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Reality

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 26th, 2015

Yes, reality again. I suggest there are two kinds of reality: BIG reality, such as the solar system, space, the need for water and air on earth, and the weather patterns – human life fits in there too, somewhere; and the perceived reality that is what each of us thinks it is. And why do we perceive reality differently? Partly because we believe what we want to believe, and partly because there are phalanxes of influential folks out there that make a career out of trying to tell us what to believe, and we listen – besides to our families, that is, and families is another discussion. The end game of that is influence; influence drives us,propaganda, if you will; since most influence today is in the form of information, and propaganda is partial truth – no one can know everything – and all of that is information based, influence, information and propaganda are intrinsically connected. So what we deal with is propagation of information, partial truth – and isn’t that what defines ignorance, but seen from the reverse perspective?

So each has his/her own perception of individual reality, based on all kinds of information, impressions – influences, as well, of course, as personal experience. Politics of all kinds lead that parade, mainly because politicians are in the business of influencing – for personal gain – note that personal can really be personal, or personal in light of constituents, but even in that case election and reelection is personal; that is also reality. Close behind are those purveyors of propaganda that are in the business of selling their opinions, or at best facts (or propaganda) as they might appear, colored by their opinions. But it goes way beyond that: we all “sell” our opinions, continually; isn’t that what most relationships – influence – are all about? We, people, are continually attempting to influence others with our opinions. And commercial sales are a natural part of that; and that is our economy, for that matter.

A classic that always occurs to me has to do with what we euphemistically refer to as “class warfare;” what is that? Most simplistically it is clash of personal reality. Businesses are set up to sell something, and support those who are doing the selling of it. Bottom line is they have expenses that have to be met and what is left is the profit that the business must live on. Expand that to corporations, BIGGER companies, with levels of divisions, tons of expenses; and many employees, that are working there to support THEMSELVES. Each has expenses, risks and requirements – and expectations. THAT, to each, is individual reality, and by and large, none are too overly concerned with those of the rest, unless it affects them. Businesses, even corporations understand the needs of employees, sort of, some times; and employees know about corporate risk and inconsistency in sales, as well as expenses – and the impact of expenses (such, even, as cost of labor) but they don’t REALLY care, because they don’t think of it as their PERSONAL reality. Management and employees (often unions) negotiations were designed to accommodate those differences, but more recent changes in our culture have moved us away from accommodating negotiations, where people actually listen to each other and try to understand, and more often attempt to drive their own views, based on their own needs. Different subject? Not really. Listen to each other? Today. To each other? Really listen? It is an increasing rarity; but so is thinking about views of others.

Personal reality is perception, and perception is clouded by fog of ignorance. If perception (philosophy) was the process in the distant past utilized to begin to deal with ignorance, what might we call that process today? Philosophy is “use of reason and argument in seeking truth of reality”; and Myrer: “Read, think, disagree with everything, if you like – but force the mind outward.” (Don’t you love the way I manage to weave those in? No? No matter, I shall do it anyway). Individual perception is a reality, but with today’s complication it needs to be aided by serious development effort in the development of supporting knowledge, of which philosophy is just the beginning. Read? Think? When there are so many more “entertaining” forms of influence and relationship? How naive.

But perception. Recall the blind philosophers examining an elephant. He (and they were all he’s back then) touching the leg likened it to a tree. He the trunk to a heavy vine, and he the tail to a snake; and so forth. Individual perception, without discussion is likely be seriously flawed. How much individual perception do we have today? Much perception today is gained through influential and persuasive communicators, when not through personal experience; and how much personal experience are we being afforded today, and of what kind? Reading, particularly thoughtful, broad and comparative reading is an increasing rarity; and discussion? with an open mind? So what is reality, as perceived personally? It is clearly a very complex and highly tangled mass of informed and uniformed opinion, some based on fact, but passed back and forth while being reinterpreted, and often changed in the process. Informed electorate, is the essence of our democracy. Is that even possible any more?

So what is possible? Influence. But today influence has an added driver, and that is power. Yes, it has always been, but for many reasons it is even greater today. To reach large audiences requires the wherewithal to do so, and that wherewithal requires power (often delineated by money), which is used to manipulate to produce desired results. Propaganda is everywhere today, and even more readily accepted than in the past because it is so ubiquitous, but also influential as a result of the quality with which it is delivered; the sophistication of the mediums it is delivered through; and the complexity of our environment, however defined; such that it is difficult for many to understand – even if they might be motivated to attempt to. And that is a major part of the problem: too much influence and too little control of it – but worse than that: too much attempt to control it, because of the potential value of so doing is so powerful. No need to go into detail on that.

So “money” is evil; that is one perception. But another is that it, as it is currently employed, is much of the basis for the amazing progress that has been made since the industrial revolution. Add to that all the other perceptions that are pressed upon us, and life can be very confusing. Where do we begin? Don’t ask, there are too many variables. But there are many that will willingly provide their own solutions – and they do. But then there are also many, many who seek the the control that results. And, of course, there are enough who are perfectly willing to surrender it to them, because it is easier to do that than pursue it individually Not to say that there are not valid barriers that inhibit most of us from accumulating the information, knowledge, we need to attempt to compare and make our own judgment.

So what is reality? Certainly it is not the simple matter that it might seem – but on top of that it is always changing; such is progress. A number of influential thinkers – leaders – have been studying this for a long time, and are concerned, as we should all be. And in many ways it has been a matter of much conversation – and even discussion, where discussion is still valued and respected. The fact that we are having increasing difficulty in dealing just with that – open minded discussion – just exacerbates the problem.

So, hopeless, yes? No, nothing is hopeless; we will muddle through. But how effectively? It sounds trite, but that is up to us, since we have devised a government of the people that is us. Leadership? We choose the leaders. Discussion? We can drive that too, through our representatives, as well as through personal influences. Choice of perceived reality? Difficult, but we can work on it. Better education, more reading, more thinking, more paying attention to what is happening and why – and the motivation to want to. The challenge is almost overwhelming. But if we do not choose to accept it, there is always an option, and that is to just roll over and allow the elite, in all their confident conceit and arrogance to just take over – again. The choice is ours, though few appreciate it.

What, after all that, what IS reality?

Footnote: There is much here, too much for a 1500 word essay, I am afraid. I have edited it twice to try and clarify and make it more readable, with questionable success; I apologize. But it is a subject important to me that I wanted to address. Hopefully, even if not clear, there is enough grist for the mill of any who might wish to think about it to do so; it is what I do. Why? many ask, often sneeringly. I can only reply that I believe it is our duty to do so, a duty we shirk at our peril.

More About Thinking, Discussing – Power and Human Nature

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 23rd, 2015

Wow, that is a mouthful of a title; kind of presumptuous, don’t you think? I took what I prepared yesterday and compared it to more reading in Steyn’s book, and decided to expand my mind yet further outward (I think it’s already leaking through the expansion, and maybe that’s part of my problem; Na ja (German for eh). It keeps me entertained.

First Steyn; perhaps I overdid my admiration of the book, and Mark would likely be the first to point that out. My leap was to accept what he has written, as I perceived it; we believe, after all, what we want to believe. Steyn would likely argue that that was not his intent; I was rather supposed to think ABOUT what he was saying rather than grab onto what he was explaining had occurred, concerning politically induced panic and Media propagated results thereof. Perhaps politically induced is excessive; politically motivated perhaps, but because people are prepared to believe it, panic is mutually shared for complex reasons. And that ties in with my overnight ruminations. I want to try and take it further. Why? Same reasons; I just feel that I should. Bear with me, or not, your option. We’ll see where it takes us.

The panics come from concern, however poorly formulated they might be, and the concern is inflamed mainly, but not entirely, through motivation to inflame it; it is also inflamed because people want it to be – again, for complex reasons. And people go along with things because they fit with what they want to believe, or are ready to believe – and people are ready to panic. Why? Inherent fear? Influence? It is in their interest to do so? Although, perhaps they resist because it is outside their sphere of concentration. Can that be changed? It can, by clever influence, but not always; some just ignore, until they can no longer ignore. Note, if you will, that this all comes back to power and the influence that power generates. Why do people seek power? To be able to accomplish what they wish to accomplish. And that is? The list is endless.

Why do we have difficulty discussing with an open mind? We are uncomfortable doing so: Lack of understanding? Unsureness of self? Fear that others will revile us for doing it? Fear that we will lose respect or be ridiculed? Concern that we might be left behind, not be on the “right” side. People, by and large, want to be liked and respected, want to fit in. and want to belong; we are pack animals by nature. But we also are able to think for ourselves. However, as I have attempted to point out, we all are not able to do that at the same level of…….ability? let’s call it that; although intensity might be more accurate – or even with as much effect. Thinking is a challenging sport, and as so much, is influenced by many characteristics, of which expressing effectively what we are thinking – charisma? – is one. And that may be different from intensity. Confidence? Assuredness (spell check doesn’t like that either)? So many words (concepts) with nuances of meaning. Propaganda: incomplete information, but how incomplete? Black propaganda relies on wrong information; Steyn’s filters rely on details not included. But there is much in between, for truth is a rarity, not because we deliberately occlude it, but more often because we don’t know what it is.

So, consider exchange of information: what is the purpose of it? Depends on the sender and on the receiver. First the sender: motivation? ambition? What is he/she trying to accomplish? My attempted and failed use of discussion, argument and debate. What is the goal, and how important is it to the sender to communicate? And the receiver? How ready is he/she to receive? What motives might there be to resist receiving – and accepting? What might be involved? And finally, how much resistance is there to receiving? Why,and for what reasons?

And as to packing among us; it is not joining THE pack; it is deciding which pack to join. And how much of that has to do with influence? coercion? or just plain lack of resistance? Why do we do what we do? Why do we allow others to force us to do things we might not want to do, or at least didn’t think we wanted to do when we started out? So why are there differences? contention? Need we elaborate? Put all this together and the possible alternatives are endless; some intended, some not intended, and some just path of least resistance. Politics? That is a word for pushing opinions; some with factual basis, some with influential basis, and plenty in between. Facts, as I have pointed out, are illusive – and change over time, with new knowledge; but at the same time, ignorance is endemic, but highly inconsistent – and also changes over time, with information; knowledge? Ah, what is knowledge? what we know? what we believe? that which someone has prevailed upon us to accept?

