© 2008 and 2010, The Institute for Applied Common Sense
This is another Logistician post from our archives, published in October 2008, prior to the Presidential Election, and prior to the Logistician leaving for his sabbatical. It is interesting to look back on it now.
People keep telling me that race relations have improved immensely over the past 40 years. They also point to advances in terms of how America treats women, the disabled, gays, and many other groups in society.
They are quick to pull up statistics to support their positions, and produce polls where the respondents express this new-found enlightened thinking.
However, I’ve never bought it.
In my view, we just suppressed the views of the bigots and the narrow-minded, and made it unpopular and impolite for them to truly express themselves. What I submit has occurred is simply a shift in which groups are encouraged or allowed to express themselves.
Stop to think about it. There were many interracial couples who wanted to marry at an earlier time in our history, and were prevented, through miscegenation laws, from doing so. Gays had sex, which was prohibited by law, and were afraid to reveal themselves and their behavior.
In the mid-1970s, one of my Caucasian graduate school classmates fell in love with an African-American man, and she did not disclose the relationship to her very liberal parents. They had only recently admonished her against going on a camping trip with another African-American friend, out of concern that “kooks” might attack them.
So you see, the suppression of expression comes in many forms. I submit that it is really all about economics, social positioning, and timing. (Religion also obviously has a role, although a complex one.) Much of what Hitler had to offer to the German masses had to do with convincing them that they deserved better than their pre-war status suggested.
Much has been made in recent days of the comments made by supporters of the McCain-Palin ticket at various campaign gatherings around the country. Some have dismissed the comments as those made by a “few kooks.” However, those kooks happen to be the brave or sick ones, and although unquantifiable, I suspect that their numbers are much larger than we are willing to admit.
Of course, the number of those willing to express themselves could quickly change. For those of you who consider yourselves students of recent history, check out France’s experience with Jean-Marie Le Pen during the late 1990s into the early 2000s. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_marie_le_pen.) Some of the same issues that were central to his emergence are also present here in America at the current time.
Earlier today, in the syndicated column, “Annie’s Mailbox,” formerly known as “Anne Landers,” and currently operated by her two former editors, a couple wrote in to seek advice about their adoption desires. The couple has two girls, ages 5 and 6, and they are interested in adopting a boy. They are also willing to adopt a child of any race. Interestingly, the step-father of the husband has already let it be known that if they adopt an African-American boy, he will not be allowed in the home of his grandparents.
Quite frankly, I think that it is better that the parents know the step-grandfather’s position now, rather than permit him to spew his hatred after the fact. It is far preferable for us to create the conditions to allow the bigots and the narrow-minded to truly express their feelings and expose them. They will, of course, suffer, or benefit from, the consequences of their expression.
In my view, one of the biggest mistakes that our country has made with respect to the goals of civil rights and equal treatment has been its use of the strong arm of the law. The Warren court of the 1950s, in particular, failed to behave as a part of the judicial branch of our government, and took on a legislative role.
That America did not have the political will, until some years after Brown v. Board of Education, to legislatively pursue the goals of equality tells you that the hearts and minds of American were not ready for it. Same with the Equal Rights Amendment. It is the legislature that has the responsibility for promulgating laws, not the judiciary.
That a relatively small number of “concerned citizens,” no matter how well-intentioned their motivations, should be able to impose their value system on the many, will always be a problem.
You see, the ultimate goal of any group in society seeking equal treatment is respect, and the appreciation by others of your true, core, basic, value based on your merit. People may be forced to respect someone out of fear or intimidation; however, their minds and hearts will never respect you. Furthermore, aren’t bigots and the narrow-minded entitled to be so?
People need to learn, individually and collectively, how to love, respect, and appreciate others on their own terms. To develop artificial contrivances, particularly those imposed by governmental or legal force, only serves to pervert the system and diminish the goal by perverting the principle of fairness.
Furthermore, it provides the bigots and the narrow-minded with further arrows in their quivers to continue the ridiculous debate about equality. There simply shouldn’t be any debate.
Additionally, we need to come to the realization that no decision in the world is fair. The best that we can hope is that we devise systems to treat people processed through it fairly to the best of our ability, and recognize that it still is not going to be perfect.
