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Life, Challenge of Present and Future, and Our Responsibility

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

I spend a significant amount of my available time grazing the Internet, looking for thoughtful articles from respected writers who offer a realistic view of possible, admittedly based on what I can tolerate, which helps me decide who to respect and what is realistic, giving me, as it does, the opportunity to compare contributions to decide what to respect and what is realistic. But, but……one might say…….I am biased. If so, and I admit it, how does one make reasoned judgment? Yes, I am biased, due to what I believe and what I think I have learned; but I like to believe I am reasonably open minded in being so. Those who might wish to challenge me, would disagree, meaning they challenge my right to think for myself, because I disagree with them. Mea culpa; it is the way I have to be, if I wish to think for myself, and I do. Take it or leave it; it is what I do; as I like to say, I am a scholar and I am scholling; one might challenge that too.

I am seeing much; disagree if you like; many do. One of my observations has to do with the growth of debt overhang, which is something that is almost indisputable these days. Another is a propensity to interpret “science” in different ways; still another is an observation from Joel Kotkin supported by Renn statistics, that suggest an almost perfect correlation between growing childlessness and support for today’s progressive policies. There is more, but my interpretation is it all represents a growing propensity to lean toward what’s best for young and mostly selfish pleasure seeking individuals who place mid-life “fun” (and support for it by taxpayers through favored government policies) above long term cultural responsibility, which seems to center on avoiding family responsibility in favor of “enjoying life” to the fullest extent possible. I have no intention of expanding much upon that, as such expansion has been done extensively elsewhere, if one knows where to look for it or cares to do so.

What it comes down to is the tendency I think I am seeing for people, particularly “young” people, to do what’s best for themselves in the short term, with the least possible effort on their part, and to hell with the consequences. And in a culture that respects individual rights of people to do what they wish to do, who can argue with that? Long term consequences to our culture versus such “individual rights”? Now there is a tough one, because it takes us to individual rights versus the common good, and that overturns the whole argument position of conservative versus progressive, which brings both positions into question, which I do continually, suggesting that each has become so convoluted as to be almost untenable. Conservative in what way? progressive in which way? Too many variables. Individual versus collective? Too broad. So people opt not to have children – or opt not to work if they are provided viable alternatives, whose business is that? So what will that do to our culture, to our economy; what is it already doing? Not my problem they would say; which in a very real way is true. Long term unintended consequences? Such is life, which is why we have constant change, which one extreme opposes and the other embraces; well, sort of, sometimes, maybe, depending………….life is complex. And there I go again.

That the unintended consequences are likely to be painful is something I do not question; but painful to whom? Again, may I suggest a not so distant cultural example: do it to Julia; let the devil take the hindmost as long as it’s not me, inevitably being some other guy, right? We learn from out mistakes – pain – and not from our successes; it has always been so, and the pain will sort us out, somewhat indiscriminately, perhaps; we can only wait and see about that.

So how can one assess the relatives of personal and cultural selfishness? Oh my, that is a really tough one, even if it were possible. But then, if one thought about that, one might want to lean toward more central control, where influence could be better applied by those who know best; oh, oh, we know where that leads. But if our leadership doesn’t take us where we need to go, and individual selfishness takes us in the wrong direction, what options do we have? Welcome to the conundrum of determining what form of government we should have, and the curse of human nature. We have great respect for hierarchical leadership until it clashes with individual rights; both are inevitably infected by human nature, and that will ALWAYS be problematic; hierarchy does not preclude selfishness, regardless of where on the hierarchy one might stand.

Oh woe; what is the answer? In short, there is no one answer. Sound familiar? We can only work together to find whatever works best in the long run, and that is a BIG challenge, that we are not addressing well. Lots of directions to go from there, depending on which we decide to choose, but in the short term, under our current form of government the choice will be ours, individually and collectively; the key will be leadership. Which do we choose and how do we choose it? If we choose unwisely history will likely choose for us.

Such is life – and reality.

Discussion of Correspondence With a Retired Teacher Friend

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

“Just having fun being myself and laughing.” These are the words of a friend of mine; I replied: “I think you are not giving yourself enough credit. Not that you don’t have fun and laugh, and that that’s not good, but what you are doing is more than that. I like to think of it as influencing. I have used nurturing, and that’s what happens within families, with children; but what difference between nurturing and influencing? Degree perhaps? Words words.” My friend is a retired teacher, and was a very good one, probably still is.

It occurred to me that what she was addressing was in fact another step in the maturing process. And it is what she had been doing all though her career, being herself, and laughing, but more: developing the right climate to make influencing possible. The respect her former students have for her? Because she laughs and is herself? Much more than that; she had influenced them, and continues to do so in retirement with her respect and concern for them. THAT is really what “being yourself” is, and putting self – sincerely – on a level with others so that they can deal directly as equals, not in experience, and they realize that, but in ability to relate as individuals that are respected – and cared for. They appreciate that, and it shows.

That is what she really had been doing while being herself and having fun; and is still doing in retirement; isn’t that what it’s all about? One of the reasons for difficulties between age groups is that feeling of superiority older people have, just because they are older; and resent that younger people don’t give them credit for it. Arrogance? More than that, perhaps; maybe just expectation of the older generations that do nothing to earn it; we expect to be venerated for just being older, as used to be the norm. So it takes more than that now? Why not? It doesn’t excuse the young for not showing respect, but then it shows us olders that that is not enough; we also have to earn it.

We, our culture, have been tending toward sliding too much into self. Not that that isn’t the natural state of man (selfishness), and necessarily, as it is a reflection of the need to survive. But how about OUR responsibility to demonstrate what we are doing to continue to justify it? Too many today are so involved in self that they are not doing what families require, and that is what is beginning to show; and more.

Yes, I generalize, and I contend that some generalization is necessary to get from specific to cultural. Too much? I don’t mean to, but I tend to lump all into generalization. The right way to do it is to make evaluations individually, and that’s flipping back the other way, going from general to specific. We should discuss cultural trends with generalization; we should deal with individuals based on personal merit. Too much preaching and pushing opinions; too little honest, sincere, personal relationship and evaluation does not accomplish that. That is what one has to do, to be effective. Teaching? yes, but more; I prefer to refer to it as coaching; there is a difference, and too many teachers today don’t understand that. Yes, another generalization. What we all should be doing is trying to help each other – to help themselves; that’s different from just helping them. Just helping them creates dependency; helping them help themselves creates independence. Do parents today prefer that? many seem to; how general is that? Maybe it’s easier; maybe it’s arrogance of those who have aged but not really matured, but expect to be treated as if they have. Maybe maybe.

And helping them just to be happy, by providing them with stuff, as we are so prone to do? What is important is not being “happy”, whatever that means, but being content with self, for valid reasons, demonstrated; maybe self confidence is the appropriate word, but with justification, and that is what really matters. And that is what my friend had been doing by being herself and laughing; and she is still doing it.

It is all about principles; religions have always been about principles. Truth, honor, responsibility, reliability and all the rest. But religions are administered by men (generic) and men are fallible; they are susceptible to lust for power, greed and a need to feel important; it shows, and results too often in myopic and often arrogant selfishness. The solution? Wanting to observe the principles; really observe them, and employ them in daily life. What does that take? Motivation, wanting to do it. Not so easy; we are too busy with selves.

Note, as I have before, that we cannot motivate people; we can only create an environment in which they motivate themselves; thus motivation is a two edged sword; it is sharing. And is that not what life is all about? or should be. The basics of religions, almost all religions, if they are really religions, recognize this; but man corrupts, unfortunately. Our nation is rooted on similar beliefs – for good reason, and the result is the overwhelming success we have achieved, so far: individual incentive and principles. People know what that means, deep down, but they are blinded by what they think they want at the moment, as well as lack of self motivation to make it happen, for any number of reasons. So why do we tend to be so unhappy much of the time? That word again: happy; what does it mean? Do we even know? Pleasure, usually transient; things, as many as possible – I won’t go into all that again; We do not, my opinion of course, stop to give consideration to what really matters, nor do we seem to care, beyond immediate pleasure – and fun. Drugs for example; pleasure? Ah, that is a tangent that we do not need to pursue, because we KNOW where it leads.

I am preaching again? I suggest otherwise; coaching perhaps, maybe pleading. The secret to a good and fulfilling life is not very difficult to find; but it is difficult to accept in a world where we have too much, expect more, and demand to be praised for whatever pleases us to be praised for. Most us could live with less, share more and reach out more; so why don’t we? That is also not too difficult to determine.

What really matters? Yes………….what really matters?

My friend demonstrated this continually throughout her career, and it has been recognized by students who have studied with her; they might not totally understand, as they are still undergoing maturation, but they know what it feels like, and appreciate. That is influencing, partly accomplished by example, partly accomplished by coaching. That, after all, is all we can do, and we have to do it, each our own way. Have fun being yourself and laughing is a great beginning. We cannot motivate people, but we can create an environment where they can motivate themselves. My friend did that, and continues. We all can.

My friend, Sandra Hurdelbrink, retired recently from teaching in the Henrico County District of Richmond, Virginia; but she has not stopped offering valuable positive influence. I offer this essay to honor her for her contribution.

Complexity in Our Lives

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the May 19th, 2015

I attempt to discuss it regularly when and where I see an opportunity; it is usually resisted for obvious reasons. Complexity is not understood – because it is complex, and difficult to understand. And we have little tolerance for what is difficult to understand. I keep trying, and in the process attempt to share what I can; it is resisted because most don’t have the tolerance for it. This morning I read an engaging analysis of the current world situation that provides a cogent example. I forwarded it to some friends, and pretty well know what to expect. That’s not me being judgmental, it is the reality of understanding the complexity of the world, and our resistance to trying to understand it.

But prior to that I had had some thoughts of a different kind of complexity; the complexity in our daily lives, that brings similar frustration. I thought I would attempt to share some of them.

First, my telephone bill. I understand that companies prefer to bill and receive payment on line; it is cheaper for them. I attempt to accommodate, as I can, and did so with my AT&T phone bill – for awhile. But suddenly my payment on line was rejected; why? As I recall it probably had to do with my password, the one I had been using; but sometimes I forget and get it wrong; I am not suggesting that I am blameless, far from it; I make many mistakes. But now I cannot pay my telephone bill on line, although it is sent to me via email. I tried to find out why, and get it resolved, but with no success. So I wait until I receive the paper bill; it takes a while, because I know the company is hoping I’ll pay it on line and they can save the cost.

I encountered a similar situation trying to comment on articles on line. I have done that for some time, primarily not to get into a social media argument, but to compliment the writer; then suddenly the Disqus account wouldn’t accept it. I tried many things to no avail. I finally sent comments directly to Ben Domenech (The Transom and The Federalist publisher) and told him I had been unable to comment at the end of the article. Very soon thereafter I received a reply from Domenech that had forwarded my comment to him, to his security support people, and their reply. Ben said let this guy comment. The support folks replied, sorry, he must have been caught in one of our spam sweeps. Very revealing, actually.