We think of politics as ability to think freely; but that is only the case when the form of government ALLOWS us to think freely, and only 1/3 of the people in the world live where that is even purported to be the case. So there are no politics among the others? Ohhhh, yes; politics is difference of opinion, expressed or not, and differs from place to place and time to time as a result of how it IS expressed, whether allowed or not. Back to Steyn; he discusses panic through focused opinion, and how it has been effective throughout our history; not whether the object of the panic was justified or not. In the minds of the convinced, it was always justified, because they had been convinced that it was. In the minds of the convincers, it may have been, and it may not have been, depending on many factors, their motivation for one – and the gain they may have expected through being successful is another.

And power? Ahhh power. That is the bottom line, is it not? Is not power and its variable uses what we attempt to utilize in trying to gain what we wish to achieve in life, whatever that might be? Knowledge is power; power corrupts; power is the ability to get things done. We are achievers, each in our own way, and “power” is our ability to achieve. Can one say that the key to bringing up a successful family is a kind of power? Why not? Getting a job? Holding a job? Getting elected to elective office? how about power just to survive? Too much? then try another word, another concept, it all comes to the same thing, so call it what you like.

And I am rambling, but the next thought that comes to mind is power of politicians, with or without the power of institutions and Media to help bring it to fruition. Why do people want to be politicians? To get things done? To achieve? What else? And some allow personal considerations to take ascendency. And that is surprising? So they all do! That is propaganda, and it is used as effectively to destroy as it is to build. “good power/bad power”? all in the mind of the beholder. Contrary to popular belief, good and bad are relative – even opinion. Power is used by everyone, in one way or another, believe it, but power of politicians is unique in that it has such influence on our lives. Is Communism bad? Is immigration bad? Is violence bad? For that matter, is Vladamir Putin’s quest for power in Europe bad? How about Kim Chong Un’s? – from their perspective? From ours? Are their motives evil, or merely self-oriented. Is the quest of monopoly evil, or merely self-motivated? There are few absolutes when perspective is taken into consideration. Absolutes come from results, after the fact. No, we can not afford to wait until after the fact to make that judgment – so we attempt to wield power to influence outcome – as we must, to survive. That is life; that is reality, and always will be no matter how long it might be argued. That is not to say that evil – or even bad judgment – is not wrong; and it might be wrong in concept based on comparison with what has been tried before, and failed. Communism has never worked; neither has Socialism; corporatism? a melding of the two? I have my opinion. How about immigration? But then how about Democracy? that, also, in its undiluted form isn’t doing so well.

So, what are the answers? There are no ANSWERS, there are only options, and they have to be chosen, by people, each of whom has their own, whether individually or collectively, and collectivism is also relative. Complex? oh my, yes. The human existence is complex – and always will be. We have a lot of work to do, and survival will determine how well we do it – together; but “together” is also relative, as we are forced to realize every day in every way.

I would like to end this by saying thinking helps; but, of course, thinking is also relative, and depends so much on what we have been discussing. Ah, you might say, only I have been doing the discussing, and since it was all one way, how can it be discussion? That’s one of the reasons propaganda is so effective, and why, incidentally, social media has become so popular. Don’t expect it to ever be easy. Know that it will always require hard work – for the right reasons. And there we go again, right?

Late Night Ruminations

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 23rd, 2015

It is 4:30 in the morning, it has been sleeting, and it is icy outside. Schools have been cancelled for today and my 9:00 o’clock dental appointment was as well. And during the night, through various stages of consciousness, I had some revelations. I’ll put it this way: God invaded my brain. Over simplistic? Of course. We have no comprehension of how that works, nor could we, which is why our philosophers have attempted to explain it, best they can, over time. But enough of that. I must add that I have been diagnosed with early dementia – trauma related, I have been told; some memory loss, a little confusion, lack of focus – but, as so many things, evaluation shows that it was already developing prior to the concussion. Such is the aging process; something we have to live with.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today – that is just background. What I wanted to relate is the revelations that came to me, recent experiences, actually, and one that wasn’t even real, but contrived from long experience with a daughter that has had some difficulties with social relationships. Why now? at 4:30? I wanted to try and formulate it in writing before it escaped me. Weird? Probably, but suddenly meaningful to me, and I wanted to try and get it down, because I felt I needed to; sharing it was an after thought, but perhaps a useful one.

The revelations are a series of encounters I have had recently, and thought about vaguely, that came together in my mind during the night and early morning. They have to do with a series of discussions I have had with various people over several months. One that stands out was an attempt after dinner to have a benign discussion – over things somewhat philosophical; that, unfortunately, is something I do. I, trying to expand my mind, try to translate specifics into generalities; that is, I generalize from individual observations to what I see as something broader. This particular discussion began with my observation that we have begun to lose the ability to discuss, and I added use of words such as debate and argument. I was immediately challenged by a thoughtful gentleman, who rushed to find his cell phone and dispute my definitions. I said debate had begun as a competition, and he noted that his definition showed no such thing. Ok. We went on from there, and basically he and the others disagreed with my admittedly generalize premise. Fair enough. But during my night of revelations, that expanded, though other remembered conversations. It occurred to me that many have difficulty in moving from the specific (personal) to the philosophical, stumbling in the process over self. That is, when I try to discuss general observations in terms of what I call human nature, they tend to take it personally; in short, they see me as criticizing them. And I can understand how they could. Perhaps an arrogance on my part contributes, perhaps a lack of clarity in my attempt to explain what I am thinking; but then perhaps just a lack of effective communication, partly, assuredly, on my part. But my conclusion is that it is difficult for many to make the jump from self to philosophical generality; they just can not see it outside their own personal experience, and take it personally; I am being critical of them. Am I? Perhaps subconsciously I am. We are all mired in the processes of our own minds. Essentially, seeing beyond self is difficult. We, becomes I, I, I and we have trouble getting beyond that.

But it goes beyond that; we have difficulty in moving beyond self; but we are also too much restricted by our own narrow experiences and conceits. We are too into what we have done and thought, and have difficulty in getting beyond that to see how universal it might apply – or, more realistically, we don’t really care. People are selfish; no I am not, they will say, without thinking; that’s not the way it is with me, I……etc. Am I going too far? Perhaps. Am I being confusing? Often I have my own problems in translating what is rattling around in my mind to what makes sense to others; sometimes because what is clear to me isn’t explained adequately so that others can understand. One conversation I had in my mind was an attempt to discuss something I was trying to understand, that extended over a series of events, and found myself losing focus; soon I couldn’t even remember what I had begun trying to discuss – and found myself becoming irritated; not at myself, but at she to whom I was trying to explain, that couldn’t follow my convoluted logic. Is this not typical? Too often we tend to try to blame others for our own failures – and even shortcomings. And we become irritated. Why? Some of it is because we are too confident of what is in OUR minds and uninterested in listening to what others have to say; but some of it is that we do not understand, and cannot follow their logic; sometimes we don’t make much of an attempt to, seeing no need.

There is too much there to suggest a simple solution: just open the mind, listen, and try to discuss intelligently? It is definitely not quite that simple. So what is the solution? Try to understand what is going on, and why – and try to deal with it reasonably, with thought beyond self. Yeah, right. Emotion, confusion, lack of understanding, stubbornness – just plain disagreeing due to different experiences, different perspective, and different basic beliefs? How much of this lies at the base of the continual disagreement and contention among us? I probably haven’t even thought about it enough; I certainly haven’t studied it scientifically. And had I left it until I awakened, it likely would have all dissipated. So I chose to leap up and attack my keyboard to try and capture the thoughts.

It is now 5:30, the rain seems to have stopped, the dog has been let out (and let back in), and the dental appointment I had this morning at 9:00 was cancelled at 10:30 PM via a thoughtful phone call from the dental assistant. I shall return to bed and try to forget all about this, since I have already captured it in print (sort of). We’ll see later whether any value might have come from the over-night ruminations, and whether attempting to share if useful.

And it is now later. The dog has been walked, not so pleasant for me, but he loved it, and that is ok. I have done some editing, but essentially stand behind what I wrote down. Why do I do it? Because I feel I have to; it is how I attempt to expand my mind. Useful? It is for me; for others I cannot say, but I try to share, because……….I feel motivated to do that too. Enough said.

But, and this happens frequently, I made connections between my last two blog essays, and am now incentivised (spell check didn’t like that word, but I do) to continue on, to try and explain the connections, at least in my own mind. Again, I just have to do this……no; I want to do it. Why? Same answer. Stay tuned…..or not; I do it because I feel the need, but would like to share, just because I think it is useful to try to share. Feel free.

Challenge, Ignorance, Panic – and Anarchy?

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 22nd, 2015

Life is tough, and getting tougher. Why? Progress is part of it – and the complexity it is creating. The world’s power poles are less well defined; and options for all have increased, and are being opted for, regardless of whether those opting are prepared or not.

Contention is rife; it has always been among humans, a human condition: human nature, but then, in many ways, not so different than that of other animals. The fact that we think may exacerbate our situation, but does not change it significantly, in the long run. On the other hand, the fact that we have suddenly been given the incredible gift of being almost uninhibited in our ability to express our opinions, and have them heard (or at least FEEL like they are being heard) is heady, and has given many a new independence to express, whether they are based on facts – even knowledge – or not. That is a good deal of the contention.

All in all, life is changing rapidly; we are changing too, as we always do (it is called evolution, despite problems many have with the concept), and, because of all the other rapid changes, it is a bit frightening to many, although, to be realistic it has always been so; we just don’t realize that because our focus is so short horizon-ed; but then horizons have always been limited, and our increasingly broader knowledge doesn’t seem to have changed that much. In fact one could argue that our broader knowledge, coupled with wider availability of entertainment, has created a competition we have not been able to overcome. But add to that the increase of expectation throughout the world, and it is not surprising that there is contention and disagreement everywhere.

Part of that is that progress has resulted in more and more people having relationships with more other people they don’t understand, throughout the world (as well as at home, for that matter) – at a time when expectations across the board, because of the spreading of that progress, have expanded, at a very considerable rate. All the words such as wealth, power, opportunity and such are right there in the mix; even independence, although that is poorly understood, as are so many things in that mix.

