The End Of The World As We Know It — Keep Swimming

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First a quick nod of thanks to R.E.M. for the song that’s been playing in my head for nearly a month.  Where would we be without our daily life soundtrack….

A few days ago, I posted a short piece to FaceBook that I later added here as a blog entry, talking about how I’ve finally managed to get past the election of Donald Trump, and get on with my life.  In that post, I said I’d had 2 “ah-ha” moments and I explained what I’d learned, then ended by saying there really was a 3rd big AH-HA — but it would take too long to explain in a FB status update.  After all the comments, Likes, private messages, phone calls etc from my friends & FBcontacts, I now realize that just about everybody I know — including even those who don’t live in the US or have US citizenship —  has been experiencing the same kind of PTSD reaction to this year’s election, and that maybe I should have taken the time and explained all three Ah-Ha’s.  Here we are, nearly five weeks after the fact, and people are still either in denial — still expecting some deus ex machina intervention or catastrophe to prevent the coming inauguration — or so deep into depression that they are considering a visit to their doctor to talk about SSRIs.  Or Valium.  or Xanax.  or medical marijuana.  or how to self-administer a lethal injection.

Not those who voted for the Don, I suppose.  But I don’t actually know anybody who voted for him.  Or who will admit to it, anyway.

The worst reactions are coming from those who have either been in abusive relationships and escaped — or those who have lived and/or worked closely with a narcissist.  (Not a slightly self-absorbed average person — a real, live, clinically pathological narcissist.)  For those people, the post-election season is a little like waking up in one of their own nightmare memories.  The evening news is like watching old home movies — playing out on a global scale.  People who have survived a marriage to a narcissist or a business relationship with a narcissist  know what’s coming.  It’s the Big Reveal.  Or the Big Run-And-Hide.  Enemies lists, revenge, retribution, long-game-I’ll-show-you, spiteful jabs, reputation destroying, enemies-closer, cyber-stalking, power-plays, victory laps, pep rallies, loyalty rewards cards, military parades, membership in Biggest Winner Fan Club, mass hysteria, dogs and cats living together….

And they’re right, of course.  All of that is more than possible.  It’s probable.  Likely.  Coming to a theater near you.  And a market near you.  And a street near you.  Everybody needs to have their exit strategy laid out.  Keep the tank full at all times.   Have at least 3-4 weeks of food and water on hand.  Keep blankets and water and an emergency care kit by the door.

This is not a test.

But here’s the other thing that’s just as true:

The model still holds.

I am not going to explain the model in this post.  That would be like explaining particle physics in 20 words or less.  (lol)  It would be a 50 page (conservatively) snooze-a-thon for most folks.  There is a full explanation of the Graves Model here in my blog (start here, if you want the full monty) – but the essentials are these:

  • There is a developmental pattern shared by all of us.
  • The same pattern of human development is shared by groups — families, societies, species.  From individuals to villages, companies to governments, to the global village — each of us, and each of the cultural groups we belong to, all follow the same pattern of evolution.
  • The level of the model an individual operates at is demonstrated by their motivations, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • When the “tipping point” of any level is reached, the person or society that has reached that tipping point moves on to the next level. (much like a simple game, where the tiny explorer fights all the creatures and solves all the puzzles on one level, then discovers the doorway into the next level and so moves on.)
  • The levels alternate between inward focus and outward focus.  That is, Level 1 is all about my own personal survival.  Once that survival is secured, we look around and say “Is that it?  Is that all there is to life?”  And of course, the answer is always, NO.  There is more to life that just my own survival — but I can’t see that until I’m good enough at surviving to look around my own little 2-square-feet of real estate.  And Level 2 is born — the family group or tribe is born.  Level 1 is inward — just me.  Level 2 is outward and inclusive — US.  WE.  We survive and we do it better together.  We take care of our own.  We share the load.  We help each other.
  • Each progressive step upward reaches its threshold asking a question.  Odd numbered levels ask, “Is that all there is?” before moving up to an even-numbered level.  Even numbers ask, “but what’s in this for me?” and then move up to the next odd-numbered level to do inward/individual focus again.
  • Each progressive level is broader and/or more complex than the previous level.
  • The group — the US — of each progressive even number is bigger than the last.  Level 2 is about protecting and building family and tribe.  Level 4 is about protecting and building social order — church, state, laws, written morals etc.  Level 6 is about protecting and building for all humans and other diverse groups, acting together and for one-another.
  • The individual — the ME — of each progressive odd number exhibits a wider range of power, control, and participation in self advancement than simple survival.  Level 3 is about competition, conquest, and winning on the battlefields of sport, war, and pre-capitalist economics.  Level 5 is about competition, conquest and winning on the bigger playing fields of capitalist economics, science, and technology.  Level 7 does not exist yet on a global scale —  we have not reached this level in the broader evolution of our species, but in individual terms, it is about the competition and conquest of ideas.  We are playing on the bigger field of human ideas and understanding.  It is a world of figuring out bigger questions.  Bigger patterns.  Patterns over time and distance.   L3 is pre-capitalist.  L5 is capitalist.  L7 is — you guessed it — post-capitalist.
  • The Graves Model itself, exists at Level 7.  And yes, there is an 8, but neither L1 nor L8 is really relevant or helpful for this discussion, so we’re just going to drop those for now and move on.
  • In general, the harshest critics of any level are those who have just moved to the next level.  Like someone who has just managed to kick an addiction to cigarettes is the first to insist that smokers are enemies of the state.
  • In general, odd numbers see both the previous even number and the next even number as enemies of all they stand for.  L5 tends to see L4’s laws, regulations, and morals as strangling and ridiculously rule-bound; and L6’s concern with “all-those-not-like-me” as wasting their time, money and energy on things that don’t matter to the bottom line.  L3 felt the same way about L2 and L4.  L7 will, if we last long enough as a species, feel the same way about L6 and L8.
  • In general, regardless of what level we exist at, we are able to operate at other levels when called for.  For example, anyone who has survived (L1) is able to shift into L1 when their survival is at stake.  Anyone who has lived at L2 will return to L2 for family gatherings.  Anyone can play tennis at L3.  Everyone probably attends church or balances their checkbook in L4-mode.  There are certain activities that pull us from our general operating level into a level that works best for that particular activity.
  • We all tend to believe that everyone is just like us — but that some are doing it very badly.  L2s think the entire world exists for them to use for their group’s benefit — but some individuals or countries  just don’t understand.  L3 thinks the whole world is there for them to fight, defeat, and conquer — the one with the biggest stick or gun wins.  L4 thinks the world just needs to follow their rules.  L5 thinks money will fix everything.  L6 thinks we are our brother’s keepers, and everyone is our brother — but (L5 especially) just doesn’t get it.  L7 believes they can fix it if they can just figure it out — and any other pursuit is a waste of time.
  • And — this is the important take-away — Every individual, regardless of level, and every social or cultural entity, regardless of level — has one belief in common:

ANYONE (or any society) NOT OPERATING ON THE SAME LEVEL AS ME IS
CRIMINAL, INSANE, SINFUL, STUPID, USELESS, and/or WEAK.

And that, boys and girls, is where war and aggression come from.


And that’s the shortest explanation of the Graves Theory of Human Evolution I can give you.  It’s not complete.  I’ve made some outrageous simplifications.  But that’s the crux of it.  It’s a really REALLY complicated big picture cut down to a page or two of generalizations.

I thought I’d live to see the shift from Graves Level 5 to 6 as the dominant world system.  After all, we’ve been here at L5 since the Renaissance.  Sure, there have been many individuals who have existed happily and well at L6 and L7 for years — but not enough of those individuals for any but a few tiny countries or organizations to move up into L6 en mas.  Large collections of L7s work in close proximity in  few really forward thinking companies, research institutions or colonies, but in general they are Lone Wolf thinkers who specialize in pattern recognition, theoretical scientific work, and systems analysis and theory.

But since the Renaissance, L5 has been the dominant and overwhelmingly persuasive bully on the pitch.  In many cases, it has persuaded us that it is the only game in town — that if it isn’t working, it’s because it is being played badly — and with enough effort and elbow grease, we can get it working the way we want it to work.

But here’s the truth — the pattern holds.

The next step will be the de-throning of L5 as the dominant social system.

We were closer than we’ve ever been to that flip into L6 in 2016 with the candidacy of Bernie Sander for President of the United States.  With Hillary Clinton, we had a candidate who had split her time going back and forth between L5 and L6.  After all, her social ambitions were based firmly in L6 ambitions, but she spent her entire career fighting from within the L5 establishment.  With Donald Trump, we had a candidate playing solidly in L5 (albeit in a significantly unhealthy way.)  HERE is a write-up on Health at any Level.

