Post # 384    CUSTOMIZING STRESS (Redux)

Stress may permissibly be described, as a disturbing feeling of emotional and/or physical tension, which suddenly is elicited from any event, or thought, that leads to feelings of frustration, anger or fear. It is a reflexive bodily (chemical and muscular) reaction to a perceived challenge. It is to be noted, that, in this essay, we refer to episodic, and commonplace stress, as opposed to long-term or chronic stress; the latter is best left to those who have been professionally trained in that discipline. In any category, however, constantly recurring, or persistent stress, can lead to physiological problems, and unquestioningly, has a deleterious effect on the enjoyment and appreciation of life.

An apology may be appropriate, for this revisit to the subject, (“Redux”). However, the eternal aptness and importance of the subject of stress reaction, is repeatedly signaled to us by our everyday perception, and it appeared useful to write once more on that compelling subject. Lest our observations and recommendations appear to be presumptuous, we would quite willingly and comfortably confess, that they are based solely upon our personal understanding as derived from long-term empirical observation.

While the occasions of stress reaction are apparently varied and innumerable, we would unhesitatingly prescribe, the salubrious, ubiquitous and magic elixir (panacea) of “Proportionality,” as the universal analgesic.

We have (justly) been accused of traditionally delighting in the use of analogy, similes and comparisons, for the purpose of the elucidation of our points of view; to this serious charge, we plead, “Guilty.” If the reader will kindly permit a repeat transgression, we would refer to the satirical Opera, by Gilbert and Sullivan, entitled, “The Mikado.” A memorable parody, sung by the great Mikado himself, includes the following refrain:

My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time

To let the punishment fit the crime,

The punishment fit the crime.

In addition to our profuse apologies to Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan, and a servile thank you, to the august Mikado, himself, we would at this point, choose to pour out an instructive portion of the above referenced, ubiquitous, magic elixir, the very panacea, itself, “Proportionality.”

Considering the many variations to personality, with reference to the characteristic of “sensitivity,” the usefulness of our recommendation may vary somewhat, but our magic elixir is, without fail, universally ameliorative, for those for whom it is applicable.

Just as the fictional Mikado, declared in Royal song, “Let the punishment fit the crime,” one ought to train himself, emotionally (by means of his firm resolve), that sudden and emotional responses should, appropriately, suit the nature of the disturbing stimuli; whether the stimulus be an event, occurrence or merely, a thought. There is a large universe of potential disturbing stimuli, and a limited, but definitely controllable, continuum respecting the phenomenon of immediate emotional reaction.

There are existing personalities who will, immediately and automatically, react with identically extreme panic, to whatever variety of stimulus is presented, within the wide experiential spectrum, ranging from the barely significant, to the truly tragic. These emotionally undisciplined individuals, manifest extreme and unhealthy reactions to any and all such unsatisfactory stimuli, ranging from a broken fingernail, to the grim advice of a terminal medical diagnosis of a loved one. This, of course, is unnecessary, unhealthy and can be, at times, even ludicrous. The natural capacity for negative emotional reaction, or stress, is a painful franchise, and the well-adjusted person should train himself to apply only that degree of stress as is appropriate, to the objective materiality of the event (stimulus); this is the ultimate message of our small essay.

It is, necessary, preliminarily, for the individual to be truly cognizant of the true source of his stress reaction.  Conceivably, an individual, already under the emotional weight of stress from an unrelated, past stimulus, might react in an extremely inappropriate, fashion, [by over-reacting] to a presenting unimportant stimulus, by reason of the combination of stressors. An individual, already straining under 90 pounds of stone, will, predictably, overreact to the addition of one more pound, to his already heavy load.

In sum, we recommend that in an individual’s “reaction,” to any perceived, alarming “stimulus,” amounts to, initially, considering its source, its practical (objective) significance, and then, to customize, or tailor, a measured and specifically appropriate response. The customizing requires but a brief moment of reflection.

-p.

Post # 383 REINCARNATIVE IGNORANCE

We had been puzzled and totally frustrated, in our exhaustive and unsuccessful attempts to divine some reason, for some individuals’ consistent and eternal preference, for retrogressive and atavistic points of view, over modern empirically proven, science and socially demonstrated fact. This dynamic, consistently seen in the contested issues of climate change, abortion rights, gun regulation, racial equality and immigration, observably, appears to be shared in some sort of retrogressive consensus. This phenomenon, understandably, appears to be puzzling, to most contemporaneously informed citizens. Yet, we can announce that we have happened upon, what we believe, is the answer to the puzzle, to be revealed following a brief, relevant and necessary, description of history.

