Post # 234      FATE AND FORTUNE (redux)

It was just the other day that a mutual friend introduced us to an attractive, apparently intelligent person. Our initial impression was most positive, at least, until the moment she asked, in a serious voice, for our date of birth. One might safely assume, that at such brief initial meeting, she was not desirous of adding to her gift calendar, but undoubtedly was referring to the P.T. Barnum-like phenomenon, the horoscope. Unfortunately, our initial favorable impression was significantly affected.

William Shakespeare, in his classic play, “Julius Caesar,” speaking through his character, Cassius, in conversation with Brutus, famously states, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” The eternal truth of this admonition was eminently clear to Shakespeare, back in the days of the first Queen Elizabeth, yet still appears to not be fully accepted in our 21st Century.

The ancient Babylonians, in the third millennium, B.C., divided the little known heavens into twelve signs of the zodiac, created accompanying symbols, and assigned to each of them respective date ranges, purportedly, indicative of predictive and analytical information. Surprisingly, many people, even today, persist in the practice of reliably referring to that cosmic calendar for information. They persist in the atavistic belief of its creators, that the sign’s indicated confluence of the position of the planets, at  one’s date of birth, is revelatory, of their personality, and  credible prospects for success or failure. In past writings, we have maintained that, assuming arguendo, there exists some mystic relationship between the date of one’s birth and the contemporaneous location of the planetary bodies [ as fanciful as that assumption may be] the exercise would, in any event, be completely valueless. Indeed, in the 21st Century, we continue to puzzle over the architecture of outer space, even debating the existence of a small icy planet, in our own solar system, called, “Pluto”. Moreover, it was not until the (very grudging) acceptance of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, in later medieval times, that man was acceptably apprised that the sun orbited around the earth, rather than the other way around [previously the universally mandated belief.] What, conceivably, could have been the extent of the primitive understanding concerning the location of the heavenly bodies, in the third millennium B.C?

We have previously written on the fertile subject of one’s own developed sense of identity and self- image, emphasizing the life-long (inner) “conversation” with ourselves, in the gradual formation of a consistent and personally acceptable persona .As we have stated, it is this latter formulation which governs the responsible nature of our moral choices and actions [ not the primitive concept of rewards and punishment.] One’s mature sense of personal identity defines his nature; certainly not some impersonal, populist, amusement feature.

Socrates taught the vital lesson “Know thyself.” We affirmatively comply with such admonition, by our consideration as to who we sense we are, our recollection of our defining past actions and considered choices; such constituents amounting, ultimately, to our reliably held self-image. This important consideration cannot be conjured up by some public newspaper feature, applicable to an entire anonymous public. Rather, true self- awareness is harvested from a life-time of personal experience.

Predicting the future is certainly hogwash; nonetheless, we can, as a rational matter, endeavor to take such actions, and engage in personally enhancingn activities, as would tend to promote our desired goals.

By its intrinsic its nature, man’s life occasionally presents difficult, equivocal choices. The most effective guide, is to apply his wisdom and his perception of past empirical experience, as the rational basis for making appropriate choices. We are wise not to, irresponsibly, seek easy solutions by consulting readily available, but misleading and unfounded advice, from third party public populist sources hawking horoscopes, trite and overvalued aphoristic formulae, or by the equally judicious practice of coin flipping.

-p.

Post # 233       HOMO SAPIENS AND HOMICIDE (Pliny editorial)

In this note we will not again emphasize the tragic damage to life and civilized society by the persistent misreading of the Second Amendment, whether reductionist or intentional. Those who are willing to consult our Colonial History, know that in Europe, nobles traditionally had their own private standing armies. When our Federal Republic was created, we had no noblemen to contend with, but many of the several colonies (States) did have private militias. The founders agreed, as part of the negotiations leading up to the formation of our new nation, that the people’s militias would not be eliminated  or incorporated into the federal army, but would continue to be recognized as legal and independent entities, with the right of these armies of “the people”, to bear arms.