I am familiar with programming and programmers, and their arrogance. That may sound a bit harsh, but IT programmers are skilled technicians, know what they are doing, and don’t have much patience with us neophytes that can’t keep it all straight. Programmers, associated with business enterprise, are always looking for a better way, either to make things simpler for users, or cheaper for the businesses they represent. That is a good thing. But it results in changes that we unaware neophytes are neither prepared for or understand, and the unintended consequences too often do not come to the minds of programmers, to whom it all comes as kind of automatic, as they are involved with it constantly. And that applies to many regular users too, that also respond almost automatically, for the same reasons. I am often caught in the middle, partly due to my aging memory, partly due to difficulty in adjusting; I am not excusing myself. But the result can be frustrating.

Before leaving that let me go back to the spammers. Electronic communications and the ease of action that it inspires has created an entire new growth industry – or opportunity, if you will. Spamming? Hacking? On-line embezzling and stealing? And industry, and government too for that matter, have to try to deal with it. That is also complex, and drives much of the change that is required, as the good guys try to stay ahead of the bad guys, with great difficulty.

Let me throw in another recent experience. A friend attended a lecture presentation, part of a series presented by the Richmond Daily Dispatch newspaper on problems with incarceration. The primary problem is the cost of incarceration and the impact it has on lives when it occurs. I won’t go into detail, but young people who make a mistake can be marginalized for life – or at least for an extended period. The thrust was, there must be a better way. There is, but it is anything but simple, takes a great deal of individual effort and is expensive; that means complex. And there is always the in-between: give too much leniency and encourage people to continue in their profligate ways; where is the line? That is part of the complexity.

Our lives are more and more like that. Then, as I said, I just read the STRATFOR piece discussing the complexity of our current modern world. I won’t even attempt to go into that. But suffice it to say it is difficult to follow, and very hard to put into context. Our lives are like that at almost every level, and for the most part we are not ready for it, or, for that matter, are most of us willing to make the effort to prepare ourselves to be; and it does take an effort, and lots of it. It is interesting to see how similarly individuals and states react to each other – both based on self interest.

Another; a book about the steel industry in Baltimore and broader results of similar I have read with some regularity lately. Automation and computers have changed our world, and we are not keeping up. Many of the blue collar skilled technician vocations are changing, requiring those who wish to be a part of them to learn new skills; but they are not so much manual skills as they are those that require more complex education, for which many are unprepared, and resist. Again, I shall not go any further into that; we have discussed our education challenge previously.

Now superimpose the drug culture and what that is doing to too large a part of our population. Why drugs? We all know the attractions they present, mostly pleasure. But how about our entertainment industry and all the social network influences imposed on us, that transcend the influence of families, that have been weakening over three generations? Complex? Oh yes. I think a lot about such things, for whatever good that does, since even if I knew what should be done, I have neither power nor influence to pursue it. So I do what I am doing; useful? Probably not, since its dissemination is very limited, and let’s face it, its value is probably limited as well, even if it were given more attention.

My point? More steam of consciousness; we live in an increasingly complex world, for which most of us are ill prepared, and not too anxious to engage, at the depth it requires. It will become more so, and it will challenge us, continually and emphatically. Life has always challenged and we have grown to accommodate, but the pace of challenge is exceeding the growth. So, be ready? It’s more complex than that. And just with these simple examples it has to be apparent that the changes – the complexities – are occurring at all levels of our culture and economy, and at a rapid pace. And beyond that we resist, ignore, argue and oppose.

As always, much to think about; and we must, unpleasant as the task may be. Oh, we’ll get through it, somehow, but with great difficulty, and we might want to think about that as well.

The Radical Fringes – Be Wary

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

If we accept that we are all different, as we must, and realize that we all distribute ourselves in a normal distribution (bell curve), as we do, we must also accept that there are radical fringes, the feet of the distribution curve. 2%? 5%? It varies; normal does not mean always the same, just the same general shape; nor is the radical fringe on one end always the same as that on the other end. That’s what makes life interesting – and why we must be wary; because there are radical fringes – always. One might suggest that this is just another way of getting to moderation, and it is, but from a bit different perspective. Myrer again: ” Read, think, disagree with everything if you like, but force the mind outward.” If all we do is say the same thing over and over again, that’s not progress. Progress is when each time a subject is addressed, something is added, hopefully something significant. That’s why I keep doing this; I like to see growth of perspective.

Rich/poor. brilliant/stupid, arrogant/docile, and on and on, are examples of fringes. I started to add intelligent and ignorant, but I didn’t, since intelligent and ignorant are more relative. But then, when you get down to it, it’s all relative, isn’t it? As well as subjective. So let’s not attempt to define what the extremes are, but just accept that there are extremes and they make a difference, regardless of how one might want to isolate them. The far right and far left radical political fringes in our culture is why I prefer to see myself as a moderate.

But “right” and “left” are no longer adequate any more, because there have been so many “issues” added, such as immigration, diversity, education philosophy, welfare debt. All and more are emotional issues, largely seen through myopic lenses, and lacking understanding – to use the flip side words: fraught with ignorance. Is that not what moderation is? Yes, I know that’s not what it means to many today, who consider it surrendering of principles. But then I even question whether those who would argue that way even understand what principles are. Let’s attempt to wander through the morass.

The worst part is opinion, frequently only half formed, and often poorly supported by fact, often dominated by emotion. Part of that is because of poor definition of what is being addressed; another part is poorly defined boundaries of what is being considered. Expand that in any direction you like; we address too many things at once, usually from emotion, but try to reach a concrete conclusion, which is often impossible. It is impossible because when defining too broadly we often not only mix metaphors but stuff two many diverse thoughts into the same box, mainly because once we conclude THIS is so, it is too easy to add, without thinking too deeply, that so is THIS and THIS and THIS and THAT. Once we are on a roll they all SEEM to fit into the same mold.

Let’s go back to the fringes; why do they exist? Because that’s life: if everything one is different, some will be differenter than others. But then, the deeper ignorance extends, the weirder can be conclusions. Imagination has something to do with that as well; it doesn’t take much for the imagination to begin to run away, and perceptions become fact in our minds. Think about that; facts and perceptions; how do we know which is which, ignorance being what it is? And memory; something that once might have been close to fact has wandered in the mind; or facts have changed and what is in our mind remains what was placed there, before the change took place.

So what can be done about it? Open minds are a place to begin, but open minds require continual learning – and wanting to learn, with an open mind. Beefing up the intellectuality of moderation; that might help, theoretically, but only if we understand the difference between what is fringe and what is moderation. There will always be fringes of human nature; if somehow they miraculously disappeared, they would just as miraculously reappear with the next wave of human thinking – partly because things are not only always changing but are in constant flux; today’s fringe might become tomorrow’s moderation and visa-versa. But even more than that, we are likely to disagree which is which, continually; more human nature.

I would contend, however, that the broader view taken, the more moderation can be expected; that is, we are likely to disagree more on specifics that generalities. Generalities? Try principles of life. What really matters. Is it not more likely that we could agree on principles of life than specifics? Ah, but then the more general the less specific, perhaps the blurrier becomes what is being discussed. And there we go. It is also possible that when one goes from the specific to the general people confuse what is being talked about, having to do perhaps with our inability to multitask in our thinking. If that is right, the rest must be ok too. Lazy thinking perhaps? Or just plain boredom might also set in.

Reality? Can we agree upon that? Not likely. We know it when we encounter it, IF we are paying attention, maybe.

So why should we be wary? Well, first of all we should ALWAYS be wary. Of what? almost everything. Suspicious? no, just wary. Wary (Oxford again): “On one’s guard; given to caution. circumspect”, but then at that point Oxford throws in suspicion as well. Words, don’t you love them? Concepts are a better approach; often several words do a better job than just one. But more to the point, and this is where radical comes in, and the concept of moderation and normal distribution; radical IS the feet of the bell curve, and differs most from the commonly held position. So the commonly held position is always right? Hmmmmm, of course not; propaganda may generate the commonly held position. And there we go again; again.

The wisdom of moderation? That can be tricky too. I prefer accumulation of bits of wisdom to a broader “wisdom” but that’s because I have great respect for experience, and I think experience – and giving serious thought to it – helps us through the morass that inevitably appears and tends to surround us; experience includes not only our own, but that of others, and the ability to take a longer view, based on all that entails. And that leads to what is most important to me, and what I would refer to as the real “wisdom” of moderation: The fringes are often selfish, and more likely to lack factual basis, when seen over time; to wit: the selfish fringes of life tend not to work, as has been proven, over time; the benefit of moderation tends to tamp down, if not stamp out, radical fringes.

Broad perspective tends to (although not always will) smooth out the effect of radical fringes. Think about it – in broad perspective.

Humanity – Human Nature – How We Are

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the May 15th, 2015

So interesting to sit back and watch humans and human nature in action – if we can keep our own egos from getting in the way. People are actually quite consistent, not for the value of what they do, but just what they do.

First comes the extremes; they tend to predominate. Mainly that is because of differences of opinion, and to differentiate ourselves we seem to have to want to make the differences obvious. Along with that is a tendency to believe black and white, that either/or must be true. It seldom is that way, because so much is related, and much influences other. So is it this or that? Maybe neither, but probably both or many. That also is reflected in causation; we expect to be able to identify a cause for everything: this is why it happened! There is seldom, in any complex occurrence, a single cause, but several, even many. That is why I dislike polls: yes/no/don’t know. Polls are for the purpose of collecting statistics and three options are easier to collect and graph. Well, how about……? Such is not welcome; diverse opinions collect too many opinions that have to be analyzed, and dealt with, and evaluated – and don’t make for good stats.

Thinking and reasoning; that is something we don’t do well. Why not? It takes effort and some background knowledge and understanding; which also takes effort. We have been programmed to look an easier way.

Emotion and reaction are a preferred approach, and that’s why we adore social media; and commenting on articles written by others has become an offshoot of social media, an opportunity for us to tell others what WE think. If you might have noticed, we love to do that; it makes us feel important. We really do tend to take ourselves too seriously. One might think that would be limited to those with great knowledge; not so. Everyone knows what they think they know, or maybe that should be think they know what they know; it comes to the same thing. Few of us KNOW much but many of us THINK we do and like to show it off.

What is discouraging is the vast potential that exists in accumulated brain power, and how little it is demonstrated, both individually and collectively. Individually one must try; collectively all must pay attention, try to understand, and then try. Standing on the shoulders of giants comes to mind; how often do we do that any more? More often than one might think, but socially it’s not cool. Contention is much cooler, and gets more attention. Ego, arrogance and ignorance are all in play.

So what to do? Learn more and think more come to mind; but so do listening and trying to understand before just talking – or writing. Trying to work together would help too, and many think tanks today do, very well, and many writers pick up on what they produce and contribute; but then media and social media weigh in and turn it into vapid controversy, which is what sells – attracts attention, and do we LOVE attention.

It’s just the way we are. And probably have always been; but today there is so much more information, and therefor so much more opinion, often perhaps with information background, but little factual knowledge and experience background. Who, one might ask today, needs that? But then there are also many more ways of offering our opinions, instantaneously and at little or no cost; hey, why not, ours is as good as any other, right?

So what comes next? Stay tuned; there is much more to come. We have the wind in our sails.

