Post # 580 CAPITOL CHAOS: A POSTMORTEM

After so many bankruptcies and failures [ in real estate, Trump Vodka, Trump University Trump Eastern Air Shuttle, Trump Mortgage Company, Trump Steaks, Trump Magazine] and other specious ventures, Donald Trump can breathe a sigh of relief that he finally attained a success, at least, in preaching the malignant gospel of insurrection to his base. In response to his seditious summons, thousands of deluded Trump worshipers stormed the Capitol Building in an insurrection, witnessed not only by shocked American citizens but by amazed and confused witnesses throughout the World[ presumably with a good measure of satisfaction from Mr. Putin and other autocrats]. These also include Nations which the U.S. has forbidden the maintenance of nuclear weapons because of their “instability”.

The violent insurrectionists, many of whom, armed with lethal weapons and carrying American and Confederate Flags and banners, climbed the walls of the Capital Building, as if it were the storming of the Bastille, broke through doors, damaged valuable historic properties and easily [?] overran the Capitol police like an enormous herd of wild cape buffaloes.

It is extremely worrisome that this successful call to arms of the flat earth, inadequately educated and propagandized base was, inconceivably, supported by certain members of Congress, a shining and outstanding example of whom is Missouri’s Senator Josh Hawley.

The Hawley example is most instructive as to the customary, cynical and pernicious tactics of the Trump camp. Hawley had submitted a book, to Simon & Schuster for publication. By reason of his publicly known egregious action in inciting the subject un-American insurrection, canceled his publication contract. The typical tactics of Trump and his supporters are clearly revealed by Hawley’s specious assertion that such contract termination was “unconstitutional.” This claim is an intentionally fraudulent, and tactically aimed at the poorly educated, populist Trump base. It is well known by all but the incurably ignorant, that “Constitutional” rights and issues are matters, definitionally, between the Government and the American citizen; not between a publisher and a(cynical) author. The miscreant Hawley, who is an attorney (Yale Law School) and a graduate of Stanford University, is only too aware of this obvious and elementary point, nevertheless, by an egregiously hateful tactic [identical to the typical behavior of the members of the Trump conglomerate] seeks to mislead the populist, uninformed Trump follower who, predictably will hungrily consume such falsified propaganda du jour.

This pernicious tactic of intentionally misleading reductionist and uninformed citizens is typical and is a demonstrative illustration of the routine tactics employed in the recruitment of Trump fans (his “base”). It also supplies further and emphatic endorsement of the Jeffersonian admonition, concerning the existential dependence of the institution of democracy, on citizen literacy and awareness.

Nevertheless, we remain incurable optimists, and maintain the hope that the unprecedented shameful, un-American and shocking immorality of the insurrection, like the incomprehensible cruelty and inconceivable immorality of past Church burnings, as tragically occurred in Birmingham, will likewise have the effect of raising the moral consciousness of citizens [like the many Republicans who have condemned the subject seditious event] to, at last, see the bright light of reason.

-p.

Post# 579 “THE MADDING CROWD”* [redux]

We will unashamedly confess to the intentional commission of the systemic error of repetition of the admonition of our Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson viz., “For a Democracy, to succeed what is required is an informed, educated citizenry,” because of its undeniable, no less than existential significance. We have also observed, on a myriad of occasions, following the eye-opening and shocking, election of the incapable, immoral and ignorant Donald Trump to the Presidency, that the quality and character of our citizenry is far below that basic and fundamental Jeffersonian requirement.

Our Nation, unhappily, has empirically revealed itself to be populated with a great many citizens who are far below the required minimal Jeffersonian standard. This observation has been evidenced in many ways, but, perhaps most revealingly, in their continuing and resolute support of Donald Trump, notwithstanding his demonstrated ignorance, empirical incapability, and publicly demonstrated acts of immorality. It is certainly about time we owned up to the, less than desirable, characteristics of (as the polls show) slightly less than one-half of the voting population. Another example of our confessed sins of systemic repetition, has been our observation on many occasions, that even more worrisome than Trump (if, that were at all, empirically possible) is the existence of millions of his ardent supporters.

The evident, issue du jour, is how to maintain a successful, right-thinking, and morally acceptable representative democracy, in a Nation possessing so immense a population of less than acceptably literate and informed voters.

For a brief time in the recent past, we, in frustration, entertained the possibility of a change to a democratic, two-party parliamentary form of government; thus, subjecting a President with the grotesque persona of a Donald Trump, to removal at any time, by a vote of “no confidence” by the legislature. We offered this, admittedly, tsunami-sized Constitutional change, by reason of our desperation with the Punch and Judy show of the Trump Administration. However, in a recent blog, we suggested a better and less revolutionary solution to the problem.

Accepting, by empirical necessity, the disappointing reality that the Nation is possessed of so many flat-earth, reductionist and inadequately educated voters, we can avoid the pathology of another Donald J. Trump, by not ever offering such a despicable Presidential candidate for election. We would thereby avert another Punch and Judy show, while not interfering with the universal American right to vote for the Candidate of one’s choice. If no charlatan is approved to run for President, none can ever be elected.[QED]

We would commit the sin of repetition once more,  by offering the following prudent solution as an enduring assurance of the avoidance of another manifestly unsuitable President.

It is inarguable, that the Office of the President of the United States, in addition to being the head of State, is functionally and ostensibly , the leader of the Free World. With his potential hand on the nuclear trigger, his office as the head of our military forces, as well as his role as the leader of the Constitutional Executive Branch of our Government, can anyone gainsay the assertion that the American Presidency represents the most powerful and significant position in the entire World?