Issues concerning disputed meaning and application of legislation have been, and still are, resolved by reference to the factually expressed intention of the legislators. It is shameful that so many citizens ignore factual history (as well as societal responsibility) and have made a veritable religion of gun ownership. It appears that any religion, by its intrinsic nature, existentially, needs to reject empirical fact. However important and unjust this phenomenon may be, this note is not about correcting history. We are here concerned with the nature of the bizarre human desire to own lethal equipment, from a moral and psychological view and what it may reveal concerning man’s persona.

Homo sapiens received many generous gifts from evolution, among which was an advanced brain and evolved hands, the latter featuring an opposable thumb and flexible fingers. Gun worshippers, it would appear, would like us to believe that one of these useful digits was anthropologically pre- destined to serve as a trigger finger.

We do, admittedly, possess a small pocket knife, which happens to be useful for cutting string and fishing line, for whittling, for slicing meat or fruit and other pacific functions. The  entire array of possible applications of a gun is limited to only one use, to kill. Religionists know that the most drastic admonition in the Ten Commandments is, “Thou shalt not kill.” Apart from the legal societal considerations, it appears impossible for us to fathom the mentality of those Americans who see themselves as moral and societally upstanding, yet adamantly and shamelessly, demand  the franchise to own a death dealing instrument. Many of such citizens incidentally, carry the religious banner of “Right to Life.”

Are there extant, any rational Americans who could sincerely maintain that our philosophically, peace-loving Founders sought to create a democratic republic where “equality under the law” was inclusive of the right of every citizen to be a gunslinger? Can the desire to possess equipment capable of committing homicide, be more essential and justifiable than the sacred preservation of life?

America’s High School Students, have recently shown that they have the right answers.

-p.

 

 

 

POST # 233         MOON SHADOWS (Sci-Fi)

As officially recorded in the official planetary record, “Milky Way Register,” eternally and responsibly maintained by the designated Board of Extra- Terrestrial Trustees of the Galaxy, planet Moon, in recent eons, experienced a profound catastrophic and permanent decline to the tragic and lifeless status of a mere reflective Satellite. This solar system tragedy had been surprising and disappointing to the Trustees, especially considering Planet Moon’s previous history evincing a lush, verdant landscape, teeming with a seemingly endless variety of life forms, inclusive of a substantial population of sentient beings. It was uniformly observed by all Trustees, with much concern, that the sentient inhabitants of Planet Moon, (which was formed eons before Planet Earth) despite differences in physical appearance with the earthly homo sapiens, nevertheless, bore many similarities with them in their persona.

With some numerically insignificant exceptions, the vast mainstream of the (now extinct), sentient lunar citizens, had reverently worshipped the Sun Goddess. A fissure, however, eventually developed between those who maintained that prayer services to the Goddess were properly conducted at sunrise, while other equally adamant believers insisted that the Goddess, required sunset devotions. Courts of inquisition and centuries of zealous bloody conflict ensued, resulting in casualties and great suffering. The ultimate victors, the sunrise people, banished the survivors of the vanquished sunset sect, to the dark side of the planet, necessarily incarcerated in mobile prisons which were capable of movement, synchronized with the daily shifts in location of the dark area of the lunar planet.

The victorious sunrise sect was deeply religious, maintaining that dedicated and unquestioned faith in the Sun Goddess was all that was required for existential survival. Accordingly, they vehemently and legally repressed any challenge to parochial thought, most especially condemning those miscreants who subversively engaged in “irreligious” scientific inquiry. Such discouragement was socially enforced by means of shunning, and where persistent, the penalty of banishment to the dark side.

Braving the great danger, some lunar intellectuals, secretly and persistently, carried on their studies of the lunar planet, its proximate atmosphere and its inhabitants. They were dismayed to learn that, after a great many decades of irresponsible and thoughtless industrial activity, as well as careless lifestyle of the lunar inhabitants, its rivers and streams, air, and drinking water had become dangerously polluted and was a lethal hazard for every living organism and, as well, a cause of defilement of the ambient atmosphere. Courageous attempts to inform the lunar authorities and population of these lethal dangers were disbelieved (even punished) by a society which had no tolerance for “revolutionary” doubt as to their sole reliance upon the Sun Goddess.  Such ignorance and rigid adherence to superstitious faith, apparently, overcame any willingness to consider proven and empirical findings.

