Saturday, December 12, 2009

Post No. 143: “Mrs. Woods, Can Tiger Come out to Play?”


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Some years ago, in response to Oprah Winfrey’s inquiry about why he engaged in “sexual indiscretions” with a White House intern, former President Bill Clinton responded, “Because I could.”

The first time the Logistician shared this story with a colleague, it was met with a roar of laughter.

At first glance, it sounds like such a child-like response. And yet, any time someone prominent in society gets caught doing something that most didn’t expect of them, one has to consider the Clinton response.

A good friend of the Institute, in a personal reflection about the recent Tiger maelstrom, wrote:

“The Tiger thing is mind-blowing. Not because he turned out to be a dog, but because people are all shocked and appalled. It's amazing how often when reading about national scandals that I think of the French police chief, Captain Renault, in the movie Casablanca, when Bogart’s club, Rick’s CafĂ© Americain, is raided. He was well aware of what was going on and was actually profiting from it, and yet he says, ‘I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!’”

Someone once said that powder cocaine is God’s way of letting you know that you’re making too much money. And the availability of freestyle sexual escapades around virtually every corner comes in a close second. Virtually any professional athlete (and lots of them at the big name colleges) will tell you that Tiger-type sexual encounters and parties have been going on for about 100 years, if not longer.

(Ben Franklin may not have been an athlete in the current sense of the word, at least not on the field or the court, but all that salon activity in France did wonders for his creativity. And we also forgot about some of the Roman emperors, and other royalty throughout history.)

And yet there is something else a bit troubling about the Tiger melt-down. Our friend went on to write:

“I wonder if his adolescence was stunted because his father made him play golf all the time . . . so he never had a chance to fool around? And so he's just a teenager emotionally and in terms of maturity? I feel sorry for him. He's been ‘The Man’ all these years but maybe he's just a teenage boy inside?”

Without trying to be insensitive, maybe it was the first period in his life that he really got to “play.”

Our friend went on to mention child stars Michael Jackson and Judy Garland, whose extended adolescences / early adult lives were in the public domain, and noted that their problems during late adulthood did not appear quite as shocking, prompting such wide-spread “Oh my Gods….”

Having just totally dissected the entire life of Michael Jackson earlier this year, the adoring public should not have been so surprised that the golfing world’s version of Camelot came crashing down so quickly after a single strike by one of Sadaam’s SCUD mistresses.

And of course, everyone simply forgot about the Todd Marinovich story.

Tiger arguably should be complimented for not having imploded at an earlier point in his career. But as is the case with many things in life, simply putting a cap on the geyser, Old Faithful, will not permanently prevent it from ultimately blowing….

Which brings us around to our point… about the importance of balance and moderation during youth.

Both too much and not enough of anything can prove to be problematic down the road.

What has been most interesting about the Media’s coverage of this continuing event has been the paucity of focus on Tiger’s parents. Perhaps that’s because Tiger is a 33 year old adult.

And yet Joe Jackson was regularly pummeled following Michael’s death.

What’s a parent to do? How do parents achieve the optimal balance, and know that it has been reached? After all, there is no book on the subject.

In an interview some years ago, Michael related stories of wanting to go across the street and play on the swings in the park, to which his Father responded, “No, you have to practice.”

In thinking further about Tiger, one has to wonder whether any kid ever walked up to the back door of the Woods home, and asked whether Tiger could come out to play.

He ultimately got to play, in more ways than one.

Folks seem to be primarily upset because he breached his marital vows, secondarily because his philandering posed a health risk to his “beautiful bride,” and thirdly because the kids will have to endure whispered jokes for years.

And yet, as Dylan once said, “It goes deeper than that.”

Tiger recently announced that he will take an indefinite leave from golf, to start the healing process and do some mending of relationships, which translates into going into seclusion.

Perhaps what Tiger really needs to do is something which his parents did not allow his to do with enough frequency during his youth…. Come out to play with kids of regular folks.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too tough on the Tiger. After all, he’s really not one of the kids with whom we played.

Perhaps some share of our examination should be directed toward the parents, and not necessarily in a critical way, but perhaps more in terms of what can we learn from their experience with their beloved son.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Post No. 142: A Funny Thing Happened to Tiger on the Way to the Altar


© 2009 the Institute for Applied Common Sense

One can not resist asking, "Is there anything beneficial which society can take away from this Tiger Woods 'infidelity during marriage' situation (regardless of one’s position about the propriety or impropriety of the conduct of the various participants involved)?

An argument could be made that society should constantly re-evaluate all of its institutions, including the institution of marriage, to determine their continuing viability and value, and that unfortunate events such as the still developing story involving Woods, should prompt us to re-examine that institution now.

Arguably, every time society determines that something is not quite working the way that it was envisioned, it should re-visit the original reasons and expectations underlining the creation of the practice.

Marriage (as we currently view it in America, particularly its restrictions on sex with others) is a relatively recent convention, which has evolved and changed over time. When difficulties arise, especially involving celebrities and public figures, society has a tendency to examine the event from a static perspective, using the rules and expectations of the current culture.

Perhaps looking at it from a dynamic perspective, and determining whether it still performs a valuable societal function, including an examination of its costs and benefits, might be the way to go.

Many soundly criticized the CEOs of the Big Three auto companies and the investments banks, and the Federal Reserve for being asleep at the switch and not paying careful enough attention to business fluctuations which led to our current economic recession. "How could they have let this happen?" we asked. Why should we expect any less diligence from society in terms of monitoring and responding to fluctuations in societal values?

Is marriage really for everyone? Why do we expect virtually everyone to marry at some point during their lifetime? Why does society have a tendency to question the “whatever” of people who haven’t been married by a certain point in time in their lives?

A suggestion on our part was previously made that marital infidelity had at least some biological component, which went beyond the simple exercise of discipline or personal responsibility, or religious beliefs for that matter. That suggestion was soundly and emphatically criticized by our readers.

Assuming, for purposes of argument, that there is no biological component, then simply examining the conduct of golfer Woods, Albert Einstein, Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John Ensign, inventor Henry Ford, Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton, would strongly suggest that many do not respect the institution as presently constituted or evolved.

And this is not to suggest that the rules of the marital agreement have only been violated by men. And that’s not to mention that the “other women” are also members of society, who obviously do not respect the current form of the institution.

Some of the best and brightest minds of our culture, people who have excelled in their various pursuits, and who have served their countries and improved the quality of life for millions, have chosen not to adhere to their marital vows. And why not?

There must be something there. For us not to re-examine the real issues, or for us to simply dismiss them as “aberrations,” or even examples of “selfishness,” would serve little value.

Perhaps people today are marrying for all of the wrong reasons.

Are potential loneliness and a desire to grow old with a companion sufficient enough reasons to justify marriage? And what about security? Are the reasons that most people get married so self-serving, in terms of underlying motivation, that the majority of marriages are bound to fail at some point?

One of the wrong reasons might be public and peer pressure. Many a professional person has felt compelled to get married in order to advance professionally.

Imagine the questions which would be raised about an unmarried presidential candidate.

Back in July of this year, we featured an article about the risks associated with conformity. The article suggested that group-think may delay our addressing certain problems and crafting solutions. If the group thinks that nothing is wrong, or that the current model still works, then it continues to deny the existence of problems.

Some years ago, Charlie Rose interviewed a very prominent member of Indian society and an Indian family dynasty. The young man had been educated in some of the best institutions in the world, and had grown up in both the Western and Eastern worlds.

Since the man was recently married, Charlie asked whether he thought that family arranged marriages or marriages where the participants were romantically involved were better. His answer was quick and unequivocal – arranged marriages. He explained that one felt more responsibility to society and to one’s extended family in an arranged marriage.

He also added that if one actually fell in love with the designated spouse, then that was like “icing on the cake.”

And with all of the talk about infidelity in connection with the Woods marriage, we still do not have a clear picture of whether there was any violence.

However, there is little question that when a spouse disappears or is murdered, attention is first directed toward the other spouse. An editorial in Time magazine some years ago suggested that marriage is one of the most dangerous places for an adult woman to be in terms of physical violence.

Tiger Woods has done a lot of good in the world, and has made many of us proud. This is obviously a blemish on his career, for which he has taken full responsibility and apologized.

