Blog # 188 COURTESY 1.01

It appears to have been relatively early in the course of primitive man’s steady march toward modern civilization, that he discovered the invaluable benefits of living in stable societies or tribes. Such benefits included joint defense and security, cooperative hunting and food gathering, skill specialization, interdependence and, above all, the life enhancing benefits of human company and social interaction. The latter, of course, necessitated a commonly understood language and the corollary requirement of socially approved behavior. Communities developed nuanced folkways, as was appropriate to their own culture, each embodying its signature style to the expression of amity and mutual respect.

Availing ourselves of the useful and always available literary time machine, we would leap a great many eons to the 1840’s, when human conversational interaction was immensely facilitated and enhanced by the invention of the telephone. The consensus is that it was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, whose first practical use, according to the apocryphal story, was the phoned message to his assistant, who was in another room, “Come here Watson, I want you.”

By reason of its ubiquitous utility, the telephone morphed, exponentially, from its 19th Century prototype to its developing progeny, from the telephone exchange (manual switchboard connection), to the coin operated  device, to the mobile phone (the latter, apparently, took decades to attain acceptability), to touch- tone phones, and in 1978, to the cell phone (Bell Labs., AT&T). The rest is current history, for good or bad (but this is another subject).

The limited, targeted subject of this note is a certain newly prevalent use of the telephone, which uses seems to negate or repudiate society’s former inherited tradition of considerate and thoughtful behavior as applicable to social interaction. This unfortunate trend seems to fall into two distinct, but related categories which will be referenced, below.

However, let us first create, solely for illustrative purposes, the following two theoretical situations. Suppose you are engaged in walking to the local grocery store to purchase some needed food items when a complete stranger suddenly accosts you, and without any apparent justification, requests your personal identity. In a second case, such a stranger, presumptuously, asks you for your answers to certain questions, whatever may be the subject, perhaps, marketing or politics. It would certainly appear that in both instances, the stranger would have taken unwelcome liberties, acted aggressively and did so without a modicum of sensitivity.

To return to the subject, one can easily transpose such improper behavior to that of those telephone callers who, without any identification or permission, request whether a named party is available, or else, more presumptuously, initiate a questionnaire on some subject. These are real instances and are even worse than the above theoretical illustrations, in that they are anonymous and the person on the receiving end lacks the ability to observe the questioner. Depending upon the condition of the receiving personality, the reaction to such arrogant rudeness may vary from mere annoyance to actual fear. It appears to be (disappointingly) necessary, to remind such abusive callers of the standards of behavior observed since the early days of man, concerning awareness and courtesy.

-p.

 

 

Blog # 187 IMPORTING CITIZENS

The DACA initiative (“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) was a grant of compassionate, needed relief by our former President, Barack Obama, as chief executive, and, no doubt, as an empathetic and dedicated family man. It was done by way of Executive Order, based on the continuing, obstinate refusal of Congress to enact such legislation. DACA affected approximately, 800,000 immigrants brought to the United States by parents (“illegal immigrants”) without proper documentation. It changed the lives of countless beneficiaries of the Act, enabling them to qualify for financial aid for college tuition, secure decent employment, open bank accounts and, generally, afforded them the quality of being self-sufficient. The enunciated initiative of President Trump to eliminate DACA is a cruel behavioral travesty and manifestly contrary to our tradition of welcome, famously symbolized by our Statue of Liberty.

The numerous arguments in favor of the maintenance of the program are compelling and shared by American citizens with any personal sense of fairness and empathy. The affected children were bought into this country entirely as a matter of their parent’s choice, and in general, have proven themselves to be responsible Americans, capable of adding value to our country; they have been raised here and know no other home. They go to school, work, pay taxes and serve in the military.

We have been able to ascertain only one argument in support of the termination of the program (and by its drastic consequence, deportation). The same is devoid of human feeling and is as non-specific and so general as to amount to an irrelevant and useless aphorism. The reason is the bare assertion that laws must be enforced; it is the purpose of this writing to discredit such reductionist ignorance.

