Sounds like Facebook and social media, yes? No. Communications and friendship are the foundation of culture, any culture, but particularly ours based on the principles of Christianity but with the influence of so many other philosophies leading up to it. I think it is time we understood the differences between our culture and the new one emerging.
I have waxed eloquent about social media; so perhaps I don’t have to belabor that again, save to say that electronic social media today has corrupted communications and friendship by substituting focus on self for focus on community and others. The difference, might I suggest, is profound, and has contributed to the so many disconnects that have arisen in our modern culture.
Human culture requires community; we all need friends with whom to share our lives, else we tend to be very lonely and often shallow. That does not mean that all need be consumed by being social gadflies; there are all kinds of us and we are all different. But we need relationships with others to live productively. That includes family, community and friends – and communication with them. In many ways our form of government, a Democratic Republic, is based upon an understanding of that. The difference between plain vanilla democracy and the Democratic Republic of The United States has much to do with the understanding our founders had of human nature, and how they implemented checks and balances to deal with it. Today I am reading with some regularity of how our Constitution is out of date, and the most recent I read (by Anne Applebaum, not a Progressive) suggests that our founders really did not understand, which is why changes are necessary. I must accept that no one in 1776 could have understood what our future would bring, but I contend that is why the members of the Constitutional Convention, with much sturm and drang, were as successful as they were in hammering out the result that evolved, through stressing principles. I do get carried away, but I think the principle of community is a big part of that, and community is communications and friendship.
The importance of communications and friendship is in the relationship between or among those taking part in them. The problem with social networking is that we have lost track of those real relationships, substituting something much less real and enduring. In my opinion is has substituted me for us, as has become so common in our culture today, beginning with what we are teaching out children. When too much is for me, and too little for for other, that the magic is beinglost. But let me demur on that and suggest that when everything is for other there is a problem there too, especially when for other means just giving, and expecting nothing in return; the return needs to be what they do for themselves as a result of the giving, and that’s how giving should be structured. Everything is a balance, and friendship and communications must be balanced too; something all need work toward, individually and collectively. Basically what I think I think I am talking about is reaching out – to help others help themselves; but that is not as simple as it sounds either; it all takes work, lots of it.
This is what also is advocated in the principles of traditional Christianity, aided by all that came before, and nurtured by a very dedicated group of men that understood.
As I keep suggesting, we have launched our boats upon troubled waters, not for the first time. And the cause of troubled waters is always change; we are going through perhaps the most monumental change the world has ever experienced. But even that might be challenged; change is relative, and if what is being changed is our entire culture as it goes from what was to what it has become, that has happened before, numerous times. Digital communication is just part of that; affluence is also a part of it, along with our world dominance; and people who have had nothing in the past are suddenly finding a whole new world. But globalization is also a part of it; a great deal is coming together all at once, and neither we nor the world are not ready for it. But on a perhaps more reduced scale, similar has happened before, just in different ways.
Our means of survival remains much the same, however; we need each other, and must get back to where we make the most of it. Communication, real communication, and friendship – real friendship – are a good part of that. Is that not what community and family are all about? extended family?
So what is entailed? reaching out to others, not for ourselves but for them, but in reaching out to them we are helping ourselves as well. It is mutual; that’s what makes it so important, and yields such amazing results, if we only give it a chance. In short, people need people to talk to, to bounce their opinions off, and to receive feedback, from others. Note that is a process, not just a function; it cannot be done alone, and that is the point. I know its meaning first hand, not only with family but friends, particular those I communicate with daily; I think it is good for them; I know it is good for me.
We must get back to understanding what real communication, and friendships are all about – and community as well. It is the foundation of who we are – and needs to be. Have I ever mentioned re-learning what is really important? Well, that is part of it, believe me.
I have decided that fame, fortune and power have defined us – throughout history, but even more in modern times. Is there more? Of course there is more, but the more seems to weave through these three. Then everything weaves through everything, doesn’t it? What of the principles I keep discussing? Yep, they weave right in there too, and of course we could go on. Today I just wish to just address fame, fortune and power and see what they are doing to us today.
Fame is an obvious one; however in simpler times it was popularity: how many people were attracted to us, for whatever reason. What changed? Communications and all that followed. It became possible to expand fame from an immediate association of acquaintances to a larger population: movies, books, magazines, television and now the Internet, including the ubiquitous Social Media. But look at the Internet; Facebook is the epitome of fame, as we collect “friends” as we once did whatever it was we collected; for the same reason: it makes us feel good.
Fortune is also obvious. Luxury, pleasure, travel, even eating, all cost money and require a level of “fortune” to support them. We all want them, but we want more; we want to be admired, envied for being able to achieve them. One might even say that we want to be “famous” for having them.
Power. Bertrand Russell in a small book of the same name: “One of the chief emotional differences (between men and animals) is that some human desires are essentially boundless and incapable of complete satisfaction…imagination is the goad that forces human beings into restless exertion after their primary needs have been satisfied…of the infinite desires of man, the chief are the desires of power and glory…the men who cause social changes are, as a rule, men who strongly desire to do so; love of power, therefore, is a characteristic of the men who are causally important.” That captures most of it, and he puts it better than I could. But just think, what is bullying among children a quest for power? Let me sink no deeper into it than that.
The point I often try to make (going back to principles) is that many people attempt to go no further: fame, fortune and power are enough; who could want more? I contend that most find out that it is NOT enough, but that’s another tangent. Today the lust for them seems to be consuming us – at almost every level, and in many different ways.
The ultimate problem is that we can not all achieve them to our satisfaction, and due to greed and envy, that causes us great dissatisfaction in life. The solution to that dissatisfaction is to set appropriate goals to which we are willing to devote ourselves to create a balance between what we would have and what we can achieve; but forget that; it ain’t gonna happen, because we are beset by human nature: to wit, making the investment, for so many reasons, is not within most of us. That, of course, leads us elsewhere also, because “making the investment” is neither simple nor individual, and includes at the very least strong family support – which leads us in all kinds of different directions.
One of my favorites is to know what really matters, but that’s way too deep for most, because of our influences, and any reader here will see where this is going – again. Let’s simplify it this time by saying our influences have become way to broad and complicated, and let’s leave it at that. It takes some deep thinking, and quite a bit of experience, good and thoughtful experience and honest knowledge of self to answer the question to one’s own satisfaction: what is important? or stated differently, with the same intent, what really matters?
Really something, isn’t it? My, how creative we are; but that’s the way it is, to our credit. But things are changing: our “new” world . Some see it as the end of it all, at least as we know it, and that’s understandable; we can’t handle it. Others just don’t think about it, and go sailing along, oblivious; that’s part of the problem. But it certainly has become a matter of some confusion, if not sturm and drang. Why? Our amazing global communications have to be part of it: more information than most are able to assimilate, much less understand; too much too fast, and not enough ability to understand what it’s all about. What will happen to us? Who knows? But never fear; we’ll muddle through – somehow. We have stumbled into a new and amazing era, that we will somehow have to learn to accommodate, and will only do so with difficulty, which, clearly, has begun. Oh woe.
Part of it is our arrogance. Too many want to see it their own way, and think they know everything – and are trying to exploit it, particularly through unrestricted publication through social media, to say nothing of making use of opportunity to exploit it. Too many at the other end of the spectrum are just shell shocked. But with our incredibly cheap mass communications, everyone (well, almost everyone) wants to jump in – on line (whichever line is chosen, and there are many) – and give their opinion, and exploit opportunity, which adds to the confusion.
We need a little wisdom, but more, we need more understanding, and more interest in trying to understand: education, at a time when education is deteriorating,for the very same reasons: man is screwing it up. That’s the way man, human nature is, and has always been; have you noticed? Well, that’s part of the problem – short memories; poor bases of historical knowledge,; and selfish, arrogance being thrown at it. It just has to work itself out; it has before, but never without pain. So, what pain? How will it be worked out? Stay tuned; are we ready?
Of course we are not ready; we never are. That’s what has made our history so turbulent. But, we have wanted to believe that was all behind us, as we have moved into the great world of KNOWLEDGE; don’t hold your breath. Unfortunately, KNOWLEDGE is relative, and is (and has always been) controlled by those that make it their place to control it; and the rest of us, through complacency and pure laziness let them do it, and then emote about it – and blame; oh do we blame. We are emoting more than in the past because our vast ability to communicate has been so expanded. Whee, we are on a roll, roller coaster actually. Ain’t it fun?
Hang on; it;s going to be with us for awhile. And pain? I have beaten that to death, haven’t I?
But we MUST keep it all in perspective; that’s why I spend so much time with philosophy: use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality; you are getting tired of that (if you are paying attention), I understand. There is so much we do not know, but need to try and understand; that means going back to those that have reasoned before us, and those that continue to do so, and learn from them: standing on the shoulders of giants. Education is much more than what we have been making it out to be. Experience? Yes, I have belabored that as well.
But allow me to add to that; we must also be aware; of what? ourselves to begin with. We have to WANT to understand, and that requires knowing who we are and what our values are. It takes much effort; but then it seems I have been beating on that for awhile as well. I do go on.
Keep the faith – and endure my lecturing, if you will; that is what I have to do, but I’ve belabored that too.
This takes some explaining. I have spent my life accumulating information; I like to make it sound more important – at least to justify the effort – by calling it education; maybe and maybe not, but it doesn’t matter, it is what I have chosen to do in my dotage, and for a significant time leading up to that; it has just gained momentum. Of potential value? This is for anyone who might be interested to determine, on their own, for whatever reason. When I originally began thinking about it, I thought of it as a legacy of some sort, something to pass on; my thinking was that I had made adequate effort and it might be useful to someone. So I am making this effort to make it available. It is certainly not for all, perhaps not of any particular use for any. That’s ok; I make no grandiloquent claim for it having any value at all; so it might be just so many vapid words that people seem to have to propagate; of that I am guilty.
I call it stream of consciousness, deliberately; that’s almost always how it begins; sometimes consciously but often when waking up with it in the middle of the night with a thought, a subject, popped in to the mind. I lose a lot of sleep in the process, and that may be impacting my health; but after being exposed to Lumosity’s brain exercises as a result of being referred to a Neurological testing unit after sustaining a concussion, I told my physician how much I appreciated what it had done for me. Knowing how much stock I place on physical exercise he explained that mental exercise is of equal importance. I fully agree. My physician thought I was coming down with early dementia; the testing unit suggested that it didn’t appear to be normal dementia, but trauma; that made sense. But dementia can have many causes. as almost everything can. Call it what you like, but I do have some brain damage, and am very fortunate that it is localized and not more extensive, and I can funntion more or less normally, most of the time.
In fact previous to this site I was attempting to do something like what I have been here doing since 2010 here on a Yahoo site, but Yahoo stopped supporting it. That site is still out there, and I can access it, but don’t know whether others can or not; the sites are similarly named. I offered the original site to a friend to look at, suggesting it was a pretty confused mess; it was, and he agreed. Thus I attempted something more orderly with Blue Host when I resumed in this format.
Anyway it consumes a good portion of my “free” time (lots of that, after all) and it gives me pleasure and satisfaction – the pleasure of exercising my mind, but in the process encouraging me to reach out to continue to build my store of knowledge through reading, and the satisfaction of still being able to do it. I do not contend that it is truth or even right, certainly I can not claim it to be profound; it is just my stream of consciousness exercise that keeps me occupied and gives me a kind of perverse kind of pleasure. It has been given some attention, but not much, and mostly, apparently, in Australia; don’t ask me why. Keying it, with deteriorating eyesight and worse keyboard control, has been trying, but has been worth it, to me. Let’s face it; it has all been for me, and I want nothing more than that. But why not offer it to be shared, should any one want to share it? Believe me, I have no expectations for anything more, nor should I desire anything more.
