Blog # 68 INCOMPETENCE: THE EIGHTH DEADLY SIN

In the broad spectrum of anti-social, or errant behavior,” incompetence” deserves the most coveted prize. It is usually enabled by a concomitant of two miscreant features, ignorance and confidence; the  mutual allure is deadly.

Our nation’s most successful enterprise, aside from raising soy beans and corn, is unarguably, marketing. Impressionable, or dissatisfied folks, seem to evince an irresistible attraction to marketing propaganda, not entirely dissimilar to that of a moth and a light bulb. Offer an adequate incentive (money) to the agency and the response would predictably be, “no problem.” Sugar-laden drinks, potentially harmful chemicals, violent video games, miracle foods or diets, fitness programs for everyone (regardless of physical condition), “you name it.”  Glitzy, Barbee dolls, decked out with “bling” and masculine “hunks”, heroes, problem solvers, celebrities and incentive coaches promote age-defying creams and oils, medicines for every malady, from heartburn to bi-polar disorder (for you to edify your physician),  personal Injury lawyers, life extending elixirs and whatever may be the snake oil du jour.

In similar fashion, there are many individuals who, by means of their tactical representation of expertise and self-confidence, seem to have the remarkable capacity to induce unwary members of the public to so act, or refrain from action, to encourage cosmetic surgery, to buy into “get rich quick” deals ( in real estate or gold coins, for example) to purchase a particular automobile or wristwatch, insurance plan,  and even, for whom  to vote (albeit possibly against the voter’s interest).

Bad advice is often widely disseminated, by television, smart-phone and even more effectively, in person-to-person interaction. In the context of our great and literate nation, the fact that an ignorant, egotistical braggart-clown (the personification of reductive ignorance in attractive combination with self-confidence) can have himself popularly  selected  as one of the two candidates in an election for the Presidency, ought be beyond any reasonable ken or tolerant acceptability.

Experience has wisely taught us to avoid the society of the criminal and other unsavory members of our society. The latter, if not at first, soon thereafter, becomes identifiable and therefore,  avoidable. So express evil- doers rank only second in our spectrum of miscreants since we know how to be safe.

But incompetence has no warning lights and is all too often identified only after the manifestation of its tragic results. Thus, incompetence rates as more dangerous than criminality. It is often not recognizable and the amiable incompetent may with our permission, soon find his way into our “soft parts.”

In the interest of our own self-preservation, we are mandated to avoid the “sell,” by conducting our own research and inquiry. Comparative experience, research in the literature, and a thorough examination of the subject are invaluable and are highly recommended; however it should be note that the most effective antidote to this “Eighth Sin”, incompetence, is the liberal exercise of our human reason.

-p

Blog # 67 CALIBRATING FREE WILL

In our ever-present aspiration to attain self-knowledge and identity it is essential to examine and review our past record of acts and behavior. In the course of such internal audit, misleading subjectivity may be minimized by sufficient attention to those societal norms to which we ascribe, as well as to the comparative behavior of individuals who we consider worthy exemplars.

Our present system of laws and ethical precepts are, necessarily, dependent upon the premise that we, as individuals, can freely choose between right and wrong. The competing belief regarding action and behavior is the theory of “determinism” or fate.

Many celebrated philosophers and theologians have used “free will” theory as the cornerstone of the infrastructure of their ethical precepts and teachings. In free will, man (ex., Adam) is solely and only responsible for his choices; good choices beget benefits, bad ones, suffering. Free will is the shiny bauble of philosophical morality; where necessary, man had to be taught, or forced to, right action.

Contrariwise, those who were (and still are) adherents to the theory of determinism, maintain a belief in the active participation of outside, third party forces or agencies that affect man’s behavior.

It is much easier to critique the belief in outside forces as third party agencies which are believed to influence or determine man’s behavior, than to reliably calibrate free will.

The wide-spread belief in external, influencing forces was a significant, typical and salient feature of the long-lived Dark Ages, existing prominently until the liberating development of The Age of Enlightenment (blog 61) which rationally devalued the eerie currency of superstition.

It would necessarily follow that no moral code or concept of right action could rationally exist, were man’s behavior manipulated by some external puppeteer. No blame or honor could be logically bestowed under determinism; the latter is best relegated to a museum of antiquity or the graveyard.

The competing theory in the examination of the dynamics of human behavior is the theory of free will. The analysis of this alternative theory is not capable of a simplistic, reductive review as is the case with determinism.

The theory of free will is not solely reserved for didactic philosophical discourse. It is also less esoterically recognized and utilized in such worldly areas as criminal and tort law, marketing and advertising, choice of belief systems and opinion, aesthetic choices, entertainment, conversation as well as a myriad of mundane phenomena.

The   belief in freewill is enormously empowering and infused with potential for creativity and self-realization. However, Classical Free Will, in its purest and ideal state, would predictably result in full responsibility for action, without any equitable explanation or understanding To subscribe to the ideal is to indulge in the concept beyond usefulness, empathy or understanding (blog#20).But  free will does not merit summary rejection or unfavorable  critique as applicable to the theory of determinism.

