The 3rd of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Knowledge without Character.

Several years ago I became very interested in the question of “Character.”  What is character?  How do we develop character?  Are we losing character in our population and if so, why?  I found a number of books on the subject but the one that most impressed me was called “The Death of Character.”  It was published in 2001 and was written by James Davison Hunter.   The book description is as follows:

The Death of Character is a broad historical, sociological, and cultural inquiry into the moral life and moral education of young Americans based upon a huge empirical study of the children themselves. The children’s thoughts and concerns-expressed here in their own words-shed a whole new light on what we can expect from moral education. Targeting new theories of education and the prominence of psychology over moral instruction, Hunter analyzes the making of a new cultural narcissism.

One of the observations that I drew from reading this book is that as a nation, Americans have moved from a perspective of absolute values to a strong belief in relative values or flexible standards.  Wherein once people could be labeled as moral or immoral based on their behavior, today we have the concept of amorality which does not seem to have existed before the 20th century.   Some definitions might help here:

Moral:  Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.

Immoral:  Violating moral principles; not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics.

Amoral:  Being neither moral nor immoral; specifically: lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply.

Character:  The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person.

According to Hunter’s research, the American population has moved from a bipartite arrangement in which people fell between the poles of moral or immoral to a tripartite arrangement in which most people would be classified as amoral, immoral or moral.  The percentage of people in the amoral area has steadily increased while the percentage in the moral area has steadily declined since the early 1900s.

I was teaching in higher education from 1999 to 2015 and one question I  routinely asked my MBA and BA students is “What would you do if you were driving down a lonely dirt road and saw a Wells Fargo money bag lying on the side of the road?  Would you return it?”  I suspect that you would be surprised if I told you that less than 3 students in 30 say they would return it.

However, if I ask them the following question, the numbers change dramatically.  “What would you do if you noticed that upon leaving the classroom, Mary had dropped a twenty dollar bill?  You are the only one who has noticed it. Would you return it?”  The replies are unanimous in that all students say they would return it.  Students regard hurting another person that they know as wrong or immoral, but stealing from Wells Fargo is not considered immoral but is rather considered as amoral.  My own teaching experiences over the years confirm much of what Hunter says in his book.  Amorality is rampant among business students.

So we come to an important question.  Can we have an educated and intelligent population (more people getting degrees and going to school) and less morality?  What if more people are becoming amoral and we have less moral people?  What are the implications?  Well, I think the answer is clear here.  Look at corporate behavior.  You have only to read the story of Enron “The Smartest Men in the Room” to see concrete examples of intelligent behavior without a sense of morality or character.   When we look at amoral behavior in people and organizations, a primary question is how long before the amoral behavior becomes immoral and crosses the line to illegal – as it did with Enron, Worldcom, and Global Crossing.

Gandhi says this about his 3rd Social sin: 

“Our obsession with materialism tends to make us more concerned about acquiring knowledge so that we can get a better job and make more money. A lucrative career is preferred to an illustrious character. Our educational centers emphasize career-building and not character-building. Gandhi believed if one is not able to understand one’s self, how can one understand the philosophy of life. He used to tell me the story of a young man who was an outstanding student throughout his scholastic career. He scored “A’s” in every subject and strove harder and harder to maintain his grades. He became a bookworm. However, when he passed with distinction and got a lucrative job, he could not deal with people nor could he build relationships. He had no time to learn these important aspects of life. Consequently, he could not live with his wife and children nor work with his colleagues. His life ended up being a misery. All those years of study and excellent grades did not bring him happiness. Therefore, it is not true that a person who is successful in amassing wealth is necessarily happy. An education that ignores character- building is an incomplete education.”

In my book, “The New Business Values” one of my chapters was on Information.  I outlined a hierarchy of information as follows: Data>Information>Knowledge>Wisdom.   I described knowledge as a set of beliefs, facts or ideas that contained relevance to some goal, need or desire.  In my model, knowledge cannot become wisdom until it is linked to emotions and feelings for others.  I think Gandhi’s ideas of linking knowledge to character probably hits the mark more accurately.  It was my understanding that knowledge without empathy and compassion for others could never be wisdom.

