Sunday, May 24, 2015

Do the American People even want real Freedom anymore?

Oh, I know everyone wants to do as they wish.  But that is not Freedom.  Freedom is not license and it is not lack of consequences; Freedom is the right and even the obligation to take charge of your own life, to make decisions for yourself, and then suffer or be rewarded for those decisions, learning from your experience and growing in the security that you did do that yourself.

What and how the government operates has little effect on thirty (30%) percent of the population; about 15% will never want or achieve independence or be much concerned with freedom; and about 15% will never be stopped from struggling for independence and freedom, despite any government or other attempts to make them dependent.  But the remaining seventy (70%) percent of our population can be and are influenced by both laws and by what seems acceptable in general society.

For years, biblical morality was the general norm.  People understood, even if the laws didn't say it outright, what was acceptable in society and in public action and discourse...and they abided by it for the most part.  Men didn't swear in a proper public forum or in the presence of women; women didn't use foul language when in public (what and how they spoke when with other women has always been a mystery).  Men held doors for women to enter first, parents disciplined their children as they saw fit, and children were expected to be seen and not heard.  Not always codified, nonetheless there was a certain level of behavior that was expected.

And one of those expectations was that every person would earnestly try to successfully earn a living for both himself and for his family; that being "on the dole" or receiving assistance from family, acquaintances, a "Community Chest" organization or the government was an embarrassment and to be avoided if at all possible...and, if not, to be repaid or to get off of any assistance as quickly as possible.  Such proof of lack of independence was a sign of both failure and or loss of Freedom of existence.

Again, this attitude was not necessarily codified...but it was enforced by public perception.

None of this appears to remain true today.  Oh, there are some who give lip service to the concepts.  But actions speak louder than words.  And legal decisions seem to encourage and buttress concepts that consequences are politically incorrect; that there is no bedrock of "right" and "wrong"; that an inability to support oneself is not embarrassing or to be corrected, as someone or something else owes you a subsistence.

When the government creates a support system that actually results in reducing your earned income if you take a job instead of remaining on government-sponsored and created programs, thus punishing you for wanting to actually earn a living, the vast majority of the public quickly adjusts to the new attitude that working or earning a living doesn't matter...that government will be your "big Daddy" and take care of you.  How utterly appalling, disrespectful, insulting as well as destructive to the individual and society at large.  And how absolutely it puts the country on the path to destruction, as that kind of support ultimately runs out of money even as the percentage of citizens growing up to expect such support grows toward 100%.

And yet young adults all around me seem blissfully unaware of the inherent dangers of dependence on others to survive.  They also have a narcissistic view of what is important in their world.  Certainly there are some who battle this view...but they ultimately abandon that instinct because 1) of the influence of their friends, or 2) come to see the injustice of their being required to support so many who could but don't work.

So a very good case can currently be made for the proposition that, other than in words, the American people care not one wit about their Freedom and are totally prepared to be dependent and be controlled by any entity (currently our government) that will provide an acceptable level of subsistence and not hold them accountable or enforce "consequences."  The failure to accept personal responsibility and hold to moral standards of conduct seem eerily reminiscent of the historical descriptions of the fall of both the Greek and the Roman Empires.  Perhaps our country will prove the exception.  I, at least, am not counting on it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Is there a New Way to solve Inner City failure?

It seems as if our inner cities suffer from duel failures: the fact that the so-called drug war is failing and that there is not effective way to eliminate the existence of "gang" control and influence.

Why don't we consider making peace with the world we face and use it to improve our world?  What if the government went to the gangs and offered something akin to this:

You claim this is your turf.  OK, we will acknowledge and give recognition to your claim on the following conditions:

     1. You keep the legal violations to those of a minor nature: no murders, not sexual assaults, no burglaries;
     2. No violence from drug deals and a reduction in over-dose deaths:  control your territory;
     3. Watch over your "turf": keep your territory safe for ALL the residents, respect the elderly and those that need assistance;
     4. Get your gang members to learn to read, write and do math: they need good math to compute your profits anyway, and they should be able to write down notes for you and be able to read your instructions, so this benefits you anyway...and it sets good examples for your community;
     5. Finally, we will look to you for a call when police are needed, if you do all of the above: murders, physical harm burglaries, suicides and the usual assault type crimes that show a lack of respect to your resident and to you, we will respond to, and you will make sure that those occasions are welcomed and endorsed by your community.