We, here at the Institute for Applied Common Sense, previously delved into this subject matter. In one of our very earliest articles, we spoke of “How Racism, Although Problematic, Serves a Pragmatic and Utilitarian Function.” (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-racism-although-problematic-serves.html.) In our Post No. 42, entitled “If You Really want to do Some Thinking,” we referred to an article in Edge (http://www.edge.org/) by Jonathan Haidt, entitled “What Makes People Vote Republican.” (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/09/post-no-42-if-you-really-want-to-do.html.) In the introduction to that article appeared the following:
I saw George Will on Charlie Rose a couple of months ago. He essentially said that conservatism has the “upper hand” because it is “pure.” The problem with liberalism, according to Will, is that it comes off as elitist, in that it essentially says that “we can do a better job of thinking about your interests than you can.”
In his article, Haidt suggests that, “Most democrats don’t understand that politics is more like a religion than it is like shopping.” Bigotry and narrow-mindedness are also like a religion. You can’t just stamp out or suppress what people feel and believe. Additionally, those individuals who hold those views are offended by those who tell them that something is wrong with them for holding them.
I submit that they need to live [I purposefully avoided using “suffer”] the consequences of being bigoted and narrow-minded, whether good or bad, on their own terms. I have always felt that in the long run, it would have been far better for African-Americans to have quietly taken their business around the corner to Caucasian merchants willing to provide them public accommodations and services, than for the law to have forced all merchants and service providers to do so. Take a guess as to the financial impact of such action. By forcing a condition on the unwilling, we as a society only made them angrier and perhaps more bigoted.
Force also further delays the creation of circumstances where one can personally recognize the value of another human being.
Let me tell you this: more and more bigotry and narrow-mindedness will come to the surface as the economic status of the average citizen further deteriorates over the next couple of years. We need an outlet valve – the creation of a prominent third political party, The American Bigot Party.
Just think about it. All of the closet bigots will join, and they’ll be happy to once again speak their minds in public, without recrimination. All of the old racists, who were Dixiecrats and voted for George Wallace before switching allegiance when Ronald Reagan came along, will march down the street in solidarity parades. The Ku Klux Klan and the Neo-Nazis will also have a political outlet. Imagine the platform of that party.
If society truly considers the bigoted and narrow-minded to be a cancer on our society, then in order to deal with it, we need to know where and how it exists, not hide it. Common sense dictates as much. Come on out, let us see and hear you, lawyers, judges, politicians, doctors, accountants, farmers, bankers, and all….
The Republicans also have a major problem right now, with which they apparently have not figured out how to deal. They are the default party for the nuts and kooks of America, as least as far as discrimination is concerned. (The Democrats have a different set of nuts and kooks.)
It would be far easier for both the Democratic and Republican parties to join forces, contribute an equal amount from their coffers, and form the American Bigot Party, to sequester the problematic elements of both parties.
Let them be heard. Let them have their say. Then perhaps the candidates of both current major parties would be not have to distance themselves from the John Hagees and Jeremiah Wrights of the world, and if they had to do so, could do so with a straight face.
One final comment. Shortly after 9-11, I attended a seminar conducted by a constitutional law professor and scholar, Erwin Chemerinsky (http://www.law.duke.edu/fac/chemerinsky/), about the importance of not allowing our government to engage in unconstitutional activity.
He noted that during times of crisis and fear, there is a tendency to ignore the Constitution and suppress individual rights. However, he further noted that the Constitution serves as a rudder to keep us on our “right path” and prevent the pendulum of public sentiment from swinging too far in either direction.
Let the concept work its magic. Just don’t pervert or distort its operation and thus encourage people to disrespect it.
Free the bigots! Let them speak and express themselves! Let them organize! We’ll be a better country for having done so, and hopefully, at the end of the day, they’ll just fade away.
© 2008 and 2010, The Institute for Applied Common Sense
EDITORIAL NOTE: We are NOT suggesting, in any way, that the Tea Party Movement is that party. Not at all. Keep in mind that this post was written in October 2008.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Post No. 148b: As Is the Case with the Truth, Personal Responsibility is Rarely Plain, and It’s Never Simple
There has been a news story floating around for the past couple of weeks, which is so troubling that, although covered in various media vehicles, few have had anything of real substance to say about it, apparently needing additional time to digest it.
