Blog # 170               DIMMED CITY REDUX

In our most recent writing, we remarked upon the evident and unattractive blemish or stain, which has fortuitously and tragically presented itself upon the complexion of the American traditional identity and way of life; this new visage has been the causal result of putting the reins of stewardship in the unfit hands of a Mr. Donald Trump. This newly inaugurated leader of the United States of America, is famously lacking in gravitas (if not completely ignorant), neurotically egocentric, unpredictably impulsive and is in all respects, an unfit ruler; he has surrounded himself with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party cabinet consisting of members of his immediate family, unethically and unusually granted official White House status, plus a Cabinet made up of self-interested sycophants. As we fearfully had predicted, this cast of characters has already shown early signs of a regression to a modern day “Dark Ages.

Our newly inaugurated President, personally, is a glitzy, populist celebrity, a former host of an inane television game show, who has been described, by capable and rational experts, as being completely unfit for the office of President. In addition to his personal drawbacks, he has evinced a complete ignorance of national matters, history and international affairs. His efforts to date, to the extent that they are understandable, have been dedicated to the denigration of education, the arts and the pursuit of human enlightenment, which pursuits have ever been the American hallmark which has sustained us as an exemplar among nations.

His  obvious  stratagem during the campaign, consisted of a simulated celebration of the low education, poorly informed and desperately unhappy portion of our population, and their courtship by way of snake-oil salesman style demagoguery, promising them an (unspecified) vista of happiness and a renewed and happy life. Such propaganda seems to have not only won over such vulnerable and truly needy folks, but mesmerized them into voting against their own vital interest, the urgent need for governmental assistance (ex., food stamps, health and other assistance for the poor). The demonstrated efforts of the Administration, at present, seem to be in fact, heartlessly cutting long standing governmental assistance to the needy citizen while, simultaneously, increasing unneeded tax reductions for the very rich. There may already be subtle and discernable indications that some of his flat earth supporters are beginning to realize that they, unforgivably, have been snookered.

We have, in past writings, often referred to the classic political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, who famously and wisely stated, that for a democracy to succeed, it requires a literate and well-informed citizen. His philosophy has been ratified of late by reason of the broad absence of such qualities.

Reason and the continuing search for further enlightenment in the enhancement of life, for society and the individual, have always combined to represent America’s hallmark and public brand. But education and enlightenment have ever been a threat to the autocrat, who’s misleading of the public, through the use of the big lie, as well as potential retribution, comprise his classical stratagem. It is a matter of official record that the Trump Administration has publicly announced the cutting of funding for public education, such as PBS programs, National Academy for the Arts, and so many societally uplifting endeavors. The numerous celebrated historical predecessors in this sort of strategy include Mao Tso-Tung, Castro, Hitler and Mussolini; unhappily, there is  no dearth of instructive precedent.

The two institutions, functionally and historically affording protection to the individual citizen, are the Courts and the media. Unfortunately, there has been a seismic change of direction of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) which has had the impact of a continental shift in the configuration American democracy. In the case of Citizen’s Union, the Court mysteriously and against all legal precedent and Statutory provision (and against rationality) ruled that a corporation is a “person” and therefore (under free speech) has the right to contribute money to political campaigns without limit.

Every law school freshman, as well as most entrepreneurs, know that a corporation is a mere legal fiction and only a “person” for the limited business purpose of affording a shield of limited liability to the entrepreneur; thus a corporation may be a name of a business and contracting principal (as part of this protective fiction) and be a named party in a lawsuit. In no legal, or other sense, is a corporation a real person (with rights). Since all novice law students (and every entrepreneur) are aware of this basic legal distinction, one is tempted to believe than the august SCOTUS is also so informed. It is extremely painful and disheartening to surmise that this highest and most revered institution has suddenly fallen into the thrall of special interests.

This leaves the protective pen of the media which has a commendable record of loyalty to the citizen. The responsible media bears the heavy responsibility and the burden of offsetting the mendacity of our autocratic administration. It deserves great credit for its consistent reporting of the truth to the public and countering “fake news”, as an essential and moral responsibility; it has done so very well and accordingly has well- earned and sincerely resisted the many attacks by our despotic leaders. The professional media will no doubt be remembered in our American compendium of patriotic institutions.

