Monday, November 28, 2011

Motivations and Assumptions

I woke up this morning and had a flash thought about the people that surround me and their motivations and assumptions.  While I was working, I was usually in a group that had the same scope of concerns; they had different jobs and different responsibilities, but we were all concerned with earning a buck, getting ahead, and taking care of our families.  We all were in the American system of earning our way along and, if asked, I would have said that I was primarily concerned with meeting my responsibilities to God, myself, my family and my country; that is how I was raised, and I had no reason to either question or change that attitude.

Discussions of anything other than business were entertainment and a way to get away from business concerns for a bit.  There wasn't enough time to be concerned about more than your financial situation, your family and, usually, your kids behavior.  I was aware that there were people out there who were spending that same kind of time and exerting the same kind of intensity on politics and developing groups for a variety of purposes, but didn't spend a lot...if any...time thinking about their motivations and challenges or even the choices they were making.  I was, of necessity, compartmentalized; I don't multi-task well.  I do "bookmark' very well; I can stop on one item and move immediately to another need, then return at full speed to the first task without missing a beat.  I always envied how most women I know can seem to do 5 things is amazing.

But...I digress.  What struck me this morning was that every person in public office, whether elected or appointed, and every person seeking such a position believes in doing good...especially those who successfully get elected or appointed.  Really!  I do not question their dedication to doing good things. come (I asked myself) that I am so disgusted with the performance...the actions...of those paragons of virtue that hold positions of high public trust (well, maybe not so high at the current time...but you get my point!)?

My mental response was..."they believe they have some special insight and/or gift that gives themselves a special vision of 1)what will improve the lives of others and the world, and 2)a special ability to make their first belief become reality."  That is the motivation.  It is honest.  It is almost devoutly held, and extremely sincere.  There is no question in my mind about that.  And yet...these people continue to infuriate me with their assumptions of truth, honesty and goals that do not merely not align with mine...but actually interfere with mine.  My can that be?  They are righteously motivated; so am I.  Yet we are on opposite sides of the spectrum.  Why?

My reasoning suggests that it is all about two major areas.

The first is definitions.  I define terms a certain way.  Words have clear meaning in my mind, emotions and even in my soul.  I can not always predict when something is "good" or "bad", but as a Supreme Court Justice once wrote when discussing pornography, "I cannot define it, but I know it when I see or read it."  And so it is with me...and I would bet it is the same with most of you.  And over the years I have discovered that those with whom I disagree define things differently;  "good", "bad", "right", "wrong", "freedom", "privacy", "morality", "immorality", among many others, have different definitions for those with whom I disagree than what I mean when I use them.  Heck, in some cases they don't even have some of those words in their dictionaries...there is no acceptance of even the concept.  Most of them believe in power as a good thing and which is appropriately used to control others, as well as to defend themselves.  I totally disagree, but at least it is an honest disagreement.

What it makes clear to me is that I totally oppose the definitions that my disagreeable co-inhabitants of the town, county, state, country and world hold...but that doesn't make them bad people.  I totally believe that their goals and beliefs are bad, but the people themselves aren't...unless they pose an immediate threat to me, my family or our collective freedom.

But we all have to deal with this state of affairs.  It is annoying that we don't have unity of purpose, means and process by acclimation...but that is life.  We deal with it.  And my view keeps me from being a "hater" and tends, with a few exceptions, to keep me focused on discussing  issues rather than insulting individuals or groups.

Remember that I earlier mentioned that there were two major areas leading to the contrariness that we endure?

The second one is a bit shall I describe it..."Buddhist" or "Freudian" in nature:  focusing on solving perceived problems in the world around us provides a welcome excuse to neither admit nor work on remedial work on our own selves and our own lives.  It is much easier to focus on and to see solutions for things around us that we see as "wrong" or that "need improvement."  I can help my friends solve their problems, both personal and work-related, quite well; I have an objective ability when dealing with others and others' life decisions that I find particularly difficult, if not impossible, to employ when looking at my own life, my own decisions, and my own experiences.  It is hard work.  It is distasteful...even nasty. I don't want to go there.  I especially don't want to go there publicly....and by that I include my spouse or family.  It is too sensitive an area to deal with in the first place without the "help" of others.  Frankly, I was unable to do this until I had been alone for several years and run out of other people on which to blame the events that were solely of my own creation. is tough.  And it is made more avoidable by a life style in the United States that keeps most of us among people and besieged by ongoing multiple demands for our time, our judgment, and our actions.  No excuse has to be made for not thinking about our existential being and motivations...there isn't time.  Until you are retired...and then only we get to recognize, much less choose to look within and focus on our responsibility to ourselves for ourselves.

I do not think it is unrelated that so many of those who are and have been in public office have increasingly been revealed to have some fairly serious personal issues.  We live longer these days...even with the stress.  We can only hide from ourselves for so long.  And when we can't hide any longer, it becomes increasingly hard to hide ourselves from others.  And so, many of these people self-destruct in some way.  Oh, it isn't always something "wrong" or "immoral".  Sometimes it is just an embarrassment or what is euphemistically called "burnout."

My point is...that people who start believing in their "specialness"(yeah...a created word, but it works for me) should be required to...or at least questioned at length about...their inner journey; they should be required to publish the progress of their inner search for personal truth and existence.  This would provide two very desirable results: first, it would take a long time to travel that inner road and negotiate all the twists and turns, thereby delaying the time spent by any individual in working to control and guide others; and, secondly, the reading of such a record would be invaluable to us in selecting those with whom we were about to place public trust.