As the centuries progressed, the lunar population began to observe unforeseen and unnatural climatic changes, floods, major erosion and undermining of coastlines, noticeable loss of plant and animal life and assorted health problems. However, it was tolerant of such ominous phenomena based upon its unwavering faith and presumed assurance that it was the will of the Sun Goddess. Any attempts at study and amelioration of such conditions, were deemed an atheistic betrayal and severely prohibited.

The Galaxy Trustees reported that the ultimate result was that Planet Moon rapidly declined to the neutral condition of a visibly dry and lifeless rock, a satellite, whose sole significance resides in its property, as a solid, stony mass, to reflect some evening sunlight to Planet Earth. The shameful predominance of populist superstitious belief and intransigent ignorance, over empirical reality, had ultimately resulted in the demise of the planet itself, together with its flora and fauna [ inclusive of its ardent religionists.]

Such Is the tragic chronicle of our formerly witless planetary neighbor.

Wishing another happy and verdant Spring to our earthling readers, and many more.

-p.

Post# 232    OF ROTTEN APPLES AND BARRELS (A pliny editorial)

Even the occasional follower of plinyblog would be familiar with the high level of distain and repugnance we maintain, and have energetically expressed, regarding aphoristic “wisdom”; as being arrogant and, misleading; an objectionable source of faux enlightenment or, worse, as a lazy determinant of equivocal decision making. However, in the rare instance, it can have some limited utility as an expressive metaphor. Our such aphoristic metaphor du jour is, “one rotten apple spoils the barrel.” In partial mitigation of this choice, we would humbly point out that the statement is purportedly experiential and not instructive. [Its principal defect, however, may reside in its arbitrary application.]

We take the liberty of metaphorically referring to the barrel as our American society and the rotten apple (no surprise) to the Orange Magnificence, and his royal entourage, currently infesting the Oval Office. At this time in our nation’s history, there are a myriad of vital, historic issues urgently requiring continued progress toward their resolution, which, apparently, have been shelved, pending the reign of this incompetent and amoral (former) game show host. We refer to some illustrative examples.

  • Racial equality. Bigotry continues, in many quarters, to rear its loathsome head. The nation’s efforts, statutory, judicial and social, to achieve equality for all Americans, irrespective of racial or ethnic identity, have shown significant progress, but the issue still remains a work in process, especially in the areas of legal justice, residential choice, employment, even voting rights. But we have been talking about it.
  • Gender Equality. Some of the figurative glass ceiling has been shattered, yet significant issues persist, in the arena of equal pay for equal work, a woman’s right to volitional decision regarding childbirth, sexual abuse, social stereotypes and other such inequalities; but we were talking.
  • Government assistance to the needy. The preservation of an empathic approach to governance, “compassionate capitalism”, is not only moral and socially ethical, but is a philosophy that, in fact, insures the successful continuance of the free enterprise system by making it humane. Rather than relegate unfortunate members of society to the cold, dispassionate operation of natural law, a la Adam Smith, there is a recognized appropriate and moral governmental obligation of compassion. Some more fortunate citizens oppose governmental assistance to the justifiably needy, labeling such compassionate responsibility with their perceived and negative epithet of “socialism,” a construct of which, in their profound ignorance, they are completely ignorant. But most of us had been all talking about it.
  • It is profoundly disappointing, that in this acknowledged nation of immigrants and their descendants (E Pluribus Unum), that we have citizens who too soon forget their own family’s past history of immigration to America. Some, strangely, following a generation or so, after settling in, become nativist.  How coldly selfish, and how soon they forget. But we were talking about the issue.
  • Economic disparity. It is empirically inarguable that the nation is divided into economically disparate societies. The top percent in terms of lifestyle, comfort, leisure activities, economic security, and the luxurious amenities attendant upon great wealth, reside in enclaves insulated socially and economically from the great majority of the American population; most especially the middle and lower classes. The subjects of amelioritive tax policy, health benefits, social security and a host of other real- life adjustments have been considered and tried, in the effort to improve the lives of those in the lower economic classes. These considerations were also contested, but we were talking about them.
  • Other salient issues, International trade and relations, robotization, gun control, unemployment, climate change, flood control, housing, the renewal and repair of infrastructure, in general, including, roads and bridges, schools, educational criteria and tuition costs, medical and scientific research, gay rights, military readiness and policy, health and safety regulations ( their promulgation and enforcement), clean drinking water, monetary and banking policy, disability policies, sanctions against foreign miscreants, and so many other cogent issues were universally contested, but we were, in fact, talking about all of them.