The Weblog Essay site it titled phaedo2000.com, or sometimes phaedo2000.com/blog and it is public access.
But let’s reach out a little further. I have had incredible good fortune; great family, solid nurturing, good friends, fine experiences – ah experiences, SO important. I have worked in places all over the world, with people from those counties; so we are all the same? No we are not all the same; why do we continually drone on about that? it is NOT true. So why don’t we make more of an effort to learn about those differences, and expand more effort to understanding which is better and why, instead of basking in our entertainment wallow of indulgence, and whining because someone won’t give us more of it?
This is my attempt to do what I can. Big deal; no it isn’t, but it’s all I can do. I don’t even ask anyone to buy in, but to just think about it and find out what all the rest of us can do.
My next step will be to compile a list of friends and family, then send emails of this to them. If it is useful then perhaps the rest of the website might have some value. It is all I have left to offer.
After preparing my previous post for “publication” (that’s the button I push when I want to go from just save to publish), I ran into this sequence of events that I wanted to capture and share. I think they’re related
After taking a break from my previous, Too Late We Get Smart effort I received an email from a friend warning me to stop thinking so much; a valid warning as my efforts of late have been costing me sleep; and I need my sleep.
I responded by telling her about having just listened to a radio panel discussing the Pope’s visit to The United States; it seemed like more worship of fame, something that I see often, but is somewhat beyond me, but I listened. The panel was comprised of a GOP Congressman, a nun and an advocate for Catholic bishops and was moderated by a young lady with whom I was not familiar; it was a national syndication rebroadcast on a Dallas FM radio station. Since I was driving my car I was unable to take notes, so will just have to do the best I can.
Where the panel discussion got interesting for me was when it got into an example, and it is one the like of which I am familiar. It had to do with a family, with four children, that was earning its way, and purchased a home in the Northeast. The male bread-winner sustained an injury that kept him from working and ownership of the home became threatened. In the past banks would have dealt with that, and adjusted, but now they won’t and it’s not fair, according to the way we think today. What WE need to do about the poor, according to Progessives makes me a bit nauseated; but no way one can make progressives, including progressive media, understand, or even think much out of the box about it.
It was discussed that the banks couldn’t give them a break because it’s no longer just about managing loans; if they that was all it was, they could work with them. But since the government let investment banks and loan banks consolidate, they now bundle mortgages into investment packages, and are desperately afraid doing anything would panic investors. I understand that; the panel talking about the Pope’s visit did not, except for a republican congressman who didn’t dare say much, because no one listening on radio would understand; and it was too complicated to try and cover in such a forum. It is not a trivial problem, and in a circumstance such as this I am very sympathetic. So how did it come to this?
The problem is not banks, but investment banks, and what Wall Street has done with investments, which goes back to the FED, which takes us to gambling and crony politics. And bleeding heart progressives neither have a clue nor any intention of finding one, since give away is better for THEIR power base. A Boston firm dealing in mortgages has been exploring options, and is making some progress, but limited because of the legal environment they find themselves in, none of which had much impact on an audience that was preoccupied with helping the poor; or, for that matter, the people in the dilemma. who are understandably concerned with their situation, and frustrated. This was an audience being led by a young liberal media interlocutor, of course; which of them are not?
It happened I was at a point in Sowell’s book, Dismantling America, where he had an observation on some background: “given the complex relationships among banks and other financial institutions, including many big Wall Street firms, if mortgages started defaulting, all the financial dominoes would start falling.” This brought me back to
Michael Hirsh’s, Capital Offense, that I had recently just finished reading; this book covered this subject in great detail, discussing how the bundling of mortgages into investment vehicles with high risk developed with the integrating of traditional and investment banks. But Jonathan Rauch, in Government’s End, goes beyond that in describing how our government has become dysfunctional through manipulations that have far more to do with political power than what is good for the people.
Absolve the banks? Banks do what they must to survive within the legal structure; will they take advantage? Sure, won’t anyone in like circumstances? There can be no question of that today in unbridled chase of opportunity, however dubious the morality. The point is that government, in opening the gates to this opportunity, has changed the playing field, and the incentives. Before leaving this I need to say that this, our economy, is a very touchy situation, and there are likely many reasons things went in the direction they did, probably without a great deal of consideration beyond the immediate; within the existing power structure that is very complicated. I am not being judgmental as much as I am contemplative about how knowledge develops, or doesn’t, which is certainly anything but simple and direct. I think the point of my observations are that the audience was not left with an understanding of reality, but with what one might expect today as a great deal of broadside blame with little real understanding of how the situation came to be what it is.
So we blame the banks, which serve and always have served a critical need in our economy, and not the government which is only there trying to help us. Thomas Sowell has much more to say about that; but do people listen to him, or the politicians? His view takes understanding, which requires effort; What the Progressives offer, both politicians and their media cohorts, is much more simple and easy to understand, because it fits with what so many want to believe.
What form of government is this, Mr. Franklin? A republic, madame, if you can keep it.
So I am showing off how smart I am? Hardly. I am merely pointing to how we must stand on the shoulders of giants. That’s how we got where we are; but we can always slide back into something like the feudalistic past, and grovel again at the feet of tyrants, and never know how we got there. It is easy to argue that that is exactly what today’s elite progressive power brokers such as King Obama and Emperor trump have in mind. That is what happens without independently accumulated knowledge; an example of which process I have attempted to show.
Give me liberty, or give me death.
I have been allowing myself, encouraging myself, to not get too carried away with myself.
I have pushed myself as a philosopher, not that that is any big deal. Philosophy: use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality. Who can not pursue that? Hume, Plato, Aristotle? Hardly; I am merely one who stands on the shoulders of those brilliant giants, and tries to assimilate what I learn from them; and in my own very limited way to try to share it in light of life as it is today – as I see it. Anyone can pursue it, or at least pay attention to others who attempt to discuss it – IF they WANT to, and are willing to make the effort.
Our lives are short, and too late we begin to realize what is important, especially with all the diversions, as well as different opinions as to just what is important. We spend too much time entertaining ourselves, and wait too long to deal with preparing ourselves for that which IS important, once we figure out what that is. Realizing that, and wanting to do something about it is our challenge, even if most don’t even realize life is offering it to us. But how do we go about doing something about meeting it?
First, doing something about it isn’t something that can just begin happening; one has to do the preparation which allows it to begin – with the accumulation of knowledge. “Getting Smart”? That is a nice simplification, isn’t it? Actually it is much more than that, yet also less. Accumulating knowledge is not getting smart, just accumulating information is even less so; many who just accumulate never approach becoming wise; “getting smart” is an even more simplistic view of getting wise, but we love simplifying. The more than that, entailing preparation to understand and deal with what is important, requires first understanding what is important, and then why, taking many different sets of preparation: preparation for what? There is no simple answer to that question, as all that goes to make up life as we know; all is intrinsically related; we have just compartmentalized it to make the pursuing easier. So what to pursue? No simple answer to that question either; it depends upon which part of life one wants to focus; no one can know everything.
That is why “philosophy” is viewed as a capstone in the learning process, not because it puts it all together in a big bucket, but because it teaches us how to put it together for ourselves, as we need it. Research tools? They are part of it, but learning to think about it and apply those research tools are much more of it. So it’s all about accumulating degrees and getting doctor’s certificates? No, it is not; that is for the motivated and challenged few, the few that prefer to follow that path; certainly it is not for all of us. So the rest? That’s easy: all the rest of us need to do what we can do to prepare ourselves.
So I need to elaborate. It is incumbent upon all of us to learn all that we can; the kind of world we live on is demanding that; and it is what is making immigration such a challenge. Too many immigrants are not up to the challenge of dealing with our economy, our culture. So they need more education? Yes they do; but that doesn’t necessarily entail more college courses. We all need more knowledge. So, what kind of knowledge? That, of course depends on a lot of things. At the very minimum it depends on what living in the American culture requires; those who are not willing to learn such basics should not only not be here, they should not come here. One MUST understand one’s culture. How about English? one must know how to negotiate the language; perfectly? no, but adequately, and adequately depends on how far wants to progress in our culture; or discard their own? also no: just be conversant in and supportive of ours. All want similar results, but to achieve anything like that they must learn how to make adequate effort – and adequate is obviously relative, but generally, effort and results are related. And other?: history? biology perhaps, some science maybe; particularly elemental mathematics; at least how to deal with one’s personal finances.
We in this country have a broad list of options, community college being one of them; but trade schools, and even occupation related training are others. But how about church provided training and education? Is it not evident that there is virtually no end to opportunities, for them that seek them? A favorite story of mine is of a young man, told by soldiers that HVAC was an up and coming field of opportunity. He borrowed $10,000 that paid for HVAC training and he took 20 years to pay off. He now lives in a comfortable home, has a secure family, and is a respected supervisor in a successful local HVAC company. Scholarships to get degrees that are advertised to lead to a great deal of money? Oversold, leading to unrealistic expectations. Not that such a track is not available – for those who have made the effort to qualify themselves, know what they want, and are willing to make the commitment – but it’s not for everyone, as the hype might have one believe.
Then there are the welfare programs for those who either cannot or will not do for themselves;
and additional programs for those that have destroyed themselves via drug excess and sloth, but that’s another predicament, deserving separate treatment, perhaps. Although does dealing with all that not also have something to do with getting “smart”?
There is much to think about, and too little thinking being done; and too much government attempting to make initiative and motivation unnecessary: it will never succeed, but many will be destroyed in believing it will. Hard work and satisfaction for being able to accomplish it are much of what is the basis for America’s success. There is much more, of course, and appreciating the results of effort of others is part of that; “let me be a little kinder; let me be a little blinder to the faults of those around me; let me praise a little more.”
But then not taking self to seriously has always been important too, and that appears to have been getting out of hand lately; and considering unintended consequences is something useful too, something we are also doing less well. In fact, taking responsibility for ourselves is something else that comes to mind. Of course that’s another thing we can hang on government; but are we not part of the reason that government pursues policies that have other that that result? It’s easier, and we like easy. Actually, there is a great deal that we don’t think about, or take too much for granted.
The pot is stirring itself; the entire world has become a cauldron, not that it has not always been, but perhaps more now than it has ever been.
The reason is fairly obvious, and it is the complexity of the world, most particularly its connectivity, and the demands that are being placed on us. Let’s not confuse connectivity with coming closer together; differences of so many kinds are driving us apart. But at the same time, those differences have been stirring the pot in ways that could not have been anticipated. As the world is being blown apart the pieces have to go somewhere, and with communications as they are, they are all headed in generally the same direction: toward a better way of life, and security. Of course it is not that simple, since interwoven within all that desperate search is a heavy diet of opportunism – of all kinds; and that happening at the same time is stirring the pot, more and more vigorously.
Seeking opportunity is nothing new, but the rampant desperation and knowing where opportunity may be found are making a difference. Disintegration in the Middle East is certainly a factor; but so is the effect of increasing accumulation of debt throughout the world, developing due to unrealistic attempts to better satisfy the discontent of people everywhere. Of course apparent increasing ineptitude of leadership is not helping, not, perhaps, that it is so much more inept than it has usually been, but people are more aware of it – and more aware that something can be done about it for themselves, or at least they think it can. Now don’t let this give the impression that people have more knowledge or are working harder to attain it; instead it is that even though there is more information out there, much of it is wrong; and it moves so fast, and is given so much attention. Desperation fuels those flames, but so does propaganda, either deliberate or accidental; that is, spread from electronic device to electronic device like a range fire out of control; and uncontrollable? That is another part of the problem, too many are attempting to control it, but are more likely just fanning the flames, with few working together.
