Post #279     SOME REFLECTIONS ON “IMAGE”

It is an observable and, we maintain incontrovertible fact, that our society appears to be rife with people who manifest an irresistible impetus to incessantly audit their personal reflective image. Without question, the most commonly accessible device for such eerie dedication is the mirror, variously defined as a surface, typically glass, coated on the reverse side with an amalgam, which reflects a clear image. In this note we are interested in the intrinsic degree of importance, of such frequently reflected images.

If one chose to take the time to consider the phenomenon, he would, predictably, observe an uncountably numerous presence of mirrors throughout our (apparently, self-conscious) society. Mirrors of all sizes and dimensions, in private and public spaces, hotels, restaurants, department, stores, railroad and bus depots, libraries, theaters and places of public assembly. The existence of this plethora of mirrors, tends to give evidence of some neurotic need for constant assurance of identity. It is as if there were a fear of sudden, unexpected alteration in facial characteristics, absent constant monitoring. Clothing merchants provide ample access to mirrors, as a practical matter, for the intended use of the patron in seeking an appropriate garment. The perspective,  purchaser may instead, be primarily interested in viewing himself in a conceivably different aspect. If he approves of the “new me,” he will likely make the purchase. It might be more useful, as a practical matter, instead, to use the words of the Scotch poet, Robert Burns, to be able “to see ourselves, as others see us.”

Vastly greater significance is applicable to our self-image, usually developed over time, by our internal, subjective assessment of the history of our past reactions to others (family, friends, co-employees), and, to the varied stimuli that accrue in our life, positive and negative. Our long- standing assumptions regarding our self- image are the reliable source of our fundamental outlook on life, our adopted principles, perception of events, our morality and feelings of responsibility, of our capacity for love and our empathy and our fixed standards of rectitude.

Perhaps the foremost quality, having its fundamental derivation in our self-image, is our personal sense of morality; a quality which is essential for living successfully with others in society. The moral sense in properly socialized and mature people, is internal, and a replication of the (inner) self, consistent with their felt urgings of developed self-image.

The following (fictitious) anecdote [used in a prior blogpost] is illustrative, as well as thought useful, in making the point. Let us suppose that I wrongfully took (stole) your cell phone. Later in the day, I suffer unbearable remorse and guilt by reason of my wrongful act and, shamefacedly, return it to you, accompanied with my profuse, sincere and abject apology. You, being an exceptionally generous and forgiving person, accept my remorseful apology, and seeing my sincerely intense grief, generously, state   that, “I should forget about it, because, as far as we are concerned, it never happened.” Yet, I am not able to forget it, since, as far as my consideration of my self-image is concerned, I am still plagued with the disturbing thought as to, what kind of a person am I, after all,  to have stolen the item in the first place?

Mature and permanently developed morality does not depend upon the fragile and inconsistent system of reward and punishment. Proper moral sense is effective when internalized and developed into an integral part of one’s self-image. True moral responsibility, like empathy and the capacity to love, are entirely internal matters; our true persona and, to the point, its accurate depiction, vitally depend upon our internalized self- image, and not on superficial mirror reflections.

In an earlier blogpost (#261 “Mr. Rogers and Selfies”) we, sincerely and respectfully, paid homage to  the late Fred Rogers, for his special dedication and contributions to the healthy socialization of children; most  especially (and uniquely) his vital, and unique mission to teach the  importance of who they are, “inside” [“it’s You I like, not the clothes you wear …etc.] and the comparative unimportance of what they may happen to look like on the outside.

Would that more adults had subscribed to, and learned from, “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”

 

-p.