But Bernie Sanders was a horse of a different color in this race.  He makes no bones about being post-capitalist in a capitalist dominated world.  And he made no bones about pointing out the flaws in that system — for his entire career in politics.  This made him the ideal candidate for all those who have individually moved to the Graves Level where protecting and building a world where everyone is on equal footing — has equal advantages and opportunities — equal rights and protections under the law.  And for the first time in human history, one of the most powerful nations on the planet came very close to shifting from Level 5 to Level 6.  In fact, if the L5 US had been a healthy version of L5, rather than a panic-driven L5 running without the constraints of L4 morality, he might have succeeded.  But neither the Democratic nor Republican parties felt bound by right over wrong, legal or illegal, truth over lie, or fair and just over self-interest.

In short, Bernie Sanders felt bound by the rule of law and the fairness he was running to create.  Neither of the other two major candidates or their parties felt the same way.  Hillary and Trump were running in and for an L5 world.  Bernie was running in hope of an L6 emergence.

So again, THE PATTERN HOLDS.  L6 is where we are all heading, both as individuals and as a species.

One of the biggest bluffs L5 has run on humanity is the hyper-quotable: “Nobody ever said life was going to be fair.”

Really?

The idea that life isn’t fair  makes it easy for L5 to take what it wants, regardless of who it hurts.  So long as life isn’t fair — bullies reign.  If we start with the presupposition that there are winners and losers — then it’s okay within that presupposition for most of the population to be losers.  And it’s okay for winners to gloat.  And kick the losers in the butt to make sure they remember their place.

But the presupposition is a lie.  If life is sometimes unfair, it’s because its really really hard, not because it’s impossible.  And creating something that is really really hard and complicated and complex and far-reaching requires a higher Graves Level of complexity than L5 could manage.  It will take L6 — fully formed and reveling in the complications and tangles — to created fairness.

Expect justice to be the motive from healthy L4.

But expect fairness to be the motivation from healthy L6.

So if you are waiting for the  deus ex machina to drop down and save you from Donald Drumph, you can stop waiting.  This is all real and it is all going to happen.  His narcissism is going to be dangerous.  His ignorance is going to be a challenge.  But his presence is going to be.  Period.  The trick is going to be to survive it — both individually, and collectively as a country.  If there is homework, it will be waiting to see how far we can get the pendulum to swing.  Never mind “don’t let that pendulum hit you in the butt as you leave the White House, Donald!”  We want it to hit him so hard that L5 leaves with him as the dominant system in the US, and L6 is the only logical and reasonable step forward anybody can see.

So to all my friends that are still having trouble figuring out how to move on with their lives in a Trumpocracy — just know we are all still here, and the pattern holds.  We may not live to see it, but our children and grandchildren may yet discover that the world really can be a fair place.  A just place.  An honorable place.  A complex puzzle of life rather than a jack-bo0ted torture of a life.

The task ahead — the one that really gets us ahead, rather than earning us a spot in the loony-bin — is to do our best to live lives of fairness and hope, rather than lives of fear and victim-hood.  Do your L6 best — volunteer.  March.  Protest.  Give things away to people who need them.  Donate to organizations with a clear L6 focus and structure.  Support random acts of kindness and fairness.  Participate in your community and group and religion and school.  Feed somebody who’s hungry.  Learn constantly.  Reinvent yourself daily.  Save the planet.  Save the animals.  Save yourself.

In evolutionary terms, the only resolution to advancing complexity is to move to a higher level of existence.   Problems cannot be addressed from the level that created them.  It took L2 to create a place for L1 to live out their survival.  And it took L3 to progress beyond the boundary of the village.  It took L4 to stop L3’s conquests.  It took L5 to reign in L4’s structure.  Similarly, L5 can’t fix L5’s hoarding and bullying.  Only L6 can fix L5 problems.  And only L7 can harness the energy of all those minds and ideas held dear by so many people thinking and creating together.

If we can keep the planet alive long enough, we might be able to all live here together.  The pattern holds, and the pattern is bigger than this election.  It’s also bigger than the US.  Certainly bigger than any one mewling politician or disrupted event.  If you’re still stuck in the politics, pull up higher so you can see the bigger picture.  — and hold on to that bigger picture.  It’s the one that matters.