However, in the same way that Magic Johnson’s AIDS condition may have done much to focus society’s attention on that disease, perhaps Tiger’s “indiscretions” may help society focus on whether marriage is still a viable institution for the majority of its citizens.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Post No. 141: Is Taking Full Responsibility Ever Enough?


A prominent person in society once said, “Never complain. Never explain.”

Day in and day out, we engage our readers in a discussion about personal responsibility. The following is the official statement, wherein he takes full and sole responsibility for his recent traffic incident, proffered by golfer Tiger Woods.

Is this good enough?

“As you all know, I had a single-car accident earlier this week, and sustained some injuries. I have some cuts, bruising and right now I'm pretty sore.

“This situation is my fault, and it's obviously embarrassing to my family and me. I'm human and I'm not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn't happen again.

“This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way. Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible.

“The only person responsible for the accident is me. My wife, Elin, acted courageously when she saw I was hurt and in trouble.

“She was the first person to help me. Any other assertion is absolutely false.

“This incident has been stressful and very difficult for Elin, our family and me. I appreciate all the concern and well wishes that we have received. But, I would also ask for some understanding that my family and I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be.”

Are you satisfied, and if not, why not?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post No. 140: Lest We Forget Who the Real Parties in Interest Are


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

“Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, hey”


“Father, father, we don’t need to escalate
War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, hey”

-- Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, recorded June 1, 1970

The History Channel recently aired a documentary about the Woodstock Festival held on August 15 – 18, 1969, originally billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music.”

The anti-war sentiment in this country concerning Vietnam was at a fever pitch.

A significant portion of the population was affected in some manner by our involvement in that “conflict.”

College campuses served as battlegrounds and stages on many levels. Whether due to the draft, the protests, the status of ROTC units, or the interrupted lives, every college student was affected in some way.

And so were their relatives, and neighbors, and church members, and co-workers, and friends….

However, on college campuses today, there is far less concern about our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, one way or the other. (Some would suggest that is the way it should be; like a building super, when things are going well and he is doing the dirty work, one never sees him, nor has the need to contact him - personally.)

Plus, there is little concern about having one’s education interrupted to visit a foreign land.

My, how times have changed.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a noted presidential historian who appears regularly on TV. Earlier this week, she and her twenty-something son, Joey, spoke with Charlie Rose, about Joey’s two tours, one in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq.

Fortunately, he returned in one piece and was remarkably philosophical about the experience. As for his Mom, it was clear that she breathed one massive sigh of relief upon his return.

All of us living during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, knew someone personally affected. Now, primarily because of our volunteer military and the use of sophisticated technological weapons, we have transitioned to a place where relatively few of us personally know someone involved, or even personally affected, for that matter.

And that may not be a good thing, no matter where one stands on the wars.

While in a grocery store recently, we observed a very sharp, well-groomed young man speaking to a customer. His name tag revealed that he was the Store Manager.

We inquired as to how long he had been with the chain, to which he responded a surprising 7 months. He laughed and explained that he had previously been with the chain for a number of years, and that he had over 15 years of retail experience.

He also mentioned that he had served in Iraq.

But he was a stranger in a grocery store with whom a random conversation was held.

And although a human being, not a parent, or a child, or a neighbor, or a church member, or a co-worker, or a personal friend of ours.

My, how things have changed. What should concern us all are the consequences associated with this change or multiple changes.

Our nation’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict profoundly influenced the worldview of millions of American college students for almost two decades.

One obvious change is in America’s view of the military. During Vietnam, returning soldiers were frequently held in contempt, as if they were responsible for the conflict. A frightening number of them found themselves on the streets.

Today, we view the returning troops as akin to heroes, having purportedly protected us from another terrorist attack on our home soil. Interestingly, very few of them, thus far, appear to have wound up on the streets – at least not yet.

That we as a society have not fully examined, with any degree of real seriousness, the long-term ramifications of placing the burden of this battle, whether justified or not, on so few shoulders and so unevenly distributed, should cause us to pause.

When things get personal, issues take on a whole different complexion and complexity. When it’s some other guy’s issue, who we really don’t know, it’s far easier for us to ….

Is there any lesson to be learned from Vietnam? Kearns Goodwin suggests there may be. If a pullout is dramatic, it may signal weakness and be perceived as a loss of the investment of the lives lost thus far. If an increase in resources and equipment is dramatic, more lives will be expended and the definition of success will become murkier.

What Kearns Goodwin regards as potentially problematic is the route taken by then President Lyndon Johnson - the intermediate approach.

Our fear is that without that personal connection, neither side will be prompted to make the real difficult decisions.

With a volunteer fighting force, it is even more important to constantly remind ourselves who the real players are.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Post No. 139: "Ain't Nobody in Here But Us Chickens"


We recently had the opportunity to meet Lee Schaeffer, the Founder of America 357. America 357 is dedicated to the proposition that the citizens of the United States can and must conduct our national legislative business with civil discourse, and that its conduct must appear to follow the rules of Common Sense.

Mr. Schaeffer and his followers believe that we must end the partisan bickering and focus the nation’s energies on the pursuit of effective solutions to America’s most pressing issues, without regard to party interest, self-interest, or special interest.

Part of this approach involves re-thinking the way in which we engage the youth of our nation at all levels. Although the work of America 357 is not specifically directed toward the Institute’s target audience of college students, there are similarities in approach and principle between our two organizations. Mr. Schaeffer is our Guest Author in connection with the following post.

© 2009, America 357, Inc.

With all the buzz around Washington these days about Lobbyist Reform, and in light of recent abuses, perhaps now would be a good time to put this in perspective for the average American “outside the Beltway."

And what could be easier for the average person to understand than banks. After all, that is where almost all of us put our money for safe keeping. Therefore most people should favor Bank Robbery Reform, right?

And who better to come up with these needed reforms than, well, bank robbers, of course. One could just imagine the results of such an effort.

One possible reform would be to be limit the amount of money a crook could take on a given heist, to say, $50,000. Another rule might permit a potential robber to give gifts to a bank manager as long as no direct reciprocal action was taken. After all, that would be a bribe and we can’t have that. And if six months later the bank manager left a door unlocked for the robber, thus permitting the taking of funds, then the conduct of the banker and the robber would not be considered connected.

Now, wait just a minute here! Do these ideas for Bank Robbery Reform seem insane? Of course they do. The more important question is why average Americans should expect anything less insane when we have the very people who receive money from lobbyists making the new rules.

Allowing Congress to have the final say on lobbying reform is like shuffling chairs on the deck of the Titanic and calling it “Iceberg Collision Reform”.

The parallel between Bank Robbery Reform and Lobbyist Reform becomes clear when we recognize two points. First, Congress is the “People’s Bank.” Not only does Congress control the accumulation and disbursement of trillions of dollars of our money each year, but it also controls many of the rules (laws) about what we (including corporations) can and cannot do.

In this respect, firstly, what Congress does with our money, and the manner in which it does it, are vastly more important that just the depositing of money in a bank. We arguably must protect the assets of the “People’s Bank” even more vigorously than we try to protect the assets of our financial institutions.

Secondly, lobbyists might appropriately be termed “bank robbers” in that it is their job to extract from Congress (the “People’s Bank”) concessions in the law and the allocation of great sums of money for their clients by way of grants or tax benefits. Why else would lobbyists spend billions of dollars a year to lobby Congress?

Under the current rules, a lobbyist is permitted to send a member of Congress on lavish trips, make campaign contributions, and host fundraisers. In effect, a lobbyist can peddle influence to a member of Congress as long as no direct reciprocal action can be established.

After all, that would be a bribe and we can’t have that. And if six months later the member of Congress returns the favor, well that would not be considered connected.

The existing rules for lobbyists and members of Congress are ridiculous and insulting to the intelligence of the American people, and the current reform proposals amount to “shuffling chairs” by the ship’s hands.

What we have in the current lobbying system, with all of its associated abuses, amounts to institutionalized corruption. While lobbying may be protected as speech by the Constitution, bribery most certainly is not.

To the average American, transferring vast sums of money to members of Congress with the expectation of future favors amounts to bribery.

