Blog #201  SECULAR ICONS (Editorial Comment)

There is a vital and salutary benefit, enjoyable most especially by a nation singularly composed of citizens of various cultural origin (“E pluribus Unum”), to an instrument of unifying identification. This functional service is accomplished by means of common traditional symbols, such as our flag and national anthem; a far preferable alternative to ethnic or cultural feelings of insularity and divisiveness. Such shared trademarks afford to all citizens, the comforting recognition of acceptance and social commonality.

Our contemporary American flag, containing fifty stars, representative of the fifty states, and thirteen stripes, symbolizing the thirteen British colonies which declared their independence from England, has a long historic tradition (Betsy Ross), but, as updated, is credited to the design ingenuity of a seventeen- year old Ohio high school student in a 1950’s school project to include Alaska and Hawaii.

Our celebrated national anthem (“The Star- Spangled Banner”) derives from a poem, written during the War of 1812, by a captured American soldier, a military prisoner aboard a British Warship, who joyfully observed the survival of Ft. Henry (and its flag) following a formidable bombardment by British cannons. The music to such word(soon lyrics) were written by John Stafford Smith, in 1931 (only 86 years ago).

It was interesting to learn that that the protocol applicable to the flag is prescribed in a Federal Statute, (36 U.S.C. sec. 301); however, it is to be especially noted that the Statute expressly provides that its regulations are suggestive and not regulatory; so that failure to abide by the legislated procedures is not, in any way, a violation of law.

Despite commonly manifested feelings of intense outrage, a long and consistent string of judicial precedent has ruled that overt acts of desecration, such as flag burning, or disrespect for the national anthem, amount to Constitutionally protected free speech and are by consequence, legal. The founders of our nation foresaw the expression of differences of opinion and debate among the citizenry as useful and a healthy and rational route to good governance for our democratic republic.

Still, there are many ardent Americans who wrap themselves in the flag and religiously revere the national anthem, unmindful of the essential meaning of our American symbols, and who worship them in the same fashion as religious adherents would worship religious icons. These are the people who are outraged by the recent scenes of NFL football players “taking a knee” at the rendition of the national anthem. Such zealous Americans see objectionable sacrilege in such behavior, rather than, as has been explained, in this instance, the expression of objection to the wrongful and un-American treatment of people of color by the justice system. Such super- patriotic critics can only construe such acts as national heresy, rather than an editorial expression of discontent, regarding unjust behaviors apparently prevalent in our nation. Those who are unable to recognize this American form of symbolic of dissent, act as if loyal Americans died to preserve the religious sanctity of the anthem (although we can foresee the empirical possibility of someone suffering a fatality trying to sing it).

We are, unhappily, obliged to conclude that such demonstrated outrage has its etiology in some paranoid symptom of xenophobia, a pathology dealt with in Blog # 197 (“War is Curable”). Our national symbols proudly declare a great, admirable and secure nation, confidently respectful of the existence of dissent (as well as its historically demonstrated beneficiary).

-p.

 

 

Blog # 200   OUR AILING REPUBLIC (REDUX)

Let us start with a basic definitional statement: A Republic is a State in which supreme power rests in the voter and is exercised by representatives chosen by them to implement their will.

For more than three centuries, America has occupied the laudable position of the exemplar of representative democracy. Its founders, in the 18th Century, declared the moral principle that all men were created equal, thus legally eliminating the previous historic conception of privileged birth and class distinction. The governing philosophical mantra of the new American Republic was now to be “one man, one vote.” Except for the long and unfortunate struggle for the franchise for black people, this has been our consistent guiding and inviolate principle.

Thomas Jefferson instructed that for a democracy to succeed, requires an informed and literate citizenry. Jefferson and the other founders of our republic, followers of the English philosophers, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, looked to the exercise of free speech and mature debate between citizens of disparate beliefs, as the way to rational and balanced decision making. This was a new, enlightened and salutary design, fashioned for equitable and morally estimable governance.

There are some people that seem inclined to credit ancient Athens with the origin of democracy. However, although the word, “democracy’, is of Greek etymology, the privilege of voting in ancient Athens was reserved to a relatively select class of Athenians, qualified to enjoy the designation of “citizen.” The accurate facts concerning the Magna Carta, another occasionally cited icon of democracy’s gestation, was no more than A surrender (at Runnymede) by the 13th Century English King of the right to collect taxes from certain enumerated Barons, nothing else.