The world is full of knowledge today since scientific belief has replaced religious belief.   However, science can never develop the sense of empathy and compassion as a central part of character development.  Furthermore, character development even more than knowledge, stands alone as a primary developmental need for any civilized society.  Gandhi wisely noted that we have let our passion for commerce and money outrun our passion for purpose and character.

The famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in his book Economics and the Public Purpose (1973, Houghton Mifflin) that:

“The contribution of economics to the exercise of power may be called its instrumental function… Part of this function consists in instructing several hundred thousand students each year… They are led to accept what they might otherwise criticize; critical inclinations which might be brought to bear on economic life are diverted to other and more benign fields.” 

Galbreath observed over 35 years ago that we are educating MBA students who have become mindless automatons in a corporate system without a conscience.  Having no conscience is one aspect of amoral behavior.  In today’s society and schools such behavior has become the accepted norm.  It’s the “go along” to “get along” mentality that accepts corporate decisions regardless of their impact on people, the environment or even our nation.  The “diversion” that Galbraith speaks of is easily recognized as sports and media entertainment.  Sports and news create 24/7 hours if mostly inane and benign diversions that keep the public’s mind off of character or moral development.  Indeed watching sports figures and media figures today is evidence of a “vast wasteland” in terms of character development.

So where do we go from here?  The picture appears bleak.  We now accept amorality as a legitimate position on the map of character development.  We ignore the development of true character in our schools and churches; in fact, we supplant the development of character with the requisite amorality needed to get ahead in the business world.  The values of the corporation have supplanted the values needed for a kind and compassionate civilization.  Our schools have become prisons and our prisons overflow.  The USA has some of the highest amounts of incarceration in the world.  Our courts have become three ring media circuses designed to show an endless succession of trials whose main points seem to be to titillate and entertain the masses.  Can we escape from this cycle of destruction that we have built for ourselves?

Time for Questions:

Am I too bleak?  Do you think there is more morality in society than I describe? What do you do to develop your own character?  Do you feel that there is enough emphasis on character development in our churches and schools?  What do you think can be done about it?  How do we start?

Life is just beginning.

“Compassion is the basis of morality.”  ― Arthur Schopenhauer

Where did the Drug Crisis Start?

Where did the “Drug Crisis Start?”  Since 1980 deaths from drug overdoses in the USA have steadily increased every year.  In 1999, the per capita rate of drug deaths (Based on 100,000 people) was 6.1 for all drugs while the rate of deaths from opioids was 2.9.  In 2017, the rate was 21.7 for all drugs and 14.9 percent for opioids.

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Why are so many dying from Opioids?

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This article in the Guardian states that the main reason for the increases was the epidemic created by the pharmaceutical industry in pushing drugs for pain relief for very common problems such as arthritis and back pain. 

Thus, while we arrest drug dealers, the real culprits go scott free and become billionaires on the suffering of the US population. 

Certainly there is a causal link between an aging population, increased obesity, back pain, prescription drugs and drug deaths.  But as we should have clearly seen even twenty years ago, the solution is not more PAIN Killers.”

It should have been obvious to the doctors, pharmaceutical executives, FDA and all of our political leaders.  However, truth and reality are too often forgotten when it comes to making profits.  Greed trumps all other considerations and millions of Americans have become hooked on painkillers to alleviate symptoms that can often be treated with much simpler and more effective solutions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, time for questions:

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

Life is just beginning.

A Vote for Donald Trump is a Vote for Hatred, Bigotry and Fear.

blog-punch1Donald Trump is a greedy rich racist sexist bigoted homophobic coward and boor. However, Donald Trump is not America.  Donald Trump is a reflection of the worst elements of humanity rolled into one human being.  I know many people who have elements of Donald Trump in their personalities.  I know racists. I know sexists. I know greedy rich and greedy poor people.  I know bigots and I know people who are homophobic.  I know many cowards who will not bother to stand up for their ideas or the rights of other people.  Donald Trump is unique in that he manages to roll all of the negative characteristics of humanity into one persona.

