Free Speech or NOT? Free speech on both the political right and the political left

woman-taped-mouth-thoughts-freedom-of-speech-expressionThis past Thursday I attended a meeting for a new Veterans group that had recently formed in our town.  There were three people at a table in front of the group (two men and a woman) and about 20 or so people in chairs facing the table.  The two men whom I assumed were leaders mentioned that the key-note speakers, someone from the Arizona Posse and someone from the Pinal Country Sheriffs department may or may not make the meeting.  Apparently there had been a few recent killings in area and both groups were lending support to the Casa Grande Police department.  The woman in front was the spouse of one of the men leading the group.  She was also the club secretary.

One of the leaders outlined the various apparel that was for sale to raise funds for the group as well as sell some tickets for a fifty-fifty raffle.  Eventually, we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and then an invocation from one of the two male leaders who was apparently a pastor at a local church.

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After this the group leader on the right started a spiel about how “THEY” were not allowing history to be taught anymore in the schools.  He had brought a bunch of old books that looked like they came from an antique store, and he went on about how these books had the “real” history in them.  But THEY had removed the true history from current textbooks so that THEY could hide the truth from us about what had really happened.  He ended with two pleas.

  1. Those of us who wanted the truth most not be afraid to stand up and speak out.
  2. We must heal the divide in the country and reduce partisanship.

I could not agree more with his first plea but the second one struck me as strongly hypocritical since all of his speech was a right-wing polemic against what he perceived as a liberal bias in schools and the media.

Now I have to tell you, it was all I could do not to walk out of this meeting.  Retired Arizona veterans are not known for their liberal orientation.  I looked around to see if anyone was as disgusted with the speech just given as I was but no one seemed overly concerned.  I kept my mouth shut and decided to see what the next speaker, the leader who was also a pastor had to say.

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He was even more right-wing than the first speaker.  He went on and on about Political Correctness ruining America and again the ambiguous “THEY” who are out to destroy freedom and democracy.  I was getting more and more annoyed.  I looked around to see if I would have any support in the group if things escalated and decided that I would not.  I thought about speaking out.  Fear governed my emotions.  I kept reminding myself that “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority and the test of courage comes when we are in the minority.”  I was no doubt in the minority.  Would I be a craven coward?

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The pastor started to quote Nietzsche with “Those who forget the past will continue to make mistakes.”  I lost it right there.  Wrong person and butchered quote.  Courage did not play a role in what happened next.  I stood up and said “You are wrong.  Nietzsche did not say this.  George Santayana said it and it should go “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Other people have of course said a similar thought, but I do not remember Nietzsche having said this.  Furthermore, my bias against Nietzsche raised my ire even higher than with the first speaker.

I then gave the following diatribe to the assembled group.  I said “First of all there are two things wrong with your speeches.  The first is your belief that some absolute truth to history exists and that all schools must do is teach this truth.”  The one guy waving the Bible earlier led me to think that he must believe that all truth came from the Bible.

Silence reigned in the room, and I plowed on.  “History is full of perspectives and some facts.  Think of the five blind men trying to describe an elephant.  Well history is a thousand times more complicated than an elephant and there are not just five perspectives on history but millions.  If you tried to put all these perspectives and a few facts in one large history book, it would probably weigh a million tons.”

“The second thing wrong is your idea about eliminating partisanship.  That idea itself would be a good thing, but you do not eliminate it by insisting that your view of reality is the only view or the right view.  You are causing partisanship when like one of the blind men insisting that he is right, you insist that your perspective is right and others who have a different perspective are stupid, wrong and unpatriotic.  You eliminate partisanship by respecting the perspectives of all people.”  Thus ended my rant.

I sat down to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

I wished.

The room was dead silent.  I felt like a fish out of water and soon to be gutted and fried.  I sat down and the meeting went on.  We discussed other ideas for the group to support to have a more social group for veterans.  The meeting ended with the group secretary calling out the winners for the fifty-fifty tickets and a few winners for some free tickets that we had all been given. The meeting lasted for about 1 hour and fifteen minutes and then people dispersed.

right wing extremistsNow in America today, we have five political perspectives arranged along a continuum.  On the extreme right, we have the “extreme conservatives” as they may think of themselves.  However, they are fascists and anti-democratic in symbols, outlook and beliefs.  On the extreme left we have a smaller group who might think of themselves as progressives or socialists but in the minds of many on the right they are “card carrying communists.”  Indeed, some of the extreme left-wing do fit this perspective.  Slightly to the right of center we have the true conservatives and slightly to the left of center the true liberals.  In the middle we have people who support some social programs but are fiscally conservative.  We also have people in the middle who support some government but are against too much government.

left wing extremistsOne characteristic of both the extreme right and the extreme left is the inability to see perspectives different than their own.   To the extremists, the world is black and white.  Good and bad.  Each extreme entirely rejects the perspectives of the other extreme.  Each extreme feels that they are not allowed to speak but that the other extreme is.  Newspapers and zealots take sides with the extremists and promote narratives designed to appeal to the extreme views exposed by each side.  The ability to condone or support multiple perspectives becomes more and more difficult as a greater and greater polarization ensues.   People bemoan the death of compromise but each side ladens itself with oaths and pledges guaranteed to insure that they will not try to see the world from the other side.

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imagesThe result is a form of warfare between each side.  The middle groups become more and more polarized as they find that they must take sides to survive.  Liberals talk about the importance of listening to understand what the other side says and thinks as though this will solve the problem.  It will not.  Unless someone listens with an OPEN MIND, no amount of listening will make a difference.  I was once approached by an employee who asked me to speak to his boss on his behalf.  I asked him why he did not do it himself.  I pointed out that his boss had “an open door policy.”  The employee looked at me and replied: “Open door but closed mind.”

liberal intoleranceOur schools have failed us because they teach right answers and not right questions.  They teach closed minds and not open minds.  We have a generation who are now increasingly anti-education.  We have a war against our schools by people who do not believe that schools exist to teach right thinking but only right answers.  Liberal schools are boycotting right-wing fanatics and not allowing them to speak.  Fox News prints daily rants against schools portraying the worst aspects of what once was a liberal education.  The right wing increasingly wants a technocratic education which will result in a job that pays well.  Any focus on mindfulness, morality, ethics, and integrity plays little or no role in the education system desired by the right.  Those on the left believe that public education should be for the masses but ignore the needs of many rural and poor people to get a job that pays a living wage.

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Meanwhile the rich liberals go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other Ivy League colleges.  Colleges that people like me could never have afforded and that would never have let pass their shiny doors.  Many people have asked me why I did not go to college after high school.  This always brings a laugh to my throat.  Two months out of high school, I went to the only “college” that I could afford.  I joined the US Military from 1964 to 1968 as a E-1.  I left four years later as an E-4 and an Aircraft Control and Warning Radar technician.  I also earned a certificate for an Honorable Discharge.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
― George Orwell

Do We Live in Evil Times?

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A few years ago, I started writing and talking about evil and sin.  Some of my friends questioned my use of these typically religious terms.  They wondered whether the secular complaints against modern society that I was making were amenable to such terms as sin and evil.  I would have agreed with them many years ago but more recently I began to think somewhat differently.  No, I did not get “born again” or discover Christ or God.  I have never found either of them and I stopped looking many years ago.  What I did discover is that there is something sublime about the concepts of sin and evil that can be very useful in discussing modern problems in the world.  Today, I would like to focus on evil and how it relates to the problems facing us today. 

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What is Evil?