Presidential campaigning by “whistle stop” appearances at strategic towns, at which candidates solicited votes by speeches delivered from open platforms on rented railroad trains, actually continued, it seems, through the 1980’s, during the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. Radio, newspaper advertisements, public billboards and later, television, were more effectively employed by candidates seeking voter support.

With the exponential development of mass media and the growth of electronic digital communication, candidates could now reach millions of prospective voters with their utopian promises and earnest assurances of superiority over their opponent. The outreach of public media was effectively unlimited and, unfortunately, strategically successful. This was so, particularly among citizens characterized by limited information and sophistication, easily won over by demagogic candidates promising utopian results. This was far from the classic Jeffersonian model for a successful democracy.

Political use of the media is unconscionably effective yet enormously expensive, requiring every political campaign with any practical aspiration to success, to be armed with vast financial resources. Here is the etiology of the pathogen, gravely infecting our laudable system of republican governance, which  mandated the foundational, democratic criterion of “one man, one vote.”

Thus, candidates and their supporting staffs were now obliged seek financial support from wealthy donors. Such donors seldom contribute substantial moneys without a reciprocal obligation on the part of the candidate to cast his vote, or exert his influence, in accordance with the donor’s business interest, or unique dogma. As a result, we are faced with a (sham) republic in which the will and interest of the voters are relegated to an inferior position relative to the influence of the few special interest donors.

There have been idealistic and patriotic attempts to eliminate inequitable financial dependence on the unjust  influence of special interests and to properly restore our agreed democratic principles, however, none seem to have been successful.

To make matters considerably worse, it appears that the constitutionally designated “highest law of the land,” the Supreme Court of the United States (”SCOTUS”), the fountainhead of our democracy, the revered institution of Marshall, Brandeis, Cardozo and so many eminent jurists and upholders of the American law and justice, has, of late, ruled disappointingly and shamefully, directly in contrast to its great juristic past, and in such a fashion as would exacerbate the pathological disease, of monetary influence, presently invasive of our body politic. It has, surprisingly, acted in a unprecedented manner, contrary to its consistent jurisprudical history and historically established, invariable priorities.

The precedential law of SCOTUS, from its inception, has eternally been, to refuse to accept (grant certiorari) to any case which may, albeit in some indirect fashion, have any political subject or impact.   This fixed precedent, was wisely enforced without exception, to avoid trespassing upon the strict, constitutionally mandated, “Separation of Powers.” Said legally required roadblock, strangely, seems to have been by-passed in the cases of Bush v. Gore, and in the infamous Citizen’s Union case, both strangely, accepted for review, despite their indisputable political nature.

In the Citizen’s Union case, SCOTUS expressly ruled that corporations are “people” and accordingly, under the citizen’s right to free speech, legally could contribute unlimited campaign funds. This continues to be an enigma. Such ruling necessarily destroys the foundational principle of equality, one man, one vote historically protected by SCOTUS, by its legal approval of the influence of the few major financial sources of campaign money, to the unfortunate detriment of the interests of many individual voters (one man, one vote).

Most confusing is the specious reasoning. Every law school freshman (and businessman) knows that a “corporation” is a fictional entity, existing only in commerce for the sole purpose of limited liability; contracts thus can be entered in a business’s registered corporate name, and the convenient entity may be a named party in a lawsuit, separate from the principal of the business. The law school freshman, like everyone else, understands that the statutorily created legal fiction, the corporate entity, is not a natural person [ with rights under the first ten amendments.] Certainly, the august Court is aware of this fundamental principle, existing since Victorian England’s “Limited Liability Act,” passed by Parliament in the !9th Century, and adopted by America’s State laws.  Yet SCOTUS seems to have gone to great, unprecedented and remarkable lengths to rule, as it did, to the delight of the influence peddlers, and the material detriment of our republican form of government. This bizarre and uncharacteristic ruling must be overturned, as soon as possible, if our democracy is to survive and SCOTUS retain its former respect and credibility.

There is an urgent need to consider creative methods of campaign financing which do not impair the appropriate significance of the vote.

-p.

