Blog # 177   THE BRAIN AND THE APPENDIX

In earlier writings, we have excoriated the use of electronic devices in lieu of personal communication. The absence of actual person-to-person, interactive experience results in the loss of the comforting recognition of the familiar voice, the loss of ability, when desired, to stress or downplay a point, the ability to console or express empathy or sufficiently express deeply felt emotions.  We have described text and e- mail messages as effectively, the mere transmission of data; a far less than satisfactory, substitute for actual, spontaneous interaction. An electronic “friend” is in no way comparable to the benefits of having an available, responsive one.

In the present writing, we are especially concerned with the potential for cognitive loss and, ultimately the resulting atrophy of the ability to reason and problem solve, by reason of the more convenient, and disabling, use of smart phones and other like phenomena. With the exception of computation and directional assistance, the regular use of these handy solution devices has the potential to  result in the atrophy of our natural, heuristic capabilities for analysis and problem solving.

Countless people willingly fork over substantial fees to health clubs for the personal privilege of what can functionally be described as hard labor, with the goal of keeping their body fit and in healthy condition so as to enable proper lifetime functioning.

Esoteric subjects are taught at schools, such as calculus, logic and philosophy, to students who will conceivably have no practical use for them in their adult life, but with the admirable goal of training and developing their mind’s cognitive skills.

Human cognition is the active mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, life experience and the senses. Thought or, cognition, is inclusive of understanding meaning, exercising judgment, evaluation, reason, routine computation, problem- solving, decision making, comprehension, and even, speech. It is inarguably true that the thought process uses existing knowledge to generate yet further cognition.

As physical exercise strengthens our physical bodies, so does the study of academic subjects (and esoterica) improve cognition. The expression is, “Use it or lose it.” It would truly be an unspeakable and unpardonable act of ingratitude, in the face of man’s most fortunate gift from evolution, for him to cause this magnificent organ by reason of its non- use to atrophy and become vestigial, like the appendix.

In the earlier critique on electronic communication, we posited the question, “Would you propose marriage by Morse code”? Here, we would imagine a wedding night where, upon the loving invitation to the bedchamber by the bride, the groom responds, “Wait, wait, I have an APP for that.”

–p.

Blog # 176        THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH

It was only fortunate happenstance that on one of our prospecting excursions into the ancient realm of etymology, we struck gold. The subject of our casual investigation was the celebrated word “sincerity.”

As appears, the furniture makers in ancient Rome, who possessed less than the requisite skill in the crafting of furniture (but not guile), would employ a waxy-type glue to hold their furniture together and give the false appearance of first class quality. The authentic artisans, however, were able to so craft their products that they fit and dovetailed together permanently, without the artificial device of glue or wax. These craftsmen had the enviable reputation of being “sine cere” or, without wax (sincere).

Sincere is a commendable adjective, awarded to those persons manifesting true intention and practicing legitimate acts, entirely devoid of misrepresentation or guile. One may necessarily assume that the people, with whom he is in close relation, for moral or practical reasons, would refrain from making misleading statements or performing deceitful acts; when the exception does occur, it is uniformly condemned as unnatural or perverse.

Practical experience has schooled us in wise caution regarding declarations of politicians, the representations of salesmen, and where appropriate, statements of officials and politicians; these conceivably would wisely merit some further thought or investigation.

However, the media, the sole institution which provides primary and effective protection to the individual citizen and to society, in general, has historically, proven itself to be a reliable, consistent and dependable source of truthful information.

Regrettably, with the ascendance to office of the current administration, a novel and defensive maneuver has been conjured up; the oxymoronic word for this perverse designation is “fake news.” This  administration,  bent upon attempted denial of wrongdoing, obvious and undeniable conflicts of interest and sheer incompetence, would deny media revealed malfeasance and miscreant acts, by the tactical defense of fake news. This most obvious artifice is a cheap and obvious ploy; but the danger is in its possible acceptability by the gullible, low information, flat earth portion of our population which was successful in electing this Kafka-like administration.

It is essential that we continue to maintain our proven confidence in our legitimate media, as well as to explicitly and loudly voice our opposition to guile and deception when confronted with it. We also can take heart that this shameless administration will wax, but wane, in the next few years.

-p.