Yet, it seems to be inexplicably irresponsible, Candidates for such a singular office is chosen solely by the inadequate and arbitrary processes of the political system.  An ignorant, neurotic, former second -rate television game show host and real estate grifter was America’s tragic and shameful result. The proposed method of selection of Presidential Candidates would, by contrast, result in the elective choice of two suitable Candidates, albeit of disparate platforms, to present to voters of every description.

We would earnestly (again) recommend that legislated prerequisite standards for all aspirants for Presidential Candidacy be legislated and that each desirous party be vetted and examined by an impartial panel of experts (e.g., political science experts, psychologists, leaders of both political parties, historians, and erudite members of the public media), for personal acceptability, irrespective of bi-partisan issues. Such a procedure would weed out the Trumps, Nixons, and Andrew Johnsons. The Nation would, by such prudence, be resultantly assured of, at minimum, the election of a reasonably acceptable President.

It has eternally been a matter of wonderment to us, that an applicant for employment at a local Supermarket or Shoe Store, must as a mandatory prerequisite, undergo an official employment interview; but not the Chief Executive of the Nation.

-p.

* apologies for the name to Thomas Hardy [1897, “Far From the Madding Crowd”].    

Post # 578 FANFARE FOR THE ANTEDILUVIAN or, “SO WHO INVITED ALEXA?” [redux] *

All right-thinking American citizens should be gratified at the significant advances in science and medicine, and the dedicated and steady march of societal progress in civil rights, women’s, and gay rights in the recent decades. This writing is not intended, to any degree, as an expression of nostalgia for the (imperfect) past. Instead, it is an attempt to explain the perceived awkward posture of those, born in the decades of the 30’s to the 50’s, (“antediluvians”) experientially hampered by their lack of currency in electronics, and in their less than au courant compliance with many contemporarily changed social folkways, understood by the younger generations to be appropriate and universally acceptable.

It is not our view that younger generations, on principle, reject the social expectations and assumptions of the elder, or conversely, that the elder generations are so fixated in their traditional assumptions, that they are blind to modern circumstances and evolving social change. This mini-essay is solely purposed with the raising of consciousness, where needed, that individuals of disparate age, share identical wants and moral and ethical principles, yet may, respectively, express them in styles which are nuanced reflections of their own generation.

Most novice parents necessarily reference their remembered childhood experience as a basic compass or primer to follow or modify, in their subsequent roles as parents. Noticeably, the phenomenon of additional children will evince empirical adjustments to such earlier established preconceptions. In any event, the implicit responsibility to keep the child healthy, safe, and regularly compliant with parental and societal behavioral expectations, is a daunting challenge, variously met by parents in their own, nuanced way. At some point in the child’s developmental maturity, parental restrictions, once resented, typically become understandable, accepted, and later in life, replicated in an analogous fashion. Predictably, parental fears and aspirations for their offspring, to the extent that they are factually based, are generally, analogous, if not identical. As appears, the responses of their offspring are, in various styles, essentially similar; perhaps at first, somewhat resentful in their untried early experience, but later, seeing a commonality of the restriction imposed by other parents, are more resigned to parental acquiescence.

This familial “round robin” of analogous behavioral and attitudinal evolution, as between parents and children of disparate generations, seems repetitively eternal. In bright contrast, the relationship between the generations, becomes progressively nuanced and less predictable, in the context of the use and reliance upon computers ( by the younger generations); most notably, upon computerized telephones (the latter electronically gifted with a reliable facility for recording, photography, encyclopedic inquiry, computational capability, as well as, media access, directional advice, meteorological reporting, sleep alarm and calendar reminders).

It is not only the existence per se, nor even the ubiquitous use and accepted reliance upon these electric marvels, (the progeny of a seemingly computationally gifted, proto-hippie, mutational, sub-species in the Darwinian evolution of homo sapiens, classified as “geeks”); it is the universal, revolutionary upheaval in interactive communication, affecting vocabulary, messaging, written correspondence, and quality of conversation that has evolved (or deteriorated, depending upon generational perception).

As declared in earlier essays, we have been confronted with a veritable, sea- change to cold, impersonal, data-like, abbreviated characters, appearing on a small, lighted, handheld screen, from the pleasant, reassuring sound of a familiar voice with known characteristic nuance; as well as the confident receipt and exchange of intended meaning, expressed in chosen, familiar vocabulary, plus the absence of the natural warmth of personal contact. The younger generation has, seemingly, intimidated the older, into a compliant preference for “faster, and more efficient” modes of communication, in lieu of such natural and personal experience of familiarized, recognizable, and expressive interaction. We see such unaesthetic, impersonal, and less expressive decline in interpersonal interaction as a tragic and predictably, irreversible, loss.

Computer-telephone “texting,” the reference to typed messages, utilizing code-like cryptic symbols in lieu of vocabulary, seems to also replace the special efficacy of selected, personalized speech expressed meaningfully and aesthetically in the iconic language of letter writing. Speed of exchange has, deplorably, prevailed, totally, over accuracy, aesthetics, and the welcome warmth of personal expression.

The revolutionary change, (or repression) of natural and expressive interaction has given life to a new techno- mechanical vocabulary and contextual reappraisal. Words like “texting,” “sending,” ”uploading” and ”downloading,” ”rebooting,”  “friending,” ”tagging,” are among a virtual plethora of relatively new and specialized language, used in contemporary computer babble. Other ordinary words have, somehow, morphed into the electronic patois, like the  word, “remote.” The word, pirated from the American-English lexicon, meaning distant or conceptually unrelated, is universally employed to designate a hand-held small appliance, used to turn on and off or change the setting, on a television set or music player. It appears that the act of standing up to select a program has been universal accepted to qualify, as requisite in difficulty, to become one of the Homeric “Labors of Hercules”.

