Friday, December 18, 2015

Post No. 196: Why (I Suspect) DNA Trumps Everything in Determining Which Side of the Fence One Sits on Banning Muslims (Temporarily?)

© 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

I am fascinated by people who take sides on an issue. In my view, taking a side means that you think that (1) you are right, (2) you have something to gain; (3) your position is the better or preferred position, or, perhaps (4) your God told you to do it. Even in the physical science realm, it is becoming far more difficult to be certain about one’s chosen position.

I admit that I do not possess the skills or wisdom of Samuel Clemens, but we are kindred spirits in terms of our attitudes about politicians. No group of citizens distresses me more. Not only are they absolutely certain about their positions, and that their positions should dictate the conduct and lives of all over whom they exercise dominion, but the logic they use and positions they take are so patently goal- determinant.

On those issues which affected my business, I was a staunch Republican, while with respect to issues which now affect me in my retirement, I am a Democrat. It is with this background that one of my buddies recently sent me a Washington Post article entitled, What Social Science Tells Us about Racism in the Republican Party.

After reading the article, I suggested to him the issue is far more complex than discussed in the article. He is aware of my position on racism, namely that although it is problematic, it has a pragmatic and utilitarian function, driven by DNA.

As for how we respond to the terrorist threat from certain factions of the Islamic faith, I think that where one stands is related to, and also derives from, our DNA. To a significant extent, it determines what we are fearful of, or paranoid about, and the whole fight or flight syndrome bears on our short-term concerns about our longer-term evolutionary survival.

Take for example the issue of guns. I used weapons while serving stateside in the Army, and appreciate what they can do. However, despite traveling in some very dangerous neighborhoods (in the U.S., and Mexico City, Rio, Caracas, Marseille, and Naples), I've never felt the need to have a gun on me or that a gun would make a difference. Yet, I respect those who feels differently.

It’s not that I see myself as Cordell Walker, Texas Ranger. It’s just that I don’t feel the need for a gun. Additionally, I could care less about the government coming to take away the gun I don’t have.

I am convinced that so much is emotion-driven (primarily dependent on our particular electro-chemical formula along with some environmental factors), and not logically driven. It should come as no surprise that so many support Trump's view of the world; they are on Trump’s side of the electro-chemical brain determinative fence, with respect to what we should fear and loath. It’s functional; it works for them, and the options in their toolbox which eliminate fears and threats (and thus makes them feel more secure) are those which decisively accomplish their immediate goal.

We here in America, in my humble opinion, waste far too much time, energy, and resources discussing race, prejudice, and discrimination. People are going to feel what they feel.

Right now, the more interesting issue to me is why so few have really challenged Trump on what he would practically be able to do as the Chief Executive of only 1 branch of government, within the confines of the Constitution. After all, he is not a dictator. The Constitution did not establish a monarchy. But that doesn't really matter, does it, if the reality is in the mind of the beholder? After all, arguably only the intellectual elite care about the legalities of what one elected leader can or cannot legitimately do.

Trump is perhaps the best thing to happen to America in a long time; he's laid bare our visceral concerns, taken off the intellectual veneer and fine clothes, and he's revealed us to be who many in our society really are. I want to know the true feelings and motivations of those who potentially pose a danger to me so that I can figure out what to do; not have a bunch of actors and actresses playing roles suggesting co-existence.

The reason America will have a difficult time winning the war on terror is because we want people to think that we will take the high philosophical road motivated by some higher moral authority. However, unfortunately that doesn't win wars, and we are not generally inclined to bomb civilians. A recent program on WW II suggests things really began to turn around when the Allies started bombing civilian areas occupied by Germans.

Ask the typical person whether, given the choice, they would rather be the noble loser, or the unethical winner. Check out nature shows about how dominant animals / predators handle themselves. We're just animals with larger brains.