Evil is taking advantage of other people when the outcome will be win-lose.  Meaning that you win, and they lose.  Evil is disregarding the needs of other people and putting your needs first.  Evil is deliberately hurting other people either physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially.  Evil is killing your children to get even with your ex-wife or spouse.  Evil is harassing or sexually intimidating women and gays.  Evil is putting people of other ethnic backgrounds or color down and abusing their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Evil is a willful and volitional violation of the rights of any other group, religion, or country for the pursuit of your own well-being. 

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”  — ― Mahatma Gandhi

The Four Types of Evil:

I have thought about the differences we see in the world in terms of evil.  Primarily with a leaning towards understanding the causes of evil.  I suspect that evil might exist apart from causes, but I have not found any examples yet.  Evil is either caused by passion or intellect.  Smart people and stupid people can be equally evil.  A college degree, a Ph.D. or a Nobel Prize does not suffice to distinguish who might be evil and who might not be evil.  The four types of evil that I have found are as follows:

  1. Principled Evil
  2. Passionate Evil
  3. Greedy Evil
  4. Ambitious Evil

“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” —  Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Principled Evil:

Principled evil stems from taking your own beliefs and ideology and expecting the world to be molded to them.  It sounds good to be a person of principle but as Aristotle noted evil can come from extremes.  When I believe my principles are so righteous and significant that they should replace your principles I am headed to a stairway of evil. Evil starts at the first step and may be barely noticeable but as it progresses it becomes more and more tyrannical and vicious.

The Nazis were a prime example of a philosophy or ideology that started with some semblance of rationality.  However, it gradually devolved into a belief that relegated any non-Nazis to a state of inferiority.  Under their belief system, the Nazis came to accept that anyone who did not subscribe to their principles could be murdered and eliminated from the face of the earth. Their adherence to a set of rigid principles allowed the Nazis to take over the government of a country which had sympathy for their beliefs.  The result of their principled beliefs was one of the greatest evils that the world had ever seen.

Today, we still have many groups in America who think the Nazis had the right idea.  Their belief in principles of blood, soil and country lead them to tyrannize those who do not look like them or think like them.  We call these groups by various names: Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, White Supremacists and simply racists.  In recent times, we have seen a resurgence in terms of an acceptance of the principles that these groups stand for.  Many people believe that this resurgence is because the White Majority in America is threatened by an increased influx of minorities.  Regardless of the reason for their popularity, these groups are a danger to democracy and any rule of reason and justice.

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Passionate Evil:

Sean Jean marketed his products with the byline that “Life without Passion is Unforgiveable.”  I have a bottle of his perfume which was of course called “Unforgiveable.”  A great marketing idea and a rather catchy phrase which I still think has merit.  We all want and need passion in our lives.  Passion adds color to our days and nights.  It makes us excited about life and steers us to spend time with those things that we value.  Passion is one of life’s beautiful things.  Unfortunately, passion can be dangerous.

The South was passionate about their way of life and a system of economics which depended on slave labor.  They were so passionate that they were willing to die for their ideology.  The war for a lifestyle which the Civil War embodied never really ended.  Over a hundred and fifty years later and the beliefs that underlie the civil war seem to be almost as strong as they were back then.  The racism that many in the South held onto after the war was more based on passion than logic.  The KKK was a prime example of this passion.  A group of white people driven by passionate adherence to protect an idealized lifestyle and their right to dominance.  Blacks, Jews, and Northerners were considered inferior or to lack the sophistication that the Plantation Mentality bestowed on the South.  Any time one group for whatever reason thinks they are superior, it is a formula for terrorism and violence.  The passion of the South has played out over the years in a plethora of laws, court cases and behaviors that have had the effect of murdering and tyrannizing primarily Black people in America.

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Greedy Evil:

Whenever I think of greed, I think of the story about Silas Marner by George Eliot.  Silas sat at his table each evening counting his gold pieces.  He was lonely and he had no life except for his gold coins.  Then there is the story of King Midas whose greed for gold turned everything he loved into solid unfeeling gold.  I think the greatest sickness in America today is loneliness.  Loneliness drives much of the unhappiness and anger that is so evident in American politics.  The rise of “Identity” politics is based on a desire to belong.  The way to belong is to acquire things, stuff, money, positions.  The concept that “he who has the most toys wins” is proof of the belief that the way to win and to be accepted is to have more money or things than anyone else. 

“Where do the evils like corruption arise from? It comes from the never-ending greed. The fight for corruption-free ethical society will have to be fought against this greed and replace it with ‘what can I give’ spirit.” — A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

I often wonder if we now live in the greediest period of history.  Driven by an incessant stream of advertising that we need more and more and more; we seem less and less happy.  Commercials 24/7 exhort us to buy, buy, buy.  To spend, spend, spend.  We can only be happy if we have more than our neighbors.  Our kids need more.  We need more. 

Of course, greed has always been with us. Greed is mentioned over twenty-four times in the Bible. 

Book of Job (600-400 BCE) — 20:15 “He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.”

In Buddhism, the 3 poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion are thought to be the root cause of all unnecessary human suffering. 

In the Quran it says: [9:34] “O you who believe, many religious leaders and preachers take the people’s money illicitly and repel from the path of God. Those who hoard the gold and silver, and do not spend them in the cause of God, promise them a painful retribution.” 

In Hindu theology, the six enemies of the mind are: desire, anger, greed, arrogance, delusion, and jealousy.

I talked about greed quite a bit in my previous two blogs on morality.  I suggested I would propose an answer to the prevailing winds of greed that blow us from one purchase to another. I think we need leadership to do this.  However, our present leaders lack the desire and skills to take us out of this wilderness of greed that we are in.  Some people may find their way out, but I fear that these individuals are a minority.     

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Ambitious Evil:

Ambition is another one of those ideas which we are taught when we are young is a positive attribute.  We are told that to be ambitious is desirable.  Who would admire someone who lacked all ambition?  Nevertheless, ambition can be dangerous.

Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar delivers a eulogy for Caesar and says:

“So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.”

Ambition has been the ruin of many a man, Shakespeare’s MacBeth was another man undone by ambition.  The men who ruled Enron destroyed a company because of ambition.  There is a fine line between greed and ambition, and it might seem as though they could not be separated.  I see greed as more a penchant for money and things and ambition more a penchant for status and power.  You can have a great deal of money and still lack status.  Perhaps that is behind the term nouveau rich as contrasted with established wealth.  The Bush family was established wealth.  Elon Musk is nouveau riche.

“Nouveau riche is a term used, usually in a derogatory way, to describe those whose wealth has been acquired within their own generation, rather than by familial inheritance.”  — Wiki

One hears the term “unbridled” ambition to refer to extremes of ambition.  These extremes are usually dangerous not only to the ambitious but also to those who depend on the ambitious.  American politicians who continue to pursue election after election may not suffer from an abundance of greed, but they are certainly rife with ambition.  I continually hear calls for term limits today along with age limits.  The average age in the US Senate is 64.3 years.  Twenty-six senators are over the age of 70. — “How Old is the 117th Congress?”

I think it is safe to say that many if not most of the older US Senators are out of touch with the US Population.  If their wealth was not enough to make this statement true, I think the age and lack of interface with the daily life that most people face would cement my assertion as a fact. 

I will make the following statement: “We will not be able to save American democracy with the people and demographics that we now have in Congress.” 

Unless we make some major changes in institutions that have existed nearly two hundred years without change, we are going to see the decline of the American dream.  The dream will have succumbed to ambition and greed if not passions and principles. 