Any American schoolchild and adult, familiar with our Nation’s past, knows that meteorology, as a science, is a rather modern discipline. In history, humans observed the natural phenomena, and attempted to predict the onset of rain or its absence, by observing the sky in conjunction with the wind and clouds. It was usually hit or miss. However, no one was scientifically aware of the nature of the natural phenomena, nor, especially, its dynamics. Humans prayed for rain and fair weather, in accordance with their own ethnic fashion. Among the best known of mankind’s supplications for rain, is the ancient Hopi Indian Rain Dance. Weather was traditionally considered, by our antecedents, to be a divine phenomenon, and at times, believed to be an omen, of the pleasure or displeasure of the Gods. [There was then no concern regarding the present issue of climate change.]

Any reader of literature or history, would be aware of the plethora of religious or superstitious beliefs and fears, relative to the phenomenon of childbirth. The protection or guidance of the Divinity, or the Natural Spirits, were traditionally invoked, seeking the birth of a properly formed and healthy child, and the survival of a healthy mother. In many disparate cultures and ethnos, special prayers, incantations and even magical or holy objects, were employed to shoo away the evil spirits, and safeguard the newborn infant and mother. [ Abortion was not a presenting issue.]

In the early history of our Nation, people lived in more spread out and remote venues. There were no protective institutions, such as the police department, nor the instant availability of emergent assistance. Guns were necessary ingredients in a family’s protection from the beasts of the forest, and from the threat of marauders. Men, women and older children, by plain necessity, had to learn to use firearms. Stories of the earlier periods of the development of our Nation, always featured the element of protective firearms. [Gun regulation was not among society’s concerns].

Particular periods of American history, evinced such immoral and shamefully accepted, practices as the eviction of Native Americans from their ancestral homes, and their removal to territories, way out west, which were barely arable, remote, windy and desolate, the institution of the enslavement of black people as agricultural workers, approved by society and the “good book,” and their subsequent treatment as second class citizens ( a despicable and immoral practice, still in the process of amelioration) and, lastly, the Acts preventing the immigration of Asians to our country. These institutionally immoral practices affected the mindset of the average citizen. The opposition to immigration, eternally based upon false fears and propaganda, concerning the “other” were, and still are, a travesty, and a valid basis of a critical charge of hypocrisy, against a Nation composed of immigrants and their progeny.  [“Other people” were generally considered, less equal].

Thoughts regarding these issues, in contention in modern times, led us to the relatively recent history, as set forth above, concerning those selected subjects (among others). Further, in the process of attempting to discover the fundamental basis, or etiology, of opposition on the part of folks who reject reason and rational thought and progress, in favor of atavistic beliefs and attitudes, we have come to the realization that their fixed views, adhered to, like lichens, may have proven acceptable, at some time, in the contextual past history, as cited, of our nation.

If we believed in reincarnation (transmigration of souls, or “metempsychosis”), we could make an easy job of it and conclude that these folks are the transmigrated souls of their forebears, who comprise the source of these ancient beliefs; but we do not believe in “souls” nor, in their purported reincarnation. But we needed an explanation for these outmoded, outre’, but, at one time, traditionally, American, concerns.

We realized that the only logical answer was simply, the one of social transmission. These retrogressive attitudes and beliefs, analogous to the introduction of young children, to a particular religion, are articulated and passed along in one’s family or social milieu, perhaps, by an elder, for whom such beliefs and attitudes, at one time, had the basis of contextual reality. The more susceptible one is to oral or bygone history, the more one is affected and convinced, by the transmission of outmoded attitudes and obsolete concerns. The great English, empirical philosopher, John Locke, declared that man is born with a clean slate (“tabula rasa”), and that all knowledge is learned [including outmoded, or stale, concerns].

Our (promised) answer to the posed question, then, is that, somehow, people who are recalcitrant in their acceptance of modernity, have learned, and retained, their atavistic lessons from the past, by way of ideological reincarnation, delivered, not from some transmigration of souls, but from the anachronistic, obsolete, lessons of a living and loving Grandma.

-p

Post # 382 TRAFFIC JAM ON THE RUBICON

On this Fourth of July holiday, one is civically encouraged to dedicate a few moments to consider the celebrated founding of the Nation. Perhaps, while one is thus (perennially) distracted, from his daily, mundane routine, he may additionally, take a rare opportunity to responsibly, consider certain other subjects of major significance; vital subjects, even those of existential importance which are eternally and irresponsibly, dismissed from consideration.

