Blog #157 BODYSLAMMING AMERICA

History has consistently demonstrated that the individual persona is profoundly affected by its perception of the thinking of the societal mainstream and its moral compass.

Today, Germany is a peaceful and just nation. One can however, summon up the recollection of a Germany in recent history which was incomparably different. In a nation which had produced Goethe, Schiller and Beethoven, its people were imbued with despicable hatred and prejudice against certain categories of people, especially Jews, and successfully indoctrinated in an immoral and warlike nationalism.

Another illustrative example took place in a period, later known as “The McCarthy Era.” In this period of the 20thCentury, our American population, normally composed of reasonably educated and enlightened people, was generally converted into a paranoid, fearful society by the over-blown threat of Communism as espoused by, the later discredited, Senator Joseph McCarthy and his neurotic disciples. The unfortunate metastasis of this false and unsubstantiated alarm wrongfully ruined careers and reputations of many good people and for some years damaged the character of our nation and threatened the civil and legal rights of its citizens.

During an earlier period in our  national  history, a very substantial portion of our citizens, especially those who resided in the southern portion of our country, otherwise good and god-fearing people, actually believed that black human beings were mere agricultural equipment. The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest legal authority in the land, ruled in the the Dred Scott case, {the Sainted Judge Taney}  that blacks were just chattels (property) and could legally be returned to their “legal owner.” Fortunately, in contemporary American society, civil liberties are, inarguably, the entitlement of every human being, although, at various times still not being applied to its optimum.

A dark, heavy storm cloud has recently settled over our nation, signaling an ominous roadblock to our continued progress toward our perennial aspiration for a perfect nation. A downplaying of the values of higher education and intellectual understanding of man and his environment has taken place, in favor of athletic prowess and populist diversions, such as games and inane game shows. Real conversation and human interaction has been replaced by electronic message; written correspondence has become a vestigial practice. Success has come to be universally understood to equate with the tally of accumulation of external goods, rather than the product of an internal analysis of self- worth value and rationally evaluated level of self- fulfillment.

Consistent with this coarsened atmosphere, it was almost inevitable that the election of a Donald Trump would result. Mr. Trump, an egotistical, ignorant, former host of a glitzy television game show, was the natural choice of the low information, flat- earth population that helped assure his success; many of which people were so mesmerized by his snake-oil demagogic promises of Valhalla, as to vote against their own vital interest, governmental assistance.

Predictably and factually, in the brief period of time since his inauguration, he has ignorantly caused embarrassment, internationally and domestically, and not unexpectedly has strategically abandoned his mesmerized, needy supporters in favor of billionaires and generals .He has eschewed all expected standards of proper behavior, speaking and acting in primitive fashion, on impulsive, rather than upon considered behavior. If more were necessary, he has chosen frequently to utter bigoted statements which wrongful action is felt to have served as a catalyst for the increase of late in hate crime.

The sole two traditionally protective institutions for the American citizen are the Courts (although somewhat disappointing of late) and of course, the invaluable media.

In this context, is it so very surprising, that at a Montana Republican Congressional election rally, the   candidate publicly chose to “body slam” a representative of the media? After all, really, aren’t all of our national traditions, at present, being body slammed?

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Blog # 156 A CANDID CONVERSATION

We have always maintained a consistent, idealistic and optimistic inclination regarding the future of our nation and ourselves, as its citizens. Most especially was this true during the period of our undergraduate and graduate years. Great energy (and some naiveté) fueled our hopes and expectations of a nation and world which exemplified our aspirations for peace and economic justice.

 

We have always been grateful for having been born in this country with its successful balancing of liberty with democracy, and where (at least after F.D.R.) programs of government responsibility to assist the needy and to oversee the safety and health of our country, were established.

The theme and design constituting the competent architecture of our government is, functionally and legally, described as “the separation of powers,” pursuant to which the three operating branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial are given specifically designated and circumscribed boundaries of authority and function; such separation to be enforced through the Supreme Court

In our undergraduate studies it so happened that the classic French satirical play, “Candide,” was assigned in two classes, French Language and European Literature. In this play by Voltaire, the main character, Candide, imbued by his professor with the philosophy that everything always happens for the best, nevertheless consistently encounters injustice, tragedy and disappointment; this is the basis for his (Voltaire’s) ultimate sermon on life, “Stay home and plant your own garden.”

