Yes, I am on a roll; indulge me or not, your option. I do it because I have to: my self therapy. Each leads to another and then back again.
I know a man who has millions, and a comfortable life style – but it’s never enough. Greed? not really; he is just afraid that it won’t last – to maintain the life style; perhaps not more, just enough, for him and his family. And how much is that?
I know of others similar. A pattern? What, after all, is enough; what drives us? We are all different and there is no end to the differences; that is the way it is. I find it interesting to contemplate, to think about – and it is instructive to do so, for me.
So, on to the next level of the discussion; it is related, or at least it is for me.
The other day I heard some yard work being done in my neighborhood, and looked out to see where it was being done. Nosy? Actually I thought it was the police detective who lives across the street from me, taking care of his neighbor’s yard, an aging single lady who lives next door to him; and he (and his children) attempt to help, as they can. Nope, he was working on his own yard – on Sunday. Policemen are busy these days, and quite frustrated; I don’t think I need to go into why; but we, he and I, have had some conversations about the why, and a newspaper article I read in that day’s edition had a long article about how the incarceration of juveniles in California leads to making things worse for them, as it leads them further into criminal activities. So, what to do? One can guess what the newspaper article was suggesting.
We DO have a problem, don’t we? And what are WE doing about it? Blaming others, for the most part. That seems to be what we do best these days; certainly we don’t do well examining our own motives,
And when will that change, and how? It will only change when things get bad enough that we HAVE to address it. And when will that be? it is difficult to say, for many complicated reasons: including complacency; legal attempts to try in influence the situation, often without considering unintended consequences; and opposition, much of it of an activist variety. Activists are very much among us, and many have become incentivized, mainly through emotion, to take part, in one way or another; and when there is such motivation there is always willing leadership that sees opportunity, for any number of reasons. As I always say, life is very complex with all those differences among us, and finding single causes is almost always impossible. Will that ever change? Probably, but only very slowly, and then only when things get bad enough to force US to act. And it will happen because the moral fiber of this nation is still there; it is why we are what we have become and will continue to be, as long as we are willing to stand up to it, and together work to deal with it.
Let me cite a letter to the editor in the same newspaper stating that some percent of Muslims that are radical, less than 10%, are the cause of all of the problems we are facing today, but suggesting that all the rest are doing little to oppose it; but comparing that to the percentage of Germans during WWII that were active Nazi sympathizers, but how few others were willing to stand up to opposed them; that percentage was similar. How often might people today realize that? I have discussed that with a friend who grew up in Berlin during this period, and in East Germany during the communist take-over. She agrees, but also admits, as a young person growing up, that she appreciated the take-over, get-things-done effect of the Hitler regime’s leadership. Circumstances and influence are very powerful, particularly when there is a degree of ignorance, and reason to see it in terms of perceived results – as well as fear of consequences of opposing. I have another friend whose father was in Berlin prior to that time and saw the growing danger. His family was of Nazi influence, and when he insisted that they must leave, they refused. So he left and his wife remained in Germany with his two daughters.
So what is this all about? Philosophy, of course; why life is as it is. The powerful become so impressed with themselves and their superiority that they lose sight of reality and get carried away – with themselves, and what they believe; and those not powerful can do nothing but endure. And what of those in-between? In days prior to Western (classical) liberalism there was not much in between, and they certainly were not in a position to take much action. Today they can, but how often do we hear “what can I do”? or “I just don’t don’t want to get involved.” Complacency? Indifference? Call it what you like, but it keeps things from happening, particularly when the powerful are intent on keeping things as they are, as it is beneficial to THEIR interests. The United States has developed a strong middle class that has made the difference, and it has not disappeared, although the powerful elite have been steadily chipping away at it.
Today that middle class, or what is left of it, is beginning to realize that something must be done, and desperately looking for leadership that can get it done. And even the younger generations, those that we call Millennials, are beginning to realize it, and looking for solutions, solutions that are beginning to look more and more like those with which many of us are familiar. This is why so many are looking to Donald Trump, who is a demonstrated doer, as a solution. But it is the same reason we elected Barrack Obama as president: he promised change. Obama has brought change, and it is not what we expected; Trump promises change too, without telling us quite how he would accomplish it, and many are ready to buy into it, again.
A pattern? Yes, an obvious pattern; it has to do with frustration with what is, but ignorance of how to confront it effectively. Elite leadership has always capitalized on that kind of opportunity. Will we never learn? We are learning, but very slowly, and with too much ignorance remaining with not being dealt with effectively, or quickly enough. It is at this point that I throw it out for reader (if any) consideration; there are no simple and easy solutions. This is why American balanced and carefully checked democracy has been so effective, and why attempts are being made to emulate it so broadly, but without really understanding what has made it the success it has become; even WE have begun to forget. The key, of course, is working together for the common good, in an environment where we are even unable to agree what that COMMON GOOD is; and have to force ourselves to work together – to compromise, something that is very difficult for us to do.
We did it, and can do it again; but it will take effort, together. Can we? Of course; will we? That is up to us. Stay tuned. It will take the RIGHT leadership; that is also up to us. At this moment we are being challenged; this election coming up is a critical election for us in the United States and it is incumbent upon us to understand that. Are we up to it? I am optimistic, but surely not certain: it is up to us.
Today I am here to share a personal experience – and then expand it, naturally, into a general observation. That is what philosophy is all about: use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality. I was brought into this experience and since it was personal, I learned a great deal from it.
It began with a lady that made a number of mistakes; and since she was attractive and personable, many wanted to help her, and did. But things just got worse. Finally, with a small child and dog, she showed up at the home of a would be helper and demanded to be let in; unfortunately for him, he let her gain entrance. Her next step was to go down to the post office and file his address as her permanent residence. More to it than that? sure, but I am not interested in the details, just the results, and what it portends – for all of us.
The lady lies continually, and probably doesn’t even know the difference between when she is lying and telling the truth. When I became involved was when she realized I was the next mark, and having my telephone number she began calling me, begging for help. I tried to talk to her and she just kept talking louder and faster; I tried yelling, but it didn’t help. I finally hung up and unplugged the telephone. At this time she is still in the home she has virtually taken over, the helper has gone, and she is still demanding that someone help her. Action is being pursued to have her evicted, but it is not simple, and requires legal help and time, as with the filing of permanent residence the hands of the police are tied. Remember, this is a particular example; think of others where someone is trying to throw out someone who is entitled to that legal residence; it happens, and laws have been passed to protect that, so it is not surprising that well-intended laws are being used to protect those for which they were not intended.
The point of what I am attempting to write is not bout her, or the incident per se, but victim-hood; she is a victim and can see herself as nothing else. How many are out there like that? Why? Because they have been brought up all their lives to view themselves as victims. Ah, one might say, so it is not their fault; I think that is the point I am trying to address. Very little just happens in life; it more often evolves, and when it has to do with families and children it is almost always the result of up-bringing, nurturing, often reaching across generations. It has happened here, and is continuing to happen. And we have developed a culture that is not comfortable examining themselves and their own motives but prefer to blame others – any others.
What it comes down to is people who learn to help themselves and learn independence from doing so, do better than those who are provided all they want, without any effort on their part. And the in-between? obviously there is much in between. As might be expected, they form as a bell curve with smaller numbers at each end, and larger in the middle, graded by how much independence they learn to exhibit. Perhaps at this time the bell curve has been skewed to the lower end, since the government has encouraged so many, helped so many to become more dependent – upon the government. We cannot let that continue to the point where the fat low end drags the leaner upper end down. Our nation’s success derives from the propensity of as many as has been possible to be as independent as possible. Sure, that is relative; all can not be totally independent; children, for example naturally have to be dependent. But for how long? That is the key question regarding successful evolution from childhood to maturity. How well are we doing? Not as well as we once did. Why not? myriad reasons, too complex to go into in this space; but anyone who thinks about them, really thinks about them, should have a pretty good idea of what they are; and a sense for how it is happening. Merely opening the mind and reading what those who ARE thinking about it have to say, is a good place to begin; and there is plenty that is worthy of consideration being written – and said. for that matter. But how many are even reading or listening?
Why would anyone not listen? Because they don’t WANT to listen, because it crimps their style, since making the effort is challenging, and because achieving success in it would be limiting for those who find victim-hood preferable to making an effort. I was exposed at one time in my life to a credit card junky who put it in perspective: why should I live like a poor man when I can live like a rich man? without making an effort he didn’t say, so I add it. But of course today there is much more than credit cards.
The beauty of victim-hood – and casting blame – is that it SEEMS so much more pleasant than making a personal effort to achieve even similar results. Of course that is illusive, but they don’t realize it until it’s too late; and even then seldom blame themselves, but others. That is what victim-hood is. But long after the process is obviously bankrupt, those who have invested in it continue to pursue it because they believe it can work, because they want it to; but more than that, they have lost the opportunity to make the personal investment necessary to do otherwise; in other words, for them it is too late to do anything else since life has already passed them by. So they just complain and plead victim-hood.
To how many does this apply? No one really knows. A better question would be, for how many is it too late to do anything about it? There are many less of the second than of the first, because it is almost always never to late to try to at least make a difference, but one has to try, and that is onerous. And how many, as life passes by, continue to be still willing to try? Less and less, it seems, as our governing approach is to extend help rather than assistance that encourages them to them to help themselves.
Disagree if you like; but justify your disbelief. Many of those who would disagree have already bought into victim-hood and prefer it to making an effort. For some, they are so lost in the process they not only have no idea where to begin, but have no intention to try, as victim-hood is easier.
I have taken this far enough, except for one more brief personal example. I was contacted by a professional colleague recently, from India. He had lost his billfold while visiting there, and desperately needed help – money, of course, because suddenly he didn’t have access to any, nor anyone else who would help him. I don’t know him well, but have had many conversations with him over the telephone. Everyone I mentioned this too gasped “scam”, even people at the bank where I withdrew money and the Western Union Office where I went to to send it. I believed the story and persevered; he assured me he would pay it back when he returned. Problems have cropped up, however, and his is not back yet, but still needs money – small sums, larger sums were blocked by Western Union, which has limits of what they will transmit. This morning I wired another small sum, the last I shall send. I am not resigned to it being scam, and still hope he will successfully return shortly as he assures me he will. But new problems keep cropping up. The point is not scam or no scam, but victim-hood. Even if he is legitimate, and I hope he is, he has allowed himself to fall into a dependence and victim-hood pattern. Wait a minute, any reader might say, that’s not fair. And that also is my point: victim-hood does not mean resorting to scam; but dependence can come easily and is seductive; it blocks one from taking initiative because there is an alternative. So rather than be judgmental we should be sympathetic. But isn’t that what has happened to us over the past three or four generations? Helping someone can preclude efforts to help themselves try to help themselves. Too simple – and unfair? Yes it is, and that is the challenge, on both ends of the equation: how much to help and how much to insist on initiative on the part of others to do something for themselves; and motive and veracity might always be in question; the operational word is trust.
Where is the dividing line between when to trust and when to doubt? It is seldom clear because the dividing line between selfishness/self-interest and survival are not clear. One never knows the motivation of another – and may not even know motivation of self. Victim-hood, deriving from dependence often obliterates the line between doing whatever has to be done, and letting someone else do it, even to the point of expecting them to do it, or becoming irritated when they do not. Again, how can one know how difficult a situation is? Gut feel? Sure, but how long can that be allowed to go on? I am not pleased with it, but today I am shutting the door on this one; as I have already shut the door on my previous example; no more. In fact, my ability to trust blindly has been damaged, and I likely will not ever be able to do so, without a lot of consideration, again. This, for me, has been difficult to accept, because trust is the foundation of our culture; but I see too much short-cutting of principles today, and it worries me. Why am I writing this? because it is something we all must face, and think about, again, on both sides of the equation.
With that I shall end this essay.
I believe media reflects culture; but at the same time it drives culture; that is, it all works together, as should be expected. Could I even suggest that media and culture are one? And they change, continually, in tandem; lockstep? No, not lockstep; life and humanity for that matter, hardly ever do anything in lockstep, except under the most fearful dictatorship, that probably can no longer effectively exist because the concept of personal opinion has gained too much leverage. Why? Probably because of our present ability to communicate, without restraint, almost continually throughout much of the world. Too simple? Of course; cause always leads to effect and effect to more cause, and it is always difficult to isolate A driver. Likely there is never A driver. That is, in my opinion, what reality is: we just stagger ahead, lunging and stumbling, from one impulse to another, and as impulses increase by an order of magnitude, and their propagation does so at similar rates, what would one expect?
We take ourselves too seriously, individually and collectively, but we don’t see it that way. But then look our our influences; they are all built around people who take themselves too seriously – and we glorify them for so doing, and envy them for their success in doing it; thus the first four words in the subject of this essay. And that last word, principles? That is what I think are beginning to slip – for now. And what in a nutshell I am seeing, certainly not for the first time, but probably more spectacularly than at any previous time is the process within our culture that is driving and being driven. That’s it, more spectacularly, much more spectacularly, in all of its electronic glory.
