“The Economy, Stupid” and Matt Taibbi

Finally, after a long, long few weeks, I have a day off today with a weekend off at the end of the coming week. I have some time to think, some time to read, and some time to just be. Well, that is after doing a few chores that I am certain my better half prefers that I get done. Before I get into that messiness, though, I am going to write, by god. I haven’t had much time to pay attention to, well, anything of late. It has been go, go, go without a stop.

I did make some time to read a book that I bought a few weeks back, Matt Taibbi’s The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. I must say that I am a fan of his writing, and was sad to see him leave RollingStone magazine. He was the only reason I had a subscription to that periodical. I don’t remember the first time I read him; I do recall that upon my first reading, I immediately compared him to Hunter S. Thompson. His writing style and wit are, well, Thompsonesque.

After reading a few of his articles in the magazine and keeping up with his blog, I decided to read one of his books, Griftopia. I was amazed after reading it, and consequently, I re-read it recently. I suggest reading it, if you haven’t already.

I had seen somewhere that he was coming out with a new book, but it slipped my mind until my wife and I went to the bookstore. I went immediately, as I always do, to the “Current Events” section at Barnes & Noble, did my scan of recently released titles, and came across Taibbi’s new book. Without hesitation, I picked it up and scanned the summary on the book jacket, followed by a quick glance through the introduction. I did not even look at the price of the book, though I know it would be pricey since it was a hardcover, but I did not care.

See, if you read Taibbi, or follow him in any sense, you know that he has written a ton concerning the present day wealth gap in the United States, well really the world, but primarily the US. Following the crash of the housing bubble, the concurrent collapse of the financial sector, and then the inevitable recession of the world economy, Taibbi seemed to make investigating the causes and effects of the crash, as well as the outcome of the major players involved, the primary subject of his writing.

I am fascinated by the subject as well. I’ve read a lot on the subject, trying to wrap my head around it all and understand what happened, but, more importantly, how and why it was allowed to happen in the first place. The thing is, though, I am not an economist, and I have a relatively rudimentary understanding of economic jargon and I won’t even get started on the math. I took my two courses on economics in college, micro and macro, and passed them both with decent grades (although micro nearly destroyed me).  I also took a course on World Economic History that came more closely to destroying me than micro did, so I can give you a collegiate sophomore level analysis of what happened and even then it will probably be only about an A-, probably a B+, but A- at best.

Anyway, as I said, I am fascinated by the subject. Really, I’m fascinated by the economy period. I mean, the actions of the major players within the economy and the overall health of it are important…really important, and as such, those actions and that health trickle down and affect us either positively or negatively. Everyone of us.

Enough about all of that…

Essentially, Taibbi’s book is a story of the different types of treatment given to those that have and those that don’t. For a country that prides itself on equality and justice for all, the levels of distinct inequality concerning this treatment should piss the people off, but really, it doesn’t.

The last line of the book says it all. “We don’t do it often enough.” Sorry for the spoiler, but when I read that line at the end of the 412 pages that Taibbi uses to display his argument, I just had to nod my head in agreement.

I want to say more about the book, but I would prefer that everyone go out and get themselves a copy and read it. It’s written in plain English without so much economic or market jargon, so it is pretty easily understood.

I know, maybe I’m weird.  Does anyone else find this stuff as fascinating as I do?

Advertisements

Busy, Busy, Busy

It’s Sunday morning which affords me some time to put some thoughts together. The next couple of weeks are going to be a challenge to my patience and my overall well-being (not to sound melodramatic or anything). I just feel off when I’m unable to have some time to reflect or just be. It is one of my favorite activities. I hate the “go, go, go” attitude. I mean, what does it really accomplish? What does being so damned busy that you cannot see the world around you or appreciate the little things in it that add to one’s life? It’s like an endless chase that does nothing but motivate one to continue chasing something that really isn’t there. Really, it’s mind-numbing. There has to be something more to being here. I refuse to believe that we are here simply to stay busy and produce. I refuse to believe that we are nothing more than units of production.

Take, for example, the word business. It is defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary as: 1. a person’s regular occupation, profession, or trade, 2.the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce, 3. an affair or series of events, typically scandalous or discreditable one, 4. actions other than dialogue performed by actors, and 5. a scolding; harsh verbal criticism.