How Little Things Change – Really

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

We live in our bubbles, limited by vision fore and aft; it is our way. Things fore are changing rapidly, especially with the Internet and social networks, but also in the gimmicks that transmit it all. And all the other things we love so much; such as the new Boeing 787 aircraft – all the rage. But in the end little really changes save the gimmicks, and entertainment, the fun. Oh…..but the difficulties? What of the difficulties?

We are suddenly in terrible times. Debt is out of control; the economy is down and the young can’t find jobs. And……and……and, well, it’s just terrible. Really? What of the past? Oh piffle, who thinks about the past? That’s over. And what have we learned? What? Learned? Zip, there it sails, right over our heads.

We have become poor! Hillary said so; oh woe, poor us.

We are by far the richest country in the world -ever; and according to something I read this morning (that I don’t necessarily accept, since I am a skeptic): half of all the immigrants in the world are coming to our country. If things are so bad, why would they, whether it’s half or something less? Because we are the richest country in the world, with the most freedom, liberty and opportunity – at least until our arrogant elitists manage to change it with more regulations – to make it more fair!

Ok, let’s accept that we are in a down-turn, and things are not looking as good as they have been looking. Why?………….why? it’s not our fault!

Let’s look at it with a bit of an open mind. How about out of control credit card debt to finance all the things we can’t possibly do with out, but can’t afford? What of all that student debt to finance fancy college educations for which there is little demand, so that they can earn big salaries, that might not be deserved – to load up on more unnecessary luxuries we COULD live without? How about expectations? Such as? Big screen TVs, lots of them all over the house; fancy cars, one for everyone in the family and maybe an extra of two (you know, the van, the truck or the camper); and vacations….don’t forget vacations, FANCY ones, they are important! Why? don’t ask. We DESERVE them. And don’t forget cell phones, the latest and greatest; don’t ever forget about cell phones!

Meanwhile, again today’s news, more than half our population saves nothing, and many have much less net worth than they expected to have at this time in their lives. It’s not our fault!! It’s not fair! what’s not fair? having to live within our means? Wait a minute; we are such a rich country, why shouldn’t we have high expectations, each of us, regardless of what we have done to earn them? We deserve it. Really? Could that be part of the problem? Perhaps if we stepped back a bit and looked at it with an open mind. Reality? Is there no relationship between unrealistic expectations and a drop into “difficult” times? We don’t think about that; it has nothing to do with it. Blame it on the greedy oligarchs – capitalism!!

And we are bringing up our children to believe that; and have been for three generations.

I could go on, but I won’t. Why do I need to? Anyone who can open eyes and think about it should see what it’s all about. It is what it has always been about! time after time, generation after generation, and recession after recession. It is REALITY. Why can we not see that? We don’t want to. You see, we want things to be the way we want them to be, and think it should just happen that way all the time….when things are good; and when they’re bad we bitch and complain. How about the effort we make? Uh, oh, there I go again. The playing field is not fair….and….and….and. Same old rant.

I just keep going over the same old things, over and over again. Should I just stop? Nah, it keeps me energized. And thinking!

But…..and this is more of the same old thing; think about it, really think about it and see if it doesn’t make sense. But while you are you might throw this in as well: we are all in this together, and what one does can affect many, and often does. So what do we do about that? More thinking and trying to understand what working together requires. And how do we get everyone to be responsible, and pull their weight? Ahhhhh, that gets on down to real reality; and that one ain’t simple. That one is life.

Now, don’t you feel better?

Moderation – My Take on

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

This is more stream of consciousness, to which I am addicted; I awake in the early morning, take notes (sometimes) on what has been pouring through my brain, and go with it, if I can still decipher it when the sun comes up.

Conservatism versus Progressivism; they both have problems; the answer, my view, is somewhere in between. So what’s the matter with Conservatism? Resistance to change; that’s not reality. And what’s wrong with Progressivism? Progress at any cost; I can’t believe in anything that does not entail cost, especially when the progress gives little thought to what matters, as long as it’s progress, however defined.

Rich versus poor? I have problems with both extremes. Rich that is arrogant and unconcerned with other than self I consider unacceptable; poor that is due to lack of incentive and motivation loses my respect. But what is in between? and causes? Much, and each case requires individual attention and consideration. Income gap comes to mind. Is there one? Yes. Is it becoming more serious? Perhaps it is, for many reasons. One is because some have unreasonable expectations that are not backed up by personal effort. Another is that those that are highly motivated and energized have similar expectations that lead them to believe that whatever they achieve is theirs and they deserve it. There is a place in between. Difficult to find? sure. But free enterprise, controlled by reasonable regulation to avert taking undue (that is, illegal) advantage, makes that possible – not assured, but possible. THAT is why our economy is what it has become, and so many want to come here to take advantage of it; but too few understand what that entails: when there is reward there is also risk, and potential for pain; we must learn to deal with both, the bitter with the sweet. The fact that we don’t like that, if we are not among the winners, is immaterial; that is life.

Now, living within one’s means I believe in. But that does not preclude taking on debt, if done reasonably, which means still within means. Much business requires taking on debt; government too. But it easily gets out of hand, if not managed with reason and care. And that is THE problem. We get carried away; we take ourselves too seriously; and get too greedy – at both ends. Personal responsibility comes to mind; whatever happened to that? Oh, it’s still around, but too easy to ignore when temptation weighs in, and it does. Leadership is important too, for the same reasons; but WE choose our leaders. Intelligently, for the right reasons? whose fault is that? On that matter, government and personal debt, throughout the world, are out of control, and there will be pain when the accounting comes due; it is inevitable. It’s form, the timing, the extent of the pain and to whom? Unknown, and probably unknowable, despite the predictions. Such is life; over indulgence inevitably leads to collapse and pain – but not for all; for those that are unprepared, yes.

From that I jump to motivation (as I so often do) and blaming others. We have to understand that things don’t just happen, unless we are in there helping make them happen – for ourselves – and not blaming someone else, everyone else, because it doesn’t. EVERYTHING has to come from within; which doesn’t mean that one doesn’t need a lot of help to build an environment in which motivation can take root; but in the end it is up to us, each, individually – but that’s where family comes in as well. Then, that’s also the argument for people working together, something else we are having difficulty in doing today; and to do that we have to WANT to, and work at it. Let me throw in here that we learn from our mistakes, and when things don’t go right it is up to us to figure out why not, and try to do something about it, with whatever assistance we might be able to muster; that also, up to us to develop and encourage. It all comes down to relying on self, but understanding the need to work together; compassion, yes, but only for those that make the attempt to help themselves: helping people to help themselves and take responsibility, and expecting them to do so.

Yet another jump; stream of consciousness (from the notes I made several early mornings ago): Our current social dilemma; I don’t particularly care what others do, as long as it doesn’t produce seriously dangerous impact upon others. But don’t tell us what we have to accept or respect, in terms of what they want to do; go for it, suffer whatever consequences that come, but don’t come whining to us, or becoming irritated because we don’t embrace what they have decided to do, if we don’t particularly approve. Which doesn’t mean we are entitled to criticize; but neither do they have a right to criticize US, if they ask and we don’t approve. In this respect discrimination is natural and necessary, until it results in hurting others, and that is a murky area; just because someone is miffed because of our opinion of what they are doing does not constitute our “hurting” them. The difference can be difficult, and is usually a matter of opinion.

Let me suggest a rather dramatic example: I am opposed to anarchy because I understand the chaotic pain it creates; but I am equally opposed to an elitist attempt to dictate what the elite KNOW must be done. In between those extremes lies my definition of moderation.

On the one hand we must stop pushing solutions that are not reasonable – and can not work over time, for everyone. On the other we cannot condone that which is great for some, but unfairly debilitating for others. Tough? Oh, yes; very challenging. It takes a great deal of understanding, and thinking, to achieve, including anticipation of unintended consequences – that inevitably occur, due to people and the way they are, and how they view responsibility and entitlement – and opportunity, whether fair or taking unfair advantage. Oh, and did I mention leadership? Yes, I did; I went back and made sure that I did.

Compromise? We detest the word, misunderstanding what it inevitably entails. Laws are compromises, always. Life is continual compromise, which only works if basic principles are observed. And they are? We all know what they are, or should, if we think about it; they are the good and evil that have been with us from the beginning of time, and with which all theology struggles, not necessarily consistently.

That is life, and it is a constant challenge for all. We pays our money and makes our choices – personally and collectively. We need to understand that, and the consequences for doing what we do – or not doing what we do not do.

Stream of consciousness, non-sectarian sermon over. Whew!

Reality

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

Progressive versus Conservative? Rich versus poor? Actually it’s people who make an effort. That is reality.

So, what really is reality? It is the way we are; the way we think, act – what we do and how we do it; it is us. Therefore it is very complex; and it changes. For good or worse? Yes; sometimes at the same time.

To govern this effectively, much is needed, but deciding what requires a view of reality, and that is a good deal of the challenge. Reality means what works and why; what doesn’t work and why; and ability to see why the difference, which includes unintended consequences. That’s why in government we need leadership, experienced, knowledgeable and introspective leadership; which we are privileged to be able to select through voting. We don’t do a great job of it, however, because we make little attempt to define those qualities, which would take effort on our parts, which too few exert – or even think much about. We choose leaders because we ‘like’ them; either because they agree with us; or they help us, vote things that we like, and make us feel good. That’s not enough. What ever happened to qualifications and proven ability – and all the other things that go into making a leader, with which many of us are aware, but too few of the rest even seem to care? That is today’s reality.

It all has to do with differences among us, although that’s too simple too, because with all those differences, we have rather similar expectations. So perhaps the great reality is that with all the differences, many see no reason that we can’t all achieve the same results. I like that; I didn’t think of it and then work toward it, it just came out. Seems to me, that kind of brings it all together; maybe the reality of our irrationality? That irrationality has to do with, it seems to me, the assumption, rather forced on us, I might add, that we can all do whatever we please, and expect, nay DEMAND, the same outcome.

Oh it does become convoluted, because those differences still exist; and those that make the effort expect to see the results of it, but those that don’t make the effort think they should too. It CANNOT HAPPEN that way, because if there is no effort there WOULD BE few results to share. But the unmotivated masses and their do-gooder adherents refuse to accept that.

Elitism lives; elites are the ones that make the effort (or hang onto the coat tails of those that do). Crony politics is an example; that’s something like bribery, but more refined and acceptable. On the other end the egalitarian believers have their own gimmicks. One of them is welfare, which is essentially I need so you owe me. The other big one is learning to exploit the opportunities created by the elite through whatever means present themselves. I was going to leave this for another essay, but it keeps intruding; life in my aging head is like that; so let me throw it all in and call it the dichotomy of good and evil – and related unintended consequences.

Part of it I lump together as our packing tendencies, from which envy and expectation derive; and which doesn’t fit at all with the differences; but then our freedoms, and expectations thereof, are what make the alternate opportunities available. Then today there is something new, and I am beginning to think it is what is driving our current – and must ultimately be disastrous – culture. It is a small, but influential, and growing due to influences, body of “progressive”-thinking activists who want to blur it all into one, and ignore the reality. It is so confusing because these “progressive”-thinking activists are also elitist, and having come to their (illogical, in my opinion), conclusions think they can make it all work by deciding what the end game should be, and forcing everyone to accept whatever may be necessary to make IT reality, which is only possible if they make that happen. Nothing new here; a casual review of history has always shown that this is the way it has worked. Will it again? I doubt it, because freedom and liberty have made significant changes, IF, not yet accompanied by enough knowledge, understanding and ability to reason; but it will be enough to make it difficult to push it all back in the box. Even then, isn’t that what has been the cause of most of the revolutions of the past? that, of course, accompanied by greed and expectation.