“The great secret of true success, of true happiness, is this: the man or woman who asks for no return, the perfectly unselfish person, is the most successful.”Swami Vivekananda

crooked-hillaryDonald Trump is not America.  Donald Trump is a creation of a media empire that is out of control.  A media that trends sensationalism, exploitation, fear and paranoia to feed a 24/7 system of so called news reports.  A system of glitz, glamour, ads, sound bites, commercials, sex appeal and worthless trivia that has little or no educational or informational value.  It is a system that neither informs nor educates.  It is a system that thrives on the likes of Donald Trump.  It is a system that thrives on the exotic, the unusual, the strange, the bizarre, the kinky, the outlandish and the far out.  Donald Trump is all of these things but he is not America.

“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.” Thomas Sowell

sex-imagesDonald Trump is not even a real Republican.  The party he claims as his own is one he and his small band (less than 9 percent of the total registered voters in the USA)* has managed to co-opt.  The Republicans that I have called friends over the years want nothing to do with him.  They are as appalled as the Democrats are at Donald Trumps rise to popularity in the media polls.  Americans however should not be surprised at this.  It is not the first time that a fraud, demagogue and charlatan has captured the media stage.  Looking back through US history, we can find similarities between Donald Trump and the likes of Aaron Burr, The Know Nothing Party, Huey Long, The Silver Shirts, and of course Joseph Mc McCarthy.   None of my Republican friends would avow affiliation with any of these characters.   They are not America and neither is Donald Trump.

“Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself give up the bad and embrace the good.”   — The Buddha

trump-and-putinEvery country in the world has its right and left-wing extremists.  It has been this way for hundreds of years.  Fortunately, in the USA, our political system usually kicks out the extremists and the middle ground or centrists have always trumped the left and right-wing fanatics.  Due to our political system, we have escaped such maniacs as General Franco, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler.  There are many drawbacks to our political system and chaos often seems to be a major characteristic of it.  There are many people who would discard such a system in favor of stability and security.  These people would buy such a political system at the cost of freedom and liberty.  In many nations throughout the world, citizens select benevolent dictators rather than trying to deal with the vagaries and uncertainties that are often characteristic of a US style democracy.

Donald Trump would have Americans believe that he will bring us stability and prosperity, but at what cost?  Donald Trump would build a huge wall to keep out immigrants.  Donald Trump would build Internment Camps for American Muslims.  Donald Trump would outlaw Gay marriage.  Donald Trump would create a police state to keep in check unruly minorities.  Donald Trump would insure that a woman’s place was back in the kitchen.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” — Acts 20:23

Donald Trump promises to make all Americans rich.  That is how he is buying the support of a small minority of foolish Americans.   Donald Trump says “I am rich.  I know how to run things. I can make you rich too.  Look at how much money I have.”  And people believe him:  “Donald Trump will Make America Great Again means Donald Trump will make us all rich like he is.”  Well, he will promise to make every American rich.  That is the benefit he is promising for anyone is willing to vote for him.  All it will cost America is the cost of one giant prison system.

trump-wallDonald Trump says that he will create the largest wall that the world has ever seen, but it won’t keep out immigrants.  It will only keep out ideas and innovation.  Donald Trump supporters include the misguided and fearful who believe that if we only had less poor people, less immigrants, less refugees, less minorities, less disabled people and less women in power that “America Would Be Great Again.”  This is a delusion held by those who dream of a bygone era when “Father knew best, Blacks knew their place and women stayed in the kitchen.”  The myth of “The Good Old Days” is almost impossible to kill in a population fed on media mediocrity and where real history is either not taught or understood.  Donald Trump will not bring back the “good old days” because the good old days where not really that good.  Donald Trump will not “Make America White Again.”

