse in many other states.
  • Schools may be a center of social life, but kids will not die from a slightly diminished social life.  I doubt many high school kids suffer much during summer months from a lack of social life.
  • Suddenly, they are concerned with minorities and disadvantaged youth? This is a quite disingenuous argument.  Educators have been asking for years for more funds to help address this issue and suddenly it is given as one of the primary reasons for reopening the schools. The report even notes the pervasive systemic racism in the education system.  Now they want to reopen the schools to address the issue of racism?

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After reading this 145 pages piece of garbage, I may never have any respect again for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

I can only suspect that the White House threatened to cut off their funding if they did not publish something to support Trump’s determination to open the schools. This is clearly part of Trump’s agenda to get the economy to reopen before the elections. The result of his pressure on states to reopen and his lack of support for efforts such as masks to mitigate the spread of this virus are nothing short of criminal. The administration is willing to sacrifice “old people” for the sake of the economy and now they are willing to sacrifice “young people” as well.

Teachers Say Rush to Reopen Schools Without Covid-19 Safety Plan Shows Trump and DeVos ‘Do Not Care About Students’

 

 

 

Deconstructing Fairy Tale Enigmas and Conundrums

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Once upon a time there was a town that had a rat problem.  It decided to hire a Pied Piper who could lure the rats away from town with his magic flute.  Okay, you probably know the rest of the story.  He got rid of the rats, but the town managers refused to pay him.  So the Piper got out his magic flute and lured all the young children away.  They were never seen again.  Incredibly sad.  But is it plausible?  Let’s examine a few questions here:

  1. What kind of a flute could lure both rats and children? Wouldn’t the frequencies Rattenfaenger_Herrfurth_Pied-Piperrequired be different?  Could children hear the same frequencies as rats?
  2. Where did he take all the rats? What would stop them from coming back again?
  3. Why did he steal the kids? Why not lure the town managers away?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get rid of our politicians that easily?
  4. Most importantly, what happened to the kids? If they survived, how would the Piper feed hundreds of kids?  If they did not survive, how did he kill them?  Would the Piper really have been nasty enough to murder hundreds of little children?  And if he did, who would ever hire him again?

Lots of questions but we simply accept the story as it is told.  And that my friends is the problem.  We go through life simply accepting fairy tales without ever questioning them.  For instance, the Trickle-Down Fairy Tale.  This tale says that if we give lots of money to the rich, the money will somehow work its way down to the poor.  Most poor people I know believe this fairy tale.  Most poor people are still waiting for it to happen.

Deconstruction is defined as “A method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language which emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.”  I am going to use this concept loosely to look at several old and new fairy tales.  We will look to see if we can find the obvious truths that we take for granted.  Searching for the truth often requires us to cast common myths and assumptions aside and pursue the dangerous and mysterious.  I am going to apply deconstruction to the enigmas (“A person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.”) and conundrums (“A confusing and difficult problem or question.”) that are inherent in most fairy tales.

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Cinderella:

Once upon a time there was a lonely and mistreated girl named Cinderella.  Cinderella is a popular fairy tale with its stereotypical evil step-mother and beautiful but hapless heroine.  Cinderella lived with her two stepsisters and her evil stepmother who made her life hell.  But along came a fairy Godmother who turned things around for Cindy.  Throw in a handsome prince, money and a giant castle and you have the stuff of a fairy tale that still thrills young girls and would be princes.  But I have a few questions:

  1. Ok, I will give you the fairy Godmother with superpowers to transmute organic material into other organic material (mice to horses) as well as pumpkins into a carriage. But if she has such powers why can’t they work past 12 Midnight?
  2. What was Cinderella’s plan after the prince fell madly in love with her? Was she going to get anything else from her stepmother to help with next steps?  It does not 618bdeaaba384270870seem like there was any long-term strategic plan here.
  3. Do you really think that the King would let his heir apparent marry a commoner, no matter how beautiful she was?  If that was the case, why couldn’t the fairy Godmother give Cinderella a million bucks or at least make her a princess?
  4. Where would Cinderella learn palace etiquette? Would she be accepted in court with the manners of a scullery woman?  I doubt it.  I think divorce would have been pretty quick.
  5. What about the poor stepsisters?  So they were ugly.  Doesn’t this story smack of discrimination on the basis of looks and beauty?  Where was the Godmother for the two ugly stepsisters?  Seems to me that they were the ones who needed the most help.  All Cindy needed was a makeover and a gown, but the two sisters needed extensive plastic surgery.