Since the ascendency of Donald J. Trump [ together with his Mad Hatter entourage] to the Oval Office, it appears that the entire myriad of vital issues, previously, the subject of needed study and discussion, have taken a back seat to an embarrassing, daily soap opera, starring that former glitzy television game show host, now amazingly attired in the transmogrified robes of the leader of the nation and the entire free world.

The text book aspiration of the neurotic, attention-seeking, adolescent, is to attract attention,  focused, exclusively upon him, even at the cost of anticipated punishment. Our Adolescent-in-Chief would seem to reliably fit this diagnosable, unhealthy criterion. Woe unto the nation.

In this goal (alone) Trump has been a great and unprecedented success. Attention has been concentrated on him, to the exclusion of everyone, and everything else.  There has been an inundation, a veritable tsunami of Trumpery, offering little escape or relief. Vital discussions on poverty, disease, racial inequality, gender neutrality, inequities in the justice system, science and medicine, aging infrastructure, employment, banking, indeed, every subject social, scientific, cultural or sociological, have been submerged many fathoms below the never-ending saga, concerning the life and times of Donald J. Trump. Every media outlet, television, radio, newspapers and magazines, seem to be mono-  focused on this side-show oddity, to the total exclusion of every other subject; amounting to a sociological black plague (or is it orange) of unprecedented proportion. Like bloody road kill, eyes are drawn to it, willingly or not.  A television break from Jane Austen or Henry James, these days, limits us to the Nature and Sci-Fi channels.

One hopes that the dustbin of American history will not long be redolent with the odor of rotten apple.

-p.

Post # 231   GRIFTER IN CHIEF

We have revisited our previous analysis and designation of the character of our Commander-in-Chief, and would now submit, this amended description of his persona and dynamic.

In a previous blogpost, we expressed a worrisome concern as to whether the elevation of the Orange Magnificence to the oval office, as the populist choice of the low information and discontented voter, was a “one-off,” or singular, occurrence, or, (frighteningly) was a presenting symptom of a culturally and educationally degraded population, easily succumbing to a populist demagogue. Relative to this concern, we then chose to express hope for the future, based upon the reality that his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, an avatar of wise and just rule, was elected by that American electorate.

We have recently come to the realization that our perception and, consequently, our designation, of Mr. Trump as a “populist demagogue” erroneous; he is neither a populist, nor a demagogue. We would, in the interest of accuracy of description, label him, a “grifter” or con-man.

Trump’s non-specific, but enticing, promises of a better life, made to the poor and unfortunate of our nation, so mesmerized such people, that they were induced to vote against their own vital interest, government assistance (health, food, education). He promised to “drain the swamp” of rich influential politicians, especially intellectuals, who were pronounced responsible for their plight. He also appealed to their patriotism by undertaking to curtail the unfair practices of our international trading partners and achieve more respect from the world in general. It appears that these representations were effective in garnering a great many votes and materially assisting an unpredicted victory for Trump.

Following his inauguration, it took very little time before these visionary undertakings were ignored, and for good reason; Trump is not a populist and has no populist agenda. In fact, Trump has no doctrinal beliefs or political philosophy, whatsoever; with the sole exception of his neurotic, egotistical, game show desire to be a “winner.” The swamp was not drained, but deepened, and stocked with more political alligators than ever; generals, billionaire know- nothings and immediate family, were chosen by him for his “mad hatter” cabinet and Oval Office entourage. In international relations and world trade, he has been responsible only for widespread confusion and alienation, based upon his profound ignorance and impulsive ego. Recent events show many of these selected “rats deserting the ship” for their self-preservation and basic sanity.

It has now become evident that Mr. Trump will say or promise anything, and repudiate any of his prior statements or assurances, on a regular and subjective basis. Trump has no political theories or doctrinal preferences, whatsoever; he will simply and tactically tailor his insincere representations to his perception of the particular audience. This is the systemic essence of a classic con man or “grifter”.