For those of you who feel that I pulled this straight out of my rear orifice where the sun doesn’t shine, you are absolutely correct. However, there is a modicum of scientific proof, to support my position, upon examining the work of Robert Sapolsky. But then again, neither he, nor I, would ever considering running for political office.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Post No. 195: Why Those of Us Who Consider Ourselves to be “Pretty Smart” Should Not Be So Quick to Label Donald Trump a “Clown”

© 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

A buddy of mine sent me a copy of a blog post by another blogger where reference is made to Donald Trump as the “clown genius.” Many other commentators have chosen to leave off the word genius. The following is my response, which I originally entitled, Why I Think that Donald Trump is Doing So Well in the Polls, after reading the other blogger’s post.

I have always felt that the political discussions (and almost all discussions about most anything for that matter) which take place on TV (and now other technological platforms) are dominated by those of us fortunate enough to have acquired at least some type of higher education, become professionals of some sort, read certain types of books, make enough money to consider ourselves truly middle-class, OR who are motivated for whatever reason to actively seek out information and analyze it with some degree of detachment.

Some years ago, there was a C-Span2 Book TV program where the author or authors discussed their book about how politics in particular is controlled by roughly 20% [if I remember correctly; it may have been as little as 10%] of the entire population here in the United States, and that ½ of whatever the percentage is considers themselves progressive, and the other ½ considers themselves conservatives.

We sit around talking about policy this and policy that, and position this and position that, just like we do (or did) in our respective professions, and we hang around, socialize, and live near people who might have different views than we do, but still have similar educational, class, and socio-economic backgrounds and experiences, and similar appreciations of history.

When I returned to my hometown in the South after living in Los Angeles for 30 years, and started teaching at the community college level, working day laborer jobs, selling watermelons and peaches (particularly to people in housing projects and poor communities), and traveled “down east” to interview people about the impact of unions and large corporate employers on their lives, it became very clear to me that those who I refer to as “regular folks,” do not have the discussions we “intellectual snobs” have. They have far more significant issues to face in life on a daily basis. When I started blogging, and coming across the views of those who previously did not have a voice which reached beyond their communities, I saw it even more clearly.

They could give a shit about listening to Charlie Rose, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, George Will, or Face the Nation. I contend that they constitute about 80 – 90% % of the population, but that the vast majority of us within the educational or “higher interest” snobbish elite fail to really comprehend their size because we do not deal with them on a regular basis.

It is my position that Mr. Trump speaks to, and to some extent represents, those who have “real issues” in life on a daily basis and who have FEELINGS and positions which may not politically correct, but which are very real. We routinely minimalize their issues and concerns because we intellectual snobs are too busy controlling the agenda and the discussion, and telling others what to do, and how policies should be applied “for the benefit of society.” Donald Trump at least claims (whether rightly or wrongly) that he will get certain things done and take action, not merely talk about them or intellectualize ad nauseam. I believe that he speaks to the huge segment of society with whom we intellectual snobs have little regular contact – folks with REAL issues, and who fight REAL battles on a daily basis.

That so many of us in the rarefied air laugh at him and designate him as a clown speaks volumes in my view.

At the end of the day, big money interests and Super PACs unleased by Citizen’s United will control, and the vast, vast, vast majority of us will continue to be the pawns that we are. As a practical matter, 95% of us who consider ourselves "sophisticated" really have no more marginally significant power than regular folks. We’re just 5 or 6, or maybe 10 paychecks or Social Security payments from disaster, as compared to most of society which lives from paycheck or payment to paycheck or payment.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Post No. 194 : Why, As Some Frame It, "A Conversation about Race," Will NEVER Happen in America

© 2008 and 2015, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

The original title of this post when I first generated it in 2008 was, "Why Racism, Although Problematic, Serves a Pragmatic and Utilitarian Purpose." In the context of the recent shootings by a young Caucasian of numerous African-Americans at a Bible study session in Charleston, South Carolina, many have spoken about that elusive "conversation about race," which we seem to be incapable of conducting here in America. It is my contention that such a conversation will never, never, never, happen.... I periodically review my thoughts from earlier posts to determine whether they are still consistent with my current views, or whether I should change them in light of intervening events. In this instance, they remain the same 7 years later.

