Post # 551 SPEARFISHING IN ACADEMIA (a pliny Editorial)

We have close friends who happen to be instructors in the liberal arts as well as the professions, at local colleges.  We and these friends share compatible views on the issues of the day, including, the need for further significant progress in civil rights, the rectitude of governmental policies of empathy and assistance to the needy, and an enlightened concern for environmental issues, including global warming. In addition to the pleasure of social interaction, we have the stimulating benefit of hearing their views concerning their respective disciplines as well as being kept abreast of the events and contemporaneous atmosphere at their respective higher institutions of learning.

Before proceeding to our theme, for reasons of clarity and to avoid inaccurate assumptions by readers,  still unfamiliar with our known political and social philosophies, we would make the clear and unequivocal declaration, that we are, and have always been, zealous supporters of the principle of equal opportunity and civil rights for all, as well as commensurate social standing for all Americans. As can be noted, we, in our essays, have ardently endorsed the moral principles of equal justice and opportunity for all, as the only appropriately American way of life; and have eternally promoted full acceptance and amicable social interaction between all members of society.

At the same time, we have deplored those who, for any manner of unhealthy, immoral and un-American reasons, derive some atavistic, neurotic benefit from asserting the irrational principle of superiority of  light skin over dark, and who have asserted that preposterous Gulliver’s Travels style irrational delusion, by acts of discrimination against fellow Americans, gifted by nature with darker skin.

It must be borne in mind that slavery, the permanently shameful scar on American History, was legally ended in the middle of the 19th Century, historically speaking, a relatively short time ago. In recent decades, America has indeed made many significant positive changes regarding the previous unjust appraisal and rights, constitutional and otherwise, of black Americans, which, hopefully, will be pursued to its moral and legal completion. Much of the improvement in equality and justice, (and enforcement of the Constitution) was, by unfortunate necessity, effectuated by Statute and litigation. Healthy and appropriate moral improvement in the minds of (too) many citizens has yet to satisfactorily evolve and, unfortunate to say, it appears that it will take yet more earnest dedication and time to cure the pathology of bigotry. Until such time, it does seem appropriate and understandable that many of our affected minority fellow citizens are (justifiably) impatient.

The total absence of any responsible programs or needed National efforts regarding this important issue by the administration of President Trump, (to the contrary, his subtle support of hateful Christian White Nationalism) has not speeded up the unreasonably slow progress of the country’s moral evolution, to the goal of a fully just society. Nor (to our present theme) does the neurotic, egotistical arrogation of this validly existing major historical injustice, by an individual for personal use based on unrelated personal reasons, possibly help. This practice of personal piracy of this important issue may have its unrelated basis in an insecure persona or the projected and unrelated angst of personal life problems. Disappointed people who may, conceivably, based upon unrelated feelings of emotional stress, need to publicly exhibit such translated feeling of undisputed righteous empowerment, where not at all warranted, relevant or useful, by publicly and angrily asserting themselves regarding the subject of racial prejudice, do not further its amelioration.

Let us, for the moment return to those Collegiate instructor friends, discussed at the beginning of this mini essay, in order to proceed to our salient point. We would again confidently assure the reader that such friends are individuals who are, inarguably, enlightened, perceptive and free of prejudicial preferences, whose stated goals are only to impart to their students the required didactic information relative to their respective subjects. Each of them has, over time, related, several uncomfortable and insulting anecdotal incidents, in which an identified one or two students of color have suddenly interrupted the progress of their lectures by aggressive outbursts of rage, allegedly based upon the lecturer’s use of a vocabulary word or reference, claimed “racist” or bigoted. As specifically related, these sudden classroom outbursts are perpetrated as a shocking and insulting disturbance to the instructor; who, in each case, as advised,  does aspire to vocal sensitivity as to the potential nuanced perceptions of her selected words in the present context of minority injustice. Such alleged claims of racial insensitivity and insult have been related to us, by these instructors and we have generally found that the rendition of the “racially insensitive words” as related to us, indicate no reasonable or rational basis for a public affront of bigotry or a charge lack of racial sensitivity.

For analogic illustration, the reader has doubtless seen, in documentary film or magazines such as National Geographic, photographs of people, residing in the islands of the South Pacific, who, by tradition, fish with a spear, instead of a fishing rod. In “spearfishing,” the fisherman stands on the bank or in the shallows of a body of water and hurls his spear at the sudden perception of a fish deemed suitable for the family dinner table. With such analogy, we find that there appear to be modern day American people, understandably angered and disappointed by the slow progress on the road to racial equality, but who, for reasons, solely residing in their persona, attend at a lecture to await the possible appearance of a vocabulary word, with perceived potential for  interpretation (or misinterpretation) as racially insensitive and, like the alert spear fisher, abruptly hurl their angry accusations of bigotry, like a spear, at the surprised lecturer.

We are entirely supportive of the need for sensitive awareness, especially mandated in this unfortunate age of racial and sexual injustice, usually (mis-)named as “political correctness”. We are of the opinion that the word, “political” (but not the practice) is not relevant; the socially acceptable level of awareness is properly termed, empathic, or respectful, not political.) Every self-respecting, right thinking individual, (especially lecturers) with any degree of social awareness, is aware of the social and empirical necessity to choose his spoken words in accordance with their possible potential for nuanced interpretation or perception in an undesirable context, or as objectionable, to any group or ethnos. But the individual student who, with the intense scrutiny (analogous to the spear fisher) on the body of words, impatiently awaiting for a target (in lieu of the educational benefit from apprehending the contents of the lecture)  and analytically on the alert for the sudden utterance of a vocabulary word,  potentially capable of perception (or ultra-sensitive and manufactured misperception) as insulting to minorities, is in empirical effect, slowing the rate of necessary progress toward racial harmony and equality.

As an alternative choice to disruptively and angrily, hurling her (analogous) fishing spear, previously held at the ready, for the appearance of certain perceived evocative words, it would seem more beneficial to the cause of civil rights, considerate to the instructor, and additionally, more useful, sensitive and less selfishly disruptive to the conduct of the class, if the complainant chose to meet after class with the instructor, for a discussion of either, a more rational interpretation, or if otherwise appropriate, a newly informed and sincere apology.