At least that is the best that I can come up with today.  Maybe I will reverse myself tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Changing Definitions just confuse me...and I get no response when I ask...

I have written before...and will not repeat it here...about the changing definitions of such things as "Right", "Progressive", "Fascist", etc., and whether they are "good" or "bad." But I was surprised these last few days by a chance foray into just what "Liberalism" meant...and how long it had meant what I (and, apparently, it's advocates)understand it to be (basically,being in alignment with Barack Obama, progressivism, Occupy Wall Street, and the Democratic National Committee).

But...back in the days of the Revolution the attitude was a bit different: American patriots rallied around the cause of “No taxation without representation,” there was fear of centralized governments that ruled with great authority, and a great desire for the relationship that people have with their government to forever change to one of the people holding their government in check. American liberals then, the most famous of which are known as the Founding Fathers, supported limiting the power of government as much as possible. They believed that government power would naturally and inevitably corrupt and needed checks at every turn. They did not subscribe to the view that empowering the government with more and more power would lead to a better society. They stood against such expansions as they already knew what happened when the government’s size and scope was beyond control. That is why the Constitution was designed the way it was, pitting each branch of government against the other, so that no one branch would grow powerful beyond control. I forget where I got the quote, but Economics Professor Don Boudreaux said, "Experience and reason recommended to liberalism’s founders (that) restraining the power of government might not be sufficient to ensure harmony and widespread wealth, but it is certainly necessary.”

Try running that by some of your Liberal friends and watch their minds self-destruct...if they even acknowledge these very real facts from the past. So...what happened between then and now? Just consider that Ludwig Heinrich Edler Von Misis, a noted Austrian-American economist, philosopher, and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern Libertarian movement and the Austrian School and who lived from 1881 to 1973, wrote, "Imagine a world order in which liberalism is supreme . . . there is private property in the means of production. The working of the market is not hampered by government interference. There are no trade barriers; men can live and work where they want.” Clearly if he were alive today, he would be declared a Libertarian, not a Liberal. Again...what happened and How...and Why? 

I, for one, have no idea. I wonder if today's Liberals do...or care. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

I have spent most of my life yearning for the time to reflect, the opportunity to really think things through and have the luxury to really consider all the ramifications of a particular matter and come to the best possible decision or position of which I was capable.  This was true in business and in my personal life; it was also true, but not as noticed by me, about my political views.  Always there was an element of limited time in which to have to decide, to act, to commit and the effects of those positions were inevitably long lasting and far others as well as myself.

So...upon retirement, I felt that I had been the recipient of the Holy Grail.  Finally I had the gift of time with the opportunity to really think things through.  I had the opportunity to research and discuss and ponder until I was happy with the result.  I had the closest thing to Heaven on earth.

Well, be careful what you wish for, because God has a very wry sense of humor.

As I was growing up I often heard the admonition that "the more you learn, the more you realize your ignorance."  That is absolutely correct, because the simpler your decision the easier it is to make.  The more you learn, the more the number of details and elements that require evaluation, grading and the decision, the position, the action becomes more nuanced and the call becomes so close as to leave you totally cognizant of the lack of certainty of whatever choice or statement.

The strange incongruity is that I have absolutely no problem any longer with personal decisions.  It is only decisions that involve obligations to or for other people and for discussions, beliefs and declarations on political policy decisions that my life has become much more painful as the time available for research and thought has increased.

Personal decisions used to be a problem for me.  I would get a "gut" feeling on something, then spend hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes even years trying to get my brain to agree with my gut.  More often than not, they never agreed...and my education moved me to go with my intellect.  For me, that was wrong.  I have come to save much time and live what is almost a stress-free life by remaining aware of the "gut" feeling that I get when exposed to any proposal, proposition, opportunity or the like.  First, it saves time because I can decide almost instantaneously: if my gut says, "Ahhh...I don't know about that", I don't do whatever it is that come up; if my gut says, "Yeah!...I like that", I then engage my mind to see what needs to be done to make whatever it is actually happen.  99.9% of the time that has resulted in optimum happiness for me...and for others.  I have no idea how or why it works.  For me, I am content that it is God's way of speaking to me and giving guidance...providing I wish to listen.  But whatever the source, it works for I accept the guidance with thanks and appreciation.

I love discussing current and political events with people.  I totally enjoy debating various sides of many things at all levels of government; if I feel that my "side" is winning a debate, I am known for jumping to argue the other side of the question so to do all I can to challenge positions and attempt to identify "truth."   And there is great satisfaction in working on volunteer projects with others and discussion how to define and best achieve the desired goals.  It is there that I find myself disadvantaged by having too much time and too much counter-intuitive as that sounds...because of the instinct to want even more information and try to make the perfect decision or choice.  I move from a "muddy" picture of the situation to clarity and then the details become so numerous that the picture reverts to being "muddy."  Time spent.  Time wasted.

Business life understands this danger, because to be successful it sets time limits ahead of perfection...the concept is always to do the best you can by "x" date.  Whatever you have by then goes into production.  Otherwise you would never get anything to market.  Make improvements for the next version, but get something out there to sell and for people to use...while avoiding the claim of perfection.

So I have come up with self-imposed time limits for various areas of consideration, and then mentally assigned them the equivalent of version numbers (you 1.1, followed by 1.2 or even, if a great improvement is developed, 2.1).  That way, I have the absolute, unassailable, guaranteed truth for ever and ever...for now; tomorrow, or next week or even next year, I may revisit the situation because of discussions with other, my own experiences or world events which will result in a brand new version...which, of course will also be the absolute, unassailable, guaranteed truth for ever and ever (with no recollection of a previous inconsistent position).