It is alarming and disheartening to learn from the world’s accredited experts, that it is no longer the challenge to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change (despite the atavistic and profit hungry deniers), the effects have already been felt; the challenge now, is to mitigate them, if possible, and live with and adjust to those of major, or, horrific significance. We have, frighteningly, crossed the red line, the Rubicon, by our negligent disinterest.

Global change is all too evident in the unusually monstrous and frequent forest fires, numerous major hurricanes and flooding rainstorms, rapidly melting artic glaciers, rise in water table, highly unpredictable, seasonal, climate and temperature changes, alterations and severity in winds and rainfall, even unexpected tsunamis.

In sadly, predictable fashion we have, similarly, crossed the red line, or Rubicon, societally and anthropologically, as we had fearfully predicted, on the all- important, and fundamental human level, that of societal interaction.

In several urgent posts, we have expressed our fears and misgivings about the substitution of cell phone interaction for more intimate, personal conversation, by person and telephone. We have shuddered at the thought that the transmission from one person’s screen to another, of data-like messaging as an exclusive substitute for normal conversation, did great damage to our societal interaction, and ultimately the institution of society. We noted that, the absence of spontaneous response, and of the comfort of voice recognition and conversational nuance, the inability to emphasize feelings and thoughts (emogees are an inadequate and substitute and a direct admission as to the inadequacy of electronic communication), the individual exercise of distinctive persona, the sense of impersonality at the time of transmission, are all among the many interactive losses caused by cell phone conversation.

These robot-like, in absentia, data like conversations, greatly suffer from the loss of natural, spontaneous, conversation, and tend to distance the parties from each other by its impersonality; don’t we all experience enough transmission and receipt of electronic data, without substituting it from our human interaction? What is urgently needed at this time of strife, racial, ethnic, sexual and xenophobic is the peace- making feeling of closeness and personal identification with others, and not their electronic access.

It is downright distressing for mature members of society, to observe younger members of society who have already lost the memory, awareness, even the concept of natural interaction, so important for a working and successful society. Many, if not most, are without resources in the absence of their “smart phones.” Reference to the hand-held electronic box is all that is necessary for the acquisition of information and contact with the outside world. Human reason and expressed, nuanced personality is retro; robotic data transmission is in.

It appears that we have crossed the red line, the Rubicon, in this vital area as well. We read a work wherein a College Professor gave an assignment to his class to go to a favorite place, with no technology, for 45 minutes, and when they return, write a short essay on the experience. The author indicated that most of their reflections filled him with sadness. Often, they shared how difficult it was for them to be separated from their phones. The author stated, that some actually experienced withdrawal symptoms including increased anxiety and that, typically, it takes students several minutes before they can experience the natural surroundings. Many of the students, he wrote, “comment on how the experience brought back memories of their childhood, when they often played outdoors with friends, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of their environment”.  [ Outdoors for All”, by Richard Louv].

The Rubicon is very slow, due to unprecedentedly heavy traffic.

-p.

Post # 381  SCOTUS AND INTERMITTENT JUSTICE

The Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”), the highest and the final authority on federal legal issues, and the top tier of the Judicial Branch of our Government, (Congress and the Presidency, constituting the other two Branches of Federal Government) has been an institution which, by its significant and august role, should be deserving of the dignity and stature afforded to it by literature and National tradition. It has been the beneficiary of some of the most brilliant and reverenced Americans, such as, Holmes, Cardozo, Marshall, and Frankfurter and some less so. It is to be borne in mind that U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Justices are politically appointed and confirmed, and that accordingly, these life-time appointments may be selected on the basis of their political leaning, rather than their legal scholarship or judicial erudition. In general, most of the Justices, historically, have proven to be capable jurists, and have rendered legally supportable, and usually just decisions.

We have employed the words, “…Intermittent Justice,” in the title of this essay for the reason that, as will be shown, SCOTUS has rendered, both the most significantly heroic and truly American decisions, as well as some which, as we see it, tear at the fundamental American tapestry of democracy and justice. The two examples of deplorable decisions, one, providing the main theme of this writing, will be referenced below, as will the two cases exemplifying American rectitude.

In 1857, Justice Taney of SCOTUS, rendered, inarguably, the worst and most deplorable decision in American jurisprudence. In that case, the Court held, with regard to a runaway slave, Dred Scott, that the “owner” could recover the slave because negro slaves were just “chattels”, viz., agricultural equipment. Fortunately, this repulsive decision, was overturned by later cases, but is a demonstration of the atavistic and inhuman capability of SCOTUS. The particular SCOTUS decision, which prompted this writing, will be discussed at its end.