Working together? That’s another part of the challenge; if all the desperate seekers of opportunity were all to come here or to Europe, would they work with us together to make things better? Or would they come here expecting to be taken care of and resist assimilating into our culture? Surely some would as some would do otherwise, if they have to tools to do so; but the problem today is that not everyone can compete in a modern economy, and many don’t even have the skills to know where to begin- and then there are the activists that are providing much of the impetus, that really don’t care; it is a can of worms, poorly understood. It is going to take a long, long time to sort this out, and a great deal of patience and effort. With things as they are, where will that come from? I think it will begin to evolve, but not quickly, and not without a great deal of pain; have I said that before?
But in the meantime, what to do? No one really knows; one extreme wants to just help everyone go broke together; the other just want to kill the encroachers. Neither way is right, or even practical. So what to do?
We are being challenged; we have been challenged before, but never like this. The real problem is that NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT TO DO, and there is little attempt at consensus – because of that, but then that’s typical today. Believe it or not it WILL works itself out; because it always does, however it does. But can our generations of the coddled be able to deal with it? Not easily. We have done this to ourselves, but cannot fathom how we have done so. America’s government first trying to do it all themselves, and others letting them, then suddenly turning aside and suggesting we just talk about it, and expecting it all to take care of itself. Leadership? Discipline? Fortitude? Pull ourselves up by our boot straps? We still have the ingredients that support what is required, if the selfish idiots would get out of the way, but even we just listen to hucksters because they are telling us what we want to hear. But what of the rest of the world?
It’s going to get nasty; stay tuned. But in the meantime get prepared. How? start figuring it out. It starts with stopping thinking like victims and beginning to accept doing things for ourselves. And tough as it might sound, anyone who wants to join us needs to understand they need to help pull the load; but first WE need to recognize that need and define the direction of the needed pull, which we are not doing. It’s not just going to happen, and it won’t happen quickly. Let’s begin by looking for leadership, proven leadership who have demonstrated knowledge of how it has to be one, instead of the mouthy theorists who lean out of their ivory towers and whine about what has to be done but have no plans to do it. Sound familiar enough?
It is time to roll up our sleeves and get busy; but first we have to find someone with a plan that we can get behind, at least to get the ball rolling. They are out there, and likely they would try, working together; if we would let them, and support them. So maybe some just need to get out of the way. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see that happening because we are too coddled and expectant, thinking the gummint will do it for us. They won’t; It is they, after all, who brought us to this point. Ah, but who is “they” in a government of the people? Why do we except, even blindly embrace, the blathering, greedy, power hungry arrogants that we do?
Time to stand up and realize what is important; it’s going to be a struggle. We are late starting, already behind the curve, and it’s going to be a long hard pull.
I have been critical of the News of late; as I have seen it, in my view, as sliding into a backwater of Progressiveism. Another nasty political broadside? Give me a chance to explain. Actually I am proud that The News is fighting the inclination to be excessively progressive. I can not say the same for most of the rest of media. Media…..no, not media, print media, has always been a bulwark of liberal conservatism. Our press has been the safeguard of our liberty. Media not so much; why? Because Media has given in to the will of the masses; the masses want to be entertained and made to feel good; the traditional press stood for something far more noble; not always, of course, but mostly.
Wait a minute, anyone who might be reading will say, this is not even a letter to the newspaper. No, it is not; I have chosen to use my Weblog essay format to capture these thoughts, and publish them for anyone who might be interested to share; it is what I do; but I shall forward it to the Dallas Morning News, when I finish with it. Let’s get on with what attracted my attention, and then we’ll return to the philosophy of it.
The first article, from the 20 September edition of Points, was entitled Blurring Human and Machine: today’s Luddite contemplates what separates us, wrote David Auerbach. David, a writer and software engineer, may be only half my age, but his perspective is part of what attracted me. I understand how us older folks drift into our own bubbles (I have been calling myself a dinosaur; I am now preferring Luddite) and I think it is incumbent upon us Luddites to keep an open mind, and stay tuned in to what is happening, just as I think it is incumbent upon younger generations to open their minds and learn about the reality of life; it takes awhile for that reality to sink in. It seemed to me that Aurbach’s article did a good job of spanning that gap. I have been reading (Kristin Anderson’s book Where Millennials are Leading America, in particular) about this particular conundrum: maturing of the young; but maintaining open minds among those growing old is also important. Both are a real challenge, particularly in this day of rampant technological (read electronic communications) progress. Aurbach quotes Leon Trostky: “to produce a new ‘improved version’ of man…….man must see himself as a raw material, or at best as a semi-manufactured product, and say: ‘At last, my dear homo sapiens, I will work on you’; what I left our between man and man was: ‘that is the future task of Communism’.
You might see where I am headed. Progressivism and Communism are both natural progressions from classical liberalism, balanced by natural conservatism. But we have entered a time warp where bipolar views have become not only common, but almost obligatory; things are either this or that; nothing in between is acceptable; modern media pushes that. I am not trying to be judgmental, only realistic; I know why it is happening: it sells; we believe what we want to believe, but are quite open to latching on to what charismatic, confident speakers feed us; human nature, selfishness, fame, fortune and power; if you have been here, you have heard all that before.
In an article in the Orange Count Register Joel Kotkin wrote about how this is happening throughout government. But Thomas Sowell goes into much more detail on that in his 2010 book, Dismantling America; and Michael Hirsch (Capital Offense) and Jonathan Rauch (Government’s End) expand in their books (also 2010 and prior; Rauch has many updates starting from 1994). My point? Our press and those well informed, thoughtful writers who care and write about what they care about with concern, have not disappeared. The fact that popular media has been distracted from this has to do with many things that have been addressed often enough in print publications (including many, I might add, that are carried on the Internet) if one knows where to look for them. Our education system can nor help come to mind, affected as it is by entertainment media as well as personal student motivation, but also ideology of some administrators. Culture does not change in a blinding flash; ours has been moving right along (left along, actually) for several generations, mainly due to growing affluence (the effect of which has been so evident throughout history). There is seldom a single cause for anything, merely a confluence of causes coalescing over a period of time. But enough of that; back to The Dallas Morning News.
Another thoughtful article in Sunday’s Points, by Arthur C. Brooks: Calming The Storm (about avoiding being a miserable manager). How about The Voting Booth Is No Place For Anger, by Stephen L. Carter? I am not here to rehash, and if I tried you would likely not stay with me; but this is good stuff; it is what print media has always done well, to our benefit, and what ALL media should do; so why doesn’t it? pure and simple: only demand begets supply; we have met the enemy and he is us (Pogo).
I have been critical of the News in the past, as it has slid in the direction of popular pap for reasons I can well understand; publishing is a business, after all, and businesses need those that want to sample what they offer, and pay for it one way or another; we have to be well awarew of what that is. That is reality; it is also free enterprise. Nor should the Government dictate otherwise, although it would like to try, and in the process, surely screw it up. I am proud that management of The Dallas Morning News realizes the importance of its mission, and is moving back to discharging it such that we, the readers (however reluctantly perhaps) can reap the very important benefits that will derive from its efforts. I don’t expect it to be complete reversion, that is not the way things work, nor do I expect everything to be the way I would wish it; I commend the balance, and hope to see it continue.
Now on to the philosophy, one cannot escape that – but only a smidgeon this time. Our culture is being inexorably dragged in the same direction it is always dragged: greed, fame, fortune and power; Professor Tytler had it right, and it has been growing; well, forever, but more rapidly of late. One only need look at the EU, but they are not alone; it is an infectious disease. It all has to to with something for nothing, “spreading the wealth” through government distribution – and great myopic short shortsightedness and ignoring unintended consequences. But what are the options in a cruel and harsh world? It’s not that cut and dried: when people are forced to do for themselves, they will – if they are able, of course; there are exception. But governments greedy for power make too many exceptions, and that’s how they attain and hold power.
So it’s either simple live live or die? that’s the point. People will opt to do what they have to do to live, to keep from dying. Of course there must be regulation and law enforcement to maintain order; but that can also be rigged for those who are favored. So what is the alternative, if all government is basically self-interested? and it is. We might have come as close as was possible: as Franklin said: with a republic, if you can keep it. Is that so difficult? My yes, it is, with human nature. It takes a great deal of effort, which has not been forthcoming of late. Time will tell, and the writers cited above, and many others have sounded the warning.
All may not be sweetness and light, and the world debt bulge is something that could have dramatic Consequences; but change is nothing new, nor will it ever end. We, however, collectively can contribute to influencing it, and I am proud of the Dallas Morning News to standing up in that regard.
My target subject began with Social Media. My concern was what it has come to be, with more emphasis on self promotion and inane blather than useful social discourse. On that I think I need not elaborate. But my cogitation, early in the morning several mornings ago, went on from there. I am concerned, very concerned, about where we are, how we have arrived, and where we are headed. I am not alone. Paranoia? perhaps, but it is honest paranoia. Perhaps my most egregious concern with Facebook, as an example, is friending; what a misuse of a fine old word. The intent, it would appear, of Facebook, is to accumulate as many “friends” as possible, to enhance he/she who is doing the accumulating. In short, it’s all about the accumulation, with little to do with making friends the old fashioned way. Do we even know what friendship is any more? All indications are that Facebook has had negative implications for real friendship, while generating other, which I will leave to any reader to determine for self. And You Tube, and similar? Vehicles for selfie veneration and preening? Sorry things, in my opinion.
But my uncontrolled and unruly thoughts went on from there: deterioration of families and morality; government out of control, and increasingly ineffective; Wall Street even more out of control, with spectacularly irresponsible, and grossly supported, speculation; the growth of big Media and blatant, and also irresponsible propaganda; domination of lobbying interests where virtually everyone belongs to one, to press for personal interests with little regard for those of others. It goes on from there.
Greed? I like to use that word, too much. It is too simple; trying to use the word greed to explain it all is like reciting the myth of Sodom and Gomorrah to cite a very much more complex world; it is using an old word, with many new meanings, without giving consideration to what those “new” meanings really are. We do it so often. Some of it is generalization; some of it is just simplification as a crutch; but some of it also has to do with the polarization of our thinking, and glorification of opinion. Might that not relate back to social media? But that must be put in context.
Just before returning to this beginning, I heard a City Journal Podcast discussing supply and demand, suggesting that supply has run away with demand. And even more than that, it is the fault of the last THREE administrations! We have trouble tolerating that, because the last three administrations were SO different. Were they, really? yes, but……but how much of that is the rapid polarization of opinion that has become so necessary to us? We believe what we want to believe; we stop short in really thinking it through, with an open mind; it is easier that way, requires less of an effort, and fits in with our proclivity to latch on to what seems to work; propaganda? Recognizing this is a subject way beyond what we can do justice to here, let it suffice to say that the motivation of men, and the governments that try to placate them, often has depths and nuances beyond what most of us try to understand. Selfishness is definitely part of that.
Again, too limited, much like greed. Self interest is not selfishness, any more that ambition is greed. Related? sure, but not simply. How do we separate the positives of our culture from the negatives? Only with great difficulty. But that is true with almost everything; we love to oversimplify: it is either good or bad; everything seems to have to be bi-polar. Little in life is so simple. Think, if you will, of any major policy decision facing us; that is why we have disagreement; it is why we need to discuss with an open mind. That is something very difficult to do.