Hold tight, give me a moment while I put on my Kevlar protective vest and body armor. “Racism problematic!,” you say; that’s an understatement. I realize that I’m about to take a journey filled with land mines and sniper fire. As I have often said, sometimes you have to go to a place to appreciate that you don’t want to be there on a regular basis. At least I know that I am going to take some heat on this one. Well, maybe not…

I’ll tell you at this point – my intentions are good. Additionally, it is my hope that by the time that you finish reading this, you will consider at least some of what I have said, and return your weapons to their rightful and appropriate place. I’ll also warn you that this piece should be read while sitting on the toilet seat of your favorite bathroom. It’s a tad labyrinthine in nature. Addressing the entire racial history of humankind requires at least two pages.

You see, I’m 56 years of age, and I’ve never really given much thought to this thing called racism. It is a concept that I recognized from a theoretical perspective, and about which I had read. However, I simply could not imagine spending much of one’s time dwelling on it.

I also was afraid that by visiting the issue, even intellectually, it might have a “bittering” effect. Consequently, I came up with a construct in the 1950’s that worked for me, and I must say reasonably satisfactorily, at least for most of my years.

You will recall the recent furor generated by Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments during a sermon. In the context of the Obama campaign, many commentators reminded us that “America has never really dealt with the race issue,” or that we “have never had a conversation about race.”

I beg to differ. We’ve dealt with it in many different ways, and during the course of many conversations. The frustration expressed has really come about as a result of our inability to reach some satisfactory resolution, or at least some consensus about the issue.

I would submit that the reason that America has never really come to grips with the issue is because America has always dealt with it in a manner that results in it becoming an emotional issue at the very beginning of the conversation.

It is difficult to come up with an effective way to address a problem if you just focus on the symptoms, and do not really address the underlying sources. Approaching the subject from a little different perspective might enable us to formulate new solutions.

Quite frankly, although I do not have any empirical evidence to support this, it is my suspicion that we really have not made any progress in racial relations over the past fifty years. By relations, I mean how we feel about other races in our hearts and private thoughts.

That’s what really matters.

America has mucked this whole thing up in about as many ways as possible. There is plenty of resentment and seething anger out there, although it may be “inappropriate” to express or display it.

I actually hold my former secretary, Anne, responsible for setting me up on this racial thing. Virtually everyone who knows me knows that it is not a place that I like to go. (I’ve even been accused of denying that racism exists because of my philosophical attitude.)

Anne sent me an e-mail and inquired as to whether I thought that Obama (who I understand is African-American) was “for real.” She said that she was somewhat intrigued by him, but that she had her reservations, as she did with virtually all politicians. She was interested in my take.

I responded by first noting that at a very early age, I remembered someone saying that the most important thing that an elected leader can do is to convey an attitude or feeling to his or her followers. That person went on to describe the attitude that Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill both displayed during their terms. They had the hearts and minds of their people. Both made their respective nations feel that certain goals were achievable. Some would say that Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, did the same thing for most of his years in office, whether you agreed or disagreed with his policies.

I continued by proposing to Anne, on a more personal level, that we might take some cues about this leadership thing from our parents. Fortunately, for most of us, when we were kids, we thought that they were the greatest people on earth. When we became adults, particularly when we had to deal with them during difficult times, we realized that they are just people, ordinary people, with all of the human flaws and problems that we see in others, and in ourselves.

However, during the period of time when their “leadership” was most important, and had its most significant impact, namely our developing, childhood years, they did what they needed to do to provide sufficient guidance for us to become decent, thinking, human beings and hopefully positive contributors to society.

Whatever our personal issues with them may be, that is about the best that you can ask where there is no instructional or operational manual, or even agreement as to what is right or wrong. I suggested to Anne that it’s not dramatically different with the Leader of the Free World. Stay with me, I’ll get back to this racial thing.

One other thing: When one observes celebrities and famous people, one person can say or do certain things, and you have some doubts about their sincerity. You’re just not quite sure whether it is about the celebrity and his or her ego, as opposed to their really being interested in doing things for the benefit of society.

On the other hand, you observe others, who might say or do some of the exact same things, and folks will say that he or she is sincere and really means it. Then again, there are some folks in whom you do not have much faith or confidence initially, and then you have to mature, or you see them mature over time, resulting in you having a different view.