The only meaningful Lobbyist Reform would be to eliminate any connection between a lobbyist and money. No gifts. No fundraising. No campaign contributions. And that would apply to the lobbyist, any associate in their organization, and any client they represent. Anything less would amount to “People’s Bank Robbery Reform” and that would be insane!

Editorial Note: We took the title for this piece, "Ain't Nobody in Here But Us Chickens," from a rather famous movie scene involving the late Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry aka Stepin Fetchit. In the scene, he is caught in the chicken coop by a farmer who asks, "Who's in there stealing my chickens," to which Fetchit replies, "Ain't Nobody in Here But Us Chickens."

Post No. 138b: Re-Posting of Post No. 120: Taking Canopy Under the Cover of Religion



Earlier this week, while explaining why "enemy combatant terrorists" should not be tried in American courts, a member of Congress referred to them as "beasts." Later, a commentator expressed his concern that some of the criticism of President Obama had taken on a "religious fervor."

Right now, as we type this piece, Turner Classic Movies is airing the film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture for 1952, "The Greatest Show on Earth." Many have referred to it as one of the worst pictures ever to win that award, and many suspect that Cecil B. DeMille's support of anti-communist crusader Joseph McCarthy was a factor in the voting.

All of this reminded us of a piece which we generated earlier, about a C-Span2 Book TV presentation. We invite you to consider it again.



© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Last week, we saw an interview of a Ku Klux Klan member. He made frequent reference to segregation as having been sanctioned by God.

More recently, one of our “supporters” suggested that we “sprinkle” our articles with Biblical references to generate more interest, particularly because God has chosen to assemble more of his passionate followers here in the Southeast.

(In a previous article, we noted our repeated requests that God speak to us, all to no avail. We actually envy those special people to whom God speaks. They’re apparently doing something we’re not, despite our willingness to participate in a conversation. The Logistician’s Father long claimed that he was simply not trying hard enough.)

The segregationist and our supporter, in conjunction with the noise generated over President’s Notre Dame Commencement speech, reminded us of a blunder candidate Obama made on the campaign trail. In April 2008, he said that it was not surprising that working class citizens, in small cities decimated by job losses, might cling to guns and religion to deal with their frustration.

Many felt that Sen. Clinton would benefit enormously from this misstep.

And perhaps she ultimately will.

And so it was timely that C-Span aired a presentation entitled, “God is Back,” sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Taking Cover under the Canopy of Religion,” was coined by one of the panelists.

We learned that the “mega church” is actually an American invention – an extension of free market capitalism. In the 1970s, some religious leaders realized they were living in a very competitive environment. They suspected the application of business principles and marketing, along with getting more involved in the media and politics, would drive growth beyond their missionary efforts abroad.

One of the panelists noted that “Religion, American Style” has done so well in these “emerging markets,” that they have taken the business of religion to a new level. The growth has been particularly noteworthy in Guatemala and South Korea (where one mega church boasts 830,000 members).

It’s not just a matter of more people personally following religion, but rather the reassertion of religion as a force in life. Per the panelists, globalization is stoking the demand for religion.

China has roughly 1.4 billion people. Despite its purported communist underpinnings, it could become the largest Christian nation, Buddhist nation, or any other type of religious nation. Many suggest that the central authority of the Communist Party is fragile and subject to fracture.

The branch of Christianity most successful in riding this wave has been Pentecostalism, which places emphasis on a direct personal experience with God. (Perhaps that’s the ticket.) Globalization is driving insecurity, because change makes people insecure.

Insecurity historically has driven an apocalyptic attitude, and concern about impending doom. Pentecostalism also has a sociological element, which provides uprooted people with a philosophy in which they can emotionally invest.

To many, the Pentecostal Church service is the spiritual equivalent of infotainment. Entertainers from Ray Charles to Elvis Presley traced their musical roots to the melodies and arrangements they learned as children on Sundays.

As with everything in life, the panelists acknowledged a downside. When religion is at its most passionate, it is also at its most intolerant.

And most dangerous.

More blood has been shed in the Name of God, through religious wars, than for any other political purpose.

One perhaps counterintuitive aspect of the mega churches is the focus on small units to drive the agenda. One reason that Islam has grown so rapidly is that individual mosques have tremendous control and autonomy at their level, as opposed to functioning under a huge, centralized bureaucracy.

The strength in this approach is that it empowers people. The weakness? Doctrinal inconsistency, subject to variations of all types, and manipulation.

Our friend the Laughingman abandoned a Mormon heritage, traceable to Brigham Young’s initial march across the plains and mountains, to become an Episcopalian (not least to insure continued access to the company of Rev. Davenport’s daughter). Forty five years later, he remains a 4 times a month church goer… not least because he has discovered that getting down on your knees once a week, and reciting the Litany, is good for one’s sanity as well as one’s soul.

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us, but thou, oh Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.”

He likens religion to a human operator’s manual. Pay attention to the Ten Commandments, and you can get through this life without causing harm to yourself or others. Ignore them, and it is hell living with the consequences.

We guess that candidate Obama got it wrong. Imagine that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Post No. 137g: A Funny Thing Happened to Us on the Way to the Forum (Part 7)


This is a continuation of our daily excerpts taken from “New World New Mind.” This is the seventh excerpt in the series. For an introductory explanation of why we have chosen this book to share with you, click here.

[Please keep in mind that this book was published in 1989. All of this is copyrighted material, and we are simply sharing portions of it with you.]

Chapter 1 – The Threat within the Triumph (Continued)


“• The human mental ‘hardware’ – our senses and brains – is effectively fixed. That hardware equips us with what we call the old mind. Although we are evolving, our mental machinery will not change biologically in time to help us solve our problems. The same mental routines that originally signaled abrupt physical changes in the old world are now pressed into service to perceive and decide about unprecedented dangers in the new.

“In saying this we don’t mean to downgrade our accomplishments; indeed it is human inventiveness that causes our major dilemma. Our minds now conquer challenges and tasks that appear to have no parallels in our evolutionary past; we read and write, learn more than one spoken language, use word processors, and design and fly aircraft. But none of these tasks represents a break with the standard animal pattern of planning to reach short-term goals. Many of our highest achievements represent, then, a refinement of the old mind, not a new kind of perception. They cause significant changes in our environment decade by decade, but they are generally responses to perceived immediate needs, not to changes happening over decades. We cleverly develop more fuel-efficient cars when gasoline prices suddenly rise. When they drop, we relax fuel-efficiency standards, even though careful analysis indicates that much higher gasoline prices are a near certainty in coming decades.

“Like those of other animals, our brains evolved to understand only a small portion of the world, the portion that most affects our capacity to survive and reproduce. Each animal, whether a bee, butterfly, frog, chimp, or human being, lives within its own ‘small world,’ which is a mere caricature of the outside world. This simple caricature of the environment, as we shall see, sufficed for most organisms in most environments, for most people throughout history; and it still works for many people. But it is fatally obsolete in a world where much more explosive power can now be carried in one nuclear submarine than has been detonated in all wars so far.

“To retrain ourselves requires a radical shift in our normal way of perceiving ourselves and our environment: we have to look at ourselves in the long view and understand an evolutionary history of millions of years rather than the fleeting ‘history’ that is taught. We need to be ‘literate’ in entirely new disciplines, such as probability theory and the structure of thought, rather than just learning more about the sequences of English monarchs.

“The time has come to take our own evolution into our hands and create a new evolutionary process, a process of conscious evolution. The human predicament requires a different kind of education and training to predict threats that materialize not in instants but in years or decades – we need to develop ‘slow reflexes’ to supplement the quick ones. We need to replace our old minds with new ones.

“It will not be nearly as exciting as fighting a bear or running away, not a simple speedy solution that can be summed up in a slogan. The remedy will demand a sustained, persistent, and complex effort. We need to learn to perceive and respond to slow changes in the size of the human populations, the increasing extinction of other species, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. These and other such gradual alterations of our world are threats much more dangerous than hostages, mass murderers, lightning bolts, and drunken drivers.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Post No. 137f: A Funny Thing Happened to Us on the Way to the Forum (Part 6)


This is a continuation of our daily excerpts taken from “New World New Mind.” This is the sixth excerpt in the series. For an introductory explanation of why we have chosen this book to share with you, click here.

[Please keep in mind that this book was published in 1989. All of this is copyrighted material, and we are simply sharing portions of it with you.]