In another Podcast just listened to I heard discussion between Richard Florida and Aaron Renn, both thinkers in the area of human demography development. I had been led to believe that they two were contentiously and diametrically opposed; but they were most conciliatory, and mutually respectful. We are not trying to develop competing theories, Florida said, during the discussion, but working toward the same end, to attempt to agree on reality. Imagine that. And what I had led to believe were diametrically opposed differences are in fact different viewpoints that can be reconciled, with a little bit of intellectual effort.
How much of that do we see any more?
But then world debt, including, yet again, US credit card debt and the growing threat of scamming, hacking and incompetence are truly frightening. The Internet, a truly useful innovation, is out of control. But so is much else; difficult to know where even to begin.
Does it all fit together? Yes, it certainly does; the world is out of control; but it would be difficult to suggest other than that the United States and a combination of its greedy over-indulgence and it’s pull-back from taking responsibility is not a contributory cause. Yes, the United States and its neocon advisers can take much of the credit for that, with their lust for world power. But it was catching, and has not gone away. The US cannot police the world, especially when we have been losing control of doing it competently; not, I might suggest, because the armed forces are incapable of doing what needs to do, but that our government leaders are incapable of knowing how to do it effectively, or cannot agree on what is needed.
So my paranoia: we are out of control, and seem unable to do anything about it – at any level; because the PEOPLE, in all their ignorance, don’t know how, and our leaders, in all their arrogant greed for power, either don’t know how to, or won’t tell them; expand that however you will.
Hopeless? Not by a long shot. Look around; talk to people, real people, and find out what they have to say. Frustrated? yes; not quite sure what to do about it? absolutely. But not giving up. Time for some real leadership; not blathering, power hungry pandering leadership, to stand up and remind us what the United States has always been made of – without the yelling, arm waving vapidness of telling us what we want to hear.
Wish us luck; we can use some. But pain will be almost as useful, as only through pain can we hope to learn enough, rapidly enough, to do what has to be done. Why does it always have to be this way? It is the reality of human nature and all that entails. We will not change that, but with a little more wisdom and effort – and thinking about it, really thinking about it, maybe, just maybe we can make progress in making it less virulent. Maybe?
Beating a dead horse? a new approach, perhaps.
Liberal and conservative, as currently viewed, are extremes; anything in between is different degrees of moderation.
Liberal, the movement, beginning with Christianity (more of less), moved into what became known as “classical” liberalism, perhaps peaking with American balanced Republicanism, must now, at best, be considered as being in contention, and may even be fading. Why?
The extremes: conservatism means resistance to change; liberalism means equality. Neither are tenable nor desirable. Change is reality, at least it has been since liberalism was launched. Equality is impossible, for all the reasons I have listed, over and over again. Moderation is balancing the two extremes. That sounds easy enough; it is not, because differences make dealing with decisions “in the middle” difficult; we have trouble coming to agreement. And why is that? reality. Meaning? There are too many points in almost all decisions that entail perspectives that are different enough that they oppose agreement.
I contend that is because instead of attempting to agree on principles, we attempt to to achieve dogmatic goals that are poorly understood, and too often rooted in expected results – that are also poorly understood and too often ignore unintended consequences, mainly because those are inadequately considered, since we too seldom make the effort to consider them; mostly because to do so gets in the way of getting done what WE (whoever we) want to get done – or want to keep from getting done. Politics, in almost every aspect, means using power to get what one side wants, period. This has gotten worse for several reasons: the stakes have grown larger, the complexity is such that the differences are more pronounced and more poorly understood, and because the ignorance of those in contention is greater, and more dramatically propagated, through many, many primarily electronic means.
There I will likely get disagreement: in this day and age of mass education, we are more ignorant? Piffle. These are the most educated generations we have ever had (at least in the developed West). Educated, but in what? And even then, how deeply understanding of the “education” that has been absorbed in proportion to what is available? Add to that, how much of it has been internalized through effective experience; and how have we been trained to think about it? Much to consider.
Immediately after leaving this, up to this point (I do it frequently to give it time to “rise”), I read an article by an Afghani refugee to the United States on Fox News on-line; I sympathize, and understand. With this I began to crystallize Where I was going with this (I never really know): Opportunity and desperation. Can that not be equated to no-change/conservative (living without change) and liberalism (hope of something better)? Too simple, of course, and as with everything, that’s where the vast middle of moderation comes into play; and where most of our current arguments are being played out in “welfare” considerations on the one hand, and in immigration on the other.
Let’s dispose of welfare first, as I so often do; one helps by helping one help self, not by giving to him and expecting nothing in return. And immigration? Is it not similar as it is currently being pursued? more complicated (of course, everything is more complicated). First, as we all know, resources are limited, resources that can easily be overwhelmed by too much too quickly, that circumstances are forcing. The argument: but refugees provide the capability of increasing those resources, and deserve to be allowed to do it, as has been done in the past. That leads us in a direction we need to go.
Then just after that I read another article, in Atlantic Magazine (on line), questioning whether all the dedication to the wonder of the American Miracle constitution is exaggerated. Interesting question; however I would ask, can we even go there when so much effort has been made over time to CHANGE what the founders created? Yes, change is inevitable and has to be accommodated, but I contend the founders addressed that, at least to some extent, by staying with principles rather than try to be specific.
But there we go again; what has to be done to accommodate change, and how? Another form of government? A different constitution? Reverting to a parliamentarian system? Be careful. Ours HAS worked pretty well; most others have not; what should we do? Whatever, it should be treated gingerly and with much care. There is a great deal at stake.
This, however, is not all that far from the original title of this piece, is it? Liberal Versus Conservative? That is too much? perhaps, but as I always say, words have become flexible means of conveying ideas. Is that dichotomy not as good an explanaation as any?
And then immigration; morality and reality. And more importantly, but more challenging, if there must be limits, how should they be imposed? Clearly, in our interest, our being not only US but any developed country, limitations of what can be accommodated MUST be considered; and that means qualifications. Unfair! Reality. The restrictions to immigration to this country have been excessive; my own grandfather could not gain entry, and instead went to Canada, after which he strolled across the border, entering this country illegally, making him an illegal immigrant. But, based on the results, he was a qualified immigrant. so, how do we make such determinations? not very well, with too much devious influence: politics. Liberal and Conservative? Regardless, we are flawed with greed, power lust, favoritism and underhanded practices: the reality of the politics of humans. On the other hand, opportunity and desperation; we understand both, but do they? Do they understand that opportunity requires pay back in response; and pay back means accepting the rules of the game – our game.
The weakness of humans is reality; our efforts to overcome those weaknesses through improved governing are exemplary; but they will never be enough. Human nature will always triumph; we can only do what we can do to make the best of a poor bargain. But make the best of it we must. Wither? Only time can tell.
Entrepreneurial and free enterprise? What does that mean? Is silicon Valley entrepreneurial? We have many sliding meanings of words these days, and growing, it would appear. In fact, we seem to come up with more every year; and some are quite different in their meanings.
Oxford: entrepreneur: a person who undertakes an enterprise, with the chance of profit or loss. I read an article today discussing entrepreneurship of the big Silicon Valley companies. Profit and loss, yes, and there is a legal relationship between people and companies; that is, companies are treated as individuals before the law. But to me it’s a stretch to think of Google or Facebook as an entrepreneur. Then innovation comes in; different word, but entrepreneurs innovate, and Google and Facebook innovate; but entrepreneurs? I have difficulty seeing the monstrous conglomerates as entrepreneurs. So perhaps we might discuss it.
Let’s move to power, and then we’ll come back to this. Life has always been about power; power for what? whatever. The elite gain power because they want stuff; the poor, working together however they can, work to gain power from those that have power, so they can get stuff too; human nature and self interest; it’s the way things are. Entrepreneurship and free enterprise emanated from an attempt to try to make things fair, to give all a chance and to ensure none got completely left behind; very tough in a world where skill sets going into any endeavor were not equal to begin with. So how to accomplish that? with laws, trying to make it so that no one would take UNFAIR ADVANTAGE of another. Now, laws have to be enacted by people, so this is really tough: who decides what UNFAIR means? Easy, we sit down in groups and work it out; where there are differences, there must be compromise. And, of course, such groups must be monitored – regulated – to make sure that none take advantage of any other. What if such differences are merely differences of knowledge, or ability to utilize that knowledge to get their way? Say what? Arm twisting? Nah, that would never happen.
So what is the difference between bribing and compromising? Well, compromising is agreement among equals. Equals? But if one has an advantage over another, how can they be equal? Bribing is simpler, it is (illegal) exchange of one thing for another, often a favor for something in return. So what’s different between that and any other enterprise? the illegal part. You see where this is heading? Everyone has self interest and objectives they are seeking. The more powerful will always have advantages. And we all see things differently, usually from our own perspectives.
Let’s jump again. The less powerful NEED the powerful: there is he/she who creates jobs and those that accept working for him/her for remuneration. There must be agreement as to what is to be done by those hired and what must be accomplished by them to accomplish the objectives. Who decides that? We call it contracting and accepting a job is a means of contracting: a means of exchanging work for remuneration. Of course the parties are not equal, so again we accept that there must be laws, regulations, legally enforced agreement to ensure that all gets done FAIRLY, which must be accomplished by people sitting down together and determining what they are and how they should be administered. But what if one of those people has a personal interest or is willing to help someone else who has a personal interest, and is willing to take a bribe? Well, that’s illegal, unethical. And who makes that decision? Legally appointed courts of law. And they do not have self interests? And then there are labor unions, but we need not go there.
Can there be any question why life is not as simple as we wish it to be, when there are people with self interest involved? and everything is influenced by people and power?
After all that, let’s return to entrepreneurship and free enterprise. FREE enterprise? What does that mean? Individuals are free to create what they wish and market it to others – for a profit. That is straight forward enough. Is it? What if the idea is stolen from another? Copied from another? Fair? That’s why we have laws; and around and around we go again, having to juggle among self interests. And we are prone to be quick to judge, since we always see OUR self interest as paramount – and righteous; maybe the other guy does the same. But that assumes that each understands and believes what is right and wrong, and they agree on what it is. But what if they don’t? What if one is intent on cheating the other? Well! But what if he does not SEE it that way? How can he not? Right is right and wrong is wrong – unless there are different perspectives. Oh, woe.
But there is one more piece and then I will leave it alone; it has to do with regulation. Not right or wrong, but extent; protecting each to take precautions that no one takes advantage. But we have been there, and know there is ALWAYS potential for taking advantage. And that can take us to the point where, if we are not careful, we can throttle innovation, make it so that it is impossible – or at least excessively expensive – to follow through on any innovation. At what point does that not create another level of unfairness? Consider not only the innovator who is just trying to make a buck, but those who would benefit from such an innovation and are denied access to it? At what point do regulations get so onerous that they dry up the market for innovation?
All this is life; all this is reality. And it all has to do with human nature and differences. And I have only scratched the surface. It is something we all should give thought to. And as we do, let’s throw in judgmental ism again, and think of all the obstructions we throw up before innovation that impacts entrepreneurship and free enterprise.
The system that supports entrepreneurship and free enterprise is not natural. What is natural is competition for advantage, and we all fight for it, continually. THAT is life. We should appreciate what we have achieved, and fight to maintain it. Do we? Not hardly, because of the tremendous pressure, created by US to fall back into what has always been, which is giving in to the whatever motivations drive us. particular of those with power. But don’t forget, we NEED those with power and the innovative ability and drive they display to accomplish what they can to give the rest of us what we want, and have difficulty in doing for ourselves, for all kinds of reasons.