A man asked Muhammad what was the mark whereby he might know the reality of his faith. Muhammad said, “If thou derive pleasure from the good which thou hast performed and thou be grieved for the evil which thou hast committed, thou art a true believer.” The man said. “In what doth a fault really consist?” Muhammad said, “When action pricketh thy conscience, forsake it.”Sayings of the Prophet

hate-speechWhat all of Trump’s bombastic speeches fail to note is that America is still great.  Unfortunately, the things that make America great are hidden behind the media pronouncements of Donald Trump and his ill-advised followers. The ceaseless stream of bad news, crime, bizarre and weird news that titillates so many also deprives us of being a well-informed populace.   In addition, our outlandish media system simply serves to hide the many great values that the USA stands for.

Most Americans and by this term I will include North America, Central America and South America, i.e., US Citizens, Mexican Citizens, Canadian Citizens and Citizens from Central and South America are decent law abiding compassionate and loving people.  The majority of the people I know or have met in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Central and South America will help their fellow human beings.  They are good Samaritans who will give some of what they have to provide for others in need.  They are not greedy or bigots or racists or sexists.  They are people like you and me who care for their neighbors, their country and their environment.  They are not Donald Trump supporters.

“Before someone will get the guts to monitor your life, he must get the keyboard of humility. To be a humble person, is a priority in leadership!”Israelmore Ayivor

The media and its fascinations with the likes of Donald Trump obscure the good that abounds in our nations.  The media obscures the daily good deeds and charities that are done in the name of love and compassion for others.  People like Donald Trump are raised on soap boxes and the ceaseless barrage of hateful comments from him and his followers hides the voice of the majority.  Donald Trump and his followers are the minority.

“It’s easy to stand in the crowd but it takes courage to stand alone”Mahatma Gandhi

trump-bankrupt-americaThe message of hatred and intolerance that spews daily from Trump is something that one could pity Trump for if it were not so dangerous and belligerent.  It is hard to feel sorry for the bully that is kicking other people when they are down.  Somewhere though, we know that such bullies are really cowards. Their intolerance and lack of compassion towards others is driven by fear and insecurity.  No matter how big and bad the bully seems, they are the biggest cowards in the playground.  It is time to put Donald Trump and his followers in their places.  There is no room in America for bigots, sexists and racists who are intolerant of and lack compassion for others. We need to keep America great by letting the world see the true values that guide our nations and not the distorted hate filled messages that the media loves to display.

We shall listen, not lecture; learn, not threaten. We will enhance our safety by earning the respect of others and showing respect for them. In short, our foreign policy will rest on the traditional American values of restraint and empathy, not on military might.”   — Theodore C. Sorensen

We are a few weeks short of Election Day.  The Trump bandwagon has already exploded.  Hillary has been asked what she will do to unite the country.  Unfortunately, stupidity and greed and hate cannot be united with honesty, integrity and compassion.  We will be left with an underbelly of nearly 30 percent of American voters who have supported Trump.  For whatever reason, (it really does not matter) we have millions of Americans who will vote for a man who has no qualifications to be a humane being never mind President of the United States of America.  We will have to take the problem of his supporters very seriously or risk a rerun of this past election.  I think I am on firm ground when I say that four things must happen to change in America:

  1. We need to insure a pathway to success for all Americans by creating a system of lifelong learning and job training.
  2. We need to change our political system and start by establishing term limits. I would support a system of a single term of six years for all representatives, senators and the President.
  3. We need to break up the monopoly that a few media giants have on the news. We need more integrity in journalism and not a system that is built on sensationalism and exploitation.  The news should inform people and help people make better decisions.
  4. We need a better system for establishing the credentials of candidates for office. The system of debates that we watched the past year did little or nothing to help people decide who was the most qualified candidate and what their concrete policies were.

Time for Questions:

Will you help get out the word?  Will you promise to speak out against Trump and his lack of morality and values?  Will you be sure to register to vote this election?  Will you educate yourself on the candidates and vote on the basis of values and not fear?  Will you help the world to see that Donald Trump Is Not America?

