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

Blog # 150 THE BEATING OF WINGS

 

The popular and joyful word, “applause,” appears to have its roots in the Latin word, “applausus” which translates to, “the beating of wings.” In modern European and Western societies, a great deal more is expressed and intended by the word applause than the inexpressive and instinctive activity described as the beating of wings. It connotes a genuine and spontaneous reaction, sometimes in the nature of a sudden outburst, in response to an event, or in appreciation of an enjoyable experience. The positive sound of people clapping their hands repeatedly in a joint expression of enjoyment, approval and gratitude, is a tribute eagerly sought after by every performer, as it is a vital assurance of successful performance.

What person does not respond with happy emotion at the sight of his little child squealing and clapping in delight at the presentation of a new little puppy? Which dedicated hard -working research scientist, after years of investigative frustration, will not respond with great pleasure and gratitude, at the congratulatory applause of his colleagues on his hard-earned scientific breakthrough? The joyful and congratulatory applause, of friends and family, at weddings, and Anniversaries, birthdays and graduations are all expressions of connection, approval and love.

To our experience, applause is intrinsically, a true and spontaneously expressed response to an appreciated event; it is uniformly positive, but has on occasion, admittedly, been used to express sardonic relief at the awaited termination of a boring lecture or stage performance.

Recent television videos from North Korea call into question our basic understanding and conception of the noun, “applause.” We are shown images of thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of puppet-like, obedient North Korean people, many in uniformed groups, carrying huge banners and standing strictly at rigid attention, uniformly “clapping” at the presence, on the dais, of their “dear and glorious” leader. Such rapid hand clapping is strictly uniform, snappy obedient and interminable; it is impossible to discern any emotion or expression on the face of any of the hand clappers, engaged in a joint symbolic demonstration of their complete lack of desire for individual nuance, and the universal worship of their powerful and homicidal ruler.

One is able to discern, in these robot-like expressions of happy subjection, the nightmarish and despotic atmosphere in which the “glorious and beloved” leader whose reported executions (even of members of his immediate family), torture and imprisonment, is meted out by that sociopathic leader at his whim. In this setting, the public clapping (we will not elevate the word by referring to it as “applause.”) theatrically appears happy and enthusiastic. It is shocking to the observer to view such a disgraceful and de-humanizing farce and the failure of the human spirit. The sight of thousands of human souls fearfully enacting this mock symbol of their loyalty and gleeful subjection, by the robotic act of clapping, would be better suited to the Sci-Fi channel.  The Latin word for applause, “the beating of wings” becomes appropriate.  -p.

 

Blog # 149 THE WAR OF THE WORLDS

 

The celebrated Victorian novel, “War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells, speaks of a fictitious invasion of planet Earth by Mars. Travelling through outer space, the attacking Martians land in a sleepy English hamlet, and upon landing they commence construction of huge, mobile, tripod supported cylinders, lethally armed with death ray and lethal smoke weaponry. The clear and unmistakable intent to destroy the entire population of the Earth is soon made frighteningly evident.

The combined military forces employed by England prove to be hapless against this fierce Martian onslaught and panic spreads throughout the nation and the world as it clearly appears that the attackers’ mission is world extermination. Fear and hopeless despair is worldwide.

Suddenly, as if it were a miracle, the Martian attack grinds to a complete halt, the killing cylinders crash to earth and the Martian soldiers suddenly die. This sudden and surprising reversal takes place and the victory is won, not by the defensive prowess of mankind, but by earthly pathogens (bacteria) to which the alien attackers lacked immunity.

Notwithstanding the obvious fact that planet earth is inhabited by a common species of man, there would appear to have developed two general and distinct “sub-species” based upon divergent and antagonistic belief systems at virtual war with each other.