It is the story of a highly-regarded photographer who covered the civil rights movement during the 1960s. In fact, he was with Martin Luther King and his entourage on the day that Dr. King was shot in Memphis.
When we first encountered the story, it seemed so… let us say, implausible, that we questioned its authenticity.
And then we noticed that it was a Yahoo! News Blog article, which provided some credibility.
It told the story of how famed photographer Ernest Withers had another profession, namely that of FBI informant, advising the FBI of the activities and tactics of many of those in the civil rights movement, including Dr. King.
After reading the story, we were so… stunned, that we could do little other than simply pass it on to some friends of the Institute, without comment.
One of them noted that the story originally appeared in a Memphis area newspaper, the Commercial Appeal.
Upon reading the original piece, we were even more stunned. Maybe you will, like one of our readers, think that it was no big deal and not find it surprising that someone would rat out Dr. King to J. Edgar Hoover.
But something still bothers us about this story. We’re just not quite sure what to say.
Please take the time to digest both articles. It’s a….
To whom did Withers owe responsibility, if at all, to anyone or any entity?
To his nation, to the FBI, to his family, to Dr. King and others in the civil rights movement, to the movement itself, to his race….
You tell us. We’d like to hear.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Prior to his departure to Brazil to commence his sabbatical, the Logistician generated this post on October 25, 2008, roughly two years ago. It outlined his concerns on the off chance that candidate Obama won the presidential election.
Looking back on it, we sometimes wonder whether he headed to Brazil for a reason other than getting some much needed rest and relaxation.
Check it out.
© 2008 and 2010, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Earlier this evening, I had a conversation with a friend, Lawrence, about the prospect that Obama might actually pull this thing off. Lawrence, an Obama supporter, participated in a neighborhood campaign drive several weeks ago.
He turned and looked at me with a slight tinge of amazement, when I said that I hoped that Obama did not win this election.
You see, it’s not that I have anything of real substance against Obama. However, I just do not honestly think that America is ready for a black president. Plain and simple.
We’re not there yet.
Same goes for a woman president. Does that mean that I feel that the battle should not be fought? Of course not.
This has nothing to do with my personal views – just my thoughts watching the battle and the soldiers on both sides. Certain more optimistic or lofty-ideal commentators have spoken about how far our country has come, and the message which it will send to the world.
Let me provide an analogy which might better explain my concern.
There are many legal organizations, which advocate certain positions, and wait for years to pursue the appropriate “test case” to advance their positions. Timing is very important. The mood of the country, the facts of the case, the strength of the plaintiff, the financial resources available, and the judges on the bench, are all factors.
Such cases are not prosecuted carelessly, without considering the big picture / long term effects.
As much of an optimist as I portray myself, there are some practical issues about which I am very concerned.
First, I think that we are in for some very difficult economic times for several years to come.
Second, to the extent that any purported damage done by the current folks in power can be addressed, it will take a long time to perform any corrective action.
Third, this war thing is not going to be resolved as quickly and easily as we might argue, no matter which side is telling it.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t have the financial resources to do much of anything.
We all know, on a practical level, that when times are bad, fault and blame are placed on the executive in charge, and the party in control of Congress.
Imagine the discourse while Obama presides over all of these complications. I can tell you how soon the criticism of his policies is going to start.
I have a fear that should he win, within 2 years, the electorate will be calling for his head. And his opponents will undoubtedly demonize him and say, “I told you so.”
Economic hardship and pain have a way of quickly erasing all memory about the good times associated with the successful candidate’s election, and the good times that he anticipates down the road.
The patience of the electorate will get short. Real short.
And it is not just Obama about whom I am theoretically concerned. I would be just as concerned about the first woman to occupy the office. Or the first Hispanic.
Quite frankly, the first of any group, after years of conspicuous absence of similar individuals, should not be remembered for bad times. I’d almost have him lose this one and win the next one, when the economy is on the upswing. But then again, there may not be another time.