-p.               
it

Post # 550 VOTING FOR THE HOME TEAM

According to the American theory of democracy, voting for President constitutes making a choice between two candidates, each respectively representing alternate philosophies on political, economic or social issues, for desired approval by the larger number of voting citizens. Fundamentally, a true republican democracy may be defined as a government’s policy of rule in accordance with the perceived will as expressed by the greater number of voting citizens. However, the bizarre abnormality of the Trump victory and performance has altered our perceptions and awakened us to an unprecedented, dysfunctional dynamic concerning the elective choices of a great many contemporary voters.  

We, and knowledgeably many others, have puzzled and agonized over the millions of Americans who are expected to vote for Trump, despite his well-known incapacity regarding the stewardship of the Nation, both domestically and internationally, his rejection of accepted moral values, his serial mendacity, his lack of empathy towards the unfortunate, his lack of sufficient comprehension or acumen concerning his office, his lack of respect for academic education, gender and racial prejudice, absence of empathy and assistance toward the disabled and needy, his financial dishonesty, disloyalty to his Nation by transacting business with its historic enemies, his lethal malpractice concerning the pandemic, his denial of science, including global warming and the environment in general, and a plethora of other matters, not to overlook his  tacit and shocking endorsement of White Christian Nationalism.

Moreover, President Trump has never given evidence of any held political, social or economic position, and it is authoritatively reported that he lacks doctrinaire beliefs on any subject. He is known, to act on and decide issues, ignorantly and impulsively, following the most recent advice proffered by any confident appearing faux savant. The latter being empirically demonstrated, the desire to support him, by elimination, must reside in considerations that are exclusively financial, cultural or sociological.

To digress for the purpose of offering an explanatory analogy, we would initially point to the sociology of small- town America. An assertion that all the residents of such a venue would root for the home team in any sporting contest would be to state the painfully obvious. Such unanimity of support would be solely based upon residence, as compared with any other criteria, such as considerations of proficiency or character. Not to do so, or far worse, to root for the opposing team would constitute unpardonable and, no doubt, unforgettable, residential treason.

Additionally, there exists an amorphous conglomerate of voters, not unlike the inhabitants of the small town, who consistently and loyally, vote for candidates thought to be (tribally) preferred by their group or supportive of its jointly held position. Crucial matters like the character and capability of the candidate is not relevant to their interest, which is solely focused on his perceived position on the specific topic of interest.  

Polls taken and authoritative studies conducted, consistently indicate that young white men without college degrees (lower educated whites) tend to support Trump, while white young men with college and advanced degrees are opposed to him. The latter findings may indicate a self-conscious and mutually defensive tribal disrespect for education and academic achievement. It has been noted that it is within the groups of uneducated white young men that are  those sharing the sentiments of the repulsive white Christian Nationalists, winked at by Trump, and guilty of many destructive incidents and even homicide.

Rural areas often populated by many inadequately educated and unsophisticated people evincing anti-Big City sentiment, will predictably favor Trump over any opponent. Common vulnerability to tactical demagoguery can lead to the displacement of blame for felt inadequacies and facilitate an identification with a less literate and unsophisticated candidate, regardless of capability and known low character.

We fully expect that anti-abortion and anti-gun regulation people to vote for Donald Trump since his opposition is publicly known to be in favor of a woman’s right to abortion and is a proponent of the prudent regulation of firearms. For similarly unjust and anti-societal reasons, people who privately harbor bias in their heart, will vote for Trump. These groups or tribes of single-issue voters, are willing to ignore or overlook considerations of poor character and incapacity.

A large conglomerate of people who are unrelated but who, in common, are angry and discontented with their life for various and sundry reasons and who uniformly, find it useful to employ the trite, face-saving predilection, to blame “the establishment” (?) for their failures, and who perceive Trump’s unorthodox, unprincipled acts and errant behavior as anti-establishment and thus relatable to their defensive assertions, will vote for him.

Large industrial polluters, in their own mutual pecuniary interest, will  vote for Trump, regardless of how poor, unconscionable and embarrassing his performance in office, because he, like they, immorally and psychopathically, values profit above the life and health of citizens and thus opposes governmental health protective regulations.

The foregoing is certainly not presented as a complete accounting but, hopefully, is enough to be sufficiently illustrative of some of the personal motivations to vote for a President like Trump. The point especially to be noted, is that not one of the described criteria of the cited voting groups or interests relates to character or capability, but are instead, mono focused on the candidate’s position on issues with which they are concerned. Like the small towner’s eternal vote for the home team, such voter support is not related to any consideration of the performance record, the poor character of the candidate nor his views.

-p

Post # 549 THE DYSTOPIAN STATES OF AMERICA

Initially, we were undecided about the more accurate description of our contemporary Nation,  “Post-Apocalyptic,” referring to a mortally damaged Nation following an Armageddon type disaster, such as portrayed in the novels, “The Road”, By Cormac McCarthy and “The Silence,” by Tim Lebbon, or, a “Dystopian” Nation, as presented in the “Handmaid’s Tale,” by Dorothy Atwood and “1984” by George Orwell. Regarding the first category, the qualifying horrific disaster might be the ill-fated election of Donald J. Trump to the office of the President of the United States. The Alice-In- Wonderland category, “Dystopian,” is attributable acceptably to the warped nature of our altered American society, which emerged after that tragic election result. We came to the determination, that the more descriptive choice was “Dystopian,” for the reason that its existing surreal nature is due to aberrant social change, and not a silent state of still smoking ruins, caused by a nuclear bomb or scientific experimental excess.