Life is just beginning.

“Americans need to educate themselves, from elementary school onward, about what their country has done abroad.  And they need to play a more active role in ensuring that what the United States does abroad is not merely in keeping with a foreign policy elite’s sense of realpolitik but also with the American public’s own sense of American values.”  — Mohsin Hamid

10- 22-2016.  Breaking News!!!  Trump unveils his 100 day plan in final policy speech.

His 100 day plan: Put women back into the kitchen by repealing Roe Versus Wade. Eliminate income inequality by giving more money and tax breaks to the rich hoping some of it will “trickle” down. Build up a military that is already as large as the next ten largest militaries in the world COMBINED. Put more people in prison who are trying to get into this country for a better life. We already have the largest prison population in the world. Sue his accusers for having the temerity to call him on his sexual predation and assaults. Build a big big wall to employ millions of laid off American workers. Finally, REPEAL Obama Care and replace it with something Great. Any more NEW FUCKING IDEAS MORON?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for Questions:

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

Life is just beginning.

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

Politics, Passions, Economics and Care Giving:  What is life really about?

Last week I turned 70 years old.  This was quite a milestone for a guy who once did not think there was any life beyond thirty.  This week, I attended the 52nd Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter Minnesota.   I would bet Minnesota has more towns named after saints than any other state or perhaps even country in the world.  One wonders why these early Scandinavians who settled in this area of the Midwest needed to pay so much homage to saints.  Knowing as many Lutherans as I do (My spouse belongs to this crazy cult of Christians) I would have thought that they would have named more cities after composers.  We should have dozens of cities with names like: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Praetorius, Vulpius, Schein, Schütz and of course Handel.  Is there a Lutheran who has not song the Halleluiah Chorus?  However, I digress.

Monday night this week, Karen and I watched the “Great Debate” live on Facebook or YouTube.  The debate featured the two presidential candidates for the USA in their first head to head confrontation.  The purpose of such debates is to demonstrate the candidates’ positions on key policy issues and to highlight their competency or lack of competency for the job.  However, everyone knew or expected that the debate might deal with everything from sex to gender and even past indiscretions of the candidate’s spouses.  The true wild card (besides Trump) was the moderator.  In the past, the moderators have been unable to control the debaters and this fault was even more egregious with Trump.  Thus this debate had the potential of a no-holds boxing much with no rules that would make an MMA (mixed martial arts) match look tame.

In round one, Hillary came out first and as Trevor Noah noted gave the first lie of the evening.  She said “Donald, it is good to be here with you tonight” or something like that.  The first round was tame with each candidate feeling the other out.  Like two boxers probing each other to see where the weak points were they were both careful to be courteous and to look presidential.

donald-trump-vs-hillary-clinton

Of course, as is now well known and thus shall not be endlessly repeated, the debate went downhill from there, as least as far as Trump was concerned.  If anyone thought that he could “stay on topic” or demonstrate an even rudimentary knowledge of policy and positions, I will be happy to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge.  His supporters must be either delusional or stupid.  Only sycophants or as we used to call them in school “ass kissers” like Giuliani and Christie would have thought that Trump looked anything but the sexist and bigot that he is.

Hillary won every round as Trump made a fool of himself in the following areas:

  • Appearing unprepared
  • Bragging about not paying taxes
  • Bragging about his bankruptcies being smart business
  • Continuing to insult women and call them names
  • Continually interrupting and shouting over the moderator and Hillary
  • Having no concrete plans or ideas that were practical or feasible

Subsequent polls now show Hillary back up by several points and Donald on the decline again.  However, it is too early to declare the game over as there are still too many people out there who flip flop every day and who seem to change their minds depending on which way the wind is blowing.

people-with-passion-can-change-the-world-for-the-better

People with Passion can Change the World for the Better

Traveling down to St. Peter on Tuesday to pick up my friend Vic who was going to the conference with me, I finished another one of the Great Courses by the Teaching Company.  This one was called “The Passions: Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions” by Professor Robert C. Solomon.  This was an audio course that you play in your car.  I have completed several of these now and the quality of these courses is very high.  The speakers are outstanding and the lectures are usually quite enthralling.  These courses make long trips much less tedious and as a bonus you learn something about life.  I learned about the importance of emotions and as opposed to my old idea that emotions (like Spock thought) were useless impediments in life.  I now appreciate how much they add to my life.  Life without emotions would be a world without color.