As I wallow in my own philosophical meanderings, allowing myself to become discouraged with the motivations of my fellow man, I have to place blame primarily on elitist leadership, partly because it takes itself too seriously; if not at first, then as its wealth, power, fame and prestige develop and swells; and begins to lose reality of what is important in life. Lured by the magnificent temptation of our modern environment, what, after all IS important? Principles? Deep subject, and clearly open to much disagreement, not, in my opinion, because it is not true, but because we don’t want to admit that it is true; and, of course, greed obfuscates.
Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, eating his Christmas pie.
He stuck in a thumb and pulled out a plumb,
And said, oh, what a good boy am I!
A bit of philosophy in a nursery rhyme; we find philosophy every where, even in the strangest places. What a good boy am I? Why, because I said so.
Oh what a good boy am I. Has that not become our new national motto? As I said, I call that taking ourselves too seriously, and the more power, wealth, fame and prestige we gain the more seriously we take ourselves. And those who see themselves as our elitist leadership – who ARE our elite leadership, because they have catapulted themselves into that position – have a responsibility that is neither being adequately accepted or discharged. Too general? probably; most, if asked, would surely disagree – because, I contend, they DO take themselves too seriously, and believe what THEY want to believe. Exceptions? perhaps; but power, wealth, fame and prestige have an influence of their own, that tend “to cloud men’s minds.” So what can be done about it?
Nothing can be DONE about it save from within, and that’s the purpose of this preaching diatribe. Each of us needs search within self to find what motivates us to do what we do, and discover the principles we espouse in so doing at the one end of the spectrum, and examine the effects of dependency and victim-hood that can evolve at the other. This is also necessarily controversial because people who take themselves too seriously and believe what they want to believe have great difficulty searching self in any meaningful manner; why should they? Their very success with power, wealth, fame and prestige makes it unnecessary. That is to say that people who pursue power, wealth, fame and prestige KNOW that IS what is important, so why bother?
And who says they are wrong? That, then is the problem. Why should they not want to pursue power, wealth, fame and prestige; is that not what it’s all about? That gets us to the nub of it: for many that IS what life is all about. And if they are right and I am wrong I should stop right now.
But I am not stopping right now; just stubborn, I guess, even if vastly in the minority, and I am assuming that I am.
What is important in life? I have already said what I think all believe; I think it is destroying us because it is superficial. Of what value are power, fame, wealth and prestige? Wow, most, if there are any, can sign off after that; what ELSE is there? That, I suggest is the problem as I see it. Do they make people happy? (I detest the word “happy”; it is so superficial) Perhaps it makes a small minority “happy”, the one percent or so perhaps, as they have achieved it, although I would contend that some of the reason they are happy has to do with how they are perceived (envied) by others; and that makes them “happy”? Something is very wrong with that. But it is the other end that concerns me, and that is all the people who believe that is what life is all about, and are diverting our culture in that direction – to (my opinion) their ultimate disappointment – more than disappointment, because I think the ultimate result will be pain and economic misery for most for some time, at least those that are not filthy rich and isolated in their luxury. When only the rich and powerful – and famous – win, America as we have known it will no longer be.
And that America? One of community, individual effort and a united feeling of satisfaction in having the good, solid life that most of the world envies. Instead we have come to one level wanting and expecting it all, with the other levels (including all those flocking to our shores) expecting whatever they can get from the droppings of the other, through wealth distribution. Of course those, once they have gotten away from the destitution from where they started, or that brought them here, will find what that it is worth, and demand more. And then? History suggests the probable result, and it is not pretty.
Let me throw in one more; this came from a discussion I had about this essay with another, and this was her question: “what about having children?” That is also what this quest for personal pleasure (is that not what power, wealth, fame and prestige entail?) is all about? What about having children? Is that not a large part of what life IS all about, and the satisfaction that results from it? Apparently not any more, at least for many.
Ok; I have delivered my sermon. You don’t have to agree, but if anyone still remains with me, you might think about it. If you still do not agree with me, return in the future and find out what came of the cultural changes that are being wrought, and think about it again. If you still think you are right you may say as loud as you can: I told you so. My remains, after all, will still be around somewhere.
Why do I do this? I contend I am trying to encourage healthy culture, as I see healthy culture from an historical view. Tilting windmills? Oh yes, I do that; it is what I do. But that is how we learn; IF we think about it. Philosophy: use of reason and arguments in seeking truth and knowledge of reality. To me, THAT is what it is all about.
Allow me to begin this segment with feng shui; something I have touched on in the past. Feng shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy developed to ensure that edifices are not built upon the heads of dragons. I’ll not go into the evolution of that philosophy at this point, but just say that it has evolved in modern times, and beyond China, to mean organization of environment; I like to look at that more broadly still as balance of life. We’ll see where that leads.
Let me demur for a moment and try to explain where I am coming from, personally. I do not want to make these attempts at thinking about things personal, but at this point it is, at least partially, for me; since having had a concussion several years ago, and sustaining some minor brain damage I have discovered a new and challenging need for dealing with balancing life. It goes beyond the obvious, and includes: keeping track of what day it is, memory (particularly short term) and a certain propensity to get confused with too much multi-tasking. But that immediately leads to broader considerations that apply to everyone: emotions, accumulation of facts (education), expansion of learning (adding ability to think and reason), differences among us and why they exist, understanding of reality and how it changes, the concept of open minds, discipline, motivation, and even to panic, effects of being tired, effects of the different times of day (and night, for that matter), differences of points of view, concerns, amount of accumulated knowledge, thinking, perception, understanding where others are coming from, stress. Perceive the complexity I shall attempt to address, without getting too involved; it all has to do with balancing one’s life.
I have come to believe that this is what life is really all about: trying to put all that in some kind of perspective should be part of our life motivation; and of course that will launch us into to some discussion of our current environment and how it affects us. That is where it ties back to the early evolution of feng shui, beyond worrying about dragons; specifically about how to situate a home: prevailing breezes, elevation, location, lighting and so forth. The modern approach adds dealing with clutter and organizing what is inside. I expand that even further to organizing the mind; and then putting all that together. Sound like fun? It is to me, as I am kind of weird; but I also find great value and satisfaction in doing it; as well as challenge in trying to do it simply enough to fit into an or series of essays. Stay tuned, if you have the patience or interest.
Our current culture; how can we get away from that? Part of our current culture has become a series of sound bites; part of it has become dominated by visual presentation; all of it has its basis on high speed and very efficient communications among us, particularly the young who have allowed it to virtually take over their lives. Again, I shall not belabor that subject; but I suspect that I needn’t; we all know what it is, and what it is doing to us. Where do we get our ideas; how do we pursue accommodating them and expanding them – learning to think and reason? How do we share experiences? What are our influences? All this has been delved into in past essays, and regardless, should be quite clear to those immersed in the process. That is where I think the concept of feng shui comes in: organizing the life and the mind, balancing and integrating not only the many pieces but the concepts that drive it all, and how we need to learn to pursue it.
Going back to paragraph two is useful in light of our electronic communicating, data filled culture. Perspective? where does that come from? Shallow sound bites? Too often; that is not enough. Where is the depth of our understanding? I contend it is disappearing, and we cannot let it do so. In fact not only are those who are feeding from it superficial, but so are too many of those feeding it. There is not enough space to do more – nor motive either. We are in too much of a hurry to move on, and too expectant of an entertainment component, likely a dominant one to want more. That opens us up to propaganda; is in any wonder that we are undergoing the most effective and profound propaganda ever devised? How could it be otherwise? So what difference does it make? I leave that to any thoughtful reader to decide.
But more; the superficiality and nature of the exchange is also being effected in the process. Giving thought to the opinion of others and being open to accepting new ideas from them? Such is becoming increasingly difficult. And how about trying to understand where others are coming from? If we are ever going to work together we must try and understand each other, and learn to tolerate differences; are we losing that capacity? And then there is motivation; do we even care any more? Perhaps too few do, for any number of reasons: influences are one, but the shear volume of competing ideas and opportunities is another, and the mutual rejection of. We have to want to understand if we are to be able to deal with the increasing complexity of the challenges. How to remember all the details? How to even understand the processes? And then keep them all in order. Wanting to learn and assimilate is surely an important part of that, but maintaining an open mind and wanting to share it is almost as important; not push it, but share it, as in discussion; a process that is becoming less and less effective among us, again for many reasons. But after all that, how can we put it all together, and keep it in perspective? Very little, after all, any longer exists in a vacuum, if it ever did. Unintended consequences are a classic example of why we make bad decisions and create problems for ourselves – continuously. Surely some of that is inevitable; it is never possible to anticipate everything, or the effect of everything on one another; but superficial understanding does little to foster what we CAN anticipate, and deal with, if we even WANT to. Then self-interest comes in; is there any reason our history is so replete with disasters? Can we not do better? yes we can, but we have to WANT to. We have to understand how things fit together before we can make them work, and that takes a lot of outside the box thinking effort.
And that ties back to the two essays before this and the one before it.
My purpose, as any visitor should know, is not to dictate what I think should be, or even how people should think about it. What I do try to do is expand upon what I have learned from many sources, and what I think IS – reality; recognizing in the process that reality is in constant change. That learning, gleaning, comes from a number of years of intense effort of tapping into what others have written and done, and their interpretations of why they or others did them – as well as listening to people discuss it, and at best being able to ask questions – to learn, not to refute. Personal opinion? yes, in many cases; but opinion qualified by study, research and thought almost always more knowledgeable than mine, and certainly more profound than what I have written.
Now go back to part I and see how all this applies. And then go back beyond that, and give it some thought.
Yin/yang? Good and Evil? The world is not that simple any more. Principles to live by? yes, we have been through that and needn’t repeat it. But let’s look at the economy; is it good or evil? That is, what is going on with respect to it, good or evil? It is the way it is: human nature, self-interest and all the rest; gambling? It has been noted that the world economy has boomed since WWII; there is less real poverty, more real wealth, etc., etc. and that is true. But there is more debt too, and far more strife, of course. Debt was necessary to make that possible; that is, in order to invest in progress it is necessary to make the investment to get there, and often that investment comes from borrowing the funds to support it against the anticipated returns; that is what capitalism is all about. It works and makes perfect sense, IF it is disciplined and controlled. How about speculation? that’s something else again; it is similar in that it is investment in anticipated gain, and when one takes the required funds from personnel wealth, that’s not only acceptable, but advisable, as it increases wealth – IF it is successful; if it is not, wealth is decreased. But what if those funds must be borrowed, that is, if they are not available in personal wealth? What’s the difference between that and gambling? The difference is the due diligence that went into the investment, and to make it simple, the difference is whether it was successful or not.
That is what has happened to our – the world’s – economy. We have seen this good thing happening and assumed that it would continue. That is the way people are. But, typically, we have overdone our zealotry. Meaning? We have spent funds that didn’t exist, assuming that it would all work out in the long run; players including financial markets, supported by individuals (investors), and governments, supported by individuals (tax payers) played. That works fine until something happens, and something always happens. Why? because people, individuals, are driven by self-interest and have free agency: they get greedy during the upturn, but panic when downturn comes. And so what causes downturn? don’t even ask; it’s way too complex, and more often than not unpredictable; man, after all is unpredictable. But when downturn comes and investors can not afford losses, pain ensues, and things get sticky – for everyone, but everyone in the end must be individuals. Companies? yes, but companies are collections of individuals, both investors and employees. Governments? same thing; this time, in our form of government, taxpayers; in some others perhaps just the leaders who rule, but in the end everything goes down, because of the complex nature of dependency. What can we do about it? That’s part of what governments are for.
And governments make laws, but governments are made up of people and those people also have self-interests, both those who make the laws and those that elect them and influence the way they vote. History tells us that as long as only those with power invest they are the ones that suffer; but it’s not that simple either, because for everyone with power there are many that are dependent upon that power in one way or another; obviously it is a very complex matrix however it forms and continually reforms; and today the complexity is so much greater because the dependency has increased asymptotically and new and more and more clever ways of attracting investments have evolved, some legally and some illegally. That is the reality of man, based on our unpredictability. So then what do we do?
That is the challenge of life; it is why we have governments. But governments are merely collections of people, organized in the public interest to try to make things work out for the common good. Of course COMMON good does not mean best for each individual. Have I discussed differences among us? I have, and will not go through that again. Does this mean that life is unpredictable? Can there be any question of that? And life in not fair because of that? Regardless of how hard some people try to contend that it is or should be otherwise.
I am already at close to 900 words; I try to keep these essays to between 1000 and 2000 words. Why? many reasons. First, it is the difference between an essay and a book or series of books; we address reading them differently. Second, the challenge of creating and managing something longer than several thousand words increases dramatically. Thirdly, people read books and essays for different reasons, that is, they have different motivates for reading each; and many people today will just no longer make the investment in trying to read a book. There are even more reasons: I get tired, for one, and that affects what I am trying to accomplish – for my own attempts to increase understanding; but since I also encourage sharing, it makes it more difficult for anyone trying to share in my thought process. Thus the subject of this essay as part I. In part II I shall try to expand upon the subject, but at an individual level. We’ll see where that leads. It may even require a part III.