Laws are a system of rules, created and enforced by governmental institutions charged with the regulation of behavior.  Legal history has always categorized errant behavior into two distinct categories, malum prohibitum, and malum in se.  Acts that are malum in se, are those that by their very nature are evil, such as homicide or robbery; by clear contrast,  malum prohibitum, are acts which are unlawful solely by reason of Statute. No sane argument can be made that “illegal immigrants” are, as such, chargeable with the commission of acts which are intrinsically evil; their “illegality” merely amounts to entry into the country without the legislatively required paperwork.

Some decades ago, the truly eminent and intellectual Supreme Court Justice, Benjamin Cardozo, whose writings have been consequential guides to all rational legislation, advised that law (other than laws prohibiting evil) should properly change and evolve, sociologically, with their relevant era.  The law has, in fact, changed in accordance with each developing era and society’s evolving sense of justice and morality. Declaring invalid laws permitting the owning of slaves, and the denial of women’s right to vote, enter into a contract or own property, were among the many inarguably positive sociological and morally evolved adjustments to our previously enforceable legal system.

The 19th Century French novelist, Anatole France wryly stated, “It is suggested that the equality of the law forbids the rich and poor alike, to sleep under bridges, beg for food and steal loaves of bread.”  The nature of such satire seems applicable to the reductionist mindset of those who would cite an irrelevant aphorism (about general obedience to the  law) as justification for the tragic and unthinkable destruction of thousands of families;  a necessary result of the proposed elimination of DACA.

We are instructed that the Bible advises, let him who has broken no law, cast the first stone. It is a matter of official and public record that a many members of the present administration, including the President himself, are under investigation by the FBI, various Congressional Committees and a top independent investigator, for offenses which, if proven, would qualify as very serious crimes including,  treason, fraud, perjury, bribe taking, conflict of interest, misuse of government facilities, interference with the prosecutorial process, election tampering and perhaps, other immoral and illegal acts yet to be uncovered. It is a colossally shameful hypocrisy for this administration to casually cite the general obligation to obey the law, as its sole justification for the tragic destruction of so many lives for the offense of lacking required paperwork; solutions to such problems, if needed, can conceivably be legislated.

On the positive side, let us by all means not overlook the added value of countless intellectual and material benefits, historically added to our nation, from foreign aspirants to the American way of life.

-p.

 

Blog # 186   A FEW WELL CHOSEN WORDS

There can be a notably significant variation in the substance and context of a statement communicated by means of face-to-face conversation, as contrasted with the identical statement, expressed in writing. Each medium has its own signature strengths and drawbacks. The awareness of this phenomenon could prove vital to the accurate transmission of the message and, in consequence, the avoidance of misunderstanding or misperception. It might seem useful to weigh in on the subject.

Many of us, as children, played a game called “telephone.” This game involved the whispering of an original message, for example, “Hi Sandy,” which was confidentially passed on in turn to a number of players, to be recited by the final player, who, invariably announced something else, such as “buy candy.” On the positive side, verbal communication has many communicative advantages such as choice of time and place, selective volume and tone, facial expression and even body language.

However, its spontaneity and the possibility of impulsive expression may result in a less than optimum choice of words and, in consequence, a distortion of intended meaning.  It is also vulnerable to the dynamics of subjective perception and, as well, possible distortion in future repetition (as in the telephone game). Finally, spontaneous oral communication runs the risk of an unintended revelation of withheld sentiment.

The, far less utilized, medium of writing has great utility in accurately conveying the author’s intended thoughts. It affords to the writer ample time for the considered and precise selection of vocabulary thought best suited to the precise expression of his intended thought. It also serves as an enduring record of the writer’s authentic expression and for such reason, is less vulnerable to any valid misunderstanding.

It may be useful, accordingly, to express our understood standard for success in the use of effective and accurate written communication.