Chapter 1 – The Threat within the Triumph (Continued)

“Next month, the world population will increase by more than the number of human beings that lived on the planet 100,000 years ago, a time when evolution had already produced a human brain almost indistinguishable from today’s model. In the next 4 years alone more people will be added to the Earth than made up the entire population living at the time of Christ. It is difficult to comprehend this kind of world, and most people, too many, have been unable to do so. Human inventiveness has created problems because human judgment and humanity’s ability to deal with the consequences of its creations lags behind its ability to create.

“• There is now a mismatch between the human mind and the world people inhabit. This mismatch interferes with the relationships of human beings with each other and with their environments. Our species did not evolve to comprehend the problems associated with gigantic numbers of people – yet 5 billion humans now occupy the Earth.

“Human beings, like all other organisms, have to adapt to the environments in which they live. For most of the history of life our ancestors evolved biologically, as do all living things. (Biological evolution consists of changes in the information encoded in our genes. It typically operates over thousands of generations.) Then, for the relatively brief period of human prehistory and history – a few million years – adaptation took place primarily by means of cultural change: the development of language and tools; the invention of agriculture, cities, industry, and high technology.

“Cultural evolution can be much more rapid than biological, for it involves alterations of information stored in minds or books, tools, art, and other artifacts of societies. Cultural evolution can make significant changes in a matter of decades or less. But the rapid changes human beings are making in the world now have made the pace of most cultural evolution far too slow.

“As a result we are losing control of our future. The serious and dangerous mismatch is this: civilization is threatened by changes taking place over years and decades, but changes over a few years or decades are too slow for us to perceive readily. That is a time scale too leisurely for a nervous system attuned to bears, branches, burglars, and downpours. At the same time, the changes are much too rapid to allow biological or cultural evolutionary processes to adapt people to them. We are out of joint with the times, our times.

“• The rate of change in the world around us is increasing. Humanity is refashioning the world so quickly now that each decade’s environment differs dramatically from that of the last. Each triumph of technology contains new kinds of threats. With the advent of television and other modern communications, we can even feel threatened by events, such as terrorist acts, occurring thousands of miles away.

“The psychological tendency is to respond to them immediately, as if they were local emergencies, while at the same time we ignore some occurrences such as the gradual increase in homeless people or thinning of the ozone layer, that really are serious threats to us or our neighbors. Thus our old mental system struggles and often fails to distinguish the relevant from the trivial, the local from the distant, just as the ability to make such distinctions is becoming increasingly crucial.

“• The human mental ‘hardware’ – our senses and brains – is effectively fixed. That hardware equips us with what we call the old mind. Although we are evolving, our mental machinery will not change biologically in time to help us solve our problems. The same mental routines that originally signaled abrupt physical changes in the old world are now pressed into service to perceive and decide about unprecedented dangers in the new.

“In saying this we don’t mean to downgrade our accomplishments; indeed it is human inventiveness that causes our major dilemma. Our minds now conquer challenges and tasks that appear to have no parallels in our evolutionary past; we read and write, learn more than one spoken language, use word processors, and design and fly aircraft. But none of these tasks represents a break with the standard animal pattern of planning to reach short-term goals.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Post No. 138a: Re-Posting of "The Facts Don't Really Matter"



Last week, the world watched as a balloon traveled over Colorado, and as it descended, held it breath to see whether the 6 year old son of Richard and Mayumi Heene was still safely inside. It was later revealed that the kid was never in the balloon, and suspicions were raised about whether the family concocted this story for publicity purposes.

Throughout the blogosphere, and in mainstream media, every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Jane had something to say about this incident, this family, and their motivations, long before the law enforcement agencies completed their investigations. This reminded us of the "rush to judgment" on few facts mentality revealed during the Harvard professor arrest incident. That prompted us to take a break from our examination of the book "New World New Mind," and re-visit our piece written in response to the prior Harvard professor incident entitled, "The Facts Don't Really Matter."



© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Being solution-oriented, we’re going to suggest a way to view the public’s response to the arrest of Harvard Professor Gates - without addressing one single fact involved.

That’s because in this day and time, objective facts rarely matter. What people feel and think matter. What really matters is “the facts” as we each see them.

What’s right depends on your view of the world, and how events fit into the world you understand, know, appreciate, or want.

None of us was not present at Gates’ home (and thus have no first hand knowledge). Even though, at least initially, there was no transcript reflecting what was said, or video of the events, many quickly supplied their own assumptions, and formed conclusions about who did what.

Tocqueville, over 150 years ago, warned us this day would come. America must begin to approach our most serious issues innovatively, and stop wishing that they will disappear.

Simply relying on and retrieving our personal worldviews and experiences from our organic hard disks will not serve us well in this far more competitive environment. We’ll get our butts kicked by other nations, particularly totalitarian regimes not playing by our “rules,” if we keep this up, without achieving some resolution.

We read probably over 750 articles and comments on this event. Gates was variously described as arrogant, elitist, bi-polar, degenerate, a fraud, a clown, and proof that affirmative action does not work. Crowley, the arresting officer, did not fare any better. He was described as a thug, Nazi, Neanderthal, racist, and the same list of expletives used to describe Gates. (Maybe some progress was achieved since the expletive spewing crowd used the exact same expletives.)

If we are to gain anything constructive from this “thing,” we should appreciate there are some unresolved issues “in fact” that prompted this reaction.

Everyone’s position is legit.

During our 16 months navigating the blogosphere, there has been no topic about which more people have chosen to express themselves and definitely not this passionately.

Race, class, entitlement, and fairness remain America’s most prominent issues. In a way, this was the “O.J. incident” of our decade, in terms of everyone having an opinion. The economic collapse and the decline of life as we once knew it probably stoked the fire.

It has been suggested that everyone should learn at least one lesson in life from a friend. One of our Fellows speaks of a buddy of over 30 years, from whom he learned two. Once, when he suggested that his buddy did not deserve something, the friend quickly replied, “It’s not about what I deserve; it’s about what I want.”

That friend, a psychiatrist by profession, provided another lesson by relating a pattern observed during marital counseling sessions. The doctor observed how one spouse could bring up factual details of an event 20 or 30 years prior, and then describe, in detail, his or her anger. The other spouse would be shocked, and dispute the factual account. The session would then degenerate into a debate of “the facts,” and who was right or accurate.

He concluded that factual arguments rarely advance resolution objectives.

The Logistician was previously a trial attorney. He once represented employees of a fast food chain who identified an armed robber. The robber forced all but one employee into the freezer. He took the manager into her office, raped her, and then took the money.

One of the employees thought he recognized the robber, and the others bought into it. The accused had a twin brother, and… no more need be said. Charges were dropped, and the accused sued the employees for malicious prosecution.

The jury bought the accused’s argument, and awarded him damages. (Fortunately, the judge set the verdict aside.) The jury felt that the employees made their identification, and choose to pin the crime on just anyone handy.

Solving complex problems going forward (and competing) will require collaboration, appreciation of the views of all citizens, and a search for all facts and contributing factors. All of us have something to say of value, and none of us are just “fringe elements” to be summarily dismissed.

Whether you think someone should be arrested on their property while questioning the motivations of a responding law enforcement officer very much depends on the perspective from which you are watching the play unfold. This seemingly insignificant event is simply symptomatic of some very serious problems festering beneath the surface.

When the 1st O.J. verdict was rendered, the Logistician was in Chicago visiting a corporate client. He later returned to make a presentation before that client, and reps of another company. At the end of the day, a dinner was held. Since it was not a formal dinner, no speaker was scheduled.

However, being a trial attorney and having a personal connection to many of the players involved, he was asked to provide his thoughts as to how people could see “the facts” so differently. That he was even asked speaks volumes about where we are as a nation.

You see, “the facts” don’t really matter. The lens through which you interpret or view them does.

The only way to get beyond that is to borrow the glasses which others wear.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Post No. 137e: A Funny Thing Happened to Us on the Way to the Forum (Part 5)


This is a continuation of our daily excerpts taken from “New World New Mind.” This is the fifth excerpt in the series. For an introductory explanation of why we have chosen this book to share with you, click here.