What Has Happened to Morality in the USA?

moralityYears ago, religions enforced what I would call a pseudo moral code through the power of the state to enact laws desired by the most powerful religions.  This of course reflected the power that religions had in society back when you could go to hell for missing mass on Sunday.  Gambling was verboten.  There was legalized horse race betting in only a few states, and a few states had some other sports such as greyhound racing or Jai Alai which you could bet on.  Legally, you could only place bets at the venue.  Of course, organized crime found it very lucrative to offer “off track” betting.  Every street corner where I grew up had a bookie some place or other.  And of course, the numbers game was a very popular way for fools to lose their money.  Sports betting was done privately, and casino gambling did not start in Las Vegas until 1931.  It had been legal earlier but was outlawed in 1910 and not legalized until 1931.  The only lottery I ever heard of when I was growing up had to do with the Irish Sweepstakes.  There must have been some way to buy these tickets, but I never investigated it.

Today, you can buy pull tabs and lottery tickets in almost every gas station.  Casinos are just around the corner in twenty states and sports betting became legal on April 15, 2021, in the USA.  Organized religion believed that gambling would be addictive, and husband and wives would neglect their parental responsibilities as they gambled away their hard-earned wages.  People who regularly buy lottery tickets are the norm today even though economists refer to the lottery as a tax on the poor and the stupid.

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Marijuana was once considered a drug from Satan and every state in the Union banned its sale.  The movie “Reefer Madness” came out in 1936 and portrayed wild eyed youth going crazy after smoking a joint.  Smoking weed was a sure path to hell and damnation.  As of May 27, 2022, 19 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have now enacted measures to regulate cannabis for adult non-medical use with several other states limiting its use to medical purposes.  You can now smoke that joint where it once would have put you in jail.

drink-whiskey-hail-satan-satanic-baphomet-gift-manuel-pichlerWhiskey can now be purchased almost 24/7 in many states.  You can buy it in grocery stores, gas stations, bars, and convenience stores.  Perhaps no substance has been more abhorred by religions than whiskey.  Benjamin Franklin said that “Beer is proof that God loved man and wanted him to be happy.”  However, this was not the attitude of most religious organizations.  Temperance movements motivated by so called moral considerations did their best to ban alcohol in the US.  It is illegal in thirteen countries in the world.  Several of the world’s major religions ban the use of alcohol.  There are seventy-five scripture (Bible) warnings against the drinking of alcohol.  Is it any wonder that so many religions have prohibited the drinking of alcohol.

  • Hosea 4:11 – Intoxicating wine takes away intelligence.
  • Micah 2:11 – Israelites are eager to follow false teachers who prophesy plenty of intoxicating drinks.
  • Habakkuk 2:16 – Drinking leads to shame.

I have been trying to show some of the influences that religion and state have had in terms of legislating and enforcing moral codes and policy.  I could say more about prostitution and pornography but the nuances I hold regarding these subjects would entail a blog of their own.  Suffice it to say that restrictions in these areas have declined considerably in the last fifty years.

The_Fire__Brimstone_PreachingNow there may be some of you reading my blog and expecting a fire and brimstone sermon regarding the sins of humanity and the temptations of the devil.  Nothing could be further from my mind.  I am not advocating going back to the religious sanctions or beliefs that fueled so much of our political system.  In the first place, they were misguided and in the second place they penalized those who could practice moral virtues along with those most reluctant.  I could never understand why I could not buy liquor on Sunday or after 10 PM on weekdays or in a grocery store.  I have never received a DUI or even a warning for driving drunk.

The biggest problem with efforts to legislate morality is that they assume that the legal sanctions will result in a more moral society.  The evidence of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia in America should put a stake through the heart of that false belief.  The government has never been a vendor of morality.  People confuse legality with morality.

1787-Money-Mania-fullThe government has always been in the marketing business.  They would market “SIN” if they could find a way to sell it or allow it to be sold.  In some respects, they are already doing that with the legalization of gambling and their promotion of bigger and bigger lotteries.  The poor buy more and more tickets when the odds go ever higher against anyone winning.  Powerball’s odds are 1 in 292 million, and the combined populations in the states where tickets are sold equal nearly 320 million.  What would anyone do with 2 billion dollars?  (As I write this, the lottery of 2.0 billion has been won by a single person in California)

This is the stuff of more is better which I talked about in my last blog.  How large of a jackpot would be enough to support you for the rest of your life?  Assuming the average age of a lottery ticket holder, it would take nearly $5 million, according to Robert Pagliarini, president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors.  With a net take home of 1 billion dollars, one billion dollars could easily support 200 people for the rest of their lives.

There is nothing moral about ever bigger lottery purses.  Not to mention the fact that the odds are better that the lottery winner will go bankrupt rather than that they will see a happy old age with lots of money.  “Life after winning the lottery may not stay glamorous forever. Whether they win $500 million or $1 million, about 70 percent of lotto winners lose or spend all that money in five years or less.”Easy Come, Easy Go.

What does this have to do with morality? 

First, we must define morality.  It is not about making money, winning the lottery, drinking booze, smoking weed or visiting a casino.  The Prosperity Gospel is a distortion of the idea of moral behavior.  Morality is the process of asking yourself what impact an action, a course of action, a decision, a purchase, or a behavior will have on other people.  It does not mean that you cannot drink and gamble.  It does not mean that you cannot have wild sex at a swinger’s party.  It does mean that you need to be able to ask yourself if your gambling and drinking is having a negative impact on others.  It does mean that you need to ask yourself if your sexual habits are having a negative impact on other people.  By others. I mean more than your family, more than your friends, more than your neighbors.  I mean other states.  I mean other countries.  I mean the entire world.  This does not mean that you have no rights.  You have the right to swing your arm but your right proverbially stops at the nose of another person.

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As I said in my last blog, we must look outside of ourselves to find morality.  This is not easy to do.  Some of us, (fewer every year) go to a church on Sunday where we may get a sermon that asks us to look at our behaviors and what we can do for other people.  (“According to a 2021 survey, 31 percent of Americans never attend church or synagogue, compared to 22 percent of Americans who attend every week.”— Church Attendance of Americans)  Those of us who attend church hear maybe a twenty or thirty minute sermon each week on morality.

Compared to this 30-minute sermon once per week for maybe fifty percent of Americans:

The average American watches four hours of TV each day (that’s down from about six hours in the 1960s through 1990s by the way). There are about twenty minutes of “non-program material” per hour, which includes ads, promos, news updates, etc. For our purposes, let’s consider all of this commercial matter.  So in four hours, we see eighty minutes of commercials.” — Fred Pagano, Radio, television and Internet advertising producer and director.

This means that the average American hears about 560 minutes of paid advertisements each week or the equivalent of 19 sermons.  These ads exhort you to think of yourself.  You are special but you need more to be more special.  If you don’t buy more, you neighbors will look down on you.  Your friends will surpass you in status.  Your family will stop loving you.  You can be a better smarter person, but you must buy the new Persico Bacon Maker.  You need a new car or maybe even a bigger house.  You should go out to eat more or get a new insurance policy.

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Advertisements are NEVER what you can do for other people or society.  They are ALWAYS inherently selfish.  Is it any wonder that Americans shop till they drop or keep on buying more stuff that is bigger and bigger than they will ever need?   Americans have been and are continually bombarded by Madison Avenue messages that are a form of de facto brainwashing.  Too many Americans today are selfish, self-centered, narcissistic, and exhibit an entitlement mentality.  Economic policy extols benefits that will accrue to society with more buying and more spending.  It is somewhat ironic that the rampant inflation today and the wild economic swings have not been helped one iota by a greedy narcissistic economic policy that ignores any effort to provide a balance Moral Policy.  In addition, Americans are no happier today than they were seventy years ago.

“The vast majority of Americans report being “very” (42%) or “fairly happy” (44%), but the combined 86% is down from 91% the last time Gallup asked about this, in December 2008. It is also the lowest overall percentage happy Gallup has recorded in periodic readings over 71 years and is only the fifth time happiness has dipped below the 90% mark in 23 readings since 1948.”Happiness Not Quite as Widespread as Usual in the U.S

How do we get a balance between Moral Policy and Economic Policy?