Then take the root of that word…busy. Busy is an adjective, defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as having a great deal to do, being occupied with or concentrating on a particular activity or object of attention, full of activity, excessively detailed or decorated; fussy, or engaged.

It hit me a little while back, the relationship between the two words busy and business. We probably hear those words in some context everyday, but especially for the word business, do we rarely consider where the word comes from. It comes from the word busy. After looking at the entry for business in the New Oxford American Dictionary, I’ve learned that in Old English the original sense of the word stood for anxiety. The sense has apparently changed, because I know that when I am engaged in business of some kind, there is a level of anxiety, or anxiousness, involved driving me to finish the business successfully. Depending on the level, or importance, of the business being conducted, the level of anxiety can be great or small. Even still, there is some anxiety, so the Old English sense, in my humble opinion, still applies. Then during the Middle Ages, the word came to mean “the state of being busy.” This was apparently used up until the 18th Century, but the word was then changed from business to busyness. That’s just kind of something to think about. Back to business…as it were…
We are given life. Where it comes from really isn’t important in this line of thought, but we are given life all the same.  I cannot comprehend that in order for the gift of life to have value one must maintain a level of busyness…or business…the hell with it…one must stay busy. One is deemed as successful if he, or she, is busy. The level of success accorded to a particular individual is directly correlated to the level of busyness he, or she, maintains. Then there are arbitrary notions that one person’s busyness is worth more than another’s. Ditchdiggers or janitors do not receive as much compensation for their busyness as a computer programmer or an investment banker. They could maintain comparable levels of busyness, but that does not matter. The banker’s level of busyness is worth more to society than the janitor’s.

I’m not really sure where I am going with this, but it is something that I want to more deeply consider and think about. There are levels of inequality within this world that are built upon what I believe are faulty premises..staggering levels that we are all immune to simply because we are to busy, or wrapped up in our own busyness or business, to see or to care. With such, I firmly believe that we lose what it is that makes us distinctly human.

 

We’re Doing It Wrong.

I just finished reading this article talking about the creation of bullet-proof blankets for children at school.  I applaud the creator for thinking of, and making, something that can provide even a modicum of safety and security for our young people, but it deeply saddens me that such an idea was even contemplated in the first place.

It saddens me that our society is so drenched in violence that people are completely desensitized to it.  It saddens me that we have allowed it to happen.  We condone it every day, either actively or passively.  We glorify it rather than reflect and learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again.  We memorialize violent acts through memorializing the victims rather than doing anything to ensure, or even partially prevent, such acts from ever occurring again.  And it keeps happening more and more and more.

Apparently, such thinking is considered naïve and unrealistic.  I mean, how does anyone think that all violence can be stopped?  It’s impossible.  Violence is going to occur.  It is going to happen, so why try to stop it?  Kind of reminds me of a phrase I heard after two boys got into a fight, “oh well, boys will be boys.” This coming from the father of one of the boys.  This.  This is part of the problem, but only part, but it does get us closer to the source, but that comes later.

Through our actions and words we advocate violence as a method of solving problems, or better yet, eliminating them.  We do not deal with it.  We beat it into submission until it goes away or erase issues from our consciouses altogether.

Think about this.  No war has ever ended because the ones doing the fighting ran out of bullets or bombs.  Wars are ended at tables or desks, and with pen, paper and discussion.

Violence tends to come about because someone wants something they feel they cannot get through other means, or, maybe, the perpetrators of violence believe it to be the most effective, or easiest, means with which to obtain what it is they desire.

Example:

My brother and I are two years apart in age.  I am the older.  He, the younger.  We fought all the time, and it was usually because one of us had something, or was doing something, the other wanted or wanted to do.  When the one doing would not give, shouting typically ensued.  Then when the yelling did nothing, pushing, shoving, grabbing, arm twisting, and punching started.  Sometimes it was effective. Most of the time, however, not so much.  What usually happened was that the parents would intervene and we were both denied, so we both lost. Violence accomplished nothing.

We are better than the violence we see or read about everyday.  We are put together with minds that understand compassion, that have empathy.  We have minds that are capable of understanding and working through issues in a nonviolent manner.  Such is much more challenging than escalating to violence. Challenges that require constant work do not bode well for a society that craves instant gratification.  We are willing to work ourselves to the bone in order to obtain what we want or need materially.  Adults get in fist fights while Christmas shopping, think about that, too.  Yet, when it comes to being better humans or being more humane, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”  Do you think we have a problem yet?