Any wide-awake person can observe the rancor, tribal divisiveness and complete lack of civil amity between Americans holding diverse views, the frightening growth of White Christian Nationalism, the evil excesses, the many abuses by Municipal Police including homicide( particularly against unarmed black citizens), the overt practice of bigotry, racial, religious and gender, the widespread citizen possession of lethal weapons, the disrespect  for governmental authority and Law in general, the violence, the pathological disregard for human life and health by large industrial profiteering polluters, the general disrespect for learning, scholarship, arts and good music as opposed to populist,  temporary,  and superficial diversion, the xenophobia and opposition (by our own immigrant Nation) to immigration, the disbelief in well- proven Darwinian evolution, the opposition to woman’s rights of family planning, the frequent child and spousal abuse, the utter disregard for environmental issues, including the existential threat of global warming, the eschewing of family responsibility, the excessive use of  alcohol and drugs, the derogation of the respectable and authoritative press, in favor of the tabloid extremist media, the lack of support for programs of government compassion for the needy (even when against their interests), and other acts, incompatible with a civilized and peaceful society.

The American mainstream of law abiding and responsible citizens, are unjustly affected by this large cohort of miscreant citizens whose actions are detrimental to societal good order and function. The logical question may be posed, where did these malevolent actors come from, and when did they arrive? This question, in fact, is the intended theme of this writing.

Our view, is that individuals inclined to such anti-societal expression, have eternally, but covertly, been here, existing in sub rosa fashion, below the visible strata, pending an opportunity to reveal themselves when perceived to be publicly tolerable and permissive. The universal atmosphere created by the election and re-election of Barack Obama, an avatar of Presidential capability and excellent character, was certainly not conducive to the self-disclosure of these unsavory individuals. The surprising elevation of the miscreant and unconventional Donald J. Trump to the American Presidency, had the energizing and functional effect of a catalyst for the awaited green (orange?) light to, all those repressed anti-societal ideologues and low information flat earthers, to publicly arise from their protective cover in the anti- intellectual and perverse human dumpster, and manifest their malevolence.

Despite the hope, expressed in many of our essays, for the success in the encouragement of self-advancement of these flat-earth, poorly informed people (See, for ex. recent blogpost, “Infodemic”) we candidly, have little practical expectation that a person, living his  lifestyle in the thoughtless, mental couch potato world of atavistic, dark ages America, will respond positively to sincere encouragement and evolve to a more enlightened, informed and meaningful existence; but we are morally obliged to keep trying, especially regarding the young. The rest of America, living in the societal mainstream, who read newspapers and books, and honestly possess a positive self-image as an enlightened citizen, must continue to maintain its positive outlook, nonetheless, and continue to vote in accordance with its informed and considered opinion.

-p.

Post # 548 (poesie) SELF-FULFILLMENT

I never truly got to scratch
That way down deep eternal itch
Nor ever wrote the sort of words
That changed the reader and his world

I never braved a mountain peak
Or dove in water from a cliff
Nor ever garnered world-wide fame
Or got the adulation of the crowd

My happiness, tho’ does consist
In stuff that’s simpler, yet more profound,
The fall planting of yellow tulips
And the priceless gift of loving hugs.

-p.

Leonard N. Shapiro (Oct 2020)

Post # 547 THE INFODEMIC

Relying on past experience and taking into consideration, the ongoing fervent rate of intensive scientific research, it is reasonable to suppose that a relevant vaccine will be developed soon to assuage the threat of the present coronavirus epidemic. An enormous variety of diseases to date, have been prevented by the development and public administration of vaccines including, diphtheria, flu, mumps, polio and pneumonia. By bright contrast, we have scant assurance that the long-standing pathology of ignorance and misinformation, which we have labeled, “the infodemic,” will be abated, anytime soon.

It is inarguable, that a thoughtful man, in deciding, whether or not to act, and if so, the chosen nature of his action, or to refrain from acting altogether, is completely reliant upon his apprehension of relevant information, real or perceived. It might well be said that lack of information, or worse, misinformation, depending upon the circumstances, may be more societally toxic than any selected medical pathology.

The very existence of society, from the homo sapiens Paleolithic era to date, has vitally  depended upon a commonly understood language and man’s consideration and response to acquired or received information, ranging from matters of interactive socialization to those of urgent and existential nature. With the acquisition of accurate information, patients get healed from dire disease, bridges are properly erected, families are shielded from harm, and businesses and careers prosper. With inadequate or misleading information, buildings collapse from poor engineering, people lose their way, dinner is burnt, superstition and bigotry are accommodated, and errors, big and small, are facilitated.

In our view, the most colossally tragic result of misinformation, was the American participation in the Vietnam War (1950’s to the mid 75’s). The war was not only costly in blood (58,000 deaths, 1,601 MIA) and treasure, but effected a deep and enduring schism in our population. Violent, as well as peaceful protests erupted throughout the country, disrespect for the mainstream of  life was expressed through the growth of a young drug  culture, hippies (“make love not war”), famously publicized by the cinema and the historic, 1969 Woodstock Festival, divisions within families, and general disrespect for authority.

General Robert S. McNamara was the architect- in- chief of this travesty and, with many others, oversaw the nationally promulgated and propagandic proposition, that unless we stopped the Communists  in North Vietnam, (“containment”) that an entire “Communist Bloc” would ensue, consisting of China, Korea, the various countries of Indochina (Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia) constituting an existential threat to the United States and the democratic world. The numbers of troops and civilians killed and horribly disabled was uncountable, the domestic affairs of our Nation were traumatized by deep division and street protests, and America’s traditional brand of peace and justice was tarnished forever.

Not very long after the two decades long, painful wait for the unpopular war to end, Robert S. McNamara, himself, the orchestral conductor and popular steward of this unwarranted, bloody war, authored a book, “Lessons Learned From Vietnam,” in which he purported to apologize for his mistake as the chief architect of the wasteful, tragic and costly war, in that (he claims) he did not know that the countries which he warned would join together in a Communist led Armageddon, were in truth, historically,  mutual enemies, so that no practical threat of a “Communist Bloc was ever possible. The Nation had been grossly misinformed causing irreparably major damage to its previous moral standing, tens of thousands of military and civilians were killed and maimed, and the Nation’s Treasury, along with its name, took a serious nose- dive. Misinformation, or lack of it, apparently, can accrue small or Olympian size repercussions.

