phaedo2000.com Blog


Unemployed Philosopher

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

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

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

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

“Let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder to the faults of those around me; let me praise a little more.” (but only when there it is deserved)
Glen Campbell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prevarication, Truth, Propaganda – and Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Inward, Family Disintegration and Perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bits of Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philosophy of Country Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media – What is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words, Words, Words.

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 4th, 2015

I had been having thoughts on this subject, and reading today something about it (although much more, actually) I thought I’d quote from it: “Importantly, language is a critical part of the grand crime because it denominates reality, the fabric of which Gnostics (paraphrase from one Gnostic text, it proposes gnosticism is liberation from language itself, denial). Through language the evil demiurge traps our minds into delineated patterns of thought, all rooted in what we falsely think is reality, like little micro-narratives we each have due to our cultural context and from which only a few enlightened ones can escape.” This is from an article written by Peter Burfeind in the (on-line) Federalist, produced, as is The Transom, by Pete Domenech. The Federalist is an article driven publication; the Transom is link based, but with running Domenech commentary. I recommend both highly.

So back to words; ever think about where they come from? Pretty elementary, thinking about the progress of man; how else could one communicate ideas? Ugh, just wasn’t enough, so they added more, many more. But what’s more, the definitions began to change as well, evolve if you like; not dramatically, but in tone and color; that’s called progress; although sometimes it might not seem like it.

One word, love in the Greek language, has five (or is it seven) different meanings; similar yes, but different: love of God and passionate love for example. Another I like is “cool.” Cool used to be warmer than warm but not cold. Then they added being cool toward someone, as acting cool, a logical extension. Now it is more like really impressive, or with it; not quite “hot” but close. Take “pithy”, pithy apple, pithy language – eh, one can see the connection. But there are so many: good or goods, what does good mean? An opinion perhaps? But you get the point; so what?

Well, looking at the quote from Burfeind, when using language, what is reality? It can be a slippery slope, and adding modern slang, one must almost have an instruction pamphlet to not only understand, but to distinguish the relationship with what it might appear to be from previous interpretations. As someone famous recently said in another context, “what difference does it make?” Well, it really does make a great deal of difference – or did, until Social Media and Twitter came along and made a bid to make the difference irrelevant – but also unintelligible. Sometimes is seems to me that it is almost impossible to understand inter-generational communication – if there is any.;

Are we finding it more difficult to communicate? I suggest there is no doubt of that, although causes go far beyond mere words; but the differences in meaning contribute? Absolutely! But then what does absolutely mean; the slang meaning is no where near what was originally intended: absolute zero versus you’ve got it right, bro; not quite the same. There is another twist also though: too often the simple, hip words are beginning to drive out more sophisticated and explanatory words; just as lighter entertainment is driving out deeper reading – even education seems to be heading in that direction: being more simple, more direct, but less illuinating; or as I would state it, dumbed down. Ahhh, intellectuality; nope, I ain’t no intellectual; I’m not even that smart, but I have strong motivation to develop learning; and more serious, more explicit language is an important tool both for learning and communication.

Hey, how about gross? That’s a good one. Stop, stop, enough; point made. Hopefully There are certainly more examples, but I am reluctant to pursue the research to uncover them.

Yes, we evolve as we must; and some of that evolution is involved with making things simpler. Good; until things become so simple – rote – we aren’t even aware we are doing it any more, or forget what we are doing, or why. That takes us away from mere words, and opens up new cans of worms, which we need not attempt to examine here. But words and their use are interesting, and critical to our culture; perhaps we should give them more consideration. We might think about them a little more; sound familiar? Is it a cop out?

“Read, think, disagree with everything if you like, but expand the mind outward.” I’m not going to let it go.

Culture

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 4th, 2015

“Words, words, words” leads me to culture, as one might think it would. Let’s take this limited meaning of culture: (Oxford 1996): “the customs, civilization and achievements of a particular time or people.” Culture evolves along with almost everything else. Ours is evolving rather rapidly , for reasons I should like to explore; or perhaps I should add: in my opinion. Culture, after all, is complicated. Ok, I have been challenged before about complicated; I say everything is complicated, but many do not agree, and I have been chastised for saying it; so be it.

Actually it is somewhat difficult to distinguish between what is changing, and what has always been but mostly forgotten by us. We have always had limited horizons; that is, we see things as they exist in our immediate bubble (life time, mostly) and not in broader perspective. So have we always seen things somewhat simplistically, or is the amount of information growing so rapidly that we are being forced to exclude other than what we can grasp? Maybe a little of each. Certainly when it comes to technical information the growth of information has become incredible and complex, defying detailed knowledge of much of it my most. But what of other, such as our day to day approach to life? I vote for increased complexity there too, part because of innovation, but more because of the inter-relationships among them – and us. Rather than trying to explain that, let’s go to my take on what’s been changing in our culture and what effects that has had. Note, this will not be comprehensive, but rather from a stream of consciousness.