We are better than the violence that people protect themselves from everyday.  Some carry a firearm with them everywhere they go.  What does that say about a society when, number one, one feels that in order to feel safe going to the grocery store they have to be packing a pistol, or number two, that such would even be condoned?  What does it say about a society in which an individual develops bullet-proof blankets in the hopes that they will save children’s lives at school?  What does it say about a society that even considers arming teachers or other school faculty and staff to provide security at a school?  What does it say about a society that attempts to solve problems by throwing possible solutions at the symptoms of the issue rather than the source? It’s kind of like trying to cure strep throat by placing a cool cloth on a fevered forehead.

What is the source?  Where does the violence come from?  Does it come from within?  Or from without?

I have my ideas, most of which lie within society itself, but I am sure it is not that simple.  Most of the ideas that I have are simply symptoms, but maybe not.  As I said before, we glorify violence.  We watch it on television.  Often times some pay extra to watch human beings beat one another senseless for money.  People promote this.  People participate in it, and people pay to watch it.  Name another species of animal on the planet that does this.  Sure, there is violence within other parts of the animal kingdom.  There are challenges for dominion and killing done for the purposes of survival.  We, on the other hand, have forward thinking, intellect, and reason. We can see, process, and understand the consequences of our actions.  Such sets us apart from what we see on Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel.  I mean, if they show documentaries anymore besides Shark Week.

The violence that I am thinking about is not only gun violence.  We are surrounded by violence of all kinds.  People are killed by violent people with guns, knives, or bare hands to name a few tools.  Some tools make it easier to kill than other ones.  Some tools were made specifically for the purpose of unleashing death.  Some tools are misused and become harbingers of death.  This is a hotly contested debate that only attempts to control a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself.

People kill or beat out of perceived necessity, desire, or fear.  People commit violence due to a lack of understanding and/or compassion for those that live lives in a different way.  People kill or harm in order to defend the ones they love and what is theirs. People kill out of anger.  People kill or commit violence because of a lack of empathy toward fellow human beings.

Earlier, I wrote of what saddens me about all of this, but here is what saddens me the most…

Some, many maybe, will read this post and scoff. They will consider it naïve, immature, idealistic, and unrealistic. The response will be that violence cannot be ended. There has always been violence.  There will always be violence. There are violent people in the world. There is nothing that can be done about that.

We will quit before we even get started. It will end before it begins. The idea will fail before even having the opportunity to succeed.

There is a quote from one of Noam Chomsky’s most recent books,  Hopes and Prospects, I particularly enjoy, and I think it bears stating here:

“Historical amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon, not only because it undermines moral and intellectual integrity, but also because it lays the groundwork for crimes that lie ahead.”

Essentially, what we do not remember or learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. As our society continues to disconnect from one another, the human connections we are possible of establishing and maintaining will continue to wither.  Rather than being seen as people, we will see each other as small square profile pictures with little thought or regard toward the person within the photo; lacking the compassion or understanding to even attempt to see their struggles or feelings or their hopes and dreams.

What makes us human and separates us from the rest of the world is that we have this conscious choice. We can choose to be empathetic, compassionate, and understanding people; or we can choose to ignore this gift we have. Some say it is God given. Some say it is simply an evolution of animal psychology. That does not matter here. Whether it is given to us by God or by Nature, it is being thrown away with little regard for the consequences that we can more than easily see every single time another human being is murdered or beaten or raped by another human being.

We are supposed to be a civil species at either the pinnacle of evolution or made distinctly in God’s image. You choose your belief. I personally believe that we are failing on both counts, and the continued violence and glorification and justification, either active or passive, of it is a perfect and sad illustration of that failure.

 

We are…

“When we are honest, we admit how agreeable it can feel to be singled out for favored treatment.  The biggest barrier to equality for all is that inequality for some feels good.”

-Philip Gulley, The Awakened Soul, Part 12:  Democratic Character Structure

“As bad and frightening as mind-based forgetfulness can be, it is in no way as damaging as soul-based forgetfulness, when we forget what it means to be human, when we can no longer identify with the forgotten, the outcast, the poor, the hurting, the left out, and the left behind.”