One, far too often, hears expressions such as “big” or “simple” words, in a description, or critique of a particular writing. These adjectives may only serve the purpose of being revelatory of readers who do not trouble to write with an adequate level of sensitive awareness. A positive benefit of the written form of communication is the availability of sufficient time to select specific words which, in the writer’s judgment, best convey his intended message. Every word, one observes, has its individually nuanced meaning, context, tone and degree of subtlety. With abject apologies to M. Roget, we believe that a skilled writer knows that there are very rarely, alternative words or “synonyms,” which would suffice for the expression of his exact intent. No two words, we believe, are truly identical in meaning and context. As an illustration, the word “torrid” is not an alternate choice for the word “hot”; one would never describe the temperature of bath water as “torrid,” but might properly decide to apply that adjective to an exotic flamenco dancer.

There is thus no utility in the application of descriptive adjectives such as,” big”, “hard”, “easy” or “simple” to words in a careful writing. Only those specific words, which, to the author, are considered best in the expression of his intended meaning and context (whether they are called “ten dollar” or” ten cent” words) would be selectively employed. When such sensitive and appropriate care is duly exercised in the consideration and selection of vocabulary, any responsibility for misunderstanding should, in fairness, be borne by the reader.

-p.

Blog # 185    AMERICA’S APPRENTICE- IN –CHIEF

Our previous resolve not to expend any further vocabulary on the subject of our sitting President was irresistibly shattered by a particular Presidential declaration, so reprehensible, yet so uniquely revelatory, that adherence might be tantamount to committing the historically forbidden sin of silence.

The shameful and arbitrary pardoning of the bigoted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the vain, outspoken innovator of desert concentration camps for undocumented immigrants, was egregious and reprehensible.  This Presidential pardon was not, as previously, granted to a convicted person serving time for a violation of criminal law. It was instead issued for the willful disobedience of a judicial subpoena to appear in Court to answer for the offense of criminal contempt of Court. The pardon was a shameful approval of Arpaio’s arrogant act of disrespect for the Rule of Law and a Presidential “tip of the hat” to an obscene act amounting to “giving the finger” to a Judge. It is observed moreover, that the recipient, himself, is a sadistic enforcer of the law, especially regarding Latino immigrants without official papers.

We have observed that the tactical timing of the public announcement of the pardon, at the onset of the horrific Houston disaster, sought to utilize the diversion created by the Houston event so that it would not be especially noticed by the public; but noticed, subliminally, by potential witnesses to be called in the Russia inquiry. They would now, presumably have the assurance that “he has their back” regarding any potential peril implicit in offering supportive, perhaps, false testimony in his behalf.

In response to questions posed, as to the timing of the announcement of the pardon, at a public press conference, Trump’s response was so shameful and obnoxious (but at the same time, so self- revelatory) as to warrant the stated exception to our previous firm resolve.  Trump’s incredible response was that he felt that the Arpaio pardon would garner greater television ratings than the Houston catastrophe. In addition to amounting to a false statement of intention, and a shameful juxtaposition of the two events, it was unmistakably revelatory as to his single, and singular, criterion for the determination of significance, television viewer ratings. This neurosis may not have been harmful when Trump was the glitzy host of a vapid television game show but is now exceedingly alarming considering that he has been vested with the position of President of the United States of America and leader of the free world.

In past writings, we have maintained that the true measure of personal success is best determined, internally, by rational personal criteria, as distinguished from an external accounting of one’s acquisition of assets and notoriety. However, regarding the nuanced character of this note’s selected personality, any such determination would certainly not be binding on others. Value and significance to our Mr. Trump, by his explicit admission, is solely dependent upon an official count of eye balls trained on the television screen. He has, admittedly, been successful in his aspiration beyond measure, in becoming the acknowledged subject du jour, as appears, of all news- oriented media.

The classic syndrome of the neurotically needy child who will tactically misbehave in order to attract attention to himself, even at the risk of punishment (the latter certainly qualifying as exclusively personal attention) is especially unfortunate and worrying when carried into adulthood. To observe that the concern is greatly exacerbated when such an inadequately socialized adult attains the position of our nation’s chief executive, may well qualify as a sardonic understatement.