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Anybody Can Be President in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave:

This is a wonderful fairy tale.  It is one that we all grow up hearing and ultimately believing.  “In the USA, anyone with drive, passion and a vision can be President of the USA.”  But let’s be realistic.  Looking at the statistics, we see that:

  • 44 out of 45 Presidents have been white
  • 45 out of 45 Presidents have been male
  • 36 out of 45 Presidents had a net worth in today’s dollars of >$1,000.000
  • 0 out of 45 Presidents have been Latino
  • 0 out of 45 Presidents have been Asian
  • 0 out of 45 Presidents have been female
  • 0 out of 45 Presidents have been Native American

Not since Harry Truman (1953) have we had a president worth less than one million dollars net worth.  Now if there are 328,000,000 people in the USA and we subtract from the total amount of people living in the USA those with little chance of becoming President, (I list each of the above characteristics that do not seem to play well with one’s odds of becoming President) we can see how many people really do have a chance of becoming fulfilling this fairy tale.

328.2 million people in the USA (2019)

-76.29 million Black and White men under the age of 35.  (Must be at least 35 to be President.)

-73.29 million Black and White women under the age of 35

-85.1 million Black and White women over the age of 35 (Not good odds since none have made it yet)

-27 million Latino women

-15.4 million Latino men under the age of 35 (Not excluding Latino men over 35)

-9.7 million Asian American women

-4.66 million Asian American men under the age of 35 (Not excluding Asian American men over 35)

-3.2 million Native American women

-1.77 million Native American men under the age of 35 (Not excluding Native American Men over 35)

I have not forgotten LGBTQ people, but I have not found a way to eliminate them by ethnicity or gender from the general census data.  I did not subtract Asian American, Latino or Native American men over the age of 35 who I think may still have a better chance of being president than a woman.  African American men over the age of 35 are also included since their probabilities are now somewhat higher since President Obama’s election. 

Subtracting the groups that are not likely to see a presidency in the near future we are left with:  31.79 million men over the age of 35 who have a chance of being president.

We will assume that you will likely need to be a millionaire to be elected President.  5.8 percent of the US population are millionaires.  Let’s estimate that between 3 to 4 percent of all millionaires are either males over the age of 35.  The rest of the millionaires being either female or males under the age of 35.  Then we multiply 31.79 million x 5.8 % to find the Final Total number of people in the USA who may rightfully feel that they have a chance to be president.  Trumpets please.  The final number is:

1.113 million

Thus, if you are born in the USA, and you are a male over 35 who is rich your chances of becoming President are about 1 in a million.  White males will no doubt continue to hold an advantage for the foreseeable future.  Well, at least that is better odds than winning the lottery.  However, the lottery pays a lot more.

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Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

Once upon a time there was a mischievous and naughty little girl named Goldilocks.  Goldilocks was spoiled rotten by her parents who gave her everything she wanted.  They named her Goldilocks because of her bright yellow hair.  One day Goldilocks decided to go out for a walk in the woods.  She soon came upon a small cottage and decided to peek in the windows.  She was a very nosy child.  Upon looking through the window, she spied a table with three bowls of hot porridge just sitting there.  She did not see anyone inside and decided that she was hungry and that she was entitled to a bowl of cereal.  She held the belief that everything belonged to her and that included the porridge.  She tried the door and upon finding it open, she entered the home.

Have you noticed that Cowboy Stories, Comedy Romances and Fairy Tales all have happy endings?  For the rest of us, it’s death and taxes.

At this point, I am sure that you remember the rest of the story.  She eats three bowls of porridge.  Do you think she was maybe obese to begin with?  She breaks the little bear’s chair when she tries to sit on it.  Proof that she was too fat!  And then messes up all the bear beds and finally gets caught by the bears when they come home.  At this point, Mama bear would probably have messed up the kids face for messing with her nice clean beds.  But as far as I know, Goldilocks gets out alive and runs home where her parents continue to spoil her rotten.  So a few questions to deconstruct things if you will indulge me.  I will give you the anthropomorphic bears as a gift even before we begin.