I suggested to Anne that she had to follow her heart; feel it in her gut. I told her that if you think too hard, and look too long, you’re bound to find disappointment and flaws. It’s inevitable. They exist in us all – and we know it.

Actually, I had not paid much attention to Obama until Caroline Kennedy endorsed him. I had not even entertained the theoretical possibility that a black man might become President in America at this point in our country’s evolution. However, Caroline crystallized a nebulous uncertainty in my mind. Those few, carefully delivered words did the trick for me.

Paraphrasing, she essentially said that in her youth, she did not appreciate or comprehend what her Father meant to others. However, listening to the expression of feelings by others who were around when she was a youth, Obama instilled in her the same type of inspiration that those folks claimed her Father did for them. It’s obviously not about experience, is it?

Is he more qualified than any of the other candidates? Hell, I don’t know. I’m not sure, contrary to the case of race, that it really matters. (Parenthetically, I wondered whether a person, contemplating the selection of a spouse, might consider whether various potential “candidates” were more qualified than others, and whether experience would be a prime determinant.) But, then it hit me – the realization that race was not the primary, instinctive, instantaneous factor that I processed upon focusing on him.

Kennedy’s comment suggested that (1) he had the potential to inspire something in us to move beyond our personal crap; (2) this certain amorphous quality was rare; and (3) we really haven’t seen it for far too long a period of time, and yearned for it. It reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s comment to Helen Hunt, “You make me want to be a better person.” It draws or tugs on your whole being. For millions, Obama apparently makes a lot of people want to follow him, regardless of his position on issues, and irrespective of his lack of experience.

I told Anne that it was, quite frankly, transcendental, in nature.

It occurred to me that not knowing, or not paying attention to, Obama’s race, like the position that most of you occupy vis-à-vis me at this point, might be a good thing. But it also got me “athinking.” Are there some “good” things about racism? Well, “good” might be too strong a word. Although the academicians would question the appropriateness of this, I use the words “race” and “racism” interchangeably, since, as a practical matter, if you did not have the latter, the former would be a non-issue. Let’s get back to why racism, although problematic, serves a pragmatic and utilitarian function in all societies, and has done so since the beginning of humankind. Are you still angry with me now?

There is analysis, and then there is drawing a line for one’s self. A few years ago, I met this gal of a different race. A number of her friends had met me and said that I was “acceptable.” She was apprehensive and uncomfortable about meeting me, and had to get drunk and show up at 11:00 pm in order to face me alone. She reiterated that she had been brought up in a home in a working class town, where her Father had clearly expressed his disdain for members of other races.

Her Sister in the Navy had married a man of a different race, and they had an interracial child, who her Father refused to acknowledge or even see. The Father disowned his daughter. My friend struggled with our relationship for years. She frequently made reference to her internal conflict in getting to know me better, and what she had been taught by her Father. She also noted that the friend, who was most supportive of her Brother as he was dying of AIDS, was a member of a racial group that her Father despised.

What I told her, and what I have come to accept about folks who hold views with which I disagree, is that people adhere to the principles and values that they think or feel work for them. It does not advance our cause to be angry with them if our view of race is different.

While some might view it as ignorance, or a lack of sophistication, I call it “muddling through.” Some folks do not seek out information, education, or people of other races, because knowing more stuff complicates their thought process and ability to function in everyday life. There is, after all, only so much time in a day.

For some folks, occupying it with trying to understand what is really going on is problematic. If one has the benefit of being around certain groups of people, and the time, interest, and resources that permit you to engage others outside of your group, you will probably not view those new and different as threatening. However, if your position in life is less secure and more tenuous, the threat appears to be more real. That is not to suggest that it should, or that I am an apologist for racists.

However, for certain segments of the population, it is simply more efficient for them to deal with people and cultures that they recognize, and concepts that they understand, or take positions that someone else, or some other institution, controls. Does that sound familiar? I admit that it may not be the most palatable thing to say in certain settings.

There are two phrases that I have begun to use with more frequency now that I have reached my mid-fifties. They are, “Don’t try to make your issues my issues,” and, “It’s not the way that I want to spend my time.” Racism is frequently about efficiency, with respect to conduct, thought, and emotion.