As young idealists and consummate optimists, with rosy predictions of a better world, we were greatly shocked and disappointed by such literary advice, and wondered at the celebrated status which the dons of literature and philosophy customarily accord to M. Voltaire.

As fate would have it, following decades of steadfast adherence to an earnest belief in the optimistic future of our nation, politically and sociologically, we were confronted with two confusing and disheartening developments which severely challenged our erstwhile assumptions; they were the happening of (1) The Citizen’s United Case, and, (2) the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency.

  • {The Citizen’s United Case}. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has the authority and the vital responsibility to enforce the nation’s rule of law, as enunciated in the U.S. Constitution; among the most basic legal principles is the constitutionally mandated “Separation of Powers,” a foundational principle in the functioning of our democratic form of governance.

In the Citizen’s United case, SCOTUS ruled that a corporation was a “person” and as such has the right of free speech, inclusive of the right to donate desired sums of money to a candidate.

Every law school freshman can tell you that a “corporation” is a mere legal fiction, created to limit the liability of entrepreneurs; thus it can be a party to a contract, a named plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit and is, to that limited extent, a “person”, but only for this commercial purpose; It is clearly not a natural, or real, person with constitutional or any other rights.

The inarguable assumption is that if a law school freshman knows this, SCOTUS does, perforce

More shocking is the knowledge that, as strictly limited by Federal Procedural Statute, no case can legally be brought, to SCOTUS which contains a political issue, however minor or indirect. For this purpose a litigant has, since the establishment of SCOTUS, been initially required to file a preliminary, but decisive, petition to prove that the issue in his case has no political ramifications.   This strict, “black letter” precedential barrier has always been a permanent fixture in our appellate law. We were therefore very troubled by the Bush v. Gore election case, admitted and decided by SCOTUS, but absolutely devastated by SCOTUS accepting the Citizen’s United case and then rendering such an irrational and unprecedented decision;  by freeing the floodgate of unlimited corporate political contribution and thus making a Punch and Judy show of our heritage of representative democracy.

  • {The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency.} We have, on many occasions, referenced the statement of Thomas Jefferson to the effect that, a literate and informed citizenry is required for the success of a democracy. Trump, an egotistic, shallow, glitzy game show host, with the gift of demagoguery and style of a snake oil salesman. by non-specific promises of a utopia, won the vote of the low information, flat –earth segment of our population; who were so mesmerized by his rant as to vote against their own vital interest, government assistance. He was also supported by voters who were simply “fed up with Washington” and responded to the candidates solemn vow to “drain the swamp.” The facts following the election show a much wider, deeper swamp with sociopathic alligators, mostly oil businessmen, American and Russian who clearly place a value on profits, above the life and health of mankind and the planet.

Trump’s ignorant egotism, poor judgment and shallowness of mind, in this short period of time, has damaged and confused relations, foreign and domestic and has embarrassed the nation.

We are not quite ready to stay home and plant our own garden, but are seriously considering a letter of apology to Monsieur Voltaire.

-p.

Blog # 155 THAT RIVER IN EGYPT

The Nile River, the well- known, biblically significant, Egyptian waterway is said to flow geographically in two directions; its boundaries, however, are confined to that Middle Eastern Country. The river’s unrelated homonym, “denial” (my apologies) is by significant contrast, ubiquitous and possibly universal.

The noun “denial,” for example, is understandably employed to describe a common reaction to the sudden receipt of tragic news, prior to the gradual, sad process of acceptance of the loss, which slowly evolves later in time.

Denial also encompasses a refusal to overindulge, accept a foolhardy challenge, the rejection of an offer, the opting of a Spartan life for religious or philosophical reasons, and is always of elective service.

However, the focus of this note is a search for some insight into the basis for the adamant denial of empirically proven phenomena, most particularly, by literate and intelligent people, many of whom, by contrast, appear readily open to acceptance and retention of matters of irrational preconception.

Such adamant denial of empirically demonstrated phenomena, most especially, by literate and intelligent people, can indeed be puzzling. Our working hypothesis is that the acknowledgement of certain objective and demonstrative advances in knowledge might present a challenge to one’s socially inherited and long- held fundamental belief system; the latter being a defining ingredient in one’s the temporal identity.