-Philip Gulley, The Awakened Soul, Part 13:  When the Soul Forgets

This has been on my mind a lot over the last week.  I read the pieces in which they are contained toward the beginning of the week, and have had little time to think about them very much.

I lied in my last post when I said that I had not written anything in my notebook this week, because I did write these passages, and jotted down some thoughts concerning them.  I am going to begin there and see where this goes…

I admit that empathy is not my go to reaction all of the time.  Often, my knee jerk reaction is something more negative when it comes to someone screwing up, underachieving, making a bad decision, or otherwise living in a way with which I disagree.  This has a lot to do with my patience, which in some cases is nonexistent, especially when it comes to what translates in my mind as willful ignorance, stupidity, or laziness.  One thing that I am just as impatient about, and have a negative reaction toward, is when I hear or see another refusing to sympathize or empathize with another human being that has done no wrong toward anyone.  I guess in some ways that makes me a hypocrite.

Usually, once I slow down to think about these things, I see the error of my ways, but there are occasions when such will never happen.  One instance is willful intolerance, or willfully intolerant people; especially those that are intolerant of people who do no harm to others in any way.  Their intolerance is fueled by a lack of empathy because they refuse to understand something, or someone, that is wholly different from them or what they believe.  However, in order to have or show empathy, one need not agree with another.  They do not even really need to understand what it is they are refusing to tolerate. They simply need to understand what their actions are doing to those whom they are showing their intolerance.

It goes back to one of the above quotes from Philip Gulley.  Regardless of our present stations in life, we have all been in a position that puts us against the fray or singled out from the status quo.  We’ve all been there, and we remember how lonely it feels.  We all have experienced being told that something we are doing is wrong, yet we know in our heart, our soul, that what we are doing is right, and we want nothing more than to have our actions or points of view accepted.  We seek that connection with people, that connection that tells us that it is okay, that it will be okay, and life will go on.  We seek empathy.

Without that empathetic connection, remembering that in some way we have been there and can identify with the down-trodden, we lose a bit of our soul.  We lose a part of us that makes us distinctly human.

We are not perfect beings.  We never will be. Not the first one of us.  It is here that we are all equal.  We all make bad decisions, and sometimes those decisions bring harm to ourselves or to others.  With those decisions, there are always repercussions.  When the harm is done to ourselves, hopefully we learn from it in order to not make the same decision again.  When the harm is done to another, recompense must be brought to bear. With both cases, empathy is a necessary component to ensure neither happens again.

To simply say that one is undeserving of the same joys that others experience because they live a life that is different from the predominant world view is wrong, especially if that joy will bring happiness to them while not affecting another’s life in a negative way.

We have a challenge before us in that, as the first quote above illustrates, we all want to be given favored treatment for being right, or better yet, for being righteous. We are a prideful lot, even the most humble or penitent of us, and nothing fuels that pride more than the justification received when our actions or thoughts are given credence by those with whom we most strongly agree or identify.

We then forget that there are people that do not think the same way we do. People have different value systems; be they spiritual, material, or moral. As long as what is believed, or what one thinks, does not bring physical or mental harm to themselves or others, there is no need to degrade or tear those that do think or live differently down. Such only fuels an imaginary righteousness and puts people on different levels that do not exist but only in our own prideful minds.

We all have a right to live happily in the way that we choose, again, as long as that life does not bring physical or mental harm to ourselves or others. We all have a responsiblity to treat others in the manner with which we wish to be treated. These are rules that I was taught during my childhood.  I have no doubt that many were taught just the same way.

I work on this daily.  I take many deep breaths and do my best to understand positions that are counter to my own.  It is hard…I mean hard, and sometimes I fail. It is a challenge, and will continue to be.  It is a process; but one that will make me a better person in the long run, and will persist in making my life more pleasant and livable.

In essence, it is about bringing light to the lives of those we love, including ourselves, and those around us, rather than spreading darkness, and remembering that we all have a common core, a starting point that is inherently the same.  We are all people.  We are all human, and not one of us is perfect.

Now that is something with which I can empathize. Can you?

So Much Information, So Little Time

It has been a scatter-brained kind of week, and a little busy, too.  I haven’t had much time to sit and collect my thoughts, so there has not been much writing going on this week.  As a matter of fact, I have not once picked up my trusty notebook to jot anything down.  So let’s just go with another free writing session for this post…

It’s Saturday morning, and I just finished my weekend coffee.  If you follow me here or on Facebook, you know just how much I relish my weekend coffee.  And this weekend is no different.  The biggest difference is that I slept in this morning, waking up at around 8:30 or so, which never, ever happens.  I stayed up pretty late last night, too, and that, also, never happens…well anymore.