We had also inaccurately referred to him as a demagogue, based upon his snake-oil salesman- like effectiveness in mesmerizing an audience, particularly, one containing low information auditors. But effectiveness, we now realize, is not necessarily an indication of eloquence.  To call Trump a demagogue, might imply that he evinces the abilities of a great and persuasive public speaker. This would be empirically inaccurate; Trump has delivered no fireside chats, nor public pronouncements of any significant nature to the Congress or the people, as have all past Presidents. His public communications consist of unprecedented and sophomoric “tweets,” most of which are self-serving and contradictory, to the extent that they are at all rational.

In brief, Trump is neither a populist nor a demagogue; he is a skillful con man, a talented grifter who will shamelessly say or promise whatever he perceives will please and win over his audience du jour. We would like to expect that he is a [Presidential] rarity, but perhaps this bizarre experience will serve as a useful and necessary teaching experience for the impressionable American voter.

-p.

Post #230        HISTORIC ROLE REVERSAL

The date, March 14, 2018, is worthy of being included among the many significant events in American history, and for good reason. On that date, hundreds of thousands of American high- school students, on their own collective initiative and volition, walked out, for the day, from more than 2000 schools, to jointly protest Congress’ inaction on gun control. The most recent tragedy (one of numerous others) which occurred last Valentine’s Day, saw seventeen innocent souls mercilessly executed by a deranged owner of a military type assault weapon. During the day’s nationwide demonstrations, seventeen minutes of silence were dedicated in tribute and memorial to the gunned-down victims.

The age-old stereotypical complaint by parents that their children were lazy and irresponsible, when, for example, it appeared that yesterday’s socks were still not put in the laundry hamper, has now become essentially meaningless.  The young people have taking up the cudgel, by reason of  adult ineffectiveness and inaction in the (deadly) cause of gun control (with especial reference to Congress).  Adult hapless inaction was the cause of this shameful role reversal, obliging the students themselves, to mount the proverbial barricades, in the interest of their own personal safety. This abrogation of responsibility on the part of adults has been no less than embarrassingly shameful. As a consequence, school has become, not the intended safe sanctuary for learning, but, rather, a veritable shooting gallery for the demented, enabled by the NRA and a do- nothing Congress. It is painful to observe that the targets in those shooting galleries, the school children, have been relegated to their own devices for their existential survival.  Student representatives from urban venues, such as downtown Chicago, had especially relevant reason to participate in the demonstrations in a cause which unfortunately affects their daily lives.

For the possible edification of reductionist gun enthusiasts, we would like to make two brief observations, regarding the relevant constitutional provisions.

The right of peaceful assembly and petition to the government for grievances, is expressly and clearly included in the First Amendment to The U.S. Constitution. Those whose love of their dangerous armament, would motivate them to criticize the student demonstrations as improper, need to consult the relevant Amendment.

Some relevant history and enlightenment is relevant, concerning the distortions and quasi-religious zeal regarding the Second Amendment. Historically, the Second Amendment was only intended to prevent the Federal Government from dissolving the several existing State independent militias and merge them with Federal forces. It therefore protected the State Militias’ independent existence, including the right of the people [in the militia] to bear arms. The purported franchise to every citizen to own weapons (“bear arms”) is a convenient distortion of the reductionist, and the self-serving and highly profitable screed of the NRA. The problem with such ignorance, real and feigned, is that innocent people seem to be getting killed.

So, BRAVO, well done, young Americans!!

-p.

Post # 229 (poesie) JUDICIAL SOIL

Floated in on foamy tide,
Or wafted here by ocean breezes
Life comes to our coastline
Keen to take sure root and abide.

No farmer can create new life,
He can but husband well the soil,
And nurture roots and emerging stems,
So that nascent life will wax and thrive.

The soil’s the arbiter of new life,
It’s not man’s place to decide,
The valid judge, only Mother Earth,
As to which shall sprout and then abide.

Her dad’s printed T-shirt said “Peru”,
And feeding his five- year old, her
Jet black hair and shining eyes, they then
Rubbed noses, softly, when all through.

-p.