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Isolation’s Children

I realize that the US media fell down on its job by not reporting all the bombings from the week before the Paris attacks — but — there is a bit of apples and oranges on this one. Every country has major cities. Even historically important cities. But there are just a few “capitols” of the First World. And Paris, like Tokyo, London, New York, Rome, Moscow, Hong Kong, and few others — represent something else. They are shorthand for the modern world. The industrialized world. The West and The East. Breaching any one of those capitols is not just a big story — it’s a whole different KIND of story, on a symbolic level with attacking the religious/economic capitols of Jerusalem, Rome, Varanasi, Bodhgaya, [Lhasa,] or Mecca. Reporting that ISIS has openly attacked a city in the violence-infested Middle East is not the same kind of story as attacking one of the current-and-historical capitols of the world. Successfully attacking Paris, which is not at war or revolution or engulfed in indigenous civil upheaval, is a horse of a different color. This is war on the modern world.

The aggressor may be the same; people may have died by violence in all the various attacks; but, the story, and the point made, are different. ISIS openly attacking its own historical culture, a Muslim city or group of a different ideology, or its neighbors, is status quo apples. Invasion of some perceived enemy of its agenda hundreds/thousands of miles away? Oranges. Rowboats. Lego mini-figures.

So yes. Be critical of the media/press when it falls short of its mandate. But keep your eye on the ball when it comes to parsing the impact of world events. War against the modern world is emotionally the screaming, shrieking, and scratching of those afraid of everything not like their own small and isolated existence. Note that it is men/women of ‘small and isolated existence’ that ISIS so successfully recruits.

SeaWorld: An Aqueous Problem of Conscience

Lynn Whitlark's photo.

So what’s to become of all the creatures currently in the SeaWorld (and similar) parks if the parks close down?ffacfaa0910346898216241e0e38c1fa_penguin460x345

I remember when the first of these “parks” opened — and it was such a new thing — a sealife circus (as opposed to an aquarium which is basically a sealife zoo.) And except for a few marine-loving locals to the coasts,, there was no such thing as a little kid wanting to become a marine biologists or aquatic vet. Now, most kids with the interest have visited these parks and fueled their imaginations to the point that every university with a coast nearby (and some inland schools) now offer it as a distinct major.

sandiego_173db531c6dc9The unexpected part of it all is that we ALL learned so much about the whales and dolphins and porpoises and penguins that when the news that they were unhappy and stressed and even abused started seeping into the press and online reports, it horrified us to the point that the parks themselves are now on the endangered list. Since awareness, understanding and information increases compassion and empathy — we now see these once ground-breaking circus parks as more problem than potential. And that’s in spite of all the better-than-it-used-to-be and better-than-it-might-be positive changes the company has made to its park assets. They raised our culture’s awareness without keeping up with culture’s conscience.

So what happens to the animals — and all those trained park workers, vets, trainers, and marine biologists now that attendance has dropped so low that the parks aren’t going to be able to pay the grocery bill or keep the lights on? manatee-at-seaworld-orlandoWill they be folded into the research and conservation wing of NOAA? Will they be scuttled and auctioned off to small family-run one-ring-tank circuses in the remote areas of the coasts? Will they show up in a black-market of private salt-water fish tanks? Will the US nationalize them to create a Smithsonian Sealife attic or gigantic National Aquarium Complex with branches on the many coasts?

175c1c8b7f014917848c72fd832f8591_turtlereef_2_460x345And what of all the animal rescues and rehabs the SeaWorld people participated in? 64747-bigthumbnailHaving all those marine vets within reach saved a lot of wildlife over the years. What happens when a fisherman or sailor comes upon a dolphin or manatee or sea-turtle in distress if there’s no park full of specialists to ferry help in?

There are no obvious answers to some of these questions. Without the parks as potential employers, how many of the university departments will survive? Which means even fewer professionals on call. Surely Not-For-Profits can’t employ all the people needed to do the work. Or all the professionals that will potentially flood the market if the parks disappear.

SeaWorld_Irina-Silvestrova-e1408116945543This is like a vet problem that has to help fold soldiers back into mainstream society after a war. These animals were part of an undesirable way of life that existed for a short time, and served an important purpose. But now we see that it’s no way to expect them to live for their whole lives.

So what is to become of them when our moral outrage out-distances their park-home? As morally objectionable as the public display of “freak shows” was in the early 20th Century — when public conscience closed them down with non-attendance, a lot of very unusual performers were suddenly out of work and homeless.

san-antonio-texas-seaworld-top

And here we are again. Our compassion has the potential to be more cruel than our ambivalence. At least in the short-term.

Which is not a simple problem.

Lynn Whitlark's photo.