So I was a little late in having my coffee, but I had it nonetheless, and it was good…everything I knew it would be.

I’ve done the scan of the Facebook news feed and seen things that piss me off, make me happy, make me think, make me sad, or make me glad.  I’ve looked over my wordpress reader and caught up on a couple of the blogs that I follow.  Now, I’m sitting here to write, and little is coming to my mind and sticking around long enough to put something coherent together.

One thing that floats in and floats out is this controversy surrounding the release of the former POW, Bowe Bergdahl.  I’m not going to weigh in on this very much, because, one, I do not know too much about it, other than what has been spoon fed to us by the media, and, two, because I do not know too much about it, other than what has been spoon fed to us by the media.  All I do know is that he is a soldier in the US Army that was released by the Taliban in Afghanistan in exchange for five individuals held at Guantanamo Bay.  The funny thing is that is all any of us really know beyond what has been given to us by the media outlet from which we choose to receive our information.

If you read, watch, or otherwise observe multiple media outlets, you have received different points of view and opinions given by experts, former and active military personnel, politicians, or anyone else pretending they know what the deal is.  This is just one example of the amount of information out there and the vast number of opinions, facts, or observations that bombard us every single day.

It’s hard to know what is the truth anymore; because, as the media is teaching us, the truth is subjective.  It depends on how one views a particular situation, and that same one’s gut feeling concerning it.  We rush to judgement, handing out a verdict before evidence is presented, explained, and debated.  The truth no longer waits for objectivity.  It relies on the speed of its spread in order to influence thought so that the vessel spreading the truth can have bragging rights exclaiming “that you heard it here first.”

I dare say that with any “breaking news” story that has been broken in the past, I don’t know, ten years, a misconception or flat out falsehood, has been spread as the truth to the four corners of the globe, and even with evidence that points to the contrary, that truth is held on to with a stubborn insistence of its veracity.

This is just one reason why I rarely read or watch the news anymore, especially from an outlet that is more beholden to its advertisers and stockholders than it is to the people to whom they provide the information.  If I do catch anything, I do my best to glean what little fact may be presented in a piece, and then ignore, or try to forget, any of the fluff or opinion that is designed to keep one coming back for more.

Anyway, that is what is on my mind this morning as my fingers tickle the keyboard.

He Was Right

“Of course, there is a portion of reading quite indispensable to a wise man. History and exact science he must learn by laborious reading. Colleges, in the like manner, have their indispensable office,–to teach elements. But they can only higher serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame. Thought and knowledge are natures in which apparatus and pretension avail nothing. Gowns, and pecuniary foundations, though of towns of gold, can never countervail the least sentence or syllable of wit. Forget this, and our American colleges will recede in their public importance, whilst they grow rich every year.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar

I read this a couple of weeks ago and it has just stayed with me.  The words were first spoken by Emerson in 1837 during an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now, I am not an expert when it comes to higher learning or the institutions of such, other than to say that I have a Bachelor’s Degree and aspire to even higher education.  Yet, when I think of my alma mater in terms of this quote, along with the incredible sense of urgency by politicians to get students enrolled into math and science programs with endless government subsidized loans, my eyes open and I see that few heed the warning Emerson gave nearly 200 years ago.

Consider also the meteoric rise of for-profit colleges and trade institutions and the point is even further illustrated.

Truth is that colleges and universities are becoming training centers rather than institutions of higher learning, and, as one that sees the importance of the arts and humanities, also math and the sciences, and how that combination gives a well-rounded education, that is troubling.

The traditional subjects, the arts, humanities, mathematics, and sciences teach one to probe more deeply, to ask questions and seek answers, to innovate in order to find solutions.  They promote thought beyond simple rote memorization, which is incredibly boring and less than stimulating to the mind.  There is always a question to be asked and answered, and there is always an answer seeking to be found.  To know the right question to ask is to take the first step in discovering what is being sought.  Other materials have failed to ask it and without the question, there can be no answer.  With answers still waiting for their questions to be asked, there is more knowledge to acquire, and with more knowledge to acquire, there is a continued need for education, rather than indoctrination or job training.  With more time spent indoctrinating students with “proven” techniques, models, and ideas, there is less time spent engaging creative areas and then a lack of true ingenuity creeps in and sets the ground for little to no innovation. With less encouragement for innovative thought or creativity, there is a loss of newly acquired knowledge, leaving education stale and, overall, unrewarding.