Without going into detail, is this not what almost all of the crazy activism of the recent past is all about> Question, if you like; disagree, but explain why. Whether to do with tradition, religion, opportunities or expectation, our differences have been accepted because of the way founding government envisaged it, and organized it – together. But with the myopic binding the Internet and communications have wrought, accompanied by having too much, and not thinking enough about reality of what comes next, we have been moving away from that binding. And typically, when it comes to the nature of humanity, to bind it back up will retire elite (power) actions, something that has been evolving for a handful of decades.

We bash; we humans are accomplished bashers, but we are not blessed with ability to put it all together in a whole fabric, with which we might be able to better see reality – and unintended consequences. So we bash business (free enterprise), Progressivism, Conservativism, democracy, globalism, every one who is different from us, and anything else we happen not to like; and preen about it, saying what a good boy am I; all the while selfishly priding ourselves in………….whatever it is that causes us pride; there is almost no end to that.

Where are we headed? That’s WAY above my pay grade. But change has been happening forever, and this is just the latest episode. The fact that increasing complexity makes each wave that more challenging is just part of the game. And maybe my view is wrong; and then maybe my view, however poorly it may have been put together, is something people don’t want to hear, which qualifies it for the bash bin. But I am seeing a building of something like this view, adding a bit here and there as it grows, and concern because of it. I think that, and the problems that it has created, and the pain that I expect to come as a result, portend a change. Our history includes many, and this is just yet another; the same? No, none have ever been just the same; each, in our evolution, has its own nuances. So? What? As I say, above my pay grade. I don’t have the solutions; I don’t think anyone does; we are in this together, and will have to deal with it imperfectly, as we always do.

There is plenty being written and discussed out there. All one needs to do is avail self of it, from whatever perspective; and then think about it.

That is the reality all of us must have in mind these days..

Introspection

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the May 1st, 2015

Why are people the way they are? Why do they do what they do? Influence.

Influence? Such as? think about it; our lives are dominated by influences: aside from genes; they come from parents, friends, teachers, coworkers and experience, from that we determine how to evaluate what we see and decide what we are going to do. Humans are pack animals; we think, but to do so need stimulus. It comes from influences. Genes? That’s a different discussion: ability to think and reason may be dependent upon genes, as are many physical characteristics; but where is the dividing line between genes and nurturing? It may exist, but if so I am not competent to explain it.

Influences are strong because our initial knowledge, aside from what is genetically carried from the birth process, is virtually non existent, so we have only experiences from which to absorb through learning from them. The first after birth come from observing and interacting with parents and siblings, next from playmates, then from formal education, after which experience, including non-formal education; that is personal education; begins to dominate. But it is an interactive process throughout, and much depends on the initiative – the motivation – of the source, which, of course, can be influenced by genes, but also much else.

That’s simple enough; but of course it is anything but simple. What drives motivation? To say influence is probably missing the point, as does genetics, as even does nurturing; although nurturing can contribute so much. So let’s go back to the question, or at least the second part of it; why do people do what they do? I suggest it is a very complex process.

A Fox news article the other day provided an example. A mother was watching the news concerning the recent events in Baltimore, becoming concerned, since she had a sixteen year old son who was not at home; so she went out to see for herself. Lo and behold, there on the street she recognized her son, despite the hoody, with a brick in his hand. She reacted as few others had done, stepping out into the street and taking charge – of her wayward son; for which enthusiastic Fox reporters nominated her for mother of the year. The obvious question she had, after taking control, was why did you do it? The answer, surprise surprise, began with my friends…………….enough said. Influence. So where did the friend’s influence come from? the piece didn’t attempt to even suggest, and we’ll never know. Media footage? Social media? Another friend? Curiosity? Somewhere in the murky background had to be some initial motivation. Coming up with a list of suggestions for that is something we can all do.

Where is the dividing line between getting the idea and acting upon it? Another unknown; but influence is as good an explanation as any. Why are some people more susceptible to influence than others? Genetics? perhaps, but maybe not. The dividing line, in an individual mind, must be murky at best, perhaps spurred by emotion, perhaps driven by something else that might have been lurking in the brain prior to be exposure; more influence. My trusty Oxford again? pretty much more of the same, and thus not all that helpful, save this: “moral ascendency or power”, both external and internal. And here is another: “(Astrol.) an ethereal fluid supposedly flowing from the stars and affecting character and destiny.” Why do they have to cite the stars? that’s clear indication of not knowing for sure.

But our subject was introspection, where does that come in? When you don’t really know, and it comes from inside, all you can do is think about it, and thinking about it is likely to be the difference in what results; asking why? How much do we think about it? Not enough. But that’s not only about motivation; it’s about everything that passes through our lives. We tend to accept the obvious, or the most persuasive, or the loudest – or most influential, however that might be determined. And doesn’t that go back to motivation? Introspection; thinking about it. I love it. But anyone who has stayed with me for any time would know that.

Complexity, Democracy – and The People

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the May 1st, 2015

A perusal of the knowledgeable contributions of what is being offered in today’s massive body of “literature” (of all kinds) concerning economics, politics (particularly geopolitics) has been becoming increasingly aware that has been becoming more complex. That, in our progressive age of innovation, is not surprising. Why complex? I would suggest: too much, with too little control; what seems good at the moment takes off, and cannot be controlled, at least not initially. But then when attempts are made to institute controls, who defines them, why, and for what reasons, motives and considerations? Unintended consequences immediately develop, and intensify the complexity.

Consider the following:

News media coverage.

Average voter knowledge.

Knowledge as well as motivation of most politicians.

Social media idiocy, in all of its forms.

So why do problems evolve? Of course, that could be summarized by just saying people, and their differences. The complexity has overwhelmed us, and the average person; whether individual, media or politician; does not adequately understand it; nor, to be realistic, can we expect them to; but we CAN expect them to make an attempt. Is that too much to ask? Probably, but we must ask it anyway. And for that there are sources, but they are demanding, as we must have some background understanding to be able to comprehend what they attempt to tell us. The challenge is immense, and it is being poorly met, for any number of reasons, also complex, due to where we began in this paragraph: differences of everything; and arrogant differences at that.

Leaders? Who leads in our culture? It is not as it once was, where leadership was very limited, and carefully controlled as to who could be part of it. That’s what rule of the people, however defined, has come to; and that’s where all the complexity originates, and continues to lie, and develop, and fester. That’s good, but as Churchill so famously told us, there are problems. With people there are ALWAYS problems.

Leaders of all kinds attempt to lead, in many directions. Each purports self to be the ultimate in sagacity, reality, and wisdom. So which? The choice is up to us: government, institutions, writers of all kinds, activists also of all kinds, entertainers; surely there are more. Anyone with the power to gain listeners/readers? Social media sure has increased the number of “the powerful”, it would seem, “power” being relative.

So who are we listening to? Look around, and count them. Why are we listening to them? Many different reasons, at all levels. Part of it is too much access by too many to the means to attempt to lead, mainly through electronic communication. Remember when politicians used to gather small groups of people to listen to them speak? Well, they still do, but only to massively rich (or famous) contributors. Otherwise, if it’s a speech it will likely be in a stadium. Otherwise it’s turn on a tube; any number of them. Face to face discussion? Forget that, we don’t even do much of that socially; and for the rich, famous and powerful it’s mostly scripted anyway; that is, written by someone else, edited carefully, and probably rehearsed. From the heart; yeah, right.

The combination is brutal. Business takes care of itself, but so do much of all the rest; survival of the fittest? Maybe the survival of the loudest, loud being much more than just a loud voice.

It’s less business versus labor, education versus ignorance or the propertied versus those without. It’s not even the wizened intellectuals versus callow youth; today EVERYONE seems to have a voice and considers theirs as valid as any other. Of course most are myopic, much is ignorant; but all is emotional. Would it be appropriate to say power corrupts, and such power corrupts absolutely? Sure seems so.

Actually we have been here before, sort of; it’s just that power has broadened, significantly, because of the means of being able to talk! and have someone listen. Even if no one really hears, many of the talkers don’t care: look at blog sites, for heavens sake. It always happens when power gets out of control; but today “out of control” has a whole new meaning. Electronic communication? Computing power? Money and its volume and reach? The variety of what to want; what to oppose; what to argue about, with or without facts, or even much knowledge, just intensity and the ability to spew it. Selfish? sure. Disruptive? who cares; even anarchical! go for it. Rights? Freedom? Democracy? Or just uncontrolled idiocy?

Why uncontrolled? because we demand to be unfettered. So we need controls? be careful, that leads to WHO gets to do the controlling, and we’ve been there. How about self control? Too late? Maybe we don’t want self control.

But WE do, for explosion of individualism quickly becomes chaos. Has it already? It seems to be heading in that direction, so what to do?

The jury is still out on that; but WE are the jury, so in the long run it’s up to US. In the end, reason usually triumphs; has complexity changed that? Stay tuned – and think positive. But………………take responsibility for whatever; we are the people.

To Each According to Need; From Each According to Ability

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the April 30th, 2015

To each according to need; from each according to ability; sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? What’s wrong with that? Yes, SOME might recognize that as Karl Marx’s Communist screed; but how many today might not?

The answer to what’s wrong with it is that it doesn’t work. Because for most of us if we get what we need we are reluctant to give according to our ability. Why would we? That’s more than human nature; much of it is more like common sense, at least to many. The key is probably “need”; what is that? Ah, why bother? Each defines own, and it is almost always way more than pure need. Big screen TVs? Fancy cell telephones, big houses, vacations; we can go on almost forever. Need or expectation? Ask anyone and see the answer you get; more likely it will be a quizzical stare; what? Let’s not even bother to go there.

What is interesting to me – and this is the way I see it – the progress we have made since the industrial revolution has to do with need and ability; well, sort of; actually more about motivation and expectation. But expectation was modest and motivation was what our ancestors, many of whom were immigrants, made of it. The result was a middle class power house that has come to dominate the economics of the world. To explain that we have to delve more deeply into need and ability, motivation and expectation. And to do that we have to analyze “middle class”. We throw around many terms, and in this day and age of egalitarianism, rights, expectations and diversity most are hypocritical. If one is highly qualified, however that might be defined, it is luck of the draw; if one lacks qualifications or opportunity it is someone else’s fault, never his or her own. Generalization? ok, but far to common.

Discrimination? Bias? Unfairness? Favoritism? Sure, all exist, always have and always will. Do family connections make a difference? sure they do. Does family ability make a difference with the progeny? of course it does. That’s NOT FAIR!! Piffle; it is life. More than that, the position and thinking that comes from family nurturing is potentially so valuable it overwhelms almost all else – almost; we’ll come back to that.