We find that apart from technical changes, antediluvians, occasionally find themselves challenged with the need for behavioral adjustment to their long-term traditional mind-set. By reason of the metamorphosis to computer phone technology, we have been obliged to wrestle with the following illustrative adjustment to our communication assumptions. On many occasions, we have thoughtlessly refrained from making a telephone call for the assumed reason that the recipient at such hour, was “not home” but was, “working,” or ”out to lunch,” and the like, forgetting that in contrast with the home (“land”) phone, that the recipient is eternally reachable, by reason of his cell phone. This traditional and outdated concern about current telephone availability is one that we find is chronic and dies hard. However, we now generally, do remind ourselves on second thought, of the party’s ever-constant accessibility by means of the modern-day cell phone.

Before setting out for an unfamiliar destination, we often, routinely, request directions and prudently write them down for ready reference, forgetting about the availability of the modern GPS. We are amazed that Roku type movie channel will resume at the point where we last tuned out. Antediluvians may remember that during the era of newspaper comic strips, the celebrated detective,” Dick Tracy” had a “miraculous” telephone connection with his police precinct, through his wristwatch; today we can talk and see family members, or have face to face teleconnections with others, by laptop computer.

While all these new electronic advances do make changes, in many cases (but not all) for the better, it in fairness should be recalled, where relevant, that folks of previous generations emphatically need liberal catching up time; to be able, above all, to adjust to, what they perceive as bizarre, impersonal and data- like communication, and to many other novel electronic capabilities.

If there is one electronic “advance” to which we find accommodation difficult, it is the  ever on duty, echo -robotic deejay, responding, mechanically to the name  (sound ?)  “Alexa.” Does the “remote” and easily accessible radio or television dial afford to the resting patron such arduous labor as empathically calls for such needed compassionate relief? Now the proverbial couch potato, when awake, is not only freed from the heavy labor of pressing his remote button or bravely standing up and walking, perhaps, as much as three full steps, to sleepily access his desired diversion; presently, if he can stop feeding chips into his face for a full five seconds, he can utter the magically responsive sound. Things just keep on getting better and better!

In the foreseeable future,  we can be witness to even greater labor-saving devices, such as when computer science has progressed to the point, for example, where blinking the left eye twice, will turn on the coffee maker and doing the same with the right, will result in perfect crispy, buttered (rye) toast.

-p.

*  Statements on child-rearing and parenting are based solely on observed experience; we claim no expertise or educational training on the subject.

Post # 577 VOYAGE TO DEEP INNER SPACE

Recently, we read a startling and thought-provoking message from NASA, informing the public that in 2020, it will begin allowing private citizens to travel to the International Space Station in spacecrafts like those used by astronauts. The advertised price for tourist “budget” accommodations was stated to be $250,000 for transportation (previously, priced in the millions), and for lodging in the Space Station, $35,000 per diem. We had a strong, but later, rather mixed, response to the advertised proposal.

Our initial reaction was one of pride in the exponential American advances in technical and scientific capability. The first fight at Kittyhawk, in 1903, traveled 120 feet, in the 1930’s the flight of Amelia Earhart across the Atlantic, the initial Pan Am flight to Europe, in 1939 ( and to Germany and Western Europe, 1946); later followed by America’s later astounding  advances in aviation and mind-numbing accomplishments in Space. The latter included landing a man on the moon, accomplishing vital satellite systems in space, and sending exploratory investigative robot mechanisms out to the entire Solar System, including the distant and controversial entity, Pluto.

Our feelings, then suddenly shifted, from those evincing national pride in America’s technical and scientific advances to those of discomfort, disapproval and then anger. The shift was due to the shocking realization of NASA’s evident failure of perception and insensitivity regarding the predictable reaction of the average citizen, challenged by personally limited financial capability. This short-sighted lack of awareness and evident misplacement of realistic priorities caused us to perceive the advertised adventure, as comparable to Marie-Antoinette’s “If the people have no bread, let them eat cake”, or to the hubristic tragic Greek myth of the immature youth, Icarus. The insensitive public advertisement of such an exorbitant and lavish enterprise appears to be an indication of NASA’s misplaced priorities and insensitivity, especially applicable at this time of economic privation and loss due to the pandemic.

The advertised, outrageously ostentatious enterprise, by its logistical, scientific, and political nature, will inarguably require substantial governmental participation and financing, possibly to the detriment of adequate provisions for the amelioration of the economically challenged life of the average American citizen, and constitutes an offensive and cruel display and assertion of morally misplaced priorities.

But there indeed, are more profound fundamental grounds for our displeasure, which have reference to the consistent and fundamental purpose of this blogspace, now in its (five) years of existence. Our singularly dedicated purpose and recommended priorities have articulated consistently ( if not redundantly) the encouragement and development of man’s mature self -knowledge and consistent sense of personal identity, upon which reasoned deliberations and moral choices are based; which we have declared, overrides all other aspirations. It is the successful attainment and advancement of a mature, and moral goal that is the essential, empirical prerequisite for the realization of happiness and a successful and fulfilled human life.

In stark contrast to the one-time experience of the advertised glitzy space ride, the route to the destination of mature inner consciousness and self-awareness is an internal life-long journey, or inner space voyage. The exotic destination in the words of the Greek philosopher, Socrates, is to “know thyself.” What is involved is a distant route, not measurable in miles or lightyears, but in the objective and developed practice of reason during a self-examined life experience. This educative and developmental expedition requires no prior reservation, no physical criteria of health or age, but it does affirmatively mandate mindfulness and, as well, an awareness of the self in the course of a lifetime of internal audit and private, candid self-evaluation.