I was reading an article earlier today at Salon.com, the title of which is “Congratulations, Class of 2014:  You’re Totally Screwed.”  It states that the average student loan borrower that completes an undergraduate degree owes an average of $33,000 (I feel your pain. I still owe $23,000 on mine). Among other things, I highly recommend the piece and sharing it far and wide.  One sentence that stood out to me, “Actually, the opposite is closer to the truth:  college costs more and more even as it gets objectively worse and worse.”  I think there is probably some truth to that, in terms that previous generations’ educational experiences were a better bang for the buck. The article goes on to talk about the perils and troubles experienced by adjunct faculty that are hired by universities in order to cut costs for tenure-tracked positions.  Perhaps I am incredibly naive and maybe a bit utopian in my thoughts, but I believe education to be an endeavor that should not seek profit and growth for profit’s and growth’s sake, but to further the search for knowledge.  Not every worthwhile pursuit needs profit and infinite growth.  How large does a school need to be in order to maintain a healthy bottom-line which is being fed constantly by tuition costs that rise steadily and continuously?

Back to my alma-mater…

It is a public university, a part of the state university system.  I remember visiting the school and loving the campus. It was beautiful and not overly huge. If you humped it, you could get from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. Classes averaged about 20-25 students (my senior level classes and some of my junior level classes were less than 10) excluding freshman/general education courses and introductory classes, but even then I think my largest class was probably 100 students or so.

I’m not sure what the class size is now, but I know the school continues to grow. Every year that I lived in the area, about 15 years (I dropped out for a while and went to work.  I went back later once I got my shit together.), there was a construction project going on somewhere.  A new science building for the chemistry, physics and astronomy departments.  An addition to the old science building that houses the biology, geology, geography, and anthropology departments. A new dormitory or two or three.  A new cafeteria.  Two new parking decks on campus.  A new library (thank god.  The old one SUCKED). The renovation of the old library into a classroom building that contains the history and political science departments (where I was when I was not in the new library). A refurbished football stadium with expanded seating and press/spectator boxes. New athletic facilities for the baseball, basketball, softball, and tennis programs.  A new arena known as the Convocation Center. A new student recreation facility. And a revamped student union and student bookstore. When I left, the school was breaking ground on a new facility for the school of education. There are others, I am sure, but these stick out in my mind.

I love my school. I loved attending it, and I love the area. I am convinced that there is not a better place on earth. It is heaven. There are things that put a damper on the experience, though, and every one is due to growth of the university. The endless construction projects create havoc on the campus and are unsightly, taking away from the beauty of everything else surround it.  With growth, there are more people. Holy crap, more people and traffic. The traffic. Oh god, the traffic. It used to be only on football Saturdays that one avoided getting in a car unless you absolutely had to. Now, it truly is every day, especially during the academic year. It’s awful and you can damn well count on having a stroke or a coronary everytime you get behind the wheel and on the road.

I don’t know the total cost for all of these projects and the others that have surely sprouted up since I left the area a few years ago, but I do know how much tuition increased from my inaugural semester until my final semester as a full-time student some years later.  Over 300% just for classes, not including any price hikes for campus room and board or books and materials for class.

I’m just spitballing here, but what if the school spent more time, money, and energy showing what the faculty actually do in their classrooms and laboratories rather than shaping up the buildings that house them, it would get a more effective and efficient use for every dollar spent.  If schools are seeking students whose wish is to attend a university with stellar athletic facilities and shiny new buildings without a thought or care about what they will actually be learning or doing, then institutions of higher learning are most definitely missing the point.

Emerson was right and we can’t even see it, and that saddens me.

A Principled Solution

Regardless of what I may think or say, I am not always right. I think those are some of the most difficult words to say. I’m usually right, anyway. Well…sometimes I’m right. My wife will give me that much.

And those times when I am right, I thoroughly enjoy. Being right is one of life’s great pleasures. It does not matter why I am right or what I am right about but just the fact that I am right brings loads of happiness and delight my way.