I am reading an interesting book, written by Mark Steyn, who many might consider merely a satyrist; he is much more: he is a philosopher, as are most who think and read, whether they consider themselves such or not. Philosophy, as I keep saying, is “the use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality.” The title of the book is American Panic, and it includes many things that are quite evident in the modern world which are primarily based on ignorance, limited motivation to see beyond the immediate and selfishness, prejudice, and the propaganda that exists to exploit it all. But before going into all – well, at least some – of that, why anarchy? Because if we do not learn to deal with relationships among us, with competing ideas and expectations, some form of anarchy can ensues, and often has. Anarchy is not nice, at whatever level it occurs; we need to avoid anarchy, and that means compromise, a concept we have decided to detest, but cannot exist without – and an attempt to stop and attempt to understand a little more.

But let’s get back to Steyn’s book. It’s title, American Panic (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014) does not make its purpose clear, and, as always, I have no intent in recapping it here. But I would suggest that his “panics” mostly have to do with fear. prejudice (which is essentially ignorance) and propaganda (although I don’t think he uses that word) that is used to exploit it, or at lead spread it. The panics he discusses are those that have ensued over the past 200 years that are so rooted, mostly in economic concerns of one kind or another, that associate with power – but fanned by ignorance and prejudice, and often immigration; we fear what we do not understand. If we are not conversant with them, and many may not be, they are mostly related to lack of understanding and ideology – and the ignorance that surrounds them, and the propaganda they have inspired.

Without delving any further into the details of Steyn’s book, I would like to move to a related concern: our Media. But before I do that let me say that I recommend American Panic, and am convinced that it offers to make a contribution to our culture, if it is recognized for what it is. That will only happen if it is given the attention it deserves for the reasons it deserves it: essentially, to help us understand our limitations and shortcomings in dealing with reality – and avoiding any encroaching anarchy. Which leads us into Media and propaganda.

All of Steyn’s panics are, if not generated by, propagated by writers who have been able to gain the attention required to generate an environment from which they germinated; Steyn refers to it as filters of truth by eliminating part of the information; which is propaganda, thus creating an environment that spawns fear – or panic; and points out repeatedly that it spawns that which it fears. From there I make the leap to Media, and there is where writers (and an increasing number of other kinds of information propagators, including pundits that merely pass on what they hear with too little question, often without even any deep thought; although, sometimes with intent) reside; flourishing and disseminating information to which we, the people, react. I would contend, and this is naive, that the fifth estate responsibility of “The Media” is to seek truth to the best of its ability. I also contend that our modern “progress” is making that difficult, in that our (the consumer’s) interest has turned so strongly to highly competitive sensation-based entertainment that is, to them (to us?) more important than reality. Note that I am not condemning competition, and I recognize that competition depends on consumers – and it all creates opportunity that leads to the employment that fuels the economy that is the foundation of our way of life. But totally free enterprise is like democracy; it doesn’t work without effective controls – which leads into areas that I do not want to go at this point (such as efficacy of regulations and unintended consequences associated with them). I think my point is that our very unique form of democracy; and the controls that once made it so effective, and are now being eroded; including a fifth estate that assumed the responsibility to help everyone take as honest a view as possible by keeping them informed, by what was as close to truth as they could come. For many reasons that appear to be any longer effectively happening. Which, of course, was certainly never perfect, and always susceptible to fear and panic when the public was already inclined to want to believe that it was threatening.

This is not to say that there are not a number of very astute and thoughtful writers and other persons with influence that ARE doing what our fifth estate was designed to do, and for them we should be very thankful. But since they are thoughtful and introspective, and our current cultural bent is not, they are given too little attention. One cannot, after all, write a thoughtful and knowledgeable article or book without providing considerable depth and background, with which too few today have much patience; preferring simple sound bite propaganda, with an entertainingly sensational flair; with attractive and ability-to-speak-with-confidence actors. In fact, I would suggest that confidence is an increasingly admired trait; not that confidence is not important, even critical – but the confidence we are beginning to see seems to be much more than that: “con” comes to mind, but I have discussed that elsewhere.

Enough; I get wrapped up in my streams of consciousness. So I’ll bring this to a close by asking the question I have been asking often lately here: what is important? I think we are beginning to lose track; so what will be the next American panic? Well, Islam and ISIS have already muscled onto that stage, with the same effect that has come from previous panics. We deserve better. And we definitely do not want it to lead to any more anarchism than is already evident, and has been in the past. The challenge is obvious; but the pitfalls are evident; can we overcome them? Sure we can; will we? That is up to us; we have to collectively want to.

Motivation – Particularly, Primary Motivation

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 21st, 2015

Yes, I have addressed motivation before. Rehash? I hope not; we are continually learning, and adding to what we know – or should be.

The thought of politicians came to me today. What is the motivation of a politician? As anyone, politicians are people, and each has his/her own motivations, often more than one. Many begin altruistic, wanting to do good; but all are slaves of their abilities and interests, and being a politician requires certain abilities and interests; that combination tends to influence; abilities and interests – and experience – cannot help but influence. Politicians also find that they are not their own masters, as all of us do. Politicians are servants, and must satisfy a constituency. What does one do when personal aspirations and principles and those of constituents are different? And politicians must have money – funding – to gain their positions; running for office is competitive and competition requires being able to compete: with politicians that means name recognition, respect and trust. To gain that requires propaganda – ok, advertising, incomplete information; no information – none – is ever complete; truth is illusive. That is life. And when a career politician and his constituents cease to see things quite the same way, what do they do? That decision, life and economics being what it is, is challenging. And temptation? That’s another challenge that we all face from time to time. Compromise is never easy nor particular popular these days, but it is part of the form of life we have chosen, like it or not.

So, back to what I have tried to discuss in the past: What is our motivation, each of us, about everything? Do we even know? Are we willing to even try and understand what it is? Some do, some do not, and there are many in between. The right motivation should be – I was about to say altruistic, but that’s not reasonable; motivation is a mufti-faceted driver, and therefore very complex; self-interest and very survival cannot be ignored. But when we take a conscious and voluntary action, why do we take it? Is it for self or for other? Again, it is almost always more complex than that, so let’s ask instead: what is the primary motivation of the action? My favorite, and I have used it before, is when giving something, am I giving to make me feel better about myself or am I giving it because I sincerely want to help another; ok, accepting that, for most of us helping another DOES make us feel better; but which is primary? And again I go back to one of my favorite proverbs (Ancient Chinese): “give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime.” Giving, without due consideration, is too often done without considering possible unintended consequences, and giving in such a way that brings dependency is not the same as giving in such a way that it develops Independence. It is seldom clear cut; that also is why I prefer to add primary to motivation. So again the question, do we even know? But more to the point, do we even care?

I think it makes a difference; not necessarily to the outcome, but to the………….well, basic (or primary)motivation as it applies to us, individually, and internally. I think about such things; such things are important to me. Why do I do what I do? Are my motives pure – or at least as pure as I can hope them to be? Who gains most, me or other, and if both, what is my primary motivation for pursuing it?

Does it matter? It matters for me. Each must consider for self. Why? That is for each to think about – or not.

Concentration, Interest, Emotion, Sensationalism – and Propaganda

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 20th, 2015

What make us tick? We like to be entertained; we like to be “emoted”; we like things that interest us. But most of all, it would seem, we are titillated by sensation. And what is sensation? that which interests us and “emotes” us – in a rather dramatic way; if we are paying attention – but in a special kind of way; sensationalism FORCES us to pay attention, doesn’t it?

Then what turns us off? Anything that is not of the above – boring, does not attract our attention. That which does not affect us personally is not likely to either.

Generalities? yes. But think of why people ignore so much today: they are not interested in it and it does not attract their attention. Tough to deal with. So why does media, including advertising, do what it does? Media knows what gets attention. Attractive people? opulent surroundings, particularly if a bit exotic – or dangerous people, when they are in our faces and up close. Anything that gets our juices running. And what does not? Anything that bores us, or, more to the point, doesn’t effect us directly.

So what bores us? That about which we do not care or understand. And what do we care about? Mostly that which touches us directly.

This makes it very difficult for those addressing an obscure subject that does not directly touch people to get their attention. Politics falls into such a category, so does policy; unless they touch us directly. Economics? eh, unless it grabs us in OUR pocketbook. Is it accurate to say we are selfish? how about self-absorbed, better? We just don’t pay much attention unless there is a personal connection. I talk of being worried about our debt, the direction our culture is moving, and our future, and am told “I” don’t worry about such; such just gives one ulcers, if one thinks about it. Now make it personal, and that’s something else.

How about ISIS? If it were wild, barbarian tribesmen cutting each others heads off, it likely would not illicit much attention; but if there was indication that it could affect us directly, oh, big change. And taxes? And debt? Even crime? If we can internalize it, see it as affecting us, personally, then it gets our attention. That means if it only affects strangers it doesn’t attract much attention; but when it arrives on the block, that’s something else again. So how do we get people’s attention? by making them feel that it does – or might – affect them personally. How about if it goes to extreme, such as world debt? would that qualify? Only if the personal connection can be made. World debt is abstract; our own bank closing is not. Even wide bankruptcy might be ignorable, until it is someone we know, or something that threatens us personally.

The word complacency has been commonly used, but how can one be complacent if there is not even a reason to care about it? even think about it? We often don’t make a connection to something that is happening, but hasn’t approached closely enough to affect us personally. So at what point does it begin to register? when it’s close enough – close enough? How close is that? Each must determine that for self, and that’s when emotion sets in – or it is seen as sensational, and thereby somehow “emotes” us. ISIS poses a world problem, but it is mostly localized; it becomes serious if one is there – or if someone can be convinced that it COULD be where they are tomorrow.

Too simplified? How about vacations? How can one get excited about a vacation if it is beyond our ability to envision ourselves taking it? One way is to make it SEEM like it could be within our grasp; of course a bit of healthy envy can help, if is presented in such a way that we COULD see it up close, and feel it really was a possibility. How about getting rich? rich is relative. in fact much is relative; and much isn’t all that well understood anyway. The more we understand, the more we can be expected to either become interested – or get worried. So maybe the secret is to not know too much. Ah, but if we are selling it is in our interest for you to know about it, and bring it to our attention so that it suddenly becomes personal reality. But if there is no reason to want to think about it, we tend not to, especially when we really don’t understand it all that well anyway.