The Success of Failed Attempts: Prohibition and US

Remember Prohibition?  Me neither.  It was way before my time.

But I’ve seen the movies.  The History Channel is all over this story.  Everybody knows it was an outrageous failure that flew in the face of American civil liberties…

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Right?

Except I think we may have been bamboozled.  So to speak.

According to TIME Magazine, there’s a little bit of the history that the photo above doesn’t bother to mention — and maybe we should make notes about this.

The rise of the United States is one of history’s amazing stories, even more remarkable when you realize how many of our forefathers were three sheets to the wind. John Adams drank hard cider with breakfast. James Madison drained a pint of whiskey each day*. By 1830 the average American was guzzling the equivalent of 1.7 bottles of hard liquor per week — three times the amount consumed today.

*For those keeping score, that would come to 3.5 quarts (just shy of a gallon) of whiskey per week.

That’s right.  Per capita, Americans drank an average AVERAGE of 1.7 quarts of hard liquor per week.  That’s 32 drinks per week.  4 1/2 cocktails a day.  Every day.  Per person.  Man, woman and child.  And since we assume the children were not REALLY drinking their fair share, that means Daddy and Mama — who at that time had 7 surviving children per household — were actually drinking more than 15 bottle of booze a week.

Okay — there were a few single folks.  And a few tea-totalers.  So let’s split the difference and say all the drinking adults drank maybe 10 bottles a week.

That’s the equivalent of more than a fifth of scotch whiskey a day.  Imagine living in a world where everybody drank a fifth of scotch a day.  People would be getting in gun fights in the street.  Wife and child abuse would be rampant.  Babies would be still-born, damaged by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome — before anybody knew what it was.  People wouldn’t live long enough to die of cancer or Alzheimer’s or heart disease or — well — of anything age related because they’d die of liver failure in their 40s.

Imagine that world.  A place where there were no (or few) medical anesthetics or analgesics.  Pain killers were narcotic or nothing.  Want to alleviate the symptoms of menopause, or even horrific PMS?  Have a bottle of corn liquor!  Pain from childbirth?  Have a drink.  Migraine?  Give me a break.  Have a drink.  Insomnia?  Muscle cramps?  Stress?  Exhaustion?  Relax.  Get some sleep.  Have a drink or two to unwind and then a couple more to put you to sleep at night.  Is the weather a bit nippy?  Aches and pains from all that rain?  Arthritis warping you hands and the knuckles in your toes?  Bourbon will fix that!  You won’t feel a thing!  Depressed?  Blue?  Burdened by nightmares?  Trauma?  (Think PTSD) — Bottoms up!

You won’t feel a thing.  Ask anybody.

And that’s probably pretty much the truth.  People drank to fix just about everything.  Monks made liquor to pay their bills.  Bitters — digestion aids — were loaded with wood spices, ginger, herbs and other medicinals and sold for their health benefits.

Everybody drank!  An average of 1.7 bottles of hard liquor (not beer or wine or cider or mead….) every single week.  So that 1.7 bottles of hard liquor was actually IN ADDITION TO any beer or wine or cider or mead that was consumed.

And the results were incalculable.  Think of the productivity loss!  Imagine walking the scaffolding to build skyscrapers with that much liquor in your system!  No wonder so many people died building the Brooklyn Bridge!  Or the Empire State Building!  Think about working as a telephone or telegraph lineman — or walking the catwalks in the saloons and Vaudeville theaters!  Or swinging a big knife as a butcher — or a scythe as a farmer!  Every aspect of life gets more dangerous with that much liquor in flow!

My grandmother was almost beaten to death by her father for letting a pig escape from its pen — because her father was constantly altered by alcohol,  and not quite in conscious control of his actions.  He was a “strong silent-type” pioneer who farmed and ranched some of the most difficult land in the dusty Texas Panhandle.  And he was a nightmare.  None of his sons survived — so he worked his daughters like pack-animals — and he beat them just like he beat the mules.

And nobody thought anything about it.
Why not?
Because it was common place.  Everybody drank that much.  Everybody beat their children and wives in fits of anger.  Everybody.

1.7 bottles of hard liquor — the average — probably the minimum for a real drinking adult — is enough to change everything.

Lips-that-touch-liquor

And that’s why Prohibition happened.  It happened in concert with the first Women’s Movement that gave women their first voice in the US.  Women finally got fed up.

Women got a voice, and one of the first things they said was; “put down that bottle!”