Blog # 175 FRACTURED DEMOCRACY

Traditionally, Americans could justifiably take pride in our two party system, as the most representative expression of the will of an electorate, in comparison to alternative modes. In our American system, winner takes all, and for such reason, there is an identifiable and responsible polity. The public’s perception of its success is always addressable in the succeeding election.

By contrast, in countries which feature proportional representation, it is regularly required of the party which received the plurality of votes to negotiate with a small (usually extreme) losing political party in order to constitute a quorum requisite to form an operating government. The necessary concessions in party platform so negotiated were not the choice of the successful party’s electorate.

While there are many experts who feel that the American system needs certain modifications, such as the elimination of the Electoral College system and greater protection of access to the polls, historically, our system has consistently proven to be acceptably fair and representative.

In earlier writings, we have lamented the recent polarization, and consequent fragmentation, of our society into separate insular groups, each respectively sharing an identical belief and militantly opposed to any and all other such groups which maintain an opposing view. We have noted the antipathy existing between such groups which has led to what we have previously termed, “the death of civic amity.”

Reference has been made to the intention of our founding fathers, that the freedoms protected, especially, freedom of speech, would provide a necessary platform for regular, useful debate between citizens holding opposing views. Such anticipated respectful and positive exchange of disparate opinions, consistent with the English utilitarian philosophies of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, was thought to result in salutary national policy.

However, the recent inability to constructively interact and responsibly exchange opposing ideas has frustrated the founders’ aspirations and their plans for the proper democratic process of governance. People of disparate views have virtually declared war on others over differences on issues (such as a women’s right to choose, immigration policy, gun control, governmental assistance to the needy, climate change, gay rights and a host of others) rather than submitting such controversies to constructive debate. Usually, it is a single issue which is the object of great emotional concern and is reductively (and foolishly), determinative of the single issue voter’s choice of society and candidate. This, among other concerns, distorts any rational comprehension of the democratically expressed will of the populace; and may well result in such a voter overlooking other platform positions of the selected candidate, separate from his mono-focused issue, to which he has been decidedly opposed.

The traditionally understood approach to the selection of a candidate has demonstrably been based on the voter’s general assessment of the candidate, and the selection of the person who is perceived to be most representative, on balance, of his point of view.

The American democratic philosophy and system are fundamentally hampered by short-sighted, single issue voters (who, regrettably, are all too common) so that the manifested message of the voters is irresponsibly fractured and distorted. It bears repetition that a vote for a candidate solely because he is perceived as supporting, for example, Israel or gun control, can unintentionally and irresponsibly, be a vote to support other policies in his platform to which the voter may be energetically opposed.

The plethora of vital issues and available choices of proposed resolution have by our basic philosophy been matters upon which the will of the people is materially relevant. The single issue (mono-focused) voter selfishly and irresponsibly distorts the heard voice of the voting public and thus is functionally destructive to the operation of a democratically responsive government.

-p.

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Blog # 174        THE PAGE TURNER

Followers of plinyblog.com (bless their magnanimous hearts) have been regular recipients of our many lamentations concerning the recent success of the populist movement in America. We have often made reference to the formulaic advice of Thomas Jefferson, that an informed and literate society is essential to the success of a democracy; and observed of late, that the absence of the same has manifested itself in the present disastrous and embarrassing state of affairs in Washington.

We have consistently posited, as the indicated antidote for the presenting malady, the active encouragement of reading good literature. We will express a specific basis for our sincere belief in this “page turner,” for fear that our general prescription may seem remote, idealistically theoretical, or essentially impractical. We are necessarily confident that the “low information” and “flat earth” portion of our population, can be persuaded that this is their way to a more enhanced and satisfying life.

When we speak of “good literature,” we have reference to writing having excellence in form, and expressive of ideas of universal and eternal interest. We will go so far as to state that good literature is importantly related to man’s life on earth, in the same ratio as science bears to the earth’s nature.

Reading is the process of interpreting symbols to ascertain their meaning and is an effective and useful means of sharing information and ideas. The interaction between the printed word and the reader will naturally be colored by the extent of the reader’s knowledge, his past experiences, and his cultural context. Low information people would deposit the words they read, their observations and vicarious experiences into their existing base of knowledge, such as it may be. The effort required to read good literature, for everyone, gets easier with practice; suitable means for its promotion must be construed.