Position, and ability to think and reason lead to success, which leads toward affluence which leads to opportunity; doesn’t ensure, but leads toward. How else could one expect to get there? Children generally lack the ability to develop motivation and initiative on their own, at least at early age; thus nurturing to that end is valuable – even essential, if it is to develop; and must come from those that understand and appreciate that. And that’s unfair? And when families destroy themselves through actions of their participants, that impacts nurturing? Whose fault is that?

So motivation is a “made” by parents? No, parents develop an environment in which a child motivates self, and encourages through example; there is a difference. All know of children from questionable backgrounds and poor nurturing who have managed to motivate themselves, many through other influences that substituted; but some from somehow finding a means, within themselves, to do it for themselves. How many? Who knows? Who can tell where the incentive for motivation comes from, whether from inside or from influence, or more likely a combination, but a combination that still ends coming from the inside; let’s just say that motivation and generation of it is not well understood, and difficult to measure, along with all the other differences that inevitably exist. On the other hand, it is easier to see where the resistance to motivating self comes from; if all those around resist, and worse, even encourage anti-motivation, what chance does one have to resist it? Oh, there is a chance, but it it much more difficult to achieve motivation when surrounded by those who put it down. A recent article by a black reporter from WSJ is an example; a younger relative, maybe 8 years old, asked him, why do you speak white? Kidding, maybe, but 8 year olds are strongly influenced by others.

Another example I recently encountered was a poll asking me if (yes or no) Garland (TX) was doing a poor job of educating its young to be effective citizens. I didn’t answer it, but I am still considering writing a letter to explain why not: that this is just one more example of trying to shift blame to someone else. Are some teachers guilty of it? probably, weakness is found everywhere, as is strength; but how about resistance of students? Same old dichotomy as with motivation: even the best teachers may fail when confronted by resistance of students to want to be motivated. Which comes first? Come on; why must we keep launching into either/or arguments; it is NEVER that simple. So where to begin? just starting wherever opportunity arises makes sense, wherever that might be. But let there be no doubt, if it doesn’t start with family, it will have much less chance of being successful.

So let’s take this line of thinking to the next level: why is the middle class being squeezed? It goes back to the same discussion, based on differences among us; Marx liked to refer to it as class warfare; so what does class mean? It means those that have motivated themselves versus those that have not. Too simple; sure it is. It is surely easier to motivate self starting with advantages; and that has become what is meant by upper class: environment that encourages self motivation. Lower class is at the other extreme of the hierarchy, for many, many reasons. So what is middle class? Most today would say it has to do with salary range, and that is indication of how much money drives us. But that takes us back to need. What is need? Today, many might want to define need as all those expectations we have had driven into our brains. I would prefer to look at it as something more modest, and use it to drive success through encouraging living within personal means. Ok, then upper class? Those who have more than they need, expect to be able to enjoy it for luxuries, and also are able to use it too invest or save to increase their means over time. And lower class? Those whose income merely supports adequate living conditions, or less; it’s as simple as that – for any number of reasons.

The strength of our nation and its economy are a result of having developed a strong middle class, which motivates self to be able to balance needs and ability. Again, too simple. But think about it; needs and ability must be related, and balanced realistically, either to control needs or increase ability to whatever limits might exist. It has worked; it is tottering because people first do not understand that, second don’t try, third try to substitute their own ideological solution, and fourth encourage government to take whatever action IT thinks is appropriate to balance it, much of which is taking from those that are successful and giving to those who are less so.

That’s government’s job, right? But how does it make that evaluation? Interestingly, no matter what is done, members of our “ruling” government always manage to make out pretty well; because they are upper class? Because they are highly motivated? For what? Could some of it mean personal success, through attracting votes? Another subject in which one can become mired. But that leads me to yet another discussion. Man has always been led by the successful, and the successful have always taken self first. America, with effective development of a middle class, offered a realistic way to allow – through motivation – those with less successful beginnings to move upward, maybe a little at a time, to better themselves – and a little at a time has often meant over several generations of effort. It has worked, perhaps not perfectly, and not for everyone; but it has worked better than anything else anyone has come up with – including Karl Marx, and his still somewhat sympathizers.

So what are “we” trying to do today? Make it all happen quicker by satisfying needs, however defined, by taking from those with ability who can afford to pay for it. Yes, there is a role for government to adjudicate the process by ensuring balance of opportunity through working against blatant actions of certain elements to deny the rights of some to pursue opportunity. Ah, but there is the slippery slope, how is that defined, and who defines it? The government; us? not really; our representatives. And who are they? Those that have convinced others to vote for them. That certainly is not cut and dried, and in fact is quite complex – and is part of the system that supports the process.

Which brings us back to the challenge of the classes: the upper class, with money to invest, support representatives who are sympathetic to them and their interests. The lower class, more complacent, it has to be admitted, and with less power, tend to believe what they are told. Does that mean that money buys votes that tend to continue class differences? That’s too extreme; it doesn’t have to be that way, but in the end it is a factor.

This is the historical difference: the rich and powerful who rule, through whatever means are available; and the complacent poor who let them, if they are taken care of. That’s what Marx saw. Of course there is the alternative: poor who are not complacent, and revolt, which is another part, commonly seen, throughout history. Our founders saw a different way, that had to do with checking and balancing human nature, and allowing opportunity a chance: a strong middle class, which today’s powerful have been trying to adjust, because it’s out of date. And what is in date is whatever the powerful tell us is in date; and we can see the direction that is taking. Churchill said that democracy is not a good form of government, but head and shoulders above the next best. Professor Tyler, among others, said that democracy will never work, because as soon as voters find they can vote for themselves from the national treasury will do so. Which is right? Both.

American democracy has had its ups and downs, because leadership by man is always self centered and balance is difficult; but has resulted in overwhelming success; unrealistic success, for that matter, because of the excesses of man, at both ends of the ladder that will ALWAYS be the case. What has happened to the balance? about what one would expect when powerful interests at both ends are pursued. At the financially powerful end comes the opportunity to influence politicians, mainly through investment in their careers (campaigns – which have become VERY expensive to conduct) to assist them with their interests; regardless, I might add, of what it does to our country, in too many cases. At the other end the “need” of those without power, to want more, has created another power opportunity to influence, regardless of what it does to our country. And it is being pursued as well. Is that not a reasonable explanation of the ideological power struggle that is currently taking place? Certainly too simple; there is nothing in life that is not complex.

All too simplistic maybe; but it is a place to start. Perhaps if more thought about it and stood up to be counted, we could make some progress; If we can get past selfish motives, that, let’s face it, are to be expected. That was the intent of the founders of our nation. We have moved far from their original intents, due, some say, because their beliefs are out of date. Are they? That is what we, the people, must decide, if the concept of “we the people” still exists. It’s late in the game to be remaking the arguments that created our nation, but not too late; it is, after all, never too late. It wasn’t too late then; but it was very challenging. It appears that it will be challenging again, for similar reasons, but in a greatly changed context and environment. What really matters?

It is not either/or; it never was either/or. It is a matter of dealing with differences among people that can be dealt with through understanding of human nature, and how it can be balanced and influenced through employing the tools provided us, which include balancing need and ability to achieve the most optimal results through encouraging motivation through nurturing, protecting rights with reasonable laws and enforcement – and doing our best to make sure that selfish interests don’t screw it up. It is a potent challenge; we met it once, but things have changed. So now we are facing it again, in a very different environment, one chock full of entitlement; entitlement that can not be sustained at the level it is being pursued. It is up to us.

Wow; that is a pile of confusing thoughts; a third edit makes that quite obvious. Confusing? It actually is, and I get carried away with it. But then, who am I? More appropriate to ask is who are you, if anyone has bothered to stay with it, assuming there is anyone out there reading. The purpose, as I always emphasize is for us, personally, to think about it, and decide for ourselves what is important, and why.

Dinosaur – and Culture

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

Take your pick: dinosaur (me) or cultural deterioration? A little of both, I suspect, so how much of the problem is me being out of step and how much the culture? As I sit here listening to Hank Snow on a CD, I realize culture changes, and us dinosaurs don’t handle it well, but I am concerned that it’s a bit out of hand, so I am going to list some of my concerns. I would invite comments, but I suspect if anyone is over 50 or 60 it would be at least grudging agreement, and if under that age……what? disagreement? Outrage? Or mere amusement? Why bother?

So for my list:

Polls: Am I the only one that finds polls that ask for yes, know or I don’t know responses to questions a bit ludicrous? I am willing to submit an opinion on most subjects of value, but not with that limit of responses. I just don’t bother; how many are like me? So what value are polls? not much, as far as I am concerned.

Political Correctness: Need I elaborate? Why must some – and they do, at a terrible intensity – demand that all adhere to their point of view? Enough said.

Opponent Bashing: Negative Politics; scary. It seems that accomplishment and qualifications are passe, and all we look for is something to attack. Of course there is always something, that’s the way it is; but is our choice of leader a compilation of who has the most to criticize? Very sad. But worse, the gullible believe it; it works.

Opinions in General: I have expressed before where I lay the blame: social media and their extension, comments, which are virtually the same. The problem is that anyone and everyone can offer an opinion, at almost no cost to them, and no experience to back it up, and be heard, or at least feel like they are being heard. How useful is that? Is that part of our need to be “famous”? Then there is Facebook.

Nosiness: We have always been nosy, yes, but without the ammunition to pursue it. But then that goes back to access – and opinion, each of us seems to have unlimited access to things to be nosy about eliciting multiple opinions on any given subject; electronic media places no limit upon that which we feel the need to get into.

“Sexuality”: OMG. Is there no end to flaunting it? Pushing it? Wallowing in it? And how much our culture supports it? encourages it? demands it?

“Competitive” electronic products: This is a different kind of concern. It seems that technological progress is such that all with products feel they must put out an upgrade every two years or so, making that it replaces obsolescent, and often no longer supportable. Talk about throw away economy.

And Predictions?: Continually, about everything conceivable. Most don’t amount to much; our ability to see into the future is not all that good, but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Worse, the gullible eat it up and go running off with them.

Statistics: Strongly associated with polls; that is pretty much what motivates polls: to create statistics. And the generalization they produce? and our proclivity to accepting them as fact? Think about that; no elaboration should be needed.

Sports: totally out of control; among some it seems to be the only thing that matters.

Entertainment: What the rest seems to think is the only thing that matters. And its quality, for the most part, is deteriorating as the quantity expands. And the amount of money we spend on it! My neighbor showed me his sixth or seventh wide screen TV and when I showed my disdain for TV, he said, but there is so much GREAT entertainment offered. No comment.

Crony Politics: It’s always been with us; our current system of big money campaigning only makes it that much more necessary for those that seek office to engage in it. But out of control? They hardly even try to defend it any more. And we know where that leads.

New Product Mania: Again, nothing new, but with advertising so ubiquitous and in your face, it’s almost impossible not to not know what’s new and the greatest thing since the one that preceded it. But the fact that EVERYONE has to have one (or more) NOW, is incongruous. Sure, it supports our massive economy, but where does it end?

Wealth Show Off: Well, that’s part of the motivation; one must have the latest and best to let people know how important they are.

And Big Money Mania: closely related. And what do you do? I get paid big bucks; eat your heart out with envy, but also be impressed; it is who we are. But what do you do? Does it matter?

Obsession? What is it that we are not obsessed with? and expect everyone else to be as well? Seems obsession R us.