2016-logoOn Tuesday and Wednesday along with my good friend Vic Ward, I attended the 52nd Nobel Conference which was titled:  “In Search of Economic Balance.”  It featured many illustrious and highly respected economists such as:  Dan Ariely, Orley Ashenfelter, Paul Collier, Deirdre McCloskey, John List and several other well-known economists.  After every lecture, there was a panel discussion where the speaker and several of the other economists had a chance to discuss and interact.  Following these discussions, my friend and I debated, discussed and summarized what we thought were the most important points of each lecture.  I attended eight lectures, six panel discussions and numerous discussions each evening with Vic.

jims-apple-farmOn the way back from St. Peter, we stopped Jim’s Apple Farm when we saw a sign that said “Next exit, Minnesota’s largest candy store.”  I bought several treats for Karen and the guys at the library in Frederic. Jim’s lived up to its billing.  It may just be the largest candy store in the US. It is certainly the largest candy store I have ever been in.

I returned home late on Thursday and had a brief respite before traveling out again.  On Friday, Karen and I went to New Richmond to attend the 10th Annual Regional Caregivers Conference at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.  The theme this year was “Finding Hope, Humor and Heart in Caregiving.”  The keynote speaker was Elaine Sanchez, author and co-founder of Caregiverhelp.com.

Karen and I both attended Elaine’s keynote speech and then Karen went to a session on music therapy while I attended a session on “Coping with Anger and Guilt in Caregiving” that was also given by Elaine Sanchez.  I have to say that Ms. Sanchez was one of the best speakers I have ever heard in my life.  The major thrust of the conference this year was dealing with people who are getting old (Karen and I) and how to handle people with conditions such as Dementia, Delirium, Alzheimers and Depression with love and compassion.  My background as you might know has little to do with such medicine.  However, with Karen and I both passing the 7th decade of our lives, the future has an increasing probability that one or the other of us will sooner or later face a debilitating condition that will require the other of us to provide care and support.  Thus, the purpose of attending this conference was for us to better learn the basics of caregiving for the elderly.

2016-conference-banner-for-web_post-conference-version_thin-1024x248Karen having spent thirty years of her life in Home Health Care is much better grounded and infinitely more knowledgeable than I am in this area.  Many of the ideas in the conference sessions were basic for her but for me the opposite was true.  I had my eyes opened and many of my concepts about conditions such as Dementia have now been thrown out the window.  I cannot begin to describe how much I learned at this conference and how valuable the ideas were for me.

Perhaps even more important than the knowledge and theory I learned was the fact that Karen and I are both committed to continuing our journey through life together no matter what obstacles are thrown in our way.  Karen had a mammogram on Monday of this week and when we returned home from the conference on Friday, we found an envelope in the mail from the clinic.  The results were not entirely positive and she now has to go back to the clinic for some follow-up tests.  Karen’s mother died from breast cancer so this is a particularly threatening and scary area for her.  Each day seems to bring good news and bad news and a never ending challenge to stay positive in the face of the difficulties that growing old poses.  I am sorry to tell you but one does not grow old like fine wine at least in the physical domain and often not in the mental domain either.

The week is now coming to a close.  We have visitors from out of town today and Sunday may just be the first day this week where nothing is happening.  But looking back on the week, can anyone tell me what ties these conferences, debates and courses together?  What do the subjects of politics, economics, passions and care giving have in common?  Four seemingly very disparate themes, yet a common thread clearly run through all of them.  Like a mosaic or kaleidoscope, the more I journey through life, the more apparent the interconnectedness of all life is.