[Please keep in mind that this book was published in 1989. All of this is copyrighted material, and we are simply sharing portions of it with you.]

Chapter 1 – The Threat within the Triumph (Continued)

“In this book we’ll say a great deal about threats – the dangers to us, to our civilization, to the very capacity of the Earth to support human life – that exist because we have changed the world so completely. We’ll concentrate on the difficulties our minds have in interpreting and even perceiving the new kinds of threats and responding appropriately to them.”

“In our view, there are several parts to the human quandary:

“The world that made us is now gone, and the world we made is a new world, one that we have developed little capacity to comprehend.

“The old world for which our perceptual systems were ‘designed’ was one where the overall environment was a relatively stable, limited one in which threats were signaled by short-term changes and action was usually required immediately. Consider the branch-flood-bear kinds of threats that our human progenitors faced over millions of years of evolutionary history. Apes, australopithecines (our first upright ancestors), early human hunters and gatherers, and the inhabitants of early civilizations, like other animals, had evolved quick reflexes to deal adequately with such threats.

“The benefits of having evolved ‘quick reflexes’ also accrue today; in modern life we also must often react quickly. On hearing a cracking sound from our chair, we are instantaneously apprehensive and ready to act. If a child lurches into the street ahead of our car, we hit the brakes even before thinking about it. If we’re not half-witted, thunderclaps over the golf course tell us to put the clubs away quickly and retreat to the clubhouse for a drink. An unexpected intruder in our house arouses an automatic series of responses that we interpret as fear and a physical necessity to fight or flee. These are all reactions that would serve us well against bear, burglar, breaking branch, or downpour.

“All nonhuman species evolved to fit into their physical habitats, and people originally evolved to do this as well. Human beings, however, have changed the world more in the last ten thousand years than their ancestors did in the preceding 4 million. Much more than any other species, we have turned the tables on the physical environment and made it change to fit us. Clothing, fire, dwellings, and agriculture all enable people to live where none could before. Modern human beings have left their evolutionary home in subtropical Africa to live all over the earth, in the freezing winters of Alaska as well in the scorching deserts of the Middle East. More importantly, human beings have built entirely new environments: farms, villages, towns, crowded cities, ocean liners, even underwater dwellings, and more. Human beings can even live for brief periods away from earth itself.

“The human experience has been one of expanding creations and adaptations. This cyclic pattern spooled us, in an evolutionary instant, from small groups of hunters and gatherers into a complex civilization. Agriculture led to the construction of cities and the population explosion. Cities led to epidemics of the diseases of crowding and to large-scale warfare. Public health measures led to further increases in population and then, by permitting people to live longer, to an increase in cancer and heart diseases. Cities also led to universities and the uncovering of many secrets of the universe. And uncovering secrets of the universe led to Hiroshima and Chernobyl.

“And the pace of change itself becomes even faster. Next month, the world population will increase by more than the number of human beings that lived on the planet 100,000 years ago, a time when evolution had already produced a human brain almost indistinguishable from today’s model. In the next 4 years alone more people will be added to the Earth than made up the entire population living at the time of Christ. It is difficult to comprehend this kind of world, and most people, too many, have been unable to do so. Human inventiveness has created problems because human judgment and humanity’s ability to deal with the consequences of its creations lags behind its ability to create.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Post No. 137d: A Funny Thing Happened to Us on the Way to the Forum (Part 4)


This is a continuation of our daily excerpts taken from “New World New Mind.” This is the fourth excerpt in the series. For an introductory explanation of why we have chosen this book to share with you, click here.

[All of this is copyrighted material, and we are simply sharing some of it with you.]

Chapter 1 – The Threat within the Triumph (Continued)

“The human nervous system, well matched to a world in which small, sharp changes were important but large gradual ones were not, is inadequate to keep attention focused on this most ominous nuclear trend. Our nervous system and our world are mismatched now. The original image of a single nuclear detonation signaled an awesome threat. Graphs and tables describing the sizes of arsenals fail to produce a comparably realistic understanding; occasional news events have only temporary effects on most people. Our response to nuclear armaments has followed the Reagan caricature. The big opening was Hiroshima; now we’re coasting; with lots of luck, we may avoid the big finish.

“A set of hydrogen bombs joined to an intercontinental ballistic missile is one of the ultimate triumphs of biological and cultural evolution. Think of it: humanity, whose own origins were as a few relatively large molecules in a tiny droplet in a primitive sea, has now itself developed the power to annihilate much of life on Earth.

“But why? Why have we done it? Why, on a planet that has an exploding population, a deteriorating environment, and massive social problems, has the only genuinely creative species invested so much time, energy, and genius in building arsenals that can only be used to destroy itself?

”Why has humanity not redirected its efforts instead into seeking ways for people to live together without conflict and to limiting the size of its population so that everyone can lead a meaningful life? Why hasn’t humanity tried vigorously to preserve the Earth that people and all living species depend upon?

“The answers to these kinds of questions are not simple. The dilemmas will not be ‘solved’ by the next political campaign, government program, educational critique, or international conference. They are to no small degree problems of how we perceive our environment and ourselves.

“The problem has much deeper roots than most people envision. To trace its history will take us into the world in which our species evolved, into the world that made us. That world has produced in us certain ways of interpreting our surroundings, ways that once enhanced our survival. But these ‘old ways’ are not necessarily adaptive in a world that is utterly different from the one in which our ancestors lived.

“Some scientists recognized our evolutionary mismatch decades ago, but their insight has had as yet little effect. On May 23, 1946, Albert Einstein sent a telegram to President Roosevelt on behalf of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists saying, in reference to nuclear explosions, ‘The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.’ The power of human destructiveness is far greater forty years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions that prompted Einstein’s statement, yet human thoughts processes still remain largely unchanged.

“The weapons in the United States and Soviet strategic arsenals now contain enough explosive power that, if packaged as Hiroshima-sized bombs, they could blow up one Hiroshima each hour for more than a lifetime (seventy-eight years)!

* * *

“Hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago, our ancestors’ survival depended in large part on the ability to respond quickly to threats that were immediate, personal, and palpable: threats like the sudden crack of a branch as it is about to give way or the roar of a flash flood racing down a narrow valley. Threats like the darkening of the entrance to the cavern as a giant cave bear enters. Threats like lightning, threats like a thrown spear.

“Those are not threats generated by complex technological devices accumulated over decades by unknown people half a world away. Those are not threats like the slow atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide from auto exhausts, power plants and deforestation; not threats like the gradual depletion of the ozone layer; not threats like the growing number of AIDS victims.

“In this book we’ll say a great deal about threats – the dangers to us, to our civilization, to the very capacity of the Earth to support human life – that exist because we have changed the world so completely. We’ll concentrate on the difficulties our minds have in interpreting and even perceiving the new kinds of threats and responding appropriately to them.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Post No. 137c: A Funny Thing Happened to Us on the Way to the Forum (Part 3)


This is a continuation of our daily excerpts taken from “New World New Mind.” This is the third excerpt in the series. For an introductory explanation of why we have chosen this book to share with you, click here.

[All of this is copyrighted material, and we are simply sharing some of it with you.]

Chapter 1 – The Threat within the Triumph (Continued)

“We don’t perceive the world as it is, because our nervous system evolved to select only a small extract of reality and to ignore the rest. We never experience exactly the same situation twice, so it would be uneconomical to take in every occurrence. Instead of conveying everything about the world, our nervous system is “impressed” only by dramatic changes. This internal spotlight makes us sensitive to the beginnings and endings of almost every event more than the changes, whether gigantic or tiny, or in the middle.

“The perception of dramatic changes begins deep with the nervous system, amid simple sensing such as seeing light. Put a three-way bulb (50 -100 -150 watts) in a lamp in a dark room. Turn on the lamp: the difference between darkness and the 50 – watt illumination is seen as great; but the increase from 50 to 100 and from 100 to 150 seems almost like nothing. Although the change in the physical stimulus is exactly the same, you notice it less and less as each 50 watts are added. Turn off the lamp, even from the 50 - watt setting, however, and you feel it immediately! We notice the beginning and the end and overlook the greater changes in the middle.