Sometimes I am wrong, but that’s done on purpose. It’s good to spread the right around from time to time. You know…just give ’em a taste, get ’em hooked, and they’ll come back wanting more.

Being right is addictive. It is to me anyway. I may have a problem, but that is for another post. I spend my life looking for the right answers, and it seems like a neverending quest. Searching, searching, searching everywhere. Looking for the elusive right answer that will solve a given problem. Looking for the solution that will come without a conflicting response or opinion. I look for these and when I cannot find them, I try desperately to develop them in my mind. When that does not work, I go to like-minded souls that will reassure me that the course I wish to take is the right one and will not faulter. I check my beliefs and my unshakable bedrock of principles against the issue that needs addressing. It is in those things, those places and recesses of my mind I find solace. I find comfort and reassurance. Yet, the issue remains unresolved.

People change.

Needs change.

Wants change.

Situations change.

Seasons change.

The weather changes.

Minds change.

With changes, questions change and answers change. As much as we would like to believe that the world is black and white and is set in stone; it surely is not. Rather the world is fluid. It is always changing and shifting, both figuratively and literally, and perhaps in the most minute ways. Those that wish to survive in it must learn to grow and adapt to the changes that are coming and that will come.

With the immense challenge that comes with keeping up with a changing world, there is a need to come to grips with the uncertainty that is sure to accompany those changes that will arise. More gray will be thrown into a world that is already muddled with many shades of gray between the already indistinguishable black and white. Undoubtedly, panic will ensue with some of the changes that perceivably threaten the status quo. People will not know what happens next, as much as we pride ourselves in believing we do know. Tempers will rise. Defensive mindsets will take over. Comfort will be sought within groups of like-minded people. Instead of built, bridges will be burned.

We see it all the time in politics and government, but this happens in the everyday as well. Bridges must be built and maintained between contesting ideas in order to promote meaningful solutions that each holder of a given idea believes to be correct. It is here, in these bridges, that the real work of problem solving is done. It takes hard work, a lot of communicating, and a little humility to find satisfying and agreeable solutions that will alleviate the problems that accompany a change that requires action or an obstacle to overcome.

However, we allow individual egos to get in the way (See the opening paragraph). Egos and the individual’s perception of need taints the process and clouds the issue that needs to be addressed. It is easy to see this everywhere. Just turn on the television. There are an endless number of voices and views which pander to individual wants, needs, and egos. They provide us a zone of comfort and an area of certainty within a truly uncertain world. Within them, we know our point of view is safe and right. It is easier to stay within those walls than it is to come out and experience another point of view, or at the very least, entertain one. Yet, in order to see the whole picture and find a solution to it, it is necessary to put egos on hold and allow “the better angels of our nature” to shine forth and show the way to meaningful solutions to issues that come with the changing world. Add to that time and patience and reflection, and we can accomplish anything.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the most patient person. I find it difficult to maintain a patient attitude, especially when there is a problem. Often, I will make my point of view known with little regard toward those who disagree with my position. Eventually, I will listen to an opposing idea, and after immediately dismissing it, I will take time to contemplate or even consider the prospect. It may not be right, but there is planted the seed of a possibility, the chance that an idea can be built which incorporates the better parts of competing views; and then, that idea, or multiple ideas, may be better on the whole than the original competing propositions.

It seems to me that this is the only way to bring about any meaningful change that has a chance of lasting. What most people are afraid of, I think, is the idea that they may come to empathize or sympathize with an idea or principle that is opposite to what they believe. They do not want to consider that, though their idea is right, there may be a better idea wandering in the fray. For many, to empathize, sympathize, or otherwise identify with a diametrically opposed position means to cast doubt on one’s own position or principles. If such is the case, then perhaps that position  or those principles require change, and there is nothing wrong with that.

It takes a strong character to be willing to look at one’s self, and what one believes, and see that a change is necessary. It happens to the best of us, even me, and will continue to happen. We learn new things through experience, and life is just that…a series of experiences. What we do with what we learn speaks volumes about the people we are and that which we want to be.

And maybe, just maybe, through learning by way of experience, we can adopt better principles upon which to lay stronger, more worthwhile, and sturdy foundations.