Consistent with such adolescent, narcissistic need for approval and adulation, he has sought to create the illusion that his public rallies are attended by huge crowds, irrespective of photographic proof to the contrary, has rewarded those who tactically sing his praises and fired (with the same verve as he employed in the game show “The Apprentice”) those who do not, and has maintained the simplistic view of the international scene that evinces favor for those countries who in his perception “ like” America, and views as enemies, those who do not.

Our view, concerning personally internalized criteria for success, would, no doubt judge him happy, given all the attention he attracts (for good or bad), except for the empirical fact that this neurosis is insatiable. We are inclined to observe that this game show affliction appears to be chronic, and, unhappily, predict that it will persist.

-p.

Blog # 184        DARKNESS AT NOON

This time the dynamics of nature was not subject to denial. The immense drama and eerie light show of yesterday’s lunar eclipse were universally witnessed and emotionally experienced.

It occurred irrespective of our earthly, mundane concerns, exorbitant college tuition, the latest saber rattling from North Korea, the inane tweet du jour from a caricature President, thoughts about lunch options; it actually happened.

To be sure, we were afforded adequate notice of the imminent event, and offered sufficient information regarding its meaning and dynamics; we were admonished not to look directly at it, and advised to purchase special eyeglasses for its safe viewing; but what a spectacle!

Even persistently resolute climate change and evolution deniers were obliged to take notice that our planet is part of an empirically demonstrated solar system, and not a creative object in their fictional and reductionist belief systems.

Scientists were fortunate enough to derive some additional information in the area of solar studies, particularly concerning the sun’s corona, which reportedly detaches huge fireballs of matter into space. It is inarguable that the pursuit of scientific inquiry and knowledge is of crucial importance to the development of mankind and ultimately, to its safety and survival.

Nevertheless, we would maintain that the greatest and most profound impact was occasioned to the human psyche, in the candid realization that we are merely hapless witnesses to nature’s irreversible and awesome dynamic and possess only the limited ability and the responsibility, in our own interest, to protect our immediate environment.

People of all nations, ethnos, cultures and belief systems, alike, were witnesses to the  truly awesome, possibly frightening, event unfolding before them, over which we have absolutely no control and limited understanding. The experience was real and dramatic, and was in its objectivity, unrelated and totally indifferent to the existence of mankind, and therefore profoundly humbling. It served to remind homo- sapiens that he is but a temporal and hapless resident of a planet which is evidently a minor part of an infinite and dynamic universe.

Many unenlightened people will quickly resume their customary petty concerns and egotistical aspirations; others will be wisely grateful in the recognition that we have been given the valuable franchise to, at least, be walk-on players in the universe’s colossal amphitheater.

-p

Blog # 183       UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

It may be of some interest, considering the previous publication of 182 posts, to touch on the existence of plinyblog,  its raison d’etre and choice of pen name.

Classical scholars would know that there were two Plinys who were prominent citizens of ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder and his nephew, Pliny the Younger. Scholars are everlastingly grateful for the treasure trove of erudite letters written by the nephew, which reportedly provides a rich source of information on the life and times of ancient Rome. With no desire to be presumptuous, we have chosen the latter as our namesake.

Our choice to use a nom de plume was motivated by the following considerations. We have felt it necessary to speak, at times, in the language of aspiration and high principle; the use of third person tense and fictionalized name is an attempt to establish a context of objectivity and for the avoidance of the possible criticism of personal editorializing, or worse, the arrogant voicing of selected aphorism.

We have observed that the institution of society is an essential prerequisite to the development of the individual and his personal sense of identity, that living in a  society provides the benefits of shared and assigned responsibilities, the opportunity for interactive communication and the learning from shared experience, and as to our consistent theme, the opportunity for leisure and personal growth.

Many in fact, in their aspiration to a full life, pursue self-enhancement by such activities as reading good literature, keeping informed as to the arts and sciences and, appropriately, respecting scholarship and learning. However, far too many in society, unfortunately, seem to manifest a preference for populist, uneducated and reductionist sentiment, relegating scholarship and the pursuit of enlightenment to a lower platform than superficial, easily accessible entertainment. Such preference for ephemeral diversion and the overt disparagement of efforts toward the development of man’s comprehension of himself and his environment amount to a veritable tragedy and fundamentally, from the standpoint of human evolution, are despicable acts of ingratitude for nature’s gift of a highly developed brain.