“You might be thinking that this analysis of lamps and sensing light is very far removed from the major dilemmas of our current world. But our point is that many of the predicaments of our society come about from the way people respond to, simplify, and ultimately, ‘caricature’ reality in their minds. Our caricature emphasizes the dramatic and distinctive features of events, in the same way as a cartoon caricature of a politician might exaggerate Lyndon Johnson’s outsize ears, Richard Nixon’s ski-jump nose, [and] Mikhail Gorbachev’s forehead birthmark.

“This simplified focus on the dramatic is now out of date in complex modern life; the same routines of internal analysis that originally developed to signal abrupt physical changes in the old world are now pressed into service to perceive and decide about unprecedented dangers in the new. Scarce and unusual items, be they a headline news event, a one-day dress sale, or a chance for peace, come into mind through the same old avenues and are filtered and judged in the same old way.

“This mismatched judgment happens in the most basic as well as the most momentous situations. In psychology experiments, a word at the beginning of a list heard once is recalled 70 percent of the time, words in the middle less than 20 percent, and words at the end almost 100 percent. In 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan illustrated these principles. He said: ‘Politics is just like show business. You need a big opening. Then you coast for a while. Then you need a big finish.’ Reagan is renowned for his political savvy.

“The same sensitivity to sharp changes gets called into play in judging the most important, life-or-death essentials. Consider this: the first atomic bombs were kept secret and then unveiled suddenly. The mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the sudden vast destruction they cause signaled a sharp change in the world. The new threat was readily noticed and properly feared.

“But two responses indicate that humanity did not perceive this important change in the world correctly. First, that atomic explosion on Hiroshima made a far greater impression than the much greater destruction and death visited upon Tokyo by conventional incendiary bombs, since burning cities seen from the air (in newsreels) had by then become routine and so were ignored.

“And, second, since the first frightening explosions, nuclear weapons have accumulated gradually until they now number in the tens of thousands, and most of them are ten to a hundred times more powerful than those that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our minds are inhibited in noticing the threat; the continuing accumulation of gigantic arsenals doesn’t get the same attention as the first weapons. Only public relations events, new ‘beginnings’ like the nuclear winter announcement, or the showing of the TV film The Day After, can reattract old minds – and then only temporarily until habituation sets in again.

“The human nervous system, well matched to a world in which small, sharp changes were important but large gradual ones were not, is inadequate to keep attention focused on this most ominous nuclear trend. Our nervous system and our world are mismatched now."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Post No. 137b: A Funny Thing Happened to Us on the Way to the Forum (Part 2)


This is a continuation of our daily excerpts taken from “New World New Mind.” This is the second excerpt in the series. For an introductory explanation of why we have chosen this book to share with you, click here.

[All of this is copyrighted material, and we are simply sharing some of it with you.]

Chapter 1 – The Threat within the Triumph (Continued)

“Why does the growing budget deficit attract relatively little attention while the comparatively meaningless stock market ‘crash’ makes headlines? Why do many popular writers yearn for a return to an education suitable for Oxford men before World War I, when the world has changed in critical ways to a greater extent since World War II than it changed between the birth of Christ and that war? Why do the numbers of nuclear weapons expand astronomically but largely unheralded, while a small girl trapped in a well commands the front pages? Why do we collectively spend billions on medical care while neglecting the simple preventative actions that, if we took them, would save many times the lives?

“We believe it is no accident.

“All these things are happening now, and are happening all at once, in part because the human mental system is failing to comprehend the modern world. So events will, in our opinion, continue to be out of control until people realize how selectively the environment impresses the human mind and how our comprehension is determined by the biological and cultural history of humanity. These unnoticed yet fundamental connections to our past, and how we can retrain ourselves for a “new world” of the future, one filled with unprecedented threats, are what this book is about.

“We are writing this book in an effort to help decision makers, educators, physicians, businessmen, and concerned citizens to change their ‘minds’ – not in the conventional sense, but rather to change the way they make decisions. We don’t think there is any panacea for all the problems of society; nothing simple that we can do right now is guaranteed to prevent a nuclear war or avoid the next plague. Everything, unfortunately, cannot be solved by one book! But we do think that if people understood the fundamental root of many of our problems, they might begin to change in a direction that could secure the human future.

“Today’s situation is unprecedented, but the human situation has often been unprecedented. In part, successfully facing the unprecedented has distinguished human beings from other forms of life. Since they spread out of Africa, people have always created new environments for themselves; they have always had to adapt to new and unexplored territory.

“There is a difference now, though. At no previous time have people had the capacity to destroy their civilization in a few hours and to ruin much of the planet’s life-support systems in the process. And never before has a species been engaged, as are we, in the process of destroying those systems wholesale in a ‘gradual’ manner that could complete the job in less than a century.

“But fortunately there is still time to change. Scientific evidence developed over the past three decades illuminates many aspects of the nature of both the human mind and the human predicament, and points the way to the changes needed. This evidence is drawn from many disciplines, including evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive science, climatology, and geochemistry.

“We believe that the only permanent means of resolving the paradox that our minds are both our curse and our potential salvation is through conscious change. Our biological evolution, including the physical evolution of our brains, is much, much too slow to help. And the undirected evolution of our culture, in view of the demands being placed on it, is still too sluggish and often inappropriate. Both biological and cultural evolution are inadequate to adapt us to the environments we are creating.

“We don’t perceive the world as it is, because our nervous system evolved to select only a small extract of reality and to ignore the rest. We never experience exactly the same situation twice, so it would be uneconomical to take in every occurrence. Instead of conveying everything about the world, our nervous system is “impressed” only by dramatic changes. This internal spotlight makes us sensitive to the beginnings and endings of almost every event more than the changes, whether gigantic or tiny, or in the middle.

“The perception of dramatic changes begins deep with the nervous system, amid simple sensing such as seeing light. Put a three-way bulb (50 -100 -150 watts) in a lamp in a dark room. Turn on the lamp: the difference between darkness and the 50 – watt illumination is seen as great; but the increase from 50 to 100 and from 100 to 150 seems almost like nothing. Although the change in the physical stimulus is exactly the same, you notice it less and less as each 50 watts are added. Turn off the lamp, even from the 50 - watt setting, however, and you feel it immediately! We notice the beginning and the end and overlook the greater changes in the middle.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Post No. 137a: A Funny Thing Happened to Us on the Way to the Forum



Those of you who have spent time with us in our forum know that this site is not even remotely as entertaining as the musical comedy film and stage musical whose name we have co-opted above.

Although we hope that you are occasionally entertained, our real goal is to suggest that we look at issues (both personal and societal) in a different way, out of the hope that we will be able to generate innovative solutions to problems in an increasingly complex world. Most recently, we focused our message on College Students, since it is their generation which will take over what the Baby Boomers have left, and it is their turn to assume a leadership role going forward.

Little did we realize that, while navigating a used book store a couple of months ago, we would come across a book, “New World New Mind,” published in 1989, which provides solid biological, historical and social science research to support many of the positions we took for the past couple of years.

The subtitle of the book is “A Brilliantly Original Guide to Changing the Way We Think about the Future.” Back in 1989, the authors proposed, as reflected on the back cover, “…revolutionary new ways to close the dangerous gap between our current mind set and the high-tech world we’ve created.” Many of the things that they predicted have occurred in the intervening 20 year period.

If our leaders had paid more attention to the evolving world as described by authors Dr. Robert Ornstein (co-author of “The Healing Brain”) and Dr. Paul Ehrlich (author of “The Population Bomb”), we might have been well on our way to solving some of the world’s current problems. We as humans also need to have a much better appreciation of the difference between individual logic and group logic. Recognizing that the evolutionary development of the human brain is an important factor in how we view the world and function in it should assist us in improving it.

Starting today, we will provide you with daily excerpts taken from “New World New Mind.” Our original pieces will take a back seat for the time being, unless something in the news or something we observe prompts us to share our personal thoughts. Each day you will gain some better insight into evolutionary human development, and how we might use that information to make better decisions about our current world and how we plan for the future.

It is only Common Sense that in trying to address problems, we examine all possible causes for behavior and conditions, particularly those scientific in nature, and that we utilize all possible resources available to us. That's what Ornstein and Ehrlich have done in their book.

What will undoubtedly surprise you is how all of this applies to our everyday issues and problems, both personal and societal. We know that you will be as fascinated by this innovative approach to life as we are. [All of this is copyrighted material, and we are simply sharing some of it with you.]