I wrote recently about Jonathan Rauch’s book, Government’s End. I have finished it and am now reading Capital Defense by Michael Hirsh on much the same subject, but published in 2010 (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) The challenge, as been made clear to me, is the drift of our culture toward a monolithic monstrosity combining government, the lobbying industry, lawyers, and the financial system. It is neither simple to understand or to deal with; and, as Rauch so often makes clear, it is not going to be turned back; but it has to change. Both authors discuss what that entails and what needs to be done. It is not that we are being beset by bad people, but that the system has grown; again, to embrace self-interest and greed, and enable both as never before; nothing really new there; and unintended consequences, narrow horizons and ignorance, supported by the most vast propaganda network the world has ever known; our entertainment and social network culture and its dominance is what has enabled it.
Ben Domenech has told me he intends to invite Rauch to be on his Federalist Radio Show; with this essay (that I shall forward to him) I am encouraging him to do the same with Hirsh. It is time for serious national dialog and I am throwing out some notes that I hope might help. The challenge, as Rauch makes so clear, is the ubiquity of the monster that has come to dominate our economy, and the opportunity it has provided for so many, not only here but throughout the world. What it comes down to, my opinion, is that we have entered yet another vast gambling casino, with everyone attempting to get into the game through a concerted attempt by too many to want to get in on the action. Rauch refers to it as our transfer economy, and that says it all. I thought I saw it coming in the year 2000, and bailed out of the stock market; yes, I gave up much wealth creation potential, but the gambling mentality that it seemed to be was more than I could tolerate. Note therefore that I am not self congratulating.
As both books point out, there is a tie-in to what happened during the run-up to the depression, but it’s different this time, mainly because there are so many more players – virtually all of them trying to influence – and the game has become far more complex, less well understood, and played by way too many. Meanwhile I have become exposed to David Stockman’s Investment website and received a publication called America 2020 – the survival blue print, written by Porter Stansberry. Both enterprises, however straightforward and well meaning, are part of the game; both Stockman and Stansberry have interest in it by nature of their positions within it; such is part of the problem. But both are showing strong concern that has to do with out-of-control spending and increasing debt, neither of which can be sustained. The challenge is out there, and it is being discussed – broadly, and with a great deal of concern. As I have said, I am proud that Ben Domenech in joining in; the wider it is discussed and the more attention it receives, the better. “Let the buyer beware” comes to mind from the past; so does Schumpeter’s creative destruction (Capitalism. Socialism and Democracy (Harperperenial Modern Thought, 1942 from Harper and Brothers, with second and third editions). But then there are the warnings by Scottish professor Alexander Tytler as far back as 1798, and others even further back than that. May I even cite the money lenders from The Bible? Much has changed; human nature? not so much. Unfortunately
The most interesting thing to me is that neither Rauch nor Hirsh are judgmental, and tend to be quite even-handed politically. These are not the typical one-sided broadsides that are so prevalent these days; they are well reasoned analyses that need to be heeded; open to arguments on both sides. Best of all they are open discussions of reality as it affects and is affected by world trade as well as the incredible American Economy, and neither is prone to suggesting that the world is coming to an end. There is so much detail, example and citation that I cannot begin to try to do them any justice here. But I do have a quotation from Rauch that I would like to include, for what it is worth:
“The future belongs to a governing philosophy that I think of as ‘radical incrementalism’: the determination to foment revolutionary change over geological time scale. That means looking every day of every year for opportunities to push policies in the precompetitive directions that I discussed in the previous chapter. But it also means nudging ourselves toward accepting government as it is. It means replacing immoderate exceptions and sporadic, convulsive reform efforts with moderate expectations and determined, unceasing incremental change. For liberals, for conservatives, above all for the broad public, the time has come for some attitude adjustments.” (Page 260)
That, to my mind is reality.
What can I add to that?
Much of this diatribe, feeding from my last, has to do with what I am reading in Jonathan Rauch’s book entitled Government’s end. He makes it clear that this is not the end of government, but the end POINT of where government seems to be headed. Essentially that seems to be enmeshed in our changing culture, to wit, big everything is changing everything. I am not finished with the book, nor do I intend to recap it, but I was taken big time by his comments on lobbying, that changed my thinking about it, partly through balancing how I look at it with regard to government and the economy with some thoughts based on his discussion with a liberal colleague, which I shall quote.
“He saw the postwar explosion of (lobbying) groups as the flowering of citizen activism that helps to perfect democracy. I saw it as burgeoning of pressure group entrepreneurship that seeks to exploit democracy.” I was beginning to think along the same lines as the colleague, but prefer Rauch’s view after reading his arguments. The line of difference might be fine, but I think it is significant.
I merged this with some of his thoughts about the current proclivity of voters to want change, and why: essentially the influence of corruption and big government. He pointed out that corruption is different than it was in the late eighteen hundreds as we have had struggle for power through influence for a long time, but the new growth of lobbying from something practiced by a relative few to something that is now a big business with many employees and strong funding rivaling the government itself, has changed the nature of the beast. Let me throw in celebrity worship and attendant thrall with their craft and their endorsements (advertising) and add in propaganda (of which advertising is an example) and I shall attempt to take it from there based on notes I made. We’ll see what evolves.
Of course it is all about influence, and the function of citizens is to attempt to influence their representatives; that is what republican democracy is all about. The question is how it’s done, and what results. Before it was done by a small group of the powerful; now it is done by large groups of people and businesses which subscribe to large and heavily funded lobbying organizations. The object is the same: to influence representatives on particular issues; the process is different. Surely there is less direct corruption, but a great deal more pressure on representatives, requiring a very substantial increase in time commitment for them to listen to the pitches and absorb them – and respond to them. But the ultimate result has to do with government distribution of wealth. There is only so much to go around and all want as much of it as they can get; so they pressure is to get it through government as best they can. Result: the combination of lobbying and big government is changing our culture, our economy. More big, because bigger companies can afford bigger and more expensive lobbying organizations, that of course get more attention. This is driving many smaller entities out of business because they can’t afford what it costs. Sound familiar? It’s not illegal; it’s not unethical; it’s just the way things are. More people are involved because by working in larger groups they can afford more powerful lobbying, and get more attention. Self interest? of course; that goes without saying; self interest drives everyone. Unfair? Not legally, it’s just the result of BIG; it works. So will that drive entrepreneurs more and more out of business to the advantage of big business? It is already happening. That is what is part of what has been changing our culture. It’s the same old influence and power game as has always been, but a modern version; and it’s different. Perhaps less direct corruption; perhaps just less obvious; but the ultimate change is unmistakable.
There is much more. It is consuming much government time, for little return except to protect legally developed (passing of laws) competitive advantage; Rauch calls it wealth transfers, as anything gained must be taken from someone else; and that sucks potential investment from the system and leads to a kind of status quo, at least on the bottom line, discouraging investment in improved products and equipment. Could that explain much of what has been happening to our economy? His point is that it encourages passage of laws but discourages ever getting rid of any, since they are so vigorously protected. Terms such as hyperpluralism and Demosclerosis are used to explain that; spell check doesn’t even know what they mean. As I say, too much to rehash here, but it opened my mind: the problem is not that lawmakers are doing nothing, but the system hand-ties them from doing what needs to be done; Rauch provides many examples. And it also submerges those same lawmakers into the pit of money influence, since the lobbyists not only activate it’s members who flood lawmakers with demands but also members demand lobbyists take action. That costs money and so does campaigning in our current electronic media culture. And Lobbying, that must fight on both sides, since each side hires its own, has grown exorbitantly. It’s really quite a mess, and well worth digesting. although few in today’s entertainment surfeited and knowledge starved culture are likely to be interested. We’d rather just complain – about the politicians; it is how we have become, if we haven’t always been that way.
Before I finish, let me add that Rauch is not preaching Armageddon, just trying to connect us with reality that we are having trouble dealing with, even if we don’t realize that we are.
Government’s End was published in The United States by Public Affairs, a member of the Perseus Books Group in 1994 with at least three revisions. I highly recommend it for any that might be interested, but disappointed that there will not be many that make the effort to access the book. I might add that I wrote to Ben Domenech (The Transom, The Federalist) recommending that if his people were not aware of Government’s End that they should be made aware of it; also suggesting that he ought to invite Rauch to appear on his Federalist radio show. He replied that he will do that.
This, in my opinion, is the kind of response we should be seeing – and more and more are beginning to see. That’s what it will take to move change to a more positive cultural direction. In this country we DO have that opportunity, IF we will just utilize it; I am proud that that kind of intellectual leadership still exists and is resurfacing, but not surprised.
Basically, we all believe what we want to believe: that is, we really only pay attention to what reverberates positively with our brain receptors. Unfair? Actually, it comes down to believing it because it’s in our interest to; that applies to many things, but ideas as well. It’s just the way it is; it doesn’t have to be, and some do project themselves beyond self interest, but how many even try?
For elite intellectuals, those that constitute the powerful, that trends toward centralization under their control, since centralization enables their control. For the independent minded, the tendency, on the other hand, is to want to be left alone. The optimum is a balance, but that is becoming more and more difficult to achieve; I would contend that derives from the very fact that the elite intellectuals DO control, and are powerful. And the independent minded? I believe there are fewer of them due to complacency toward gaining other than occupation related – or social related – knowledge. I’ll throw in our domination by entertainment at this point as I always do, and the propaganda nature that it has assumed in our culture; but then that’s part of the complacency. Balance? moderation? Why has it become so deprecated? so looked down upon? Moderation these days is a tough sell.
The eternal struggle among men has always been control (power) versus rights. But consider that it was very one sided during times when might made right. That only began to change when opportunity to be somewhat self-sufficient began to develop. Agriculture was the beginning of that, once it was able to farm out from under the control of despots, the owners of the land; despots are what comprised early elitism, and power. The Industrial revolution carried that to the next level, and from that point interest in, passion for, individual rights exploded. Why? because people gained the ability to support having them. During that phase of history things began to change, and then changed dramatically with the occupation of the new world, but in many different ways; pirates, for example, were one way in which some exerted their rights in a wider sense than had been previously possible with local brigands, partly because controlling pirates was far more difficult than controlling peasant brigands in a world of far tighter elite control. Then came the Constitution of The United States which made the first real attempt to legally separate governmental control; up to then individual aristocrats tried to maintain their independence, but lacking the resources of the truly powerful, had difficulties in so doing. One might note that this struggle among the independent minded minor elite and their more powerful proponents of centralization through consolidation took place over a long period of time with much strife, pain and bloodshed. The real turning point was establishment of Federalism as a governing philosophy, to wit that the central government had only limited and specified powers with individual states retaining all else. Ever since the time of that establishment the power elite, today’s progressive powers, have been trying to return it to how it was traditionally, with some success.
But let’s also understand that central control is neat, with all loose ends tied up by the power brokers. Federalism is messy, since it accommodates different opinions within the republic, and the need to attempt to balance them; seeking “rights” is messier still; for many and complex reasons. Free enterprise is part of that dichotomy because free enterprise is based on individual effort and ownership thereof; but consolidation thereof: let’s call it bureaucratization, that same effort to centralize. It suffers the same results: who makes the rules and why? Balanced input or the powerful? Our form of Federalist government, including representation of states in the central government was an incredible start; even that began to erode when the Supreme Court ruled that Senators would be elected by the people rather than state legislators, changing its constituency from the state to the people at large. Of course it all has to be managed through all that complexity of opinions, in an even more complex matrix power broking; and that is messier still.
Enough for now; I shall continue thoughts in this vein in my next, which I shall call Our Changing Culture.
Survival; is that not what we, humans, have always been concerned with? all animals in fact. Recall survival of the fittest as the original struggle. And now? both survival and fittest are open to discussion. “Survival” is subjective, is it not? at least today. We have progressed, and have higher expectations than just staying alive. So what, really, is survival? There would be many disagreements.
I dwell on weird things in this, the final phase of my life. Philosophy? What is philosophy? “Use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality.” Another word, as with with many different meanings based on context. In education it is the capstone of learning. For many it is deriving simple meaning from complex observations. For me it is delving into the unknown through analyzing what is known, and how we deal, or do not deal it. Beyond what that is, is trying to glean the meaning in life as we contemplate it and deal with it. Heavy stuff.
So, how do we choose to survive? We do make such choices, even if we don’t realize we are making them. We don’t realize we are making them because we seldom don’t just sit down and decide, rather we evolve to personal understanding as we go through and extended process to do it. Of course some evolve more rapidly than others; some evolve more deeply than others; and we begin with different capabilities to pursue the evolution. In short, how we progress through the process, defines who we are, and how we have pursued survival. And we have a choice? We do – choices, plural. Not the same choices enjoyed by all, but choices as presented throughout our evolution. But there again, it doesn’t all just happen; choices come in increments, and are therefore part of the evolving process. As in all evolution, in all processes, choice is likely to be incremental. As in so many things, although we would prefer to think about it more as acting through heroic confrontation creating immediate decision, it takes place one small step at a time, often without realizing we are making decisions; but we are, continually. Of course there are many levels of decisions, some momentous, but many small and seemingly trivial.