 In just shy of 600 posts, inclusive of mini-essays, poetry and narrative fiction, our salient theme has been the priorities of personal advancement, sensitive perception of others and a sincere effort to learn about our human existence on this Planet by one’s objective and analytical, experience. This is accomplished internally, by one’s constant awareness of living socially in community with others and his  maintenance of the  reflective, scrupulously candid practice of  inner thought, which we have frequently referred to as,  “the lifelong conversation with oneself.” The discipline of self-correction or improvement may, indeed, be more valuable than innate capability. This life- long voyage to one’s inner space is the most effective barometer of a fulfilled and successful life, and thus, more valuable, and useful than a one-time, memorable, and glitzy, excursion to the International Space Station.

Man’s voyage to deep inner space is successfully accomplished by, discussing comparative points of view with other travelers, demonstrating sincere emotional empathy for others, and, very importantly, reading good books, and thereby discovering the eternal nature of mankind, and its universally occurring issues. The voyage is enhanced by the development of an enduring elective interest and, importantly, an internal satisfaction founded upon a sincerely held personal resolve to be an exemplar of a sensitive, responsible, and knowledgeable member of the human community.
 The lifelong voyage to his nuanced inner space is man’s most existentially fulfilling, exciting and purposefully useful voyage.

-p.

Post #576 ON “MEANS AND ENDS”

On past occasions, we have expressed our deep disdain for aphoristic statements as being, inadequate substitutes for empirical reason, misleading and too often, productive of undesirable results. This is eternally so, because they are generally, insipid, and inapplicable to the specific parties and facts. The theme of our present writing is to the effect that they can also be dangerous, with specific illustrative reference to the morally challenged aphorism, “The means justify the ends.” Among the despicable panoply of useless and misleading aphoristic declarations, the said meme, condoning questionable or outright improper acts, as justified by their perceived, desirable ends, may be the most societally dangerous and empirically immoral.

 It is no less than tautological, to deduce that any need for justification is relevant, solely, to acts which are deemed wrong by the consensus of mainstream society. It is just as logically obvious, that good or acceptable acts would require no such justification or mitigating defense. But, more on this subject, following  a discussion on the subjective and intriguing subject of “the ends.”

To speak of “means,” as intended in the context of the subject aphorism, is to concur in the view that wrongful acts are pardoned, or morally redeemed, by their positive intention. However, in the event of its failure of realization, will society trust the representation of the wrongdoer, as to his stated bona fide intentions? Does this not provide a useful and tactical alibi to every miscreant?

From a metaphysical and moral stance, we need to consider the concept of desired, or justified, ends. It appears that while society agrees as to certain rudimentary aspirations, such as the repudiation of crime, and the elimination of disease, it is not the case, that it is in agreement on most subjects. To the contrary, the contemporary public scenario evinces sharp tribal divisions of opinion on the issues of the day, such as abortion rights, gun control, crime and punishment, immigration, same-sex marriage, environment,  global warming, and many others. Life and its moral imperatives are presently seen in multiple and divergent perceptions. Who can be so confidently gifted to divine universally accepted, “good ends” with the  exception of the fundamental subjects of sustenance and health?

To personally arrogate to oneself the omniscient wisdom to perceive the best course for society, is to be at best, a dreamer or at worst, an autocrat like Mussolini. Yet many self-indulgent or neurotic people presume that they possess such an all-pervasive awareness. These misguided actors frustrate reason and, if adequately empowered, can prove to be dangerous.  

Moreover, ends themselves may, as a practical matter, be outmoded, unrealistic or fantasized, depending upon the times and the contemporary pubic, such as: finding a short route to the Indies, turning base metals to gold, finding Valhalla, evangelizing the indigenous, or later, curing disease, balancing the budget, or traveling to outer space. Acceptability of temporal aspirations or goals ( as attainable) continually changes with society’s technological and social advances and technological achievements. However, the fundamentals of societal morality eternally persist, by ageless necessity. The value of human life, adherence to communal rules and folkways, truth and honesty, loyalty, the work ethic, endure, albeit, possibly, in some analogous replication.

Upon the assumption that the ends are, as a practical matter, attainable (as opposed to fantasized) the perceived means to their attainment, should provide, nevertheless, no license for acts in their realization which have been societally determined as illegal or immoral. We would declare that the aphorism, “The ends justify the means” is an entirely fallacious assertion; and for wrongdoers or delusional personalities, a faux rationalization. The avowed benevolent intentions of the actor, even if (fortuitously) contributory in bringing about a desirable end, are nevertheless to be condemned if those actions were immoral. For society to continue and advance, there should be no inconsistent mitigation in exchange for assertions of positively intended wrongful action. The existence of an organized society, inarguably, the most invaluable end, should not be put at risk by wrongdoers, albeit with (truthfully) avowed or good purposes.

We would confidently declare that the themed aphorism is entirely cockeyed;  ends never do justify wrongful means, to any moral or acceptable degree. Our discernment is that violent means lead, ineluctably, to violent ends. After the violent French Revolutions came the bloody, “Reigns of Terror.” Horrendous acts of violent means have eternally incurred violent ends, viz., in Russia, China, Germany, Myanmar, Ukraine, Cuba, Haiti and elsewhere. To state a useful aphorism, violent means have ( historically and predictably, led to) violent ends.

If we had our wish, we would happily replace the objectionable aphorism with our empirically, realistic, and useful maxim: “The means define the ends.”

-p.