  1. How did a fat kid get so far into the woods that she found a bear den or cottage?
  2. Where did the bears purchase their furniture and porridge? Do fairy tale bears shop at the same stores as humans?
  3. Bears can run at speeds upwards of 30 mph, how come they could not catch Goldilocks?
  4. Why were the bears eating porridge? Is that a traditional bear food?
  5. If the bears lived that close to other human dwellings (Assuming a fat kid could not walk too far) how come no one warned Goldilocks about the bears?
  6. What is the moral of this story anyway? Spoiled kids should not mess with bears or eat porridge that does not belong to them?

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The United States of America is the Greatest Democracy on Earth:

This is one of my favorite fairy tales.  According to this story, there was this exceptional group of people who banded together to form a more (and almost) perfect nation where democracy ruled.  It would be a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  According to the Fairy Godfather, who was named Thomas Jefferson, everyone in this country would be free except: Black People, Indian People, LGBTQ People and Women.

This country would be based on a democratic form of government where each person had one vote (Except Black People, Indian People and Women).  Representatives would be fairly elected and would make great and wonderful decisions for the people based on their superior knowledge and intellect.  Democracy would be a rule of the majority with CONCERN for the minority.  Thus Black people could continue to be happy down on the old plantations, women could continue to stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and Indians could happily walk many miles to their new homes on the reservations.  What a great place America would be.

There was only one snag though.  Jefferson said that you could not really have a Democracy without two things:

  1. An educated citizenry who could make informed decisions.
  2. A free press which would keep people informed.

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Now, in the fairy tale, voters are all given equal opportunity to vote.  There is no voter suppression, Jim Crow laws or gerrymandering.  A vote is a vote is a vote.  Also in the fairy tale, the government is “for the people” not “for the Corporations.”  Representatives are looking out for the best interests of the people and not big business.  There are also no bad guys in the fairy tale.  These are the things that make the fairy tale so great and insure a happy ending.  In real life we have the greedy lobbyists, the corrupt politicians, the sycophantic followers and the corporations who buy votes.  Real life does not have happy endings.

But before we finish with deconstructing this fairy tale, we must say something about Jefferson’s two conditions for a democracy noted above.  In the fairy tale we have great public education systems where people are taught to think for themselves and to be able to tell lies from the truth.  In real life of course, schools do not teach critical thinking and students cannot distinguish lies from truth.  However, they are excellent at finding the right answers to exam questions.

Turning to the issue of a free press, in the fairy tale, we have courageous journalists who seek out the truth and who will print it regardless of the consequences.  In the fairy tale, journalists are motivated by a desire to inform the public and to ensure that information about critical issues is widely available.  In real life, most journalists are hacks whose major skills involve writing good clickbait lines to draw you into an extensive amount of advertising designed to make money for the corporations running their newspaper.  Profits and not information are the motivators in real life for newspapers and media.

So there you have it.  I have deconstructed some major fairy tales.  If you live in the USA, I am no doubt sure that you have read or heard of all of these.  Just to be clear, I love fairy tales and the fantasies that they give us.  Without fairy tales, we would have to live in the real world 24/7 and who could do that without going out of their minds?

“There must be possible a fiction which, leaving sociology and case histories to the scientists, can arrive at the truth about the human condition, here and now, with all the bright magic of the fairy tale.” — Ralph Ellison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wonder Who’s Curious Today?

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I wonder how many great novels have started out with these two words: “I Wonder?”  Ok, I am curious, so I will find out.  “Google, how many great novels have started with the words: ‘I wonder’?”   Well, I found “Wonder” a great book about children who are different and Natalie Merchant’s beautiful song “Wonder” about the same subject, but no list of great novels.  I will try again: “Novels beginning with the words ‘I wonder’.”

Wow, now I have found a list of some interesting books.  Foremost among the list of books is “I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey: by Langston Hughes.

In I Wonder as I Wander, Langston Hughes vividly recalls the most dramatic and intimate moments of his life in the turbulent 1930s.

His wanderlust leads him to Cuba, Haiti, Russia, Soviet Central Asia, Japan, Spain (during its Civil War), through dictatorships, wars, revolutions. He meets and brings to life the famous and the humble, from Arthur Koestler to Emma, the Black Mammy of Moscow. It is the continuously amusing, wise revelation of an American writer journeying around the often strange and always exciting world he loves.