Debt: Ah yes; that’s what pays for all the above. And with credit cards, how can one resist? And go broke in the process, as way too many do; but because they must have everything everyone else has: you name it, they have to have it. Why? they just do. Oh yes, and education: debt for education so they can make the big money – and obsession – it all starts to run together. Greed? it’s more than greed, it’s lifestyle, must have to keep up.

Welfare craze: Not even worth discussing. Why work when the government will provide it? History is replete with examples of that proving dysfunctional, but do we listen?

Poor Quality, low prices: Acquire as much as you can; who cares about quality? Unless you can show that off and incur envy; but we’ve already been there.

And finally, music: Music? That is music? Yes, there is quality out there in addition to the quantity, but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find. Why? easy to get heard, great demand for (part of having fun), and we are less discerning. As long as it’s loud and rouses our excitement? But if not, how about booze and drugs to make it so? Oh, oh, it never ends.

What is happening to us? Is this how cultures crash? Average, statistically, is about 200 years; we are over due. Are we going to let it happen? Doesn’t seem to be much resistance. But then what? Stay tuned.

Ok, under 50 0r 60, no question, is there? DINOSAUR, you just DON’T UNDERSTAND. But maybe, just maybe, I do.

Culture, Self-Interest and Survival

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

It is quite educational to see the usually rather myopic “discussions” supported through social media, taking place. Why myopic? Because they tend to be so short-horizon focused, narrowly based and preoccupied with now and me. A longer, more informed view would be preferable, and better served. Where to start? Reality; but better some background first. I might add that main stream media today is not much better.

Going way back, I find there are some useful philosophical lessons to be learned from antiquity. I begin with these because I have been thinking about them, since I personally am finding a need to work on what they suggest; so let’s begin at that personal level and see if it goes anywhere. Feng Shui (particularly as it has developed) shows the importance of order. Yin/Yang is recognition of the inevitable opposing forces of life. Tai Chi is balance. Perhaps I am reaching when I suggest that this feeds into physical exercise, mental exercise and awareness that is necessity in life, but that’s where they are leading for me; so let’s see if I can tie that together.

Americans, British, Germans, Chinese and Japanese have all been accused of arrogance, with justification. Middle-age Europe was constructed upon elitism and inequality. As culture across the world has developed it has developed unequally, and differently, for the many reasons that people develop differently. In the end, those that feel superior still feel entitled to tell everyone else what to do, and if necessary, force them to do it. But in the evolutionary process it has to be understood that people, humans, have and will always have different perspectives, for the many reasons that people have different perspectives. The results, internationally, are somewhat overwhelming. Since progress has not been uniform, there are many reasons for disagreement – and dissension; and will probably be for a long time, if not forever, or until we destroy ourselves, which, for us, might as well be forever. As I recently suggested elsewhere, I think the personal and the extended blend together, constantly.

In this interest I was thinking this morning about the great philosophers throughout history (with the help of Martin Van Creveld’s analysis in The Rise and Decline of the State), and reached the following conclusion: the great philosophers throughout history used their powerful minds to reason in seeking knowledge and truth of reality – but differently. That’s what comes from arrogance and conceit – and leads to elitism. Human nature again; those that are superior most often let it go to their heads, and become more and more dominated by feelings of their own superiority, and therefor the wisdom behind what they think, and want to do. That occurred differently among aristocracy and the philosophers, but the similarity is instructive.

Rights, liberty, balance, order on the one side; but efficiency, however defined, on the other; melded together for the good of humani the necessity of which is a demanding task, and certainly challenges what I continually refer to as human nature. First, is understanding the differences and reasons for the two; then allowing an accumulation of bits of wisdom that help deal with the self-interest and survival instincts that feed them. What is interesting to me is that basically this is understood by thinking people who have made the effort to understand; those who do not understand are the masses that have not been led to, or inspired to thinking about doing so. Was arrogance of the aristocracy geared in that direction? I don’t think so, as the elitism it demonstrated had not yet evolved enough to understand much beyond their own arrogant power. Then came “democracy” and all that entails, but where has that led us, in the long run? To a different kind of elite arrogance? that rather than trying to spread understanding, both personal AND in terms of international differences and possible consequences, has merely become a different kind of accumulation of power to effect it?

So where is the necessary interim push for blending? Philosophers worked in that direction, but inconsistently, as their understanding was also evolving (differently) along with the environment in which they lived, thought and evolved. And as that took place, things became more complicated, expectations grew, education changed and a new focus evolved. In short, we seemed to be making progress, but modernity swallowed it up. Part of that, I think, is that the spread of information exploded before it could be adequately accumulated and defined, and is now out of control. Hopelessly so? Why? It’s just a new challenge, which is?

Not starting over, but accumulating what has been learned, to expose what is bad and why, and demonstrate what is good, and why. It is already being done, but inconsistently; and, as I continually suggest, it will take some pain to bring it home to enough to begin truly melding principles on the one side with the demanded results on the other.

Pretty heavy. I keep wrestling with it, trying to attack it from different angles. Will I finally get it all worked out? No way; my mind is no where near powerful enough to get around it all; perhaps no single mind is. But there are many who are working on it; more than we might realize, and they, as earlier philosophers, are trying to make the case – together, but not together enough – yet. It will take time, and much effort. The effort will be there; the time? For that we can only wait and see. It will take teamwork, and that is something that today is still being resisted, as competition is a more powerful inducement in an environment still dominated by the aggressive arrogance of human nature.

Dictatorship, elitist dominance, is not the answer. But neither is free enterprise as currently practiced – or democracy as is currently being pursued. So, what? A blending, a balancing; a dollop of feng shui, spread by Tai Chi, to damp out the worst effects of yin/yang contention – after enough pain to get the attention of the recalcitrant – to force understanding of why we need such a blending, and how it might be achieved. The challenge, of course, will be to effect that blend in a matrix of rights and liberty without sinking back into the arrogance of elitist dictatorship.

Pipe dream? Maybe so; certainly utopian, and utopia hasn’t worked yet. But we have made evolutionary progress, and once upon a time we didn’t even know what teamwork was. We can learn, but it will take a great deal of effort and wanting to make it work. We are a long way from it, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be achieved, not perfectly, but perhaps enough to permit survival.

Hey, why not?

Relationships

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

Individuality or community? Relationships is an important combination of the two; it is an essential part of culture.

It is a very complex process, because it entails people; relationships are among people, people are almost infinitely different, and relationships are the sum of the permutations and combinations of what ensues from relationships among people.

Perhaps the most important have to do with families: mates, parents and children; and all with extended family; that is the foundation of our culture, and all cultures for that matter. The nature of such relationships are important; however, and they are changing with time; not, in my opinion, for the better. Why? I think they are more transient, more fragile, having less meaning to those who undertake them. That will have impact upon the culture and our ability to make it function properly, but time will tell, as there is hope that the pain it brings will force us to realize the value of relationships – once again.

Electronic communications and social media do not help; I know, I perhaps dwell on this overly, but I do so because I believe it. Dealing one-on-one, personally, face-to-face, has strong benefits. But let’s not be exclusive; relationships are not restricted to two individuals; they quickly expand beyond that, complicating them, as would be expected, until they reach the international level. But even then, relationships are for the most part personal and must be undertaken at the personal, if not individual, level.

And what of these relationships? Again, there are indications they are changing. Good relationships depend on mutual understanding – and respect. In our continually increasingly complicated world, is that any longer possible? Oh, yes, it is; but it doesn’t just happen by itself from some kind of osmosis. First, two (or more) participants in a relationship must want to try and understand each other, and to respect each other; that takes effort, particularly in these complex times, as many varied differences have cropped up and expanded, beyond cultural. At the international level differences of national interest, usually based on variations of power, is important; but many more differences, mainly due to development, including economic; but also climatic conditions and such, weigh in. And with the proliferation of states it takes a real effort to understand; if we within a single culture are beset with differences what must it be across cultures and dealing through different languages? And have not doubt, we are beset by differences.

We don’t even have to go that far. Differences at home are demanding enough. Within families, with all the challenges of modernity, is a case in point. It used to be said that marriage was both parties giving 100%, that is, 50/50 is not enough, as each has to go beyond half way; each must want it to work enough to be willing to accept much and compromise more. Accept what? Difficult question, with no simple answer; willingness to accept depends on degree of caring. Ability to overlook the trivial is a starting point; but being able – and willing – to get beyond differences of opinion comes close behind. Differences of opinion are based on too many variable inputs, due to individual backgrounds and development; and such differences are healthy, if we manage them, because they encourage us to learn; if we have open minds, and want to.

Growth of culture, knowledge,- and opinions make managing more difficult, because ability to come to understanding is increasingly challenging by differences and ignorance. We have to know more to even be able to understand where others are coming from; and that takes effort, not only to gain the knowledge but to want to make the effort to understand. Compromise? We know how that has been disparaged. But there is even dissension within the learning process. A cogent example is our political outlook: liberal versus conservative; yawning difference. Not really. That difference is mainly one of individuality and community; relationships are what bridges that gap – IF we make the effort. Why don’t we? No surprise there: same old contention, based on entitlement, success and power, and the more those grow in importance to us, the more dissension, as we wrestle over them and compete for them.

Either going back to anarchy or central (elite) control of everything is not the only option, and with the development we have experienced in rights and liberty, neither will likely occur. So, what? The answer has be be expansion of relationships – deeper, broader and more comprehensive – that blend the liberality and conservatism of individuality community. Is that so difficult? I surely seems so these days, because minds have been closing, and the wider the necessity to expand relationships, the more difficult it becomes to come to a meeting of minds. So it is a momentous challenge; we have always welcomed challenges. It is not either or; it is finding the right balance to make it work. It is achievable, but only with effort – and respect.

We can either get there through working together, or through the necessity of having to put it back together; our choice, and it will be violently contested, as always; let there be no doubt. So be it.

What is Knowledge?

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

Knowledge (Oxford 1996): (of) awareness or familiarity gained by experience; the sum of what is known (duh) – the definition of know extends for more than a full page column. Well, well, well. And just think, how much might that have changed since 1996?

What knowledge is, is becoming more and more necessary to understand – IF one is concerned with consequences, intended or otherwise. For one, automation and digitization is making knowledge more economically useful – no, necessary. Those with little or none are at a disadvantage, and increasingly so. But what knowledge?

Allow a personal story. A middle aged black man of my acquaintance confronted the world at a young age, and with advice from “some army guys” realized that HVAC offered a valuable economic investment, and he borrowed ten thousand dollars (that took 20 years to pay back) and received formal training that he parlayed into technician, then inspector and finally management experience. Harrell Wilson is now the go-to guy at Airtron in Dallas, Texas. He lives comfortably, not lavishly, with his family in North Dallas. Harrell is a success story, not because “he got rich” but because, through his own initiative and hard work made a meaningful life for himself and his family. You (whoever you might be) know such a story; we all do, and there are many of them. My grandfathers could boast such, and neither of them, as Harrell Wilson, had more than a high school education.