In a sense that is what propaganda is all about: to scare people or to incite their (selfish) interest. One might say that without propaganda we might not get all that interested in much, save what the neighbors are doing, or not doing. But there IS propaganda, like it or not, and it surrounds us and grabs us; that’s what it is for; pt is a burgeoning industry. Understand that propaganda doesn’t just happen; someone has to want to make it happen; Propaganda is a product that is sold – or pushed on us. That’s why it is so powerful.

So why is propaganda so pervasive? think about it; it doesn’t take much.

Advantages of Reading Widely

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 18th, 2015

We all know about Howard Dean’s criticism of Scott Walker for not having a college degree. Well, in today’s episode of The Transom, Ben Domenech cites an article by Mike Rowe, a TV personality, that relates, if tangentially. Domenech was discussing Reganesque and what that means; Rowe was talking bout landing a job through an interview by talking about a pencil for eight minutes without stopping. This on top of me reading a book by Mark Stein entitled American Panic. The connection? You have to be a little weird, and read all kinds of unrelated stuff; maybe that’s part of the being a little weird. Makes life interesting, though.

Reganesque, according to Domenech, has to do with knowing and relating to people. The Rowe article finished up by discussing how we confuse qualifications with resumes, and suggesting we make similar mistakes in electing officials. The Stein book goes through our history of panic, mostly related to ignorance of prejudice. Coming together it got me to thinking, which is how I get my kicks. Yes, weird, but kind of cool – if you are a little weird.

Stein goes through American Indian panic, Catholic Panic, Masonic Panic and panic of Chinese immigration, and I’m not half way through the book. The ignorance of prejudice, piled upon self interest is a frightening experience, and Stein’s account reminds us how much of it we have endured. Us? The wonderful people of the United States of America? Oh yes; we are not immune.

Part of it is ignorance and self interest; part of prejudice is just that as well. Part is that we believe what we want to believe. Part is that we listen to propaganda and don’t think much beyond what what we hear, thus ingesting what is put out, without too much questioning. And much of that is that we are mightily impressed by the guy that can talk about a pencil for eight minutes non stop (and was hired on the spot). We are easily taken by those who speak well, and confidently. I have mentioned before, con men, and they are included, which doesn’t suggest all talkers are con men, but how does one make a distinction between con men and other? Oh, and we are impressed by ourselves, or many of us are, particularly those whose gift of gab impresses others; it is transmutable.

That’s where reading widely can make a contribution, if done with an open mind and a motivation to learn – particularly about self. It all comes back to qualifications and learning; qualifications that are more than a resume; and learning that is more than a degree. Qualifications include such archaic qualities as integrity, sincerity, responsibility and reliability; learning includes much beyond what one can receive from a lecture – or a television program, for that matter. Reading widely, yes, that helps, but more: experience and dealing and understanding dealings with people: human nature, but human nature as revealed through history, and paying attention to what that teaches us.

Do you tire of my lecturing, and repeating the same things over and over again? No matter; stream of consciousness, that’s what comes to me, so what else can I do? And after 700 blog essays (yes, this is number 700 – in this weblog iteration – wheeee). what can you expect? Read back through the library listings and you’ll see how little my thinking has changed. As we age it ossifies. And that is wisdom? nope, merely accumulating little bits of wisdom along the way (not all valid, of course, but that’s part of the process).

And that is an advantage of reading widely – the other advantage is, that is, if you are so inclined, it is great fun, and entertaining. In fact, many as I need little else; well, at least that fills the gaps between the something elses. Oh, and if you have an open mind – and are so motivated – it tends to dissipate ignorance; note, I say tends to dissipate, not eliminate; nothing can totally eliminate ignorance; we all have some of it; how could it be otherwise, with so much out there to know?

I recommend it, reading widely, highly; but then did I mention thinking? Ah yes, can not go without that. “Read, think, disagree with everything if you like, but force the mind outward.” Bless you, Anton Myrer.

What I have Learned About Web Hosting – For What is is Worth

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 17th, 2015

First, allow me to state clearly that this is NOT the last word on web hosting, and feel free to disagree. I am merely attempting to pass on what I THINK I have learned.

I initially opened a web log with Yahoo, which they stopped supporting, turning me over to Word Press, a website designer, but hosted through Yahoo. Now I am suspecting that Yahoo is being absorbed by Google, that is an Internet conglomerate attempting to take over the world, ala the Robber Barons of the late 1800s, and I am concerned that I might lose access; note, this is my opinion only, unsupported by any defendable facts, so take it for what it is worth. Anyway I have gone to BlueHost as an alternative host to this site, should the occasion arise that I need it. Here is what I THINK I have found.

The “industry” is divided among players. First there are those that create and manage domain names, where one must begin. Then there are companies that create the websites themselves, and mine was created (and managed) by Word Press. Finally (I hope, that is, I hope that is all there is, but probably not) there are the hosting companies that provide access, and there are many, many of those. There are relationships among them, but I could not hope here to explain them, even if I understood them. Be careful; the government approach to this – in all of its elitism – is to assume it must step in and take over; it has done so in many instances, would like to in as many more as it can, and for the most part usually screws it up; government, after all, is only an accumulation of rather arrogant and quite elite (at least in their own view) people who think they know it all. But they frequently do not agree, and they are, after all, still human beings that suffer from human nature; enough said.

I attempted to transfer my site to BlueHost, but it wasn’t that simple. Domain names, apparently, once created, continue to exist despite any other interferences, and I could not transfer my site (and domain name management, I suppose) without Yahoo’s – or is it Word Press’s? – agreement and provision of some codes that BlueHost must have to transfer the site files. I have been unable to access either one with a request that could be considered, much less acted upon. I have read that others have had similar experiences, and several stated in forums that some management entities refuse to provide them. This doesn’t make it true, it’s just what I understand, so consider it unsupported rumor.

My problem: sometimes I can access this site, as I am presently doing, through Yahoo, but sometimes not: accessing has been inconsistent; sometimes I can access it through Blue Host. Correction: I have no problem accessing the site, that is, the published esssays; just the mechanism that allows me to edit or add. And, it appears, all of the players would happily like to push everyone else out (as I contend Google, Amazon and many of the other biggies, including Walmart and its competitors are attempting to do) to create monopolies. Again, purely my unsupported opinion. I have talked with BlueHost and they can not help me further until I get agreement from someone, that I have not been able to get. A mess, yes? At least so it seems to me.

I may try again with BlueHost, but another option available, it seems, would be to just start over, making sure I get all in one, up front; which is apparently what the players would like, with them in control of it all. Some owners of websites, particularly websites attempting to conduct business through them, are very frustrated. And there is another whole industry developing to try and help people who can’t get anything done, for a fee, of course; surprise, surprise. Sounds like the legal industry? lawyers? There are all kinds out there trying to help us neophytes get done what we are unable to do ourselves: free enterprise, I presume, or innovation, if you like. Can’t get things done when things are made complicated? find expert help. Deliberate? Decide for yourself. God help us as it gets more complicated.

If I give up and start over you might discover me (or not) at phaedo1500.com, if someone doesn’t jump in and take that domain name before I apply. My advantage is that I don’t need to do what I am doing, and gain nothing but personal satisfaction (that is, just for me, and what I derive from it) from doing it. Alas, it is all free enterprise – and availability of opportunity to pursue, and money to make, (which of course is what is driving most of it – and there is money in it, just not here). And free enterprise, competition, inevitably collides, which is why we have laws – which is were government comes in; you get the drift.

Stay tuned (or not, your option) as this unravels for me (or doesn’t – I may just give up, but may not have to). We live in a truly complicated world, and getting more so. And what might you expect, in a world awash in human nature? And we will see what transpires from this oh so common bruhaha among different players within an industry, players of all types, with different objectives and viewpoints. But, and never forget this, this is what competition is all about and competition – and free enterprise – and opportunity ultimately make the economy we enjoy – and the jobs we need to survive. We don’t, after all, get something for nothing; there is a cost to everything, and as so often the case, it is not likely to be shared. Ain’t it fun?

Myopic Complacency and Prevarication

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 11th, 2015

The old classic used to be turning around a large ship; you can’t just do it on a dime, it takes time and thinking ahead to get it done, else it runs into something – like a dock or a reef. But where else can similar be seen? Businesses is one. We tend see a business as an individual, and legally that is the way they are treated, but businesses, as they grow, are more complicated than that. A business is launched and made profitable as it grows, gains experience, expands markets and meets competitive innovation; often change is called for, but just as often it is not that easy.

Other examples? They are legion, even ubiquitous; Life requires looking ahead, and thinking, not always easy to do, but vastly more difficult when it entails bringing elements required to do it together in confronting the continual change to stay current with events as they occur. Business is an interesting example, as it is comprised of many parts, and each of those parts must be integrated to remain a functioning part of the whole. Businesses are comprised of people and people are trained, gain experience and fall into habits; what if all that has to change, and fairly quickly? it is not a simple matter.

Habit – and complacency – and prevarication. Add to that, we don’t have time; ever heard that before? We never have time; but, of course we do, we have to make time, it’s a matter of setting priorities to make sure time is spent where the results of spending it are most productive. Think of driving an automobile – too fast, we all drive too fast these days – and forcing ourselves to look ahead at possible unintended consequences. Is that not similar? In almost everything we do, things change, evolve, altering the challenge, in small ways, continually, but often dramatically, requiring aggressive and immediate action. Like turning the ship around when a reef is spied; it can’t be done if it’s not observed in time – unless there is radar, sonar and other devices to assist us in looking beyond the immediate. That is progress – and innovation.

Does the same or similar not apply in all of life? I contend, and this might be seen as a reach, that it occurs with children growing up, as they complacently and indifferently drift through their studies (and other learning experiences) and suddenly are confronted by having to go out and live on their own, and are not ready; and too often it is too late to make the adjustment smoothly. In that sense of turning things around, individuals are like businesses: many things to consider that have to fit in together, but each taking time to develop – and the vision and motivation to make it happen. Where does that come from? It doesn’t just happen.