We have gotten much bigger, meaning there are more of us to interact; but that means a vastly greater variety of almost everything: types of jobs, dreams and expectations and wherewithal to access them; but also information, not only technical but otherwise as well. Otherwise? Let’s look at entertainment, and its growing sophistication; and the Internet: media propagation of all kinds of information; propaganda. Expanded, that’s plenty for now.

Types of jobs and occupations are a no-brainer, but what of the expansion of women and children into those occupations and jobs? What of the growth of part-time jobs? How about contract work as opposed to salaried or hourly paid work? But then what of retirement and health care – including longer life spans that bring the need into focus? How about occupations associated with global trade? Or electronic communications and finance? Already it can be seen that the few items mentioned in these two paragraph are going to rapidly run together.

Dreams and expectations are partly due to why there are more jobs and occupations: innovation of all kinds. We have bigger houses, more travel and vacation opportunities, more stuff of almost unlimited variety. And we want them, and more and more of them. Moreover, if we become aware they are out there or other people have them, even if we don’t really need them, we often feel we need to have them. How about credit cards for making it all more readily possible? Is education not included in that? not necessarily because we want to be more learned, but we feel we need more education – or training – to be able to qualify for the jobs and occupations that support us in indulging ourselves in our dreams and expectations.

Entertainment has exploded because access to it has exploded: more innovation. We once had plays and other on stage performances; then came radio, movies and television, records, tapes, CDs and DVDs; and then the Internet. So much out there: music, drama, dance, comedy, sports, social networks – and even more serious information, or useful information needed for any number of things. Telephones should be in there somewhere, and certainly cell phones of increasing variety and complexity, but only recently can that be included as entertainment. And that feeds into all kinds of electronic devices developed for convenience, including many financial tools; not only credit cards (that are instant credit) but electronic fund transfer and payment on line through any number of different options.

Deidre McCloskey writes persuasively that all this has come through innovation beginning with what we refer to as the Industrial Revolution, that began in and developed in the West but is being acquired through many means throughout the world – all far more complicated than mere global trade. So we come back to more complicated, in so many ways.

Before we go too far afield with that, let’s just get into some results of it all – social results, if you will. I’ll not go into too much detail, but instead just list some of them. Anyone looking at them will know about them and have opinions, so rather than try and discuss them, here are some to think about.

Families are more stressed and more challenged – with all kinds of results, with all kinds of reasons and implications.

Social networks have changed the very means by which we communicate and define friendships.

Sports and fine arts have become vast entertainment businesses with more implications than we might realize.

Congestion of all kinds have developed with even more implications; and some we haven’t even thought about.

The means of and complication of the means of exchange for all this have become unbelievably challenging.

The Internet has impacted so much – all around the world, including opportunity crime – from all around the world.

Transportation? Let’s not even try.

Then there is the rest of the world and our position within it. So much to think about there.

So where is it all headed? that question again; who knows? but many try to predict; it is sure to be challenging, both internally and globally.

There are so many questions to ask; so many things to think about; so many variables; so many possibilities. It’s all we can do to keep up with them internally, but nothing exists “internally” any more; all is related and inter-dependent, whether we like it or not. Are we ready for it? I would contend we are not, and part of that is because we are not even sure of what the reality of it is, and reality is changing continually; but then there is human nature, and we even disagree these days on what that is. Do we even try to understand it? Certainly many don’t, and many of them don’t even want to. And that is part of the problem. We have so much, and are so fortunate, and don’t for the most part even appreciate it. Can we keep what we have? It will be a challenge; many challenges.

Culture, yes; but culture really is everything.

The Evolution of Liberality

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the January 2nd, 2015

I am engaged in reading several books: one by economist Deirdre N. McCloskey. entitled Bourgeouis Dignity; the other by Leonard W. Levy, entitled Emergence of a Free Press. McCloskey’s book is about the dramatic increase in economic activity in associated with and following the Industrial Revolution; Levy’s is about the development of free speech first in England and then in the United States, beginning in the 1600s. They are related, as Mccloskey points out so dramatically; because the cause of the hockey stick economic increase (her term) due to what she calls the dignity of commerial enterprise and the resulting wave of innovation; and the evolution of respect for liberty and individual rights that developed in England. That liberty evolution is what led to the economic explosion, and reading the two together is enlightening. Why?

Man tends to be tunnel visioned and has difficulty in seeing the relationship of among events over time, particularly because man tends to be mired in the present, and often almost mindless of what has occurred in the past, beyond the superficial; so there is a tendency to overlook details of the past and evolutionary connectivity. McCloskey and Levy are the kinds of writers who can help us overcome that tendency, if we embrace their efforts to do so.