As an aside, we, at plinyblog do not, for a moment, belief that McNamara’s apology, for this colossal dissemination of misinformation, purportedly realized by him, suddenly, after two decades of major bloodshed to be in the slightest degree credible. But this, for a future essay. We are here discussing the pathology of wide-spread ignorance or the dissemination of wrongful information (“the infodemic”)

The provenance for damaging misinformation du jour is confidently bestowed upon the inept, corrupt and egocentric (former second- rate television gameshow host) President of the United States) Donald J. Trump.  (See: plinyblog # 546 “Schadefreude Vindicated”). From his first days in Office, Trump, solely interested in “winning,” with little or no understanding or capability to perform the complex and multi-faceted job of POTUS, was relegated to a program of defensive  mendacity, and attacks on the critical  media, including the prestigious New York Times and Washington Post, as purported perpetrators of “fake news.” His defensive program of anti-media rants, apparently, appealed to those inadequately educated and poorly informed “flat earth” supporters (his loyal “base”) who were largely responsible for his election victory. To their delight, and to the dismay of the informed citizenry, he embarked on a program to minimize factual truth and with his tactical, but ignorant mendacity, issue statements that have little resemblance to actual reality; while simultaneously attacking accurate media accounts of events,  as “fake news.” We have observed in past writings that any serious programmatic attack upon the dissemination of vital information is anti-societal and dangerous.

The (fool’s) gold medal for disinformation and mendacity, is inarguably awarded to Trump, as delineated in past writings. In essay “#546” cited above, we noted his covering up of the serious and lethal significance of the coronavirus, burlesquing and mocking medically preventative advice and useful information given by the nation’s health experts, and his broadcasted misinformation, caused tens of thousands of unnecessary cases of illness and death. As the “President” his ignorance and tactically false information was relied on, illustrating the hazard and danger of misinformation, intentional or ignorant.

These two examples of the disastrous impact of inadequate information or misinformation are by no means (except for scale) at variance with the information problem that characterizes by far too many Americans. In many of our mini- essays, we have lamented the public’s metastasizing disinterest in activities which promote self- advancement and the acquisition of knowledge. Over recent decades we have, most regrettably, observed a decline in the reading of good literature, interest in the arts and educative pursuits in general, in favor of ephemeral and superficial diversion. Such surrender to the status of mental couch potato, in time, predictably, results in a useless and low information citizen lacking in considered thought or opinion on any matter, except basic creature comfort. It is this limited individual who never develops an independent persona with its own confident perception of objective rectitude and no aspiration to learn about life and the world around him. His felt insecurity when unavoidably confronted with the perception of informed and aware others, results in insecurity and makes him vulnerable to demagoguery and a needed sense of belonging, by surrendering his mind to tribal, or “group think.”

It is our considered view that such low information mindlessness, evangelized by demagoguery and financially supported by unconscionable (anti-health regulation) big money corporate interests to vote for the most incapable, ignorant and egotistical Presidential in American history. We have often quoted the admonition of Thomas Jefferson to the effect that, for a Democracy to succeed, it requires an informed and literate public. This fundamental requirement was negatively confirmed, by the elevation of an ignorant travesty like Donald Trump to the Oval Office. It is instructive that from the first day of his surprising ascendancy to office, Trump initiated his ongoing, defensive attack on science, education and the press, by his mendacity and the regular dissemination of false information.  

A disappointingly large segment of our population seems fixedly resolved to rely on outmoded, and disproven thinking, rather than on developments in empirical science and medicine, on aphorism, on  bug-a-boos and taboos against vaccination, on the denial of the well- proven theory of Darwinian evolution, on the foolhardy denial of climate issues (in the face of confirmation by a consensus of the world’s leading scientists), by its disbelief in astrophysics and in scholarly revelations concerning the origins of the Universe and the Earth, in the denial of equality of the sexes (and races) and the acceptance of homosexuality and same sex marriage, in psychotherapy, in environmental issues, in birth control and rational family planning and in genetic research.    

 There does not seem to be an empirical possibility of a corrective vaccination for this problem. The enlightened and discerning citizen should, alternatively, consult the responsible media on current issues and, if felt warranted, pursue his own independent inquiry, by the use of authoritative sources to ascertain and confirm the desired accurate facts.

-p. 

Post # 546 SCHADENFREUDE VINDICATED

When the suitable occasion warrants, various negative or demeaning urgings may be normal, however, unless situationally obligated, they are customarily relegated to private thought. Subjective feelings and emotional reactions like jealousy, dislike, hatred, distrust, annoyance, are usually withheld from verbal revelation, in the interest of societal restraint and peace. By contrast, socially approved reactions to positive stimuli such as empathy, generosity, approval, admiration, respect and love, are often energetically expressed and overtly demonstrated.

We have written extensively, in past essays such as, “Songs Without Words,” on the admirable and generous feelings of empathy, sensitivity and awareness for others; personal inclinations which empirically demonstrate the positive aspects of the human persona. By contrast, we have consistently castigated feelings of insensitivity, selfishness and bigotry and their overt expression, in words and actions, as revealing the ignorant, neurotic and atavistic side, of far too many individuals.

Nevertheless, life has taught us, that despite our better inclinations and moral self-image, there are rare times (fortunately) when the most execrable and despicable thoughts and words are rationally warranted.  For example, the noun, “hatred” represents, in our view, the most vile and censorious emotion, and as expressed, in word and action, the most detestable. Yet, it is a legitimate word in the American-English lexicon, and has an appropriate (but, hopefully, extremely rare) utility. We do acknowledge the propriety of the extreme emotion of hatred, as well as the relevant words in its expression in response to the of subject of Adolph Hitler and his genocidal program of death camps. In such case, the use of the extreme expression is based upon the consensus of history, which validates as appropriate, the use of the noun, and not, the inclination of the speaker.

The intended point is that there do exist extreme, negative words responsive to instances of anti-social or immoral behavior which, although usually properly withheld and left unexpressed, are fitting, relevant and permissible, under appropriate circumstances.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the German word, “schadenfreude,” the same translates to the unacceptable and unhealthy feeling of pleasure or satisfaction, at another individual’s pain or trouble. There seems to be no English equivalent word for it. This shameful response is diametrically opposed to the virtue and generosity encapsulated in the word and emotion of empathy.