Should such a (national) program be sensibly and realistically instituted, the individual participant would eventually come to personally realize a fuller and more enhanced life experience and the nation would benefit from the improvement in the quality of its participating citizenry. Needed motivation, especially at first, might be accomplished by tying government financial assistance to required attendance at tutoring sessions; we predict that the program would be attractive to service oriented volunteer tutors.

Reading has been proven to stimulate brain activity and growth. Regular reading has been scientifically linked to cognitive advancement, most especially for adolescents, but continuing into old age.

One discovers that the most exciting and pleasurable feature of reading books is that there is absolutely no restriction, but instead, allows the reader to manufacture his own personal images, introspectively, affording the full exploitation of one’s personal interpretation.

The increase of “Jefferson qualified” citizens would be a real page turner in restoring our historic trademark and brand, as an admired and exemplary nation.

–p.

Blog # 173       THE MEASURED RESPONSE

Were it possible to reliably predict the response of other people to our chosen words and acts, the potential benefit in person-to-person interaction would be inestimable, especially as to the needed minimization of misunderstanding and preventable discord. Unhappily, there would seem to be no discipline or formulation capable of such a salutary capability, and it would appear that this useful aspiration is destined to remain utopian.

Whatever potential benefits may accrue in the future from the promised  “artificial intelligence,” in the spectrum of computational or analytical facility, it cannot reasonably be expected to furnish any assistance in our quandary, which is intrinsically dependent upon individual nuance and perception.

Even with reference to the ratio-driven discipline of probability mathematics, we come up far short. This area of mathematical application deals only with the “likelihood” of an occurrence, as compared with all other calculated possible occurrences, and affords us no assistance for the above stated reasons. It has utility in such areas as weather forecasting, gambling and to some degree in finance; none of which are affected by the vagaries of human perception or subjective behavioral phenomena.

The same may be applicably said for those who would prefer to apply the theory of cause and effect to this behavioral area. With the rare exception of the most exceptional traumatic events, such as the decease of a loved one, or the receipt of an unexpected fatal diagnosis (or the most fortuitous and unexpected good luck) a specific cause’s effect on another is unpredictable for such subjective reasons.

We have written extensively on our recommended concept of proportionality as between a stimulus and its response; emphasizing the proper reservation of one’s profound responses for matters of appropriately extreme circumstances (stimuli) and lesser reactions to matters of relatively minor significance, as is appropriate to a rational life and a normal balance of priorities.

For purposes of this writing we expressly exclude the subject of the neurotic or otherwise unhealthy personality; in such cases the problem is pathological (regarding which we are not qualified) and not ascribable to social or perceptional failings.

We would accordingly conclude that predictive selection, from the unlimited array of possible responses (except in extreme cases, as noted) is not feasible, since they are universally motivated by subjective considerations; the latter, by their nature vary with individual perception and personal nuance. As a very simple, but common example, critical comments may be defensively perceived and asserted where none were in reality intended. Borrowing two words from the area of probability mathematics, one can reasonably assume that the “likelihood” of unintended offense may be “lessened” somewhat by knowledge of the previous history and known inclination of the other person. Otherwise, we are prudent only when we speak or act with an awareness of the possibilities of misinterpretation.  On the receiving end, we are obliged to accept the natural meaning of the words used, and not exercise our considerable talent for creativity. –p.

Blog # 172 NAMASTE

Attend it close, excluding all
So as to sense and mindfully hear
The cardiac beat of planet Earth
Those pulses soft in depths profound
Life’s vital tattoo, its organic sound
In synchrony to man’s own heart
In star set universal time.

If you would hear, go out of mind
Attend the Earth, embrace its sound
Enfin,-do you mark the base tattoo?
That all may hear and apprehend-
It ticks the steady tune of life
With its eternally measured strikes
That beat, indeed, from babe to crone
And then, from crone to dust, so soft.

My sight is only for your self
And not your lovely eyes or limbs
It is perforce your heart I seek
That beats along with that of mine
Both timed unto that earthly drum.

What I would see and do salute
My planetary heart and earthly self-
The pure, ethereal love of you.

-p.