In fact it’s even useful to go further back to begin to be able to see the evolution; evolution, you see, is difficult to appreciate, as it occurs only slowly across short life spans of individuals focused on the present. Picking an arbitrary starting point, we might say that the evolution of liberality began with the principles put forward by Christianity (through heavily contribution by Judaism); but we might also observe that it was inhibited by the conservative religious views expressed in the Middle Ages. Again I am reminded of the pendulum swings of history, often as interpreted philosophically – in the aggregate, (mostly) inexorably positive over long periods of time. Levy’s book brings that out fairly forcibly; McCloskey’s does as well, but in a more muted way.

The challenge, in my view, is adding philosophical analysis to the reality of history – and economics (and all else, for that matter). I use the underlying concept of human nature to try and help to explain it, although there are those that oppose use of that term. And to put that in current context I would like to bring in the controversy among “liberals” (I shall prefer to use “progressive” as it is now being used) and conservative: progressive, in my preferred brief definition is believing things can be as we want them to be; conservative being resistance to change. The problem is that things never can be quite as we want them to be and change cannot be resisted, which takes us back to human nature: change is erratic and difficult. And reality?……………..is reality.

I have touched on several of these matters in the past, and do not wish to try and rehash either McCloskey or Levy; but would like to point out the importance – and later the pitfall – of innovation and protection of property, of which ideas are inclusive. As McCloskey makes so clear, that combination is what has made the dramatic jump in productivity in our modern times. One need look no further than our complex investment environment, the Internet and explosion of electronic communication wonders to see that demonstrated. It takes no genius to see the innovation that has become so evident and its obvious results, not only in the United States and the West (including japan) but elsewhere as the technology and its use expand throughout the world – and even, I might add, in the operations of ISSI.

And there is the pitfall I see. There is perhaps somewhat less technological innovation than there is exploitative innovation. I am particularly mindful of that having seen the innovation of hackers intent upon using Western technology to access Western wealth through clever (and unprincipled) exploitation. I don’t think I need to explain that further; one need only look around with eyes and mind open to see it happening. Adding ISSI?

And there is the pendulum again: we jump on the band wagon of what works, and what we want to believe as it relates to us individually: opportunity. We will choke on it, in my opinion, as has always been our way: the reality of human nature. We are already beginning to choke on it – the excesses of the stock market, the ridiculous explosion of social network mentality and the exploited opportunities of the Internet, to mention just the obvious. This is not to denigrate the importance of any of them (and so many others) but to show the unintended consequences they inspire – and therefor swings of the pendulum. Opportunity, made possible by innovation, as a positive good will exploitation of that opportunity for bad, which will not be A positive good, at least in the short run; pain is rapidly approaching; nothing new there, as we have seen throughout the past; reality and human nature.

And then what? The end of the world, alas. No, no, no, it doesn’t work that way either; humans and lessor thinking animals have proven to be quite adaptive, and will continue to be so, if innovation is given its head.

But that brings us up upon another reality, which is also human nature: we are not all the same; in skill, intelligence, innovative ability, motivation, energy; that has been true throughout history and is unlikely to change – more than a little – which is, a positive; also apparent in evolutionary history, but only slowly, very slowly, and with continual swings of the pendulum along the way. Throughout the past that reality has evidenced itself in arrogance and elitism among those who considered themselves better, and to their credit, have proven more successful, defining successful as you will. Are we not seeing that rear its ugly head once more? Perhaps it never really went away, but its prominence today, probably because of the surge of encouraged innovation, is undeniable. In the past tribal leaders, aristocracy and might-makes-righters have shown where it takes us. But intertwined is contribution of thinking,motivation, energy, skill – and yes, innovation. All that has come together today in terms of a different kind of power; define that also as you will.

Where will that lead? Will the increase in regulation along with the inevitable lure of exploitation strangle progress? It already is strangling progress; call it what you like, I prefer elitism and arrogance, but also have to credit opportunism. None is monolithic; success, however achieved, feeds all: more human nature in action, reality. And the inability to control over indulgence? Can there be any doubt that it cannot be sustained forever? Nor can you isolate any of these and say, ah, there is the culprit, as many in the past have insisted upon doing; it all blends together, inextricably, whether we like it or not, and we don’t; or understand it, and we don’t and will not; nor accept it. This is reality.

But we will adjust and we will survive, whatever the nay-Sayers might insist; nay-Saying is another manifestation of arrogance and elitism; we take ourselves way too seriously, and always will, even those that have no right to. What will it look like? In a world of contentious human nature and aggressive reality, who can say? It will be interesting. The result will depend on the character we have developed over time, also not monolithic; character also varies widely – and over time. That is life and that is reality.

Think about it, if you have put up with me this long. But understand the tendency today has, and probably always will be, to reject it, and not think about it, to our peril, which I refer to as myopic complacency – or dangerous self-indulgence. Some will think about it, and they will be the ones that turn it around, albeit slowly, and likely painfully. How much help they get, however, will be up to us, those between the arrogant elite and ignorant recalcintants, who comprise the bulk of us.

Can we apply similar to actions among people in general and at the international level in particular? Dictatorship and anarchy are only the two extremes; perhaps a subject for another day.

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