Despite the absence of an equivalent English word for the contemptible word and concept, the reality of the neurotic noun, schadenfreude, is alive well and healthy in our literature, art and sophisticated conversation. We are pleased to candidly report that in our many decades of life, we have never felt that repugnant emotion which we prefer to believe is in direct contravention to our self-image and identity. We have eternally stressed the values of empathy, or, at the least, in concerned sympathy, for others who are troubled or in need.

Having always considered ourselves benevolently moral with a mature interest in the well-being of others as well as ourselves, we have considered the term, schadenfreude, repulsive and neurotic; until now. This repulsive, highly objectionable emotion has, for the first time, crept into our emotional inventory of feelings, admittedly upon the news that President Donald J Trump and his robotic barbie doll first lady, have contracted the coronavirus. It was surprising to us, that in this singular case (as with the word “hatred,” when used in connection with the psychopathic maniac, Adolph Hitler) we feel no misgivings nor guilt, about the confessed personal attribution of the word.

Every American who is at least somewhat familiar with the news, is aware that by reason of Trump’s ignorant narcissism and political ambition, the Nation was not advised about the worldwide pandemic until it reached a virtually uncontrollable stage(despite his prior information about the same) stage,  resulting in tragic sickness and mortality for hundreds of thousands of souls. It is hard to believe, that a  President of the United States, who, responsibly, should be working on programs to deal with the deadly virus, spent months advising initially, that it was a Democratic Party hoax (“fake news”) later, that it was no more serious than a common cold or  flu and then, ridiculing the National Health experts who advised wearing masks, distancing, avoidance of crowds, quarantining if possible, and thorough handwashing. He mocked those preventatives on television, undoubtedly resulting in an even wider spread of the virus and thousands upon thousands of preventable deaths.

It was difficult for us to remain dispassionate, when we learned, that among the initial acts of this ego-centric, ignorant, former second -rate television game show host, was the immediate discharge of a medically specialized group, headed by a physician who was a rear Admiral and comprised of experts charged with the all-important responsibility of monitoring the globe for the possible outbreak of disease. He admittedly did so because it was an Obama inspired program. Consider the timing; it was not too long before the surprise attack of the present epidemic. It was Trump’s insatiable ego, in common with his colossal ignorance, like much of his incapable leadership, that resulted in multitudes of avoidable death and suffering.

It may be unnecessary to recount the publicized plethora of immorality and criminal behavior of this aberrant President who encourages white supremacy, pays hush money to prostitutes with whom he has had assignations, illegally profits from the office of President, committed treasonous acts with Russia, embarrassing our Nation before the World, and too many unpardonable acts that clearly indicate that he does not share our country’s value system.

There is however, one singular act of this psychopathic Chief Executive, which we rate as the very worst of all of Trump’s serious misdeeds and malevolence, separate and apart from his many reprehensible behaviors, bigotry and serial mendacity. This was his well-publicized, public mimicry and tasteless burlesque, in the presence of a reporter’s abnormally jerking and palsied movements due to his tragic cerebral palsy, on prime- time media television. It does not get worse.

In the singular case of Donald Trump, we, completely free of bad conscience, confess to our unprecedented feeling of schadenfreude and wonder if there are others similarly inclined.

-p.

Post #545 LOST HORIZONS

              America’s celebrated “Founding Fathers” oversaw success in America’s War of Independence from the British and created a new and experimental Nation, populated by citizens possessing equality of birthright. They constructed a tri-partite architecture for the operation of the new and experimental Republican Democracy and promulgated a Constitution for its operation, most significantly, prohibiting governmental infringement of the personal rights of (white) citizens. The vital subject of the moral and legal rights of black Americans, regrettably, was not on the colonial agenda of these benevolent colonial leaders. This omission, while consistent with its historical context, was an antecedent for the new Nation’s upheaval.

              This historically relevant omission, (among a plethora of unforeseen but currently relevant other matters), was cited, by us, initially, to introduce our present theme: the contemporaneous inapplicability of an outmoded, and in some cases, irrelevant, U.S. Constitution. Our conclusion was reached after many hours of agonized contemplation of our Nation’s gradual, but steady decline in quality of function, governance and standing.

               The philosophical and well- intended founders, understandably, were concerned with problems extant in their 18th Century and sought to avoid or eliminate them, viz., monarchy, privileged birth, religious intolerance and interference with governance. A ruler, chosen for a defined term, by the people, the elimination of privileged birth (“all men are created equal”), and an assurance of governmental prohibition from interference with citizens’ rights, was the antidote. An evident preoccupation with the prevention of monarchial or religious rule and the end of the phenomenon of privileged birth was their main preoccupation. Their apparent mind-set had little conception of the uncountable variety of issues to arise in centuries to come.

               Their  foundational document, the U.S. Constitution, written well before, the major advance of technology and modern industry, the moral and rational consideration of racial and gender equality, the undertaking of social responsibility by government, the exponential growth of computer and other technology, the major expansion of foreign immigration, the exponential growth of local and international travel, the expansion of international trade and affairs, the development of policies of environmental and planetary concern, the growing complications of law, civil and international, the space race and others.

               Those litigants that continue to unashamedly argue for “original intention,” (l8th Century) either have some self-interest in mind or are simply ignorant. The arguably greatest Supreme Court Justice, Benjamin N. Cardozo, articulately supported the “sociological approach” to the application of the U.S. Constitution, viz., to be interpreted, relevantly, in accordance with the changing times. A thoughtful person will agree, but, perceive that more is needed.

              The hotly contended gun regulation issue is a salient and instructive example of the damage caused by an anachronistic provision, in the frequently miscited Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The supporters of the right to gun ownership claim that the clause, makes clear reference to “ peoples’ right to bear arms,” and creates an inalienable right to own guns in the similar way that the Bill of Rights (which does not, at all refer to guns), grants basic rights to the citizen. This reading of the clause is either tactical or completely ignorant and self-interested.