-p.

Blog # 169 DIMMED CITY

Any casual visitor to our Capitol will immediately notice that the “Shining City on the Hill” has observably sustained a substantial coat of unattractive tarnish. An attempt to recall its traditional luster, is at present, equal to the challenge posed by the attempt to discern the prior robust young man in the face of an old, wizened derelict. Any examination of the present administration would approximate the irresistible glance at the sudden appearance of roadkill.

With the imperial, powerful, reins of the American Presidency deposited into the hands of the egocentric and ignorant Donald Trump and his unprecedented coterie of officially appointed family members and cabinet composed of self-interested sycophants, the same would resemble comic opera, if it were not so existentially dangerous.

Not even a latter day Nostradamus could have predicted the profound depth, and unprecedented speed of onset, of the present day post-Armageddon disaster. As we, fearfully predicted last November, the election of Mr.Trump would effectively result in a contemporary regression to the “Dark Ages.”

Our longstanding general reluctance to comment on the political scene seems to be outweighed by a felt responsibility, akin to the personal delivery of a eulogy upon the untimely death of a friend.

The experienced impact of the disaster, like a strike of lightening, was immediately felt, but its etiology lay in a dangerous accumulating metastasis for a considerable period of time.  Similar to the Pompeiian eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, all America became besmirched with the volcanic ash.

Nostradamus aside, the current disaster was predictable, but probably inevitable. It was occasioned by a progressive coarsening of society and its populist disparagement of the intellectual pursuit of wisdom and human progress in favor of the mediocre, shallow pursuit of superficial diversion.

When intellectual endeavor, dedicated to enlightenment and the enhancement of society, in science, health and the arts, is devalued, and mundane superficiality, pizzazz, or the ability to throw or catch a ball, or toss it through a hoop is most prized, is it at all surprising that a showy, egotistical and ignorant game show host was elected to the Presidency of the United States? The present Administration, not unexpectedly, has wasted no time in cutting funding for the nation’s arts and educational programs.

As long as the very populous flat earth, low information citizenry remain ignorant and susceptible to manipulation by demagogic snake oil salesmen (with personal cynical and selfish motivation) the tarnish will remain, the polishing cloth of true American quality will remain unused and our lamentations continue.

-p.

Blog # 168 MYTH AMERICA

It seems to be another 4th of July and so, we are disposed to reflect on the course of American History. Plato said that each “State” should properly have its own myths. As a major agricultural nation, we do, in fact, have a bumper crop, some being romanticized versions of factual occurrences, others, pure fiction.

With sincere apologies to such companies as Hallmark Cards and the plethora of illustrated wall calendar manufacturers, and to the American media, we would identify the salient legends of American folk-lore residing in the colorful inventory of myth America. We also have some useful words on the far more important subject of the U.S.Constitution’s understanding and application.

The theatrical image of the storm-tossed Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, the celebrated coin toss by General George Washington across the Potomac, the staged, “Original Thanksgiving Dinner,” in which Native Americans broke bread with colonial settlers, the famous heroes of the wild west, most of whom, in reality, were dudes running from the law, their creditors or their wives, are endemic to our culture. These tall tales and fanciful accounts, are, in reality, harmless and may, in fact, serve the useful purpose of binding our disparate citizenry together in a mutually shared traditional past.

Significantly harmful however, are self-serving mythical approaches to the meaning and application of the Constitution, the ultimate share-holder’s agreement for the nation. There are those (largely of conservative inclination) who would arrogate to themselves the sole ability to discern the “original intent of the founders” (when it serves their interest) and demand the alleged “intended result.”

Arguably, the greatest jurist in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, was Benjamin Cardozo. In his uniquely masterful literary style, he observed that the authors of the Constitution had the wisdom and foresight to draft the document in non- specific general principles to be relevantly applied to future changes in society; this scholarly and mature approach to interpretation, the “sociological” context was his view of original intent and not some inflexible worship of specific vocabulary.

Those who militate for “original Intent” would  necessarily call for legal interpretations in the context of the times of the founders, the 18th Century, when women could not vote, own property or sign contracts and when black human beings were perniciously considered mere agricultural equipment ; Justice Cardozo looked to a living document, always relevant to the times.

