Friday, July 3, 2015

INDEPENDENCE


The issue of independence becomes more complicated in an overpopulated world with diminishing resources. The individual's capacity to live independently is becoming more and more unlikely. The days of mountain men and remote independent farmers have passed in most areas of the planet.
 
The current U.S. obsession with entrepreneurial independence is somewhat delusional. Small business loans come from big business banks. The goal of entrepreneurs is often to go public and make a fortune on the stock market. Entrepreneurs often turn to government assistance in the form of tax deductions and grants.
 
While touting financial independence, capitalists devise more and more ways to get wealthy off the masses in the form of corporate welfare or selling less for more. July 4th is a celebration of the Declaration of Independence in the U.S.. That declaration has sustained its popularity because of its assertion of a human rights agenda, not just because it avowed freedom from unfair taxation by aristocratic power.
 
If all citizens were secure in their equality and basic human rights in the U.S., the issue of the day would not be isolated self-determination. The issue of the day would be how to best serve the individual needs of the people through enlightened governance and social activism.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

COMPLACENCY


People who are depressed are complacent. Chronic fear transforms into depression if it is not addressed. The trauma of terrorism, in my opinion, is leading to a societal depression in the developed world. This depression takes many forms.
 
Yesterday, a cashier at the supermarket greeted me with a canned "Hi, how are you?" I looked directly into her middle-aged eyes and said, "I'm fine, and you?" Her face clouded. ""I'm great," she said while processing my items over her scanner. "Well, let's hope we stay this way as the day progresses." This obviously bothered the cashier. Her face twisted into a scowl. "Doesn't matter, " she lecturer grimly, " It's all good!" From then on, I felt she couldn't get rid of me fast enough.
 
It's all good? When these words are thrown at me with a "Heil, Hitler." nuance by an obviously unhappy worker, I don't feel that is at all good. Do you?
 
Complacency is a refuge of those who convince themselves they are powerless. It often takes the form of behavioral and/or conceptual conformity. For example, the political correctness of our age in some social groups defies logic, but it is a method of those who are feeling too afraid or just too lazy (depressed) to engage their brains to skeptically analyze the opinions of non-conformists.
 
Stoned hippies were often complacent and unengaged in the activism of the sexual/political revolution of the 1960s-1970s in the U.S.. These individuals used a depressive drug to squash their discomfort with the status quo which was used by other to protest and challenge authority. "Chill out, man." That was their response to those who went to the streets to face riot police. We now see a similar force at work in U.S. society, sponsored by many state governments which are licensing marijuana dispensaries and dispensing methadone by the gallon. The current level of alcohol consumption in our society rivals that of the Soviet Era in Russia.

Monday, June 29, 2015

CONCEIT OF BLESSINGS


I listen to BBC World Service and play scrabble on my tablet while my breakfast oatmeal cools. This morning, I heard the cooing tones of two female backup singers who were being interviewed about their careers. One is American. The other is a Bollywood dubbing voice.
 
The American sang a few bars at the request of the interviewer. Her voice is magnificent. In response to the praise of the others, she said her voice is a "blessing". Perhaps it was her general tone which rankled. But, the blessing thing is a pet annoyance to me as a scientific and practical observer of life.
 
To say I am blessed implies that some cosmic power bestowed something upon me intentionally. It implies that I am chosen in some way. It implies that this cosmic superpower has deemed me special. This is utter nonsense. It is also reprehensibly conceited. What is reprehensible about it?
 
Well, for one thing, it implies that you have the special approval of a cosmic dispenser of treats or talents. This in turn implies that those who are not blessed, like a person with Down Syndrome for example, are somehow disapproved of by the same cosmic dispenser of goodies. Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder. The abysmally unconscious dispensers of Down Syndrome or good singing voices in most cases are birth parents, not a cosmic genius.
 
Another form of the blessing mishegas occurs in churches and families. Usually these blessings are dispensed by a patriarchal or matriarchal figure upon a supplicant. When bestowed on children, these blessings are synonymous with permission, or relinquishing of parental control to the child's judgment. The adult, acting like the cosmic dispenser of goodies, uses blessings, either behavioral or monetary, to assert his/her dominance. My annoyance here stems from the assertion of religious imagery to effect simple behavioral discipline or education. Scientific explanations and logic would be better for the child's growth as an individual.
 
When blessings are bestowed in a peer group, like a support group, I am offended. Again, this employs religious imagery, based in a patriarchal view of the Universe, to convey peer support or affection. No adult can bestow any special attribute to another by laying on hands and saying something ludicrously pious. In cases of group hypnosis, the illusion of this transmission of power or benefit may occur, but there is no measurable change over time in either participant. Scientifically controlled studies of faith healers bear this out.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

DEAR SUPREMES

 
I appreciate the long overdue affirmation by five of you that I am a human being in Constitutional terms. As for the rest of you, your humanity is not in question, but your humanism is most definitely.
 