               It takes merely a cursory look into the context and origin of the Second Amendment, to conclude that it was not, to any extent, concerned with the right of citizens to own guns. The objective history reveals a conflict between those who favored a central government, the Federalists, and those who insisted on the separate sovereignty of the States. The sentence erroneously cited to purportedly establish a citizen’s right to bear arms is not at all relevant to citizen rights. It was inserted as a compromise between the disputant camps, consenting to a federal (central) government, in exchange for granting to each State (“the People”) the right to maintain an armed (“bear arms”) militia.

              The heated national contention is based upon either a tactical or ignorant misreading enabled by the continuance of the (now) archaic words.  Aside from this indicated (intentional, or ignorant) misreading reading of the clause, could anyone possibly support the proposition that our benign Founders would, irresponsibly, author an unlimited license for a gun toting citizenry. An elimination of this anachronistic clause, and a fair and empirical approach to the lethal subject    would, doubtless, save countless American lives.

              The contested issue of gun regulation was illustratively chosen to initiate this writing because it clearly illustrates the fundamental theme of this mini-essay: that the U.S. Constitution, created centuries ago, by its colonial authors, addressing the issues of that era, like monarchial rule and the institution of privileged birth, analogous to old shoes that do not fit the present size of one’s feet, needs replacement. The mandatory application of the general language of that dated, “buggy whip” document, on many issues, in the modern age, can be vague and subject to dispute. Since the early time of its creation, we have seen an exponential growth in computer development and electronic communication, an unprecedented growth in trade, travel, communication, scientific and medical advances, planetary and environmental  concern, growth of the nuclear family, same sex marriage, and a host of various matters, unimaginable to our colonial fathers. A contemporaneous upgrade, clarification, and recasting of our Constitution,  has become legally necessary and empirically warranted.

            Additional clarification and changes to the Constitution, which we urge are salubrious include:   

  •  The fixed and immutable four- year Presidential term ought to be made flexible, in order to avoid prolonged periods of unconscionable rule, as in the unendurable cases of Andrew Johnson, Donald J. Trump and Richard M. Nixon.
  •  The contemporary evolution of a class system, based on inherited wealth,  detracts from the democratic benefits resulting from the elimination of the European system of privileged birth, (by the Founder’s declaration that “all men are created equal”) and  may be ameliorated through the tax code and measures such as assistance with college tuition and to small business.
  •  An express, unequivocal enunciation of provisions for one-man one-vote for every American, regardless of color or ethnos,  serious criminal punishment for  voter interference,  limitations on the amount of political donation for any person or legal entity, pre-qualification of nominees for high office, especially the President, and fair election practices, to include the elimination of lobbyists. Elimination of the Electoral College whose avowed purpose was protection from the “populist mob, vulnerable to demagogic influence” and the institution of completely direct Presidential elections. Ironically, our incapable specimen of a demagogic President lost the popular vote but won, due specifically, to the vote of this arbitrary and undemocratic body. 
  • Changes to rectify the grossly unjust allocation of two Senators per State. This undemocratic and unfair Constitutional formulation gives States, like Montana and Nevada, with relatively small populations, equal representation in the all- important U.S. Senate, with populous States like New York, California and Illinois. This is clearly undemocratic and should be ameliorated.
  • To ensure the continuance of “Separation of Powers,” appointments to the Office of U.S. Attorney General and Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, should be made, on merit, by non-partisan legal committees, fairly constituted and legally qualified.
  • The difficult procedure to amend the Constitution should be simplified on a showing of need.

The suggested changes, in our view, would remediate the need for clarification and timely relevance of our foundational document, reduce disputes and advance our foundational principles of democracy.  Thereafter, all we would need next, is [as Jefferson said] informed and intelligent citizens.

-p.

Post # 544 HUMOR, NO LAUGHING MATTER (Redux)

In an early blogpost (Vol.1 “Pliny’s Reflections”) published a short essay on the subject of humor, as performing as a vital positive and salubrious ingredient in the wide spectrum of human experience. We went so far as to diagnose the vacant and sterile human persona of “humorlessness, “as a life -long disability, contrasting it with a person with a lame leg, but possessing a sense of humor, and thereby, less disabled. We have also referred to the existential role of humor, in the preservation of emotional equilibrium in times of great stress, and even survival in ghettos and Hitler’s death camps.

This essay is a reprise of the earlier theme, but is now offered in the form of an entertaining illustration of the important function of humor as an effective teacher of lifetime lessons.

Our previous blogposts have been, serious observations on philosophical, and moral issues of the day. We resolved that this writing would attempt to make its point [ that humor is an effective life coach] with more entertaining and lighter and material.

In the interest of literary honesty, we attribute the following, instructional anecdotes to the ethnos of the Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants to America. Since we present them in English translation, we note that they are even more humorous, if a serious and respectful attempt were made to read them in an accent, we have previously identified as “yinglish.” {Examples: “mine gott” for my god, “brudder” for brother and “voyce, For worse.]

 Lesson: Know when you’re ahead.

An elderly grandmother brings her darling grandchild to the public beach. The grandma sets the soft blanket at the edge of the water to enable her little Rosalie to enjoy the mud and water. The sun is warm and comfortable, with only a light breeze from the ocean; in other words, a perfect day, Grandma puts on a light bonnet on Rosalie’s head, to prevent sunburn, hands her the little pail and shovel and settles down on the blanket with a container of coffee and a copy of The Jewish Daily Forward, emitting a rare sigh of pleasure.

All of a sudden, without warning, the sky turned dark, a strong wind began to blow, the ocean began to churn with wild waves, and worst of all, little bonneted Rosalie, still holding her pail and shovel, was tragically and abruptly washed out to sea by a huge wave.

The grandmother, jumped to her feet in pure terror, spilling her coffee on the soft blanket and, not only shrieked prayers to God for help for her grandchild, caught up in the raging sea but, as in the ancient Biblical practice, tore at her face in expression of the tragedy.

All of a sudden, the sky turned blue, the torrential winds subsided to a mild breeze, the waters calmed down to a gentle hiss, and, as if in answer to prayer, gently floated little Rosalie back to the edge of the blanket, unharmed and still holding her pail and shovel. Grandma repeatedly cried out “thanks to God, thanks to God. Then she looked down at the bareheaded Rosalie, and shouted to the heavens, angrily and demandingly: “SHE HAD A HAT!”