 

Blog# 199          KNOW THYSELF, KNOW THY SELFIE

To be fair, we plead guilty, if charged, to a measure of innate difficulty in navigating the changing cross currents and uncharted channels that episodically course through the mainstream of social interaction. For example, we have frequently expressed our concern regarding the now prevalent substitution of electronic messaging for person to person conversation. The absence of recognized identity, the result of a familiar voice, the lack of spontaneous response and of the expression of emphasis and feeling, have been sacrificed it seems, to the transmission of data-like messaging. We have been especially troubled by the impersonality and resultant distancing of the communicants by such digital expression in an era when the benefits of closeness and enlightened identification with others is so vitally wanting.

We would, in similar fashion, express serious concern regarding the apparently harmless and simple phenomenon, termed “selfies,” most specifically, the solo selfies, performed, for practical purposes, with the aid of the now popular, “selfie stick.” To be clear, it is not the mechanical act itself, that is the object of concern, but, rather, what we perceive to be its underlying and unhealthy dynamics.

In the recent past, taking snapshots was a common social activity, performed for the future recollection of people and past events. When the roll of necessary film was returned from the developer in the form of individual photos, they were reviewed for accuracy of depiction and technical skill, as well, at times, for conformity to our previous fantasies about our appearance; but, as was said back then, “A camera never lies;” we have learned since then, that it does,

With the exponential evolution of photography, methods of recording images and then rapidly recovering the results, facilitated the acceptance of desired photos, as well as the (apparently, more desirable) rejection of those, which for any reason, did not meet our approval.

Our actual self-image may be a product of several variables, a comparison with the false perspectives offered by our sales driven media (slim, glitzy and young=normal), our interactive social experiences, our perception of how we are seen by others who matter to us, and possibly, other cultural factors. For too many people, unfortunately, potential satisfaction and pleasure in the recognition of one’s unique individuation, have been replaced by an unhealthy and unnatural desire to resemble the commercial Barbie doll and Ken depictions of normalcy and acceptability. These media images may be useful in the marketing of goods and services, but to many impressionable people, pose a harmful visual standard resulting in predictable unhappiness and self-deprecation. In an earlier writing (“Vanity Fair”, blog # 32) we have, in the interest of illustration of this frailty, satirically created a caricature of resultant neurotic insecurity, caused by a dedicated aspiration to conform to such an ideal, but non-existent image. One cannot seek to attain his own life’s potential for happiness and self- fulfillment by enacting vain attempts to emulate artificially formulated and strategic (external) representations of success and acceptance.

Empirical wisdom teaches us that all profoundly important personal evaluations, derived from our life experience, are internalized phenomena, including our personal identity and self-image. The natural development of our personal self- image is factually a combined product and function of several factors, our exercise of reason and evaluation of personal experience, our internal resources and ability to confidently and wisely exercise our discretion, our talent for empathy, understanding and love, together with our personal aptitudes and meaningful accomplishments, material and intellectual; these, indeed, are the valid raw materials for an authentic self-image.

We need to intimately know ourselves, the extent of our personal capabilities and weaknesses, our realistic aspirations and goals; we need to discover for ourselves our own unique identity and personal route to achievable self- enhancement and personal growth.  We should celebrate our identity and show appropriate appreciation for the many generous gifts to us by evolution, principally; our capacity to reason and evaluate what matters and what simply does not. Intrinsic value and personal worth for a mature homo sapiens do not depend upon a wasteful yearning, and witless search, for a snapshot emulation of any species of currently broadcasted artificiality.

-p.

Blog # 198 (poesie) I SIMPLY AM

Now, here’s a little sign of me, I’m sure
I stubbed the stone,
We watched it spin.

There’s is some hint that it is me
Who holds this book,
And moves the page.

Now, here’s a sign that you might see
I tipped the glass,
Just see the stain.

It’s true, be fair, she looked at me
That glimpse, for sure,
It met her eye.

There’s to be judged, a part of me
That’s growing old,
And tastes the bitter pain of loss.

Still, there is that big chunk of me
Who drives the pen,
And bids it please do think.

I AM! therefore, I am.

-p

Blog # 197    WAR IS CURABLE (A PROPOSAL)

It is certainly not a leap of faith to declare that the universal prerequisite to the successful solution of any problem is the determination of the relevant issue in the applicable context. Whether the problem is understood to be mathematical, biological, social, astrophysical, or otherwise, the context needs to be properly determined so that efforts may be expended in a usefully directed search for its solution.  Where the context of inquiry is amorphous or irrelevant, efforts are doomed to be fruitless.