Impinging to no small degree on free will, are evolutionary dynamics, psychological and chemical factors, (as demonstrated by recent findings in modern behavioral science) genetics, environmental factors, parenting, belief systems, health, race, economic factors and others.

From the time the fetus (now, child) is forcibly evicted from the safe, warm and familiar environment of the womb, the unconscious mind, in its primitive desire to avoid danger has caused the individual to fear change as a threat. (blog#15) Our bio-chemical system, in tandem with our psyche, often orchestrates an internal, primitive warning, sometimes constructive, sometimes not. Often, a disinclination to take necessary action, results from a subtle feeling, not an explanation; the latter is often supplied (perhaps incorrectly) later as a retrospective rationale. The unconscious mind is usually not our friend.

Despite the limitations on free will, we are still responsible for our actions. The theory, nevertheless is useful in the understanding the personal, private bases for our thoughts, impulses and feelings. The goal is the attainment of freedom of choice of action despite the existence of impulses and inclinations of a non-constructive nature.

We have the potential to lead rational, useful lives despite our individualized repository of old fears and predilections. Free will is the only construct that exalts individuality, growth and creativity.

-p.

 

Blog #66 THE SPY – MYSTERY ON THE SUBWAY – (poesie). Woodsworth study #2 (var.)

I saw a man the other day
His nose was long, his face was drawn
His pleading eyes said “go away”
Yet curiosity drew me on.

With gnarly hands between two knees
As bony as an unfed rat,
He faintly smiled, with visage green-
Part covered by a dirty hat.

I stared as if by magnet led-
He rose and left, right at Times Square
The door then closed, the train sped on-
And left me puzzled, blinking there.

I looked about, but no one seemed
Disturbed by such a grisly view-
But I, impressed by this sight, dreamed-
And tossed awake for half the night.

Where does he go? Who can he be?
Does he know love? Can he not speak?
And was” He” (shudder) watching “ me”?
Am “I” the one who is more weak?

-p (attributed to Leonard N. Shapiro (1950) 2nd study, Wordsworth: meter, style.

Blog #65 (poesie) VISIONS ( A “DAFFODILS” redux)*

I wander far within my mind
A pensive trail from vill to vill
I travel oft and far, and find
Each time a new succeeding thrill

I oftimes wend a weary mile
With slight expenditure of will
And halt at times, to see and smile at-
Hind and buck upon the hill

The summer with its vital dew
The springtime’s rich and muddy womb
I see the skies, both grey and blue
I see the diaper and the tomb

I see the city’s murky mist,
The country ivy nod and climb
An infant’s cheek, so gently kissed
A ‘ fested bog all ooze and slime

Man well may brave the seas or span
The space in search of human kind,
For me, no venture is more grand-
Than that within the human mind.
-p (attributed to Leonard N. Shapiro)

• (This was his 1949 study of the structure and meter
of William Wordworth’s famous, “Daffodils”)

 

 

Blog #64  American “Socialism,” A Mandated Moral Responsibility

It might be a wise move to eliminate the term, “socialism” from the non-academic lexicon; it is useful in a college course on political theory,  but has  been so perverted and misused by our low information population (and those who pander after their votes) as to effectively become an epithet.  In a society where so many devalue education and wisdom,” tags” albeit inaccurate, are popular (See: Blog#28).

There is, inarguably, is no socialism in nature. A bird with a broken wing, a deer with a lame foot, an owl with impaired vision are all goners; inadequate rainfall leads to the mortality of fauna and flora alike. It would be extremely challenging to identify any human beings on this planet that have had the capacity to exist and survive without some societal assistance, especially regarding sustenance and protection.

With the rise and development of industrial mass production, the perception of the intrinsic value of the common man was depreciated and reduced solely to the measure of his potential utility and capacity to work and produce profitable goods for the industrial entrepreneur.

Charles Dickens (and others) artistically and compassionately depicted the brutal and unprincipled use of men, women and young children as instruments of labor (rather than as human beings) in the Victorian era.

Adam Smith, then denominated a “liberal,” maintained that a proper just and efficient society should be completely free of and unfettered by State (Government) control or influence. This brilliant (but errant) philosopher opined that the natural law” of supply and demand would ensure a successful society. The talented contemporary novelist, Ann Rand, shared this heartless economic theory. It simply doesn’t work; ask Charles Dickens, himself or President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In response to the “Great Depression” of the early 20th century, FDR entered into a binding social contract with America, providing for federal participation in the operation of the American economy for the benefit of the nation and its people. This necessary entry by government into the economy and life of the people ,forever repealed the law of the jungle and its Darwinian cruelty and made way for a more compassionate and moral society. Government sponsored projects in general infrastructure, including bridges, roads, transportation, construction of colleges and museums, hospitals and countless others, for the benefit of the worker and citizen in general as well as the nation. Social security, health and labor laws, the protective oversight of hospitals, food and medicine are among a myriad of responsible life enhancing developments which evolved and which have become vital ingredients in the context of the good life of the American citizen, thus elevating him above the merciless world of Darwinism.