So?

So — no.  Prohibition didn’t last.  Bootleggers found a way to keep making moonshine and bathtub gin.  NASCAR was born via the car-chases — the result of moonshiners trying to outrun the local police on the backroads and dirt highways of the South.  We wanted our freedom so bad that we were willing to break the law — and laugh while we did it — just to keep drinking.  We made a sport of hiding away in private clubs and dark venues all over America —

And Prohibition was repealed — the Speak Easy died — bootleggers became political royalty — and gangsters moved on to organizing other crimes.

And, at least according to that first picture — Prohibition failed.

But the truth is — it changed the way we think about drinking in this country.  We no longer look the other way when people drink and abuse their family.   We don’t turn a blind eye to manslaughter with a vehicle when the driver was DUI.  We don’t excuse costly errors due to hangovers or absenteeism.  Suicide by alcohol — isn’t an unknown any more. And Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a known, rather than an unknown.

The town drunk isn’t a joke any more.

Public intoxication — to the point of doing harm to oneself or others — just isn’t cool.

And that’s not the way it was before.  We think about how much we drink.  We find designated drivers.  We hold bartenders accountable for letting people get so drunk — for hours at a time — that they are a public threat.

We don’t tolerate those things.   Now.

Prohibition may not be the law of the land any more — but a failure?

I don’t think so.

In the long game, Prohibition was what we needed to get sober enough  — for long enough — to think clearly and re-prioritize our beliefs and values and goals.  It was a sober night that let us grow up and choose better.  And be better.

People still drink.  There are still heavy drinkers.  But now we are pretty clear about addiction and recovery.  Drinking and alcoholism aren’t the same thing.  But we might never have known that without Prohibition.

There are still good reasons to drink.  And there are other choices that accomplish the same ends.  But we might never have known that without Prohibition.

There are behaviors that can be explained by putting them in the context of a few drinks — but explaining is not the same as excusing.  Alcohol is not an excuse for hurting others.  Or breaking laws.  Or failing — at anything.  Alcohol may explain it – but it doesn’t excuse it.  But we might never have known that without Prohibition.

We had to get away from that 1.7/per capita statistic long enough to stop thinking of it as normal.

prohibition

Now.

Let’s talk about guns, our relationship to our guns, and the relationship to violence.

showusthereport.com — Harry Potter Conscience

showusthereport.com.

This is a link you should look at.

Dobby, the House Elf

Dobby, the House Elf

Not necessarily because it is a great cause.  Who knows, at this point, what’s really going on with mega-corporation, TIME-Warner, that has them in hot water with their  young fans.

What makes it worth looking at is its use of social media — Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc —   In the hands of young (and older) Harry Potter fans and readers.   That’s a very specific group — disparate people brought together by a work of fiction that we all know has already impacted the world in some grand and unexpected ways (especially the publishing industry, and the mass of young readers across the planet who sucked up multiple 850 page books with a 10th grade+ reading vocabulary like they were made of sugar-coated breakfast cereal and soda-pop.)

And those readers didn’t just read Harry Potter — they READ Harry Potter.  And they got it.  They understood it.  They were doing graduate-level literary analysis of 3000 pages of text….  They disected it, researched the language and allusions, and deconstructed 7 books  — to the point of being able to cross-reference 480 character names, a dozen family trees that spanned centiries of fictional begetting, and the geography of fictional landscapes that overlay the “real” world like swiss cheese on toast.

And this very specific group whose unifying demographic is a fictional hero seem to have taken up author J. K. Rowling’s implanted human rights message and made it their own.  Dobby and the slave-class house elves of Rowling’s world are nothing next to the human rights violations carried on in the name of greed and corporate profit — and the one thing we know for sure about profiteers, is that they can end human exploitation overnight if their profits are threatened.   There’s nothing that cleans up the dark corners of greed faster than having the spotlight of day shown on them.

Scholastic books published what may turn out to be a manifesto on slavery inside those Harry Potter books.  At least in the hands of young readers — it could be taken that way.

And Warner Brothers might want to reconsider their product placement and merchandising policies, under the circumstances.  They, after all, have exploited Rowling, her characters, and her fans and made the greatest profit from them of all the participating corporate hawkers.  These now seem to be characters — and readers — who have something concrete to say about exploitation.

And good for them.