The continuing tragedy of warfare is as old as mankind, despite the many sincere and creative efforts at its elimination. Spain v. Catalonia, Tutsi v. Hutu, Arab v. Israeli, Shia v. Sunni, Moslem v. Hindu, White v. Black, and so on, since the dawn of man and hopefully, not until his complete destruction. We have certainly had far more than enough.

In previous writings, we have maintained that the fundamental problem seems to be the “we” and “they” conceptualization, passed on to succeeding generations of the young, despite the evident fact that the acquisition of culture and ethnicity is by the random accident of birth. It appears be a matter of unhappy historical experience that the atavistic categories of “we” and “they” have overridden all efforts by world organizations, conferences, inter -cultural exchanges and other sincere and valiant attempts to achieve world peace.

When the writer of this note was a high school student, he profited from the sudden realization that a change in context or reference can be the effective route to the solution of difficult questions. He was offered two candy bars if he could solve the “ageless dilemma” of which came first, the chicken or the egg.  By fortuitously selecting the appropriate context, evolution, he astonished the challenger, and while he never received public acclaim for this historic advance, did earn the two bars of candy. The answer was clear, once one considered the context of evolution; it was the egg that came first, laid by a creature who immediately preceded the chicken in evolution. That egg, when hatched, became the first chicken. This reference for supposedly unanswerable question, remarkably, still has not gone extinct.

It may well be time for the consideration of an entirely new context in the endeavor to eliminate war and attain lasting peace. A new approach to xenophobia, secular or religious, might be considered in an untried and novel setting, as a pathology, rather than the hapless replication of our bovine-like rumination of previously ingested oats.

We might start with the subject of “phobia,” the pathological category of anxiety disorders consisting of strong and unnatural fear of something that poses no especial danger. Thus, agoraphobia, fear of high places, claustrophobia, fear of confined spaces, arachnophobia, fear of spiders, acrophobia, the fear of going out, and so on. We have found more than 100 distinct phobias (even, banana phobia, terror at seeing a banana] and that specifically applicable therapies have been developed for such pathologies.

It is remarkable that the existence of “xenophobia” does not appear to have made the list in our examination of phobia pathology. {Xeno, in Greek = people, Phobia =fear]. Can it be possible that in our desperate search for world peace, we have not considered an important category? Has xenophobia been relegated solely to the academic context of political science and viewed mundanely as ultra- nationalism prejudice and ethnocentrism?

In a true leap of faith, we would propose the possibility that at the heart of conflict and warfare may effectively be a dangerous phobia, xenophobia [ extreme nationalism, racial prejudice, ultra-patriotism] and that possible cure and amelioration of the dread disease of world war has not been attained because it has never been considered in its true setting, the laboratory of medical-psychological science.

If indeed, war is the result of a phobic fear of “others,” might it not properly be treated, on some determined scale, effectively as an illness by group therapy, medicine, behavioral therapy, as applicable and remedial regarding other recognized and treatable phobias?

We can only know if we try.

-p.

 

 

Blog # 196 CELEBRITY SOCIOPATHS

The public at large has for some time been experiencing significant shock and disappointment in response to ongoing  revelations that a great many beloved and revered show business personalities, have credibly been exposed as sexual predators. What may at first have been denied and resisted as incomprehensible, has proven, even to the most loyal and agnostic fan, to be the disorienting and uncomfortable reality.

Our casual, but necessary, dip into the relevant textbooks has instructed us that personalities who are solely ruled by their own needs and desires, with no concern for the effects of their behavior on others, are clinically diagnosed as sociopaths (psychopathic). It appears that medical experience has designated our subject category as high functioning sociopaths. This condition reportedly is accompanied by superior intelligence and great talent, but also, by an aberrant version of morality which has been integrated into the essential persona of the sociopath as his personal religion.

In the “futuristic” 1949 George Orwell novel, “1984,” the author describes a Statute which legally affords to all capitalistic employers the unfettered right to sleep with women employed at their business enterprise. Ancient history reports that in medieval times, the lord to whom any vassal belongs had the right to sleep, the first night, with the vassal’s intended bride (droit de seigneur). Our American oral history is replete, to be sure, with accounts of sexual abuse during its shameful period of slavery.

The present comment, however, is solely focused on the highly talented and hugely successful personalities who have shockingly been revealed to possess total disregard for the feelings of others, and who, because of their outrageously unchecked egocentrism, have behaved egregiously toward others whom they have objectivized in the fulfillment of their personal ends.

