Within the Comfort of Our Safe Zones

July 19, 2018

HARRISON FORD



The image of the American trailblazer, bravely forging a path into the unknown, fades to a ghostly image in the bright lights of modern American glitz.

Today, the majority of the participants in the social media networks move tepidly against the backdrop of… of… well, many very scary things!!

It has become a commonplace to stay within the confines of what we already “know” whether it is correct or not and never bother questioning whether it is correct or not. Our opinions matter so much more than… well anything else, especially something like facts.

Opinions have become the new brand of “truth”.

It is like those friends – and I’m sure most of us know these – who claim that someone is fat or ugly or stupid and, to soften the blow, claim it is because they alone are the one friend who will speak the “truth” to you.

Who ever believed opinions were “truth”? How did this ever become a thing?

During the 2016 election cycle, this was displayed quite publicly on the large public stage.

While I was ranging far and wide to learn as much as I could about the various candidates, the issues, and so forth, I received the same messages from differing sources. I mean, I kept hearing all the “bad Trump” messages from left-leaning friends and the “crooked Hillary” links from my more conservative associates.

I would post and link what I found to be cohesive and intelligent views from all sides during the period. Green party, Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, and quite a few independent or undecided sources; whatever I found of interest to the greater issue, I would share while my friends were stuck on a one-tone throughout the debacle.

Why are these people so quick to judge and so reticent to actually do anything like independent research?

First off – TIME.

Doing your own research takes a lot of time. Being a fast reader, I can breeze through this stuff rather quickly. Others sometimes struggle through pithy political punditry or pedantic posturing, trying to find some sense in the mess.

Memes are so much easier than anything like actually “reading”.

But even though some of my friends read a lot, they generally read only those articles that merely reinforce their previous opinions, their “truth”. When reading articles they disagreed with – found very uncomfortable to read – they flatly rejected them or, most often, ridiculed them. When put to the task of clarifying the points they found objectionable, the response was usually “all of it”.

Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt I can read any lengthy article (on any subject) and fully agree with the author on all points. I sometimes even do not completely agree with the stuff I’ve written when removed a year or so from it… yes, my opinions morph over time. I actually thought that was normal!

When the assault occurred on the alt-right speaker Richard Spencer, the internet exploded with “Punch a Nazi”.

A wave of self-congratulatory flag-waving ensued among the collective intelligentsia as if some mighty blow had been made against the assembled forces of evil.

It was humorous to watch. Even if it gave me an uneasy feeling. It reminded me of a period in history when, after the death of Lincoln, anyone who said something bad about the late President was liable to be shot dead. And there were many killings “claimed” to have been for this reason although no investigation was done.

When the mob intelligence (what an oxymoron!) rules, mayhem ensues.

But I digress…

What is the cause of this retreat of our consciousness into our imagined “safe spaces”? Why this refusal to step beyond our comfort zones?

No man is an island, the old saying goes, but we are becoming more so every day. Stuck in echo chambers, hearing our own thoughts regurgitated by others, constantly reinforced, it is hard to see beyond the veil of consensus to ever glimpse some truth beyond the pale.

Is this a by-product of our education system?

The strict enforcement of “only one correct answer” thinking leads to a society that can no longer think.

And neither Bill Gates’ questionable agenda in that regard or the leadership of Secretary DeVos seems to be working toward any relief to the growing problem.

The result will be more and more enlarged comfort zones, people incapable of robust thinking, polarization of ideas, and inability to find their way around a negotiation.

In complex situations, those who do not comprehend – in depth – the data and motivations of all the parties involved, are doomed to be the frantically screaming sidelines seeking out passive Nazis to sucker-punch before running off cackling like a loon to post their “blow against evil” on their Facebook page.

Where are the trailblazers from whom we sprang?

And from where sprang these…?




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Intellectual Docility

May 8, 2018



It is good to get others’ viewpoints, others’ interpretation of the world and the way things work.

All of us do this to differing degrees.

Some seem to merely parrot the teachings and thinking of their parents but even in those cases there has to be some evidence that it is the correct view and the proper way to think.

Some get their concepts and opinions from studying others, discussing with people, and so forth, balancing the input with what they KNOW to be true from their own experience.

Unfortunately, for most people, the growth stops at some point.

They get comfortable with what they know and decided nothing else could be more correct or more perfect to hold as opinions on a subject. Intellectual docility has set in.

Though there may be a vast array of untapped knowledge out there, they decided that what they knew now, what concepts and ideas they embraced in totality, was the culmination of all points in the known (or viewed) universe.

This applies to their political leanings, their concepts on race, religion, and so forth; all their biases are covered within the data sets they hold dear.