My apologies.  This blog was longer than I thought it would be.  I will address the above question in my next blog.  In the meantime, I would love to hear any comments, questions or ideas that you might have concerning the issues I have raised in this and my previous blog.

Moral Policy versus Economic Policy: Its Role in the Decline of America

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Something is seriously wrong in the United States today.  Why is the first question that comes to mind, and it has received many answers.  Some experts will tell us that it is because Americans are angry.  Some will say it is because of income inequality.  Other reasons have been given as: persistent racism, policy divides between urban and rural areas, massive immigration, too many guns, climate change, a move towards authoritarianism, continuous military misadventures, narcissism, and of course greed.

None of these would be wrong, but none of them are really the underlying cause which some see as the decline of the American dream.  The end of the idea of America as the shining city on the hill or the last great hope of the world.  The light of America today is blinking on and off.  Fewer people see hope in America.  More people see the USA as a scourge on the world.  A country only interested in pushing its agenda on other countries whether through economic war or military war.

The decline of America lies in a very simple problem.  A failure to balance Moral Policy with Economic Policy.  A problem that may be simple to describe but extremely difficult to solve.  This failure began as soon as this country had its first pilgrims.  America was born out of a dream of prosperity and equality.  The equality did not have its roots in DNA but in the idea that all people (white and male at the time) through hard work and education could become prosperous and equal.  Equality would not depend on being lords, or barons or some other type of royalty as had been the norm in Europe.  This prosperity is still enthralled in some religions where it is promoted as “The Prosperity Gospel.”  An idiotic idea that the more you are favored by God, the more he/she will bless you with wealth and success.

Unfortunately, there is one rule in the Universe which cannot be undone or avoided.  It is the rule of balance.  What goes up must come down.  For every pushing force there is a pulling force.  Antagonist muscles must be developed equally with protagonist muscles.  The Chinese might call what I am describing here as the principle of Yin and Yang.  The Greeks called it the Golden Mean.

“The golden mean or golden middle way is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. It appeared in Greek thought at least as early as the Delphic maxim “nothing in excess”, was discussed in Plato’s Philebus.”  — Wikipedia

Since the beginning of America, we have ignored this rule of balance.  It is the main reason that we are in a crisis today.  Ironically, it is the separation of Church and State, perhaps the greatest innovation in America which has led to its decline.  Let me explain further by starting with an analogy.  We will say that there is a continuum in terms of policy needed for an efficient and effective country.  An efficient country is one where most citizens are well fed, well clothed and well housed.  An ongoing effort is made to insure that more and more citizens meet these criteria.  An effective country is one where most citizens are safe, happy and content with there lives.  Effort is also made to see that more and more people meet these criteria.

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Economic Policy drives efficiency.  It is the main determinant of how wealthy and prosperous a nation is.  Economic policy puts the food on the table, pays for the overhead and allows people to buy things.  Americans today buy and buy and buy.  They shop till they drop.  On weekends they stage flea markets, garage sales, and church sales to try to get rid of the STUFF that they have accumulated.  Economic Policy gone unabated by Moral Policy has stuffed people until they are fat and bloated with too much stuff.  More is the anthem in America.  “He who has the most toys wins.”

Our politicians are troubadours for the American dream of “More.”  There is no secret to their being elected.  It is a very simple formula.  1.  Promise voters more stuff by way of the trickle-down theory.  2.  Promise to lower taxes to give people more money to buy more stuff.  3.  Raise more money than your competitor so that you can sell your promises to more potential voters.  4.  Find a way to scare voters into thinking that your competitor will not be able to deliver on the same promises.

Economic Policy in America has become a Frankenstein.  Without a balance of Moral policy, it is a monster which is destroying this country.  It has been destroying this country for many years now.  However, people are so blinded by the promises for greater prosperity that they have ignored the essential balance provided by Moral Policy.

Moral Policy looks outward.  While Economic Policy looks inward and asks what can my country do for me, Moral Policy asks what can I do for my country.  Moral Policy asks what can I do for other people.  I noted above that a great inspiration for our founders was to separate church and state.  While this was a truly great political idea, morally it was a disaster.

Prior to the emergence of America, most people received a balance between Economic Policy and Moral Policy through a balance between their obligations to their state or nation and their obligations to their church or religion.  They would go to jail if they ignored their state obligations and go to hell if they ignored their religious obligations.  Their church laid out its obligations in its Moral Policy.  For some, this was thought of as religious doctrine.  Perhaps the best example of a Moral Policy is the Eight Beatitudes described in Christianity and formulated by Jesus of Nazareth.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
  3. Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
  4. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
  8. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. —-  Matthew 5:3–12

There is no question, that Jesus was describing a moral responsibility to others.  Jesus talked about greed often and the “cure” to greed lay in giving as much as taking.  Jesus constantly talked about taking care of others who were less fortunate.

174018-domoralsmatterThus, the uncoupling of Church and State in the constitution of the United States set the stage for a catastrophic imbalance between Moral Policy and Economic Policy.  Over the years, the lack of influence in organized religions at the political level was abetted by the horrendous influence and power of Economic Policy.  If Moral Policy was once the heart of a religion, it was supplanted by an Economic Policy which has become the main religion in America.  This policy states that more is better and that you can never be too rich or have too much stuff.

Ultimately as with all imbalances, they eventually lead to a disaster.  America has gone over the tipping point.  The decline of the American Dream, the schism between conservatives and liberals, the rural versus urban divides, the dissatisfaction with the current political system and the rise of fascism in the USA are all symptoms of this imbalance.

51junioCbqL._AC_SY780_What we once believed was a great political innovation to separate Church and State has led to this imbalance.  There was no place in the state for religion and no place in religion for politics.  America’s dominant dream for peace, justice and equality was replaced with a dream for more money, more power and more fame.  The push by the State for this dream dwarfed any efforts by religion to provide a moral balance and the State had no legitimacy for morality.  People are cast adrift amidst a chaotic and vicious ocean of competition for more and more stuff.  No moral anchors exist that are powerful enough to counterbalance the tide of greed that this has brought to our shores.  Guns have replaced morality as citizens arm themselves to prevent imagined attacks at taking away their STUFF.

Is there an answer to the problems facing America?  I will discuss this question in my next blog. 

 

Why the Three R’s are Obsolete and Should be Replaced by the Three C’s

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Once upon a time.  (You can’t help but love my blog this week since we know that all great stories begin with “once upon a time.”)  Anyway, not to be repetitious, I will note that long long ago, people knew that to be really educated you must learn the three R’s.  The three R’s were a short cut for “Reading, Writing and Rithmetic.  Just to make things symmetrical or rhyming, they had to deliberately misspell or at least mis-pronounce arithmetic.  Doesn’t seem like a very erudite way to introduce an essential concept of education by misspelling a key concept.

Nevertheless, for over a two hundred years now, (The phrase appears to have been coined at the beginning of the 19th century.) these three concepts or methodologies have become the essential elements that EVERYONE knows schools must teach.  Politicians all over the land demand that schools in their states or in their districts will do everything they can to ensure that these concepts are taught.  Standardized tests are developed to make sure that students have proficiency in these concepts.  Students are drilled, drilled some more, tested, and tested some more.  And still in most public schools, a large majority of students cannot pass these tests.