[Species 1]  The first species, often termed “liberal,” would hold to the contractual undertaking in the 1930’s between FDR and the American people who were, at the time, recovering from a profound depression. The agreed representation was that it was the proper function of the federal government, in fact, its obligation, to ameliorate the suffering of needy citizens by programs of food relief, medical access and healthy sanitation. The contract also covered many additional subjects including, safety in the workplace and fair treatment of the worker, housing, financial assistance to widows, orphans, disabled, the unemployed and other legitimately needy persons. Subsequently, and as part of the federal government’s responsibility, was  oversight to insure pure and healthful food, water, pharmaceutical products, safe travel, honesty of public investment, the health of the atmosphere and a myriad other subjects too important and sensitive to leave solely to the cold, natural operation of a market economy.  Oversight of civil and voting rights was found to be necessary and was included.

[Species #2] The second species, often referred to as “conservative,” in general, maintains an opposition to government regulation, to oversight of business or programs of assistance to needy Americans (as “spurious entitlements”). They energetically oppose control of gun sales and ownership, a woman’s right to seek a legal abortion, programs of global assistance and trade, scientific proof of man’s participation in climate change. They favor a literal, often anachronistic, interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, as opposed to the adaptable, sociological approach of the late Judge Benjamin Cardozo, and have, in this nation consisting of immigrants and their progeny, an exclusionary approach to immigration. In international disputes they favor the hawk and impugn the dove.

We have, in past writings, observed the unfortunate decline (virtually to non-existence) of what we have called “civic amity,” the ability to responsibly and constructively debate differences of political opinion. The well intentioned and neighborly exchange of views, by a literate and informed citizenry, was thought by our founding fathers to be necessary to the proper operation of a democracy. Unhappily each segment (“species”) of society by reason of its respective belief systems have separated themselves and are distant from each other, and are loyally and intractably insular;  often they treat the other with disrespect and often avoid  each other as if they were unfriendly aliens, rather than fellow countrymen.

One morning last January, voters of “Species #1, woke up,  like the residents of the sleepy English hamlet in Wells’ novel, horrified  to discover that, against all prognostications, Donald Trump, a claimed exponent of the belief system espoused by “Species #2,” had won the Presidential election. Dismay and fear were expressed by Species #1 people, who predicted nothing short of doom.  As appears, the victory was enabled by those who opposed government assistance and regulation, by gullible voters who were mesmerized by Trump’s unspecified promises of better days, most especially by the economic underclass (who were completely mesmerized into voting against their own vital interest, governmental assistance) and by people who were simply “fed up” with Washington.

As feared, the new chief, deemed totally unfit by many pundits by reason of temperament, excessive ego and total lack of gravitas, began his term by immediately so acting as to ratify such fears. He thoughtlessly made unprecedented and bizarre telephone calls to foreign leaders, despite his complete lack of awareness of the background and precedential history between our nation and that of such foreign leaders; there was no apparent consideration given, nor awareness of the possible symbolic interpretation of such unusual acts.

Desperation set in regarding his choices of cabinet, a person selected to the office of Secretary of the NSA (the most sensitive and secret entity of all) who turned out to be a traitor, a Secretary of State who is a partner in the oil business with Russian oligarchs, an Attorney General who is annually awarded the grade of “F” in Civil Rights, by the NAACP, a Secretary of Education who publically expresses her opposition to public schools, a head of the EPA who has sued that agency on several occasions and states that he is an opponent of that agency, and so on, ad nauseum  as to all of his other selections.

This Species # 2 candidate installed close family members in White House sensitive positions, has been charged with many counts of sexual abuse, seems to have secret ties to Russia (which interfered in the election in his behalf), has uncounted conflicts of interest and violations of law for which reason he, unlike every other President, has wrongfully refused to furnish his tax returns. His inconsistent statements and manufacturing of facts have confused and worried everyone, domestic and foreign.

Not unlike the residents of the sleepy English hamlet, liberal and middle-of-the road people were caused to be confused, and fearful about their future and the future of the nation. A four year term manifested by such disgraceful phenomena would appear to be unbearable. Like those fictional. English characters in the H.G. Wells novel, all would seem utterly hopeless.