Do we have a deal?

This would bring gangs into the legal world, encourage them to take real responsibility for their areas and eliminate them from being an "enemy" of law enforcement.  Certainly, it would involve being blind to drug deals, but our attempts to stop that are failing now, particularly in the inner cities, so what are we losing?

Sure, this could fail miserably...but we are failing miserably now.  Maybe this is worth trying.  I haven't seen anyone else come up with this idea...but it seems worth a shot.  What do you think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is the concept of "Consequences" being eradicated around the world?

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that writing seems as if it increases the pain and the disappointment in the world around us; that even commenting on it increases the clarity of the error(s) of our ways and makes it even more unlikely that there ever will be a Financial-like correction in our moral compass, bringing us back to something like a meaningful society.

But, eventually the words and thoughts build up and demand their freedom...a release, even if without effect, to flow into the universe looking for fertile soil in which the thoughts contained may take root and be discussed with other, compared, and considered.

So...today my thoughts center around what seems to be a general consensus of the majority that there should be no such things as Consequences.

Friends and acquaintances have said that I am over-reacting; that consequences are still the norm.  They point out that there are laws and, when broken, that they are enforced to settle consequences on the law breakers.  They suggest that generally, despite the exceptions, those who do evil and wrong things are held to account.

My response it that not only does it not happen often enough, but that the frequency of it happening is in decline.  Moreover, when people do the right thing, more often than not they are criticized for "getting involved."  Millions of people are cheating on their taxes; few are ever made to suffer any consequences, nor do they lose the approbation of their neighbors and associates...many of these miscreants are actually held in high esteem by those that know their actions.  Just yesterday a gang rape took place on a Florida Beach, surrounded by multitudes of young people drinking beer and partying, and not one person interfered with the attack.  Only because of the fact that someone actually filmed video of the event was any police action taken...if not accidental, then just sign of the fact that such behavior is acceptable.

There are some people who are psychopaths who will ignore laws in favor of their own wishes and desires.  There are others who need no laws to motivate them; they will do all they can to help others and make life better for their fellow man.  But the vast majority in the middle are remarkably responsive to the general behavior and general definition of acceptance in the ordering of their lives...they won't rock the boat.  And it seems clear to me that the boat may be deserving of some rocking...not that I have much hope that such action will happen anytime soon.

Some of my friends suggest that this is simply a natural phenomenon; such a fall occurred to the Greeks as well as the Roman Empire and therefore it is inevitable that it happens to the United States of America.  I used to agree in major part with this view.

But now I wonder if it is not far more extensive that just an American phenomenon.  It seems to be spreading to the International Stage...to the entire world.  My friends say I am nuts...which, of course, may or may not be true and a subject that may be worthy of a full discussion at a later point...but I am not convinced.

Consider the events in Foreign affairs in the last year or so.  Terrorists killed our Ambassador to Lybia and others.  One person was arrested.  Have any of them been punished, much less caught?  Russia has annexed through force a portion of the Ukraine.  Has there been any uproar of any significance from the world nation states, much less those countries immediately surrounding the area?  For years, Pirates have operated lucrative seizures of ships off the coast of Africa, making millions of dollars from the hijackings?  Any serious repercussions to those pirates?

And more recently we have the rise of ISIL (or ISIS, or whatever they are calling themselves these days, as if it matters) and the killing of all believers in Christianity that they catch, as well as many of Islamic sects with which they disagree.  Any serious repercussions?  And some in the world see their cause as acceptable.  Yes, there are words of condemnation but few indeed...and tiny if you look at the percentage of involvement...people involved in standing against it.

Consider the matter of Iran.  Here is a nation-state that has a track record of lying and failure to abide by promises.  A nation state that finances and supports with material and people terrorists around the world.  Any consequences?  Well, one of my friends argued that we do have economic sanctions in force which hurts them.  Oh? Really?  Who is hurt?  The leaders?  The ones who control the actions of Iran?  Or is the people of Iran who suffer despite have very little, if any, control over the political decisions of Iran's leaders?