As mentioned, the same, self-serving people who would espouse original Intent, when it comes to human rights, or, generally, when it suits their nuanced interest, will drop the theory, like a hot potato, when it clearly does not. The shameful number of killings, and the minimization of the value of human life in our country, is undeniably due to the militant opposition to any and all rational gun control. In this instance, the Constitution’s  2nd Amendment is clear as is its original intent of the drafters: “A well- regulated militia, being necessary to the security of the free state,  the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Can any rational and disinterested person deny that the Amendment is limited in  application to a State’s right to an armed militia?

On this significant American holiday, it may be of further interest to consider the Declaration of Independence in its original and contemporary contexts. Its most celebrated statement on the subject of inalienable rights and the equality of all men, cries out for comment. Initially, the choice of the noun, “men,” was specifically intentional and was not a general reference to mankind.  We would emphatically dispute the notion, that the statement has the same intention and meaning as the Bill of Rights. This is, no doubt, just another American myth. The draftsman meant men and not women (who could not vote, own property or sign contracts) nor black people. To us, it was a clear statement (only) that the institution of inherited status or social class which prevailed throughout the ages in Europe,  would not be applicable here.

Enjoy the holiday!

-p.

 

 

 

 Blog # 167            TIME OUT OF MIND

Man’s eternal obsession with time, most particularly its passage, conceivably, may have had its roots in early man’s observation of the gradual process of existential changes in his environment.  As man developed, the enterprise of measuring time was pursued and progress was made, from observing the movement of the sun by means of its shadow on a sundial, by the measured gradual accumulation of uniform drops of water in a calibrated vessel, by the time of gravitational descent of sand in an hourglass, and by astral observation.

Ultimately, the useful establishment of uniform units of time enabled its measurement by clocks and other time-keeping objects such as pocket and wrist watches and far later, digital devices. Contemporary developments in time study now actually enable the measurement of distances between bodies in outer space, by calculations using a new unit of time, light-years.

The universally accepted mode of telling time facilitated the development and efficient functioning of society, and made possible its interactive functioning with other societies. Uniform consideration of time gave rise to accepted workdays and leisure time, events such as commonly celebrated holidays and seasonal festivals, religious occasions, planting and harvesting time and birthdays. Time was expressly consulted in making and keeping business and social appointments, as well as in the baking of a cake or the boiling of an egg.

Uniform considerations of time affect and regularly direct our schedules of eating and sleeping, times of travel, departure and arrival; even our very longevity is calculated by actuaries using time-oriented calculations. Finally, it can fairly be concluded that absent the uniformly accepted, universal reference to objective time, life would be disoriented, disorganized and completely rudderless.

SUBJECTIVE (“experienced”) TIME

To deign to write on the subject of time in a non -objective context, would perilously run the risk of a disreputable charge of an oxymoronic conception; time having been stated to be intrinsically scientific and impersonally understood and calculated.  We will knowingly and intentionally accept such risk, for reasons of sincere empathy for certain events in time, not appropriate to objective calculation.

In addition to incurring said ignominious risk, we would additionally  confess that subjective, or experienced, time is of no practical utility whatsoever, to the relevant individual nor to his society, is not uniform but rather singular, is not acceptably measurable and is totally non-scientific; however its empathetic acknowledgement and consideration would seem to be irresistibly compelling.

How does one measure the (felt) time spent in waiting for a critical diagnosis of a child? How fast is actual time passing when you, or a loved one, are in pain? How much objectively calculated time does it take for a mother of a soldier stationed overseas, to open a delivered military telegram? How much time passes before the lost toddler is found by the life-guard? How long is the wait for a report from the surgeon? These are examples of stressful times not appropriately calculable by consulting a wristwatch.

How do you measure the time of a long sought after lover’s kiss? How much time does it take to receive a warm handshake signifying a significant emotional reconciliation? How do you calculate the rare and unfortunate brevity of true beauty?

The knowledge and awareness of scientifically calculated time is essentially necessary and further, that it is to be used efficiently and judiciously; yet there are particular moments in life, which are calculable solely in unmeasured units of endurance or joy, and necessarily  experienced in their own nuanced metric and fashion.

-p.