Businesses that can not adjust to new realities end up going under or are being bought up by those that are more nimble, or more forward looking. Young people who haven’t given consideration to anything beyond immediate fun and games can be in the same predicament. And the big ship crashes onto the reef. There are so many situations in life where this applies. Take debt accumulation for example. Assuming debt is a necessity for most of us, as we struggle to move into – and on into – life; it is a serious undertaking, and it is clearly understood that debt must be repaid, or at least used to be. In business it is betting on the come, and must be managed as such, with employees, facilities and products being developed and marketed, and bills paid. Often the marketing is too often taken for granted (and sometimes paying bills is as well) where someone with an idea thinks that idea will develop income immediately; it rarely does, it takes time and effort. Most businesses that do not make it go under for lack of funding: there is not enough to carry the firm through the first difficult years of developing name recognition and following, while paying the bills; it takes time.

Then came credit cards, and suddenly things changed; procuring credit was always difficult, as banks wanted proof that funds could be paid back on time, with interest. Credit cards, on the other hand, even multiple credit cards, are far less difficult to get than loans through carefully vetted loan requests. There are reasons for that, but we needn’t go into them here. Suffice it to say that too many with credit cards become myopically complacent, succumbing to prevarication, and before they know it are in over their heads: they have run up on the reef.

As always, the solution is thinking about it, planning, evaluating the situation and considering possible unintended consequences, however difficult that might be. It is the difference between success and failure And the only way to get to that solution, save blind luck, is effort; diligence, hard work and motivation. In our increasingly myopically complacent age of endless prevarication, this is the ONLY sure way.

Families, Friends, Experience and Influence

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 9th, 2015

We are a combination of a lot of things; individually and collectively. Genes are one; and education is another, to which we attach, realistically, great importance. But what is education? Yes, formal education is administered by those who have gained knowledge through long study and application, but there is much more to education than sitting in a classroom; in fact just sitting in a classroom and waiting for osmosis to set in is hardly enough, and often even counter-productive, but that is another subject. What I want to address here is education other than formal.

It starts early with family; it must. Let’s face it, mothers in particular, since there is a bond between mother and child due to the birthing process that is intrinsic, perhaps beyond our comprehension, but let’s not go there. Mothers teach their babies how to survive in the world, and to grow. That, of course, is not enough; fathers also have a part to play, and it often begins to weigh in as the child begins to mature, which is not to say that both parents, working together, do not play a role throughout the process of maturation. Let it suffice to say that the partnership of bringing up a child is the basis for the success of that child – certainly not all of it, but the basis for it. Let me throw in that the current deterioration of our family structure and its effect upon our children today is very worrisome, and the lack of positive family influence on children growing up today should be a matter of great concern, as should the growth of negative influence. There are many reasons, some of which I have tried to touch upon in the past, but we won’t go into that there, either.

What we need to go into is all the other influences our children undergo, some of which also I have touched on in the past. Everything, after all, ties together, and is difficult to separate. Experience is also education, and an important part of even formal education, and it happens continually, either positively or negatively. So what experience? Any and all: doing things, seeing things, being exposed to things, success, failure – anything that happens to us is experience that SHOULD be educational. But, and this goes back first to family, that happens only when it’s importance is taught, continually, – by families. What if family is unqualified to do such teaching? That is another part of our problem that we might leave for another day, but there is indication that through several generations of family deterioration, we have been developing a growing problem of either lack of qualification or lack or purpose and initiative.

But there are also additional influences, such as friends and other acquaintances that are an important part of it. May I mention social media, electronic “propaganda” and peer pressure? Oh no, you say, not again. Ok, so, what? Families can have influence on that too; dictatorially? by controlling? more appropriately, by exerting positive influence through installation of responsibility and respect – another very broad subject with many perturbations, and implications, since the culture of family extends over generations. What is it that influences our children as they grow up? Everything. Some positively and some negatively. It is up to family to teach the distinctions and point the direction – lead, actually. It is a much more difficult challenge than it is currently being given credit for, because the influences occur with such rapidity, change so continually, and are often even difficult to understand; but that’s only one side of it. The other side is that multiple levels of family culture are accepting the changes as they occur and not perceiving their impact – or in some cases, not even caring.

Multiple studies were discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 Book, Outliers, making it clear how much family matters, but not entirely for those many of the reasons people believe: it is not all about life style advantages, although they help. Being intelligent helps, but only up to a point; going to good schools helps too, but not necessarily “the best” (whatever that is construed to be). What is most important is where those advantages are pointed, and that takes continual nurturing and coaching – and motivating; or rather, teaching the young to motivate themselves, assess their advantages and find appropriate opportunities to employ them. Gladwell shows it is not nearly as simple as it might appear. But he also shows that “success” is a whole lot more than many might think. What is success? another rather esoteric subject that requires some thinking – and coaching. In short, good influences, which especially include family and friends, is critical; add experience and it is almost everything, if effectively internalized. Of course, so are bad experiences, if not used as lessons to show why they are bad, and should not be internalized.

And family is where all that starts, how it is nurtured, and how it is supported throughout life. It is time we realize that, or re-realize it, and get back to giving it the encouragement it requires, else we will have to begin all over, and in a more complex environment, that won’t be easy, as too much has changed.

A Review of This and my Previous Site – and My Purpose in Continuing

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 8th, 2015

I have been doing this for some time; since April, 2010, and there are almost 700 recorded posts. But before that there was yet another forum; it was called Defending the Middle Ground; that site support was discontinued by Yahoo, at which time I embarked upon this one, but it can still be accessed by querying on Defending the Middle Ground. Actually not much has changed; my opinions have remained pretty consistent; I think that means I am learning, and developing a personal philosophy. I, you see, feel strongly that this is something we should all do, if we are to keep our culture strong and productive – and remain intellectually viable.

So who cares? I don’t know. There have been some who have commented over time, offering support for my efforts, and I appreciate that. Only, what I write is for my own development; but I would like also to share it; for me that is important. I do; not for me, but for anyone who might benefit from it, for it is based on a belief that thinking for self is valuable – no, ESSENTIAL – and in my small way I would like to try and encourage that. In short, this is not about me; I have no reputation to build or defend, no income to earn from it, and at my age, no expectations. So be it; believe that or not.

Back on March 26 2014 it occurred to me that perhaps, just perhaps, my family could use this stream of consciousness for whatever families might seek for posterity, and I offered it to mine. I have no idea what effect that might have had, but I keep it in mind as I stream. This is who I am; this is what I do in my “maturity”, and I wish to offer to share it, for what it might be worth. But in the offering to my family I do not think I mentioned the previous site, and thought I might do it here – for what it might be worth. It was called Defending the Middle Ground because it was intended for that purpose: to discuss and try to explain that vast middle cultural area that lies between the more extreme, and increasingly argumentative and uncooperative fringes – and attempt to show the importance that it has for our culture. In my opinion, it is what we are.

I am concerned that it, culture and middle ground of it, is deteriorating, partly due to continually evolving changes and increasing complexity (evolution?), but also due to demographics. And as I have recently and perhaps frequently asked, what follows? for which I have no answer, but that is not going to deter me from addressing it, in all of it’s complexity, as best I can, as I see it through the eyes of so many who are addressing it continually elsewhere.

I attempt to discuss the subject with many, and a common response is, I really don’t want to get into it because it frustrates me, depressed me; what, after all, can I do about it? Good question, in our vast and complicated culture it can be frustrating. I am encouraged, however, by the many prominent writers today, for whom I have respect, who seem to be making the attempt, and at least in some circles, it might be beginning to have an effect. But what of those of us who have no national podium from which to make a pitch? Many feel powerless. I would like to suggest that we – all of us – can still make our a contribution; and that is what I have been trying to do in my small way. A weblog? possibly for some, but surely not for all. So, what?

How about personal example? It begins with family but expands to any number of contacts, friends and influences; I shall dwell more on family in the future, since it is so critical to what we are – or are not. All, even most, might not want to listen or engage, but perhaps they might observe personal example; and how do we provide that? my same typical response; think about it, we each have to find our own way. Just being pleasant to people and showing support for what they might be going through is one approach. Responding to the attempts of others to make their points, through our positive comments, however we might be able, is another. And there is always discussion, however it might be pushed aside. We must, after all, preserve our culture, or at least support the attempts of others to do so. And what does that entail?

I have discussed it before, and will continue to do so; but beyond that, if you are engaging with me, however infrequently or superficially, what do you think? You obviously have thoughts about it, else you would not be here. And then, whatever comes to mind, follow up with it – and make your contribution, however possible, through example. To preserve what “we” have created is going to take the efforts of all of us who care, working together. And you might be surprised at how it catches on, and spreads, as we who care, engage. Leadership is a strange and splendored thing; with the “right” motivation it is catching. “Right?” You know what is coming: think about it.

Individual initiative? Motivation? Supporting what we believe in – the principles that have made us what we have become and continue to be, regardless of what some might say; even innovation; and thinking. Nor, and I must add this, is it a matter of mutual self satisfaction; we have made our mistakes, and continue to do so, but give up? no. And until others prove us wrong in terms of our overall contribution to the world, no one has come up with a better approach; and should they, particularly in modifying our approach positively, we can and should be open to listening and adjusting.

This is my challenge: think about it, read about it, discuss it and then do something about it, however it works for you. Our future depends upon how well “we” accomplish that.

Our Changing Culture

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 7th, 2015

Yes, cultures continually change; they always have. If ours is changing faster it is the pace at which we live – and the influences. It will not change to what it once was; it never has, it cannot. So what will evolve? We don’t know. Those of us from my generation will – are – already bemoaning it; but those who have lived through a past always do. The moderns – a broad term – are comfortable with the direction we are going, for the most part, because of those same influences; they have grown up with them. So what are those influences?

Affluence is one; entertainment is another; and electronic communication is yet another. How so? Well, there is so much of all of that and it is so in our faces; it are us. Some examples. Statistics; you are surprised at that? Well, think about it (yes, again, but hey, that’s what I am here for; had you noticed?). Statistics generalize everything; we are all added together and divided into categories; and those categories are us, causing us to lose at least some of our individuality (and probably more). Instead of being us we are part of a cohort that is assigned symptoms, if you will. But not only us – everything. And it has serious implications. Muslims, for example are all lumped together. I mentioned this once in a discussion and was immediately given a yes, but. Discussion? Forget that. In fact we were talking about discussion, along with arguing and debate, and I was immediately confronted with a smart phone definition; I had used others, and was told that the cell phone didn’t agree. One can not help but find that any dictionary has a long list list of often competing meanings which evolved over time. Yes, language evolves, as does culture – and often almost in lockstep. I mentioned that debate was (at least started out as) competition; nope, smarty didn’t say that. Ok, you get the point.