But that is the past and is almost an after-thought now.  Now Iran is working toward developing a nuclear capability, which could include nuclear weaponry.  So...what does the world do?  It sits down with the powers in Iran and begins negotiating.  Not declaring that such a development is unacceptable, which each participating nation had assured their own citizens up until a short time ago was not ever going to be allowed, but a timetable by which ultimately Iran would have the capability it desires...and also a lifting of sanctions.  And all of this based on a written promise by Iran to limit their activity toward such an end.  Doesn't anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?  A country that has a consistent track record of breaking promises now is to get relief from sanctions on the basis of a written "promise" to play well with others?  Really?  Wonder what odds would be given by any professional Book-maker on Iran fulfilling that promise.  And yet, multiple nation-states are actually seriously considering entering into such an agreement.

This is not only a failure of Consequences, but could be argued appears to be reverse consequences...a reward for bad behavior.

And the most recent event involves the Communist nations of Cuba.  Cuba has been cut off from diplomatic ties to America ever since the Communists took control of that country.  It has a proven record of human rights violations, has no freedom of the press, precious little freedom of religion and is a Dictatorship.  No change at all.  So...what are the consequences?  America opens up talks to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.  This amounts, also, to reverse consequences; a reward for continued bad behavior.

What I am raising for discussion is that fact that all around the world there seems to be a general acceptance that consequences for bad behavior can be done away with and there will be no adverse repercussions.

I think that is not possible.  The balance that the world has heretofore acknowledged is that all people and nations should have the freedom to make decisions and choices for themselves....but that those choices have consequences.  It is the consequences that check the unfettered expression of wants and desires.  Freedoms without consequences becomes license...and that never turns out well for anyone.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Adages

I was raised with adages echoing in my ears.  Today, I can go for months without hearing even one. What are adages, some of you ask?  Well, as some examples: "Birds of a feather flock together," "The early bird catches the worm," and how about "Call a spade a spade."  Now, an adage is not quite as declarative as a proverb...or even a maxim...but it has its roots in both tradition and observation.

When I was a youth, and I would have some trouble that came about because of things some of my friends were doing I would, of course, claim that I personally hadn't done anything wrong and didn't understand why I was being punished.  The response?  "Birds of a feather flock together."  "You are known by the friends you keep."  In other words, by choosing friends less than wisely, I would be tarnished by the same brush that recognized their miscreant behavior.

Adages came to be recognized by me as non-religious rules to live by; instead of commandments or bible verses used to claim dictates of or by God, adages were based on long experience of many generations...proven to have value and permanence.  Over time and with consistent repetition I came to gain respect for adages...and proverbs and all the rest...as non-experiential ways of living a less dangerous life than I might have otherwise.

Now...there is absolutely no substitute for failure as a learning tool.  If you chose a dangerous path and fall and break a leg, you will never make that choice again...or at least not without taking the proper precautions.  If you invest on the promise of another and lose your investment, you will never take a person's word as sufficient again, requiring some additional form of surety.  Nonetheless, adages do have a very helpful influence and can guide all of us to an easier life, somewhat limiting the number of failures needed to grow and learn.

Where have the adages...and the proverbs, maxims, and axioms, etc.....gone?  When was the last time you heard one, except from a grandparent?

Big deal, you might say; what difference does it make?  Really?  Are you sure you want to go there?

We (the United States of America) currently suffer the presence of an administration and a President that clearly abhors truth, desires power beyond that granted by our Constitution, used words not to explain or clarify but to mislead, distort and subvert, has a work ethic based on sloth, and has surrounded himself with people who clearly want to totally change our governance.

Perhaps you ask, "how would adages and the like have helped?"  Consider my first example: Birds of a feather flock together.  Who raised Mr. Obama?  What was that person's political beliefs?  In whose church did Mr. Obama sit for years, never complaining or objecting?  What were (and are) that leader's feelings about the United States?  One of his associates was Bill Ayers, an admitted and unrepentant domestic terrorist.  If one had been comfortably cognizant of "Birds of a feather flock together" do you suppose public concern might have been loud and persistent?  I do.

And how about job background and performance as a focus.  "By their works shall you know them."  Simply thinking that out loud and then seeking answers regarding each of the seekers for public office...and particularly that of the Presidency...might have done us a tremendous service.  But that did not happen.  Instead, the constant plea of the con man of "trust me" carried the day.  Twice!