I didn’t start out with this sequence in mind, but one thing led to another, merely by thinking about it, taking it to the next level, and asking obvious questions. THAT is how we learn, and since we do it unevenly, for all those same number of different reasons, we have to help each other. One way we do that is through markets that make both the innovation and the buying of what is created possible: supply and demand. Which of course must be subject to laws, regulations, monitoring – but not TOO much.
What a challenge! Any question on why life is do difficult?
Our ultimate responsibility, simply enough, is to self; but what does that mean? If one understands what responsibility is, it has to be clear that responsibility to SELF is responsibility to all that one stands for – and that extends way beyond self; understanding that, is understanding life, what it is all about, and realizing what really matters.
First, taking responsibility for self means honesty, sincerity, integrity and principles, and how they apply to living life as it should be led, to be a part of a broader whole, a community, if you will. Families, of course, are the primary building block of communities. Christianity? Yes, surely, but also Buddhism, Taoism and almost all the rest; it all flows together – or it does not. But there is even more than that, much more.
From whence comes this responsibility? from within each of us, individually. That does not mean it is self created; far from it. It derives from so much – everything? nurturing, friendships, caring, experience, contributing, and much more; these are the building blocks of responsibility, which is the foundation of community and all that makes up the balanced lives that we should be seeking.
How far does this extend? All the way; forever, if you like. That is the wonder of communal, family based life: extending over generations, building, extending and reaching back, it is the mechanism that defines what is and what will be, right until the end, whatever that might be, and how it might be defined. It might be accurate to say that “the end” is relative and depends upon how we shape the exercise.
But end is an interesting concept. There is the inevitable individual end, but that surely does not mean the end of family, nor of community. That goes deep into complexity, and is much of what history is all about. So let’s for now just stay with individual end, which we accept as inevitable. At what point does that come? That goes back to responsibility. For talking purposes let’s set the boundary as the point where one is no longer contributing; that certainly would fit with the concept of family and community. Can one individually determine at that point where he or she can stop contributing? I think there is not doubt that they can, and, unfortunately many do. Must that be terminal? not if it is voluntary: what is voluntary to terminate can also be rejuvenated. So contribution, until it is no longer POSSIBLE is something within the capability of each of us. Is that not part of responsibility is?
Words, words, words, yes; there are so many, with differing meanings, different connotations, different nuances; it is what makes life so interesting, and challenging. They are never quite enough, but we need them to express ourselves and make ourselves understood, if we should WANT to make ourselves understood. And if we are to be responsible, is that not part of what is necessary? All right, perhaps going too deep into the mire. So let’s back off a bit and talk about voluntary cessation of contributing – to be followed, of course, by the inevitable involuntary cessation that must come.
How does one voluntarily stop contributing? Many ways, of varying intensity. Is not dropping into a drug stupor voluntary cessation of responsibility? But even that does not HAVE to be terminal, although it can. How about dropping out of life, or even dropping out of school? That is always reversible, if there is incentive to want to reverse, and more often if there is assistance in helping it happen. Is that not what family and community are all about?
But contributing to what? That’s where life becomes really complex; because each must decide what he/she can contribute, and then what they desire to contribute, again often with assistance. There are almost unlimited possibilities, more for some than others, but more for most that many suppose. just to visit the thinking process of that: public service, and why one would want to pursue it? medicine? education? leadership? Much to consider, necessarily at an individual level, but almost always with assistance.
So let’s skip to involuntary terminal cessation of responsibility. Can one individually just decide that’s it and stop? They can, and some just shut themselves down and die; but that doesn’t happen often. Suicide, that’s a means also. How about assisted life termination? making the decision to set an end point, and when and if legal, for society to provide that assistance. I am not opposed, but suggest that it not be taken as an individual decision; it is more a group decision, particularly when families are involved. What if a parent feels that he or she is no longer contributing, but his or her mate or progeny disagree. At what point is such termination an act of personal selfishness? How about the same in a leadership situation, where the leader’s presence is important, even critical, but he or she is ready to give up?
Before letting this go, let’s talk a bit about personally assessing contribution options? Unlimited? No, they are not, and they must be assessed honestly and with an open mind, accepting reality both in terms of limitations and interests. Here again assistance can be of the greatest value; we work better together with someone to bounce opinions off – with whom to seek guidance; to discuss. To do that, one must be aware of self, in all its manifestations, but also be willing to accept the ideas of others – without letting them control, or unduly influence. How many are influenced by all the wrong kinds of impetus? Wrong? One must give that deep thought on a personal level, with mind open to reality, but to much else as well, having to do with influence.
Some time ago a stray commenter (there have been a few over the years) marveled about the diversity of ideas I was throwing out. That’s the value of a stream of consciousness approach; I have no lock on that market; all can do it, if we try. Perhaps I am just a bit weird because I enjoy doing it. But I find it useful in pushing my learning of self and environment for my own mental and emotional development; I suppose I cannot recommend it for all, but perhaps for more than one might think. In support of that I can only point to the proliferation of weblogs out there today – but social media contributors as well. Why do they do it? Motivation; but that would take us quickly into yet another realm of thinking; why does anyone do anything? Talk about an open subject, there is one.
Because of vague concerns I bailed out of the stock market in the year 2000, the year coincidentally that was incorporated into the name of this bloglsite. I really didn’t know why; it was just a gut feel, I have never been comfortable with gambling. Looking back I gave up much investment earning potential: many have put away vast fortunes. I have no regrets.
Recently I have read two books, among many prior, that have begun to crystallize my hind sight understanding. The two books were Government End – Why Washington Stopped Working, by Jonathan Rauch: and Capital Offense – How Washington’s Wise Men Turned America’s Future Over to Wall Street by Michael Hirsh. I have never been prone to believing conspiracy theory, and neither of these have led me to that. By I think I understand human nature and greed, and these made sense to me. They also have increased the worry I have had with the direction our government has been heading – not just over the last 8 years, but the last forty or so; and it is the same direction displayed in the deterioration of our culture. I keep talking about that, to the point that many have tired of hearing me do so. I think pain is coming and only that pain will make a difference in the direction we are going; not change it back to what it might have been, that’s not the way things work. In fact, look at where it has been throughout our relatively brief modern history and one cannot but realize that greed, avarice, personal interest and such have always been with us. So that will change? Not likely, but we have been doing better – at least over the long term, and there was hope. I am not suggesting that hope is lost; but pain is here again, for a reason, and we need to learn from it – again.
The rest of what I have today is a passage I highlighted on page 293 of Hirsh’s book. I have been enthralled, but this is the only high light I have made; I usually make many more: I think it says it all, and I want to capture it, here, on my blogsite, for my own education; feel free to share.
“Character was indeed fate. And now the character of the men who were running Washington was playing itself out in the fate of the nation. They were well-meaning but cautious people, the Obama-ites, always looking over their shoulders. And what they saw over their shoulders was a giant – Wall Street – that could not be changed. The financial system itself had been deemed to big to fail. Even more significantly, no one in power in Washington dared to broach the fundamental issue: the extend to which the dominance of the financial markets within the capitalist system during the freewheeling era – the fact that finance had come to hold the whip hand over labor and the manufacture and production of ‘real’ goods and services – had corrupted capitalism itself.
Finance had once been a means to an end: the growth of the real economy. Banking had once served industry and services. Even in the robber-baron era, when J.P. Morgan and a few other lions of Wall Street controlled a lot of the economy, they had sought to add value; they had crated growth and jobs. Now finance had become the end, and the real economy was subservient to financial services, which had become one of the country’s most vibrant exports. And it wasn’t just venture capital fiance any longer, but casino-style finance. By the end of 2009, over-the-counter derivatives trading had climbed back to more than $600 trillion. Of that amount some $230 trillion was controlled by four banks: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America. That meant speculation would continue to go hand in hand with, and even to dominate, sober investment. ‘At some point in our recent past, finance lost contact with its raison d’etre,” European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet said in 2010, when it became clear to Europeans that the Obama administration had no real interest in fundamental change. ‘Finance developed a life of its own…Finance became self-referential.”
There is much much more to “the story”, but to me that sums it up rather nicely. Furthermore is points to the wider dangers of big government, big media, and big almost everything else that has come to plagues us, and we have infected the world with the same sickness – essentially greed and power for those few powerful who can effect it. But it has endured because enough felt the wind of it to give them hope; hope that is being dashed – not killed, but dashed. It is the coming pain I have been alluding to.
But at this point that is enough; I have captured what I wanted to capture. Share it if you wish, and read further if you will. I contend it will go far to define the future for many of us, particularly for those who have not paid attention, and are exposed, particularly to a crushing weight of debt.
Strange? Well, not really, much of it has happened before; it is of function of things getting out of control, and our excesses prove that they always will; greed after all, is what kicks off excess. But each time there are additional complications. I have attempted to touch upon them in previous essays, but my knowledge and understanding is not adequate, so my attempts are necessarily limited.
The world is changing all about us, rapidly, as innovations make it possible, along with all the unintended consequences that necessarily accompany them. And there are still dedicated people out there that are more interested in telling us about the innovations, changes and unintended consequences than they are about feathering their own nests to exploit them, thankfully. Only in the US of A? That’s a bit much, but we still lead the way, if not as strongly perhaps as we once did, before our principles and integrity began to shrink as “opportunities” arose. Leadership is part of the problem, but of course leaders are people too, and have their own perspectives, ambitions, opinions, differences – and obfuscations – and greed, let us not forget greed; also. On the other hand, hindsight is often not available, and what is happening at the moment, particularly if apparently successful and popular, is not always obvious, or even evident. Yes, leadership is too set in their own selfish (me. power. fame) ways, but who of us are there that can caste the first stone at that one? It is so easy to advocate falling on one’s sword, until the sharpness of the blade takes control of our wills. Complex? oh yes, and becoming more so.
Thinking, open minds; easy to say, but very challenging when self interest is involved, and when the massiveness of the problems and the knowledge to required dealing adequately with them are considered – and any action taken not only has impact but also consequences that might not have been considered, nor perhaps even could have been – and can be unpopular. Then we also believe what we want to believe, often enough having come to that point honestly enough through efforts to learn, even though occasionally misguided. Self interest, ignorance, indifference and complacency all play a part, but so do lack of effort; and some don’t even know how to try. And did I mention greed?
Even aside from that there are almost always pros can cons to every position; disagreements, nuancical issues that have different meaning to different people – particularly concerning issues that are economically based. Winners/losers? always, that is life. But just because someone wins or someone loses, that does not mean that an issue can be decided upon that only; common good? and what is that? In the eyes of the beholder? Compromise, yes, but it’s more than that, much more.
Very possibly the complexity we are encountering has taken us beyond the capability of our leadership. But then it is up to us to change leaders; but how can one know which is best, even which is qualified, with all the massive propaganda that is thrown about to support election campaigns. Complexity again, and opinion, and self interest. It never stops; it can never stop, so we deal with it as best as we can. And that goes back again to personal effort, thinking outside of the box, even if we can ascertain just where that is. But then motivation: the common folks, that don’t have the interest in pursuing knowing and understanding more; is that their fault? We are, after all, all different, have different interests, and the right to pursue them as we choose, do we not? But for the common good? Oh, piffle, get real. Yes, ignorance comes to mind big time, but……but……..but. Selfishness reigns, always has, always will. Only pain can deal with that, personal pain, and that is never evenly distributed, which also bothers us. We don’t have to go any further with that; I’ve visited that often enough.