Entertainment is even more pervasive. It dominates us: television, movies, even social networks – and the computer. And what comes from that is reality? Little discussion; reality isn’t FUN. Not that there isn’t reality hidden within entertainment, often there is, but one has to dig for it. More often entertainment is feel good oblivion; perfect for propaganda, in fact. But then entertainment is not just fiction or fantasy, it has moved into advertising (big time) and even news; we WANT to be entertained; we expect to be entertained – and we want to believe what we want to believe. We live for it. So entertainment is bad? No, it is not bad; it is necessary; we need it. But there must be some reality behind it because reality is…..well, reality; and we can’t get away from reality, even as reality changes, continually, partly because we are continually learning more, or should be. One of my favorites as an example is professional sports. I question the sports part; it’s not sports that I grew up with; it is sports ENTERTAINMENT. And there is much to entertain: I particularly like to watch the really impressive talented play that is constantly displayed, whichever team displays it. But most (my opinion, of course) look beyond that, in fact take it for granted, and are only taken by the excitement of our team winning – entertainment. Admittedly, that is a bit far out, but even (again my opinion) the infractions that occur, and there are many (from my dated viewpoint), are being overlooked to increase the entertainment factor.

And electronic communication? It is not an exaggeration to say that it has consumed us; there are too many examples. Real time opinion, often supported by nothing but emotion, rules the day. And the aspect of accumulating social media “friends” is tantamount to becoming famous. We really do like to see our comments in print and to feel important. It seems to me that our changing culture is becoming more and more self indulgent, more narcissistic one might say; it is all about us, and should be, and we have fostered that, even pushed it with unearned honors. It seems to be less what we accomplish than what we say we have accomplished, or people credit us with, regardless. I find this almost incomprehensible in terms of the interest in healthy development, either individual or collective. But it surely is popular.

Need I say anything about affluence? Too much and wanting more? EXPECTING more? I think not.

Before I leave that, I must say that there is much written – published – today that is thoughtful and provocative, if we accessed it. Do we? Indications are that we do less and less, partly because of the ignorance (lack of understanding necessary to appreciate it – and think about it). That is what “education” is all about. We are concerned (or profess to be) with what has been called the deterioration of our education process. Why is it deteriorating?

Bottom line for me is that I am afraid we no longer know what really matters, what is really important. Having FUN? Is that all there is? It would seem so, but there IS MORE. And that would take me into yet another entire diatribe, which might sound a little preachy (and probably would be), so I won’t pursue it. But any interested reader might, and could, without much deep thought come up with much of it. What is really important in life? An open mind, I believe, would reveal more than just being HAPPY, something which, I believe we have lost the capability to even understand, or are in the process of doing. What is HAPPY? Think about it.

The Aging – Maturing – Process

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the February 5th, 2015

I would like to share some information on this subject with anyone who might be interested; this is not about me, but I have to offer some personal information to put it in context, so bear with me.
Several years ago I sustained a concussion that included a cracked skull that required stapling to close. Since the cause was a brief heart stoppage I also had a pacemaker installed. Since then I have been experiencing problems that my doctor thought might be oncoming dementia and referred me to neurological testing where they concluded it was trauma related and not traditional dementia, but the symptoms are similar and since they can be associated with what we commonly refer to as aging, I thought I might attempt to share them.

The symptoms are what I have referred to as feeling somewhat light headed, having problems with balance (I don’t tilt well), have some confusion when stressed or overloaded, short term memory problems, and difficulty with navigating. Dementia, right? hopeless, oh, woe. Not necessarily, I am finding. My doctor, Stephen E. Gist, M.D. (Internal Medicine), told me some time ago, after I told him the exercises offered on line by Lumosity seemed to be helping, that mental exercising is as important as physical exercising, but that with trauma such as I incurred some of the damage might be irreversible. I accept that and am dealing with it, apparently with success, and that is what I want to attempt to discuss.

Aging is inevitable (even if “maturing” is not necessarily). How we deal with it makes the difference in quality of life that ensues in the time remaining to us, which, like it or not, accept it or not, is limited. The symptoms I mention above, though in my case associated with some likely irreversible trauma, are not atypical to normal aging. Exercise of brain and body are obvious, but some people avoid both; they should not, they make a difference. But that should be obvious – enough said. Adequate sleep is also critical, and some of us pay too little attention to that as well; of particular importance is enough REM sleep, sleep that contributes to maintenance of the brain. Melatonin has been prescribed for me and I take it regularly; it has also been recommended that I pursue more contact with a neurologist to see if he can assist me in improving my sleep paterns. Again, I am not an expert on such matters and can offer no more on that subject.

But having given it a great deal of thought as I worked through my experience, there is more, and it begins with life style as it is commonly being experienced by many. What follows is my opinion, unsupported by experimental data, so take it or leave it.

As I have opined in the past, I have a great deal of respect for thinking, and that, I would suggest, also exercises the brain – but in important ways that go beyond the physical. Now, you might say, we are not all thinkers; piffle, I say; we all can THINK and should. About what? Take your pick; thinking about ANYTHING is useful. Why don’t we think? For the most part because we don’t have to – or more to the point, don’t want to if we don’t have to. So what do we do instead? Entertain ourselves, or allow ourselves to be entertained, with as little effort as possible; and for that there are many, many options. Our cultures are loaded with them: movies, television, social media are several, but any reader can add a few more. One might argue that many do not have adequate education and so have not been trained to think. So? What kind of training does it take to think? Sure, more knowledge provides more to think about, but then more thinking leads to more knowledge – about what? Take your pick; we are surrounded by things to think about, if only we would. If we don’t it’s because we prefer to absorb the entertainment that is offered us that does not require it. Think about that, if you will.

So where would such thinking take us? A greater interest in our surroundings? A better understanding of life, our fellow humans, each other and how we interact with each other, individually and collectively? We complain about government and how it deals with us; but then we complain about almost everything that doesn’t fit what we want. And what do we want? Let’s not even go there; we want what we want, and too often that is whatever others have that seems more than what we have. But more than that, what we want is often superficial. For example I recently listened to a young man explain how all he wanted was to be loved; but being loved entails loving – and interacting with others, understanding them as we try to help them understand us; he didn’t seem to understand that, or try. Very weighty subject that, and again, much to think about, if we will, with an open mind. And open mind means looking beyond the immediate; getting beyond the immediate is part of thinking, really thinking.

And if you think about it, many things come to mind; but first should be how we process information that is made available to us; education? Ok, but what kind of education? Formal? There is much more available to us than formal education, if we make the effort to open our eyes, as well as our minds, and see it………….ah, that’s thinking; IF it entails more than just absorbing what is placed before us without any processing other than blind acceptance.

So what does all this have to do with aging? Everything. Think about it. I am suggesting that one of the primary reasons for premature aging is lack of thinking, and many of the symptoms I mentioned are indications of that. So, we think we can do away with such symptoms? stop aging? Nope; that ain’t gonna happen. But it can change how we process them, deal with them – and, and this is the bottom line: to realize what’s REALLY important in life. THAT is what we should be REALLY thinking about!

What

Unemployed Philosopher

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 14th, 2015

Philosophy: use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality.

“Read, think (listen experience); disagree with question) everything, if you like – but force your mind outward.”
Anton Myrer, Once and Eagle

“There is no end to what we can accomplish, if we work together.”
Harry S. Truman

“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 only when there it is deserved)
Glen Campbell

Always protect self, but don’t take self too seriously.

Respect, principles, responsibility, truthfulness, honor, integrity – open-ness, but preserving privacy. Helping others is not giving, but helping them to learn to help themselves; “Give a man a fish and and he feeds himself for a day; teach him to fish and he feeds himself for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb

Motive: reaching out to help people feel good about themselves; not to make self feel good for having done it. The latter comes by itself when the former is sincere. Understanding why we do what we do, and ensuring we are doing it for the right reasons is what brings true contentment. That is what maturity and wisdom are all about, and it makes for satisfaction in life.

I used to think of myself as cynical; now I prefer the term skeptical. Human nature is reality, and therefor always suspect. One must always remain with both feet anchored in reality, although reality flavored with enough emotional compassion to soften it, to make it palatable. Never assume, and always question motive, gently and as non-judgmentally as possible.

Compassionate conservatism tempered by understanding that progress also depends on creative destruction (George Bush tempered by Joseph A. Schumpeter).

“Considered” moderation in all things; except economics, where more conservatism (although also considered; that is, not radical in terms of unintended consequences as some would have us do).

I have created nothing; I am merely a conduit; We can all do the same – and derive great satisfaction from doing it – if we are so inclined.

Written Communications

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 13th, 2015

A subject with a long history. Once they were very formal, even flowery – and quite deliberately developed. Then, along with our evolving culture, they moved to being more casual. What now?

Surely there are still deliberate and serious written communications; there must be. And there are casual and even breezy written communications; but traditional such letters are becoming rarer; why? Mainly because of the convenience of alternative means: emails, twitter, text messages and the like; but I Social Media is coming to comprise yet another kind of written communication, also well understood by all, by now, and a combination. I should like to add yet another: comments to articles written on line.

These are extenuation of the old letters to the editor; submitted, selected and sometimes edited; that still exist, but not, apparently to the extent that on-line article comments do; again, the reason is convenience – it’s so easy. Which seems to under-gird the motivation for most of what we do today; easy is good – apparently.

I had always viewed comments as I had letters to editors, essentially to comment on what the writer had written. Sometimes it could be complimentary (my preference) but also sometimes offering either additional opinion or even argument; argument has become much more prevalent in recent times, maybe because that is the way we have become. But could that have been generated by incentives by Media to do so? certainly it is circular.

My purpose today is to point to a new twist, and it combines newer comments with social media. In fact I am suggesting that such comments are a hybrid of the two for a certain level of reader, combined with a need to be recognized. And social media does not express a need to be recognized? Well, sure, but comments tend to be more, since there is allegedly an intellectual component beyond the chitchat. Ok, there is a definitely blurring there, sometimes difficult to separate, and maybe that’s the point.