We only have so much time or energy that we are willing to devote to relationships with folks outside of our known realm, or our realm of priorities. Racism is also about probabilities. Arguably, there are fewer complications and unexpected events associated with sticking with our own and what we know. Is it limiting? Perhaps it is, if that is an issue for you. However, for people who subscribe to it, racism “works.”

Additionally, there will always be a need for humans to feel that they are better than some group of people, and a recognition that they are less well off or fortunate than others, even though it might not be accurate, fair, or justified. Are there perhaps other ways, not comparative in nature, to establish one’s place in society and establish self-worth and value? That we are still uncomfortable with the subject of race, during an era when Obama might have a chance, is reflective of its enduring problematic legacy.

Have you ever watched any shows following animals in the wild, and wondered about their applicability to understanding human conduct? Imagine that you are a tiger, amongst other tigers. Let’s assume that there are other, different animals in your vicinity. If you are familiar with them, and have had other experiences with them, then your reaction or attitude will reflect that prior experience, however limited it may have been.

If the new animal in your midst is a total stranger, who you have not encountered before, then you need to size it up, your guard is immediately raised, and you must make a decision fairly quickly as to whether it is friend or foe. You may or may not be able to run away or successfully fight the strange new animal.

As humans, we have advantages over our animal counterparts. We can move to certain parts of town, join certain organizations, place our kids in certain types of schools, and otherwise take steps to reduce certain undesirable events, and to increase the probability or number of those events occurring that we consider positive in nature.

But having a larger and more complex brain, we can also do others things. We can depersonalize acts that might be interpreted as racist acts toward us, and realize that the act is really not about us, but about the actor. We can also try to address those systemic and structural issues or conditions that encourage the practice of racism, or that make it such a useful coping mechanism for so many.

Hope springs eternal. Laughingman, of the Institute for Applied Common Sense, wrote in a recent piece:

“[T]he dilemma that this Nation faces is significantly more apparent amongst us aging baby boomers, than amongst the kids who will be inheriting the future implications of our, and our parent’s, mistakes. Half of our racial perception problem is hard wired genetic preference. Those of our ancestors who sought out their own kind, (and we still do this on the basis of first blush visual similarity), were more likely to enjoy the support and protection of the group. Adherence to group think advanced the chances of finding a desirable mate and passing along one's genes through reproduction.”

“The other half of the boomers’ perceptual problem is environmental. We may have learned to shake off the fear driven prejudice and behavior, acquired as children from our less enlightened parents. However, acting equal and thinking equal are different things. This may help explain why the most libertine, least cautious, generation in recent memory (we were, after all, willing to swallow damn near anything put in front of us) has become the most compulsively concerned, micro-managing, group of parents...ever.”

“The good news is our kids seem to have inherited our best thinking, rather than our worst fears. So, the ground work put in by MLK, Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby, and Malcolm X, is showing up as a very new irrelevance of the importance of racial background. Affirmative action has nothing to do with the value of Tiger Woods' endorsement contracts, Oprah's audience, Senator Obama's chances to be our next president, or with the extraordinarily talented Lewis Hamilton's probability of being the next Formula One World Racing Champion.”

“I can't help but think that this is a very good thing. As the population continues to divide into ever smaller tribes based primarily on personal interests, those who pick their leaders based on performance, and emulate their behavior by choice, will enjoy more than their fair share of economic prosperity, and the unfair advantage in the genetic crap shoot.”

“Those who limit their learning to conforming to a previous generation’s preferences may go the way of the Dodo.”

Earlier this week, the world witnessed a generational and philosophical chasm between Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Senator Barack Obama. Rev. Wright has personalized this whole of issue of race, and a result, feels that it is about him.

Obama on the other hand, and this is why he will probably not prevail, has recognized all along that the significance of him even being in the hunt is bigger than the racial factor. However, I don’t think that we are ready for that level of conceptual evaluation yet in this country. (Remember Adlai Stevenson?) That’s why many in the media have turned this into a media circus and resorted to demeaning and demonizing those with whom they disagree.