Many people stuck in this stage for too long a period seem to become upset easily with other forms of knowledge, especially with people of differing opinions. Whether it is religion or science or anything in between, they have come to the very firm conviction that anyone who does not think like they do are “stupid”, ignoramuses incapable of understanding the simplest of things.

Then, like radical adherents of some religious cult or other, they vilify different thinking and might even become violent, trying to force their singular opinions down other, less capable people’s “pie holes”.

This fixidity on a single level of stratum of knowledge may come about at any age.

I’ve known people who formed all their later mature opinions when they were only four or five years old. How they can fixate on such data so young is amazing. How it comes out as a middle-aged person, of course, then sound very immature but what would one expect of a four-year-old intellect. And, no, it never looks very pretty when coming from – chronologically, at least – a mature person’s mouth.

Many people can get quite knowledgeable on certain subjects to which they have become affixed.

They read and study in great depth a plethora of works approving or supporting their ideas; they can quote facts and figures along such lines for hours but when confronted with any portion of the opposing view they can only resort to ad hominem attacks because they really don’t know the subject – or possible variants – at all, no matter how well read on the subject they become.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong. This is just the way it is. I am not even suggesting such things need to be cured or fixed – heaven’s no!

Just as we can learn a lot in this world from the people who reject the borders, scoff at the boundaries, and lead themselves and us into exciting new worlds, new thoughts, blazing trails into new conceptual universes the likes of which have never been thought before, we can also learn a lot from those people who simply stop learning at a certain point, assured they have reached the summit of all available knowledge and that this, here and now, as conceived by them, is truly the best of all possible worlds.

If those of us who truly want to learn as much as we can about all things, these people are of interest as they can show you where you might be doing the same… fixating on one perceived fundamental universal truth (that is really nothing more than your labeling of such a concept) rather than testing the boundaries of reality to broaden the human vista into realms hitherto never even imagined.

Like Agent K said in Men In Black, “Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

And like the Dowager in Alice in Wonderland, “Think six impossible things before breakfast.”

To do any less means you’ve become complacent about the wonder…

Not that there’s anything wrong with such contentment.



What Happened, for Real

October 26, 2017



Hillary has written a book to let everyone know what really happened in the election of 2016.

Unfortunately, neither she nor most of the media analysts really seem to have come to grips with what really happened – what continues to happen – to the political landscape in America.

Once you grasp the reality, the present predicaments tearing apart both the major political parties begin to make a little more sense.

First of all, we had Bernie Sanders, an Independent, deciding to run for the Democratic nomination. I was all for him and he reminded me so much of Robert Kennedy in 1968 who was also cresting the wave of dissatisfied youth.

On the other end of the spectrum, we had Donald Trump, an independent, deciding to run for the Republican nomination. Everyone I knew thought his candidacy was a joke.

Had the Republican Party been saddled with the same sort of back-stabbing machinations that the Democrats had (to ensure the success of their prima donna) they would have ended with a standardized “Republican” candidate on the ticket in November.

During the primaries, it was overwhelmingly obvious as the time wore on that the registered members of both parties were opting for the “outsider”, whether his name was Sanders or Trump. Those should have been the two who took the fight head-to-head in November but for the party manipulations created to ensure Hillary’s nomination.

After Hillary stole the nomination, I was backing the “Giant Asteroid 2016” before I threw my support to the Libertarian candidate, Johnson.

So, what can we take from this angle on the election?

First, the vast majority of both parties were rejecting “politics as usual”, the movements by Sanders and Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, even if Sanders words were a little more politically correct on the issue.

Trump won practically ALL the Republican strongholds in America – whose adherents after eight years of progressive policies under Obama were a bit more dissatisfied than the Democrat faithful – and was able to pull enough votes from the Democratic strongholds through voters who were particularly dissatisfied with the parties’ handling of their candidate, Bernie Sanders.

Yes, it was the Sanders people who decided to vote for Trump because they were not so much interested in continuing the party politics of the past eight years but preferred the public outcry to drain the swamp and get away from rule by political influence rather than of, by, and for the people.

Since the election, we can see the reality continuing in the very fact that the Republicans holding the majority in BOTH houses of Congress are trying to stop Trump on many fronts.

The party itself is troubled and talking – like the Democrats are – about finding their identity. Unfortunately, both parties are looking for that identity within themselves rather than in the roots that got them into power, and those root elements want politics cleaned up. Even the most die-hard faithful of either party will freely admit to the corruption within their own party even while they castigate the opposing party for the corruption within their ranks.

And still, the leadership in neither party has come to grips with what the bold statement of the electorate is: stop the damned politicking, the backroom deals, the selling out to lobbyists and special interests rather than serve the people they have sworn a sacred oath to do.

That’s what this last election has said, loud and clear, and it appears neither the media, the political parties, nor even the public that has created this crisis seems to have been able to voice.