I have been taken not so much with the comments themselves but the comments to the comments, and continuing. That is, once begun, commenting frequently turns into social media communication between commenters, much like debate: you said; no I didn’t; but…..and so forth. Is that good? Well….let’s think about it. How much is it like Firing Line type gang bangs? I read once where a speaker yielded to an interrupter before continuing, and was admonished afterward by the program director; you can’t do that, he said, you have to stay in there and mix it up, that’s what the viewers want to hear.

So what is happening to us? We like to mix it up? maybe, but that sounds more like a programming objective to attract viewer interest, although why it would is beyond me, but that’s just me. I think much of it is ego, which is not all bad, if controlled, and justified; but it has become so popular because it is so cheap, easy and reactive. Some of it is look at me; some of it is argumentative; but some of it is attempting to add to a conversation that has attracted interest. Does that not sound something like social media?

In fact, going back to Social Media, I just recently read that there is indication that such on-line exchanges have become the “new normal” with many participants becoming increasingly uncomfortable with more traditional verbal communication. The depiction of a group of young people (or not so young) sitting around a table in a restaurant tapping away at their miniature hand computers is common to ubiquitous. But in a broader context that might mean that if we enjoy viewing others mixing it up on television, talking over and interrupting each other, we prefer personal conversations to be more orderly – and, perhaps, just perhaps, it is an interesting combination of written (but quicker) communications with verbal communications with a certain amount of look at me (since many media can be viewed by more than just recipients – Facebook entries, for example).

In any event, written communications are evolving, for numerous reasons, and it is interesting. Give it some thought – but particularly consider how you fit into the mix, and whether you find that personally satisfactory or not, Times definitely are a-changin’.

Prevarication, Truth, Propaganda – and Motivation

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 12th, 2015

We all know what prevarication is; we all know of truth, but knowing exactly what truth is is more difficult by far. However, if pure truth is unknowable, pure prevarication is relatively unusual, as there us more likely to be at least a smidgeon of truth to most of what we hear, read, and think we understand. As in anything beginning with extremes; the bulk of reality is somewhere in between: propaganda; that is what propaganda is: partial truth, extending from blatant lies to approach to truth; we live pretty much in that gray area, weaving somewhere between the two extremes. We are all familiar with the famous propaganda familiar to controlled societies; but we should also know about advertising, which is another kind of partial truth: they tell us only that which they want us to know and avoid what they would prefer we not consider.

But we are what we are; each of us with different beliefs, understandings, influences, principles imparted during upbringing, maturing, education, experience, and even association with prejudices and biases; and we are prone to believe what we want to believe, which leads to even more differences. We resist agreement in so many areas, and argue continually and often passionately about them in the process. That is life as we know it and views diverge with locale, self-interest, self-preservation, understanding and the particular pressures of the moment. There is no way one could even imagine that outlooks could be the same, or even similar in many cases, between the mountainous tribes of Afghanistan and the bustle of modern Paris, London or New York. But those are also extremes; what of the farms of the Midwest and the big cities of the East Coast? What of…….well, almost anything one can think of?

But more; how can we even to begin to understand our differences, much less reconcile them; to do so would not be reality. How do we deal with reality?

Perhaps focusing on what we are looking for is a place to begin. What we respect, beyond what we think we “like”; what it is that really matters? and that comes down to principles. I, of course, tend to lean toward the “old style” of European culture – but more, I find similar in much of Asian culture I have experienced, and I have found it among blacks and Hispanics, and realize it has less to do with race or even culture, but principles; and within cultures I see principles changing. Faced with that I will go with principles any time, and find those within many cultures, even as those cultures – and my own – changing over time.

What matters? what do I distrust, and why? What do I respect, and why? What is this all about?

We will get to motivation, as I always do, but first allow me to digress for a moment, and go back in time; how I came to begin doing what I am doing, and why. I have been doing this, or similar since the year 2000, thus the handle phaedo2000; phaedo is Plato’s book that discusses the death of Socrates. My first website Yahoo discontinued supporting; it was a very involved affair, with comments, blurbs, quotes, articles and observations – as they came to mind, kind of steam of consciousness. After that I signed on with Word Press in the current format, essay oriented, also stream of consciousness, but as topics present themselves, more ordered and focused. The object, however, has been much the same: to explore, provide the basis for thinking, evaluating – and criticizing, where appropriate. I called it my sandbox and used it as a place to create, and examine what I was creating. Previously I had been involved in writing and submitting articles for publication, some mildly successfully; I even wrote and had published two books, neither particularly successful, but both satisfying. I like to write and I enjoy forcing thinking of subjects of potential interest. In the interim I sustained a skull cracking concussion, which has been dealt with, but has influenced my life; some of the brain damage, particularly related to memory, may not be reversible, but is within what can be dealt with. Somewhere within the process after beginning the current format I had the idea of making my “children” (the eldest now in his fifties) aware of my efforts because it occurred to me that my ruminations might be useful to them. I need to explain that also, and thoughts of family prompted my thinking. As you might expect, motivation is right in there too, as you will see.

I am very fortunate to have inherited the extended family which became my lot. My paternal grandfather was laid off during the depression in New York, and went home and built a home for himself and his family with his own hands; my maternal grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Canada (the wait time to come to the United States was unreasonably long). My paternal grandmother was a school teacher and my maternal grandmother was met in Minnesota when my grandfather strolled across the northern border, after which they moved to Long Island, where my mother and father went to school together. My father was one of three sons, none, because of the circumstances having much chance of attending college, as their father had not. So the older two earned appointments to the Naval Academy at Annapolis and (my father) the Military Academy at West Point; the third son enlisted during WWII and served in both the army and the navy before starting his own business on leaving the service. Five of the resulting progeny have since served in the military. Why all this? to show what I have come to understand what
matters, and to attempt to share it, and the appreciation for what it means and the advantages it affords. From it have come to have great respect for reason, responsibility and reliability and respect for reality and motivation – as well as for others; I was so nurtured (my mother was a loving, stay at home mother, as was her mother – God bless them), and will be eternally grateful; all else has derived from this; I want my own family to appreciate it: it is our oh so fortunate legacy.

I think these days about this a great deal, and even wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about things I would like to share, sometimes getting up and making notes, else I forget. That’s how I got into this line of discourse; I didn’t take notes and forgot what I was trying to write about. This probably wasn’t the line of thought that I was trying to pursue, but it is what resulted. A little weird? Certainly; enough said. But brilliant? no way; even intelligent? not particularly. We have all been given the ability to learn, think, reason and understand, if we try; it is unfortunate that too many do not avail themselves of it, partially because their nurturing has not afforded it; but the ability is still there, certainly with vast differences, but all susceptible to application of motivation with the appropriate discipline.

Along those lines I like to a talk about Ben Carson, one of two children whose father deserted the family. When their mother moved them to Philadelphia, where they attended school, they did poorly. Mother, with only third grade education, demanded that each read a book a week, and write a book report about it, which she could not even read. Carson retired as a renowned surgeon, and is currently offering himself for national public office. But then just the other day I read in a little booklet included in a Hank Snow CD, about his rise to success. Born in Canada in the 1930s, his parents separated when he was eight and a step father threw him out of the house at age fourteen. He worked as a cabin boy and fisherman at the Grand Banks in Newfoundland, as well as hauling scallops and squid out of the North Atlantic; worked on the docks as a stevedore, peddled lobsters and packed fish, narrowly escaped death in a ship wreck, then turned to driving horses for a livery stable before turning to music where, after being heard by an executive from RCA he became the Canadian label’s best selling artist, before moving on to Dallas and Nashville. In 1935 he married Minnie Blanche, who immediately provided the love and support he had never had. Family matters. So does motivation.

Prevarication, truth and propaganda, yes, and all that is in between; much, as I like to say; to think about. And much we must all learn to deal with, however we are able, with whatever tools and nurturing we might be fortunate enough to have – providing we have the motivation.

Looking Inward, Family Disintegration and Perspectives

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 10th, 2015

I was reading a Michael Barone article today, that I had already read, but went into the comments. The article was about what can be done about our deteriorating families. No one expressed disagreement that the disintegration was happening; the differences had to do with why, and how we could change it.

Essentially, as would be expected, most were pointed inward. One wrote about how he was seventy and had only had one mate, and it was all about working together between family leadership and with the family. The next said, you must be a man; let me tell you about my selfish husband who just wanted to go out and enjoy himself. And there we go; all have to work together and WANT to make it happen; so how does ONE make that happen? Of course ONE cannot make it happen, and that’s the problem.

So what does the one that IS trying, do? Ahhh, that is the question; and there is no simple answer – in fact no answer that will satisfy every situation.

It’s continually instructional how few people look beyond themselves; I see it continually in article comments: you don’t understand; this is the way it is, because I have been there, and I know. That will never change – human nature, reality. But, I suggest that the pendulum is hopefully swinging back, not because we are thinking about what WE need to do, but because reality is forcing us to do something. That, it seems, is the only way to get the attention of people – what affects them personally, and through mistakes and pain – and family deterioration is beginning to affect everyone through the mistakes and increasing pain resulting from them.

Watching people, however, really is instructional, although few of us take the time to bother; too busy. Maybe it takes maturing, although that doesn’t always work either. I have noticed (and commented about it) how few people smile any more, or make much attempt to be pleasant. But when someone smiles at them, how many respond? It is easy to be blinded into thinking the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and the Media would encourage us to think that: it sells. But it’s not true; at least no more than has ever been the case; little in terms of human nature has changed all that much. But life has.

Someone sent me an email today with old pictures from history, showing just how much life has changed. Why are we not aware of that? Many reasons: we have never learned, we don’t pay much attention, we don’t care, or we just don’t think about it. Would that we exercised our minds a little more, and thought beyond self. Back to the Barone article; life is – or should be – about team work, working together; about appreciating where others are coming from (empathy) and giving a little benefit of the doubt, and reaching out. That is not, as I recently wrote, that we rush out and do for them, or compensate for that which they didn’t bother to do for themselves, but to try and help them understand that the secret to success (however we wish to define it) has more to do with motivation than other advantages such as wealth, talent and intelligence (not to suggest they don’thelp). There is much we can do for ourselves, if we just try. That brings to mind a passage in Ben Carson’s book about his growing up. His father left the family and they had to move from Detroit to Philadelphia, where Ben and his brother went to school, faring poorly. His mother, who had less than a third grade education, made each boy read a book a week and write a report on it – for her – which she couldn’t even read. Carson retired as a renowned surgeon and would like to offer his services to his country, that today clearly needs everything it can get. And that brings us back to Barone’s disintegration of our families.