Donald Trump will soon be ancient history and like Joe McCarthy will be relegated to the garbage bin of American political life.  His supporters will disappear as the political landscape is placed back into a better equilibrium with life and nature.  Hillary Clinton will become the first woman in American history to be elected president.  The clown that called her a crook and liar will become a laughing stock and an embarrassment to the people that supported him.  Few people will admit that they voted for this bottom feeder.

Life will go on.  Baby Boomers will continue to age.  Many will suffer from some form of Dementia.  The major problem of American life will turn from dealing with economic issues to how we can take care of so many elderly people who have no money and cannot take care of themselves.  It is a question that politicians, economists and caregivers must all have passion about or we will have a national catastrophe of epic proportions.  If we do not pay attention to these issues, we will have a Great Depression but it will not be an economic depression but a Depression of Care and Love for our growing elders.

Time for Questions:

What did you do this week?  Was it a good week or a bad week for you? Did you learn anything new this week?  What did you learn?  Do you enjoy life or find it boring?

Life is just beginning.

I guess we have all heard that tired old bromide “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” but if it is not then what is it?  Today may not be the first day of life for some people, it may just be the last day.

 

Thinking about Immigration, Part 2: Pros and Cons of a Fair Immigration Policy!

The questions I raised last week on immigration can be summarized very succinctly into one overarching question.  Do immigrants benefit or hurt the USA in today’s global world?  If you believe that they absolutely do no good for our country or our economy than you are anti-immigration.  This is an honest position and a sensible one if your opponents cannot show that immigration on balance does more good than harm for our country.   If you believe that under certain conditions and within certain constraints, it may do some good or perhaps a great amount of good for our country than you are for a fair immigration policy.  There is no in-between on this issue.

history of anti immigrationThere is a big difference between anti-immigration and fair immigration.  Many of the arguments and positions advanced today are anti-immigration.  People like Donald Trump are exploiting fears of terrorism and crime to convince the American public that immigrants are evil and should be kept out of the country.  However, those who are for a fair immigration policy must create a balanced win-win for our nation and for those immigrants who are seeking to become a part of it.  If you are for a fair immigration policy, then you must educate yourself on this issue and demand that those who lead us do all that they can to create such an equitable immigration policy.  To demand any less, is to damage the fabric of this country.  Assuming of course, that you see the benefits immigration can have.

Now some of you may be thinking, well “what about illegal immigration,” where does this fit in.  I think this question needs a blog of its own and next week I will try to address this issue.  Suffice it to say for now, that I am not for allowing anyone to enter this country illegally. However there is a still a big chasm between an anti-immigration policy and a fair immigration policy.   Let’s look at some past comments from anti-immigration people.  This position is not new to the political landscape.  There have been anti-immigration perspectives since this country began.

nativism“The mighty tides of immigration bring to us not only different languages, opinions, customs and principles, but hostile races, religions and interests, and the traditional prejudices of generations with a large amount of turbulence, disorganizing theories, pauperism and demoralization…I freely acknowledge that among such masses of immigrants there are men of noble intellect.  But the number is lamentably small.”  – Garrett Davis

“The real objection to immigration lies in the changed conditions that have come about in the United States themselves. These conditions now dominate and control the tendencies that immigration manifests.  At the present time they are giving to the country a surplus of cheap labor – a greater supply than our industries and manufacturing enterprises need.”– Frank Julian Warne

anti-immigrant“It is an incontrovertible truth that the civil institutions of the United States of America have been seriously affected, and that they now stand in imminent peril from the rapid and enormous increase of the body of residents of foreign birth, imbued with foreign feelings, and of an ignorant and immoral character, who receive under the present lax and unreasonable laws of naturalization, the elective franchise and the right of eligibility to political office.”  Declaration of the Native American National Convention.

