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.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Islam: Peaceful, or a threat to the West?

Have you noticed how the great majority of terrorist acts recently have been perpetrated by those who uttered words, or left written evidence, that indicated they were acting as Muslims in the service of God?  And have you also noticed that almost every politician, with the two exceptions of the current President of Egypt and the French Defense Minister, has refused to even use the word "Islam" in anyway when referencing the terrorist acts?  Does that seem as strange to you as it does to me?

After multiple readings of English translations of the Qu'ran, it would seem that the answer to the question posed by my title is...both.

The two major publications that we look upon as the basis for Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are the Qu'ran and the Bible.  According to Muslims, the Qu'ran was written by the Prophet, Mohammad.  We know the Bible was written years after the Jesus lived, not by him.  The Bible in the Old Testament is largely historical and allegorical; it provides tenets for living a live oriented to God, and provides specific instruction as to how to live one's life.  The New Testament is the story of Jesus' life and the message of redemption through faith in Jesus with the promise of rewards in Heaven.  The Old Testament in particular describes historical events when God instructed his "people" to conquer other lands, but nowhere contains any instruction for present day readers to take on any such political activity, even in defense of the religion.  The same is true of the New Testament.  Such actions have been undertaken in the name of Christianity in the past...the Crusades and the Inquisition come readily to mind...but they were movements driven by men who claimed to interpret or receive guidance from God, not from written direction in the Bible.  All religions speak to a higher existence that disdains violence in this life with rewards to come in the next life...except for one:  Islam!

Islam in the west seems to be a religion of Peace.  Yet we are aware that in nations where Muslims are in the majority, or have political control, they have absolutely no respect for any religion other than Islam; they require all to obey Sharia Law and any who are not converted take on "dhimmi" status, a second-class level of existence...or are killed.  To westerners, this is problematic...a conundrum that they apparently have no interest in understanding and definitely no interest in discussing publicly.  Why do you suppose that is?

To understand, one first must read the Qu'ran and understand not only its contents but also its authority.  As I wrote earlier, the Qu'ran was authored by Muslims Prophet, Mohammad while alive, not some historical remembering of him or things he said.  As such, it has absolute authority for devout Muslims...Mohammad spoke for God, and through the Qu'ran continues to speak for him.  There are no accommodations, no interpretations, no bargaining...if it is written, so it is and shall remain.  There is no room for asking what "is" is!

With that in mind, know that the Qu'ran commands that Muslims respect all religions so long as Muslims are in the minority.  They are to live a devout life, but honor others' beliefs and remain peaceful.  If and when Muslims become equal in power or equally influential in political circles, the Qu'ran then commands that Muslims require that Islam be given equal respect with other beliefs, and honor given to those that worship Allah.  So far, all this fits in with the western view of freedom of religion...live and let live, right?  Absolutely.  However it is the next step that means trouble.

The Qu'ran goes on to instruct the devout that should numerical or political superiority be achieved in a country, region or nation, the faithful shall impose Sharia Law and command all to convert to Islam.  If they refuse, or do not abide by Sharia Law, they either become "dhimmi" or are slain.

Some of you about now are thinking that that is ridiculous.  Really?  Consider the governance of Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal.  Not enough?  How about: Sierra Leone,  Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, and Uganda.  Shall I go on to the Americas?  Consider: Guyana and Suriname.  In Asia, as just a sampling, we have: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh...well, you get the picture.  In each of these cases, Islam rules and all are answerable to Sharia.  Lashings, beheading and stoning to death are not unusual.  Remember the spate of honor killings here a number of years ago? In lands ruled by Sharia, those don't even make the news, much less be other than proper responses by the heads of house holds.

Many have told me that this kind of thing cannot happen in America...or even in most western countries.  Really?!  How do you know.  Those Muslims who denounce the terrorists do so for one of two reasons.  The one that we wish to be true is that they do not agree with the terrorists in any part of their beliefs.  But there is a very real possibility that some of "our" Muslims are devout, and as such do not try to rush the acquisition of numerical or political superiority...which they think that the terrorists are doing wrongly.  The devout are content to await their ascension to political power and then will, in accordance with their devoutly held beliefs, happily establish Sharia Islamic rule and require all to convert to Islam or take the degrading status of dhimmi while not in any way granting immunity from the application of Sharia law and its punishments.  Western women who like fashion, men or women who like alcohol, unrelated sex, or belong to the LGBT community will find no comfort if that happens.  But meanwhile, devout Muslims...those we could correctly call "fundamentalists"...will continue to get a head start on destroying the West they see as a threat to true Islam...and they will include any Islamic groups they see as no conforming to their vision of what true Islam is...

Anyone can see the politically correct conundrum that these facts would put on today's western diplomats, office holders, militarists should they be required to acknowledge them.  Their cowardice in the face of such a large potential problem is totally understandable...even as it is nonetheless inexcusable.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do Candidates for Public Office always have to resemble Piranhas?

Politics is ugly.  There is a lot of passive/aggressive behavior lying just beneath the surface too.  During the middle of the last century there was a veneer of civility that provided just a slight softening of the rhetoric.  You could sense the vitriol, but it wan't just thrown out there, but couched in nicer terms with a softer, more civil voice.

There is no question that earlier practice of politics in America was extremely crude and lacked any real interest in truth.  It seemed actually to thrive on emotional name-calling and broad insults designed to anger the foe and inspire smiles, cheering and clapping by those on your side.

I would suggest that there was a conscious effort to "refine" the political rhetoric as we reached into the middle part of the 20th Century.  I always felt that an effort was being put forth to come across to the public as "civilized" in both action and speech...even as the comments sent us all to the dictionaries to determine just how great an insult had just been brandished, albeit by inference or innuendo.

And even as the battles waged at periscope depth, there was what seemed to be genuine friendships among those on opposite sides.  As in the courts, folks could argue emotionally and feverishly one against another, yet sit down and share a drink and good conversation as dinner was served with your erstwhile foe.

Today, rare indeed is a friendship...or even acquaintanceship...that crosses ideological lines, even after the close of the work day.  Not only do people on opposite sides not understand each other...they don't want to understand each other.  At least that is how most of them act, even when saying words to the contrary.

Given that unfortunate state of political art, it nonetheless is confounding to me how people in the same general segment of political ideology can be as negative with each other when vying for a nomination as they are with those diametrically opposed to their point of view.  When viewed as the bigger picture, their differences are extremely minor and, while demonstrably important, don't seem to rise to the level that calls for a "take no prisoners" conflict.  Yet that is what happens in both major political parties...at least as I view it.

I remember Ronald Reagan's admonition to not speak ill of any fellow Republican.  I always like both the sound and the content of that statement.  Even as we now embark on the very beginning of a campaign that will result in a new President of these United States of America, we see this strange sense of cannibalism becoming more apparent.  There used to be an art to a candidate explaining the plus' of their positions that did not require an attack on anyone else; "I am better than 'xxxxx' because I would 'xxxx.' " caused a listener or reader to think about how that person's election would effect the body he was trying to join...and how it would serve our own community.  Those who simply explained why one shouldn't like someone else never used to be a reason to presume that the person deriding another would be a good office holder.  So...why does that seem to work now?  I doesn't with me, but there has got to a serious expectation of its efficacy since almost everyone seems to do it.

And the serious downside of such negative campaigning is that regardless of who wins, that survivor finds that the infighting has handed the real opponents much ammunition to use in the general election.  So...where is the advantage?  I just don't see it.  Short term, maybe there is a boost...but in the age of video tape and recording the long term result is usually disastrous.

Are politicians and political really so stupid as to continue this absurd practice?  I guess we will see in just a bit...