School board meetings attended by irate parents ask why their kids are still failing the standardized tests meant to determine how assiduously they have learned their 3 R’s.  Politicians clamor for better teachers at lower pay and with more responsibilities but less power to enforce discipline or attention.  Classrooms are rife with students all of whom have cellphones that have more knowledge than the teachers standing up in front of their classes.  Teachers are blamed for teaching extraneous subjects like civility, manners, sex education, health education, racism, and holocaust history.  Back to basics scream the politicians.  Back to basics scream the irate parents.  Back to basics meaning reading, writing and rithmetic.

Ideas are bandied about to improve teachers. 

Pay them more?  “Nope, not enough money in the school budget.  Can’t afford any more taxes to pay for education.”

More stringent tests for teachers?  “Sounds like a good idea but where have all the teachers gone?”

Make it a felony to teach subjects that do not relate to the 3 R’s?    “Great idea, just as soon as we can find anyone willing to go into education, we will pass a law wherein we can convict errant teachers who dare to ignore the 3 R’s”

The irony of this entire effort is that the 3 R’s are obsolete.  They have been for a long time now.  Assuming that schools survive (see my articles are why schools are obsolete) they should replace the 3 R’s with what I call the 3 C’s.  The three R’s are obsolete in the sense that their focus is too narrow.  The 3 C’s would entail a broader focus that would allow students more latitude in what they learn while also teaching them concepts for the twenty-first century.  Of course, money must still be allocated for education and teachers must still be paid a decent salary or no one will be qualified to teach anything whether it starts with an R or a C.  However, please be patient while I explain the difference between the three C’s and the three R’s.

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Comprehension versus Reading:

The ability to read and understand text is a skill but narrowly focused on written materials.  The ability to comprehend meaning entails not only understanding the written word but also understanding such mediums as:

  • Music
  • Art
  • Lectures
  • Dance
  • Politics
  • Religion

Each of these mediums can convey a message that is just as powerful as the written word.  An educated person should be capable of divining the message carried by a great work of art or a great piece of music just as they would interpret a written story.  Politics and religion always carry messages and a citizen should be able to critically interpret the various messages and signals that are used by political and religious leaders.

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Communication versus Writing:

We write to communicate with others.  However, we also communicate with voice messages, podcasts, movies, videos, computers, spoken stories, sign and other languages.  Computer programming is a language that should be treated just as important as learning English.  Multiple languages need to be taught at an early age to all students.  Being bi or multilingual is a critical skill in todays global world.

The world of the 21st Century is for many young people, a visual world.  One filled with video games, YouTube channels, Podcasts and instant videos that are made on the fly.  Students need to learn the ins and outs of the various media that are available for communicating to the world and not just good penmanship or writing skills.

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Computation versus Rithmetic:

I am sitting here on my computer.  I have an Amazon Echo about three feet away.  In front of me, I have my old calculator.  Years ago when I was student teaching (1975), I was chastised by the math teachers in the high school where I was doing my student practicum for allowing my students to use calculators for some computational problems.  I was warned that students would never learn how to do math problems if I let them use calculators.  Seven years later, the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE) agreed that it was ok to allow students to use calculators in their classrooms.

Today, the battle still rages over the best ways to teach students math skills.  I need to know the square root of 3750, so I call out to Alexa “What is the square root of 3750?”  She answers me in less than five seconds: “The square root of 3750 is 61.2372.”  I reply, “Thank you.”  Alexa replies “Anytime.”

If I were to do this short easy problem, with a pen and pencil, there are good odds that I would make a mistake and come up with the wrong answer.  Even if I did not make a mistake, solving this simple problem would take me two to five minutes.  Regard the steps for solving the problem using long division.  There are six steps.

Step 1)

Set up 3750 in pairs of two digits from right to left and attach one set of 00 because we want one decimal:

37        50        00

Step 2)

Starting with the first set: the largest perfect square less than or equal to 37 is 36, and the square root of 36 is 6. Therefore, put 6 on top and 36 at the bottom like this:

6

37        50        00

36

Step 3)

Calculate 37 minus 36 and put the difference below. Then move down the next set of numbers.

6

37        50        00

36

1          50

Step 4)

Double the number in green on top: 6 × 2 = 12. Then, use 12 and the bottom number to make this problem:

12? × ? ≤ 150

The question marks are “blank” and the same “blank”. With trial and error, we found the largest number “blank” can be is 1. Replace the question marks in the problem with 1 to get:

121 × 1 = 121.

Now, enter 1 on top, and 121 at the bottom:

6          1

37        50        00

36

1          50

1          21

Step 5)

Calculate 150 minus 121 and put the difference below. Then move down the next set of numbers.

6          1

37        50        00

36

1          50

1          21

0          29        00

Step 6)

Double the number in green on top: 61 × 2 = 122. Then, use 122 and the bottom number to make this problem:

122? × ? ≤ 2900

The question marks are “blank” and the same “blank”. With trial and error, we found the largest number “blank” can be is 2. Now, enter 2 on top:

6          1          2

37        50        00

36

1          50

1          21

0          29        00

The answer is on top. The square root of 3750 with one digit decimal accuracy is 61.2.

Alexa solved the problem in less than 5 seconds and to four decimal places.  Why the hell would anyone want to use long-division to solve this problem lies well outside the limits of my intelligence to imagine? Perhaps they are masochists?  Crazy?  Do not have access to anything but a pencil and paper?

Computation is indeed one of the most important skills anyone can learn.  However, computation is defined as:

“Computation is any type of calculation that includes both arithmetical and non-arithmetical steps and which follows a well-defined model. Mechanical or electronic devices that perform computations are known as computers. An especially well-known discipline of the study of computation is computer science.” — Wikipedia

Everyone needs computation skills.  However, not everyone needs to use long-division to solve problems.  If your goal is to design a bridge, build a house, balance a budget, file your income taxes, you will need computation skills.  Sometimes, you will need to understand some mathematical concepts depending on your needs and priorities.  However, I get by with a calculator, computer and Alexa and seldom do my hands see either a pencil or paper.

Conclusions:

I have said many times that the model of schooling being used in the world today is obsolete, useless, and dysfunctional.  See my article:  Creating a 21st Century Education System.  The changes we need to have a valuable system of public education go well beyond simply substituting the 3 C’s for the 3 R’s.  I would do a grave injustice to the problem if I thought it were this simple.  Expanding and broadening the concepts being taught in schools today is only one small element that needs to be addressed to develop citizens who can use critical thinking skills to solve problems, perform useful societal tasks and select leaders who can make a positive contribution to society.

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Today, we have a system of mass education being systemically destroyed by an elite that knows the system is dysfunctional but sees the solution as taking their kids to private academies.  The problems of most public schools are not as evident in these private institutions but the learning that goes on is no more useful than what is being taught in the public schools.  Still perhaps ten percent of students will benefit from the traditional model of education but that leaves 90 percent of our population who will be unfit to manage a democratic form of government.  In the USA today, we are not only witnessing the decline and fall of public education, but we are on the verge of destroying a democracy that relies on a free and impartial press, an educated citizenry, and a free and fair system of elections.  Take away any one of these three and you destroy democracy.  We seem to be working on destroying all three.

Leading Economist Talks about China America Relations – Dr. Jeffrey Sachs

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Is China really the enemy, or are we just creating self-fulfilling prophecies? If you want to hear the truth about China from a leading economist who has been involved in China since 1981, you need to listen to this video discussion. Dr. Sachs presents his views on why China should not be seen as the enemy and why almost all the politicians both Dems and Republicans are misguided. I have not heard it stated so clearly as Dr. Sachs puts it but it is time Americans realize that reality is not what our so called political leaders are telling us.

https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/videos/america-vs-everyone

When We Get Back to Normal!

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When we get back to normal.  When everything is like it used to be.  When things are like they were in the good old days.  The good old days when things were normal.  Happy days when father knew best, and bad kids were expelled from school for chewing gum.