The Small Town Editorial of 12/19/12

I just read a really patriotic sounding editorial written by someone who seems very nostalgic for what he considers to be a “lost” America…  He longs for days past when we did not try to be considerate of the feelings, beliefs, and experiences of others (ALL others, rather than just those who look and think like ‘us’) — lumping all those dark qualities under the unsavory name of “political correctness.”

He bemoans the public acceptance of anyone other than the straight, the white, and presumably the male real “Americans.”  He muses fondly about times when God (his, no doubt) was the centerpiece of citizenship, when criminals were treated more harshly, and when animals were used for research on a broader scale.  Though, to be honest, it’s sometimes difficult to know if his comparisons are there because he really wants there to be more animals used in medical/ cosmetic/ drug testing, or whether the point he is trying to make is that he thinks stem cell research should be limited or abolished.  Similarly, it’s hard to know whether he seriously wants to eliminate taxes for those who “work hard for their money;” or if he just wants to set up tighter qualifications on those who receive federal assistance.

But the really interesting part of this newspaper editorial posted to the internet is the language, voice, and style of the writing.  It is full of high-sounding phrases and buzzwords meant to rally the nation and bring back the AMERICA the author wants us to remember we once called home.  “The land of the free and the home of the brave”– really does sound so so good.  A place where there were publicly sponsored nativity scenes, and where porn wasn’t so easy to come by.  A place where victims were duely cared for and abortions didn’t happen.  A place where you could execute criminals for their crimes, and where politicians were honest and loyal and true.  You know — AMERICA.

This man remembers fondly the place I lived as a child — but he remembers it quite differently than I do.  I remember McCarthy the witch-hunter who ruined lives with fear and anger and hate.  I remember that this country was built on the blood and bones of the people whose land it was when we arrived.  I remember a country made prosperous and wealthy by slavery.  And by murder of indigenous peoples in order to steal their land.  I remember a country where only 1 group of citizens — white men — actually had any rights or say in governance.  And not even all white men.  Not the Irish.  Not the Italians, in some states/ cities.  Not the Greeks.  Not the Jews.  Certainly not the women.  Not children, or the poor.  And no one would imagine — the Chinese or Hispanics.

I remember a country where on the Gulf coast, supervisors at the gigantic company town oil refineries could visit the wives of their workers during the workday for sex — and use the threat of unemployment — and starvation — homelessness — to glean the benefits of their position of power and dominance.  And where dockworkers were hired based on what percentage of their wage they were willing to kick back to the foreman who was managing the roster of assignments.  Those who gave up more (and more and more) could have the privilege of doing life-threatening labor for 16-20 hours a day — for just a fraction of what was being paid by the bosses.  And if they died in the process — nobody knew their names and ALL the pay they had earned went to the foreman.

I remember a country where a woman had no choice but to accept beatings from her drunken husband, and year after year of pregnancy to produce children who could work fields and take jobs in factories and subsidize family income.  And where at least half the children she bore would die of what are now easily curable diseases and sickness — or from beatings and abuse of their own.  Or starvation and malnutrition due to poverty.

I remember that prisons have not always been filled with the guilty.  (as they are now?)  and where forced labor of prisoners that resulted in death was as common as — the common cold.

I remember photographs of 20 year-old young men who looked 50 from poor diet and long outrageous hours of back-breaking work — for next to nothing — in the workhouses of robber barons and “princes” of industry.  We’ve all seen their pictures — glassy eyed and dried out before their time.

I remember that our all-knowing founding fathers designated that some people were actually just 3/5 of a person.  And other people — women — were not actually people at all.  And all slaves, regardless of their color, age, sex or nationality — were the property of their masters and owners and husbands and fathers.  In some places, only white men could even own a piece of land or a house — much less anything else.

So in reply to the man who longs for the “land of the free and the home of the brave” of our past, I’d like to suggest that his spectacles are a little pink.  Rose colored, in fact.  He’s remembering something he saw in a movie, or that some equally nostalgic old-timer told him about.

I’d also like to suggest that his vocabulary — as well as his education — could use a little updating.

Let’s take his “editorial” apart, one line at a time, and see what he really has to say:  [please note, I have tried to reproduce all the punctuation/syntax errors exactly as they appear in the original document shown below.  so don’t write me and tell me about run-on sentences, missing or misplaced commas,  parallel structure; or any of his un-noted rhetorical problems….]

Has America become the land of special interest, and the home of the double standard?

Clearly, the author believes this is true, or it would not be his opening line.  So it really isn’t a question — it is a RHETORICAL question.  And as rhetoric — it is vague.  He is obviously going to get specific in what follows.