Blog # 171   DIMMED CITY (3) FINAL REDUX

To adequately and sufficiently recount the ignorant and neurotically impulsive blunders on the part of the Trump Administration and to venture any appraisal of the resultant damage to our nation, domestically, and in the international arena, will conceivably require the extensive and dedicated efforts of future academic historians; this, despite the fact that the present, Alice In Wonderland-like administration, has been in office merely a few (disastrous) months.

This is the third and final writing on the subject, the first, “DIMMED CITY” and the second, “DIMMED CITY REDUX” were attempts to discern the etiology of the Trump disaster and to highlight some of his major blunders, with emphasis on the consequent damage, domestically. The present writing is an attempt to highlight his international blunders and the proximate deterioration of the traditionally revered American brand and its unique trademark, abroad.

His provincial lack of adequate education may account for his great number of ignorant blunders on the international scene, which, in fact, exceed his numerous domestic gaffs; or it may be that on the international scene, he has no readily available reserve bench of spin doctors to explain away or deny his daily uncontrolled display of impulsive statements and ill-advised action.

Elizabeth Warren, the brilliant former Harvard Law Professor and current Massachusetts Senator, made the following public statement prior to President Trump’s first foray abroad:” Our highest hope for the Commander’s first trip abroad is that he not spark an international incident.” Her apparently sardonic statement,  made thoughtfully and with good reason, turned out to be prophetic. For practical reasons, as stated, we have selected but a representative sample, to illustrate the point:

  • At the meeting in Hamburg, Germany, famously known as the “Group of Twenty Summit,” major European newspapers reported that Mr. Trump appeared “uneasy,” “bored,” “isolated” and “completely overwhelmed” during the meeting; their expressed uniform perception was that he had no” capacity whatever, to be the leader of the free world.”

At said summit, he reversed the promised cooperation by the U.S. with other countries in dealing with climate change, and thereby isolated the U.S. from the other member nations.  This was consistent with his official (and irrational) Rose Garden statement, which especially pleased the infamous, Mr. Steve Bannon, that” climate change was just a ruse by other European countries so that they could steal our wealth.”

  • He chose not to attend a scheduled meeting with the President of China, but instead  sent Ivanka, who immorally  and selfishly, used the opportunity to obtain exclusive trademark rights for her goods in China.
  • Trump famously stated to Germany’s head of State, that his being wiretapped by the Obama Administration (which lie was completely disproven) “has been the one thing they had in common.” The disgusted reaction on Angela Merkel’s face was clearly visible for all to see via the media.
  • He has persisted with his irrational boast made during the campaign that he would get Mexico to pay for his protective wall to exclude Mexicans. The same has, not unexpectedly, been categorically and harshly denied by Mexico’s President.
  • In his brilliant plan to destroy ISIS by bombing their oil fields in Iraq, took no notice of the fact that the oil fields controlled by ISIS are located in Syria.
  • Trump has refused assistance to Ukraine in the attack by Russia, stating publicly that he “didn’t care,” despite being advised that Ukraine is a treaty member of NATO which provides that an attack against one member will be defended by all.
  • Trump falsely accused London’s first Muslim Mayor of being indifferent to terrorist attacks.
  • Convened a sensitive meeting on nuclear strategy with Japanese President, Shinzo Abe and famously held it, at dinner, in the public dining room of his Florida Hotel.
  • Verbally praised the murderous President Philippe Duarte, who gave the public a free hand to kill “anyone suspected of terrorism,” as prescribing the right way to fight terrorism.
  • Improperly shared Israel’s highly classified information with an ally of its mortal enemy.
  • Appointed an (illegally) undisclosed paid agent of Turkey, Mike Flynn, as chief of the highly sensitive NSA. As known, Flynn has been charged with treasonous acts concerning Russia.
  • On the subject of Russian interference with our election, Trump has undermined such investigation by discharging the investigators and defensively installing Trump partisans.

We will stop here, because the selection of the foregoing examples of Trump’s incompetency and gross malfeasance (accomplished in the brief space of merely five months) should be terrifyingly sufficient; we shudder in the realization that this disease will continue to fester for an additional  3 1/2 years!

After thus having performed our felt duty, we will hereafter happily return to writing on more agreeable and hopefully, contemplative subjects.

-p.