Yes, America, racism works; and it runs both ways.
© 2008 and 2015, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Post No. 193b: Exist with Caution: You May Not Be Who You Think You Are (or Be Seen the Way You Want Others to View You)

© 2014 and 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

I previously wrote this piece and posted it in December 2014, when there were numerous instances covered by the media of police coming in contact with citizens resulting in disturbing results. Since then, it appears that the media coverage has increased exponentially.

Yesterday, charges were filed against 6 Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. I invite you to check out the various ethnic groups of which the officers are members. Interestingly, the police union supporting them thinks that they are one and the same, namely police officers. I think that the police - citizens events which have occurred between December 2014, and May of this year, make me feel even stronger about the comments I originally made in December 2014.

This is Christmas Day, 2014. According to Dickens, on Christmas Eve in 1812, a young orphan by the name of Pip encountered an escaped convict. That meeting changed Pip’s life, but more importantly, his appreciation of the event evolved over the years which followed. We’re at that point where many reflect on what the year has brought us.

I considered naming this piece, “Everything is in the Eye of the Beholder.” I am often fascinated by the contortions we humans go through trying to understand other human conduct, and our seeming inability to understand why we as individuals are so frequently misunderstood.

Back in my legal days, when I interviewed and deposed hundreds, if not thousands, of witnesses under oath (who seemingly had no dog in the fight), I was struck by how honest people who witnessed the same event could testify so differently about what they saw.

To some extent, I think I may have gained a better understanding of this phenomenon when I saw a PBS program on eyesight and the brain. What I came away with was that instead of the eye and brain working together to take a snapshot or picture of an event, the brain functions more like a hard disk in a computer. Once the eyes (really the senses) transmit the image (or a message in the case of the other senses) to the brain or hard disk, the question is posed, “Where have I encountered this before?"

If it is something familiar, or that we encounter with some regularity, then we go with what we know, or as close to it as we have the time and energy to process it. For that which we don't recognize at all, we come up with an interpretation which we think ensures our continued survival.

Numerous news analysts who have ruminated about this year claim that it has been one dominated by conflict and tension at every imaginable level, and in virtually every geographic area.

Back in the early 1980s, when I used to hang out with a group of 5 fascinating and extraordinary women who called themselves the “Slut Sisters,” several of them maintained that all conflict was due to testosterone.

This year, we’ve had numerous events featured in the news, where the typical citizen was emotionally forced to take a position on one side, or the other, often without even a paltry appreciation of the facts. Reporters sought out friends of those individuals who died at the hands of police, or fugitives from justice who the authorities were pursuing. In almost every instance, the friends and neighbors related diametrically opposed perceptions of the people involved. “He is the most generous person you’d ever want to meet, and he wouldn’t harm a fly,” or “He was vile, scum who should be put to death.”

And this was during the first 2 hours of the coverage of the event, and before Nancy Grace had an opportunity to render a guilty verdict.

It causes one to wonder whether the side we choose is really not by choice, analysis, or even about our participation in the event, but rather about which group to which we can relate the most.

I previously shared my thoughts about race, which I believe is primarily driven by DNA and genetics. In my reality, it’s not a delayed conversation, or one which we keep trying to avoid, as much as it is one which we cannot have (and never will), because it is so deep within us that we cannot explain it.

Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer for both Miss Havisham and Pip’s benefactor in the 1946 film version of Great Expectations, suggests to Pip, "Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There is no better rule."

One would think that this would suffice for making decent and fair judgment calls, assuming once again that one has the time, interest, and motivation to pursue the evidence. But two other events threw a monkey wrench in my quest to understand this year’s conflict.

I started thinking about the issue of fear, and how important a factor it might be. In an earlier post, I questioned why fear was not characterized as the Eighty Deadly Sin. There is a television network by the name of TVOne. An African-American journalist and syndicated columnist, Roland S. Martin, who appears regularly on CNN, also anchors a news show on TVOne. During the frequently aired trailer for his show, he asks, “Why is America so afraid of black people?”

Then a couple of years ago, while watching C-Span2, Book TV, I heard a book discussion involving author Michael Shermer, a columnist for Scientific American, and the publisher of Skeptic Magazine. The title of the book says it all, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts to Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.”