We would cite two decisions, rendered by SCOTUS, which were eminently just, and in keeping with our Nation’s tradition of liberty and equal justice. The first decision is the historically significant and praiseworthy, 1954 case, of Brown v. Board of Education, wherein SCOTUS ruled, to the applause and relief, of all right-thinking Americans, and to the dismay of segregationists, that, legally, and in fact, “Separate is not equal.”   This positive case had far-reaching and major impact on our society, and has been constantly in the process of universal application.

The second SCOTUS case we would cite, as another example of justice and the exercise of right reason, is the 1977 decision of Rowe v. Wade, in which, it was determined that a women’s right to privacy, under the 14th Amendment, gave her the right to choose an abortion. Privacy and the rights of an American citizen to be free from the religious strictures of others, was upheld. Disappointed opponents of the Rowe decision, have been attempting to frustrate the woman’s recognized (and natural) right of choice, for decades

If SCOTUS deserved credit, for its many decisions, protecting the rights of minorities and effecting justice where the Nation needed it, such credit will have been totally negated, by the infamous and extremely puzzling, 2010, Citizens United Case.

Preliminarily, it should be stated that the Supreme Court, being only one of the three branches of government, would traditionally, properly and by precedent, refuse to accept a case for determination, if the issues in question were “political,” or had political implications. The reasoning was sound, as being based upon the fundamental Constitutional provisions for a discreet “Separation of Powers,” an American sacramental principal. Litigants were, routinely, and historically, denied access to the highest Court in the land, for this sacrosanct purpose.

The more recent decisions of the Supreme Court, in cases such as Gore v. Bush, seem to show a current disregard for the precedential law, the legal purpose of which, was to enforce the American foundational theory, of Separation of Powers. We continue to remain confused and shocked. Our concern and disappointment is based upon our unhappy observation, that the highest legal arbiter of American issues of concern, has become political, and possibly partisan. We are greatly disturbed when both political parties seek to install Justices who favor their respective views. This, undoubtedly, is the etiology of the present unsound health of SCOTUS.

An extreme, but true to life example, of the unfortunate and dangerous decline of the traditionally revered, SCOTUS, is the 2010 anomaly known as “The Citizen’s United” case. The sophomoric reasoning in the case, by intellectually gifted jurists, is more worrisome than confusing.

In the Citizens United case, the Court held that a Corporation is a “person,” and as such, has the legal right to contribute as much money as it chooses under the 14th Amendment, which grants all citizens, the right of free speech.  This is not only erroneous and unjust, but is the main impediment to our democratic system. At the very least, the unlimited franchise to pour money into an election, would naturally tend to artificially and corruptly, skew the result away from the impact of individual votes. But this disgraceful and undemocratic decision, besides destroying the principle of one man, one vote, and, instead, electing government by donation of money, is the subject of completely spurious explanation.

Every law school freshman knows, that a “Corporation” is a fictional, concept, created by law (going back to the English Parliamentary Statutes of Elizabeth) for the purpose of limiting liability. Thus, an entrepreneur can do business, contract, sue and be sued in the registered corporate name; if the business failed, he would not become a pauper, since he could simply cease doing business under the fictional corporate name. The entrepreneur was free since the debts were owed by the fictional entity or “person,” the Corporation. The laws are identical in every State of the United States, where the “personhood” of a Corporation is limited to its use for contractual or litigation purposes. It is ludicrous to conceive that this fictional concept, this commercial vehicle, is a true person with rights under the 14th Amendment or otherwise; it is statutorily defined and limited “person” and bears the understood and limited status, expressly, as a “fiction,” created for the sole purpose of commerce.

What is truly terrifying, is the realization that, as every law school freshman (and most business people) know that a corporation is not a living, breathing person, with the right of free speech, (but only a statutory “person” for certain very limited, procedural, commercial reasons) most certainly the eminent SCOTUS Justices, and their minions certainly know it. We are fearful lest political considerations rather than law, sadly, may be behind this mystery. It may also be asked, who has ever considered the (unlimited) donation of moneys to an election, free speech?

SCOTUS is morally and constitutionally, duty bound to protect our Representative Democracy, not injure it, as it has; and, moreover for the highest Court in the Nation, to do so, upon sophomoric and ludicrous reasoning, leaves us in a state of confusion, and in a sudden deep concern for our Democratic Republic.

-p.