The Best Idea Ever….EVER

I have the writing bug this morning, but no clear topic on which to write, so please bear with me.  Sometimes it is just better for me to put some words down on paper or screen, as it were, than to let them just keep swirling around the abysmal black hole that is my mind. Good, earth shattering ideas or thoughts come up all the time, and are immediately lost without the opportunity for the greater humanity to even catch a glimpse.

Right now, it’s hot. I mean hot. I’m talking over 100 degrees hot because the weather cannot make up its mind on whether it wants to stay cool or get warm, so the ancient prehistoric HVAC system at work is having a more than difficult time adjusting to the schizophrenic temperature changes. I could go on and on about that, but you would bore quickly…let’s just leave it that I am hot and tired of my clothes sticking to me.

Now that you have that wonderful image branded into your imagination, word has it that the NBA has helped confirm that there are still racists living among us in the good ol US of A. Some say the douchecanoe was set up, but does that really matter? If you’re going to be a racist, own up to it. You apparently have principles. Stick by them and let others know what they are, otherwise you’re just a douchecanoe that sells out your principles and resides below those loud and proud racists that inhabit the lower levels of human decency, but at least they are principled.

There’s a nutjob out in Nevada that wants to take on the Federal government that has apparently garnered quite the following. To him and his followers I say bring it on. I think history shows what happens to those that pick a fight with the government of the United States. Put up or shut up. We’re tired of your grandstanding. Your moment in the spotlight is over. Your fifteen seconds are up. Shit or get off the pot. Think of it this way…we Americans are proud of the strength of our fighting forces, our men and women in uniform. We dare countries to get in our way or fuck with us. Do you think for one minute that the same fighting force that represents the physical might of the United States government, the same fighting force that eats sovereign nations for breakfast, will blink more than once when it comes time to bite instead of bark. Get over yourself. Pay your fines, shut your mouth and move on.

And there it is…Damn, we are a petulant, whiney bunch of people. Note, I said we. We whine about everything…EVERYTHING. We whine about the government. We whine about food quality and food standards. We whine about the media. We whine about popular culture. We whine about how people with which we disagree suck. We whine about gas prices. We whine about food prices. We whine about rising prices. We whine about global warming. We whine about evolution. We whine about creationism. We whine about schools. We whine about common core. We whine about racists. We whine about religion. We whine about atheists. We whine about abortion. We whine about pro-life. We whine about pro-choice. We whine.

Some people get paid a lot to whine about this stuff to us, and we LISTEN TO IT. We choose to listen to whining. We don’t listen to, or read, coherent, well put together arguments. We listen to, or read, the whining…the fractious pissing and moaning that goes on and on and on and on ad nausem. And these people know it. They know that we are too lazy to think for ourselves or too busy to do the grunt work and research a topic about which we may or may not care. They know that we are intellectually weak because schools don’t teach to think anymore, just how to do things through rote memorization.

Why? Because that is the easy way, just like taking the media’s word for it. It’s easier to just listen to someone blather on endlessly about utter ridiculousness rather than put the time in ourselves to come to an informed and rational conclusion.

Read a book. Read a few books. Can’t find a book that supports your point of view. Bullshit. You are not looking hard enough, and you are not looking hard enough because you don’t care enough to look for it. Listen to lectures. Go to presentations. Research on your own.

We are all guilty of it for one reason or another. There are people out there working for the cause or principle you believe in. If you believe in it so much, help do something about it. Write. Speak. Converse. Donate. Rally. Dream. Act on it, and be constructive.

If some douchebag decides to start a pissing contest with you, cut them off. They, or their pissing and moaning are not worth it. Whining promotes only whining. Pissing and moaning only promote more pissing and moaning. Anything deconstructive. Disengage. It has taken me some time to learn that, and I am the better for it.

This is the third time I’ve noted this quote on this blog…

Be the change you want to see.

Make your voice heard and follow through with constructive action. It doesn’t have to be big. The smallest of actions can create huge reactions.

There is no better time than the present.

I know there are those out there that already work for what they believe, and they believe in a cause, or causes, greater than themselves, and I applaud them all. It is time for the rest of us to follow their examples.

I guess the problem is that we all want different things. Well, really, we all want the same things…just different ways of achieving the same goals. Perhaps in talking to one another and acting, we can find some common ground, something on which to build.

There are a lot of ways this can go. Which way do you want it to go?

It took some time, but my rambling finally made it somewhere. Where it goes beyond this, who knows?