So, what’s the take away from all of this? I must confess that I don’t know with any degree of certainty, but suggest that neither should you. However, we need to consider something different. Perhaps we could focus on the restructuring of those systems or modifying those environments where there are higher probabilities of conflict, and not focus as much on explaining conflict on an individual or even a group level. Maybe we should accept conflict on an individual or group level, as a given.

Martin Wolf is the Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator for the Financial Times, who recently appeared on the Charlie Rose show. He suggests that we need to urgently address some global economic issues which were also extant during the years leading up to World War II. His concern is that if we do not, we may find ourselves in another major, global conflict. In an environment where intense competition and paranoia rule, that more animal, survival-oriented part of our brain takes over.

I’m not sure if he is right. However, I’m not looking forward to another year of conflict like we had this year. And neither is Pip.

Merry Christmas to all, and remember what the O.J. trial may have revealed about us….

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Post No. 193a: The Anticipation (Or Perhaps, The Lack Thereof)

We first generated this piece in January 2011, just minutes before President Obama delivered his State of the Union Speech at that time. Upon reviewing it earlier today, we concluded that not much has changed. What do you think?

© 2011, 2014, and 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

It is now 7:59 pm EST, as we begin to type this piece. President Obama delivers his State of the Union message in just 61 minutes, and it is our intention to have this article posted long before the broadcast begins.

In addition, Turner Classic Movies will air, at 8:00 pm EST, what some consider the best Laurel & Hardy movie ever made, Sons of the Desert.

Suffice it to say that we are ”under the gun.” But not nearly as much as our President, following what many have termed the shellacking he took during the mid-term elections. As he walks to the podium, he will be subject to intense scrutiny, and before the night is over, he might wish that he had walked across the Sahara under the glaring light of the equatorial sun.

This piece is not about how he will perform or be received, at least not in an objective sense, but rather how so many have already peeped into their crystal balls, and know how he will perform. For the past three days, the talking heads have told us what they expect of him this evening.

Part of the responsibility for this attitude can be laid at the foot of the President and his staff themselves. In preparation for the speech, the White House has leaked its intentions, put out press releases, and employed all manner of preemptive and public relations vehicles to gain the upper hand and capitalize on the moment.

His detractors have exerted an equal, if not greater, amount of energy preparing to do the Tonya Harding, and test his knee caps with their version of Obamacare, a lead pipe.

As ridiculous as it may seem, somehow we yearn for an era (if ever one existed), where all of us wait in anticipation to listen to what our President has to say, hoping that it will somehow inspire us, and lift us out of our doldrums.

In a recent documentary on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and the final days of the Civil War, a noted historian quipped, “One of the great ironies about American democracy is that we claim that control is within the power of the people, and yet we yearn for a savior to deliver us from our problems.

[Those of you reading this before the President’s speech might switch over to the Laurel & Hardy movie right now. It’s a beauty.]

A couple of posts ago, in Where Our Heads Take Us, we spoke of preconceived ideas and their power. At the end of the evening, we strongly suspect that the Democrats will give the President an “A,” and the Republicans will provide a grade of C-, noting that the President is a gifted orator, although he is wedded to the teleprompter.

And that can’t be good.

For any of us, and definitely not for the Nation.

And so we must confess that we are guilty of having preconceived notions also, because we anticipate that nothing will change, and the politicians will all return to business as usual, and all the talk about the potential for a change in tone in Washington following the Arizona shootings will be for naught.

Is that sad? Yes, especially because we consider ourselves to be idealistic optimists. We are also pragmatists.

But there’s hope out there even amongst some of our most cynical followers. Take for example Douglas, who has been with us from the very beginning. In response to our last post, Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, he commented:

“I would argue that each of us, if we are concerned about violent speech, not engage in it. Who knows? It might catch on.”

Douglas is also the guy who from experience told us that when he decided to not argue with his wife and agree with her, it didn’t work, and that she continued to argue.

We’ve often told friends of the Institute that this experience (operating this blog) has been simultaneously one of the most rewarding during our lifetimes (in that we have learned so much about how others think), and one of the most frustrating (wondering whether they read the same article that we wrote).

S___ has to got to get better than this. It just has to….

"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"™