Chapter 1 – The Threat within the Triumph

“IT ALL SEEMS to be happening at once. A small group of terrorists murder a few Americans far away - and fear of getting murdered changes the traveling habits of millions. But Americans continue to slaughter more people each day with handguns than all the people the terrorists have killed up to the writing of this book. No one does anything about it.

“People swamp AIDS testing centers, desperate and anxious to know if they are carrying the virus. If they have it, it will likely kill them. Can society even care for AIDS victims?

“Meanwhile, populations explode, stockpiles of nuclear weapons grow, budget deficits mount, our education becomes more and more obsolete, and the environment – on which our very existence depends – deteriorates. But most people’s attention is fixed upon eye-catching “images,” such as the taking of the Iran hostages, horrible murders, airplane crashes, changes in stock prices, and football scores. Cancer terrifies us, yet we keep on smoking. Oliver North testifies that he lied – yet his good looks and smooth talk lead many people to propose that he run for President.

“And the President operates the same way. Ronald Reagan, by his own admission, perverted an important U.S. global policy because his mind was similarly fixed on another set of hostages. He said, ’I let my preoccupation with the hostages intrude into areas where it didn’t belong. The image, the reality of Americans in chains, deprived of their freedom and families so far from home, burdened my thoughts. And this was a mistake.’

“Why does the growing budget deficit attract relatively little attention while the comparatively meaningless stock market ‘crash” makes headlines? Why do many popular writers yearn for a return to an education suitable for Oxford men before World War I, when the world has changed in critical ways to a greater extent since World War II than it changed between the birth of Christ and that war? Why do the numbers of nuclear weapons expand astronomically but largely unheralded, while a small girl trapped in a well commands the front pages? Why do we collectively spend billions on medical care while neglecting the simple preventative actions that, if we took them, would save many times the lives?

“We believe it is no accident.

“All these things are happening now, and are happening all at once, in part because the human mental system is failing to comprehend the modern world….”

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Post No. 136b: Black - White Conflict Is Not Society's Largest


The Public Assesses Social Divisions

By Rich Morin, Pew Research Center

September 24, 2009

"It may surprise anyone following the charges of racism that have flared up during the debate over President Obama's health care proposals, but a survey taken this summer found that fewer people perceived there are strong conflicts between blacks and whites than saw strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born, or between rich people and poor people.

"A majority (55%) of adults said there are "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between immigrants and people born in the United States. Nearly as many -- 47% -- said the same about conflicts between rich people and poor people, according to a nationally representative survey by the Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends project."

To review the remainder of the survey, click here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Post No. 136a: Article of Interest from the New York Times: Where Did "We" Go ?


Many thought that when President Obama was elected he would become the "Great Unifier." Instead, we have witnessed the full panoply of factions which are dissatisfied with some aspect of his governance and policies thus far. Furthermore, they are not afraid to express their dissatisfaction in very personal, and colorful forms.

Thomas Friedman has some concerns about what is taking place in our country, and expresses them in the following piece. He eloquently articulates something which we have felt for the past few months, but have had difficulty putting into words.


September 30, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

Where Did ‘We’ Go?

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

"I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.

"I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

"And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, 'God will be on your side' — and so he did.

"Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening."

To view the remainder of the article, click here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Post No. 136: We Try Harder


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In what areas is the United States still No. 1? Was it ever? Or was this exalted status something we told ourselves to boost our sense of pride and accomplishment?

In a previous post about the mark made by political thought giant Irving Kristol, columnist David Brooks wrote something which struck us:

“He [Kristol] was unabashedly neoconservative. But he also stood apart, and directed his skeptical gaze even on his own positions, and even on the things to which he was most loyal… ‘There are no benefits without costs in human affairs,’ he once wrote. And so there is no idea so true and no movement so pure that it doesn’t require scrutiny. There was no position in this fallen world without flaws.”

A question might be raised as to whether it would be a good thing for us, as a Nation, to acknowledge that others have surpassed us in certain areas, or are nipping at our heels. There’s lots of rhetoric these days about our “great nation” and how this is the most powerful nation in the history of humankind.

But resting on one’s laurels has its problems, as does continuing to do things the same way, simply because they worked in the past, or through rigid adherence to a particular philosophy.

The Father of one of our friends claims that golfer Tiger Woods can cruise now in his career, “since he has already made his money.” But whether it is Tiger Woods, or legendary basketball star Larry Bird, the existence of talent without continuing effort, and a desire to excel, yields few championship trophies.

In order for the Road Runner to have existed all of these years, he had to outrun Wile E. Coyote everyday, and come up with new ways to “out-coyote” him.

His survival is dependent upon his speed and agility.

Yesterday, the 2009 National Book Festival, founded by former First Lady Laura Bush in 2001, commenced in Washington, D.C. That such a festival was only started recently might come as a surprise to many, but may reflect something about us.

Many of us consider a good education and the ability to read as givens. Yet, the percentage of functionally illiterate citizens in America would probably shock most.

At least those of us who can read.

A friend of ours spent some time teaching courses at a community college. He often tells the story of a student who, while taking a math test, summoned him. He told her that he could not assist her.

She noted that the issue was not a math issue, but a word issue. When he looked at the problem, she pointed to the word “suspension,” and said she did not know its meaning. Without knowing its meaning, it was impossible for her to perform the calculation necessary.

In response to this revelation, our friend decided that even in his math classes, his students would learn 10 new words each day. After announcing his new policy to his night class and the reasons for the change, a student approached him after class, and said that he was one of the people about whom the instructor had spoken.

When our friend inquired as to what the student meant, the student related an amazing story. He said that although he was not very proud of it, he got kicked out of high school one month before graduation, and did not learn to read prior to that time.

Imagine an educational system where a student can be promoted for 12 years, and still not manage to read. And consider the fact that no one single factor, teacher, school, or system can be singled out for this travesty.

One of our other friends has been in collegiate and professional athletics for years. He has always contended that he’d rather have a bunch of C grade players who hustled and gave their best, than a team of A grade players who didn’t.

After listening to the introductory speakers during the opening ceremonies for National Book Festival, it occurred to us that we have a long way to go in getting the most out of our human resources, and that acknowledging that many of our current systems are perhaps not the best in the world, might be a good starting point.

For some reason, this line of thinking made us re-visit one of the longest running marketing slogans around, that for Avis Rent a Car, the number two agency behind number one Hertz. “We try harder.”

We did not know who started this campaign, but we had a suspicion, and looked it up. And yes, it turned out to be another Bill Bernbach masterpiece.

Its beauty is in its simplicity.

It’s neither un-American, nor un-patriotic to question our standing in the world, and investigate whether what we’ve been doing is really in the long-term, national, collective interest.

Societal responsibility is not dramatically different from personal responsibility. A nation can’t complain about its standing in the world, if it hasn’t done all that it can do to excel, and use its human resources to the fullest extent possible. That includes equipping all of its citizens with competitive tools, and ensuring that they are ready for the fight.

And that’s just plain Common Sense.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Post No. 135c: Three Cheers for Irving Kristol



Last year, a giant of modern American political thought, William F. Buckley, Jr., passed away. Earlier this month, we lost another giant, Irving Kristol. Although their views of the Universe did not always mesh with ours, we respected their thought processes, and the fact they did not rigidly adhere to the positions of any particular party.

They had the ability to analyze each issue objectively and present their positions with clarity. Perhaps more importantly, they did not find the need to yell or scream, thus prompting more people to listen to their views. We were big fans.

David Brooks of the New York Times has written a column about the life of Mr. Kristol, and his thoughts are provided below. To give you some sense of Mr. Kristol, the following is a quote attributed to him:

"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."


David Brooks: Three Cheers for Irving Kristol


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

By David Brooks

“Irving Kristol was born into a fanatical century and thrust himself into every ideologically charged battle of his age. In the 1930s, as a young socialist, he fought the Stalinists. In the 1940s, as a soldier, he fought fascism. In the decades beyond, as a writer and intellectual, he engaged with McCarthyism, the cold war, the Great Society, the Woodstock generation, the culture wars of the 1970s, the Reagan revolution and so on.