Basically, from my perspective, that choice is personal survival, where each little decision leads to something else, that leads to something else; suddenly (hopefully) leading to everything making sense, at least for each personally. And voila: we have personal philosophy. Sure, we can study the process, and it’s history, and we do; and it is useful to do so. But as in so much of education, that, without experience can be shallow. Add understanding “the truth and knowledge of reality” to experience and it and personal philosophy begins to make more sense. So everyone has a personal philosophy? nahhhhh. Sure they do; we may not realize that’s what it is, but it is. Take the ghetto approach of taking care of self by doing whatever is necessary; is that not a philosophy? How about deliberately diving into a life of crime? The same; call it what you like. Pleasure, power, fame, wealth (however gained) or a higher purpose: different philosophies, even if intertwined. That is a more tantalizing consideration because “higher purpose” is so subjective; who determines what higher purpose is? We do, each individually, and that’s why the the consideration is tantalizing – and difficult to address, even for ourselves. Yes, eyes roll.
I had the great good fortune to have been nurtured by two amazing people, quite different, with different backgrounds, “equipment” (if I can be permitted to use that word), and experiences; nor did either operate in a vacuum, they had families, and the families had families, creating a structure with a process by which choices, decisions, were made, all along the way, collectively. I have realized over time just how much that has shaped me, and means to me today. Good fortune? yes; unfair advantage? you decide. Not that I have become the most important, wise, rich, famous and powerful person in the world, nor the most successful in other aspects; I have not, but that is the point of this discussion; what really do we mean, really mean, by survival? Higher purpose? so, what is higher purpose in life?
So here comes the sermon, the theology; not quite. Why do we have theology? Theology is nothing more than philosophy,”use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality,” but what IS reality? We know so little about the realities of life; oh, we have learned a great deal, and are learning more every day – and make even more suppositions based on that knowledge – but there is so much we do not know, and probably some that we will never KNOW, despite all the assumptions to the contrary. That’s why there are so many religions in the world: all those wise (and some not so wise) philosophers pursuing the process of seeking the truth and knowledge of it. But, I contend, principles have evolved from their efforts, some more complete and profound than others, and arguably those developed later benefited from those that came before. Higher purpose in life? Let me suggest that that is where it comes from. All the same? not hardly; how could they be all the same with the differences that exist among us? But is there a pattern? I suggest there is, and I am trying to package it in something I call a higher purpose in life.
But before going into what higher purpose might be, let’s just talk about the purposes in living; surely there are many, most of us have come with our share of ideas of what they are, although we might not have thought of them in quite those terms; and there are broad differences. I wonder why there are differences in how we view a higher purpose in life; but principles? Are they that dissimilar? family, reliability, truthfulness? Perhaps not.
Human beings are pack animals, and need each other; so I would contend that any higher purpose would address that need. So we need to support each other! Wrong conclusion, in my opinion; we have to HELP each other: influence, aid them in helping themselves, trying to make them understand the effects we have on each other, and how important that can be; and helping them to help each other to avoid pitfalls. Is that not sufficient purpose in life? helping people to help themselves? If not, what?
What is happening? Too many people trying to tell us too much, too much data, too many polls; It is an interesting time. Unsustainable debt throughout the world is the most evident problem; but there are more, many more and they are cropping up everywhere. It is difficult not to be worried, but also difficult to know quite what to worry about, there is so much chatter going on. If you read hoping I’ll tell you, forget that; I have no crystal ball. But I think there is much to discern from the chatter itself, and that is the subject of today.
First, as I have noted, is the seemingly unusual popping up of websites with breathless “experts” (apparently experts, so they would call themselves) trying to explain to us. Why? Many reasons, I suppose; one certainly is that they see opportunity. Opportunity for what? Some surely is money oriented; broadcasting information, including that pertaining to products and “deals” has always been part of our land of opportunity, and there is much of that going on, perhaps because the Internet is so ubiquitous; it is everywhere, with growing attention, both from those who are consumers and those who are sellers: what great opportunity for all. Well, maybe not for all, so for whom? That is an interesting question; for hackers, surely, but for many others as well, and they come from all over the globe. Is that not positive? global cooperation? Perhaps and perhaps not; it all depends on motive, and there are definitely many, enough to make some awareness necessary. All might gape, but carefully.
Let’s just stay with the proliferation of information; why is that being done? It is being done because it CAN be done, relatively cheaply, by anyone so inclined, with little formal interference. Ah, might one not ask, is that not what I do? Yes, that is what I do, and have tried to explain why I do it; so just be assured that there is no financial risk associated with this website. I am selling nothing but my perceptions of what crosses my horizon of thought; take it or leave it. So why do I do it? I’ve written about it before, but I shall again. I am interested in sharing my thoughts, but that includes also attempting to extend some minor influence; is that not the major purpose of sharing information? But I warn; I do this to help me think through what I read, so what do I read? My choice; and what I write about it is also my choice, and it expresses for the most part, opinions I have formed or am forming. That makes them neither fact nor even necessarily accurate, and the reason I keep writing it is for any passing-by reader to make the determination of what to accept; I merely suggest that any such just think about it, and check it out; that’s how we educate ourselves, particularly as we bounce it up against personal experience. I try to connect the dots for myself to look beyond the obvious and superficial, and want to share the process with anyone who might be similarly interested; but first I need to expand it in such a way, in writing, because that is a useful vehicle for me, such that it help me understand it. It is the best way to learn something: read and then attempt to explain it, especially when there are multiple tentacles, which today there almost always are.
So why are things such a mess? It’s not the first time they have been, and usually the messiness comes with progress, or change, if you would prefer; as I have written, progress is not always positive. So what is the big change going on today? Technological development is one obvious one, among which electronics and the Internet are examples; but then there are the tentacles. What is important is what opportunities they offer for all of us. One of the most obvious is to talk – or write – but also to buy, and sell. I shall concentrate on the talking and writing; “let the buyer beware” says all that needs be said about buying, although seller might want to beware too; a sale is not a sale until the transaction has been completed, which usually means having cash (or reliable equivalent) in hand before shipping.
So what are people talking and writing about? anything and everything. Why? there are any number of reasons, conceit and ego being two; but desire to build a reputation is another, “fame” is an aphrodisiac. Any interested reader can come up with many more without much effort. But here are some suggestions I might throw out: spreading activism is one; there is plenty of communication with regard to activist causes, to which many listen with more emotion than real understanding, and there is much confusion as a result. Politicians are communicators, but they are also listeners because they are concerned with how it will effect them. In that vein polls are another example; they are everywhere because by just asking for a check of a box they are so easy to compile, and come out with statistics to talk about – and sell. Facts? no, opinion, but no matter, that is what they are collecting.
Activism, in fact, is much of what is driving a lot of it; all activism is, after all, is pushing opinion, but aggressively. To what end? To achieve whatever activists might want to achieve. And isn’t that what government of the people entails? How else can voters influence their representatives? Isn’t activism what democratic politics is all about? But this may be what so many of the problems are all about, not only contacting our politicians to influence them, but to convince others to do that same; is that not what activism is all about? So why a problem? the volume, the ease of doing it and the enthusiasm for doing it; but perhaps also because it seems to get results – along with the associated notoriety. Something might be said about politicians in that regard, since they are right in the middle of it. By and large in times past, times that supported much less active and virulent communications, our politicians had less constituent pressure, and therefor more time and peace to work out agreements, regardless of what that entailed. Compromise, oh woe. But that is what representative government is, and has to be; it is why we elect people to represent us. For the most part, I would argue, politicians, representatives did their best to represent their constituents (such was within their interests, after all) but also to do whatever was required, or they felt was required, to keep our country strong. Were there exceptions? of course, politicians are susceptible to the verities of human nature too; but when the virulent pressure was not on them, they were able to do it in a more practical way. Of course, speaking of human nature, we are more motivated to criticize what we object to than complementing what is done well. And since we now can, so much more easily for so many reasons, is it any wonder we have so much contention, contention that gains so many so much publicity? Too simple? think about it.
Let me get more specific; democratic politics have always been messy because of human nature, differences, personal interests and emotion; they have just become more so because it has become so efortless. My observation, and I would argue that it is more realism than political opinion or emotionalism, is that our current administration is unique, but that uniqueness has been building over some time along with the change of our culture, which was the subject of one of my essays. That has brought us to a point where we have not been before, perhaps because in quieter times there was not as much sturm and drang, with the exception of the period during the first half of the twentieth century; but today, with the technical progress we have made, ours is even more complex – and wider throughout the world; and the dominant nature of ideology has expanded by magnitudes.
All this has come together rapidly and vitriolically in a very confusing manner; and our leadership was not ready for it – is not ready for it – partly because of how rapidly it has settled upon us, but also because of our power and affluence – and yes, attendant arrogance – but also because of the powerful effect of ideology. The unsupportable debt crunch is just icing on the cake, but its effect cannot be ignored; it may have similar implications to what happened with the stock market crash in 1929, (greed coming to mind, but considerably more complex greed) but it seems to have much broader implications, especially when national leadership is so weak and short sighted.
Change is upon us and we are not prepared for it. And when change comes we always look for comparisons to fall back upon; they don’t usually help much because changing circumstances yield different results. Each new change has it’s own character, so what is the character of this one? we really don’t know; and many, all wrapped up in self and entertainment, haven’t give it nearly enough consideration, nor could they with the knowledge that most have; it is a truly complex phenomenon.
Time will tell, but it will be a doozy, and challenge us perhaps as we have never been challenged before, with all the other implications, such as world economic growth and expectations, and what we are now referring to as terrorism, but is much more than that. On top of all that, throw in the drifting challenge of centralization versus the Federalism that is at the center of how we developed in this country, something which is far less well understood than it was at inception.
Lots to think about; lots to worry about; much that is going to need to be dealt with by the people of The United States, who, through rapid cultural change, are not prepared to deal with it.
Who are we? Do we even know? Part of liberty is that that never really gets nailed down; or if it ever does, it changes – rapidly; why? Because THAT IS who we are.
Differences are a large part of that; not only biological differences but differences induced by influences; and immigration has something to do with that, although influences due to immigration work both ways, changing recent immigrants more quickly than it changes citizens, but as part of the same process. Change of all kinds is inevitable – and healthy, if managed. Note I did not say controlled; but managed. There is a profound difference between controlling and managing. May I suggest that nurturing, though necessarily requiring controls, is more management than control? At least, effective nurturing is.
Be all that as it may, on to entertainment and our culture. Entertainment is expanding our cultural differences; and that takes us back to who we are. Free enterprise and liberty are a good part of why it occurs: once a nation of shopkeepers, now we are more appropriately a nation of entertainment salesmen and practicioners, “entertainment” being a multi-nuanced thing; and as we sell it, culture changes.
So, what is entertainment? We can’t get there without passing through human nature, which also defines much of who we are. A bit circuitous? Life is that way; a never ending series of concentric circles. Humans need to work to be fulfilled. That is questionable? Ok, question, but not superficially. They also want to be entertained. The simplest Oxford definition of entertain is to amuse, occupy agreeably; the key word is probably agreeably; I shall not try to elaborate upon that as there are too many possibilities of occupying agreeably to address; we each have our own list of preferences. But entertainment is very important to us, and influential.
When it comes to entertainment I went through my own immature transition, beginning with disdain; as I began maturing I began to realize how narrow my interpretation was. I shall not elaborate upon that either, save to say that one cannot address importance without talking about differences; and all that fits in to explaining what culture is, and how it changes.
So where am I trying to go with this? Going beyond individual preferences, entertainment is also a massive business, businesses, actually. And we are all influenced by the entertainment products produced by that “free” enterprise business (free, as in ability to engage in it either as an provider or customer of, not as in what it cost to produce or consume). Commercial entertainment is therefore shaped by what people want, demand; but at the same time that demand is clearly shaped by supply; again, such is life, at least in our country. That is particularly cogent when one considers the progression of cultural development, where one cohort may shape, but the next cohort is more likely to be shaped by; and so on, until demand changes. That is what happens in liberal (that is, liberated) cultures. It can be managed, sort of, but not really controlled; for if it is controlled, the culture is no longer liberal. Confusing? So be it. But it says a great deal about our culture: managed more than controlled; management being far more challenging than control, but that explains the success we have enjoyed. It also explains the difficulties we continually have, and the pain we incur as well; you can’t have one without the others. Many do not understand that; which is why we have constant struggle between rights and rules; it depends on which end one is pushing.