I confess I was having a hard time sorting out the arguments for and against immigration until I came upon a series of articles comprising debates for and against immigration that were written in the 1800’s.  Suddenly, I could see the same arguments (in slightly more modern language) that were being used by those against immigration today.  The difference is that we now have the advantage of hindsight to see how much validity they had.  The comment by Santayana that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” keeps ringing in my mind.”   Let me make this clear.  Take the first quote above.  This is from an article by Garrett Davis “America Should Discourage Immigration” written in 1849.  Garrett was appalled by the number of Germans and Irish that were coming over and sought to persuade the government that we needed to strongly discourage such immigration.  Everyone knew that the Germans and Irish were “mixed up with a large amount of idleness, moral degradation and crime.”  It is not too hard to find people today who still argue that new immigrants from new countries are also prone to such problems.

Close the bordersThe second quote is from Frank Warne and was excerpted from the Immigration Invasion, written by Warne in 1913.  Franks main concern was that all the Italian, Greek and Slavic immigrants coming over would lower wage rates and prevent America from developing the technology it needed to compete globally.  Warne said:  “Immigration tends to retard the invention and introduction of machinery which would otherwise do this rough labor for us.”  Looking back over the period from 1913 to 1990 can anyone find any validity in this argument?  The USA was arguably the most productive nation in the world from at least the early 1900’s to the late 1900’s.

the-hypocrisy-of-anti-immigration-marty-two-bullsThe third quote is from a prominent anti-immigration group and was written in 1845.  According to this group, the USA would decay from within as the new residents would not adjust to the American Way of life.  I think it can be said that from the early Pilgrims right up until the present time, we have not seen the American Way of Life yet corrupted by any successive wave of immigration regardless of what nation they were from.  There is a saying in organization development which goes “put a good person in a bad system and the system will win every time.”  I think the reverse of this saying is also true and it explains the greatness of our nation.

No bordersPut a “bad” or at least a new person in a good system and the system will also win every time.  New immigrants become creative honest hardworking and hard driving Americans. Proud of their new nation and willing to work even harder than the old generation of immigrants which now take their privileges and luxuries for granted.  Can anyone doubt the power of democracy and our constitution?  This leads me to note one fallacy which I think is argued by the liberal-immigration forces.  I regard the liberals as those who would just let everyone in and do not see the need for a fair and equitable immigration policy.  In their naiveté, they think that just leaving things alone or doing nothing will produce such a policy.

The liberal-immigration groups will often argue that the best, brightest and hardest working leave their country to come to America and the rest stay home.  The ones that do not come to our shores are either too lazy or stupid to leave.  This concept is an example of social Darwinism and it is advanced as an argument in favor of immigration and more liberal policies towards it.  However, I see no evidence that the people who stay home are any different from those who come to our shores.  People are people.  The first settlers to come to America were from a wide range of social and economic conditions.  Many in Europe were glad to get rid of them.  We would probably regard many of these first settlers as illiterate, radical and dangerous.  Nevertheless, they built the nation we now call home.  To argue that we should allow more immigration only if they are the best and brightest is self-serving and short sighted.  Short sighted in that it overlooks the power of our nation’s values and ideals to assimilate all who enter this nation.  Self-serving since it suggests that we forsake the downtrodden and oppressed in favor of only those who appear to fit our elite definitions of the “best and brightest.”

New CitizensLet’s all work towards a fair immigration policy.  Let’s give up any anti-immigration rhetoric as incompatible with our American ideals.  Forevermore, history has clearly shown that immigration has helped to make our nation great.  Let’s work together to create a plan to help our nation remain a beacon of light to those who are down trodden and oppressed.  We need a fair immigration policy that becomes further evidence to the world of the Great American Experiment.

Time for Questions:

Can you help create a fair immigration policy?  Can you fight against the prejudice of others to keep our shores open to those in need?  Can you add your voice to those who want a fair immigration policy?

Life is Just Beginning.

“America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts.” — James Madison

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