What is past is past.  But I would suggest that there is a lesson to be learned.  And that lesson is that a reflection upon adages, proverbs, maxims and, heaven forbid, Commandments might not be such a bad idea for the future...particularly when electing those who would have power over us.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Does anyone in the West WANT to understand Islam?

When politicians, heads of State, and pundits speak of events in the Middle East and terrorist acts around the world, their statements never agree when talking about motivation...and President Obama even refuses to consider Islam as any portion of the motivation.  Now, generally speaking, it is actors themselves who declare their motivation, not the victims or observers.  So...why is there confusion?

I suggest it is not because answers don't exist, but that each speaker is more motivated by their own political and ideological needs than by the desire to develop facts.  So...how does one get facts?  I suggest that a careful reading of the Qur'an (many translations are readily available on line and you can order a hard copy of you like books), listening to various Imams as they explain their religion and talking to Muslims in your community readily provide an understanding sufficient to our purposes.

The Qur'an commands its followers to strive for political power.  While doing that, followers are commanded to respect all other religions and their practices while Islam is in the minority.  If Muslims become equal in number and power, then they should demand equality of respect of Islam with any and all other religions.  Significantly, if Muslims do acquire political power and control, they are commanded to institute Islam as the only recognized religion, to impose Sharia Law and punish all violations as laid out therein.  Those who refuse to convert are then declared "dhimmi" or...and the circumstances are not entirely clear...killed.  There is a presumption that such an imposition is "Peaceful" since it is done by a gradual process of gaining power, although the imposition itself may involve violence, hence the claim that Islam is a peaceful religion.

One may logically ask,..."...but, what about the terrorists?"

Good question.  Islam countenances quite a bit of violence, for a variety of reasons.  Insulting the Prophet, as we have seen recently, can motivate Muslims to murder.  Simply the presence of behavior that is not acceptable under Islamic Law is enough to motivate some Muslims.  ISIS and other Islamic-based (as defined by the actors themselves) terrorist organizations and their members do not see any prohibition against establishing political power and control by gradual, much less peaceful, means and wish to make their supremacy happen NOW!

All of these statements and facts come out of the Qur'an, hadith, and Sharia Law.  They are remarkably easy to research, read and study, and I have found all Muslims prepared to speak of the contents and their beliefs.

When listening to all manner of people speaking of the terrorist actions as being totally outside acceptable Islamic behavior, and pointing to surveys of Muslims living in the West as proof, it is probably a good idea to be aware of the concepts within Islam of "Taqiyya." "idtirar," "kitman," "hiyal" which relate to different Islamic sects and allow dissemination (lying) to protect the faith or the practitioner.  So, any reliance on such polls or surveys is questionable at the very least.

Islam is the only "religion" that I have found that advocates achieving dominance here on earth by force.  Because it is so firmly based on a political goal, I have always believed that the only way for the politically correct West to fight this threat (very real if numerical and political supremacy is ever achieved in any country) is to use this ideological focus as a reason to define Islam as a political ideology with a religious base.  Such a view would allow control of its precepts, and prevention of adoption of its exclusive views of behavior without violating our concepts of freedom of religion.  I seriously question that non-Muslims would see required conversion as an acceptable practice of Freedom of Religion.  Nor would I.

But wouldn't it be logical, responsible and responsive...so say nothing about nice...if our leaders and our pundits did a little research on their own and present us with all the facts, instead of ill-based opinions?  It would be refreshing...and reassuring that our leaders can actually look our for our country and its citizens.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Is life expectancy really getting greater?

I keep reading that people are living longer.  Do you think that is true?  Do statistics make the case?  I think that the numbers so support the concept...but I have a couple of questions.

If you contract or develop (I'm not sure of the right term) Alzheimers, does the rest of your live count?  I mean...if you don't know your past, do you get credit for the past years?  Or should your count start over...at one?  I don't know.

Does stress kill?  I ask this because if it does, it would suggest that smart, aware people suffer more of it...and probably die earlier.  If that is so, does that skew the value of the average age?  I don't know.  Do you?  Is it worth considering.