High functioning sociopaths appear to be remarkably adept at presenting themselves in the public’s expected persona and seem to have perfected the strategic art of manipulation. They are goal oriented, patient and calculating; It should be observed, additionally, that such sociopathic abusers exist and function successfully in the business and political arenas.

It is, candidly, beyond the capability of this writer to hazard any solution to this anti-social and harmful phenomenon, except to the limited and mitigating extent of his observation of its eternal existence, as aesthetically portrayed in the world’s inventory of  great literature.

-p.

Blog # 195         THE COOLER SIDE OF THE PILLOW

Turning our night-time pillow to its cooler side, is so much a routine and largely mechanical endeavor, as to closely partake of the status of reflex; the act is effectively and mindlessly accomplished like one’s scratching an itch, or sneezing.

Indeed, much of our mundane behavior consists of routinized, thoughtless activity, ritualistically enacted, such as our mode of brushing our teeth, shaving or applying lipstick. We have all gradually evolved nuanced, predictable and unchanging styles of such behaviors, which include a distinctive mode of eating, answering the telephone, dressing and greeting others. We have our own readily available, previously programmed responses to all commonly asked questions, our regular demeanor at weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, graduation ceremonies and hospital visits; even our way of reading the evening newspaper, are matters of predictable routine.

It may be empirically observed that much of our regular physical activity is comprised of virtually identical replications of our previously performed acts in similar circumstances which have become effectively automatic, because of their previous repetitive consistency. Our breakfast and bed-time rituals, our procedure in packing the suitcase for vacation or long trips, are all performed in a programmatic fashion. Routine questions are expectedly posed in similar situations, and just as predictably and stereotypically, responded to: How are you? What do you think of the weather? What’s up? Such questions, clearly, are not expressed in any desire for information but rather as the result of an expected human interaction. Similarly, although the characteristic responses to such questions may be somewhat nuanced to the individual responder, they are invariably consistent. As observed, neither such inquiry nor the response thereto, relate to an exchange of information, rather, they are the expected steps in a societally choreographed dance of recognition and mutual amicability.

It is observable that identified people are noticeably present at certain locations at specific times, to dress in the personal style to which they have regularly been habituated, to make predictable choices from restaurant menus (usually in keeping with their prior choices) and consistently will perform their distinct night-time rituals prior to sleep. We would venture to say, that if one were to install time-lapse photographic equipment focused upon any randomly selected individual, the developed video would demonstrate his unvarying role in the universal puppet show; a distinctly unique happening in which the puppet is also the puppeteer.

It should, in fairness, be observed that there are many distinct benefits associated with this phenomenon of routinized behavior, relating to efficiency and comfort as well as an individuation derived from the nuanced performance of personal ritual. Thus, the pre-set route to work or school, the times to enjoy coffee, our personal rituals at bath or shower, the time to walk Fido, are all matters which do implement an economic reservation of our reasoning capability for more taxing and profound challenge.

By stark contrast, any form of protocol, whatsoever, which seeks to employ routine thinking, efforts to seek solutions of mankind’s classic societal and scientific problems, would have disastrous results. An inflexible, orthodox reliance upon past tradition and dogma, would serve to cripple, and inhibit progress by stultifying man’s spontaneous gift for creative growth of problem- solving.

Evolved reason and ever-developing improvement are currently perceptible and hearteningly, in progress, concerning man’s essential imperative for the universal identification and respect for the lives of others; particularly, people with different skin color, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The observation of the eternally appropriate and imperative to flexibly review and critically examine our beliefs and routine assumptions on a constant basis is an appropriately grateful and apt expression of appreciation to evolution for the generous gift of our advanced brain.

It was not that long ago that women were denied the right to own property or to vote, and for too many generations, black and brown skinned people were assigned the lowly status of agricultural equipment by mainstream America. As ancient historical records show scientists once uniformly believed, and the Church cruelly enforced, the theory that the Sun orbited the Earth.

In mankind’s aspiration toward world peace and enhanced growth, there is no greater nor more morally mandated duty than the free and unfettered exercise of his innate creative potential and the practice of ongoing review and reevaluation of his prevalent assumptions.

In the growth and enhancement of humanity, it is confidently suggested that greater deliberation be employed, as contrasted with the thoughtless flip of the nighttime pillow to its cooler side.

-p.