But take heart dear reader, good tidings are truly in view and redemption will arrive soon. In the subject novel, the death-dealing invaders were eliminated by nature, the earth’s pathogens to which the aliens had no immunity. In our present, non-fiction catastrophe, virtue will also be redeemed by nature; in this case, by human nature. Personalities, such as those described who presently inhabit the power and influence of our government, are predictably blinded by their personal arrogance and hubris. A consistent manifestation of this arrogance is the delusion that they have a higher plane of awareness and sensitivity than others, and so can practice their miscreant behavior undetected by the public which is, presumably, unaware of their brilliant devices. This weakness in judgment is nature’s weapon which will, in time, deliver ultimate justice. Such arrogant presumption is purely self-serving and erroneous. We have already seen firings, quitting, revelations of gross misbehavior brought to light (particularly by the media) and a plethora of investigative activity presently and earnestly in progress.  The wrongdoers are beginning to realize that all parts of the public now have at least some awareness that they have been misled and mistreated. Many are already expressing “buyer’s remorse.” Even the bloc that was numerically most responsible for Trump’s victory, the low information “flat earth” people are coming to the angry and insulting realization that they have been taken in by a “snake oil salesman.”

We will need some patience but can be assured that a better “world” is on the way!

-p.

Blog # 148 IN ONE ERA AND OUT THE OTHER (A Slide Show)

 

The reductionist inclination to see the world population in terms of two distinct categories, “we” and “they,” remarkably, has its authentic origin in early man’s fear of predators. It is felt that the persistence of such atavistic terror is the foundation of the current contentious debate concerning immigration policy. To illustrate our observation, we have taken the liberty to set forth a rather simplified, but accurate, portrayal of the ascent of man and his dire concern for the safety of his clan and habitation.  In order to cover the vast range of time, we have created a (written) “slide show.”

[Slide # 1]

In the primal days of human existence, the fortunate availability of a cave, especially one in proximity to a water source, together with a (smoky) fire, provided the primitive clan with a modicum of shelter from the elements; food, when available, obtained by hunting and gathering, provided necessary sustenance. However, the cave’s most significant utility was its protection from predatory animals and strangers.

Some early form of communication, of necessity, was developed within the insular cave dwelling clan. Tools were ingeniously devised to facilitate labor and, in general, the small inter-dependent group was able to achieve a basic feeling of community and above all, of safety.

[Slide # 2]

A great many centuries passed, and the residential cave morphed into the “hut” (or tent), which when associated with other huts, constituted a modest subsisting community with enhanced language capability. Life was, to a degree, less insular and lonely, but by far, of greatest significance, was the potential of a group capable of providing better protection from predators and “outsiders.”

The subsistence-level community eventually took up agriculture and,in time, mastered skills which resulted in a sea-change from a subsistence economy to one capable of producing a surplus in excess of the community’s need.

[Slide # 3]

Inter-community trade developed, featuring the exchange of surplus goods which necessitated a common language and a species of monetary exchange .Interaction with outside groups resulted in the enlargement of the market location and hence, more safe territory; the fear of the “other” was ameliorated to a degree.

[Slide # 4]

Such communities subsequently expanded into larger entities, eventually into the city-state as well as other geo-political entities. Such entities afforded a much improved lifestyle and recognized languages as various ethnic and tribal groups interacted. Battlements, city walls, moats and other forms of joint defense were established in keeping with the traditionally primary and ever-present concern for security against invasion. Sometimes, it was decided that, in order to preserve future safety, it was necessary to initiate an attack against others.