But we are not normal now.  We are in a quandary for normal.  We pray for normal.  We look around each corner for normal.  But we cannot find normal.  We talk about the new normal but even that is a myth.  We are now post-normal.  We have never been normal, and we probably will never be normal.

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First smog in the sixties.  Then water pollution in the seventies.  Globalization in the eighties.  A new century with mega storms, wildfires, water shortages, power outages and unprecedented heat spells.  If normal was not elusive enough, in 2020 we get a virus that to date has killed almost 4 million people worldwide.  A little bug that is about 50 nm in size.  A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.  You could put 20 million corona virus side to side and still have room left over on a yardstick.  Has anybody ever asked a coronavirus when things will return to normal?

Just on the outside chance that we do get back to normal, what will it look like?  A vision please, for without a vision, it is said that people will perish.

women-taking-em-back-to-the-kitchen-vi-cine-center-51302934When we get back to normal, two parent families will again reign supreme.  Mom will stay home to cook, while dad goes to work.  There will be no trans-people.  Girls will stick to cheerleading and let the boys play the sports.  Contraceptives will be banned, and no one will dream of getting an abortion.  Priests and ministers will be male, and gay people will disappear.  Everyone in America will go back to being good Christians.

When we get back to normal, people will die of natural causes like alcoholism and tobacco smoking.  Viruses will become a thing of the past as huge walls setup around our borders will prevent any bugs from infecting Americans.  Health care will be readily available to rich people and make certain that the wealthier you are the longer you will live.  Poor people will do the shitty jobs in America and die earlier since they will not be able to afford quality health care.

When we get back to normal, Black people, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Island people will be put into their place so that White people can rule again without challenge.  Only White people will be able to hold office.  Police forces will be given more power to dispense arbitrary justice in minority communities thereby ensuring that minorities do not get too uppity.  White people will be allowed to immigrate to the USA but people from other countries will be given strict orders to stay home.

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When we get back to normal, we will double the size of the defense budget and start a war someplace so that we can test our new arsenals out.  We will try to select enemies who are too weak to really put up much fight.  Our military will be the pride of America, and no one will have the audacity to stand up to it.  Drones will eliminate American casualties and reporters will be prohibited from counting enemy dead.

When we get back to normal, schools will be places where children are taught patriotism and how to fit into the workplace.  Colleges will establish quotas limiting the number of minorities who can enter.  Businesses will be given more tax breaks so that the rich can become richer.  We will spread a great deal of propaganda emphasizing the theory of trickle down.  Poor people will be persuaded to be patient until unfathomable wealth eventually comes down to them.

top five risks

When we get back to normal, scientists, Intellectuals, democrats, anti-gun people, liberals, writers, reporters, and teachers espousing critical thinking will be shunned.  Anyone promoting facts and logic over emotions and intuition will be silenced by fines or stiff jail sentences.

WhatIsNormal

I forgot to add that the Ten Commandments, Confederate Flag, and statues of Confederate heroes will be taken out of storage and placed on the lawn of every state capital in the USA.  Laws will be passed to make sure that people stand for the Flag and kneel for the Cross.  Of course, that is if things get back to normal again.

Do you still want things to get back to normal again?

Trump’s End Game Strategy to Win the Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Character, Culture and Race:  From a White Perspective

What do character, culture and race have to do with each other?  That is the subject of my blog this week.  I believe that each of these concepts is not well understood by people in America or in any other country for that matter.  There is a science to understanding these concepts but there is also an art that comes from experience and living.  Both science and experience are necessary to understand each concept and their relationship to each other.  Since my experience can only come from where I stand, I note that I stand as a white, USA born, male in the early 21st Century.  Standing anywhere else would no doubt give me a different experience and a different perspective on these ideas.  Let me start with first defining what the term Character means to me.  I am going to give you my take and not Webster’s dictionary definition.

Character:

I think there are four major elements of character.  I believe these are: integrity, wisdom, tolerance, and courage.  Integrity is standing up for what one believes.  Integrity is the opposite of sycophancy.  Sycophants go along imageswith someone for an underlying motive or future advantage that they hope will accrue for their fawning behavior.  People with integrity do what they believe is right whether or not any advantage will accrue from their efforts.  People with integrity are consistent in their stated ideas and do not read the polls to see which way public opinion is blowing. 

It has been said that: “Knowledge helps you to make a living while wisdom helps you to make a life.”  Wisdom is the ability to as Father Sthokal would have said “Exercise discernment.”  The Greeks would have said that wisdom is the ability to exercise the Golden Mean.  The ability to live life in moderation and not to be seduced by extremes or excesses.  Many a smart people there are who you know are very stupid.  I see college professors who can see no further than the myopia induced by their academic disciplines.  Thus, they see everything through only one lens. 

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A favorite quote of mine respecting tolerance and courage states that:  “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.  The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.” — Ralph W. Sockman.  It takes real courage to stand up for what you believe when everyone is against you.  In the USA today, it takes courage to stand up for immigrants and poor people.  The greed in American life has prejudiced so many people who mistakenly believe that the poor and needy are taking their jobs or money away.  People are afraid to speak out because they are afraid that they will be labeled as Un-American. 

downloadTolerance is the willingness to respect and stand up for someone when you are in the majority and they are in the minority.  Difficult it is to speak out against your peers and tribe.  When someone has an idea that does not fit with the normal conception, the tolerant person will try to hear them out.  Tolerant people respect those with seemingly strange and weird or wild ideas.  The tolerant person does not say “That is crazy or that is a stupid idea.”  A recent example I think that shows both tolerance and courage is the song by Tyler Childers – “Long Violent History.”  You don’t hear many country singers supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or speaking out against racism. 

Character is not limited to any race, religion, culture, nation, or ethnicity

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Culture:

When I met my current wife Karen, she had an adopted Korean daughter.  Susan or Lee Hei Sook was six years old when Karen went though the procedures to adopt her.  She was an orphan who did know where her mom and dad were.  Many years later when Susan was out of college and expecting her second child she decided to search for her birth mother.  Through her amazing efforts, Susan was able to find both her birth mother and birth father.  I was fortunate enough to travel with Susan and Karen to Korea to meet both of them.  They had been divorced for many years and the story of Susan’s being sent to an orphanage would require a blog of its own. 

What is remarkable about the above story for me is Karen’s effort to help Susan retain her culture, heritage and language and even support her efforts to find her birth mother.  Karen cooked Korean food for Susan, sent Susan to Korean Camp each summer and learned how to eat with chopsticks.  Too many people in the USA believe that culture must be abandoned and that being having an ethnic or cultural identify is incompatible with being patriotic.  I know many of my generation who were not taught their parents’ language since there was a strong drive to become assimilated by many immigrants.  To desire to learn Korean would strike many of the “Greatest Generation” as a useless activity.  It did not strike my wife Karen this way.

Many older and younger people feel that our American culture is the best culture and that immigrants must discard other cultural affiliations in order to become assimilated.  The holy grail for Black people (at least as indicated by many white people) is something called integration.  This basically means abandoning any idea of “Blackness” and becoming as white as possible.  The same holy grail of assimilation or integration was foisted on many Native Americans.  Indians were forced to attend white “culture” schools and were not allowed to practice their native languages or wear indigenous clothing.  This rejection of culture has led to a considerable degree of prejudice and outright racism in the USA.  Witness the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. 