So, big business entertainment, what is happening to it? Technology, innovation, but more: there is success at both ends, the receiving end, but also the delivery end which yields vast profit, making people in the business rich beyond anything we could have perceived, allowing them the luxury to spend so that they can have influence. A recent study suggests that 60 people have donated 1/3 of the cash provided to the current presidential campaign. So why do I say “suggests”? What comprises a study? Polls are part of studies, and who answers polls these days – and why; and why do many not? Social study results and facts are not the same.
So what is happening to our culture, which is more and more dominated by entertainment? And why is culture dominated by entertainment? Because it occupies us agreeably; we LIKE it; in fact we need it. And WE are the culture, as if it were homogeneous, which it is not. I could probably write a book trying to explain all that, but to what purpose? Following the connects, it is not all that complex; in fact it is fairly obvious IF one takes the time to think about it. And that brings us back to what is happening to not only big business entertainment, but also our culture; it is all intertwined, as one would expect.
At one level, the entertainment level, we love it; at another level, the cultural level, it is beginning to concern us; we not only don’t know where it is taking us, but we worry about where that might be. I would say, relax, this is just another incidence of the continual change that has always been with us. But maybe we have relaxed too much, and become complacent about it, forgetting that “government of the people” entails responsibility of the people. The people? there we go again; who are the people? That takes us into politics, differences, contention, power and entitlement. Nasty stuff, but necessary if we are to enjoy the benefits what we have gotten used to. Managing it is very challenging, but managing it in an environment dominated by entertainment and so heavily influenced by the wealth of those who have benefited from entertainment profits, is a REAL challenge. Those challenges are only exacerbated by the effects of the influence of all that big money that flows all over, and we all want a piece of; not the money, but what it yields. Back to human nature – and the continual competition it entails. To a great extent that is how I would try encourage one to look at our changing entertainment and its effect on changing culture.
Life is a challenge and always has been, but it changes, and gets much more complex with growing differences in almost everything; not only wealth, power, income distribution and nature of influences, but in the complexity of competition throughout the mix. We wanted it; we’ve got it, and now have to learn to live with it. They say it has even made us arrogant; it has, and we need to learn to deal with that too. A question was put to Ben Franklin about the nature of our republic, and in counting its benefits he added, if we can keep it. And that was before big entertainment. Can we? It depends upon us, working together. The ingredients are still there; the rest is up to us.
I did not begin this essay with where it ended in mind; but there it is. Maybe, as with the Sunday comics, I am becoming too constrained by the structure of the process upon which I have embarked, and keep lapsing into the same drift. No matter, it is what it is, and I am who I am, with the influences I have had. If I am getting into a rut at least it keeps me occupied – and thinking. It also helps me want to try to exert some influence on what I feel is important in life; so I do, in my own very small way.
Bear with me, or not; your choice. That is the nature of the culture we live in, and should want to preserve. It is what I believe in.
How’s that for an unusual topic? Some background. I have been exposed to an example whereas someone younger took it upon himself to lecture an elder about deportment. I am not suggesting that there are not situations where this is appropriate, but when it is, it is open to opinion, and even discussion. In this case the elder has taken upon herself to broaden her horizons – to reach out; to do that takes knowing who you are, and working it based on who that is. Her approach is to laugh and joke, and in doing so, try to engage people to relax and enjoy the exchange. I encourage that; I think it is part of community that has made us what we are. But things have changed, and I belive we have begun to lose it. Ok, change is inevitable; so what do we do about it in terms of what it is doing to us, assuming, as I have, that such change is not for the best? We just have to work at it, individually, doing what we can – IF we think it is worth working toward, and that, the deciding value of it, takes some more thinking. And we have to do that by being ourselves.
But in attempting to do this we must accept that we are all different, for many reasons, including having different influences. For that reason we see things differently, have different opinions, and react to all kinds of situations differently. Viva la difference! Well, to a point; but we also have to deal with them, the differences, and that is where the big challenge comes in. And to address that it is necessary to go back to human nature. A tendency of human nature among many, most in fact, but in different ways at different levels, is to want to dominate, and press our views upon others – or even more, to make OTHERS conform to OUR views. The basic word for this is power; and power means causing others to think and act as we are convinced they should. We’ve been there, so nothing further on that should be necessary.
So on to my hypothetical example. It is fiction, but there is fiction and there is fiction. Fantasy, for example, is pretty much made up; but well thought-out fiction has a basis of fact, or reality, behind it; that is what makes it of great value (believe it or not, even some fantasy does). Good fiction causes us to think beyond a story line, and realize what makes it plausible, based on our own experiences. That is an effective way to learn because it is easier for us to relate to a plausible story line than it is to digest theory.
The younger person in my example has decided that the approach the elder has taken to try to broaden her horizons is inappropriate, based on his way of thinking and his influences, and has taken it upon himself to lecture her to change her ways. Now there are ways this can be done, and in some cases should be done; but there are ways to do it. Those ways have to do with leadership, understanding and the desire to work with what one considers a problem, and not to dictate what the outcome must be.
The elder, my friend, because she is my friend (this hypothetical fiction of course has a real life basis) has found that engaging others, randomly in fact, through banter, joking and laughing has great potential for relaxing the atmosphere and bringing people out who might not otherwise allow themselves to become so engaged; she has proven that it works. I agree, and wholeheartedly support it. She may overdo it some times; that is the way we are, and believe me, I know, because I do the same: overdo it. But I try to be quick to realize when I am overdoing, and be aware of the need to change course; it is not always as easy to do as it might seem; it takes effort and awareness.
But the younger in my example is more fixed in his outlook on life and has become judgmental on this particular subject as it applies to the elder. Allow me to digress momentarily and suggest that this is exactly the case with many of the people today whom we call progressives. Progress is good, usually, but its success frequently causes it to get out of hand, especially when those whose religion it has become, put a lock on it and can see only their own perspective. Religion, after all, can be like that; my way or the highway comes to mind. Historically the past is replete with examples of attempted power domination, and that’s what this is an example of; judgmental power domination. The younger KNOWS he is right and feels the need to administer to the elder for her own good. Sound familiar?
Anyway, the result of this is obvious. So, on to my hypothetical exchange with my only semi-fictional example; taken from my viewpoint, of course; how else?
Me: hey, relax; we are all different, and have to pursue things our own way. She is only doing what she thinks she needs to do to improve more relaxed relationships among strangers; what’s wrong with that?
Younger lecturer: (reflecting his influences): It is inappropriate; she is making a fool of herself with all her silliness.
Me: that is your interpretation; everything is relative. It seems those she is engaging see it differently, and are being positively influenced by her honest openness and attempts to be friendly.
Younger lecturer: you don’t understand, but I can see how you might not; it is important to maintain a certain dignity that is expected, and she has crossed the line.
Me: how so? What’s wrong with being self as long as it doesn’t insult or damage others? And particularly if it makes things socially better – as in fostering a more communal relationship? That is something that has deteriorated in the recent past, and could benefit from the approach she is offering – is benefiting, I would suggest.
Younger lecturer: you don’t understand. There are lines that are not crossed, and she has crossed one of them; it is inappropriate, and embarrassing.
End of discussion. I have greatly simplified it, and probably distorted it to make my example. But I think it makes the point I am trying to make. We are all different, have different strengths and weaknesses, and to be effective, must be what we are, and be confident in it, even proud – but, of course, not arrogant. That can not be allowed to include being abusive or hurting others; obviously there is a point at which further discussion, on almost any controversial subject, should no longer be pursued, and that SHOULD be part of all exchanges; one has to know when to back off; many today do not, which is part of why we have the contention that is so apparent in our lives and culture. Too many want only their own way, and will countenance no other. Open minded discussion? Willingness to consider other points of view? Not hardly; closed minds have begun to take over.
Live and let live used to be the cry. Oversimplified? of course. There must be drawn lines: laws, regulations, even accepted levels of deportment, if we are to live together in a semblance of harmony; and they must be developed, continually revisited and revised. That is realized among some, even many, probably most; but not all. There will always be some whose minds that are closed, and refuse to look beyond their own opinions. And I contend that is negatively changing our culture; that needs to change, that WILL change – but we need to be concerned that it is not in ways that are unhealthy; we need to “manage” the revision. And there will always be those that insist on pushing their views on others, and will accept nothing short of total capitulation; that is what power is all about – and always will be; we have to live with that; we do not have to accept it.
Neither, at the individual level do we need to blindly countenance it. We must be ourselves, even as we work to mesh what that is into our overall community and culture; but others must be open to accepting it as well, and live with it. We will never all agree on much of anything; but that shouldn’t keep us from living together communally and with basic respect for one another other, and the inevitable differences.
So little has changed over time with respect to human nature, even as so much has changed in other respects. Perhaps that is the essence of living: constant change but little real change. That’s why I lean toward philosophy: “use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality”; isn’t that what it is all about?
What has not changed is the lust for power over each other, fame, fortune……importance. What has changed is our access to information and ability to discuss it widely in so many different ways, with ease, and with little interference. Of course access to information doesn’t necessarily mean more knowledge; there is more, but it is not evenly distributed, and too often there is too little incentive, or motivation, among too many, to really learn; but lots of incentive to argue about perceptions.
So maybe that’s what today’s diatribe will focus on; I have some notes from two nights ago. The notes started out with “balance…and lack of universals; too much searching for THE CAUSE”; that’s a place to begin.
It might be appropriate to cite our political spectrum in this respect: right, left and moderate; and the difficulty we have been having with dealing with THAT balance. That would return to our incredible new access to information, but with not enough increase in real knowledge and relatively little interest in gaining it, because of the nature of the information about which we all think we know so much; meaning most of us have vastly expanded opinions, with inadequate foundation. That would not be so bad if we attempted to share them, to discuss them, but such is difficult when the actual knowledge tends to be somewhat superficial and our understanding of it less so. As I have written previously, too many are too sure of themselves and persist on believing what they want to believe. Tie that to the proclivity to want to dominate others, and our electronic ability to do so, and we have the new social, or cultural, reality.
Balance and lack of universals; and right, left and moderate. There is seldom a single cause for anything; merely a compilation of “causes” that drive events, often in highly confusing ways. Balancing them is difficult; and that is what moderation requires. We used to do it better, because we had fewer that thought they KNEW all the answers, but then that was partly because the ability to promulgate information among us was also less; much of our learning today is more the result of influence than education or personal experience; that is, we listen to others, internalize what we hear and want to consider it as reality. Add to that the process of internalizing entails what inevitable changes due to what is heard, how it is processed through personal experience, and how our memory might affect it. The mish-mash that evolves is anarchic, contentious and kind of crazy; but we many, even most, tend to hold it as reality.
We live in a world of relatives that is increasingly complex, and so much is transmitted so rapidly, with so little depth (sound bites), and so much emotion, overly influenced by fantasy; each drives other, but becomes more and more solidified in the process as we continue to believe what we WANT to believe, because it fits, and feels good. Does that make sense?
The decrease of universals comes with the increasing number of causes that inevitably surface. We used to have strongly held perceptions that had been handed down to us through generations; now they flow continually from everywhere at a very rapid rate. Then, it must be reminded that the strongly help perceptions handed down were cultural, and were only “universal” within each culture. As we become more global in the sharing of information, even those cultural universals clash, which adds to the challenge – and is reflected in the problems we are encountering. Those problems have been popping up globally, but also in personal relationships, as principles, once held firmly, are being constantly challenged.
So we have never had change? We have always had change, that is reality; any digging into history below the superficial makes that obvious; but it is coming more quickly, and because of our ways of influential information propagation are more difficult for us to handle, especially when understanding and experience with reality is limited in many who are trying to understand. As a result we are being bombarded by unintended consequences, as might be expected; and they only build the complexity and make life more difficult, as is becoming daily more evident.
So how do we survive? The answer is simple enough; the means of achieving it is not. Anyone who has read these pages knows where this is leading: we need to learn to think more broadly, and be willing to be more flexible in doing so. We have to read – with skepticism, but with intent to learn and understand – and be willing to open our minds to thoughts of others we respect; not just let ourselves be propagandized, but to be convinced because it makes sense to us. That takes a lot of effort, open minds, and not a little background learning. Big challenge.
It is not going to be easy to do, and it will NOT happen quickly; there will be great frustration, even if it progresses positively – and its progress will not be smooth. Dealing with today’s challenges will be……………well, challenging; believe it!
That is life; and that is reality.
Anyone following my ramblings might think I am in a rut; and maybe I am. I am worried.
So I am rolling over to the sensational propaganda? I don’t think so, in fact I deny that I am. I read more widely, and deeply, and have a list of writers that I respect and in whom I have gained confident respect over the years. It is my belief that this is what one must do to understand the world and life. These writers do not always agree; it would be suspicious if they did. One MUST read widely, and develop one’s own understanding.