I could have saved you the trouble in my own case. You see, I have known I have been a human being all my conscious life. I abandoned my need for validation from the likes of you 45 years ago when I walked away from my own parents after they subjected me to verbal and physical abuse for being an open homosexual. I ceased looking for permission or approval from those who benefit from patriarchy. I have been out and about without regrets. I have taken the jibes, the rejection by friends and potential employers, and the insults on the street without your help. I have made love, received love and given myself lovingly without your permission or validation.
 
All of you, even the five of you who deemed me entitled to my humanity, are part of an evil patriarchal system which thrives on its own rules, makes it hard for decent people without birth privilege to thrive, and attempts to crush those who expose its hypocrisy, its violence and its refusal to change. Unfortunately, many of the wealthy LGBTQ people who are queuing up to get married are part of that same patriarchal system, having been born into privilege. Marriage for them is just another way to secure their privileges and social dominance.
 
And who made you all supreme anyway? I believe your lifetime tenure is one huge flaw in our Constitution. Are you God-chosen kings and queens? No. Are you hereditary nobles? No. So why must we condone your supremacy over our laws for a lifetime, while you totter into senility? 


HAPPY SUMMER



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

REACTIONARIES

Developer's vision.



There is a fine line between being a skeptic and being a reactionary. A skeptic's motto is "I hear you but prove it to be true." A reactionary's motto is "I will resist all change until it is shown to be in my personal interest."
 
Last evening this differentiation became quite clear as I sat in a meeting of my local civic association. The key part of the meeting was a presentation of a proposal for a large new development on the periphery of my neighborhood. The land in question is currently an ugly wasteland of outmoded industrial abuse. A cement plant, an abandoned office building, a derelict warehouse, etc.. The proposed development is a shiny new complex of retail stores, overhead residences, broad pedestrian pathways and landscaping.
 
My neighborhood is populated in part by an old guard of property owners who have never lived anywhere else. Their world view is demonstrably narrow, perhaps the length of their own streets. I am a gray-hair myself, however I do not identify with these reactionaries. I have lived in my house for 3 yrs.. I am viewed by this old guard as an intruder, an interloper. This is occasionally made clear to me by comments made shamelessly in the civic association meetings.
 
There are many new arrivals in the neighborhood. It is becoming a prime location for commuting professionals who like to bicycle or use public transit. The neighborhood lies very close to Boston's downtown by bike or transit. I can and do walk into the city center in twenty-five minutes. These residents tend to be rather uncommitted to the neighborhood as a concept of community. They are not highly visible at the civic association in numbers.
 
I am a skeptic. Last evening I listened to the presentations by the city authority overlooking the development and the developer. It would have been a very pleasant experience, if the reactionaries had not interrupted, railed and accused. Reactionaries react, until their bone is firmly inserted between their jaws by the change-agent they are hassling at any given moment.
 
As a skeptic with 65 years under my belt, literally, I have the advantage of patience. I have been in screaming meetings many times before. A developer once built a 12-story hotel behind my tiny 950-s.f. house despite months of screaming civic meetings. It put a big dent in my privacy and ruined the ambience of my large garden, but it was, in retrospect, a community improvement. I sold that house, my first, before the construction of that hotel began. It was a sad time for me, but twenty years later I feel it helped me grow up considerably.
 
The timeless dance between progressives and reactionaries has led to general discord, inequality, wars. Being a skeptic is a life between these two camps. It gets loud, and occasionally I have to duck to avoid being hit by crossfire. But I will remain a skeptic because I know it serves me best when dealing with change, which is an inevitability in life.
 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

WHITE GENES MATTER?

Graphic from City Data.
I heard an abysmally awkward and rather inane discussion of the resignation of a genetically Caucasian woman from her leadership of  NAACP of Spokane, WA. Granted, as can be seen from the pie chart above, it may have been difficult to find a person of color with Ms. Dolezal's talents, lying aside. The discussion on NPR this morning was less measured than my humorous consideration of the reasons behind this controversy.
 
A presenter and Africa-American reporter rattled on about race as a "social construct". They even compared Ms. Dolezal's possible delusion to being transgendered. Yes, she was born Black in a White body...that was the gist of it. The discussion sounded like a comic's riff on the issues without the laughs. I was left thinking, "Some Hollywood plastic surgeon is probably running to a lab to figure out a way to make Caucasians Black."
 
Race makes people crazy in part because of the denial of racial differences. Our eyes and ears tell us there are racial differences, but the social dictators of the age in Western culture are telling us that we are imagining this obvious perceptible reality. The emperor's new clothes.
 
Perhaps the focus of developing racial equality should be the acceptance of racial differences and assertion that they make absolutely no difference in legal rights and responsibilities in a society. This is the hard path, as has become obvious in the gay rights movement. Gay politicos have been striving to deny the obvious differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals in an attempt to assuage heterosexual fear of homosexuals.
 
This assertion of sameness seems to be a hard-wired defense mechanism against fear and the potential of conflict between those who are of different tribes. Maybe it reaches back to the conflict between early human subspecies. In any case, it is not logical or scientific. Science reassures us that genetic differences are a good thing for the species. Now all we have to do is convince ourselves of this and get on with saving our dying ecosystem.