 

Post # 278             MAGNETIC NORTH   

As a practical matter, it would seem impossible for scholars to estimate the numbers of innocent people prosecuted and punished by ancient society for heathenism for daring to suggest the possibility that the earth travelled around the sun, rather than the obverse; after all, was it not the Church’s inspired wisdom that man was the center of the universe? The gradual acceptance of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory was a momentous step in the nascent understanding of our solar system, and, as centuries and knowledge progressed, of the Universe. Mankind now had an objective reference point for the location of our planet, with reference to other observed planetary bodies

A useful, and perhaps apt, metaphoric concept relating to the theme of this post, is the common field compass, known for its unwavering and accurate indication of “North” [by reason of the magnetic propensities of our planet] and thus useful as a reference point to verify or seek directional perspective.

We have in previous posts, referred to human phenomenon which we refer to as the private, intimate and not overtly articulated, conversation with (within) ourselves; a feature that has a shelf-life, coterminous with our respective lifetimes. As sentient beings, such private musings and private observations are natural and expected; they serve as a basic interpretive tool, directing and focusing our reaction; a known frame of reference, not very unlike the localizing function of a compass.

Such inner conversations and personal musings vary in subject in for properly socialized individuals, who have matured in perspective and understanding, by learned experience and the cumulative acquisition of knowledge.   The relative importance of events, as they occur, is evaluated by them in accordance with relevant criteria. The practical concern, initially, is whether the event in question has any impact upon oneself. Thereafter, those with maturity of perspective might consider the event from other applicable points of view, such as legality, justice and equity, impact on the environment, empathy, historical precedent or any other relevant consideration.

The frame of reference of the mature, knowledgeable individual is not fixated on himself, like the sole inclination of the compass: magnetic north. However, there are many who cast themselves in the self-assumed role of sole protagonist, in life’s theatrical production. For such people, events have designated  significance to the same degree to which they perceive they are personally affected. There are no other protagonists, in fact, there are no other players for such a person to consider. His compass does magnetically point north, but his has no other directional indicia. He is stranded, limited to one fixed location. Emotionally, he is completely liberated from the responsibility to feel sympathy or empathy; his sole operating emotion is that of schadenfreude.

He, of course, is ethnocentric, his bias and ignorance not having an understandable explanation such as,  lack of experience, or an inadequate education; it is, in fact, personal and  totally systemic. As an illustration, he has firmly declared, in his conversation with himself, that all foreign- born people, who speak English have accents. In fact, he secretly prides himself on his ability to discern the country of origin of any foreign speaker of English, from the sound of his accent. He is, however, constitutionally unable to comprehend that, to the ear of the foreign- born person, he himself. has an accent. In his limited perspective, only the other speaker can manifest an accent. Has compass, as stated, only reads due north, with no other directional indications. It may be said in his case that, even “due north” is not equivalent to “true north.”

He has scant interest in books, theater travel, hobbies, social occasions, but, by contrast, is up to date with the news media; diligently, checking numerous reports, most of which he is relatively certain, do not affect him directly, or indirectly, such as events and disasters occurring  beyond the span of his binoculars. He lives a lonely, but “safe and undisturbed” life in his fixed magnet north, with no interest in an alternative. At various times, his inner conversation speaks of loneliness and disconnection, which he summarily dismisses with much comforting gratitude, for the security of his reliably fixed position, his magnetic north.

 

-p.

Post # 277  TWO (Domestic) THREATS TO MEANINGFUL ELECTIONS

Only little more than 200 years ago, one had to be male, white and prosperous, to be eligible to cast a vote. Fortunately, the franchise was ultimately extended to all American citizens and has remained the salient, definitional feature of our republican democracy; the one man (or woman), one vote, political doctrine has, in recent history, properly enjoyed the status of an emblematic American landmark.

Recently, serious and threatening attacks on the sanctity of the American election system by computer interference (“hacking”) has been uncovered, apparently conducted by a foreign agency, believed to be Russian. These contemptable and illegal acts of espionage have justifiably incurred an outraged response by our nation. At present, an official investigation by our security services, has been convened to seek confirmation of the perpetrators, and the determination of appropriate, responsive action. The apparent motivation, if confirmed, would seem to be the frustration of our democratic system of election, by the skewing of its results, thus resulting in an inaccurate or false expression of the will of the American voter; and perhaps the general undermining of our cherished democracy. It is beyond question that the fundamental operation of our democratic republic, relies upon the expressed will of the nation and is deterred by such wrongful acts of distortion of that will.