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What is culture?  Culture is a universal phenomenon.  There is no such thing as not having a cultural identify.  Culture is forged for every living human being regardless of where they live.  Culture is the norms, habits, rituals, protocols, traditions, and beliefs of a group that you identify with.  Everyone has a culture.  Even hermits develop a culture based on their habits and ideology.  Gangs, tribes, schools, companies, organizations, ethnic groups, countries, nationalities, and any group with a set of shared norms and patterns develops its own unique culture.  I grew up with an Italian father and a mixed Irish-German mother.  I always lived in an Italian neighborhood when I was growing up.  I never learned to speak Italian, but I learned many Italian swear words.  I hung around with a gang who were mostly Italians.  My family had one culture.  My gang had another culture. 

I went into the United States Air Force when I was 18 years old.  The Air Force had its own culture.  The Army had its own culture.  I would guess there is not a person on the face of the earth who does not belong to more than one culture.  I would bet that most of us can identify with many cultures.  Thus, the term “cultural appropriation” is rather quixotic in many ways.  On the one hand, people might feel flattered that you want to merge symbols of their culture in your own traditions.  However, many other groups feel insulted and abused by such appropriation.  I can understand Indians who think that white people have no right to acquire their culture.  When your culture has been denigrated by the majority group and you have been maligned for trying to practice your culture, outrage against any outside group using your cultural icons for profit or fame would be a normal reaction.

Belonging to more than one culture does not necessarily mean that you should or must give up your identification with another culture.  Culture is a grounding for humans.  Culture helps us navigate life by adopting behaviors and norms that will help us fit in.  Culture is a means to share life with others.  As a veteran, I have many stories and fond memories of times spent with men whom I initially had nothing in common with.  Yet years later, I still enjoy meeting with veterans because we share so many of the same experiences concerning life in the military. 

“Culture does not make people.  People make culture.  If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”  — ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

Race:

What is race?  Scientists say that there is no such thing as race.  How can this be?  Employment applications, loan applications, credit card applications and hundreds of other official documents include demographic questions where you must identify yourself as Black, White, Native America, Asian American, Latino and sometimes Other.  Black people identify with Black people as members of a common race.  The same is true for Caucasians, Indians, Latinos and Asians.  If there is no “race” how can there be “racism”?  Yet, the concept of “racism” is enshrined in laws both for and against “racism.”  If there is no race, why do I see people of different colors and backgrounds who have common acceptance of the idea that they are different from me.”  What can we attribute these different physical characteristics to if not race?

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“Researchers who have since looked at people at the genetic level now say that the whole category of race is misconceived.  Indeed, when scientists set out to assemble the first complete human genome, which was a composite of several individuals, they deliberately gathered samples from people who self-identified as members of different races.  In June 2000, when the results were announced at a White House ceremony, Craig Venter, a pioneer of DNA sequencing, observed, “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.”  — National Geographic, Elizabeth Kolbert, March 12th, 2018

Most of the world’s citizens outside Africa originally migrated from Africa.  These early immigrants through genetic mutations and adaptation to different environments gradually gained different features.  The most predominant feature being skin color.  Skin color is not uniform throughout the world as we can see in places like India, Southeast Asia, China, South America, and even among the indigenous people in the USA.  Many people with “dark” skin coloring in the world would not say that they were Black or White.  I have been to more than thirty other countries.  I have noticed that “Black” people or people from an African Ancestry are not called African in these countries.  In the USA, we have used the term African-Americans but in Sweden, Africans are not called African-Swedes.  The same is true in many other countries across the globe.  Here in the USA, we seem obsessed with the concept of race.  Evidence shows that the genetic differences between individuals are greater than the genetic differences between the so-called “races.”

A randomly-selected American can be more genetically similar to a randomly-selected Korean than to a fellow randomly-selected American.  Similarly, a randomly-selected Ethiopian can be more genetically similar to a randomly-selected Norwegian than to a fellow randomly-selected Ethiopian.  This kind of occurrence is so common that simply comparing the genomes of two people will not help you classify them into what the world currently recognizes as their “race”. — Kristen Hovet, There Is No Such Thing as Race at the Genetic Level

But let’s get down to some common sense and away from science and genetics.  Adolf Hitler said that “Race” mattered more than anything.  Blood and Soil or “Blut und Boden: was a key ideology of the Nazi Party.  Hitler black-people-lynchedbelieved that German blood defined a German race which was superior to other races.  This superiority led to the extermination camps wherein “inferiors” were eliminated.  These inferiors included many people from other “races”, religions, ideologies, and with different physical characteristics.  There was one tribe of Germans and not belonging to this tribe was a potential death sentence.  Hitler set up a pseudo-scientific structure to discriminate between “True Germans” and other inferior “races.”  There never was and never will be a scientific basis for a German race, but this did not stop millions of Germans subscribing to the Nazi ideology of Germanic superiority. 

Conclusions:

prov-12-15If race does not exist but culture exists, what does this mean for group identity?  How strong should group identify be?  Should I sacrifice all for my group and fight to the death for my cultural identify?  What if I believe that my culture is better than your culture?  Could culture become just another banner to wave for those who want to commit acts of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of some perceived differences?  I think this is a distinct possibility and has indeed occurred throughout history.  How then can we have a cultural identify without resorting to racism and discrimination?

I think the solution lies in a hierarchy.  One hierarchy is evil and leads to racism and discrimination as well as genocide and war.  One hierarchy is good and leads to respect, tolerance, acceptance, and harmony among people. 

The Evil hierarchy puts culture, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, patriotism first and character is second. In this hierarchy, the notion of character is not as important as the notion of skin color, ideology, tradition, language, norms, and many other common bases for group acceptance.  You are first and foremost either a member of my group or not.  If you are a member of my group, I will then judge you on the basis of your character.  However, if you are not a member of my group, your character does not matter. You are evil by virtue of being an outsider and as an evil person, you need to be punished. 

The Good hierarchy puts character first and group identify second.  I don’t care if you do belong to my tribe, if you lack character, integrity, and wisdom then I need to deal with you accordingly.  I must of course exercise good character for myself.  I judge you first on your character.  I should also be judged on my character.  If we belong to or have similar tribal, ethnic, cultural, religious, ideological ideas or traditions, so much the better.  However, my relationship to you is based first on your character and only secondarily on which tribe you belong to.  I do not dismiss the importance of tribal or cultural affiliation.  If I am not of your culture or tribe, I will respect, understand and hopefully even be able to share some of your cultural traditions.  Diversity is a means of obtaining knowledge and ideas that can help us all become better than we are.

I will sum up my message here with the following points.

  • Race is a chimera and a substitute for genuine relationships with people
  • Racism is a negative stereotype based on ignorance and bigotry
  • Culture exists and is real. It can define us and allow us to lead more interesting lives
  • Culture if used as a measure of goodness or excellence can lead to prejudice and discrimination
  • Character is the most important criteria for valuing people
  • Tread lightly on all judgements of others

Here I must issue a warning and an extremely strict caveat.  Beware taking the role of judging others on the basis of what you think character means.  I have no doubt that character exists, but I would be very uneasy thinking that I should or could be the ultimate judge of good character or bad character.  Character is a little like quality.  Many say they know it when they see it but defining it can be very elusive.  If someone lies, cheats, steals, robs, rapes, assaults, abuses others or breaks the law, we may well think that they are a bad character.  On the other hand, a person who is honest, truthful, compassionate, and helps others may well be thought of as a good character.  However, time and circumstances may well render judgements made today as inaccurate in the future.  No one has the insight or knowledge to ever know the goodness or badness of another human being fully.

“We don’t care whether you are Christian or Muslim or Jew or Hindu; all we care is the goodness inside you because only the goodness inside you can make you a good human!” — Mehmet Murat ildan

“We are brothers and sisters not because of the color of our skin but because of what is inside of us.” —- J. Persico

Money! Money! Money! No! I Don’t Have Any More Money to Give You!