Fortunately, and we can thank the unique development of our great nation for this, and the Western tradition that spawned it: writers, thinkers, speakers who take the time and make the effort to bring their often wise, valuable perspectives to our attention are doing so, in increasing volume and with increasing intensity. Look around. I would attempt to make a list, but it always grows each time I try, and becomes increasingly unwieldy; just accept that there are many many, and their perspectives are continuing to crystallize, to our great benefit. But who is reading? That is another challenge, and what can be done about that? remember leading horses to water, but making them drink? Then again, how many understand, even with informed professional help, when awash in their (our) own understandably myopic self interests – and even survival?
Easy to say that we have met the problem and he is us, but US is all of us in a democratic environment. And this is also life; and the problems are growing – and rapidly, and they have been getting out of control, as they always do. Perhaps this is why people have been looking to fast talking hard hitting “realist” elitists who are telling us THEY will solve the problem for us. They have always been with us, and always will be with us – always promising to solve our problems, their way; but they are people too, with their own self interests, and say what they will, solving the problem is often more difficult than they think it might be, or than they can understand, with the background many have, due to the way we go about making choices at election time.
Beware! Once again Winston Churchill paraphrased; democracy (even carefully checked and balanced) is a poor form of government, but head and shoulders above the next best – because it is administered by PEOPLE. Hey, how about robots? Robots are programmed by people, and that is part of where THEIR problems come in to play: robots programmed by people; if, then else; who determines if, then and else?
So we just give up? Nope; the more effort we make, the less will be the calamity. so it really is all up to us, all working together, as best we are able with all of our differences. And that’s not enough? Get used to it, but in the meantime we need to do what we can, each of us, as best we can.
What a challenge; but challenges have been met in the past, and we’re still around. Keep the faith.
A rising tide does indeed lift all boats; we love simple cliches, what does this one mean? Physically, just what it says, but metaphorically? It generally relates to economics, and suggests that as the economy expands, the circumstances of all improve. True, generally perhaps, that’s what “the economy” signifies; but it never applies to everyone equally; the metaphor is meant to be a generality – an average, if you will. Averages can be dangerous. So to suggest general improvement in the economy does not even suggest that all build wealth in tandem. I could insert motivation here, but I shan’t; we’ve had enough of that for awhile.
There are three kinds of people (another generality? stay with me). There are those that “build”, those that derive benefit from those that build, and those that hold it all together: the thinkers, the leaders, the philosophers, who understand – and there are all kinds of them, with varying motives. Wait, you might say, how about all the rest? my contention is that even they are likely to derive some benefit from those that build, and even some benefit from others who derive benefit from those that build.
So who builds and who just floats along? And who are they that hold it together, and how do they do it? Our original builders were the agrarians and entrepreneurs that made this great country what it is, the envy of the world. These were the people who learned to do for themselves, had the opportunity to do so, and did it, thrived on it, more often than not, usually. The leaders that held it all together are also known to us, if imperfectly; much is always lost through historical passage, which is why we have to keep working at understanding it better, as those who make the effort uncover more of the details, layer by layer.
Let’s go on; notice how everything (from my other streams of consciousness) tend to all come together – eventually, sort of? Building, just deriving benefits from those that build and those that hold it all together are how we sort ourselves out in life. Conscious choices? Sometimes, sometimes not; all by ourselves? same, sometimes but more often with help or influence. But the sorting out is interesting, as the elite always tend to take over, and the masses let them, with those that hold it all together fitting somewhere in between: that group is fluid and varied. The thinkers and doers are always pressured, because to be of that segment requires effort. But those that are neither thinkers or doers have pressure on them as well, as they see what the thinkers and doers have achieved for themselves, and want some of it; those who hold it all together, thinkers and leaders are a mixed bad; that is reality of life. Enough; we cannot get bogged down in too much detail. But I have to add that as change is constant and continual; and the seeking of pleasure, contentment and security is never far from most consciousness; we never reach a steady state situation; that is also reality of life.
At this point (in my notes) I morph into thoughts from Michael Hirsh’s Capital Defense, which I have been reading, and adding notes, if only in my mind. That is what I do, and how I begin to learn to put it all together; but not only Hirsh but Robert Teitelman’s critique of his work. If this seems like a wild leap, stick with me; it may be, but to me it seems to me to fit. See if you agree.
Hirsh’s work is a very complex analysis of relationships among Wall Street, our government, the lobbying business and probably media of all kinds – and how that has altered the difference between traditional banking and investment banking – blurring how their management is being effected. Too much? I agree. I have no intent in rehashing the analysis; there is much more to it than I could attempt to try to handle here, even if I thought I could. One point of interest, as it applies here, has to do with the differences between Hirsh’s account and Teitelman’s critique of it. Not that the critique was dramatic, but that it got me to thinking about the builders, those that benefit and those that hold it together, and previous observations I have made about what drives people. Yes, come to think of it, it is a stretch. Let’s see where it leads.
Capital Offense goes into great detail about such talented government/Wall Street builders as Greenspan, Summers, Rubin, Paulson, Bernanke and others, each with strong beliefs, sometimes in contention, but often somewhat malleable in the long run, basically discussing the subject of free enterprise and regulation. Let me sum that up by saying that “free enterprise’ is difference between product markets and investment markets, and views of how much regulation is required vary. The point I wish to pursue is that these builders are, or were (some are no longer with us), all human, very knowledgeable and susceptible to all the influences of human nature and the changing circumstances that emanate from human nature, changes and interpretation. Needless to say, their influence on the economic environment has been considerable. I think there is much to have to understand, and think about, in trying to appreciate the process of what is happening to our economic culture, and why. I also contend that it is almost impossible to separate our economic culture from what might be termed the more general culture; we are economic animals, after all, and must be to survive.
That is what I am trying to fall back on: why people do what they do within this milieu of differences of opinion and experience, backgrounds, egos, incentives and the pressures of changing circumstances. It is so easy to be judgmental, but essential to be critical in order to sort out reality and change so as to understand, and progress effectively. In short all of us see things differently through our own personal lenses, desire to feel good about ourselves in the process, and response to any number of influences; and we easily self convince in the process. Complexity? So there are good guys and bad guys, but what if their views change? not so simple. Different approaches, different feedback, changing circumstances: woulda, shoulda coulda; so easy to judge from a perspective of hindsight. Understanding how all this fits together, in the human environment of competitive self-interest, is a very challenging endeavor.
The same is true throughout all of history: how easy it is to make judgment on what SHOULD have been done and by whom at what point in time, when we are not totally conversant with the details of circumstances, even if they are available, and often they are not (and beyond that, many today are not even aware of that). But considering how the reporting of history evolves, and even changes as more and more is dredged up, much of which is subject to opinion, it is easy to see how natural criticism, judgmentalism, develops and continues ad-infinitum. So we should not be critical? how then do we learn and progress and understand and overcome our many mistakes? Criticism is essential, but thoughtful and informed criticism; which is? How can one know with all the differences, and gaps in knowledge? only through careful and informed discussion, which is what education is all about; that is how we learn, really learn (in addition to reading and listening, which of course is part of is) and even then can seldom ever KNOW with surety.
Rising tide and rising boats in a complex historical and economic environment, constantly changing? Knowing where people are coming from is also important, as everyone is influenced by what’s in his or her mind, as well as by others, to understand why they respond as they do; and can often change the way theyt look at it, particularly with hindsight. Unintended consequences? how can there not be?
Progress? Can there be no doubt as to why all progress is not positive?
Much to think about, and most important is to understand why we need to do all we can do to understand, to learn, and to work with others to help them to learn along with us. Yes, very difficult when they either don’t try or don’t attempt to work together to iron out differences in what they have been taught and learned through experience, and what others tell them.
This is the true challenge of life: philosophy is using reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality; “Read, think (listen to our experiences), disagree with (question) everything if you like – but force your mind outward (to keep it open) Anton Myrer, Once An Eagle. Yes, that is the challenge of life. To meet it requires much effort on our parts, if we are to hope we can raise all boats – or even most of them.
I like to capture these events, as they lead to my understanding of what I think I believe, and why.
One of these gentlemen has been visiting me for years, and we have interesting conversations; the other I had not seen before. I probably talked too much; but it is usually fairly even; and it is usually healthy. This might sound surprising, as most people think fundamental religiosts are narrow; and some are, but that doesn’t mean all are. I thought I might capture what I was talking about, and record it here.
There are good and bad people in this world, and we have our share of both. I believe that having a strong moral background helps us in this respect, but it is certainly not a sure thing. In fact there there is much more in between; what of them? But first the extremes.
The good tend to become full of themselves, thinking that whatever they think and say are true, and often important; this is not limited to religion. The bad are mostly so because they are weak and selfish, and seek the easy way to get what they want. Unfortunately many, who have received no nurturing in morality and principles find it easy to follow in the footsteps of the latter, but there are differences between dedicated bad and just weak; the primary difference is largely a matter of degree: at one end of that middle spectrum, the dedicated bad, is propensity to just to be bad and stay that way; at the other, weak, there is potential for redemption, with help. And of course even there, there is much variation in what can actually ensue.
In between, “to find a semblance of wisdom and principle”, requires an open mind, thinking and wanting to learn: going from weak and easily led to wanting to be better takes much effort, wanting to expend it, and assistance in staying with it. Education? of course, but experience plays a strong part there too; experience IS education. Even at the extreme bottom there can be possibility of hope, but only if one has the motivation to pursue it – and a great deal of help in so trying.
Different ideas, different views, different experiences is what is needed to help yield change, along with positive influence from where it likely has to emanate – if basic motivation is there to support it. Corruption is easy to fall into, as it derives from influences that encourage it, but so are indifference and resistance. But, and this is important, moving toward a more positive approach to others, and life, is often assisted by relationships with others who can show its positive aspects. And here comes my preaching again: helping make others feel better about themselves through example and support can make them realize the value of taking that road. Really? Really.
We, all of us, CAN control these influences and experiences, if we WANT to badly enough, and it is essential to do so if any positive change is to be expected; but even getting to that point takes the help of others, and willingness to make the effort to let them offer it. And how is this accomplished? Look around and see those that are trying to lead in that direction, through not only words, but example. I would contend that most, if they are doing it sincerely, and effectively, are more sure of themselves, more satisfied with who they are and more content with their lives. Prove it! I cannot, because people are generally neither entirely open or even sure of the directions they want to pursue. Part of the effort has to be learning to know self, and be comfortable with who that is; that doesn’t mean being complacent with the result, but satisfied with the material, us, we are working with, and confident that we can work with it toward more positive ends. We CAN do it, but it takes understanding of self, realization of what matters in life, why, and willingness to make the effort.
Ah, and that effort. Learning for example about what life is, why and how it got that way, and changes. History? yes, but also human nature, how people are, why, and how that impacts their lives – and, of course, willingness, even being eager to THINK about it. Back to the good and the bad. I contend too many of the bad, really bad, not only think only of themselves, but put what they want above all else, too often placing no limits on what they do to achieve what they want, and make no effort to do otherwise. And when they achieve it? Nirvana? Not hardly; more often it is just more, more, more and there is never enough, and things ultimately get worse. And they never understand why they are disliked, even reviled, and often in trouble.
But what of those who begin with success and seem to have no end of it? Do they not often suffer from similar malady, of always wanting more? But even more than that, some become so impressed with themselves and their proven abilities, whether it be talent, good looks, intelligence or ability to make large sums of money that they see themselves only in that light, seeing nothing else. It doesn’t take all that much to fill the sails of many and cause them to lose sight of anything but themselves such that they lose all perspective of reality. Can anyone think of someone who fits that criteria? Unfortunately too many of us think we want to BE like them, and they know it, and that helps fill their sails even more with that wind of arrogance and elitism.