A review of ancient history reveals that until the middle of the 17th Century, the universally accepted understanding was, consistent with the religious dogma of the time, that man was the center of the universe and that, accordingly, the Sun travelled around his Earth; those who chose to dissent from this belief, suffered the severe sanctions of heresy. The ultimate acceptance of the heliocentric functioning of the solar system put an end to such traditionally borne ignorance and to its denial of reality.

Even today, many self-described, “informed” people, when presented with newly discovered reality, will reflexively militate against its acceptance in favor of adherence to some earlier, often disproven, traditional belief. The ancient French expression, “Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose,” despite its contextual reference to royal governance, has meaningful application here as well.

Literate people who choose to deny the evolutionary history of our planet and its inhabitants {contrary to ultimate geological, biological, anthropological and biological validation} seem to persist in lichen- like adhesion to their life-long, social and religious belief in a narrative called “creationism.” According to such story, the Deity fashioned the world and all its inhabitants in the space of less than one week, and just in good time for a week-end rest. We are able, once more, to observe that even in the present era, adherence to traditional, supernatural belief, in many quarters, overrides reason. It is known that for many centuries man believed in a flat earth and in the actual existence of witches, demons and hobgoblins. There is much disappointment and frustration in the realization that the phenomenon of antediluvian transmission of dark- age dogma appears to subsist in the human psyche.

However, we would charge that the denial of man’s participation in climate damage is materially distinguishable from all other instances of the denial of evident facts; it presents a “hybrid” varietal of that ageless poison ivy bush of denial. One predictable parent of this hybrid denial is the human weakness discussed above, the fearful adhesion to older and familiar (disproven) assumptions. Added to this exemplar of tragically stunted growth, are the many sociopaths, cognizant of the truth, who shamelessly and despicably, value short-term profits as having a higher priority than the proper condition of our planet and the life and health of its inhabitants.

-p

 

 

Blog # 154 RECONCILING AMERICA

We may have been remiss in failing to posit some proposed solution to the vexing problem to which we have assigned the term, “the death of civic amity” (the ability of citizens to constructively exchange disparate points of view).  Much lamentation has been expended on the subject, often making disappointed reference to the intention of our founding fathers ( as stated by Thomas Jefferson), that there be a continuous and constructive exchange of differing points of view among an informed citizenry; an activity deemed essential to the successful operation of a democracy.

We have expressed serious disapproval as to the apparent societal proclivity of society to band together into separate cohorts of individuals who evince unanimity of political beliefs, often in belligerent interaction with other like groups, maintaining opposing views. We have observed the consequent fracturing of society into insular groups, each internally and externally “preaching to the choir,” while emphatically excluding alternative, possibly useful solutions to problems. Admittedly, to date we have suggested no antidote.

We now realize that we have, possibly in the interest of avoidance of the predictable raging tide of snarky cynicism, refrained from the felt duty to express the material need for a realistic and productive reconciliation between such militant groups of disparate ideologies, and as well, some suggested mode for its possible accomplishment.

May we therefore suggest, as a route to a societal rapprochement, a universally communicated message, disseminated throughout all channels of communication, professional and social, as well as at all educational facilities, clearly emphasizing the essential commonality of every American, as to a shared history, loyalty to the self-same nation, and as to the universal aspiration for its success, irrespective of political and social predilection. A dedicated program of such mass messaging,  such as only the U.S. genius for advertising, sales and public relations can accomplish, through ads, public programs  inclusive of such populist  items as promotional  T shirts and balloons, might well do the trick. In addition to the important practical benefit to  the democratic operation of our nation, a resultant personal sense of security and identity, derived from a commonality of membership with the entire nation, would by far, outweigh the limited sense of acceptance derived from membership in some insular and fractious interest group.

It should not require a horrific natural or man- made disaster to instruct us that we are all people of one nation, irrespective of belief; this recommended sense of unity and fellowship is what we preferably should bequeath to our progeny.{ E Pluribus Unum.}

 

-p

Blog # 153 (poesie) THE LUMBERYARD (Redux-“Majestic Spark”)

We remember a trip to the “Peachtree State”
The fine City of Atlanta, to be exact.
Our hotel was the Peachtree Hotel,
Located right on Peachtree Plaza.
Looking around, we saw no peach trees,
Only lots and lots of pine trees,
Acres and acres, all pine trees.
Maybe peaches grow elsewhere in Georgia,
Maybe in North Carolina.
Here grow pine trees, lots of pine trees.