Political-FUNDRAISING-DURING-A-PANDEMIC

I am sick, sick, sick of being asked to donate money to people running for office.  From Alaska to Hawaii to Maine, every day some incumbent or would-be incumbent is sending me a request for money.  The requests come in various disguises.  From surveys, to matching funds, to desperate pleas for a last-minute donation.  I get requests on email, by phone, in regular mail and often text messages.  I just completed a “survey” and the last question was a hook.  “Are you willing to support the causes that you say you believe in?”  If so, I am supposed to send a small $3 dollar donation off someplace.  I am sick and tired of these click bait requests for money.  I get even sicker when I think I have about 50 days more days to put up with these incessant requests for money, more money and ever more money.

John,

I wish I were emailing with a better update but unfortunately, we missed our goal Saturday night.

We needed to raise $75,000 to fight back against the more than $60 million Mitch McConnell and his allies plan to spend to beat us. But even with the support from this team, we still fell short.

There is an irony here as well.  The Democrats which I am supporting for this election all agree that we need campaign finance reform.  We must get money out of the political process.  Too much money is spent on lobbying, advertising, promoting candidates, media, and media consultants.  And what is the secret to getting money out of politics.  Very Simple My Friend“Just send me $10 dollars today so I can defeat my greedy opponent.” 

A few months ago, my wife and I both received Covid Stimulus checks for $1200 each.  When we received these checks, we had been self-quarantining to avoid contagion with anyone who might be harboring the virus.  As a result of the virus, we had no place to go.  Our auto gas bill was near zero.  Our entertainment expenses were zero.  Our eating out expenses were zero.  We are both semi-retired and I lost some income since I had been doing substitute teaching work which was terminated when the schools all closed.  My wife continued her part-time work as a medical coder working from home and her income did not decline.  All in all though, we were in a better financial place than we had been in years.

Mark’s 72-hour fundraising deadline ends tomorrow, and I know he could use some help to close the gap, which is why I have to ask:

If you are able, will you make a $50 donation to Mark’s people-powered campaign? He can’t afford to fall short of this goal, not when Mitch McConnell and the NRA are spending millions on ads to defeat him.

When the checks came, we realized that many other people were hurting.  Many people needed the money more than we did.  We decided to donate the first check of $1200 dollars to six charities at $200 each charity.  We sent the money to a variety of charities that we thought worthwhile. Subsequently, we sent another $400 dollars from the second stimulus check to a few other charities.  We felt good that we could help others.  During this time period, we also received many requests from politicians.  We decided that we would not send any money to any politicians until after the primaries were over.

John, with our FEC end-of-quarter deadline approaching, we need to raise $41,000 more by September 30 to show that we can win this election.

It’s going to take a lot, but I know we can do it together. Can you contribute today to help us reach this goal and flip this seat blue?

Several months have gone by.  Hundreds of requests for money to support this candidate or that candidate have been received.  No exaggeration here either.  I get between five and ten requests every day to send money to some would-be politician.  Nevertheless, both my wife and I agreed that we would send at least ½ of any further stimulus money received to politicians that we supported.  As time has gone by, we realized that:  1).  Probably, no further stimulus money would be coming and 2).  We needed to send money to candidates that we supported now before it was too late.  Any money sent later would come to late to be of any use.

But look, John, this will still be an uphill battle against Lindsey and his massive fundraising war chest.

We need to raise another $40,599 by midnight tomorrow or we won’t be able to compete.

We decided to take six hundred dollars out of our savings and allocate it among the various candidates.  Using an approach developed in baseball and called the “Money Ball” approach, we selected candidates based on the following priorities:

  1. Defeating Trump for the Presidency
  2. Flipping the U.S. Senate
  3. Supporting three local candidates that we knew

Our money went as follows:

  • $200 to Biden
  • $250 dollars to U.S. Senate candidates (5 candidates at $50 dollars each)
  • $150 dollars to local candidates (3 candidates at $50 dollars each)

We sent the money directly to each candidate via their website donation buttons.  Every candidate now has a prominent place to send money to them via their websites.  We decided that if we received any more stimulus money, we would make a second round of donations.  If not, this was all the money we were sending.  Further pleas, requests, entreaties, appeals, supplications, and petitions for more money would be ignored.  Balancing out our concern for a “Better USA” was our concern for many charities which we would like to support but could not since our extra money was now going to the political arena.  An arena I might mention that is worse than a bottom less pit.  Did you ever wonder where all the campaign money that you give to your candidate goes?  Here is one break-down that I found on Wikipedia:

  • Grassroots fundraising
  • Opposition research
  • Consultation
  • Advertising
  • Canvassing
  • Retail politics
  • Election promises
  • Get out the vote efforts
  • Lawn signs
  • Attack ads
  • Push polls
  • Candidate needs
  • Campaign manager
  • Campaign staff
  • Political portals and websites

I have four political lawn signs that I either bought or gave a donation for.  One of my signs is a Biden sign.  It was stolen about a week ago.  I went on line and purchased two more Biden signs.  The first one lasted about two weeks.  I figure that two more should get me through the election.  After the election, they will either be a souvenir or junk depending on which way the voting goes.

Dear John

In a country devoid of national leadership on this public health crisis known as the COVID-19 pandemic, and devoid of a national health system like Medicare for All that would put the interests of the public over those of greedy commercial profiteers… Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) knows we can do better. Please support our efforts with a donation of $20, $10, or $5.

After we sent our money.  We received one Thank You letter from the Wisconsin Democratic party but not a single acknowledgement from any single candidate on either a national or local level.  What we did receive was at least 5 more requests for money from each of the national candidates.  The Biden campaign alone has sent us more than a dozen requests since they received our $200 dollar donation.  No Thank You message.

John, the first ballots are being cast right now in North Carolina, so I’m emailing you today to ask you to roll up your sleeves and join Joe and me in the fight for what he so rightly calls “the soul of our nation.” Will you split a $10 donation between our Biden-Harris ticket and Democrats nationwide to give our campaigns the important resources necessary to move the needle?

My wife Karen and I were talking about the aggravation we are both experiencing with all of these daily requests for money.  I said I would like to start a “No Money Party”.  She remembered an Andrew Greeley book she read.  It had a candidate running for office who swore that he would never ask or request money for his campaign.  People were so enamored of the idea that he received a great deal of unrequested money.  I want to start a No Money Party.  No candidates running under my party banner would ever request a single penny from anyone.  We might request help in turns of time or volunteering, but we would never request a single penny.  Of course, you are saying “How naive.  Your candidates would never get elected.”  You might be 100% percent right.  However, that is not the point.

The point is that all of these people running for office are clueless.  They all think or at least act like every USA citizen has a printing press in their basement.  They are the most important people in the world.  Their getting elected will cure the Covid-19 Pandemic.  Their getting elected will end Global Warming.  Their getting elected will create an economy like the world has never seen before.  Promises, promises, promises and all you have to do to make these promises come true is to send MORE money.

quote-the-money-in-politics-is-a-cash-cow-for-the-media-noam-chomsky-142-72-37

Well friends, Romans, and other countrymen.  I am making a promise today.  NO MAS.  No more money.  I am not sending another penny, shilling, drachma, farthing or even an IOU to anyone running for office for the remainder of the 2020 year.  If something happens and I am granted another Corona virus stimulus check before the election, my stimulus money will go to help someone get an education or get needed health care.  I can’t think of any politician really worth sending another centavo to.  Most of them have more money than I will ever see anyway.  I am sure they all eat for free someplace on Capital Hill and laugh at the suckers who keep sending them money to get reelected.

If you agree with me, please don’t sent me any money.  I will only waste it on buying another bottle of Tequila so that I can forget this election and drown my political sorrows.

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