Post # 575 THE UNRAVELING SLEEVE (Editorial)

With appropriate apologies to William Shakespeare, for the use of the above title, (Macbeth, Act 2, Sc. 2, “….unraveled sleeve of care…”) selected as an illustratively useful metaphor, albeit at this late date in the progress of the subject event, to express our perception as to the historically erroneous and atavistic, separation of the United Kingdom from The European Union, i.e., “Brexit.”

As young and idealistic, undergraduate students of Political science and History, we looked forward to a World where, by the steady continuation of the dialectic or algorithm of progressive consolidation of disparate States, with prior histories of competing aspirations, peace would, predictably, be the outcome.

In partial defense of our young, idealistic vision, we had, in fact, read of the successful outcomes from the consolidations of the many former disparate States situated in the contemporary Countries of Italy, Germany, and Yugoslavia (the latter, at least for several decades, when separation led to conflict). We read about the League of Nations, formed after the First World War, to preserve World peace, and its failure in 1946, due specifically, to the unwillingness of its member Nations to surrender sufficient sovereignty. After the Second World War, fifty-one countries joined together to form the United Nations, dedicated to the maintenance of international peace and security, developing amicable relations among Nations, promoting social progress, including improvement in living standards and human rights. To the extent that the many consolidated Nations of the UN, have been less than successful, in their goals, the same has consistently been due to the veto power of the separate and disparate members of its Security Council.

An earlier attempt to promote fellowship and lasting peace was enunciated by the Esperanto movement. Created towards the end of the 19th  Century, it aspired to the creation and use of a   common international language, “Esperanto,” whose purpose was to minimize the differences between people of disparate cultures, as a social route to peace. Although our readings reveal that Esperanto is still spoken in several countries, its main purpose, unfortunately, was never realized.

Notwithstanding the limited success of such efforts over the decades to promote peace, the various efforts clearly articulate the accepted philosophy that the reduction of national and cultural differences is the rational and best route to World peace. All such unifying efforts have not produced optimal success, but have each laid down a common paving stone, by their identical theme of the promotion of unity, in man’s aspiration for a peaceful world. It can, unfortunately, be noted that every rational attempt by peace loving individuals, to attain a lasting peace by the reduction of National or cultural disparity, has not succeeded, in large part, due to the ignorance and atavistic mindset of influential people, whose eternal approach to world affairs is chronically rife with paranoia and mistrust.

The Englishmen who supported Brexit, and persist in unduly accentuating “self-determination”, are jealous of national borderlines, oppose immigration and hold fast to a medieval xenophobic conception of patriotism. Such fear of loss to National integrity is clearly retrogressive and maintained by those who have not yet learned the harsh human results of atavistic insularity and competitive National isolation.  History shows a political analogy to the self-absorption and insecurity of insecure adolescence.

Nations who routinely do business and interact with each other are not likely to engage in mutual warfare. The psycho-social reason may be that the unproductive emphasis on “we” and “they” is diluted and the sense of “threat from the other” is thereby greatly minimized, if not totally non-existent. Someone ought to remind the Brexit patriots, that history shows no less than fifty-six conflicts, just between England and France, (not to downplay the “30 Years War”) and that the retrogressive style of “Trumpian” xenophobia and hatred of immigrants, is traveling backward in history* and thus, irrationally, and retrogressively, promoting the continuation of history’s horrific record of conflict and human suffering.

*If there were in existence such a device as an historical GPS, we would recommend its regular, consultive use to all Brexit supporters.

-p.      

Post # 574 PERPLEXITY

We return for a second but brief, visit to the small, verdant Village of “Wistful Vista,” located on the far distant, leeward slope of Mt. Mensa. In our earlier visit we lacked sufficient time to render a more complete account of many of its features; one such is the much revered and august, “Committee of The Sagacious.” This elite body is comprised of six wise people of the Village, assigned the challenging responsibility of determining the answer to difficult and pressing questions, arising at meetings of the Village Council or alternatively, posed by any (up to date, taxpaying) villager with Council approval.

Before proceeding further, we would avail ourselves of a brief opportunity to acquaint the reader with that revered, Council- designated, Committee. Both the membership and legal quorum of such judicious villagers was fixed at six, many years ago by the Village Founding Fathers, following seven weeks of heated debate. The Committee’s ordained number, thus forensically determined, is symbolic of the four compass directions, east, west, north, and south, plus two others, the latter two representing the individual’s, bifurcated choice to settle in, or alternatively, decline to reside in the Village of Wistful Vista. The creative and esoteric numerical designation of Members served as an early illustrative, forecast of the canny logic and innate capabilities of the” Committee of the Sagacious.”

It will be eternally and gratefully recalled that it was this same illustrious panel of celebrated savants, that resolved the challenging, grammatical question, as to the proper pluralizing of words like hippopotamus, octopus, platypus, moose, titmouse and even Tony Curtis (Curtii??) The unassailable solution reached, after a period of three full days of intense and concentrated deliberation, was: “Only refer to them one at a time.” The priceless value of their existential analysis, was again soundly confirmed, relative to a  previously existing common problem: “ When one accidentally drops a slice of buttered toast, why does it always land on the buttered side? Solution: “Butter the other side.” It is not feasible, as a practical matter, to recount all of the Committee’s vital contributions to the Village (and to mankind), however, it is hoped that the few proffered examples are sufficiently demonstrative of its unique prowess in the exercise of mankind’s unique gift by Evolution, of advanced capability for reason.  