I have written that I wrote a book almost ten years ago, about our culture and it’s progress. Essentially, what I wrote was that I was concerned with that “progress”; lately that concern has turned to fear. It is not that I am afraid it is self-destructing, as some are arguing, but that it is deteriorating, and must look at itself and make corrections. I believe that it can, as the values, the principles of America are still there, even if being pushed aside by all the forces that I have previously noted. The world of fantasy that we have embarked upon is dangerous, not because fiction is dangerous, but because inability to distinguish fantasy from reality is dangerous. Good fantasy, or at least good fiction, can be a powerful tool that enhances readers’ attention, because it focuses them on that which they understand, and can relate to. Fantasy can do the same, perhaps, but with much greater challenge because it is too easy for pretend to become real in people’s minds.
Why? I think that is key; people hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe; and a world of make believe, crafted to convey what THEY WANT TO BELIEVE tends to lead them astray, because it is more pleasant than reality. It might be noticed that people today are prone not to listen quite often, turning their minds off when they are concentrated elsewhere. That is perhaps not unusual, but the fact that the elsewhere is so often fantasy or pleasure, is; it is my very strong contention that substitution of what we want for reality is much like fogging the mind with hallucinogens, and for much the same reason. And that is the big difference between indulging in that which is pleasurable and giving in to pleasure.
In fact, what has always been very common is that we allow what seems positive and stimulating to become exaggeration and excess, and in so doing go too far. I’ll not attempt to elaborate examples; anyone who thinks about it for awhile should be able to do so. But I think we are doing it with a vengeance today, not necessarily because we want to, but because we have become slaves to pleasure/fantasy propaganda. That is not so much to say that we are falling for something false, but when that is all we hear it becomes the new mantra; and it sells. Why is it dangerous? Because in developing minds it can take control. Now expand thinking about that to understanding – let’s not say poverty, but lack of success – although poverty is a factor of that. But immigrant motivation is a similar factor: immigrants come here for opportunity as they understand it existing here, and compare it to lack of it elsewhere. Their motivation might be right, but when unrealistically encouraged can turn unrealistic.
I read in an article just today, entitled why immigrants vote Democrat, that suggests the most important reason why: they are being offered an unrealistic view of where opportunity can lead, suggesting that success just happens, poof. It doesn’t. Success, however it might be defined, takes effort, discipline, planning and understanding; but when a simple, less demanding alternative is provided? Again – poof. I knew it; what a wonderful place; come here and it just happens. Not so. It may be easy to say, but don’t believe it; when it is all one hears, in sensational, convincing fantasy, it becomes intoxicating. Shoot up and feel good.
Too simple; that’s not what’s happening. Of course, which brings us to another point in human nature that I tend to favor; tendency to not understand evolution over time, not biological evolution, but cultural evolution; our culture is evolving, cultures always evolve; and ours is evolving very rapidly due to any number of innovations with which none can be unaware: electronics and communications being two, but hardly the end of it. Again, I shall not attempt to elaborate; anyone who wishes to do so, and takes the time to think about the evolutionary development so obviously evident in our culture over the past 50 or so years cannot help but see it – and where it has been leading.
And that is my final point: where is it leading. Some, perhaps many, think it is the way it should be evolving: more relaxed, more casual, more real; the way things should be. But I call that fantasy, and suggest that it must be factored by reality. Things are not always the way we wish they could be; the term unintended consequences come to mind, or woulda, shoulda, coulda. Take casual dress; way out of control. Casual intimacy? can there be any doubt when we see what it is doing to family values? How about casual treatment of finances, and the incredible development of unsustainable debt? These are all cut from the same fabric: excess – in almost everything.
And paying the price? Stay tuned; it’s coming. If we can realize what it is doing to us, and think back to that what REALLY matters, we can reverse it. If not, the pain will increase until we cannot ignore it. How bad does it need to get before we realize it has gone too far?
And what, after all IS really important? I have covered that before too, perhaps to obsession. Disagree if you like, but think about it; think about it hard, and try to see where it is taking is. Perhaps it is difficult for those just developing their characters, and overwhelmed by all the wonderful pleasures that are afforded us, and we all think should be ours for the asking – as we are being told that it is all possible – for everyone, just for the asking, by those who have developed commercial propaganda to such a high state of development – for their own selfish purposes. Oops, that goes too far? That is the American dream; selfishness?
Again I caution: reality; we don’t LIKE reality; it ain’t fun. So be it. We don’t like bad weather either, or decaying infrastructure. Crime? terrorism? is that not another example of pursuing opportunity? What really matters? I think we are beginning to find out, at least I hope we are. Only then will we get things back on track.
These thoughts built overnight, several nights ago, and further during the following day; I addressed them in a rush and have been adding and editing. Nor did they build just in MY mind; the battle is heating up, and many many are entering it, as it becomes more and more apparent what is happening. Even the rhetoric is building. Overly dramatic? perhaps not; more and more are referring to it as I once did, as the continuance of our culture as we know it. I have been sampling continually from offerings throughout the day, and am encouraged to see the building of deep concern.
Perhaps Donald Trump has contributed through his straight if bombastic dialogues; but there is much more than that; the battle is being engaged.
Back to the foundations of the battle. I provided a copy of an article by Jeffery Tucker yesterday; I should add that many of my thoughts and opinions, including those pursued in my book of some nine years ago, Avoiding Armageddon, were influenced by writers such as these, and many are being brought out again. Complacency and expectations define us, and always have. Expectations are defined by power and wealth, today embellished by pleasure, and entertainment, and worship of the fame that accompanies it; but are these not the traditional ingrients of power? It is only that current times have added so much emphasis – and depth – to what pleasure and entertainment have become, and the expectations they have created among not only among those of our nation, but increasingly throughout the world. All see it as increasingly possible, accessible, and they want a piece of it.
But that must be superimposed upon the more fundamental differences always inherent in individuals and cultures: it used to be mired in what we rather euphemistically referred to as class differences; but essentially it has to do with the basic differences that have always existed among people. Rich and poor? much more, and I have run through them before: families, nurturing, advantages, education, motivation – all that which leads to the differences, which we need not attempt to revisit here. Put all that together and we find throughout history that one extreme feels entitled to power, to lead, and the other has been placed in the position of accepting that arrogant, entitled, elitism docilely; well, we know it hasn’t always been docile. When things have gotten tough enough, history has shown us what can happen: when the downtrodden become driven to the wall, and feel they have no choice and nothing to lose. But up to that point a feeling of complacency is something necessarily imposed upon them; what after all has been their option?
The development of a middle class began to change that, in all of its ramifications. I have visited them in past essays, so won’t go into that again either. But change is a constant, and we’re changing again. Let’s put it this way: once there were only rich and poor, privilege and power on the one hand – and resignation to it on the other; then came opportunity; now we have expectation, expectation that all deserve what those that were the powerful elite could once only hope for: and it is rapidly becoming almost universal entitlement: why should we not all have it? To whatever extent we might desire? But what has been overlooked, forgotten perhaps, is that it is not that simple. To wit, entitlement has been so rapid and pervasive that we have become complacent in expecting it, and no longer understand what it took to arrive at that point. I say perhaps forgotten, but it is more that we neither think much about it or care; WE WANT IT – AND DESERVE IT. That’s only fair, right? And today’s self appointed arrogant elite preach just that; for the purpose of hoping to use it to pursue their own kind of arrogant power.
And that seems to be the point we have reached, and is defining the battle that is ensuing. But we don’t understand it; which leads back to the morass that has always existed in the past: differences; the most significant of which are how to move from acceptance of reality – complacency – to fulfillment of expectations. Contrary to what many have been led to assume, it doesn’t just happen, and requires the individual efforts that were rewarded during the interim period of opportunity that began to be realized through the growth of what we have come to call the middle class.
To put it succinctly, too many do not realize that the secret to meeting the challenge of “middle class” progress is individual effort. But more than that, the complacency comes when our culture begins to slide into the same muck – and the leadership that brought about this change has forgotten not only how it was achieved, but how to maintain it. Leadership? But our leadership is THE PEOPLE! No it isn’t; because all those differences still exist, only less dramatically, because of the very same results from individual efforts: all do no make the same effort, and the ability to make such effort is also different. But we don’t understand that either, because efforts in that regard are not quite “individual.” And that is much of what “the battle” is all about. “Individual” efforts are much more complex than that because results develop over several generations and are influenced by much more than just someone trying hard, although that surely helps. Luck plays a part; being at the right place at the right time plays a part. I have commented on the book Outliers, by Malcomb Gladwell, that goes into that in detail, so we needn’t revisit that either. Life is never as simple as many would make it and many things go into developing a path that leads to what we have complacently come to consider as our entitlement.
That carries us to yet the next aspect of this discussion, and that is what people have become. We believe what we want to believe, and listen to what we want to hear. And much of that today is based on propaganda. Propaganda!!??? Propaganda is merely incomplete information; that is all any of us ever have; but we have a choice of dealing with what we receive, and even the ability to influence what it is, through how we access the information and what we do with it when it comes to us; THAT is where the real incentive – motivation – comes in to play. Where do we seek our information, how much effort do we put into getting it and processing it, and how much do we expend on trying to influence that? And, of course, for what purpose do we seek it?
I should like to leave that open ended. Reading, studying, listening, training and experience, watching television, discussing with friends on social media; or making little effort at all to take the initiative? Family used to be a key ingredient, but that has deteriorated over the past fifty years; another thing that I have discussed in past essays; none of this is new. And it is being discussed more and more as we enter this very stressful period of so many beginning to question what is happening to our culture.
We tend to blame it on our young; but our young must be nurtured and trained; maturation comes only slowly and through effort. And what is our training? How about our education? Are we trying to learn to understand how best to deal with life by understanding reality? Or are we trying complacently, without too much effort, to pile up whatever we feel through our expectations that will just place it in front of us? College degrees of questionable value fall into this category.
I’ll go no further; and leave it up to anyone reading who might want to contemplate it The answers are not obscure, if anyone makes an effort to think about it. Think? is that not an almost lost art, only available to the privileged few? Loaded question; we are all equal, right……but, but. The equality that exists is that we have all been born with inalienable rights under the Constitution; and we all have the ability to THINK. Yes, it has to be developed and being assisted is one of the advantages that family brings, but individual effort can bring it too; with some luck and being at the right place at the right time and lots of other assistance. Simple? Oh my no; so why do we insist on trying to make everything simple? We do, you know. But more fundamentally: what are we, each of us doing about it?
I write that times are becoming dicey; I write that the informed and caring intellectuals (that does not mean all “intellectuals”) are becoming more and more aware of it, and are writing about it, crying out to us to read, listen, pay attention and stop being complacent. Are we paying attention to it? If so it is not evident, save to a limited few. Too late? Perhaps it is, because there is little most of us can do but be concerned about it, because we rely upon our hierarchical elected leadership to take the lead. They are failing us, because they are caught in the same old trap of greed, elite greed; lust for power; and arrogance. And too many of the rest of us, caught in the trap of expectation, are complacently following along – EXPECTANTLY, and ignorantly. Ignorance, remember, is something we can control, should we choose to summon the motivation to do so.
What is coming? No one really knows, but many are attempting to tell us what they think, and it is likely to be a compilation of much or all of what they are saying. Of course our predictions are based on the past; that’s the way we are, it is all we know. It will almost surely NOT be exactly what has happened in the past; but the past – all of it, from the very beginning – gives of many indications of what it will entail. So it will be new, and more complicated; and probably more frightening because of that, but also because most of us have not made the effort to become aware of what is approaching so rapidly: over development, red hot technical progress, overwhelming debt load, growing greed, expanding violence – and EXPECTATION, ENTITLED EXPECTATION. As is always the case, we are all complicit; but as it always works out, the results will depend on our leadership, and it is not standing up to the challenge.
Again my earlier question: am I being overly dramatic? I hope so. It does not have to be Armageddon; and I am confident that with the remaining moral fabric of American middle class values and initiative it will be tempered to the point that we will deal with it; IF we are prepared to take the challenge and DEAL with it, with the right kind of leadership, that WE must elect. The rest will be up to us – working together, however we can.
I just read this essay, and could not help but reproduce it here. It was written by Jeffery Tucker and is entitled Trumpism — Right Fascism, 21st Century Edition. No permission was requested to do so as there is no financial gain entailed. So I am merely propagating the information Tucker provided; I think it is worthy of propagation. It had already been propagated in David Stockton’s web site on 19 July 2015. I might add that the comments to the article are about what one might expect: argumentation by respondents regarding THEIR opinions of the writer and what they had taken from what was published. I add that because I have commented on such before, but also because it is so typical of what he is describing in his essay. But I will leave that to anyone who makes an attempt to read it.
It’s not too interesting to say that Donald Trump is a nationalist and aspiring despot who is manipulating bourgeois resentment, nativism, and ignorance to feed his power lust. It’s uninteresting because it is obviously true. It’s so true that stating it sounds more like an observation than a criticism.
I just heard Trump speak live. It was an awesome experience, like an interwar séance of once-powerful dictators who inspired multitudes, drove countries into the ground, and died grim deaths.
His speech at FreedomFest lasted a full hour, and I consider myself fortunate for having heard it. It was a magnificent exposure to an ideology that is very much present in American life, though hardly acknowledged. It lives mostly hidden in dark corners, and we don’t even have a name for it. You bump into it at neighborhood barbecues, at Thanksgiving dinner when Uncle Harry has the floor, at the hardware store when two old friends in line to checkout mutter about the state of the country.