And in the potentially influencable in between. unfortunately, it is too easy to crawl into one’s own chosen bubble and lose sight of anything but what is inside that bubble – or just sink into a convenient rut. Consider examples of that, which have been made only too evident to all of us. And there are many, many such examples of such bubbles, almost as many of them as there are of us; each different; some absolutely locked in, some open to change, but seldom not without help; of which some even welcome. Again, again, why are we likely to all take different routes in life? Some of it is we are content to stay in our bubbles, not because our bubbles are nirvana, the best of all possible worlds, but because we don’t know how to break the habit, or are are not even willing to make the effort.
This, incidentally, is why I believe the very young should be exposed to knowledge and learning as early as possible. What kind of learning? Now we get back into influence of elite who think they KNOW what kind of learning. Yes, their superior ability to see what is available, what is useful and what is beneficial, should be shared – but not dictated. Some of those to whom they are ministering (whatever is being ministered) might have the tools, and ambition (motivation) to pursue whatever the world offers; others might be more satisfied with working with their hands, or with people, or with children, or the elderly; elite ministers (all varieties, need to understand that. The point is for each to learn what is good for themselves, within their capabilities and to discover how to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, for themselves, seeking assistance where it is available; and it is for the rest of us to help them to do it. That, also, is a most satisfying thing to do for those who enjoy doing it: helping them to find it.
Teachers, ministers, doctors, nurses; there is no end. And my friends from Jehovah’s Witnesses? My old friend surely makes the effort, and his young companion is trying to learn. Many such in all fields of providing assistance can also get the wind in their sails and lose track of reality; to resist that is important.
Enough; I think I have made my point, accept it or no; but, as always, I would encourage thinking about it. We all have the capability to think; yes, some better than others, but we CAN all think. Do we? many don’t make the effort. We can also help others to do so. I rest my case.
2. Drug use
3. Binge drinking
4. Promiscuous sex
5. Threat to health and lack of physical exercise
6. Threat to health and lack of mental exercise
7. Entertainment and…..entertainment
9. Dissolution of families
What really matters, individually? living long with excitement or living well and productively? When is enough enough? If one is interested in living well and productively, discipline must be much of the answer; if it is long with excitement, what difference does it make, at least when it comes to discipline? We all know the answer to that; it is all around us.
Now it becomes more complicated when going beyond the personal; what happens if one ignores personal discipline and it injures others? That is another matter. How must we look at discipline when lack of it has a “public” impact? My rights end where your nose begins? That’s why we have laws, and it is, or should be, the basis upon which creating laws are based.
Change of subjects? The problem is that there is a gray area in discipline when it goes from personal to communal, and punishing lack of discipline when it results in “public” impact. And that gray area always expands with today’s interpretation of when something becomes “public”. Nose and fist seem self evident, but what if it entails self-defense? What if “public” impact is merely inconvenience or being insulted? Everything seems to becoming relative? Yes, from a personal point of view discipline is key to what I would contend makes for a successful life – what really matters. But when the question of my discipline confronts another’s definition of “public” impact, meaning what impacts them – it becomes stickier.
Discipline and excess; 1-10 is clear on the inverse effect on the personal level, and we are seeing the results of it breaking down; how about at the “public” level? There it can be similar, but is more interesting – and if similar enough, have a broader impact.
The last item I threw in was investment; that might be questioned; why investment? Investment in our lives is our responsibility; investment in our lives into retirement should be too, although the government has chosen to take a role; but that doesn’t mean the responsibility is transferred; discipline?
Then there is excess. We are seeing today the result of excess without discipline; but that’s problem; excess often comes from lack of discipline, one has to question excess; and yes, it is all relative.
Again I ask, and request that anyone interested think about it: what really matters?
Not only at the personal level but at the public level: what really matters?
But I leave that to anyone interested in thinking about it.
Today’s stream of consciousness is personal; sorry, it just turned out that way.
A friend of mine and I some time ago became interested in a Greek husband/wife performance team based in Austin, TX. We looked for a local performance (DFW area) but found they have been cutting back and staying around their own backyard. We were disappointed, and started talking about it. Why don’t we have them come up here and gather friends to come and listen to them, she said. That got it started. Why not? they do personal gigs; and we have been lamenting that there are so many old friends we have not seen; and then there are the neighbors, I have wonderful neighbors. Why not? So that’s what started this, thinking about it. Much to consider, and it might not happen, but it got me to thinking.
Friends were part of that. As I enter my dotage I find that many are drifting away. Health is part of that, but personal interests and what happens to all of us as we grow older is probably more: we become more and more introspective as we age, and into ourselves.
It is not that I have a large mansion to which I wish to bring them; my home is aging and not in the greatest of shape; it would even take lots of cleaning up; I am no great housekeeper (as my daughter has reminded me, with justification). Nor have I had great success, wealth or fame to flaunt; I think that was the point to my line of thinking – in fact it is what drives much of my thinking: what really matters? I have been attempting to discuss this; but today it took a personal direction that I wanted to attempt to share, should any be interested.
Andreas is Greek and was most fortunate to mate with the wonderful Laura-Ann who has added so much to his instrumental and vocal contributions. But I just came from Grace Jewelers in Garland, owned by James K. Au, where I went to find if he could fix a ring which I had given my friend, and which she dropped and couldn’t find, and I stepped on. It was not an expensive ring, but I bought it for her at an Irish festival and she wanted to see if it could be fixed; my friend is a dancer, having been part of the Fort Worth ballet troupe for years, and has since through our interest in Irish dance, added Irish step dancing to the repertoire she teaches at high school level; she visited Ireland. But I digress. The ring was not easily repairable, so I selected several possible replacements and discussed them with Mr. Au, a wonderful Chinese/American gentleman, who is training his son to take over the business, and has provided me over the years with a number of wonderful artistic creations with which my friend was much pleased. At this time when we seem to have lost sight of quality, James Au is there to remind us what it is; there is too little of that ethic left, and we must regain it. Mr. Au remembered my friend and was most complementary. I might add that my friend’s yard man is of Hispanic heritage and is also training his son to take over his business; I am much impressed with this man and his attention to his business and his customers. You see where this is going?
My friend’s father came from near Berlin, and had a family strongly influenced by NAZI ideology; seeing how things stood he said they needed to leave; they, wife and children, refused. He left without them for Washington D.C. where he met my friend’s mother, who had gone there from Oklahoma, and was sending money home to her large family to help support them. I also have friends, associated with the German Society I belong to, from Austria and Germany – and many others with either foreign backgrounds or connections. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants, and should pause to remember that, and appreciate it.
My paternal grandfather, with a high school education, was a bookkeeper at a restaurant in New York City during the depression, and was laid off. He returned to Baldwin on Long Island, found a job and built his own house, with his own hands. He had three sons, but no money to even think about sending them to college, but he brought them up well: The oldest was appointed to the naval academy at Annapolis, my father attended West Point and the youngest joined the army and served in both army and navy during WWII, later becoming owner of an HVAC business. My father started seeing my mother, who lived several blocks from him in Baldwin, early in their lives, and he later married her. Her father had been born in Scotland, emigrated to Canada (the US was way too difficult to get into then, as it is now, for most), and strolled across the border, where he met my grandmother in Minnesota before moving east.
It goes on from there. I had the most magnificent nurturing anyone could hope for. My father, who ultimately rose to the rank of lieutenant general and retired as chief of Army Research and Development was kind, understanding and intelligent, much more so than I shall ever be; and taught me discipline, responsibility and motivation. He never urged me to do so, but I followed his footsteps, beginning in Infantry, because I wanted to, but transferring to Ordnance Corps because I saw the wisdom in so doing. My father, only afterward, told me that infantry is essentially three years of the same experience, though continually expanded. Ordnance, for me, was much more. After being assigned to to a logistics depot in Colorado, I was fortunate to have been able to serve in depot assignments in Korea and Germany where I had the great good fortune to work with indigenous supervisors and employees. I also worked with Vietnamese, with US Special Forces NCO leadership, during the conflict in Vietnam, conducting cross border operations into Laos, North Vietnam and Cambodia, utilizing my previous infantry experience, but working as a logistician. Could I have possibly envisioned better preparation for life?
Sometime thereafter I accepted appointment as aide-de-campe to a general officer, received a very mediocre efficiency report and was told that that effectively capped my military career. Accepting that, I retired while at Fort Hood, and took a job with E-Systems, Inc, in Greenville, TX, near Dallas, a city that much appealed to my wife. And that’s how I came to live in Garland, where I still live, which brings me back to where I started, thinking about staging a Greek performance at my home in the near future. Sitting upstairs in the room built as a result of my father-in-law’s legacy I gazed out the window and realized how fortunate I have been, not for the first time. Coming up to Dallas from Fort Hood my wife and I had only two days to find a place to live; near the end of the first, and rather unsuccessful day my wife saw a sign advertising a development, and said, let’s go look. It was new, and bordered a small pond in a city park, with only four homes – all the rest of the lots were available for us to choose from. After looking at the plans they offered at the realtor’s office, my wife said, this is it, and we chose a lot with woods on one side and open field, abutting the pond, on the other. That is what I gazed out the window upon. Shortly after completion of that room my wife died of stomach cancer at age 59. That was almost 20 years ago.
From that comes so many memories, and realization of my great good fortune, despite her loss. My life did not end with her death, though I missed her greatly; nor did I seek to begin anew; I had five children to think of, though they were grown and gone from the house. But the community in which I live is wonderful, not opulent nor prestigious, but just right; good people, good attitudes, and the kind of middle class living that is at the center of this great country of ours. Could anyone ask for more? I am not wealthy, powerful or famous, and quite content that I am not. I have good friends and good neighbors; we think about each other and care about the neighborhood. Who could want more than that? I Know, almost everyone these days, and that’s part of our problem, but let’s not go there.
The point of today’s stream of consciousness is understanding, not for the first time, how very fortunate not only I am – but how we are for being able to live in a country that makes it possible. All the same, with equal opportunity? opportunity, yes, but it doesn’t stay equal for long; in fact it’s never equal, and that is the result less of individuality than it is of familial relationships, over several generations – and from there it all depends on motivation, passed on; what we make of ourselves and continue to pass on, with whatever we have, with the opportunities that WE make of it, to grow ourselves.
So what of the other references? We are a nation of immigrants and it is from that which we evolved; that is important. Also it is important HOW we evolved, in that nation of immigrants – and continue to do so. We live in a wider world, and need to understand that world – and it’s people, realizing that it is less the people than leadership that cause most of the problems; but that goes well beyond what I wish to discuss here. Having had the combination of upbringing I had and the experience I was afforded I am in a good position to understand; although relative comfort in retirement is certainly important as well and gives me time to think about it, for which I am thankful, if it lasts, considering the chaos we are currently facing. So, what is important in life? What really matters? I would ask for no more for myself, but I am disappointed that we seem to be losing so much of what is important to me; looking, as we are for so much more, much of it unrealistic; but I think we can continue the evolution of the past, IF we can return to the discipline and fortitude that brought us to this point, with the help of our neighbors and friends, and all those that have come to us from other nations throughout the world to help us make it what it is, when they share the same objectives. Again, in our current rather myopic environment, we often tend to forget or overlook that.
In this time of high expectations, this might sound modest, even naive; I would contend that being modest is not a bad thing; in fact I would recommend it as preferable to the expectations so many seem to think they deserve today. I know, different strokes; so be it. Just thought I’d go on record with that; take it as you will.
Yes, I am on a roll; indulge me or not, your option. I do it because I have to: my self therapy. Each leads to another and then back again.
I know a man who has millions, and a comfortable life style – but it’s never enough. Greed? not really; he is just afraid that it won’t last – to maintain the life style; perhaps not more, just enough, for him and his family. And how much is that?