We motored to Eastern Long Island
There are so many pine trees there,
We’re told it is called the Pine Barrens.
So many, many pine trees.
We’ve travelled much, and elsewhere
They, too, seem to feature pine trees.
We always wondered at such great supply
Until past Saturday, then we knew.
It stays alive all the year–
The ready inventory of pine,
Until needed and called for.
That mortal lumberyard of pine.

With shovels bearing cemetery soil,
We prayed at the graveyard service
Upon the signal, threw the soil
Out and down and heard it thud
Upon her newly made pine box,
Sadly crafted at the lumberyard.

-p

Blog # 152 THE MAJESTIC SPARK*

We may never fathom the mysterious etiology of that vital spark which spontaneously makes its appearance in the fetus and then proceeds to supply the vital energy for the phenomenon which we call “life.”

Are we, reductively, merely magnificent appliances, powered by an electric-like current, coursing through our synapses and connections, overseen by a central station (the brain), with the assistance of other secondary electrical grids, strategically located throughout the anatomy?

Sight, as we know, consists of the transmittal of images by light, reflected on the retina and then transmitted by means of specialized synapses, for identification by the brain. Hearing is understood to be vibrations perceived by our auditory equipment and transmitted, by means of connecting lines, to that same magnificent and interpretive organ. The same may be said of all of the remaining senses, tactual, gustatory and olfactory. But what is the intrinsic dynamic which communicates our respective sense impressions to the brain for interpretation?  Will we ever comprehend the dynamics of the brain, itself, beyond our present ability to map the areas of its specialized uses?

Consider the full spectrum our life experiences and our consequent emotions; are they not examples of sensatory perceptions transmitted to the brain which, somehow, instructs such reactions? Is not this identical dynamic applicable to all of our feelings of sentiment (love, hate, fear) as well as the source of our learning, problem solving and, as well, our own self- made image.

Such an all-encompassing feature of life is truly a mystery. There have been attempts at explanation of the phenomenon of such energy from biologists, anthropologists and neuroscientists which are partly explanatory, but upon thoughtful analysis are not definitive. Religionists, avoid all such puzzling issues by their comfortable relegation of such questions to an omniscient, creative and determinative deity.

Recent advances in medical science have accomplished wonders in the preservation of such (illusive) energy from specifically known threats; these important advances however, may be seen, metaphorically, as restoring a campfire from its glowing embers. In the matter of the bonfire, while physical and chemical explanations of the phenomenon are readily available, this is certainly not the case in the matter of man’s electric-like vitality and its operative property of dedicated transmission.

In the mathematic discipline of geometry, one is presented with a fixed state of facts, known as  “the given” from which factual proposal, in accordance with the “game” authored by Euclid, one is to logically proceed by mathematical deduction to the desired conclusion (QED).

In our lives, we are born into, and become an identifiable part, of a “given” setting, in the presentation of a life situation; specific facts, analogous to the proposition of a geometrical theorem. Our introduction to such an identifiable context and setting become, as a natural matter, the ingredients of our reality (our “given). Such facts, consisting of home and family personalities at once develop into our understanding, assumptions and definition of our individualized reality, as well as the starting point from which we perceive our community and the outside world.

While we are unable to satisfactorily account for the rational explanation or understanding of the nature of the vital spark that maintains life functions and life itself, we do know by experience, that when the spark dims and then goes dark within a person closely relationship to us, we are presented with an irreparable, painful and disorienting “given” and an entirely new geometry.

*In Loving Memoriam to Helen C.

-p.

Blog # 151 A LETTER FROM MARK

{letter} : Dear Pliny,

{Thank you for your recent writing, “War of The Worlds,” in which you refer to Wells’ fictional account of an attack on Earth by superior armed aliens from Mars, who are fortunately defeated by the Earth’s natural pathogens to which the invading Martians had no immunity. You created an analogy to the opposing forces in the novel, by observing the critical bifurcation of society into opposing groups, one compassionate, believing in assistance to the needy, and the other, ascribing to a market-place morality. With the observed substantial decline in what you call “civic amity” each group, which you say, has become insular, as well as belligerent towards the other; yet you still persist in your prediction of the ultimate victory of human nature over hubris and insensitivity, for the following reasons I would label you a “Pollyanna.”