[Slide #5]

In this modern era, the question may be raised as to the continuing negative perception of the foreigner or the immigrant, and the often expressed opposition to his admission to our country for inclusion within our society. Such animated opposition to the admission of applicants seeking admission to our country, inarguably, a country consisting entirely of immigrants and their progeny { how soon they forget} can only be explained, in its etiology, by the continued existence of the same atavistic and primal fear of predators or predatory people, maintained  by the cave man. It is curious that in a nation justifiably priding itself on the nation’s exponential advances in science and general enlightenment, you can wonder about how many “smart phone” denizens of our society fear the foreigner. { n.b.: etranger” (stranger) = French word for foreigner}.

In the 20th Century, an idealistic organization, believed that a common world language would encourage universal personal interaction leading to feelings of security and permanent peace. The language was called “Esperanto” and the movement failed miserably.

It is disheartening to observe that the cave man mentality still survives and, significantly, still affects our policy and statutes regarding immigration. Will the time ever arrive when the calibrated lines demarking nations and cultures ever fade in importance, and when the modern distrust of the foreigner be relegated to the dust bin of atavistic cave man mentality?

Did you ever notice that your perception of another person as having a foreign accent? The pedestrian saying, “To the other guy, you are the other guy,” has resonance here. Your ethnocentric inclinations may prevent you from the consideration that to that foreigner, ”you” have an accent.

[Slide #6]

It is certainly time to lay down the spear and the war club, for good, and comfortably welcome the newcomer who aspires to live a free and good life, just as we do.

-p.

Blog # 147 SLAVERY, A PERIENNIAL REDUX

In mid-April of every year, people of Jewish ethnos, institutionally recall the departure of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt, in their escape from servitude, as described in the well-known literature of the Bible (“Exodus”). A prominent feature of the holiday observance is the traditional meal (Seder) in which symbolic foods are employed in the recounting of the event, i.e., bitter herbs, slavery, and a sweet dish, freedom from bondage .It is an important  tenet of the observance that as long as slavery exists anywhere, no man is truly free.

Slavery may be described as a system or practice in which the concept of property and property ownership is applied to human beings, such that they may be purchased, owned, bartered and sold in the manner of business equipment or chattels.  It is truly discouraging to learn that the practice of slavery in this modern age still continues, and as reported, includes upwards of 21million souls.

The dynamics associated with slavery is such that the slave himself is dehumanized and exists for the sole purpose of furnishing unpaid labor for his owner (farm, mine or industrial). He is kept alive by the minimal subsistence required to keep him alive and working.

In 1857, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Dred Scott case, proclaimed as the law of the land, that black people could never be citizens but were, eternally, property. This decision, famously penned by Judge Teney, {bless his compassionate  heart} was shortly thereafter criticized as the worst decision ever rendered by that august Court.

Inarguably, classic slavery is an anathema to virtually every American citizen, although, reportedly, is still in minimal (sub rosa) practice in the United States, particularly with reference to illegal aliens. It would seem to us that, in this day and age, the inability or refusal, of the slave holder to identify with the slave as a fellow human being, is sociopathic and perversely evil.

The right to live free and to develop one’s individual persona and identity, as well as the opportunity to strive for a fulfilling and enhanced life, is the natural portion of every member of the human species. There are instances however, short of traditional slavery, which would qualify for inclusion within the   ambit of improper servitude. These include marriages featuring co –dependency and those where physical or emotional abuse is regularly and voluntarily endured. Other servitudes or impediments to freedom of choice and action occurs as the unfortunate result of alcohol or drug abuse, adherence to extreme political or strict religious dogma, and those living the hopeless and unfulfilling life of ignorance. In many of these instances, life enhancement may possibly be attainable as applicable, through counseling and therapy, medical treatment, and where possible, enlightenment.

The theft of another’s freedom far exceeds the most egregious act of grand larceny which, at its worst is a crime involving property, a felony under the criminal law. The theft of another person’s independent right to live his life is no less than unspeakably evil and an unforgivable offense against nature.

-p.

Blog # 146 WAYWARD LABELS

When occasion prompts, thoughtful people, inclined to honest introspection, may dutifully re-examine the tenets of their personal beliefs, most relevantly, in conjunction with the current prevailing marketplace of ideas. Where change or alteration is personally deemed warranted, the same should be the sole product of independent deliberation, and without outside or third party influence.