I once told my daughter that if my mind should fail, she should pay the vet whatever he wanted to come over an put me down in the backyard; I have no interest in "living" if my mind is not operating at least close to normal.  I don't care if I have senior moments; I just don't want them to connect.

She promised that she would...but if my mind is gone, how will I know?  I guess my point is that it isn't life that is so valuable; it is quality of life.  Now this might seem like a "puff" piece.  Not so.  

I suggest that even when your are young, what is prime about life is living each day...not the goal, not tomorrow, and certainly never yesterday...in that day.  Appreciate the people around you, what they say, how they look, and remember to appreciate your family and every scene you pass as you walk, drive, fly or drive.  Because only today is within your grasp and appreciation.  Take the time.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come...but today is YOURS.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What promotes bullying and polarization?

So many people have commented to me that America seems to be so much more polarized and violent than what they remember.  And that coincides with my impression.  So...why is that?

On reflection, there are many candidates...and I strongly suspect that no one of them are the sole basis, nor do I think my list is complete, but I would argue that if we take them all together we will have a pretty good idea of some major influences that work to tear us apart as a nation.

Has anyone else noticed how violent the ads on tv are these days?  Notice how medicine attacks germs, stuff like mucus is killed by whatever medicine prevents it, how bugs aren't prevented, but killed in their tracks?  Everything is not only the best to solve your problem, but seemingly needs to kill the behavior that it is intended to prevent.  And it happens more than ever before.  Think it is an influence on behavior?  Or just a reflection?  Think about it.

How about political correctness?  It stifles a clear expression of what you believe and, more importantly, feel.  Emotions that are squashed and forced to be held in lead to higher stress levels and tend ultimately to show up in physical action...and that is violence.

At the same time, it prevents responding in kind when you are verbally insulted, attacked or disrespected.  Notice how often when someone is bullied in school and reacts by attacking the bullier, it is the person who acted to protect him or herself from the bullying is the one who is punished?  Apparently the bullier is the one protected.  Why?  Again the questions: an influence on behavior, albeit deferred?  And a sign that bullying is a protected activity, despite words to the contrary?  After all, actions speak so much louder than words.

And how about the prevalent attitude that no one should suffer consequences of their actions?  When I was growing up I was taught that all actions had consequences...good,...and bad.  I learned civilized behavior from my parents.  But I learned them from the words and direction...and I learned them from consequences of not acting "civilized."  Lying was punished...immediately.  It wasn't cute to tell "stories" and it wasn't laughed at just because it was inventive...it was punished.  Fighting was allowed if it was to defend you or your relatives honor should that be disrespected.  Fighting just because you wanted something someone else had was not allowed and was punished.  Bad language (and unlike today it included all swear words and scatological references) was punished immediately and the punishment usually included improving your vocabulary, the argument being that if one had an adequate vocabulary to describe your feelings, one needn't employ swearing.

And as to shoplifting and any other law-breaking, like vandalism and other inappropriate acts, it almost never required the attention of the law.  Why? Because the law could never know like my parents how to reach my very soul and the punishment of my parents was personal and left me with immense guild; a punishment by the "state" would never have been so effective.

When in today's America have any of seen true consequences delivered to anyone as not only a punishment but as a natural order of things?  Doesn't occur much today.  Is this absence contributory?

Our teachers are tasked with teaching.  Yet both administration and parents often act as if teachers are only to be "praisers" of children, approving everything they do, passing out passing grades as a matter or right, and never interfering with children's social lives even during class time...and if they dare interfere and the child physically attacks the teacher, it is the teachers' fault.  Does this sound like civilized behavior, much less justice, to you?  Doesn't make much sense to me.  Teachers are not always blameless, but I think that they could accuse most administrations and parents of fraud in the inducement; what they got isn't what they were promised.

I don't have the expertise to define what is cause and effect here, but it is hard to look at all these tendencies so prevalent today and not think that civilized behavior is not of high priority in the minds of today's citizens.  Narcissism is the practice of today, with parents choosing to accept government benefits that will have to be paid by their as-yet-unborn heirs, and even to the point of meeting their own desires while ignoring the needs of actual children.  How sad!  How ugly!  And how profoundly disappointing to those of us who must witness it and not have the power to effect any meaningful change.