I know of others similar. A pattern? What, after all, is enough; what drives us? We are all different and there is no end to the differences; that is the way it is. I find it interesting to contemplate, to think about – and it is instructive to do so, for me.
So, on to the next level of the discussion; it is related, or at least it is for me.
The other day I heard some yard work being done in my neighborhood, and looked out to see where it was being done. Nosy? Actually I thought it was the police detective who lives across the street from me, taking care of his neighbor’s yard, an aging single lady who lives next door to him; and he (and his children) attempt to help, as they can. Nope, he was working on his own yard – on Sunday. Policemen are busy these days, and quite frustrated; I don’t think I need to go into why; but we, he and I, have had some conversations about the why, and a newspaper article I read in that day’s edition had a long article about how the incarceration of juveniles in California leads to making things worse for them, as it leads them further into criminal activities. So, what to do? One can guess what the newspaper article was suggesting.
We DO have a problem, don’t we? And what are WE doing about it? Blaming others, for the most part. That seems to be what we do best these days; certainly we don’t do well examining our own motives,
And when will that change, and how? It will only change when things get bad enough that we HAVE to address it. And when will that be? it is difficult to say, for many complicated reasons: including complacency; legal attempts to try in influence the situation, often without considering unintended consequences; and opposition, much of it of an activist variety. Activists are very much among us, and many have become incentivized, mainly through emotion, to take part, in one way or another; and when there is such motivation there is always willing leadership that sees opportunity, for any number of reasons. As I always say, life is very complex with all those differences among us, and finding single causes is almost always impossible. Will that ever change? Probably, but only very slowly, and then only when things get bad enough to force US to act. And it will happen because the moral fiber of this nation is still there; it is why we are what we have become and will continue to be, as long as we are willing to stand up to it, and together work to deal with it.
Let me cite a letter to the editor in the same newspaper stating that some percent of Muslims that are radical, less than 10%, are the cause of all of the problems we are facing today, but suggesting that all the rest are doing little to oppose it; but comparing that to the percentage of Germans during WWII that were active Nazi sympathizers, but how few others were willing to stand up to opposed them; that percentage was similar. How often might people today realize that? I have discussed that with a friend who grew up in Berlin during this period, and in East Germany during the communist take-over. She agrees, but also admits, as a young person growing up, that she appreciated the take-over, get-things-done effect of the Hitler regime’s leadership. Circumstances and influence are very powerful, particularly when there is a degree of ignorance, and reason to see it in terms of perceived results – as well as fear of consequences of opposing. I have another friend whose father was in Berlin prior to that time and saw the growing danger. His family was of Nazi influence, and when he insisted that they must leave, they refused. So he left and his wife remained in Germany with his two daughters.
So what is this all about? Philosophy, of course; why life is as it is. The powerful become so impressed with themselves and their superiority that they lose sight of reality and get carried away – with themselves, and what they believe; and those not powerful can do nothing but endure. And what of those in-between? In days prior to Western (classical) liberalism there was not much in between, and they certainly were not in a position to take much action. Today they can, but how often do we hear “what can I do”? or “I just don’t don’t want to get involved.” Complacency? Indifference? Call it what you like, but it keeps things from happening, particularly when the powerful are intent on keeping things as they are, as it is beneficial to THEIR interests. The United States has developed a strong middle class that has made the difference, and it has not disappeared, although the powerful elite have been steadily chipping away at it.
Today that middle class, or what is left of it, is beginning to realize that something must be done, and desperately looking for leadership that can get it done. And even the younger generations, those that we call Millennials, are beginning to realize it, and looking for solutions, solutions that are beginning to look more and more like those with which many of us are familiar. This is why so many are looking to Donald Trump, who is a demonstrated doer, as a solution. But it is the same reason we elected Barrack Obama as president: he promised change. Obama has brought change, and it is not what we expected; Trump promises change too, without telling us quite how he would accomplish it, and many are ready to buy into it, again.
A pattern? Yes, an obvious pattern; it has to do with frustration with what is, but ignorance of how to confront it effectively. Elite leadership has always capitalized on that kind of opportunity. Will we never learn? We are learning, but very slowly, and with too much ignorance remaining with not being dealt with effectively, or quickly enough. It is at this point that I throw it out for reader (if any) consideration; there are no simple and easy solutions. This is why American balanced and carefully checked democracy has been so effective, and why attempts are being made to emulate it so broadly, but without really understanding what has made it the success it has become; even WE have begun to forget. The key, of course, is working together for the common good, in an environment where we are even unable to agree what that COMMON GOOD is; and have to force ourselves to work together – to compromise, something that is very difficult for us to do.
We did it, and can do it again; but it will take effort, together. Can we? Of course; will we? That is up to us. Stay tuned. It will take the RIGHT leadership; that is also up to us. At this moment we are being challenged; this election coming up is a critical election for us in the United States and it is incumbent upon us to understand that. Are we up to it? I am optimistic, but surely not certain: it is up to us.
Today I am here to share a personal experience – and then expand it, naturally, into a general observation. That is what philosophy is all about: use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality. I was brought into this experience and since it was personal, I learned a great deal from it.
It began with a lady that made a number of mistakes; and since she was attractive and personable, many wanted to help her, and did. But things just got worse. Finally, with a small child and dog, she showed up at the home of a would be helper and demanded to be let in; unfortunately for him, he let her gain entrance. Her next step was to go down to the post office and file his address as her permanent residence. More to it than that? sure, but I am not interested in the details, just the results, and what it portends – for all of us.
The lady lies continually, and probably doesn’t even know the difference between when she is lying and telling the truth. When I became involved was when she realized I was the next mark, and having my telephone number she began calling me, begging for help. I tried to talk to her and she just kept talking louder and faster; I tried yelling, but it didn’t help. I finally hung up and unplugged the telephone. At this time she is still in the home she has virtually taken over, the helper has gone, and she is still demanding that someone help her. Action is being pursued to have her evicted, but it is not simple, and requires legal help and time, as with the filing of permanent residence the hands of the police are tied. Remember, this is a particular example; think of others where someone is trying to throw out someone who is entitled to that legal residence; it happens, and laws have been passed to protect that, so it is not surprising that well-intended laws are being used to protect those for which they were not intended.
The point of what I am attempting to write is not bout her, or the incident per se, but victim-hood; she is a victim and can see herself as nothing else. How many are out there like that? Why? Because they have been brought up all their lives to view themselves as victims. Ah, one might say, so it is not their fault; I think that is the point I am trying to address. Very little just happens in life; it more often evolves, and when it has to do with families and children it is almost always the result of up-bringing, nurturing, often reaching across generations. It has happened here, and is continuing to happen. And we have developed a culture that is not comfortable examining themselves and their own motives but prefer to blame others – any others.
What it comes down to is people who learn to help themselves and learn independence from doing so, do better than those who are provided all they want, without any effort on their part. And the in-between? obviously there is much in between. As might be expected, they form as a bell curve with smaller numbers at each end, and larger in the middle, graded by how much independence they learn to exhibit. Perhaps at this time the bell curve has been skewed to the lower end, since the government has encouraged so many, helped so many to become more dependent – upon the government. We cannot let that continue to the point where the fat low end drags the leaner upper end down. Our nation’s success derives from the propensity of as many as has been possible to be as independent as possible. Sure, that is relative; all can not be totally independent; children, for example naturally have to be dependent. But for how long? That is the key question regarding successful evolution from childhood to maturity. How well are we doing? Not as well as we once did. Why not? myriad reasons, too complex to go into in this space; but anyone who thinks about them, really thinks about them, should have a pretty good idea of what they are; and a sense for how it is happening. Merely opening the mind and reading what those who ARE thinking about it have to say, is a good place to begin; and there is plenty that is worthy of consideration being written – and said. for that matter. But how many are even reading or listening?
Why would anyone not listen? Because they don’t WANT to listen, because it crimps their style, since making the effort is challenging, and because achieving success in it would be limiting for those who find victim-hood preferable to making an effort. I was exposed at one time in my life to a credit card junky who put it in perspective: why should I live like a poor man when I can live like a rich man? without making an effort he didn’t say, so I add it. But of course today there is much more than credit cards.
The beauty of victim-hood – and casting blame – is that it SEEMS so much more pleasant than making a personal effort to achieve even similar results. Of course that is illusive, but they don’t realize it until it’s too late; and even then seldom blame themselves, but others. That is what victim-hood is. But long after the process is obviously bankrupt, those who have invested in it continue to pursue it because they believe it can work, because they want it to; but more than that, they have lost the opportunity to make the personal investment necessary to do otherwise; in other words, for them it is too late to do anything else since life has already passed them by. So they just complain and plead victim-hood.
To how many does this apply? No one really knows. A better question would be, for how many is it too late to do anything about it? There are many less of the second than of the first, because it is almost always never to late to try to at least make a difference, but one has to try, and that is onerous. And how many, as life passes by, continue to be still willing to try? Less and less, it seems, as our governing approach is to extend help rather than assistance that encourages them to them to help themselves.
Disagree if you like; but justify your disbelief. Many of those who would disagree have already bought into victim-hood and prefer it to making an effort. For some, they are so lost in the process they not only have no idea where to begin, but have no intention to try, as victim-hood is easier.
I have taken this far enough, except for one more brief personal example. I was contacted by a professional colleague recently, from India. He had lost his billfold while visiting there, and desperately needed help – money, of course, because suddenly he didn’t have access to any, nor anyone else who would help him. I don’t know him well, but have had many conversations with him over the telephone. Everyone I mentioned this too gasped “scam”, even people at the bank where I withdrew money and the Western Union Office where I went to to send it. I believed the story and persevered; he assured me he would pay it back when he returned. Problems have cropped up, however, and his is not back yet, but still needs money – small sums, larger sums were blocked by Western Union, which has limits of what they will transmit. This morning I wired another small sum, the last I shall send. I am not resigned to it being scam, and still hope he will successfully return shortly as he assures me he will. But new problems keep cropping up. The point is not scam or no scam, but victim-hood. Even if he is legitimate, and I hope he is, he has allowed himself to fall into a dependence and victim-hood pattern. Wait a minute, any reader might say, that’s not fair. And that also is my point: victim-hood does not mean resorting to scam; but dependence can come easily and is seductive; it blocks one from taking initiative because there is an alternative. So rather than be judgmental we should be sympathetic. But isn’t that what has happened to us over the past three or four generations? Helping someone can preclude efforts to help themselves try to help themselves. Too simple – and unfair? Yes it is, and that is the challenge, on both ends of the equation: how much to help and how much to insist on initiative on the part of others to do something for themselves; and motive and veracity might always be in question; the operational word is trust.
Where is the dividing line between when to trust and when to doubt? It is seldom clear because the dividing line between selfishness/self-interest and survival are not clear. One never knows the motivation of another – and may not even know motivation of self. Victim-hood, deriving from dependence often obliterates the line between doing whatever has to be done, and letting someone else do it, even to the point of expecting them to do it, or becoming irritated when they do not. Again, how can one know how difficult a situation is? Gut feel? Sure, but how long can that be allowed to go on? I am not pleased with it, but today I am shutting the door on this one; as I have already shut the door on my previous example; no more. In fact, my ability to trust blindly has been damaged, and I likely will not ever be able to do so, without a lot of consideration, again. This, for me, has been difficult to accept, because trust is the foundation of our culture; but I see too much short-cutting of principles today, and it worries me. Why am I writing this? because it is something we all must face, and think about, again, on both sides of the equation.
With that I shall end this essay.