And so I told Lawrence, there is only so much that a president can do, and that the problems are global and deep rooted in nature. Lawrence looked at me and said, despite that, he wanted a president who inspired hope around the world. Is that a good enough reason to want to see Obama win?
You tell me.
P.S. In the end, Hillary may have been the victor.
© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Saturday, September 11, 2010
© 2010, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
We recently contacted the Logistician (an Institute Fellow), still on sabbatical in Brazil, just to check up on him. We asked him what he considered to be the most significant difference between Brazil and the United States.
“There is almost a total lack of fear here in Brazil," he said. "The folks will do virtually anything and engage virtually anyone.”
Interestingly, we have been thinking a lot about the concept of fear over the past few months, with all of the yelling and screaming going on about where this country is headed. We’ve come to recognize it as a very powerful and potentially destructive force.
Prior to moving to the East Coast, the Institute was based in Los Angeles, just a few blocks from UCLA. During the late 1980’s, a dramatic shift, in the ethnic make-up of the student body at UCLA, began to take place.
The number of first generation immigrant students, whose education was financed by parents in another part of the world, began to grow. It was not unusual to see them walking down the streets of Westwood wearing facial masks to deal with the air pollution and whatever other airborne “diseases.”
They walked in groups of 4, 5, or 6. On occasion, upon encountering a native-born American, the group members would shift 3 or 4 feet off the sidewalk, and turn their heads 90° as if to avoid being contaminated by the approaching figure.
When we first encountered this, we were puzzled, particularly since many cities in their native countries were far more densely populated, with lots of pushing and shoving and bodies touching. Thus, we wondered about the basis for the reaction.
We also knew plenty of native born American citizens of the same ethnic origin, who did not behave similarly, and who were truly integrated and engaged members of California society.
We entertained the possibility that it was fear of strangers and the unknown, and we became concerned, since a fear of any group of people, concept, or person results in a lack of engagement.
Many are familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins. According to Wikipedia, they constitute “…a classification of the most objectionable vices that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen humanity’s tendency to sin." The final version of the list consists of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
Although we here at the Institute do not claim to be learned theologians, or duly appointed disciples of Jesus, there is an argument to be made that fear, particularly the fear of engagement, should be added as the eighth deadly sin.
(Arguably, if one really has faith in God, follows the dictates of his or her religion, and legitimately considers oneself a child of God, then one should not fear anything or anyone but God.)
Tangentially, a failure to engage stemming from fear, can also lead to a failure to understand, which can lead to anger – one of the more unproductive activities in which one can engage, about which we previously expressed our thoughts.
In the view of the Logistician, there is a pragmatic, socio-technological reason to eliminate fear of others, leading to engagement – a society efficiently and effectively gets the best out of the highest proportion of its people.
The Roman Empire contributed significantly to the development of western civilization, which some consider to be the greatest contributor to humankind thus far. Through its assembly (admittedly by force in many instances) and assimilation of divergent cultures, the cross-cultural benefits were exponential in nature.
When those using a particular type of plow used in Country X, engaged those from Country Y, and then those from Country Z, the resultant plow was better at performing the task of tilling the soil, than any of the previous individual plows.
When the Institute moved to the southeast region of the country, the influences of the traditional Caucasian and African-American cultures were observable and palpable. However, the people in the region almost seemed to be in denial about the rapidly increasing Hispanic and Asian communities.
To constructively deny the existence, through lack of engagement, of a significant segment of your community, is a waste of human resources, and a missed opportunity.
And what does this have to do with Personal Responsibility about which we harp so frequently?
It seems to us that if one considers oneself to be a positive, upstanding, responsible contributor to the community, and a citizen of God’s Universe, (regardless of what Stephen Hawking might say), then part of Personal Responsibility requires us to affirmatively engage those who we do not know, do not understand, and those with whom we have philosophical, cultural, ethnic, social, and other differences.
It just seems like the responsible thing to do….
[Editorial Note: We obviously used some "artistic license" in referring to Henry David Thoreau.]
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
We previously provided a link to this article, by Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. He conducts research on morality and emotion and how they vary across cultures. We found this article to be particularly thought-provoking.
The following is an excerpt from the article:
“What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany's best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress.