Second lesson: Live as a good person and leave an honorable memory.

Siegfried Arbisfeld, tough as nails, died at the ripe old age of ninety-nine. His funeral ceremony, due to a recent fire, could not be held at his regular Orthodox Synagogue, but was instead scheduled to take place at a nearby house of worship, a Reform Temple.

Before proceeding further, it has, candidly to be understood that the deceased, Siegfried Arbisfeld, a successful entrepreneur (men’s and boy’s pants) had led a continuous life of contempt for others, including his employees, customers and tradesmen, in accordance with his chosen persona, in his private life (he was too mean to be married) had been selfish, anti-social, completely humorless and just plain, mean-spirited.

The funeral was attended by a great number of people in view of the fact that the deceased had lived a long (disagreeable and unfriendly) life, and for better or worse, interacted with a great many people. The new young, relatively inexperienced, reform rabbi, at the start of the ceremony, looked around the chapel and noted that there were at the very least 70 male attendees.

 He raised his hands for silence and made the following announcement: Good morning. As you know, I was not acquainted with the deceased and it is not my policy to make one of the universally applicable, impersonal, funeral sermon. Since there are so many people in attendance who assumedly knew the late Mr. Arbisfeld, I feel that it would be sincerer and more memorable, if one or more persons would come up to the podium and say a few pleasant words about him, then we can proceed to the traditional prayers for the dead and complete the funeral ceremony. The statement was followed by complete silence. The young reverend again repeated the statement and the request. Still silence. This was repeated once more until the inexperienced, young rabbi lost his composure and loudly declared: Look, this is simple, I did not know the deceased and all of you did. So, he threatened, “If no one comes up and says even one nice thing about the deceased, we will all continue to sit here and not complete the funeral ceremony!

About five minutes of silence ensued, before an elderly, gray haired gentleman, in the back of the room, slowly stood up and set out on an extremely halting amble before he reached the podium. Those close enough to hear, were able to note that, during his slow walk, the elderly man kept scratching his head, muttering the rabbi’s “even von nice ting” (trans. “one nice thing”), repeatedly. When he reached the podium, he slowly and haltingly turned to the large, interested audience, and declared, out loud: “Alright, von nice ting…. His brother vas worse!”

Nothing says it like humor!

-p.

Post #543 THE CASE FOR SECULAR MORALITY

With the progression of life, we have come to learn that a modern and enlightened morality, grounded on rational and empirical considerations, is ultimately far more enduring and meaningful, than one essentially grounded upon superstition or artificial fiat. What is needed is a consistent rational understanding and application of publically acknowledged empirical values, which reflect concern for the well-being of humanity in all aspects of life. It seeks the promotion of health, peace, trade and justice, not subject to the fractious, inconsistent and fear inspired authority of organized religion, nor to the latter’s impotent and atavistic rewards-punishment moral underpinnings. The secular pursuit of normative values additionally avoids the self-interested basis of political and xenophobic impulses.

In past writings we have offered the following fictional anecdote to illustrate and express our view on the ineffectiveness and minimal impact of the popular system of rewards and punishments (secular and religious) as compared with a rational and enduring concept of teaching virtue, as an end product of a constructed and stable moral self-image.

[Anecdote] In a moment of wanton thought, X wrongfully takes Y’s wallet which was left on a nearby table. That evening X experiences severe pangs of conscience and incessant feelings of remorse. Consequently, the following morning he returns the wallet to Y, accompanied by sincere apologies and pitiful expressions of remorse. Y, a kind and empathic person, then informs X that he completely forgives him and generously suggests that they mutually forget what happened.  X is relieved, but for only a moment. His next painful realization was that, despite the sincere forgiveness by Y, he is not effectively relieved from guilt; he has yet to suffer with the ego- disturbing issue, “What kind of a person am I, to have taken Y’s wallet in the first place?”

The above fictional account is offered in simple illustration of our consistent declaration, that morality, like other notable judgments in man is internal; here, obviously having impact on X’s self-image and cherished personal identification. A sincere and full apology was given by Y as well as a guarantee of secrecy. The painful dilemma, spontaneously arising in X is an illustration that essentially, morality and moral choices are chosen by the inner person, either ratifying a previously held personal view of himself or inconsistent with it. An individual who performs a deed in private, eternally has himself as a judgmental witness. A good deed, by analogy, is akin to making a deposit in one’s personal savings account of self-image, an immoral one effects a withdrawal.

Using a secular, empirical approach to teaching and understanding acceptable societal ethics and morality, with reference to the maintenance of inner respect for one’s chosen moral persona, is lifelong and humanistically praiseworthy. The attempt to teach good action by the fear of punishment or conceptions of after-life retribution, is not based upon characterological or moral choice, but by fear of being caught by someone or observed by some heavenly prosecuting attorney.

An individual has the standing to consider himself moral and righteous, whose action are grounded upon self-respecting choices instructed by comparison with his previously established standards of rectitude, as bearing on his desired personal identity and self-image. This is the only standard of evaluation that is rational and utilitarian.

We can apply this useful secular and rational approach to an entire universe of subjects, wherever there appears to be an ethical dilemma relative to rectitude or propriety. Society should recognize that solutions to questions of right and wrong, from every point of view, are rationally, objectively and wisely assignable to reason and actual empirical experience. Values including the care of elderly adults and offspring, social reasoning, birth control and woman’s right to choose abortion, keeping the peace, defense, trade, distribution of national resources, sanctity of elections, equality of rights, and issues of civil and criminal justice can best be determined by the pursuit of objectively fair standards of secular and empirically rational justice. The exercise of secular and rational standards of morality is the exercise of a utilitarian system which is equitable for everyone; a matter of exigent importance to our multi-ethnic and multi-racial Nation.

-p.