Time for me to do a little preaching? Not really preaching, just pointing out reality and advantages of the country we are so fortunate to live in – IF we can keep it that way. We do live in a land of opportunity, if we do not let the elitist centralists, who always know what’s best for us, destroy it. Do we still believe it? I would suggest too many today, wallowing in their own myopic, unmotivated selfishness, do not, but since that could take me into the realm of preaching, we’ll move on.

So, what knowledge? That depends on many things; we are already finding that pushing everyone toward STEM and legal careers is not the answer – and neither is pursuing becoming a billionaire rock star or financial or management genius for everyone. Wait, one might ask, knowledge and rock star? You bet; first there is the knowledge of music and playing instruments that support it; formal education? I never said that, I said knowledge. Knowledge can be gained many ways, and experience is one of the best, but experience based on knowledge – in fact experience is an important part of all knowledge.

So what am I driving at? Well, let’s first begin with knowledge of self. Who am I? In what am I interested? what basic skills might I have? And what can I do with them? It, of course, begins with thinking, and as young children are not very experienced with such, assistance from friends and family to help them towards gaining an understanding is something very important for the rest of us who care, to do – and we all should. Directing them toward……..no! helping them decide for themselves, with the assistance of knowledge of themselves, what is possible for them based on what those friends and family know about them. May I suggest that the opportunities are almost limitless? Ah, but only if THEY are motivated to avail themselves of the knowledge they will need to pursue them. We are all different; we need to realize that. Too much today is oriented toward the glitzy, exciting and highly remunerative; and that is not for everyone, even though they might think so. In fact success in any endeavor may mean vastly different results depending on the individual, which means the approach needs to be realistic. Oh, oh, here I shall go again: note how often such words as realism, motivation, thinking, responsibility, honesty and reliability make their way into any philosophical discussion; and yes, this is philosophical: “use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality”. Only in this case it’s personal philosophy, something each and every one of us needs. But the quest must begin with knowledge.

Where does one begin? Myrer again: “read, think disagree with everything, if you like – but force the mind outward.” Listening helps too, I might add, and questioning, even researching. One must begin with gaining knowledge. Plato and the Bible? Ok, but let’s not go overboard. Comics? Maybe, if they contain knowledge, some do; the old classic comics did. Rap music? It’s possible, if there is any thinking that goes into it; there is much philosophy woven into some modern music, but only some. The point is that someone who seeks knowledge need not steep themselves with what is boring to them; knowledge is everywhere, but one has to search for it, and that requires thinking about it – with an open mind – and motivating one’s self to do so.

Knowledge is everything, it has been said; but that’s because everything is knowledge (actually I tried to look that up and couldn’t find it; maybe I made it up). One just has to decide which to pursue, based on many, many considerations,the most important of which is NOT how much money that can one made from it, quickly; there is more to life than that. Which is not to say that a comfortable and satisfying existence cannot come from building the necessary base of knowledge; it can, and in many cases does, but equating money and power to knowledge is putting the cart before the horse. That is what our young must be “coached” to understand.

And why we must continually discuss this (preach?) with others as much as we can, and as much as they will tolerate it. That’s what we are there for, right? Or should be.

Teaching and Learning Must Be a Shared Experience

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

I began this essay yesterday from notes I had taken over several weeks. At three AM this morning I had an epiphany, arose several times to make more notes, and it has all changed. Bear with me, or not; your choice.

Teaching and learning is, must be, needs to be a shared experience; I prefer referring to the result as coaching, because that’s what it really is. We even assign different words to the process: teaching and training – and experience; different? Not really, but to derive benefit from the result takes sharing, and working together between coach and pupil. Helping people help themselves is what it comes down to; sharing among all to develop what is in each; good coaches, good teachers, good trainers are continually learning as they go – sharing the experience among themselves and those they are coaching. And the key to it all is coaches not so much trying to change the coached to be what they want them to be; but working together with what they have, encouraging to motivate self, and learning together: confronting reality, and helping each other understand in the process. Some of that is helping each other understand who they are, what they like to do and what they do well, and to help cultivate it; we are all different. In that context, our new phenomenon, Facebook is all about “collecting” friends; how about being a friend? It should be less about us and more about each other – to help everyone help themselves.

There is much to think about in our increasingly complex culture; but one thing has not changed: the quest for power and the effect success has upon us; success? any old kind applies, but fame, fortune and power head the list, and with our increased electronic communications capacity, along with rapidly growing affluence, that has gone viral. It’s time to step back and try to think about that which is important; not that we can ever go back, it doesn’t work that way, but to shape the way it evolves, so that the result is positive. To be successful in life, really successful, we need to understand what is really important, and get beyond the superficial that dominates so many of us. Pipe dream? Perhaps; human nature suggests otherwise. But that doesn’t mean we have to blindly accept it.

That reminds me of my original notes, regarding elitism and anarchy. Note that our lives have increasingly focused on black and white, yes and no, only one way. Elitism is know all, do it my way; anarchy is everyone do it their own way. Has not that been similar through most of history? On the one hand that’s not difficult to understand: the elite and powerful think it is their role in life, because they have the advantages of knowledge and the conceit that comes with it, along with the power to force it on others. How about the other side, anarchy? The powerless and ignorant have too often been content to remain that way; through stubbornness? Coercion? How about lack of motivation? Yes, lack of opportunity has also been a factor, but our evolution has shown us that opportunity can come to those who pursue it, and motivate themselves to try to do something about it. Too simple? ok, that goes back to the same thing: either or; we need to expand our minds beyond that, and realize there is more – nuances, shades of gray, and an option to navigate through the opportunities that are provided us, requiring initiative – motivation – to do so.

And here we come to what is important. What is? To many it is the luxuries of life, being rich, powerful and successful, what else is there? History would support that, elitism demonstrates it; and we continually experience it. Happiness? What is that? I don’t even care for use of the word. Contentment? Satisfaction? What brings that? Things? fun? vacations? But only on the surface; it tends not to last; it never seems to be enough. Ah, we are not convinced; that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Then why are so many discontent?

Life really is about sharing, and the enjoyment that comes from working together. Surely selfishness has always been there; it has to be, as survival is and always has been a challenge, and we must look to that. But beyond that the bonding of relationships; family, friends, someone to talk to; is equally critical, if we are to achieve what is important in life; we do not do well without it, as our changing culture is beginning to demonstrate. What has to happen between survival and contrived happiness, with lavish support from government, to reach a workable balance? Self discipline, individual responsibility and motivation. Elitism is arrogance; anarchy is chaos; The balance point? Sharing, caring, supporting and working together; it takes responsibility, motivation and discipline, all of which must be taught, not dictated or contrived: coached; a shared experience.

Teaching and learning; coaching and sharing – elitism and anarchy. Is there a connection? We keep wresting between elitism and anarchy; coaching and sharing, and all that entails is what can provide the balance, if we grease it with motivation. Will we? We have proven we can, but we have been sliding back to something similar to what used to be; it needn’t continue, but it will take effort, understanding – a shared experience. Can we do it? I am betting that we can. Will we do it? That depends upon us.

Too Much Information

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

There surely is a great deal of information – of all kinds. And we are paying attention, but……

Quality of information? That’s too simple; quality is subjective. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that too many people – of all kinds – are putting their own spin on it, as one would expect humans with different perspectives to do, especially when technology allows the to do so so easily and inexpensively – and almost at will, in many venues.

I have read articles, many, recently about the Iran/US nuclear agreement. Was it good bad, or somewhere in between? Each country has its own interests and judges results against them – and they must. Iran shed sanctions, so it was good for them, and they didn’t have to stop nuclear development. Israel is fearful for their survival, so it was bad. Saudi Arabians are concerned with what it considers Iran’s quest for regional dominance, so consider it bad. The United States? I don’t think our “negotiators” have enough understanding of geopolitics and circumstances, beyond domestic politics to understand, but that’s just me.

But let’s get beyond that. How about with us common folks. Is it not very similar? Lots of information? Oh, yes. Quality? well, that is also subjective and depends on personal definitions and interests, but there is much effort put behind it’s development. And surely everyone is putting their spin on it, particularly in social media that has no quality controls whatsoever, and anything goes. Everyone has an opinion and objectives that may be associated with them; advertisers? of course. But others as well; politicians for sure, and most of the rest of us, even if our ends are not so critical – although they might be and we don’t realize it. Another subject.

All decisions, I contend are cost/benefit, with each subject to definition of what those are. Let me throw in another: risk. Risk is tougher because risk is more difficult to calculate, since the risk involved may not seem personal, but in the end, through proliferation, may ultimately become so. That’s where unintended consequences come in, but that’s also another subject. So risk? How many of us give it much thought, particularly if it is not obvious and in our faces? Much risk might be such that we are not aware of it, since it seems so remote from us at the moment.

So, back to information and the quantity of it, from so many sources we don’t know which is factual. Factual? Truth? Well, which to give credence to? Whose opinion, whose spin to believe? It is certainly challenging, so where to begin? First, one has to develop credible sources, writers, leaders or speakers we feel we can believe. And how do we do that? Pay attention, not only to what they say, but what they do beyond what they say, even personally; that is particularly the case with politicians. Beyond that, we might want to process what others have to say about what they say, and how that translates to actions; and how effective those actions are, in their opinion; and then compare. It is a daunting task.

And anyone who has read what I have written here over the past fifteen years knows what comes next: we need to read widely and think about it. Easy to say but not so easy to do; it takes time, effort, motivation to want to. And what if we have better things to do? That says it all.

Open and Closed Minds – And Thinking!

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

Over the last several days I have had an epiphany. Epiphanies can be strange; something comes to you, you look back and have always known it, but hadn’t seen it in quite the same way; at least that is one kind of an epiphany.

My epiphany had to do with how things get locked into our minds; I have long been saying, people believe what they want to believe, but maybe I didn’t really understand what I was saying. Thoughts, beliefs, that become locked into the mind; prejudice, opinion, Bias? yes, they qualify; but how about just plain opinion? Even getting details confused – statistics wrong? And having it ossify – IF there is no fresh input to challenge it.

Coincidentally I read yesterday that people who are active in search engines think they are smarter than they are. They check something, find an answer, and internalize it; it becomes fact, even if it is remembered incorrectly, and it ossifies as such. So search engines are wrong? Well, no, but they are not always the whole story; recall that propaganda is incomplete or partial information. Nor may they be reality; they might have been, but reality can change. And if memory is incorrect that just exacerbates the problem. And of course then there is Social Media, where many, many collect their information, often after having passed through multiple contacts; Propaganda? can there be any doubt?

So what?

How many people do we know, who know things that are not true? It even goes beyond that: truth is a many spendored thing (yes, borrowing). Truth of what? There are nuances; life is complex. Maybe something is mostly true, under certain circumstances; but may change with changing circumstances. It gets worse when they just slip in and are processed by the mind, perhaps imperfectly, because memory can be, and often is, imperfect; and what we thought we knew, might have been altered a bit, making it wrong. Then there is connotation; something that might be essentially true in one context may seem, or even be, a little different in another context. This is particularly the case when people having conversations are not communicating on quite the same wave-length – or even really listening. Meanings of words contribute; most words have more than one meaning; yes, mostly nuance, but that CAN make a significant difference to a discussion.