You seem to overlook the fact that today’s man is so invested in his own personal world view that when presented with facts that threaten such assumptions, he defensibly rejects or ignores them. The reality that the world is populated with so many selfish, low information people whose inclination is to ignore inconvenient or uncomfortable facts, obviously reveals your “pie-in-the-sky” outlook to be foolish.

Despite the unanimity of world scientists that man contributes to dangerous global and atmospheric damage, and, despite huge melting glaciers, the dangerous rise in sea level, erosion of historically defined coastlines, damage to the ozone layer, tornadoes, tsunamis, depletion of clean drinking water, despite earthquakes initiated by fraking and so many other preventable disasters, your favored animal, “rational man” seems hapless against the weight of man’s ignorant denials or perverse drive for profit.

Persistent misinformation, motivates many in their opposition to disease preventing vaccination, thousands of people are killed and maimed because of popular opposition to gun control, the private right of a pregnant mother for exigent reasons, to medically and safely terminate her own pregnancy, is opposed by people who purport to protect the fetus on the grounds of the “sanctity of life” (and have committed homicide to prove it) but vehemently oppose any assistance to the needy child after the birth event, the multitudes of people who adamantly oppose the granting of assistance, of any and all kind, to needy people; yet you still stubbornly persist in your baseless hope.

A great many American citizens, fortunate enough to reside in this land of freedom and plenty, perhaps merely two or three generations after the emigration of an ancestor, now vehemently oppose the admission of other hopefuls (how soon they forget), which selfish and ungrateful opposition is supported by Statute, armed military, fences and trained dogs.

There are countless numbers of dedicated religionists who faithfully attend worship services, smitten with comfortable self-serving assumptions of rectitude and personal virtue, but who harbor immoral distain, even hatred, for those who believe differently, as well as those who elect not to believe.

How many other demonstrative instances of prejudice, selfishness, merciless lack of empathy, ignorant indifference, cruelty and injustice will it take to convince you that planet Earth is well on its way to becoming a cold lifeless rock like the moon? How can you rationally retain your hope?

Very truly yours,

Mark M. Words, B.A.

{Reply}

Dear Mark,

We wish we were able to truthfully deny the essential truth of your observations, In point of fact, we have written copiously, on each regrettable subject. We would, however, in defense of our realistic maintenance of hope, initially, suggest the following conceit:

Let us imagine ourselves camping in a Vermont log cabin in mid-February. We look outside the cabin window at leafless trees, dead vegetation, snow and ice, frozen streams, the total absence of birds and other denizens of the forest, perhaps we hear a bitter wind stern enough to guaranty sinus pain, see icicles and lifelessness everywhere; the outlook appears to be hopeless, and depressingly bleak. How can any rational, mature person express happiness or the expectation of a joyful environment (and avoid the unhappy prospect of being labelled a Pollyanna) without the maintenance of an awareness of the predictable arrival of warm spring, as an alternative to then fixating solely on the snow and cold.

In simultaneous contrast with your observed (wintry) lack of empathy, selfishness and reductionist ignorance, there are very many positive indication available of an all- encompassing, verdant and wondrous season. One has only to consider the myriad international and domestic organizations, usually operated by caring dedicated volunteers, in efforts to combat hunger, disease and poverty; these are real life examples of the existence of empathy, self-sacrifice and charity residing in the human spirit and the valuable essence of mankind’s true character and inclination.

There are a great many programs and organizations solely dedicated to good purposes, including Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, Global Alliance, anti-Malaria and other dedicated disease fighting organizations; there is the World Jewish Alliance, UNESCO, and a multitude of not-for-profit organizations functioning domestically and internationally, solely dedicated to service to mankind, furnishing food, medical care and other subsistence. Programs exist in virtually every area of need, including the promotion of literacy, candy stripers and other volunteers in hospitals, free clinics and safe houses, all emblematic of mankind’s essential goodness, and natural desire to care for others.

Visibly, there are, to be sure, alternative faces of mankind, both positive and negative. It is certainly possible to be realistic and yet rationally foresee the dismissal of winter by spring and the ultimate prevalence of light over dark.

Sincerely Yours,

-p