It is our intention in this note,  to highlight two primary instances in which the American voting franchise is misused by a significant number of American voters  (as opposed to foreign miscreants), whose irresponsibility and lack of mature perspective, bring about results which are ( as in the matter of such foreign criminal hacking),  effectively atrophying or distorting election results, and thereby defeating the citizen-government responsive mandate of our established form of government.

Our first category of irresponsible voters, we term the “one issue voter.” There seems to arise, in every historical period, “hot,” polemic issues, regarding which the public becomes seriously divided in opinion. The polemics du jour seem to orbit around the issues of abortion rights, gun control legislation and climate science. Many “single issue voters” will, predictably, cast their vote for the candidate whom they believe, shares the same view as they do regarding a selective, hotly contested issue; thereafter, shamelessly enjoying the illegitimate, but perceived, feeling of having dutifully exercised his franchise as a good citizen. He is deluding himself; in fact, he has irresponsibly performed an act, which is inarguably antithetical to the very principle of the democratic vote. Every candidate’s platform consists of views and positions on various issues. The “one issue” voter, ignores the views of the candidate, other than his position on his single, mono-focused issue. His irresponsible vote for the candidate might serve to articulate a blind approval of the candidate’s stand on issues, which, conceivably, may be against that voter’s (or the nation’s) best interest.  From the standpoint of the rational administration of the nation, the single- issue voters may (ignorantly) be every bit as culpable for a skewed or distorted expression of the popular will, as the despicable Russian hackers.

We have borrowed the terms, “Tribal” or “Groupthink” as the conceptual reference to our second category of dysfunctional voters. This class of voters appears to be made up of (insecure) people who seem willing to expend their valuable franchise (as well as possibly, principle) on the candidate, or issue, who, by some explicit or subtle suggestion, is favored by influential members of their insular group. Many members of such groups, have similarly bartered their neurotic feelings of insecurity and loneliness, for a more comfortable perception of social acceptance and identity within the perceived shelter of groups, by subscribing to mutually agreed upon, identical views. The failure of “Tribal Voters” to vote in accordance with their own, nuanced, personal beliefs and interests, is another act of disgraceful frustration of the national elective purpose. An astoundingly bizarre and illustrative example, of the “Tribal Voting” syndrome, is demonstrated by the reported, continuing support by Evangelical Christian voters, of Donald Trump, who has boasted, publicly and flamboyantly, of his numerous immoral sexual escapades.

We have been profoundly disturbed and frustrated with these thoughtless perversions of our fair and rationally devised democratic voting system, and earnestly look forward to the appearance, someday soon, of a wise enough person with effective resolutions to these problems.

Post # 276  OF TEDDY BEARS AND BIBLES

The continuous record of progress in the ascent of mankind (and society) from the paleolithic era to the present, would inarguably appear to be commensurate with the rate of decline in superstitious belief. As eons of time passed,  earthly phenomena, thunder and lightning, plague, successful or failed crops, change of seasons, extreme weather, childbirth, life and death, were subjects of empirical experience, by reason of which man began to acquire, and accumulate, rational explanations; these usefully supplanted former legendary lore which, universally,  attributed causation to some supernatural agency.

Our Founding Fathers, several of whom were sincere Deists, bearing in mind Europe’s history of religious repression and injustice, desired to create a secular nation, featuring an unassailable mandate of separation of church and state. It is to be noted that there is absolutely no reference, whatsoever, to a deity in the Constitution (except the guarantee of freedom of belief). They also feared that the inclusion of religion in the foundational philosophy of the new republic, would run the risk of the undemocratic influence of religious zealots.