We have, at this point, consciously realized our careless omission to describe the prerequisite requirements for membership in the venerable “Committee of the Sagacious,” and would do so, prior to the revelation of the current presenting problem. Because long, pointy, beards stereotypically connote contemplative wisdom, all aspirants for Committee selection by the Village Board, without exception, are to possess long, pointy beards, preferably in some (natural) color, other than grey (no dyeing permitted), and to have attained the age at least 77 years. For esoteric reasons beyond even the remarkable ken of this determinative panel, only one woman has ever qualified for Committee membership, since the time of the incorporation of the Village. Further and extensive study on this issue is scheduled for the coming Spring.

The remainder of the requirements are inarguably, far from draconian, in fact, are few and easy of satisfaction; these are, the regular wearing of leather shoes, abstention from the vocal use of swear words or expletives at meetings, the abstention from visibly chewing tobacco or loudly playing the harmonica, during sessions of Committee. By virtue of a recent ruling, Members are permitted to bring their dog, provided it does not bark, howl, or defecate during debate periods.

We would, at this point in our writing, earnestly request the reader to temporarily withhold and defer his predictable, initial reaction or response, to the revelation of our prevailing question (to be presented, for resolution by the Committee of the Sagacious). On initial examination, the query might appear to be self-evident, tautological, or simply nonsensical; nevertheless, as previously explained, we confidently represent it to be a legitimate inquiry, albeit, possibly too metaphysical and labyrinthine to be properly answered, even by the venerable Committee.

The enigmatic and conceivably unanswerable question (even by the Committee of the Sagacious), is: “Does a bagel have a hole in it? ” (Please restrain all initial responses pending the following proffered definition and analytical features of the subject baked item, popularly known as the “bagel”.)

We have clearly and lucidly advised the Committee of the Sagacious, and we now call to the recollective attention of the reader, that after its pre-boiling and shaping, the bagel is a bakery product, uniquely shaped like the letter ”O,” i.e., a circular, item of bread (with a relatively hard, outer surface, due to the pre-boiling). The complication and the extant and predictably unsolvable question is exacerbated by its fundamental, definitional design, viz., its circular shape, eternally enclosing an empty center.  Can such a  total conception, have a hole? And if so, where would it be found? Universally, a bakery product is not entitled to the popular designation of bagel, unless it is an oven-baked, relatively narrow sided circle of dough, and universally, by reason of its geometric shape, enclosing an empty center, including which, in its totality, it is entitled to the designation of the name, “bagel”.

Such being empirically the case, the philosophic and metaphysical question, as constituted, is: Can a bagel, or, perhaps, does a bagel, have a hole in it? The villagers were profusely chagrined and “plumb stumped,” and so, with the express permission of the Village Board, applied for, and received, the necessary permission to bring the popularly insomnia- provoking conundrum, before the Wistful Vista, Committee of the Sagacious, to deliberate and publicly declare the anxiously awaited answer.

Within two weeks the Sagacious Committee convened their behind -door, deliberative session at a closed-off meeting room in the Village Center. The currently serving Committee membership consists of Ms. Corona Clef, retired coloratura soprano and currently, freelance hog caller, Chairperson, Mr. Ray Moonshine, wholesale liquor sales, Treasurer, Mr. Sheffield Borden, Jr. Milk distributor, Secretary and Historian, plus two other general members, Rev. Calvin Dimlighter, Churchman, and Mr. Willard McSwindle, real estate developer and equity loan mortgagee.

The following is an unofficial precis of the Committee discussion: Mr. Moonshine felt that “all bagels have an empty center and, in any event do not need a hole”. Ms. Clef: “That remark is neither relevant nor useful. The question is, can a bagel which contains an empty middle space, by definition, have a hole.” Mr. Borden: I say no because you would have to put the hole in the hard circle of dough, breaking its mandatory circular shape. Mr. Swindle, heavily perspiring and visibly frustrated suddenly declared, I am leaving this meeting because it is wastefully engaging in circular reasoning. The good Rev. Dimlighter, who, unfortunately, was hearing- challenged but had inadvertently left his hearing aid at home, also angrily left the meeting, because he erroneously heard the word “circular,” as “secular” and loudly declared: “I will have absolutely no part in secular reasoning.”

The meeting, by prescribed Rule, was adjourned, as lacking a legal quorum,  necessitated by the exit of the two Members, unhappily, leaving the presenting question unresolved. Upon leaving Ms. Clef quietly, asked of Mr. McSwindle: “What, in heavens name, are bagels anyway, and what are they used for?”

We are, it appears, by unavoidable empirical necessity, relegated to the reference of the presenting question, to the capable discernment and wisdom of the reader.

-p.                                           

Post # 573 THE DANSE MACABRE*

Among the favored choices of entertainment during the era commonly identified as, “The Medieval Period,” was attendance at tortures and executions,  normally ordered by the Church or the Crown. It might excitingly feature, the “Rack,” the “Iron Maiden,” “The Chair of Torture,” “Skin Flaying,” “Boiling”, or any one of the great many grotesque and grisly artifacts, used to inflict excruciating pain and death, on a human being. In later Centuries, particularly in the New World, the desire for such gruesome entertainment was assuaged only in its attendance at public hangings. The latter, one assumes, were somewhat less entertaining than, say, the bloody, and excruciating pain produced by the flaying of skin from a living victim, but it is somewhat of a consolation, that the people in attendance, did have the benefit of witnessing a victim in his shaky danse macabre, as he mortally strangled on the rope.

In modern times, we use the evolved euphemism, “Capital Punishment,” for the State termination of a convicted criminal’s life, in criminal matters involving intentional murder or less frequently, for treason. It may be that public sensibilities have to some degree positively evolved, at least to the extent that this homicidal event, is not celebrated in public, nor preceded by a first act of anguishing torture. We use the phrase, “evolved euphemism,” in reference to the fact that the word “capital,” has its origin in the word, “decapitate,” specifically referring to a public beheading, a danse macabre especially popular in the bloody days of the French Revolutions.