FDR’s contract with America worked, it still works. The proper understanding and employment of a calibrated and balanced participation and oversight by government, assures us of safety of our person when we walk the streets, travel, eat, are ill, and even when we invest.

Capitalism, happily and predictably, will always remain our American form of government.   Nevertheless, our “flat earth people,” are encouraged by that materially successful portion of our society, which greedily worships at the altar of the many-fisted profit deity, to believe that government policies of responsible assistance are “Socialism,” an evil pied piper who is leading our nation to ruin. The same modest, low information people, who, in reality, may stand in most need of government assistance, are persuaded and misled into virulently opposing all such programs .It is particularly vexing to observe that the large number of our Congressmen, ( usually Republican ) who publically decry and condemn all government assistance programs (as” Socialism”) but who comfortably accept and  enjoy salaries and benefits, health insurance (which they oppose for the American citizen),retirement benefits, travel and emoluments of all and every kind which are paid for by the federal government.

It may be possible to avoid some discord by naming our polity “Responsible Capitalism.”

-p.

 

Blog # 63 (poesie) CRISES IN THE NIGHT

Remote on a forsaken snowdrift
With windswept eyes, he faced
An enemy blown in on North winds
A terror from the elements.
Scantily clad, he waited
Teeth set, lips trembling- with
Excitement or fear, he knew not which-
Minutes passed, cold and wet ones
Fatigue and pain subservient
To self preservation.
“Let them come, I am ready”
He repeated, yet girded himself and
Tried to wrap,
What few garments he had, about him-
Melodramatic and nostalgic
Thoughts recurred- of what had been
And what would be, if only.
He weakened at several times- but
At each lapse recovered spirit.

After eternities, he shifted feet
And noticed the previous stiffness
Now, afraid to move-
Lest physical relief banish determination.
At last, temptation ever gaining ground,
With diminishing hours and increased pain-
He moved—about a step
And then, defeat followed,hot upon heels
It had come – would soon come
Now it mattered not, for he had lost.

With shame in his breast, he
Returned indoors-where
Strangely comforting-
The will to do battle left him.
He settled in the warmest corner
Where the others were resting, and …
At last, his hand let go the sword
Clenched in his tightened fist
And let it fall with a clatter
Amidst the great pile of swords
In the middle of the room.

-p (attributed to Leonard N. Shapiro, circa.  1949, w/ed.)

 

Blog # 62  INVITATION TO THE DANCE

The waltz, as it is commonly known, is a ballroom dance performed at close quarters by two dancers who revolve in perpetual circles to music played at three-quarters tempo; examples are The Hesitation Waltz and the Blue Danube.

The salient descriptive features of the waltz are uncannily similar to the much extolled practice of negotiation; the latter having the purported reputation of being the superlative method of resolution of conflicting interests. Yet there are fascinating similarities between this much vaunted practice and the waltz.

Excluded from consideration here are intra-family and interpersonal disputes; a mutually identifiable, recognized issue must be identified in order to consider negotiation. In the categories of disputants cited, there is a predictable absence of identification of the basic issues truly underlying the dispute.

The recommendation to employ negotiation where the parties have reached an impasse is perceived ideally, to be the most responsible route to an equitable solution. This ideal rendition of the procedure anticipates an evenhanded peace between warriors of equal strength and prowess. This expectation requires a naiveté requisite to the acceptance of an invitation to tea from the Mad Hatter.

So salutary and constructive does the ideal concept of negotiation appear that there has evolved in human society an entirely new genus and species of preacher-like being, coaches in the “art” of negotiation. These self- anointed savants (similar in stripe to the class of “motivational speakers”), rein in substantial piles of money by recounting to enthralled audiences useless aphorisms and facts which they already know, but expressed in a hyped up and” feel-good” jargon. Like the snake oil salesmen of old, these people have learned the dark art of preying upon easily impressionable people who seem to manifest, for a very brief and ephemeral moment, a sense of determined and confident direction.

These performers, dressed in expensive garb and possessed of a rich, golden voice seem to have the perverse talent to prey upon the sensitivities of the gullible who are convinced that they require a magical amulet or special incantation to succeed at their efforts, negotiation or otherwise.

Successful resolution of a disputed issue in the formalized procedure of the negotiation does not depend upon ostensible confidence, attire or personality. These features which are the grist for the mill of the “feel good” preachers usually are unrelated to the outcome of the process.

Apart from its idealized conception and the criteria urged by the” snake oil salesmen”, the negotiation process (dance) is almost always stacked in favor of one of the disputants, viz., the party whose materials or services are needed most by the other. This is the major and usual theme and situational determinant as to who sits in the “cat-bird” seat.

Aside from the stated misconceptions, negotiation is, in fact, a useful and practical way to shorten the length and mitigate the cost of a dispute. However, the parties have to pay close attention to their relative bargaining positions in order to realistically determine, for the purpose of the specific dance, who leads and who follows.

–p.