It is the troubling recognition of such tragic waste of human potential that was and is the essence of our purpose and earnest preoccupation in the establishment of plinyblog.

The awareness of ourselves and those around us, the development of a morality based upon self-esteem and not reward and punishment, the search for insight and wisdom, the acceptance of others, the satisfactory realization that significant perceptions are personal and internal, the capacity for empathy and love, are all qualities that this writer seeks to remind others, as well as himself.

-p.

Blog # 182      A PRIMER ON AMERICAN HATRED

Finding a suitable word, despite the vastness of the American –English lexicon, adequate to the depiction of our perennial hate groups, is a challenge equal to the vain search for a suitable synonym for the noun “nausea.” Such hate groups are the ultimate ugly blemish on our body politic and a slur on American society. Such stark symptoms may be more usefully discussed in the medical jargon of syndromic diseases; the etiology of the same, having their infectious presentation in such unhealthy organisms as the KKK, White Supremacy, The Nationalist White Party, The American Nazi Party (a genuine oxymoron), the pseudo-patriotic right wing militias and others of such deplorable ilk.

These singular cohorts of non -regenerate bigots, are variously composed of maladjusted and damaged personalities (possibly deprived of parental nurturance and doubtlessly lacking normal socialization) who have an intense, unfulfilled need for personal identity, and above all, for acceptance. Membership and participation in such groups, apparently provides the tenuous adhesive of acceptance and recognized persona, as a co- participant in a common anti-social cause. The specific choice of target, such as Jew, black or member of gay community it would seem, is of less importance than the all-important neurotic need for personal identity and group acceptance by way of a shared cause.

The recent events at Charlottesville Virginia, were shameful, but by no means a new pathology. Research shows that antisemitism dates back to the reign of Emperor Constantine during the 4th Century, while the minimization of black people antedates the Civil War; a time when black people were shamefully accorded the status of agricultural equipment, such that a slave owner had the legal right to their recovery (Dred Scott  case, SCOTUS, Justice Taney). These groups also have their perverse, iconic and revered idols, such as George Lincoln Rockwell and David Duke. Their historic mantra is to purify the American race and prevent it from “mongrelization.”Sound familiar? It is right from Adolph Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” This ignorant and demented goal is the delusional aim and the veritable religion of these Hitler worshippers, whose evil intentions unquestionably qualifies them for places of notable prominence in the literary hell of Dante’s “Inferno.”

Most of us, understandably, engaged in the context of the challenges and responsibilities of our mainstream lives, invest little or no thought on this subject. Yet this underbelly of society which consistently manifests the dogmatic mantra of hatred is eternally dangerous and aggressive. The Skokie march, in full Nazi military regalia had as its sole, sadistic and pathological purpose, the causation of great anguish and trauma at that nuanced city, known for its many Jewish death camp survivors. We cannot risk any degree of complacency. These dedicated hate groups have intentionally caused fear and have committed homicide at houses of worship, theaters, schools, playgrounds, federal buildings and even, military installations. Right thinking people would identify such horrific deeds as acts of domestic terrorism.

It is ironic to note that even such overt acts of these distasteful psychopaths, can be seen as actually serving some useful purpose, by way of their educative, although tragic, occurrence. Our complacency is, by necessity, replaced by a reminder of the existence of such sub-surface danger. Similar to our awareness of the underground phenomena that cause volcanoes and earthquakes, we can, by our dedication and creativity, minimize the impact of these pernicious enterprises and their potential damage. We can ill afford to ignore this species of human pathology lest it perpetuates its existence and metastasizes. Programs of public education, teaching respect for other peoples are always salutary, but we would suggest that programs of re- education preferably begin on a small, inter- personal level; one might start by affirmatively, expressly and emphatically, voicing disapproval of ethnic jokes and related inane, stereotype- based humor.

-p.