The early archetype of the ideal citizen of the new republic, was a self-made, self- educated person, who was successful by means of his diligence and pursuit of knowledge, fame and fortune. Thomas Paine described the latter part of the 18th Century as the “Age of Reason,” wherein a citizen’s intellectual capabilities was his primary judge.

The struggle to attain the goal of enlightenment, sadly, continues to date; the Scopes “Monkey Trial” in which the “blasphemous” teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution, was prosecuted by the State as a criminal offense, was as recent as 1925. At the present time there are a great many citizens who we have impatiently described as “flat earth people,” who, stubbornly cling to their beliefs in traditional, but disproven or irrational dogma, publicly denying evolution, as well as matters of serious existential concern, such as climate change.

It has been our consistent position that evolution’s truly generous gift of an advanced brain to mankind, carries with it the (grateful) obligation to make use of it to one’s fullest capability, in the pursuit of enlightenment. The atavistic dependence on irrational superstition is an unforgiveable impediment to the dedicated march of mankind toward a just and rational existence; from a morally responsible sense, it is a betrayal of his anthropological duty.

There persists, in this modern day and age, the atavistic belief that the Bible (Old and New Testament) is the primary authority respecting human life and is a reference to be consulted for ultimate answers to mundane and existential questions. Initially, it may be noted that every recognized religion (and perhaps certain cults) has its own distinct book of inherited “ultimate truths” which seems to demonstrate, respectively, major differences in precept.

The declaration that the holy scriptures contain life’s ultimate truths and is to be consulted on a regular basis as the guide to proper living is, apparently, grounded upon the belief that it was written with the inspiration and guidance of the Deity. The men who wrote the (very many iterations) of the Bible, and who “wrote with the inspiration of the omniscient Deity”, declared that the Sun orbited around the Earth [many were burnt at the stake for espousing the accurate, but blasphemous, heliocentric theory.] The Bible, in its “infallible” language approves of slavery, capital punishment, xenophobia, warfare, revenge and a servile place of women as compared to men.Further, It is worded in archaic obtuse language, readily capable of subjective interpretation, as necessary,for self-serving rationalization.

We sincerely do empathize with the many people who employ the Holy Book for needed comfort; life can, indeed, be difficult and disappointing, even tragic; the irrefutable, ever- present awareness, of our universal mortality is, objectively, very troubling. May we be forgiven if we, with due respect, use the metaphor of the common Teddy Bear, used by toddlers for comfort at bedtime, to portray the widespread use of the holy book for the acquisition of courage, or as a reaction to tragedy. At the risk of an accusation of being pedantic or lacking empathy, we are obliged to recommend the more rational and effective, reliance upon experienced wisdom, and on the comfort of close friends and family, rather than on any physical object of superstitious attribution. The recommended source of human comfort appears to be mature and certainly more in keeping with a rational acceptance our natural plight as mortals, but, all the same, as highly developed, healthy and, most importantly, rational beings.

-p.

Post # 275  (poesie) AUTUMNAL EXODUS

Moist ethereal breezes intimately whisper
Cooling balm to sunbaked foliage.
Trees, now attired in military raiment,
In styles bespeaking revolutionary riot,
Proclaiming in eye-sparkling manifesto,
The swift advent of seasonal overthrow.
-There’s no time to lose!

Boughs strain heavy with seasonal fruitage.
The bounty, tho’, forsaken by large mammals,
In search for safer havens
Alas, no time for juicy gorging,
Time’s to be spent for seasonal survival.
Smaller ones, storing food, burrowing deep.
Instinct warns, dalliance spells disaster!
-We must not tarry!

Winged creatures depart aloft
Huge flocks with little hesitation,
Escaping to safer geography.
Could one but hear beneath the forest floor,
The excited chatter of woodland critters,
Anxiously nose-wrinkling rodent reconnaissance
-Is there yet time?