“The century was filled with hysterias, all of which he refused to join. There were fanaticisms, none of which he had any part in. Kristol, who died on Friday, seemed to enter life with an intellectual demeanor that he once characterized as ‘detached attachment.’”

To view the remainder of the article, click here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Post No. 135b: The High Price of Putting One's Foot in One's Mouth


Yesterday, we re-posted an article dealing with how society might respond to "offensive" or "inappropriate" comments made by those in the public eye. We suggested that the same principles might be applicable to Rep. Joe Wilson, tennis stars Serena Williams and Roger Federer, and entertainer Kayne West.

Some of these individuals have since made apologies, or have attempted to do so. Back in February of this year, we generated another post, "The High Price of Stubbing Your Toe," which focused on apologies by public figures, and whether society's response to "apologies" truly motivated others to apologize.

It occurred to us that there is a difference between "embarrassing conduct," and "offensive" or "inappropriate" comments. We are therefore re-posting our earlier piece on apologies, and we have changed its title to "The High Price of Putting One's Foot in One's Mouth."


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Owning up to one’s mistakes seems to be one of mortal man’s most difficult acts.

In January 1998, for example, Bill Clinton famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky,” though months later, after surviving the ordeal of impeachment, he admitted that his relationship with the young woman had been “wrong” and “not appropriate.”

A cloud of presidential hanky-panky has hung over him ever since, likely diminishing his legacy, though it’s possible that his efforts around the world will offer some degree of redemption.

Lately, a new parade of politicians, celebrities, business people and athletes has come forward to face the white-hot glare of public scrutiny.

The former governor of Illinois, for example, a man seemingly caught red-handed in blatantly illegal activities, stonewalled and attempted to make the case for his innocence on America’s talk shows, at the same time the impeachment machine moved forward unimpeded.

Earlier this month, we saw Michael Phelps admit, without hesitation, that he made a mistake. Despite this, lucrative sponsorship deals that resulted from his eight Olympic gold medals were immediately withdrawn, and law enforcement conducted an investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

Not long ago, another athlete, Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best baseball player of all time, admitted to using performance-enhancement drugs, sullying his past accomplishments and calling into question whether any records he may break in the future will be legitimate achievements.

In Washington, a respected former Senator, Tom Daschle, up for a key cabinet post in the new administration, ran into a buzz saw when it was revealed that he hadn’t paid taxes on benefits he had received in the position he had held prior to his nomination.

Daschle’s mea culpa was “too little, too late,” according to his critics, though the same comments were not levied against Timothy Geithner, now Secretary of the Treasury and head of the IRS, when his nomination was questioned over his back taxes owed.

Later, Geithner, in a pro-active sleight of hand, said that mistakes would be made in the Administration’s effort to stimulate the economy.

Watching all these large and small melodramas unfold – believe us, Michael Phelps’ mistake was a small one in the big picture – it occurred to us that immediate benefits ought to accrue to those who admit fault and accept responsibility.

We admire our new president’s forthright response to the Daschle incident.

“I screwed up,” he said.

And take note. He said, “I,” not “we” or “my people in charge of vetting cabinet nominees.” Like the small placard that sat on Harry Truman’s desk, the one that read “The buck stops here,” he took ownership of the problem.

Unfortunately, public reaction to admissions of culpability suggests that we, as a society, may be at risk of making it more and more difficult for people, as the expression goes, to fess up.

We have become a society that, in many ways, salivates for red meat from the mouths of talk show pundits and late night comedians.

As children, our parents and teachers encouraged us to tell the truth, even if it meant punishment.

As we matured, we appreciated that doing the right thing, while not always rewarded at the time, would ultimately prove to be in our long-term interests.

Somehow, society must create an environment in which citizens, particularly our elected officials, are permitted, even encouraged, to stand up and admit mistakes, with society viewing such admissions, not as signs of weakness but instead, as individual strength.

At some point, we have to change the culture of denial. Revisiting the potential legal liability associated with acknowledging mistakes might be a start.

We applaud the Obama administration for initiating the climate change, however underappreciated the effort may seem.

While the costs to our pride and social standing in the short term may appear to be high, the failure to pay that price up front may have a far greater cost over the long haul.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just plain Common Sense.

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Post No. 135a: Never Underestimate the Power of Laughter


In theory, if thoughts we share in our articles truly constitute Common Sense, then the approaches recommended should be able to stand the test of time, and be applicable to new fact situations as they arise.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen outbursts on the part of Rep. Joe Wilson (during a joint session of Congress while the President was speaking), and tennis stars Serena Williams and Roger Federer (on the tennis court). Additionally, some would lump in rapper Kanye West for his interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Many have spoken about the lack of civility in our society today, and the need to punish or sanction people for their "inappropriate" or "offensive" comments.

In June of 2008, we posted the following article, which we believe is also applicable to the comments of Wilson, Williams, Federer, and West.

© 2008 and 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

We are all aware of the numerous instances, during the past year, where prominent individuals were severely criticized for comments that some termed “offensive,” or “inappropriate.” One of the most widely covered was the comment by Don Imus regarding the predominantly black female basketball team which won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

Ironically, in that instance, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who typically argues that there are numerous ways to view situations, recommended one of the harshest forms of response, thus suggesting that there was only one “right thing to do.”

Many commentators suggested various responses to deal with the offending speakers, essentially saying that we as a society need to make a statement and ensure that folks do not regularly engage in such speech.

The ladies in question were the essence of grace. They had, after all, just brought home a national basketball championship to an academic institution that invests precious little in sports championships of any sort. Their composure and compassion under attack shamed Shock Jock Imus into a rarely observed heart felt apology.

Most reasonable folks would agree that there was virtually no explanation, or justification, for his statement that would have made sense to us.

Following the revelations about the comments of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Rev. John Hagee, the talkingheads had much to say about how the respective candidates should have responded.

However, no one suggested that their churches be “taken away.” It is our understanding that Wright is retired, and thus there is nothing to take away, and Hagee is far too integral to his church's existence to remove him from the church which he built.

However, following the mocking, by a Catholic priest, of candidate Clinton in Chicago recently, not only did the local Archbishop chastise the priest, but so did a representative of a group of Catholic women. She said, in essence, that the priest’s comments did not reflect the Catholic faith, did not reflect the Catholic Church, scandalized them, and that he should have his church taken away from him.

Ever since she reacted in that fashion, some of us thought of this issue in free speech, legalistic terms. Of course, our most senior Fellow, the Laughingman, brought us back to reality, and provided instant clarity to the whole situation.

“The worst conceivable way to silence one with whom we disagree is to stop him from talking. By doing so, you create a martyr to his similarly warped followers, and take him off the radar screen of the rest of the public.

"Had we, as a society, a bit thicker skins, we would broadcast these lunacies far and wide, with an appropriate apology to the more sensitive among us, demonstrate a little Common Sense for our fellow man, and let the fringe element drown in the laughter and public ridicule generated by their own thinking or lack thereof.

"Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself; and like the naked, fools have little or no influence on society.”

Yesterday, we heard a news report regarding some Minnesota high school kids who took a Confederate flag to school. The kids were banned from their graduation exercises because of their conduct.

One of them, as he sat on the back of a pick up truck, said that he was about as far away from being a racist as one could get. However, they both said that they wanted to make a statement about independence, and the freedom of one to express oneself.

Appearing on CNN yesterday morning, we're sure that they now have a following consisting of hundreds of thousands of sympathizers. It probably would have been better to simply let them attend their graduation ceremonies, assuming that no further conduct was involved which might have lead to violence or some other disruptive behavior.

We considered entitling this article, “Ignoring People – A Novel Thought,” and then we recalled that as Americans, we always have to make sure that we punish folks with whom we disagree. It, unfortunately, is built into who we are as a people.

Perhaps once we learn to ignore those making statements which we consider offensive or inappropriate, they’ll flog themselves, and we as a public will find no need to punish them.

In the immortal words of the famous Forrest Gump; “Stupid is as stupid does.”

© 2008 and 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense should be a Way of Life"™

Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"

This forum was designed to be YOUR forum for the civil exchange of ideas by people with all points of views. We welcome the submission of articles by all of our readers, as long as they are in compliance with our Guidelines contained in Post No. 34. We look forward to receiving your submissions.