The only one person in the mix who seems to have taken it all very seriously is Donald Trump. He feels he was elected, if not by a clear majority mandate, at least specifically to do a job: drain the swamp.

Is it any wonder, then, that Republicans on the Hill oppose his acts as heartily as the Democrats? He is an outsider, a non-politician, and independent in Republican clothing.

The Media continues to act as if his “own party” is at odds with him. If they dropped their obvious bias for a moment they might realize the Republicans cannot be blamed for this anomaly in the White House.

This President is, for the first time in a very long time, a Man of the People rather than some party machine.

I just wish the larger swath of the electorate realized this golden opportunity.

We may not have another non-swamp President in our lifetimes.

We really should get behind the guy and see what we can push through over the heads of the swamp creatures in Congress attempting to block all his legislation… for the good of their two-party system.



Reflection

August 13, 2017



In the wake of the violence visited on Virginians in the incident in Charlottesville yesterday, I am hearing more and more hate speech.

Hate the Nazis. Hate the White Supremacists. Hate the Alt-Right.

I am seeing fully conscious and normally rational people reacting with “we should not allow Nazis here” and the usual “my dad died fighting Nazis and he didn’t die to let them come here.”

Actually, people, the veterans who were killed died for exactly that.

In America, we have that complete freedom of speech guaranteed by the blood of the patriots who have fought to defend that right.

Last election cycle we saw the birth of the rallying cry to “punch a Nazi” after seeing a video of a man being interviewed blind-sided by a person who then raced away through the crowds.

Striking a blow against “Nazis”! And the groundswell of support reverberated throughout the Facebook universe with the hashtag “#punchanazi” and everyone rallied around the flagpole.

Yes, the freedom to assemble that we so often take advantage of becomes a powerful voice.

If some group preaching a mantra we find offensive, we choose to exercise the right to assemble right beside them to protest their right to assemble for hate. Yes, and the hate spills over by the anti-protesters and, seemingly very humanly predictable, violence starts.

In this very Christian nation which cannot seem to remember what Jesus might do, most often allow our basic instincts to control and we answer hate with hate.

The attitude becomes: You want to preach hate? Okay, we will preach hate of you for preaching hate. We will attack you physically to show you hate is not the answer…

Really?

Now I hear people going completely off the reservation and trying to pass laws against Nazism in America.

No. Most emphatically, NO!

To go down the road of censorship is a treacherous and slippery slope and once undertaken can only lead to more of the same until we become a monotonic nation best reflected in the pages of Orwell’s classic, 1984. If you believe in freedom, you believe in freedom for all.

The heroes who’ve defended the Constitution in the past with the ultimate sacrifice did so NOT to ensure that we could pick or choose who can come, who can talk, what can be thought, what can be said… You include ALL this in “freedom” or you have no freedom at all.

If some group wishes to preach hate… Let them! But if they grow violent, shut them down. If they speak violence and yet do so peacefully, who cares? If you start the violence against them – who has actually won?

Let them peacefully assemble and – if you somehow feel the counter-argument must be made – do so at some other place, at some other time. To try and shout some other group down is usually called incitement to riot. (and in this case it would apply to the protestors against the alt-right march)

Don’t you realize that by violently opposing them you have strengthened their arguments? If you want to marginalize them, diminish them, then do not attempt infringing on their freedoms.

Trying to shout them down is a strategy from weakness.

America has overcome these sorts of things before. When I grew up we had just recovered from the Red terror crackdowns. It is not an America I should want to return to.

If we are not going to be free, then let’s just admit it, bring it out in the open, and tell the ghost of Mister Jefferson (at whose campus this incident occurred) that we no longer support his dreams of equality and freedom and the essential goodness in Man. Tell him we reject everything the Founding Fathers stood for. Tell him he and his patriots died for nothing because there are some ideologies we simply cannot abide.

Like freedom of thought.


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Limbering Question

November 3, 2013

octopus

Researchers were amazed to find out that octopi do not have eight legs, only two… with six arms.

Prolonged studies of these marvelous creatures discovered that they quite often stood on the same two “hind limbs” and used the other six for other tasks.

This got me to thinking… I have had many pets in my life – mostly dogs and cats – and I noticed the same sort of behaviors with them. Many could stand on their “hind legs” and walk around just fine. But it was always their two “forelegs” that were used as “hands”.

It seems rather odd but perhaps we are no longer the only “two legged” beasts around. Dogs, cats, horses and many others all move around on four limbs because it is easier but they have the other limbs as “arms”.

Maybe we need to update our thinking.


The Problem of Illegals

October 20, 2013

us-mexico-border

I understand a lot about this issue as I was born and raised in Texas and spent twenty-five years of my life in Arizona where the wall against the illegals could not be built fast enough, it seems.