It would appear to be the natural predilection on the part of most people, albeit of significantly different views, is to consider themselves middle of the road, or moderate, thinkers. Such self-serving labels are evidence of a personal need for reassurance of acceptability. However, any categorization or “labeling” of oneself or others is, inarguably, attained through subjective perception, and accordingly, has minimal value.

In the interest of clarity, we would suggest the following simple description of what appears to be three general categories or labels:

  • “Reactionary.” Characterized by unchanging adherence to formerly established (perhaps, outmoded) ideas, political, social or religious.
  • “Radical.” Advocating political, social or religious change; often branded as “revolutionary.”
  • “Middle of the Road” or “Moderate.” Belief system accepted by a great many diverse people as timely and proper.[This label is also ascribed to by people whose beliefs may not be au courant but are supremely confident as to the verity of their nuanced beliefs and, accordingly, presume ultimate societal support].

In the recent past, American history reveals, the general sentiment was that the institution of slavery, supported by the King James Bible, The Supreme Court of the United States and revered personalities of the time, such as Thomas Jefferson, was legal, moral and good business. Abolitionists who opposed this disgraceful practice were labeled as dangerous radicals; men like Jefferson, as to this subject, were considered middle of the road.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement was, in its day, popularly considered revolutionary and radical. The denial of the right to vote to women was not( generally) labelled reactionary; in fact, in view of the numbers of those in opposition to the extension of the franchise to women, the position might be labelled moderate. Today, when women’s rights of equality still have a significant way to go, the denial of the woman’s right to vote would be universally condemned, even by most reactionaries. In another context, those who presently currently believe that a woman has the right to personally elect to have an abortion are labelled as radical by some, middle of the road by others and morally reprehensible by reactionary credo.

Compassionate citizens today, who believe that the government has a proper and moral responsibility to render assistance to needy Americans (ex., food stamps, health and education), are derided as radicals and socialistic, by most reactionaries, but generally supported by most middle of the roaders.

The inarguable fact appears to be that the practice of labelling or categorizing of perceived beliefs is useless, in that it is purely subjective and comparative, and also subject to the context and prevailing mores of a developing history Its conceptual invalidity is also made apparent by the practice of people, located across the varied spectrum of beliefs, convinced of the “obvious” rectitude of their views, who therefore consider themselves, moderate; it is moreover, reassuring for such people to believe that one’s views are reasonable and within the mainstream of society, regardless of their evident disparity.

Evidently, the lack of utility of labelling or categorization of people based on political and other areas of belief, suffers from the chronic syndrome, commonly known as “in the eye of the beholder.” It is further complicated by the changing societal mores over time, affected by dogma, religious or otherwise, and still further, by the phenomenon of familial or ethnic inheritance of beliefs.

It is truly disappointing and sad that the metastasizing decline of civic amity [the proper tolerance and consideration of opposing ideas, independent of perceived label] has resulted in the societal loss of the necessary and valuable democratic process of the free exchange of differing points of view in the proper determination of policy, as envisioned by our nation’s founders.

-p.

Blog # 145 (poesie) ACUTE MYOPIA

 

If you must, litigate, investigate, castigate
But do take time to notice the spring!
See what was said; say what was heard,
Speak of Russia, Russian hackers
But do not interre the newborn spring.
Making sure they buttress answers,
Ignores the rainbows, the empty feeders,
Much too engaged to notice spring.
Fervor, fury, fiendish, friendly
Too preoccupied to view the bloom,
Too engaged to salute the Solstice.

Ah, but if you would view the season,
Quick furry critters breaking cover,
Spreading violets, white hydrangea.
Would, that you would choose to see!
This and that will all be totaled, but,
Only eyes see the grasses’ splendor,
Ears hear geese, and cooing doves
Could you but wake right now and see!

-p.