Yes, much to think about, if we would. To solve the problems of the world? hardly, it doesn’t work that way. I hate to think about how many times I have heard that response, presumably excusing responders from making the effort. But our founders (and here I go again), understanding human nature, attempted to create a system, through difficult compromise (which we now profess detesting as giving up our principles) created a system that has worked pretty well – not perfectly, but better than anything else that has been devised, built, I might add, on the principles of Christianity (not the dogma, but the principles). Many today are attempting to change that formula, because there are always some who think they know more than everyone else and can do better; I refer to such as elites and attribute their motivation to selfish arrogance; although they would adamantly demur, saying I don’t understand; they just know more that I. Power. conceit, arrogance? It is a common disease, and few of us are totally without it; but few even take the time to try and understand, and do anything about it. And what could they do? start by looking at themselves – and why our families are deteriorating.

Too simple? Sure; there are few simple solutions when it comes to people. I was reminded in looking at the old historical pictures of how many of our problems are not new; politics for example; we love to bash our politicians as elite, selfish and power seeking, as many of them are; but what are we doing to contribute to that? I am reminded of Professor Tytler (Scotland, 1797) and his observation (paraphrased) at the time: democracy will never work; as soon as the voters find out they can vote themselves whatever they want from the public treasury, they will, and that is much of what politicians yield to, as they must if they want the job. I know, much of this I have belabored before; but it was brought back into my consciousness with Barone and the historical pictures. Leading humans is a daunting task, because of our differences, our different influences – and the reality of living during the time in which we live. Being a politician during these times, particularly with the ubiquitous effectiveness of Media propaganda, would be a daunting challenge. So let’s bash Media; same thing: Media is a conglomeration of industries that attempt – for a profit – to service what WE want, which is mostly entertainment. So let’s attack profit! Sound familiar?

So easy it is to miss the point, and zero in on personal prejudices and influenced opinions, based mostly upon what we WANT to believe. The problem is us. Again, easy to say, but what to do about that? we can start with ourselves, but first have to understand what that means, and look at ourselves, objectively. Wow, that’s really tough. But how will we ever arrest the deterioration of our families without taking that first step?

“Read, think, disagree with everything if you like; but force the mind outward.” Bless you, Anton Myrer. Reality, motivation – human nature. We have made progress over time, although with our short horizons we are less aware of that than we should be. Things will continue to improve, if we don’t destroy it all first, which is unlikely; but we need to work at it – and we will: “There is no limit to what we can accomplish if we all work together.” Bless you Mr. Truman.

My, my, how I do go on. And notice that I keep coming back full circle? That is something else to think about.

Bits of Wisdom

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 7th, 2015

Thomas Sowell, for whom I have a great deal of respect, does a periodic column that he called Random Thoughts; they should be called bits of wisdom.

We do not BECOME wise; that is a conceit; we merely accumulate bits of wisdom – continually – as we go along. It is within all of us to do this; Issac Newton referred to it as standing on the shoulders of giants, and we all need to choose our own giants: it is called motivation.

So here is my shot at a number that came to me at about 3 AM this morning. Where do such thoughts come from? God, of course, that unknowable force of good that permeates our awareness, whether we accept it or not. And ideas are processed thoughts. A little far out? so be it.

Don’t argue; discuss. The difference is profound. We must ENCOURAGE one another – positively!

Don’t be awed; be inspired! Or motivated, if you prefer; motivation comes from within.

Aging is reality; the challenge is to manage the process, not pretend that it doesn’t occur, nor that we can change what is inevitable.

I am a philosopher – an unemployed philosopher (the name comes from a company that makes and sells coffee mugs with philosophical sayings from real philosophers, not unemployed ones like me). What is a philosopher? One who uses reason in seeking truth and knowledge of reality. Something all of us should pursue – and can!

People don’t smile enough any more; pity. All it takes is a bit of motivation – and it’s communicable! Try it; you’ll see. But be careful if you are an attractive woman, as it can be misinterpreted; such is life – it is reality.

Thinking is an acquired taste. So is being pleasant. The two kind of go together, if one thinks about it.

Of course this hangs on my usual, (Myrer): “read, think (listen, experience, question – my additions to); disagree with everything, if you like – but force the mind outward.”
and
(Truman) “There is no end to what we can accomplish, if we work together.”
and
(Glen Campbell) “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 (with my addition to: but only if it is deserved; everyone except a narcissist recognizes undeserved praise).

I have accumulated a number more, but they need editing; and will likely add some more, if they come to me. It’s kind of fun; I recommend it.

Now, isn’t that a fine way to begin the day? Smile.

Philosophy of Country Music

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 6th, 2015

I should modify that title: the philosophy of all music. The modification was not my intent; country music was; but the fact is that all music has philosophical influence, philosophy being the use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality – or, I must add, an artist’s perception of it.

Artists, after all, deal in dissemination of perception, do they not; is that what they do? Is that not their objective?

I’ll not expand beyond country music however, as it is (or at least used to be) relatively simple and straight forward. Favorite themes are love, deception, loss, sorrow and remorse. Is that not one part, and a significant part of life?

A common favorite theme of mine is I loved you, and I still love you, but have done you wrong, you left me and I want you back; often enough accompanied by and I don’t know why. That’s from male singers. From female it is more like you let me down and didn’t care about the little ones and the family, and I ain’t gonna take it no more. Admittedly, that might be more traditional than modern; perhaps modern has changed some since the rules of culture seem to be have altered – but we’ve been there.

There is more, much more, but here is not to examine the nature and philosophy of country music, just to present it in that sense. Listen some time, if you can find any classical country music; there is still some around. And give it some thought.
It’s kind of fun.

A clever pun, however, has been spun about the underlying situations with which country music have been woven: “women are crazy, because men are stupid,” crazy and stupid, of course, being relative. But when you add to that that men tend by nature to be more narrowly focused, and women, by the nature of their responsibilities (including children and home, not to mention husband) tend to have to be multi-focused, it makes some sense. Is some dissension not inevitable? if not inevitable, it sure is common. Or consider Kipling: “the silliest woman can handle a clever man; but it takes a clever woman to handle a fool.” There are many more, similar in nature; James Clavel, for example: “Without women men are but a cruel joke.”

Something to think about, I suggest; I love thinking about such things, and highly recommend the process. It’s kind of fun too.

Media – What is it?

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 6th, 2015

More words, and evolution thereof. Media is derived from medium (plural of) and has to do with the means by which something is communicated; that includes all kinds of ways, including paintings. But today Media (capitalized) has taken on a somewhat evolved meaning that has become primarily electronic, such as television and associated means of communicating, newspapapers, magazines, radio, movies, CDs, videos, DVDs are all included, to my mind. I prefer to view it, the modern aspect at least, as an entertainment industry. Yes, one might say, but it is news too; and news, as presented today, is not presented as a form of entertainment? Disagree if you like, but read on.

Entertainment; it dominates us today; we love to be entertained; we live for being entertained. That is not bad, but of course it is not enough either. But as an entertainment industry, Media can be expected to be influenced by its market; that’s the nature and purpose of commercial industries. So does the Media industry shape culture or does the market shape the Media industry, that in turn shapes culture? The answer of course is yes; it’s a circular phenomenon, and just goes round and round. So if we are bothered by the direction of Media, must we not look also at ourselves? Too simple; yes, too simple. Everything influences everything else, and that’s what drives evolution. We could broaden the discussion, but it would never end; so let’s stay with Media.

Does “Media” have any objective other than the commercial one of profitably satisfying a market? I suggest it does. At one time we used to stress the fifth estate objective: basically keeping government honest, questioning; today perhaps that is passe, unfortunately. Much, I believe, of their objective associate, however, with influence from market recipients, but other is influence by other entities within it, associated with it and from other elements of our culture, including government and adacemia. That is, as our culture changes, Media, since it embodies our beloved entertainment is a central part of cultural evolution. It is currently trending toward the liberal, which is not difficult to understand, because liberal is believing what one wants to believe. Is that not what entertainment is? What is the alternative? reality; reality is not so pleasant. No contest. There is more, much more, but let’s just stay with that.

We all want essentially the same thing: peace, tranquility, pleasure, order and getting along, if not high living standards; all of us, all of the time. Life, reality unfortunately, is not like that. I’ll leave inequality and the reasons for it (also certainly not simple) to any reader who might be interested in pursuing thinking about it. That is why Karl Marx has had so much influence: he told us what we wanted to hear, but that was not reality, unfortunately; and as brutal reality sets in it becomes more and more obvious. But we have still not entirely learned that lesson. But let’s get back to Media.

Media has become the means of propagating current culture, a conduit, if you will. It is influenced by “us” and in turn it influences “us”; but “us” is an amorphous, non-homogeneous mass, continually changing with time. Although as culture forms, however it forms, Media propagates it – from which comes the term propaganda. Which is? incomplete information. And what information in the world today is not incomplete? Even if everything were known, tomorrow it would no longer be, as things change, and we learn new; that is what progress is, although, as I have said before, all progress is not positive; the pendulum does swing, after all.

This is why cultural change is so slow. First, information, knowledge, change and with it economic and political reality. But as it does, we internalize it through any number of means, most important of which is probably family, but other influences are right up there too. Since the result of propagation is influence, the nature of the change on culture must necessarily be slow as well, as such things take time to work their way through the culture. Nor does that propagation take place consistently, which goes back to inequality which contributes to natural differences; which is why we are so contentious and have such difficulty in coming to agreement on much of anything. I said I wouldn’t get off on such tangents, but how can one not?

Why do we have so many problems getting along? Inequality and differences are not all of it; self-interest weighs in as well. But let’s keep forcing back to Media, the conduit of disseminating it all. We get our information through media in all of its different forms; that propagates opinion, but also disseminates information and introduces new, though only slowly for the most part for reasons enumerated above – but strongly influenced by opinions of those who are doing the propagating, as well as those that influence them, and there are many. The most influential influences today is what we euphemistically refer to as Media, but it in tern has much influencing it.

As so frequently, I have to end with: “read, think, disagree with everything if you like; but expand the mind outward.” It all still comes back to us – and, I have to include: the amazing form of government we have been able to create that makes it possible, with checks and balances on human nature, which is reality, if we can preserve it.

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