Now I am getting somewhere.  Although sadly, Mr. Hughes stole the title of my proposed next book.  But I will let it go.  I am sure I can think of another title.  But the point that I am thinking about is that wonder and curiosity is or should be the essence of our lives.  “Once upon a time” is probably the most popular starting words for many stories, but I propose that “I wonder” should be the start of any journey.  More stories need to start with “I Wonder.”

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I wonder why they do not?  I think I know.  Schools do not encourage wonder and curiosity. Schools encourage learning the right answers to pass tests.  Society does not encourage wonder and curiosity.  How many times have you heard “Curiosity killed the cat?”  Of course, the retort is “And satisfaction brought it back.”  But there is already the societal warning that curiosity can kill you.  Consider one of the most famous anti-heroines in history and her story about wonder and curiosity.

debfcabe3a329e58d451650b7bbe3120653267d4r1-299-371v2_uhqPandora was the first human woman created by Hephaestus on the instructions of Zeus.  Pandora was a curious woman.  She was given a jar or box by the conniving Zeus with all the evils of the world.   Being a woman (sexism at its earliest) she could not resist peaking in the box.  So she opened it and inadvertently allowed all the evils within lose upon the world.  The only thing that did not fly out of the box was the spirit of Hope which remained in the box when Pandora put the lid back on.  Thus to this day, our world is full of evil but balance always by the ever-present Hope that things will be better.  Nothing could be more fitting than Hope for the times we live in today.

Here is a great song to listen to about Pandora’s Box by David Francey

Now, I have been teaching since 1975, on and off. I have taught every grade from preschool, to elementary school to high school and up though grad school.  There are trends and fads in teaching like in business and society.  Many argue every year about what the “core curriculum” of a school should be.  Some say math is essential, some say English is essential.  Some want civility to be added to the curriculum and some are still fighting over the dreaded “Sex education.”

One of the most popular subjects today is “Critical Thinking Skills.”  Every single teacher in America believes that “Critical Thinking” should be part of every curriculum yet less than five percent of any curriculum is allotted to these skills. There simply is not enough time to teach everything that people want to see taught.  Particularly, when we have standardized tests to prepare for and a believe that what was good for the Greeks and Middle Ages is still valid today.

Here is a great song for the curious:  “Be Curious” with English lyrics by Humood Alkhuder

I could leave every one of these subjects behind.  It is my belief that schools should only teach one thing.  That thing would be “wonder and curiosity.”  I doubt if anyone would agree with me.  I can hear the arguments now: “Schools must prepare children for life.”  “Schools must prepare children for jobs.”  “Schools must prepare children for society.”

Young Child looking through Magnifying Glass

Just think for a second.  What if schools actually did teach children to be more curious?  What if they taught children to wonder about the world, to wonder about life, to wonder about people?  What would anyone imbued with a sense of wonder be like?

5 Benefits of Being A Curious Person by Leigh Weingus

  1. It can strengthen your relationships.
  2. It can help protect your brain.
  3. It can help you overcome anxiety.
  4. It correlates with happiness.
  5. It can help you learn pretty much anything.

You will find many articles about the virtue of curiosity on the web.  You will also find many of the components of curiosity.  Whether or not we can teach curiosity is perhaps another issue.  I have seen little in my many years of education that show we have the desire or knowledge to teach children to be curious.  If anything, I think curiosity is an innate trait which rather than nurture we do the best to kill.  Children ask fewer and fewer questions as they progress through our school systems.

‘Schools are killing curiosity’: why we need to stop telling children to shut up and learn – The Guardian

Imagine if you will that kids were not taught answers but were taught questions.  Anyone who has ever raised a child knows that they are the most curious little creatures on the face of the earth.  But right from childhood on, we do our best to extinguish this innate curiosity.

Group of Elementary Pupils In Classroom Answering Question

Imagine if kids who asked, “who made the world?” or “why do I have to do that?” were given the quest to investigate and come back with their own opinions.  Imagine if children who asked, “why are some people racist?” or “why do people hurt other people?” were told “Well, I don’t really know, but can you research this and come back and tell the class what you have found out?”

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Imagine if we had leaders who asked more questions and looked more to experts to help solve social problems rather than political polls.  Imagine if politicians were curious about life and wanted to explore life rather than control it.  Imagine if stories written in newspapers and the media were less biased and more honest about what is known and what is not known.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.  — —”Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.'” LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955) p. 64” — Albert Einstein

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