The ideology is a 21st century version of right fascism — one of the most politically successful ideological strains of 20th century politics. Though hardly anyone talks about it today, we really should. It is still real. It exists. It is distinct. It is not going away. Trump has tapped into it, absorbing unto his own political ambitions every conceivable bourgeois resentment: race, class, sex, religion, economic. You would have to be hopelessly ignorant of modern history not to see the outlines and where they end up.
For now, Trump seems more like comedy than reality. I want to laugh about what he said, like reading a comic-book version of Franco, Mussolini, or Hitler. And truly I did laugh, as when he denounced the existence of tech support in India that serves American companies (“how can it be cheaper to call people there than here?” — as if he still thinks that long-distance charges apply).
Let’s hope this laughter doesn’t turn to tears.
As an aside, I mean no criticism of FreedomFest’s organizer Mark Skousen in allowing Trump to speak at this largely libertarian gathering. Mark invited every Republican candidate to address the 2,200-plus crowd. Only two accepted. Moreover, Mark is a very savvy businessman himself, and this conference operates on a for-profit basis. He does not have the luxury of giving the microphone to only people who pass the libertarian litmus test. His goal is to put on display the ideas that matter in our time and assess them by the standards of true liberty.
In my view, it was a brilliant decision to let him speak. Lovers of freedom need to confront the views of a man with views like this. What’s more, of all the speeches I heard at FreedomFest, I learned more from this one than any other. I heard, for the first time in my life, what a modern iteration of a consistently statist but non-leftist outlook on politics sounds and feels like in our own time. And I watched as most of the audience undulated between delight and disgust — with perhaps only 10% actually cheering his descent into vituperative anti-intellectualism. That was gratifying.
As of this writing, Trump is leading in the polls in the Republican field. He is hated by the media, which is a plus for the hoi polloi in the GOP. He says things he should not, which is also a plus for his supporters. He is brilliant at making belligerent noises rather than having worked out policy plans. He knows that real people don’t care about the details; they only want a strongman who shares their values. He makes fun of the intellectuals, of course, as all populists must do. Along with this penchant, Trump encourages a kind of nihilistic throwing out of rationality in favor of a trust in his own genius. And people respond, as we can see.
So, what does Trump actually believe? He does have a philosophy, though it takes a bit of insight and historical understanding to discern it. Of course race baiting is essential to the ideology, and there was plenty of that. When a Hispanic man asked a question, Trump interrupted him and asked if he had been sent by the Mexican government. He took it a step further, dividing blacks from Hispanics by inviting a black man to the microphone to tell how his own son was killed by an illegal immigrant.
Because Trump is the only one who speaks this way, he can count on support from the darkest elements of American life. He doesn’t need to actually advocate racial homogeneity, call for a whites-only sign to be hung at immigration control, or push for expulsion or extermination of undesirables. Because such views are verboten, he has the field alone, and he can count on the support of those who think that way by making the right noises.
Trump also tosses little bones to the Christian Right, enough to allow them to believe that he represents their interests. Yes, it’s implausible and hilarious. But the crowd who looks for this is easily won with winks and nudges, and those he did give. At the speech I heard, he railed against ISIS and its war against Christians, pointing out further than he is a Presbyterian and thus personally affected every time ISIS beheads a Christian. This entire section of his speech was structured to rally the nationalist Christian strain that was the bulwark of support for the last four Republican presidents.
But as much as racialist and religious resentment is part of his rhetorical apparatus, it is not his core. His core is about business, his own business and his acumen thereof. He is living proof that being a successful capitalist is no predictor of one’s appreciation for an actual free market (stealing not trading is more his style). It only implies a love of money and a longing for the power that comes with it. Trump has both.
What do capitalists on his level do? They beat the competition. What does he believe he should do as president? Beat the competition, which means other countries, which means wage a trade war. If you listen to him, you would suppose that the U.S. is in some sort of massive, epochal struggle for supremacy with China, India, Malaysia, and, pretty much everyone else in the world.
It takes a bit to figure out what the heck he could mean. He speaks of the United States as if it were one thing, one single firm. A business. “We” are in competition with “them,” as if the U.S. were IBM competing against Samsung, Apple, or Dell. “We” are not 300 million people pursuing unique dreams and ideas, with special tastes or interests, cooperating with people around the world to build prosperity. “We” are doing one thing, and that is being part of one business.
In effect, he believes that he is running to be the CEO of the country — not just of the government (as Ross Perot once believed) but of the entire country. In this capacity, he believes that he will make deals with other countries that cause the U.S. to come out on top, whatever that could mean. He conjures up visions of himself or one of his associates sitting across the table from some Indian or Chinese leader and making wild demands that they will buy such and such amount of product else “we” won’t buy their product.
Yes, it’s bizarre. As Nick Gillespie said, he has a tenuous grasp on reality. Trade theory from hundreds of years plays no role in his thinking at all. To him, America is a homogenous unit, no different from his own business enterprise. With his run for president, he is really making a takeover bid, not just for another company to own but for an entire country to manage from the top down, under his proven and brilliant record of business negotiation, acquisition, and management.
You see why the whole speech came across as bizarre? It was. And yet, maybe it was not. In the 18th century, there is a trade theory called mercantilism that posited something similar: ship the goods out and keep the money in. It builds up industrial cartels that live at the expense of the consumer. In the 19th century, this penchant for industrial protectionism and mercantilism became guild socialism, which mutated later into fascism and then into Nazism. You can read Mises to find out more on how this works.
What’s distinct about Trumpism, and the tradition of thought it represents, is that it is non-leftist in its cultural and political outlook and yet still totalitarian in the sense that it seeks total control of society and economy and places no limits on state power. The left has long waged war on bourgeois institutions like family, church, and property. In contrast, right fascism has made its peace with all three. It (very wisely) seeks political strategies that call on the organic matter of the social structure and inspire masses of people to rally around the nation as a personified ideal in history, under the leadership of a great and highly accomplished man.
Trump believes himself to be that man.
He sounds fresh, exciting, even thrilling, like a man with a plan and a complete disregard for the existing establishment and all its weakness and corruption. This is how strongmen take over countries. They say some true things, boldly, and conjure up visions of national greatness under their leadership. They’ve got the flags, the music, the hype, the hysteria, the resources, and they work to extract that thing in many people that seeks heroes and momentous struggles in which they can prove their greatness.
Think of Commodus (161-192 AD) in his war against the corrupt Roman senate. His ascension to power came with the promise of renewed Rome. What he brought was inflation, stagnation, and suffering. Historians have usually dated the fall of Rome from his leadership. Or, if you prefer pop culture, think of Bane, the would-be dictator of Gotham in Batman, who promises an end to democratic corruption, weakness, and loss of civic pride. He sought a revolution against the prevailing elites in order to gain total power unto himself.
These people are all the same. They are populists. Oh how they love the people, and how they hate the establishment. They defy all civic conventions. Their ideology is somewhat organic to the nation, not a wacky import like socialism. They promise greatness. They have an obsession with the problem of trade and mercantilist belligerence as the only solution. They have zero conception of the social order as a complex and extended ordering of individual plans, one that functions through freedom and individual rights.
This is a dark history and I seriously doubt that Trump himself is aware of it. Instead, he just makes it up as he goes along, speaking from his gut. This penchant has always served him well. It cannot serve a whole nation well. Indeed, the very prospect is terrifying, and not just for the immigrant groups and imports he has chosen to scapegoat for all the country’s problems. It’s a disaster in waiting for everyone.
Strange name for an essay; but I am reminded of differences every day – not only among people, but even among animals; nature is incredible. We are all different, in so many ways, not only in our basic make up, genes and such, but also in experiences, influences, education and interests. How can anyone attempt to extrapolate our equality before the law to mean all the same? Why would anyone want to? Once we glorified our differences; now we want to minimize them. Why?
I published a book almost ten years ago – vanity press they called it back then – edited it myself and then saw the printed results. Pathetic. I am a poor editor; my daughter told me next time call on her. But recently I reread parts of that book, and was intrigued; not because it is a great book (sales were anemic), but because so much of what I wrote is basic to what I believe today. Not, I might add, because I am so smart and perceptive, but because I gathered from what I had read, and learned from that. A note I have pinned on my desk bookcase includes a statement: “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.” That was much of what I wrote about in my book, Avoiding Armageddon, Preserving Our Culture (long out of print): motivation, and the principles in life that are important. Similar runs through most of the almost 800 blog essays I have written since. All of which, I am quite aware, have been afforded similar levels of attention. But that was not the real intent of any of it. Let me explain that: I had no expectations? Of course I had; that is what motivation is all about; I wanted to do it, and I want to write about what I think and care about. I would also like others to be influenced by it because I think it is important to making the right kind of life (right being my opinion of, of course) decisions. But when they went mostly unrealized (and continue to do so) that doesn’t matter. Weird? Most would say so; which is the subject (sort of) of today’s ruminations. And, I have learned, and benefited from doing so.
As always what I write tends to take its own direction, as I get into it. The original title was just Differences; then I added Success. I was dwelling on differences over the past several days, then I morphed back into success, which is something I have thought much of recently. Not MY success, incidentally, as I have little to put on display, but that is my point. What is success? Back to differences, and our rapidly evolving culture, about which I have deep concerns, but upon which I have not given up. There is so much there, that still remains. I am confident that it will return to something like the strength of our past, if not in terms of power, in terms of dedication; which is not to say it will return to what it was, things don’t happen that way. Progress, both positive and negative, is what it is: we will progress; we will change, continually. That’s good; but we also must continually guide its direction. Specifically, to me, that means preserving the principles upon which our culture was constructed, and with which it gained so much success. Yes, as I said repeatedly in the book and since, we made mistakes; we are still making mistakes. We, Americans, after all are human, and suffer from the foibles of human nature our founders fought so hard to check and balance – and which myopic Progressives have since attempted, with success, to over turn; and then, of course, there is always arrogance; that also is human nature . That has become my focus; that is what I do. And it turns people off, yes; it does, so be it. I try to be sensitive to being turned off, with some success (i.e. shutting up), but not always. But then, what is developing, what I am concerned with addressing, conserving our culture, is very important to me – and many others, I might add, even if we don’t realize it; there is much feeling for the culture we have developed and its importance to us, and who we are. The fact that many of our young have not realized it yet, doesn’t mean that it will not materialize; and that is the responsibility that lies with those of us who care.
Back to success; what is it? To a great extent it is what our influences tell us it is, and that, today, centers on wealth, education, fame and power. And it’s not? Who can question that it is, when such is so dominant in our current culture? And understandably so as we wallow in the incredible progress that we have achieved, appreciate and expect to continue unabated for all, regardless of individual effort. And that is part of what I consider to be our problem: excess expectation. But I’ll not go back into that again, as I spent over two hundred pages in a book exploring that almost ten years ago, and many essays with similar theme since; little has changed since then. So what then is success? Not a new theme with me.
Let me try to put it in context from an article I read recently in Ben Domenich’s Thefederalist.com discussing the knee jerk comments made to military volunteers who have served their country, which I admit to sometimes finding irritating, even though I realize most are offered sincerely. All today volunteered and most are proud of having done so. That is the legacy or our nation: understand it and appreciate it. Then, if it makes sense, give some thought to what the rest of us should do about it. Run out and sign up? No; the nation no longer needs, or at least can no longer afford, to have such a military. But, and this is the gist of the article, there is much else we can do to support our country on a volunteer basis. We are a nation OF THE PEOPLE; so what are our people doing to preserve that? Many throw money at it, which is important and we need it for many important causes, many supported with dedication by our many institutions; but how many think that’s enough? I can go on, but I shall not.
Success? We want success? Then we need to look deeper for it, within ourselves. Success entails, my opinion, exemplifying the principles that have made our country and its people great; I have belabored that before; but where we have not been great it is because we have eschewed those very principles. That is the challenge for us, each of us, if we want to preserve our culture. I think it is worth doing; and I KNOW we can do it. Casting blame is not the answer, and many think that is all that is necessary. DOING something is what is necessary, and that means setting an example, and clearly explaining what it means, as best we can.
This for what it is worth.
Managing Editor, Dallas Morning News
508 Young Street
Dallas, TX 75202
13 July 2015
I am presuming to write to you today to tell you how impressed I was with today’s issue of the Dallas Morning News. I have not recently always have been so impressed, as I have seen the News sliding into the same malaise as the rest of our culture, succumbing to popular (and mostly ignorant) temptation to pursue popularity and revenue. Don’t get me wrong; I understand, and in a way, there is no alternative in this modern world. Which is why I wanted to write this letter; you have attempted to resist.