On a related subject, we would state that we do see positive utility in the general concept and use of euphemism, to soften the impact of harsh events, such as layoff (“downsize”), blind (“sight challenged”), died (“passed away,” and euthanize (“put to sleep”). The appropriate use by friends and acquaintances, of a  neutral or general word, to soften reference to a harsh event, is empathic and commendable.

We award no such admiration for euphemistic references to immoral or improper actions. These include, as killing (“offing”), stealing (“lifting”), robbing (“shaking down”), steal or rob (“heist”) nor, indeed to State homicide. (“capital punishment”). Candidly and ironically, we see the act itself, as a replication of the specific brutal act which the State seeks to discourage. Our intrinsic objection, however, is not logical, but moral. Killing, with the sole exception of the existentially, unavoidable constraints of unpreventable, defensive war, is not, and was never, the proper office of any civilized society. It is distinctly and profoundly unnatural (for non-predatory animals, such as humans) immoral, and the practice should, at long last, be stopped.

We would submit that individuals who faithfully continue to look to the Bible as a moral guide, ought to realize that the enumerated moral strictures, and the prescribed penalties (lex talionis) for their disobedience, like stoning and other forms of death-dealing penalties, were conceived,  by religious leaders thousands of years (and many light-years of human advancement) prior to modern society. Even so, the decalogue (“The Ten Commandments”) since the days of Moses, historically and religiously referred to as the basic moral and legal reference, contains in its sixth admonition, “Thou shall not kill.” For religious adherents we would emphasize the absence of any parenthetical exceptions. It is, however, inarguable, that no competent person, albeit with the best computer, can calculate the astronomical numbers of innocent human souls, murdered in the name of religious belief, or alleged religious heresy.  

As a matter of eternal, universal, and fundamental morality, we cannot conceive of the propriety of any code, or practice, which condones killing, inclusive of its practice by the State as punishment. Although our posture is based on morality, there are well-known, numerous practical and societal problems with the concept, as practiced. The known practical impediments to any program of punitive execution, as condensed, are (a) the brutality of the killing, itself and the brutalizing of society by its approved practice (b) its ultimate finality, making any subsequent findings of error (legally, factually or by the use of DNA) irreversible (c) the unfair and demonstrated, color- biased application of the penalty, (d)the Constitutional prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishments; to include the specific act of killing itself, as well as the many months of agonized and expectant death row attendance, pending the extensive processes of appeals and administrative procedure (e) the uniform determinations of qualified criminologists that its avowed purpose, “deterrence,” is not an empirical reality (f) the instances of negligent error regarding the act of execution, electrical or chemical, resulting in the horrifically painful prolonging of the prisoner’s death.

We would certainly welcome the cessation of State-authorized homicide for any, or all, of the above practical impediments, although we would be more appreciative of its termination for moral reasons, as a confirmation of our optimistic belief and aspiration for evidence of the continued moral evolution of mankind. As outspoken opponents of capital punishment, we have on occasion been asked, “How would you personally feel if someone in your family were murdered? We have uniformly answered, “I would, in such event, emotionally, want the perpetrator to be killed as revenge but in such an emotional state of mind, I would certainly not be in any position to make the best decision for society’’.

*Apologies for the use of name, to Camille Saint- Saens.

-p.

Post # 572 THE UNDERBELLY OF DEMOCRACY

It is with feelings of exasperation and relief that we view the long-awaited (polluted) sunset of the Trump Administration. We do so with an acquired and instructive reminder of the systemic vulnerability, inherent in the rational concept and practice of Republican Democracy. The existential caution is not novel however, it has, at times in the past, and in the last four years been dangerously forgotten.

The experience of the past four- year Presidential term was witness to an attack on our Nation’s underpinning Constitution, including its protection of freedoms of press, speech, peaceful assembly, voting, as well as damage to the architecture of our governmental Separation of Powers, plus multiple brazen violations of our emolument clause, corrupt and possibly treasonable intercourse with our international enemies. His misrepresentation of the mortal danger of the pandemic was the proximate cause of tens of thousands of preventable deaths and sickness, and National economic disaster, his withdrawal from climate treaties and failure to credit the scientific world’s serious admonitions concerning global warning, his encouragement of right-wing violence, support of the NRA, not to omit mention of his serial mendacity and daily acts of demonstrable ignorance and incapability.

How did such an incapable, low-life and egocentric miscreant become elevated to the highest and most powerful office in the Nation, arguably the entire world, is the underlying theme of this writing? What we were again painfully reminded of is the toxic etiology of this undemocratic, unamerican tragedy.

Like love, the concept of Republican Democracy can be viewed as systemically, vulnerable. Love is vulnerable because it exists alongside with the unvarying expectation of the tragedy of loss. Republican Democracy systemically vulnerability exists due to its dependency upon the quality of its citizens. To quote Thomas Jefferson, yet again, “To succeed, a democracy must have an informed citizenry.”

Donald Trump did not arrive on the scene by some divine right, by the “luck of the draw”, or by religious designation. His ascendency was empirically caused by his falsified egotistical pretensions, subscribed to by a numerically sufficient uninformed voters to direct his selection by the Electoral College.

The costly ravages of the Coronavirus had an unexpected origin in Nature and will predictably be averted by the planned programs of administration of the newly developed vaccine. By contrast, the eternal threat to the institution of Republican Democracy which resides, essentially and systemically, in the nature of mankind and thus is not preventable nor ameliorated by means of medical chemistry.