Post # 542 ARMCHAIR PERORATIONS **

As a result of our study and contemplation, we came to adequately value the Socratic admonition, “Know thyself.” The ancient Greek philosopher’s seemingly simple words, in reality, are so profound in their eternally edifying meaning, that any person, however contemplative, would be extremely challenged to recite all of its instructive implications.

Many centuries after the age of Socrates, a brilliant English philosopher, John Locke, famously and valuably, articulated to mankind his fundamentally empirical, “tabula rasa” declaration, viz., that man is born with a blank slate, and that all knowledge is acquired by experience.  As we see it, this declaration would appear to chart the rationally exclusive route to the implementation of the valuable Socratic advice.

As ardent followers of Locke’s “empirical school” of epistemology and of the quoted Socratic admonition, we have been enabled by such principled guidance, to acquire and to cherish certain personally useful, lifetime principles, inclusive of those set forth below, [which may coincide with the reader’s own thoughtful conclusions or perorations.]

[A] Internal life. The ultimate mechanism, enabling any useful understanding of life is the phenomenon of self- perception, identified in many of our writings as, “the lifelong conversation with oneself.” Continuing, self- awareness and efforts to achieve personal self-identification is existentially necessary, to the Socratic aspiration to know oneself. A continuous, internal audit of one’s actions and words, referable to his conceived persona, is the objective source of his self-identity. Candor is vitally essential, in any personal comparison between one’s avowed morality and his actual behavior. The practice of punishments for bad behavior and rewards for good acts, is of minuscule value, in comparison with a candid personal analysis, founded on the maintenance of an objectively conceived moral self-image.

Occasional moments of contemplative self- analysis constitute valuable time in the maintenance of a desired persona.

[B] Nuanced aptitudes. It is of essential importance to the maintenance of our identity and self-esteem, to be aware that there are specific innate strengths and weaknesses which factually vary among individuals. The expectation that one is universally skilled, and capable in every area or study discipline, is an indication of inexperience and a predictable invitation to frustration and disappointment. The untimely discovery that aptitudes do vary can lead to unnecessary incidents of failure and loss of self-esteem. Additionally, the comparison with others’ strengths is useless, unrealistic and self-defeating.

One should, rationally and positively, define himself by his strengths, and not by his innate weaknesses.

[C] Stress Management. The phenomenon of stress i.e., the emotional reaction to certain stimuli, is innate and natural. This reaction, deemed vital to the survival of early homo sapiens, is today present in personal reactions to stimuli, for example, to unsettling thoughts about aging, extremely bad weather, personal threats, bad news, danger (real or perceived), personal challenges, loss, disappointment and perceived failures. The common occurrence and discomfort of anxiety is universal, and we are medically advised, deleterious to health. However, such unhealthy and uncomfortable reaction, can be managed and at times, mitigated with the employment of reason and experienced perception.

It should be borne in mind that the empirical occasions (stimuli) exciting the reaction of stress are endless in nature and varied in emotional significance. Certainly, the loss of an ordinary object, such as an inexpensive pin is not comparable to the death of a loved pet, or worse, a dire medical diagnosis. Yet, there are personalities who will spontaneously exhibit, their most extreme reactions to stimuli of any nature. Far healthier are those with mature perception, who suit, or calibrate, their response to the objective significance of the stimulus. It is additionally possible, that in cases of observed overreaction to a particular stimulus, that there is the underlying existence of an unrelated, disturbing, pre-existing stressor.

Learning to tailor the appropriate extent of stress to the objective degree of gravity of a presenting stimulus, may lead to an easier and healthier life.

[D] Independent determination. Individuals who, in addition to attending to relevant responsibilities of family and society, have applied reasonable periods of time to contemplation and self -advancement, are predictably includable among those with sufficient confidence and the efficacy of independent thought. The factors of adequate education and sufficient experience are essentially indispensable to such facility. Those who read good literature, travel when possible, and pursue an appreciation for the arts and sciences, are least likely to rely upon gossip, group think (tribalism) and common aphorism. Such enlightened people live a more meaningful, in depth and more satisfying life and constitute the most valued and useful citizens of a Democratic Republic.

 Nevertheless, individuals who have achieved satisfaction from the felt determination of appropriate conclusions, should attend, fairly and constructively, to the views of respected others, regardless of their points of view.

[E] Success and happiness.  Assuming the gift of reasonably good health, aspirations for essential happiness and rational success, are as closely related as identical twins, who may be mistaken one for the other. Unfortunately, there are a great many who comprehend success as the substantial acquisition of assets and the immense accumulation of money and property.   However, life as revealed from time to time in the media, and demonstrated by experience, material success, alone, does not portend happiness. There are all too many accounts of dependent drug use and even suicide, among many of the publically celebrated rich.

But, if fame and acquisition of expensive homes, boats and other assets, are not the necessary markers of success and happiness, what is?  Stated empirically, the criteria for success and happiness, empirically must be otherwise, since there do exist happy and also, unhappy rich and famous, as well as happy, successful and unsung people of relatively modest means.

 It is inarguable, that not everyone begins at the same starting position, and that those born to families of great wealth and influence, ipso facto, have far greater future opportunities for material success than do others, not so fortuitously born. What is essential in choosing a goal, is a realistic and practical assessment of the situational cards which one is dealt, and a practical consideration of the possibilities of future material success. While a grand and glorious financial future may have some possibility in any life situation, the selection of aspirations ought, wisely be tempered with realistic and empirical considerations.

Success, in our experience, is not assured by the quantity, however impressive, of visible or ostentatious assets.  Consistent with our experience and understanding, life’s precious essentials, love, security, morality and image, the elements of success and consequent happiness, are distinctively internal. True success is the attainment of the feeling of accomplishment and the priceless sense of fundamental self-fulfillment. In such determination, a determinative comparison between one’s starting point and one’s attainment, is a most rational consideration.

Beyond any conceivable criterion, an individual’s realization of being infortuitous possession of the unique franchise of life, is his ultimate success and prime occasion for rational happiness.

-p.

 ** ADDENDUM:  We would certainly not presume to be the possessors of the answers to the eternal human questions, and would respectfully request that the foregoing writing, be perceived as simply based upon our own best understanding, which we hoped might be interesting reading.