Not only did I grow up with many Hispanic friends, my wife is the granddaughter of two illegal immigrants as well. Her grandfather came across the border at age eight to make a life for himself and met his wife when her family skipped across the border when she was fourteen.

They raised ten kids and many grandkids who have become valuable neighbors and productive citizens including doctors, accountants, and lawyers. And my wife, of course.

The problem with the illegals is more involved than simply trying to keep them out. The will to survive is what drives them northward, into the land of milk and honey, the United States.

Of course, their country could become a better place too if our big monied interests would quit their manipulations of the markets and politicians in that country.

No, I don’t see it as any sort of conspiracy but I do see it as a business model that has worked remarkably well. So well that it has pressured the citizens of Mexico to leave their dwindling economic system for one that is superior.

It is a problem we have created on our own, a problem made by our own system.

We bled their country to make ours greater, then we object when they are drawn to the light.



the Uncomfortable Side of the Brain

October 13, 2013

We all have it, that area of the brain where our thoughts just do not seem to jibe.

Many who are mathematically inclined cannot seem to communicate well on emotional wavelengths, though some can.

Many who are quite well-versed in other areas have difficulty resolving some higher math concepts.

Other artists can grasp the technical side of music and excel in the math but seem to fail at being creative in their field. Their “technical proficiency” seems to hamper creativity.

Everyone has some area they do not feel real comfortable being, or thinking.

So, we should cut others some slack simply because they cannot see or visualize some things as clearly as we.

Because, rest assured, there are subject areas where you too could be called less than average.


the Magic World of Harry Potter

October 6, 2013

hogwarts

The novels of Harry Potter deal with an under-culture of magic in our modern world. Why is it then that the magical sub-culture lives in a medieval setting?

I would assume that if they had separated from us in the Middle Ages they would have evolved along similar lines even if they had kept separated from the muggle world. So wouldn’t they have evolved more than they have?

And the flying brooms… is it the power of the magician to make the broom go, or is it the spell in the broom?

Or is it both?

It seems that the scene where Harry makes the broom jump up into his hand makes one of those hypotheses wrong but the later appearance of the more powerful broom makes the other one wrong.

Even all the spells seem to be in Latin… another medieval hangover.

Can magic exist in a scientific world and if so, where is it?

Has science put something into the ether (some sort of mental magnetic fields) to prevent magic or is it just the scientific attitude that dominates our present world?

Strange, but the Star Wars franchise also seems to be steeped in the medieval flavor as well. Jedi knights, light-sabers, and channeling the force.

Why do we see so much of the “magical” clothed in medieval garb?



the Magic of Middle Earth

September 29, 2013

rivendell

A world of magical creatures and many lifeforms that can DO magic. Spells, potions, amulets, the power of magic permeates all things.

How different is that world than the one in which we now live, but there are those who hold that the legends of a magical “Middle Earth” portray the true history of our world. Before the scientific world came into being, this world was the magical world of Middle Earth.

Some psychics have even said that before Middle Earth was a former world of science, and before that an even earlier world of magic.

Back and forth from science to magic, and back again, they would have it.

If the world switched from one to the other, what could cause the change? If the civilization was advanced along either scientific or magical lines, why would they discard their mode of operations?

I can see that IF this scientific world led us to WW III, the remnants might distrust the “evils” of science and so go toward magic.

But what sort of thing would drive people from magic to science?

It is probable that not everyone could do magic – just as in today’s world not everyone can “do” science – and that led those who could to take advantage of the have nots. Possible, since we see a lot of that happening in our present world.

This is all hypothetical, of course… or “impossible” if you are of the scientific bent… but it could answer a few questions…

If they were the right questions, that is.


Stupidity

September 22, 2013

genius

I have seen a lot of people over the years mock and deride others for “being stupid”.

What they seem to forget is that it is an inherent human right to be stupid or smart or anything else for that matter.

And just because one may assume they are being stupid about one subject, let me assure you there is someone else thinking you are being just as – if not more – stupid.

So, let’s just all agree that we can be considered “stupid” by other stupid people and leave it at that.

Einstein, a brilliant mind if ever there was one, probably could not bake a puff pastry if he tried. Does that make him stupid?

Aristotle was adept at a wide variety of mental feats but he could not program a VCR.

Sure, I’m stretching things to make a point but isn’t that really what this talk of “stupidity” is really all about? Not everyone can be expected to be as brilliant as us on what we consider to be the correct mindset.

Differences of opinion are nothing more than “opinion” and most of the verbal flaming begins from those differences (and the ego to back it up).

It has nothing to do with “science” and “facts”, but everything to do with ego.


Who said “size doesn’t matter?”