Darkening clouds bespeak woodland calamity
Soon, winter gales, storms, sheets of ice,
Snow, that covers safe niches and hide-outs,
Cold that delights in shivering death.
All must forsake the Fall magic.
– And again, we will be ready!

-p.
(Leonard N. Shapiro, Sept. 2018)

 

Post # 274        A SUDDEN RELAPSE

An observable portion of the American population has lately manifested the classic symptomology of reinfection, or relapse, of a dread disease, which was optimistically assumed to have been in gradual remission i.e., the grimly persistent and chronic disease of racial prejudice. Because we view bigotry as a psychological and social pathology, we have chosen to [metaphorically] express ourselves, in this  note, with the use of clinical language. It does seem evident that the societally incapacitating presentment of bigotry, is not adequately described in mere terms of perverse inclination or inadequate ethnic experience; it is rather, a life crippling pathology for the hater, and as well, the innocent target of his neurotic hatred.

American history reminds us that, not so long ago, the enslavement of black people was seen as an acceptable and normal part of American society; the institution was approved by the express words of the Holy (and infallible) Bible, and, as well, the great majority of white society; the latter, most especially, in areas of America where cotton was farmed. The “revered” Supreme Court of the United States, the Constitutionally designated, final arbiter of justice, declared, in the mid 19th century , (Justice Taney) that blacks were (merely) agricultural equipment; it therefore ruled (Dred Scott case) that a runaway slave be restored to his (“its”) “owner.”

Following a tragic and extremely bloody Civil War, waged principally to end slavery, it took considerably more than a century, for Congress to enact (civil rights) legislation which, by its provisions, articulated the (for its time, radical) philosophy of our founders,  that “all men are created equal.” It is a disgrace that it took a great many years and much heroic sacrifice, to establish the very “humanity” of black Americans, viz., the recognition that they enjoyed equitable inclusion in the category of, “all men.”

Subsequently, there was slow, but  discernable healing in the universal recognition of the person of color as an equally worthy American citizen, and a general disapproval of public behavior or speech, which was seen to evince prejudice towards black Americans; illustrative examples are: widespread condemnation towards white people who use the “N” word, as well as,  acts of discrimination in academia, the workplace and societally, generally. We appeared to be on the road to recovery and a lasting cure.  Our nation has experienced a memorably great black president, black judiciary, black governors and legislators, black intellectuals, academics, authors, artists and scientists. The realization of the ideal of an interracial society was, at long last, appeared well on its way.

We recently felt compelled to express our feelings concerning the word, “tolerance,” which we feel, undeservedly purports to define an admirably healthy quality. Our review of definitional authorities, confirmed our unorthodox distain, for this popularly loved, but not adequately analyzed word. The definitional concept as advised, seems to stress the virtue of a permissive attitude toward “others.” Our post, titled, “TOLERANCE, THE BADGE OF BIGOTRY”, expressly deplores such false presumption of virtue; demanding to know, from what source does the “tolerant” person derive authority to make the virtuously withheld expression of judgment? True personal virtue, we submit, would be the enlightened understanding that there is no cookie cutter standard extant, and therefore, [no category of] “other.” We would prefer the aspiration to words expressing  “acceptance” and hopefully, “friendship,” in the hopeful expectation that healing from the primative malady of discrimination was imminent.

We have, also, noted our shock and chagrin at the surprising elevation to America’s historic Oval Office, of an ignorant, egotistically adolescent, former game show host. His deplorable behavior and actions, since taking office, have been no less than embarrassing and confusing, nationally, as well as on the world scene. To our present point, he has proven himself to be a classic bigot, among other ways, by his public statements and acts, included in which, are subtle winks and shocking “dog whistle” messages to his base, thus giving tacit, Presidental approval to their hateful prejudicial behavior as well as fraternal thanks for their loyalty. This is yet another, of many illustrations, of the universally unhealthy partnership and empirical intimacy between ignorance and bigotry.