It is far easier merely, to diagnose the pathology of the systemic challenges to Democracy than to prescribe a cure or a preventative, vaccine-like preventative. The serious and determinative threat is in sync with and related to the Jeffersonian admonition, concerning the existential need for a successful democracy of a literate and informed citizenry. A citizenry imbued with the latter standard would never have elevated a meretricious, unqualified, and neurotically egotistic, ex-host of a second-rate television show, to the esteemed and powerful Oval Office; leading to the well -known despicable and perverse results, which, like slavery, will no doubt be enshrined as a permanent blemish on American History.

No argument is required regarding the tautological assertion that a representative democracy manifests the will and philosophy of the voting public. The problem is that, as shown by Trump’s election to office, appears to be that, candidly speaking, too many of our voters, regrettably, are not of the Jeffersonian standard, viz., well- informed and adequately educated. In past essays, we may have committed the sin of being overly optimistic or naïve, in Pollyanna suggestions regarding conceived programs of educational advancement for those that needed it. We have been cured of such aspirations and effectively traumatized by the tribal divisiveness exacerbated by the travesty of the Trump Administration. We now see that the efforts to lift- up the flat-earth, reductive, inadequately educated and poorly informed voter, if at all conceivably possible, would take too long, and in such unlikely event,  during a predictably slow and difficult process, the Nation might, as a practical matter, be obliged to undergo the traumatic nightmares of other Trump-like Presidents.

Upon further, and it is submitted, improved reconsideration, we would suggest the more pragmatic solution of an independent, and rigorous process of a prerequisite interview to qualify all potential nominees to run for the Office of President. A fair and objective, a bi-partisan committee with appropriate credentials, whose required unanimous approval of candidates, would result, in elections between two capable, morally qualified candidates, (presumably of different platforms) found deserving of the vote of any citizen, regardless of sophistication, and necessarily resulting in the election of a qualified Chief Executive Officer, of voters preferred political persuasion, on a consistently assured basis.

ADDENDUM:

Pliny finds that it is bizarre to note that, at present, in an application for more mundane employment, e.g., a desired position as a salesperson for Walmart, a prerequisite interview is mandatory, but not for the determinative position of President of the United States.

-p. 

Post # 571 A CONVERSATION IN THE PARK (Sci-Fiction)

Selwin was abruptly awakened from restless sleep by the loud sound of multiple police sirens at 4:15 A.M. Feeling especially depressed, he sat up slowly, stared at the flowered wallpaper in his too familiar one room flat. “Here we go again, (he bitterly complained to his full-size mirror) another impossibly dull,  Saturday.” Addressing his tall, skinny mirrored image, “Same old, same old…nothing to do, nothing to see… just colorless boredom. If only boredom were preventable, by a  vaccine, like the Coronavirus.”

He then began his unvarying daily routine, bedroom slippers, left foot first, donning his faded red cotton bathrobe, slowly and dispiritedly, padding over to his small bathroom, relieving himself, washing his hands and face, brushing his teeth (first, prudently, brushing along the gumline, top and bottom, then in the back of the mouth, followed by an impressive rotary motion of his own nuanced creation) and finally, his trademark, gargled rinse. After pressing out an economical squish of shave cream, he proceeded to follow his fixed and immutable shaving regime; first the right side of the face, then the front nose area and chin and then as customary, his left side. Selwin, petulantly, brushed aside the “damn” pink flamingo plastic shower curtain, took up his partly used bar of soap and proceeded to undergo his regular shower routine.  Since it was not a workday, he would take breakfast, (routinely consisting of light toast, butter, and grape jelly with light coffee) in his faded red bathrobe and slippers.

He dressed and exited his apartment, nimbly descending the three flights of creaky wooden stairs, to the still dark outdoors and, in keeping with his usual Saturday morning routine, bought a newspaper from the Pakistani gentleman at the corner stand. He thereupon walked to the pinetum section of the beautifully verdant park to sit at his customary park bench. Opening the newspaper with the intention to peruse his favorite sections, Science and then Health, his eyes were unavoidably drawn to the front-page headline, huge dark letters, announcing the sudden and ominous arrival of a delegation of visitors from Planet Mars, fearfully speculated to scientists on a secret exploratory mission to  Planet Earth, to observe the environment for possible future colonization.

The article, which followed the bizarre and frightening announcement, notified the public that the surprise planetary visitors reportedly had been successful in tactically altering their physical form to resemble that of human beings, except, the report continued, they were unsuccessful in mimicking the human hand, possibly due to some hormonal or innately nuanced chemical cause. The public was advised to notify the police department of any suspicious or unusual sightings or occurrences.  

As he proceeded, routinely, to turn to the Health Section, a well- dressed gentleman sat down, approximately four feet away on Selwin’s bench. The man was attired in a neat, striped- gray suit and green tie and would appear to be feigning the act of reading a magazine, but in reality, was engaged in subtly and studiously observing him. A brief glance, revealing to him, that the stranger had unusually large, lidless eyes, seemed to invite the stranger to ask him what he was doing. Selwin, advised the stranger that he was simply reading a daily newspaper and innocently stated, “Why do you ask?” The stranger politely requested to see the newspaper and Selwin sleepily handed it to him, failing to observe that the “hand” with which the stranger accepted the newspaper was dark spotted green with small- ribbed fins on its reverse side, large nails and three, jointed and rather elongated fingers. “ You can keep it”, Selwin generously said,”I am finished reading it.”.

Selwin, thereupon decided to go for an early lunch at the neighborhood diner, ( predictably, grilled cheese and tomato with fries, pickle and diet coke) still muttering disgustedly to himself, “Same old, same old*** dammit, nothing interesting thing ever happens to me. ( big morose sigh).

-p.