A great deal of this occurs in matters that are basically trivial, but take on meaning when subjected to emotion. The incident leading up to my epiphany was like this, and, as is usually the case in such, had a history that contributed. I’m not going to elaborate, but it had to do with a gathering that occurred spontaneously, and someone took offense at not being included. We are all aware of many similar; they happen all the time, and cause misunderstandings that can lead to permanent disruptions. Most are based on different processing of information, leading to different conclusions.

Let’s expand that more broadly. How about politics or geopolitics? How many wars have been caused by similar misunderstandings? Is it not so common as to be almost unworthy of giving it any thought? until it festers. But I contend that may be most of the problem; if we don’t give it thought, how can our view of it ever be altered? it can’t; and that has happened throughout the history of man, perhaps less due to misunderstanding than different points of view; but then where is the difference? in degree only . I have alluded to that in discussing human nature, and human nature is also a many splendored thing, mostly indefinable in the aggregate. But we all use the term, and think we understand what we are talking about; but may not even be talking about the same thing. And we needn’t go again into the influence that human nature has.

But we can’t know everything, particularly what is in anothers’ mind, so what do we do? just not talk anymore? It is a sticky wicket. There will always be potential for misunderstanding, and all we can do is to be aware of that possibility (probability?); it would be particularly beneficial if all parties within a social exchange, at whatever level, kept that in mind; but that’s not going to happen. So all we can do is administer to self, and that’s where my epiphany ultimately led: open and closed minds – and thinking.

Closed minds are simple enough; they have glomped onto information; accepted it as fact, at least for their purpose; don’t give it much thought beyond that; but store it and share it casually. So how does one achieve an open mind? by continually reading broadly and listening to what others have to say, is a beginning. Few read broadly, and those that do tend to center such reading on narrow interests, which more often than not have already been developed so as not to be particularly open to being changed, and even cause change to be resisted. Most of us try to listen to what others have to say, and hopefully do so with a degree of respect, or at least tolerance. But how do we process what we read and hear, if it doesn’t meet with our preconceived ideas and beliefs? That is where an “open” mind comes in: open to new ideas, or those that differ from our own, providing new information. That does not mean accepting, or that new is superior to what was already in storage. Optimally what it should mean is that it is processed in such a way that the mind is open to consideration – to internal discussion, if you will, which is thinking.

Nice theory. What if we are surrounded by like-minded people, and share information that for the most part does not challenge our preconceived opinions? Birds of a feather flock together and we seek those that are like us. That’s more than human nature; it is to be expected; how could it be otherwise? That creates a challenge – and says much about why we, groups of us, are so contentious. We build walls, and defend them; physically and figuratively – and in our minds – resisting that which does not seem to belong: protecting preconceptions.

Ahhhhh, Anton Myrer: “read (and listen), think; disagree with (question) everything if you like – but force the mind outward.”

And then what? I have heard it said often lately that changing one’s mind is giving up principles. Principles, a new term, a new definition to consider. What are principles? I have attempted to discuss that before, and won’t go through it again, but basically they are what we live by, and each must determine what they are for themselves. Of course that can be part of contention. Can principles be “compromised”? It depends on what they are, but even principles should be susceptible to review, with an open mind, if new information becomes available; consider: thou shalt not tell a lie; inviolable? under any circumstance? And then it must be run through the filter; filter? thinking. And that’s the other end of the challenge. To effectively think, one must have a broad base of knowledge, which provides the filter; NOT, as I have said before, only formal knowledge, but all kinds of knowledge, including, most definitely, experience – which also must be passed through the filter.

Before departing the subject, may I suggest that modern data collection and polling also pass as knowledge; is it? Definition again; it is the raw material that leads to knowledge if properly processed, and that which is collected for a specific purpose seldom results in truth, and more often ends up falling under propaganda. Much data collection is for the purpose of proving a point, usually associated with averages and generalities – which we too often accept as fact. Yes, no, or I don’t know. Don’t let’s get into that; all of life boiled down to three mutually exclusive choices, with no, yes buts? But then look at programming; if-then-else was the original starting point for programming, leaving choices for each up to Programmers. Beware; we run into results of that continually. And then there is advertising; is there any question why we are filled with partial and often contentious “knowledge”?

And one last point, but a critical one: to have an open mind one has to WANT to have an open mind. How many do? Which leads us back to all those arguments – personal, political, geopolitical. But then how many even want THINK?

Karl Marx, Need and Ability

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the March 27th, 2015

Karl Marx was an intelligent man, and likely was oriented toward what he thought was the right thing to do, if a bit restricted in his ability to see the inevitable unintended consequences. But so were the philosophies of the book positively motivated; and they ultimately have led to the same result that Marx espoused.

To each according to need and from each according to ability. Makes a lot of good sense, doesn’t it? But what is need and what is according to ability? Sound like a familiar conundrum? In between there is all kinds of incentive to pursue opportunity as it presents itself.

First, need; is there really need in our economy? Yes, there is, but some of it is self-induced. How so? By spending beyond means for things that are not necessary, and incurring unreasonable levels of debt. I had the honor of speaking with a young man yesterday who has been on the job for a month, installing water heaters. He is 28 years old, married with four children, and getting by. He is looking forward to improving his earning capacity with this job, and is making a great start; this was his third installation, and the senior technician who was with him had taken twice the time the job required, to train the him – and this was approved by management, and grudgingly accepted by the customer, my neighbor,who might not have completely understood this scenario,so maybe the job took a couple more hours that he had anticipated.

So how do we define justified need? It depends on who is defining it. Those requesting it define it as earning less than they need “to live” but that means less than they are spending, even if some COULD spend less, because of THEIR inflated definition of NEED, yes, I am generalizing to make a point; that is not universal. Politicians may define need it in terms of votes: I address your needs and you give me your vote; of course it’s not that blatant, but that’s likely what it ultimately comes down to, although partly because of the “power” those who proclaim need, and their advocates, can wield; and of course it is not that simple

So how about according to ability? Again, sometimes a bit murky. What if a young person who could have gained ability squandered the opportunity through lack of effort? How about he who has ability but is not willing to accept work that he considers beneath his level of expectations? What of he who has deliberately invested his ability in training or education with his preference of pursuing unrealistic goals? And what of him who was afforded the opportunity but didn’t put in the effort, and did not achieve levels of qualification, but still retains unrealistic expectations? Then there are those today, as a result of government initiatives, who find they can make more on government assistance than they can working? Wait, you might object, that’s not fair: that’s a cost/benefit decision, and it’s only common sense to go for whatever is in their interest. I need not reply to that, as it’s easy to see what I would say. But, of course, that’s not that simple either.

Then there is something in between, and this is even more esoteric: the opportunity our system provides at the margins to earn money illegally, through whatever means present themselves, and those who opt to pursue such opportunities, as a choice; again, for any number of reasons. Many of those opportunities would have been beyond Karl Marx’s very imagination. Today they may even be outside the understanding of those who have made them possible, and beyond what had been attended in creating them.

That is a synopsis view of the problem with need/ability; in short, it doesn’t work because of human nature. So many fine ideas are defeated by human nature. Cost/benefit is in the mind of he with presumed need and he who sees “ability” as he wishes. And benefit being what it is, the chances of it being fudged to fit opportunity is significant. But then, that is just one of the many things we humans are likely to not be able to agree upon; different viewpoints, and they will always be decided in the mind of the decider in his favor; human nature.

Motivation, Empathy – and Humility

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

So interesting to sit back and watch people, when self is not emotionally involved. No, they are not all the same – in fact they are almost never the same; but they suffer from similar inclinations – tendencies? temptations. May I refer to it as human nature?

We each have our own understanding of personal reality, and for most of us it gets pretty locked in; we believe what we want to believe, often developed over some period of time, reinforcing those beliefs. Our motivation derives from that, motivation being what drives us to do what we do – or not do.

Empathy is ability to see beyond self and try to understand motives of others; something we have great difficulty in doing.

And humility? Let’s defer to Oxford for that. Humbleness, meekness? Humble: “Having a low estimate of one’s own importance.” Not satisfactory for my purpose, so let me apply my own twist: not taking self too seriously. How about attempt to control arrogance? Maybe even seeking respect, and how to respect. Now I reach: not seeing one’s self as better than others. Oops inconsistency: I argue against egalitarianism, yet suggest that one should not see one’s self as being better than others. Words, words, words. Which is why thinking about it – and in written context, which ties the thinking down, is so useful. What am I grasping for? But as I attempt the grasping, think of how my grasping may appear to the average observer. Now throw in judgmental and opinion and understand how complex human nature is.

Relationships; why do we do what we do, and why do we not do what we choose not to do? Why do we react to others as we do? A starting point would be that we are locked into self; build upon that and the development it represents; and make little effort to go beyond it. Sure, that’s extreme, but a tendency among most of us: we live comfortably in our own bubbles and make inadequate effort to learn enough, or even listen enough to what others may think and say, to be able to do otherwise; so throw ignorance into the mix, which is a strong contributor to lack of empathy.

Let me attempt that more simply: we don’t understand, make little attempt to try to gain understanding, and don’t give it a great deal of thought; we prefer to just believe what we want to belief, and act upon that. Too judgmental? think about it, and as things progress it is getting worse, for reasons I have attempted to define elsewhere, and won’t attempt to revisit here. Taking ourselves too seriously is my attempt at adding humility; not so much a low opinion of our own importance, but an attempt to not inflate our opinion of self. Elevating unrealistically can be as detrimental as putting one’s self down. I keep coming back to this – in my own mind – there IS middle ground, balance, and that is what we should be pursuing – continually. In this context, not taking self too seriously is a convenient way of viewing it.

Everyone has a point of view, and should, on most subjects about which they have some knowledge and interest; some are emotionally grasped, others are developed over time. Learning comes through many venues, of which discussion is one, sharing points of view, with an open mind. That doesn’t mean blindly accepting; but it should also not meaning to try to beat the opposition into submission; we, moderns (particularly) have problems with that, not because we have so much knowledge, but because we are exposed to so much information (propaganda) that we accept without thinking much about it, and process as if it were knowledge – and sometimes even (arrogantly) as wisdom. Knowing and appreciating where another is coming from is helpful, but rare, because motivation to make the attempt is often lacking. I call that arrogance, with the flip side humility; but one must WANT not to be arrogant, but willing to have a bit of humility; it is difficult for most to accomplish, particularly when not motivated to do so.

I have been thinking about this for some time, and attempting to use scientific method, beginning with observing, to focus on the various examples that constantly present themselves; I find they are everywhere, and thus intriguing. Motivation, empathy and humility are where that focus has led me. Examples are everywhere: religion is an obvious one, but people have all kinds of opinions to which they have allowed themselves to become anchored, often with relatively little factual information to back them up, which deters them not at all. And that’s where arrogance comes in, where we become over-impressed with self, and take ourselves too seriously. There are many contributors; let’s lump them under the word “success”, success in anything tends to build confidence, which is positive, but can quickly morph into inflated ego – and arrogance. Human nature again? We not only believe what we want to believe, but convince ourselves we are who we think we are, and like to throw our “intellectual” weight around, whether or not it is warranted. Success in what? Almost anything.

So how can this be changed? That takes us full circle: we have to WANT to change it; but to do that we have to recognize it and accept that it is something that needs to be changed. From there we just go around again.

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