Trump’s flat earth, low information supporters are especially receptive to such needed symbiotic exchange of approving sentiment. It is to be realized that this sub-group of unsophisticated bigots, have no personal basis, whatsoever for self-esteem, except for their obligatory, belief in the alleged superiority of white over darker epidermis.

We are very concerned about the fraternal exchange of code words, constituting “dog whistle” messages, or “winking,” approval, tactically transmitted from the President of the United States, to his hate-mongering base. This pernicious practice is contagious and metastasizing. In the campaign for the Florida Governorship, the Republican candidate, referring to his black, well- educated and attractive candidate, employing similar dog whistle language, pointedly remarked that his opponent is “articulate,” suggesting to  fellow speakers of the exotic language of “dog whistle, the rarity of a black, well- educated citizen. This was no ignorant unintended oversight; we are advised that this Trump-like (and Trump- loving) Republican is a graduate of the finest eastern ivy league schools. Our reserve of patience was then completely exhaust when that candidate then warned the southern audience of the danger of  “monkey government.”

In the coming elections, local, state and federal, we would urge all responsible and concerned Americans, irrespective of past political affiliation, to value our unique, (but vulnerable) republican democracy, as necessary, over partisan precedent, and cast their vote to bring to a halt, this relapse of an entirely shameful and nationally debilitating disease.

-p.

Post # 273     AGAINST THE WIND (Memorial to John McCain)

John McCain, Senor Senator from Arizona, died approximately one year after being diagnosed with  brain cancer. His passing was the death of an exceptionally worthy citizen; one modeled after the optimistic conceptions of our Founding Fathers, in their formulations of our democratic republic. He was an intelligent and independent thinker who, irrespective of party affiliation, put his own perception of the country’s welfare above considerations of party politics; inarguably, a singular trait in the contemporary political arena. In a television interview, which took place subsequent to the bleak diagnosis, he stated that he “wished to be remembered as a person who served his country.” This, he emphatically did, both in his military and civilian life, and indeed, will be so remembered.

In earlier posts, we have sadly lamented the disappointing demise of what we have termed “civic amity” between citizens who hold divergent political views. Rather than respecting the right of others to differ in opinion, and cordially engage in constructive debate, as intended and foreseen by our founders, many have banded together in separate, insular groups, socially professing identical opinions and mutually sharing a  “loyal” antipathy toward other like groups, holding disparate views.

John McCain, by bright and admirable contrast, was an avatar of friendly and respectful recognition of   points of view which differed from his own. Rather than attempting to disparage those whose view of policies or solutions to problems varied from his, he would, in good fellowship, attempt to win over the divergent party by appropriate debate in the halls of the Senate. Whether one agreed with him or not concerning specific issues he was sure that McCain’s mature and professional stand was always based upon his personal principles and his perception of rectitude;  one not necessarily governed by the direction  of his  party’s leaders.

McCain’s independent analysis and spontaneous positions regarding issues coming to the Senate, in contrast with the customary, party line, group-think of his party, earned him the somewhat radical title of “maverick.” That reference to McCain was, in our view, an unintended, but accurate, admission of irresponsible “tribal” criteria, motivating the decision-making of other Senators of his party. In the context of contemporaneous politics, the title amounted to another deserved medal (among the many) awarded to the Senator; this Medal of Honor would be awarded  for conspicuous exercise of individual judgment, in the face of general and self-serving irresponsibility on the part of others of his political party.  He opposed the tactical and false “birther movement” and, typically, other matters he saw as unjust.  Senator McCain demonstrated consistently exemplary performance  as an elected  legislator. It has been reported that, unlike most other elected politicians, he did not consult the polls before taking a position on a question. His motto was “straight talk,” the latter being more emblematic of whom he was, than the self- incriminating and politically revelatory, “maverick.”

The wisdom of the ancient Greek statement,” Character is destiny,” has  been  amply confirmed in the life of John McCain. The nation will miss you. Rest in peace.

-p.