“[Paragraph break added.] But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world. “
We are providing the link once again before delving into some other topics.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
We recently read an article about how President Obama became so unpopular in the short time since his election.
The Senior Fellow of the Institute, Laughingman, operates a couple of blogs. One focuses on marketing and advertising issues. We issued this challenge to his readers:
“What would ad professionals do to assist the President to improve his image / approval rating just before mid-term elections, considering he really can not do much about the economy?”
One of the participants responded with the following, which we decided to share.
© 2010, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Simply put, President Obama has been poorly served by his political advisers. Some heads should roll, including that belonging to his Chief of Staff.
When newly elected President Clinton presented his first spending proposals, his economic advisers told him they were unaffordable, and that Wall Street would not put up with them.
This led to Clinton's famous lament, "Are you telling me that the future of my presidency is in the hands of a bunch of bond traders?"
Rahm Emmanuel's advice on the original melt down in Detroit is reported in Steve Rattner's book as, "[Muck] the UAW."
Considering the history of the Clinton administration's conflicts with Republicans in Congress, this was a strange and veracity-challenged approach to begin with. Considering that President Obama had represented himself as an individual capable of building bi-partisan coalitions with the opposition, his selection of Emmanuel boggles the mind.
From the beginning of the Clinton administration to the end of the Bush era, the share of national income trousered by the top 1% of earners increased from 9% to 28%.
To prevent a self-inflicted melt down of our banks, we are
lending the banks our money at less than 1%, and allowing them to lend it back to us at up to 15%, when they feel the urge to lend to us, if at all.
Housing prices, the engine behind the last recovery, are down by 30%, and are likely to fall even further while wages continue to fall, as corporations take advantage of a 9.5% unemployment rate, and a 16%+ underemployment rate.
In the mean time, CEO compensation for the 50% of companies which have dismissed the most workers has increased by better than 40%.
With two months left until the next election, and the President's approval numbers sinking faster than the Titanic (and about to explode a la Hindenburg), what is the best strategy to reverse the impending?
Simply let Obama be Obama.
And thus the title of this piece, which reflects the ultimate in personal responsibility.
A couple of years ago, the majority of voters elected a newcomer with some undefined, intangible quality which led them to say, “He’s our guy.”
It is his responsibility to lead using that same intangible which got him elected.
There is no way to change the opinions, however flaky and factless, of Rush Limbaugh's audience, or Glenn Beck’s parishioners. In this polarized society, the only path to Democrat survival is to get the Democrat faithful up off their asses and into voting booths.
Trying to defuse all of the disinformation floating around out there just
plays into the hands of the opposition, and the nation will be the loser in the long term.
On the announcement of the (equally ridiculed by Wall Street) $5/day wage,
Henry Ford explained he was trying to build a mass market product. "If my workers can't buy them, who will?"
That is not exactly the attitude "[Muck] the UAW" conveys.
Expanding Medicare and Medicaid to ensure that our citizens are protected
from health-borne economic disaster is not an extravagance - it is arguably part of the “unalienable right…” to the “pursuit of happiness.”
Last year, Humana, one of the nation’s largest health care providers, dismissed 700 health care professionals and replaced them with newly-hired accountants....
Can you spell "gaming the system?"
Our economy will continue to suffer until we find a way to rebuild consumer confidence which translates into buying power, which represents 70% of our GDP, and that’s not going to take place prior to the elections.
Giving members of Congress (the only class of criminals native to the
United States of America) something to be proud of may be beyond the powers of any president, but giving the voters a choice they can be proud of is part and
parcel of the president's Bully Pulpit.
At least that’s what I would do.
But in the next election, I’d rather be working for the Republicans. At least I would have a better chance of getting paid....
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Physicist Stephen Hawking has changed some of his views regarding God as revealed in his new book. To view the article, click here.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The following article appeared today in the electronic version of the Washington Post:
(c) 2010 The Washington Post
Illegal Immigration to the U.S. Down Almost 67% since 2000, Report Says
by Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 1, 2010, 12:01pm
"The number of illegal immigrants entering the United States has plunged by almost two-thirds in the past decade, a dramatic shift after years of growth in the population, according to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center."
To view the remainder of the article, click here.
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