As might be evident, I have entered the last phase of my life, which does not mean imminent demise, but the beginning thereof. As a normal culmination of life I have entered into a phase of philosophy – the culmination of gaining knowledge – and in that interest have taken on writing a stream of consciousness essay-based Blogsite entitled phaedo2000.com. This is not advertising, merely background; I have learned that fame, fortune and power are illusions, which have no interest to me. There are more important things in life.
That is why I found today’s issue of “Points” so intriguing, but I saw similar attractions elsewhere; and was so encouraged; because I realize this is most difficult to do in today’s pop culture, which is, unfortunately, so vacuous, uninformed and so content to be so. Judgmental?
Yes. I am guilty of that, but try to be positive about it.
First I wanted to comment on Does New Journalism Fit Into Nonfiction, ably written by George Getshow; not for comment publication, but because I wanted to let you know. That is the only way I can exert influence at the end of my life, by encouraging those that care, and contribute. I have tried, unsuccessfully during my writing career, and have no regrets, but that’s why I admire those that have done better. I have had conversations recently with a friend whose background is theater and dance, and we have discussed fiction and fact, and I have, admittedly, realized that I been narrow in my view. Getschow’s article perfectly sums up the dichotomy involved, and has to deal with the reality of emotional understanding; it is so difficult for people to be able to understand, and it is not possible for most merely through dry facts.
But the pendulum always swings too far and today fantasy has taken over. However, it will not always be so, IF people like you, and your staff, and the writers you are encouraging, publish what people can intellectually understand and deal with. Yes, too few read today, and only feed from the media, so we have to rely on word of mouth influence; but we have to do what we can do, and YOU are doing it.
Some of that also surfaced in “Talking Points”, which also has not been the norm for the News. Then there is Barred From Higher Education, by Kerl Blakinger. Much to think about and there are two extremes, neither of which is entirely accurate, because there is always subterfuge due to greed, avarice and self-interest. So what to do? Influence from the enlightened has always been helpful, less so in recent times, for any number of reasons; we can only listen to and read what we have provided to us; thank you for reaching out for what matters. Not many today are doing that, and the News has not been so strong on that in the past. As I say, I am proud of you for taking the position you are taking. It matters.
But there was more: Lighten The Overload by Ralph Stangis; brilliantly done; he says so much that is important, and so seldom written. Success; as fame, fortune and power; have been so convoluted today that reality is neither understood nor even considered, unless brought to mind by efforts such as those that you are making. Again, it matters.
Charities Struggling, Selfie Frenzy, Don’t Mess With Hockaday; all with important messages. Enough of that; I have made my point. I shall try to directly respond to the writers, but us dinosaurs are not disposed to twitting; they should realize that about dinosaurs, if they care.
But before ending let me comment on Cold Cases by Tasha Tsiaperas and Julie Fancher. Two comments; one is thanks for bring this to light; we too often overlook the efforts of our law enforcement and how fortunate we are to have them; just think, 12 years of staying at it; rule of law; what a blessing; and what a rarity. Second, a writer with a name not indigenous to our culture; there are many such, and we value them too lightly, to our discredit. It brings to mind Mark Steyn’s book, American Panic; we have our crosses to bear. But that does not justify polls such as a recent one suggesting that 1/3 of our citizens (well, respondents anyway) reply that they would leave the United States. How little such people know about the world; but I won’t go into that except to say that because of polls today, many of us don’t even respond anymore: yes, no or I don’t know; give me a break.
Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to allow me to express my appreciation for the kind of effort I used to take for granted with American media, but have not been able to for a long time. We desperately need it. It is time for Americans to remember why America has become the beacon on the hill; perfect? Of course not. Nothing will ever be perfect; that is not human nature. But we MUST appreciate what we have – and that upon which we CAN improve. How many others can say that? Imperfect as we are, we are still the example.
Keep up the good work. We NEED your efforts, whether most appreciate it or not. Did I mention what the Progressives are trying to do to us, with their attempt not only to win, but to force us to accept their views? No, another subject. That is not a political statement but a view of moderation. I know, another outmoded concept. We are aren’t going to take things back to where they were, as conservatives might wish; things don’t work like that. So we can only rely on the principles upon which this country was founded; and we need YOU, and those like you (so rare these days in modern media) to lead the way.
Thank you; and keep up the good work.
Garland, TX 75043
Recently I attended a Community Forum presented by Pete Sessions (Dallas Congressional Representative) and came away with some observations. Thinking about them and talking to my son in Omaha on the phone the other night, I have added to them, and would like to share them, for what that might be worth.
At the forum Sessions presented that some hundreds of thousands of jobs had been added in the country over the year, and one questioner rose to challenge that, since he had lost HIS job. Another wanted to talk about having traveled around the state over the past year in support of a bill that Sessions questioned, with justification, and reasonably; but she wouldn’t stop, or even listen, and finally had to be asked to sit down. Another stood up and announced, “we” are your constituents and want to know why YOU have allowed certain things that “we” opposed to have happened. Sessions tried to explain the reality of republican form of government, but she was emotional, and wouldn’t listen. I was frustrated with the “discussion” because it was obvious that many people were there to make their own points and had no intention of listening to any others. That was not everyone, but it is discouraging to watch how people who are unhappy with something don’t want to hear anything else, and often tend not even to listen to anyone try of offer anything. I have often suggested that people believe what they want to believe, but that’s only part of it. Another part is that they just want to complain, and seem to feel better when they have gotten it off their chests. But then I see continually in comments to on-line articles how people jump right in with their own opinions and run with them, with no apparent intention to discuss or even consider other aspects. Is that what we have become, or is it how we have always been? Some of both, I suppose, but instant and cheap electronic communications have clearly opened up new opportunities for them to be heard – and it is being pursued, aggressively.
That leads to activism, a form of power pursuance. A form of bullying, beginning with a myopic view based on what the pursuer wants, with little concern for anything else. And when the pursuer is glib and persuasive, there are many who docilely listen and allow themselves to be convinced, sometimes with little personal conviction and often without thinking much about it. Are we that susceptible to such influences? history would tell us that many are. Selfish? oh, yes, but much more than that.
But back to Sessions’ forum, I was appalled at how few there, seemed to know much about how our form of government functions, and how little thought they seem to give it; though I have to admit I found some, to my relief. I have also observed that lack of understanding of the need for compromise is endemic, and the desperate need to argue a point is almost a sickness. But more than that, too many don’t even seem to want to, or want to spend the time, to listen to an other side of the argument. Few positions are so clearly obvious that there can be no discussion; or even that such can not add to a more effective solution, and close-out does not get us there, and shows in some of the laws that are passed. Too many are too prone to not be able to see beyond their own needs and desires. But lack of respect and tolerance comes to mind as well; and even a basic loss of understanding the meaning of what community is begins to show. Then there is an indication of a need to just want to destroy the opposition to achieve one’s own objectives. That surely is not what republican form of government is, and OURS (US) in particular is all about – or has been over the past 200+ years – to the potential detriment of our future.
Of course, standing back and viewing history, any history, the proclivity to want to pursue power for personal aggrandizement is blatantly obvious; human nature, if you will. But one would think that history would also have taught us something. With the run up to 1776 it did; so what has happened since then? Unintended consequences due to emotional launches without due thought jumps out, but that is what unintended consequences are all about. Ignorance also plays a part, sometimes deliberately, sometimes not, and there is always malice aforethought, but one would think we would learn; ahhhh, if we WANTED to, and gave it any thought. But I read just recently that a California teacher has refused to teach Shakespeare because HE (Shakespeare) had it all wrong. Is there a pattern here?
Obviously I think there is; but I also do not think it’s terminal. Times change, and I think i am seeing a change in the way many people are beginning to think. I have written that before, and am encouraged by what I have been reading from thoughtful writers today. Some of it is maturity, and that usually happens over time with people. Some of it is people learning from mistakes (ours and their own), and realizing that they have been made; mistakes are a valuable learning tool, too seldom appreciated, especially today in a time when minds are too full of trivia, fun and fantasy. But there is hope; a great deal actually, when one takes the time to talk to some of our maturing young people and listen to what they have to say, and what they think. There is still a great deal of solidness in our people: even responsibility is beginning to come back, but then lack of that is less the fault of the young and more the fault of the wrong kind of influence that has been building over the last several generations
Influence; where does that come from? Self interest? We must always question those trying to exert influence; what is THEIR motive, and what might they have to gain by successfully spreading it? I used to call myself cynical; I now prefer skeptical; skepticism is healthy if not taken to extreme. And awareness? We have to realize what’s happening, and why. And that takes a little knowledge and thinking about it. We arrive back at that point; always. And motivation, of course: WANTING TO.
That is what makes this country special, despite what some may argue; we are allowed to express our thoughts freely, to DISCUSS them, and WANT to. But it must be done in the environment of concerned republican interest: government of the people and by the people – FOR the people.
Hierarchy, philosophy, theology – all of life; why is it the way it is? It just is, for reasons we will never understand, despite how much the arrogance of man assumes otherwise.
And in line with that, why are people the way they are? If we get by the why things are the way they are, the why WE are the way we are lends itself to some analysis that can be helpful, if we bother with it. I have discussed it before, and after the genes come influences and motivation. More? Perhaps, but I would contend they all emanate from those two, making it pretty simple. Of course it is NOT simple.
The simple in our world is always complex, and becoming more so, to a great extent because we LET it, not only by allowing ourselves to be influenced, but by eschewing motivation. And in many cases influence is just too strong; we let ourselves be coerced, driven. Why? Many reasons, but one is social; we let it happen because it is the easy way out, and we don’t want to hurt others’ feelings; and they know that. But then there is the flip side of that: we also want others to think well of us, to LIKE us. That is not a totally healthy motivation.
Simple? Complex? Then add in all the differences among us, the rivalries, the competitive objectives, jealousy, greed. ignorance and lust for power we have with respect to each other, and that which we see in our lives.
If you have sampled what I have offered before, you might ask: am I progressing or just going over the same things over and over again? That would be a valid question. I contend that as I start on something it builds in my mind on its own. Any reader might not see the difference, and there might not actually be much; but there is to me as I build upon what is in my mind. To any casual reader it might be just more blather; to me it is expansion of my mind and adding to my understanding of life. Which is essentially the basis of the first three words of this essay. Is there more? Sure; history, for example, and the reality that comes from it; technology. We are progressing at a blinding rate; not always consistently, not always in the right direction (right often not being discovered until later – unintended consequences). But hierarchy is the way we sort ourselves out due to our many differences; history is what has happened (even if we don’t entirely understand it, or even interpret it honestly); theology and philosophy (they are really the same, basically) are the tools we use to explain what we do not know, until we discover them through scientific inquiry.
Allow me to bore you with a bit of my personal, not because it is important, but because it is part of what I am trying to do; and that is to generate thinking and understanding. I went to bed night before last at about seven PM and went to sleep quickly. I was tired as I had gone through some stress that I won’t burden you with; but it derives from having had a rather severe concussion that I have had to deal with, because it has resulted in brain damage that influences my thinking; and acting, for that matter. But I awoke at about midnight, flooded with thoughts, that inspired me to get up and take notes, from which this diatribe are being taken (today’s publish is the result of necessary
editing, which I do not do well). I may have slept a little bit later, probably did, one really doesn’t ever know (even fid-bits don’t help that much), causing me sleep deficit, which of course is part of the problem; for the brain to repair itself, eight or nine hours of deep sleep is required. Part of the problem of aging is we don’t get enough of that.
Anyway, and here I am – again – hacking away at what I do. Weird? perhaps. Useful? it is to me. You can join me or not, your choice. Nor am I suggesting you listen to me and accept what I am saying; there is too much of that in our world today. I am only suggesting, if you are motivated to do so, that you think about it and provide your own application to it. Contrary, perhaps to what we believe, we are all capable of thinking; not all equally due to differences in basic equipment and influences, but also motivation; but we CAN all think.
Is it GOD talking to me? PIFFLE. Understanding of GOD is way above my pay grade; but I subscribe to the principles of both theology and philosophy and theology; particularly Western philosophy and Christian theology; but not Exclusively. I just process what comes through, however I can, with whatever tools I have developed over my lifetime – which of course are of inestimable importance – to me, but that’s another subject. And in so doing I march to the beat of my own drummers; I contend we must do that, but that is also another subject.
Let me add something about the theology part, if I may. I was talking to my son about Christianity and its principles, and he reminded me that all theologies have their principles, and some are profound. That is so true, and we should not forget it. The same is true of philosophy. There is much much of which it is useful to be aware – from many times and many places.
The point is that life changes, times change and we must adjust; it is difficult for all of us, but almost impossible for some. But to survive we must adapt, almost always with difficulty, and often via the taking of wrong paths. I read an article yesterday by a thoughtful scholar who suggested that we in the West much accept that we do not have the dominance of power we used to have, and will have to learn to adjust, first by learning to work with China. There also is much to think about, and immediately any reader can come up with numerous, yes, buts; of course; that’s what life is all about. But will anyone listen; few, probably, and that is a good deal of our problem.
So let me finish with one last admonishment: we should not take ourselves to seriously. And since that leads off on another tangent, I shall end there.