Let’s see:  If we lie to the Congress, it’s a felony and if the congress lies to us it’s just politics;

If we lie to Congress as a body while under oath, it is a felony.  Congress is a group of men and women.  If, as individuals, they lie to each of us separately in conversation; or if they lie to a reporter so their attempts to deceive us are broadcast to all of us at once, it is no more illegal for them than when we do it.  But it is illegal for them to lie under oath or in a sworn deposition.  No double standard, there.

The implication, however, is that they can lie about what they believe and think and do it with impunity.   However — if we do not choose to re-elect them because of their lies, I’d call that punishment.  “No more free rides for liars” sounds like a good voting criteria….

if we dislike a black person, it’s racist and if a black dislikes whites it’s their 1st Amendment right;

Not quite.  If I, a white person, dislike a specific black person — that’s a personal choice.  If I dislike black people as a group — that’s racism.  If a black person dislikes me individually — that’s his/her choice.  If he dislikes whites as a group — it’s still racism.  No double standard.  The only double standard here is the way the author phrased the comparison so that 2 not-equal things are made to appear equal on the 2 sides of the ledger.

Technically, it’s a logical fallacy.   In street parlance, it’s apples and oranges.

Most obvious, however, is the “us” and “them” mentality at work.  This man has just published the depth of his whiteness and isolation, and it’s being reposted everywhere.  Is it possible to be more “not part of the melting pot” than this?  –I don’t think so.

the government spends millions to rehabilitate criminals and they do almost nothing for the victims;

Actually, not so much millions as billions; and the majority of the money is spent to separate criminals from free society to protect the society from them.  There is also a feverish debate on whether rehabilitation or punishment is the correct word.  Regardless — most of the money is spent on 3-strikes-your-out marijuana charges, which are commonly agreed to be victimless crimes.

As a side note, it seems a little odd that the author here seems to be faulting the “American” society for not spending enough federal tax money to help victims.

Just saying….

in public schools you can teach that homosexuality is OK, but you better not use the word God in the process;

Let’s get specific on the language here.  What you CAN teach (as opposed to MUST teach) are 2 very different things.  And — both are decided at the state and local level.  Schools may forfeit federal funds if they fail to meet certain standards or teach certain things — but education content is determined locally by school boards, boards of education, and state accreditation boards.  Teaching that homosexuality is OK (or not) or that having children outside of marriage is OK (or not) or that using or not using birth control is OK (or not) or even that having a parent who does not live with you, having step-parents, having parents of different races, teaching or not teaching a creation story, teaching or not teaching evolution theory, teaching or not teaching manners, –wearing make-up, attending dances or movies, wearing certain clothes or hairstyles — all these topics are in the hands of the people next door.

Similarly, there are no prohibitions about using the word God.  Or devil.  Or Christmas, Passover, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, or Zeus.  It has always seemed to me that a course in the literatures and holy books of the great religions would be a real improvement to most curricula.  –and not just here in “America.”

(By the way, we live in the United States.  We are US citizens.  We are Americans — but technically so are residents of Canada, Mexico, and all points south.)  Again, just saying….

you can kill an unborn child; but it’s wrong to execute a mass murderer;

Actually, both are false.  It is against the law to execute a mass murderer in some states.  But in other states, it’s de rigueur.   Also, if you kill a pregnant woman, you are guilty of 2 murders.  Beyond those distinctions, you enter a real language-stew.  This author very pointedly used “unborn child” — when even later in his own words he called the same subject “unborn fetus.”  The only conclusion can be that once again, the author is attempting to compare dissimilar apples and oranges with the smoke and mirrors of comparing one person to another.

The best legal minds in the world, in all of history haven’t managed to sort the language of the unborn — so I’m reluctant to take this guys word for his “fact” that an unborn anything is equal to an adult of the same species for the purpose of this argument.

we don’t burn books in America, we now rewrite them;

We do burn books in America.  All the time.  And rewriting history to tell the story some particular person/group wants told is as old as paper.  I believe the extreme cases of rewriting books he might be referring to are those done by the Texas School Board in order to edit the Judeo-Christian Bible into the curriculum in the form of Creationism, and to mask the injustices perpetuated by Joseph McCarthy et al.

we got rid of the communist and socialist threat by renaming them progressives;

Both communism and socialism are economic theories and sometimes descriptors of societies which attempt to put them into practice.  This is also true of capitalism, barter & trade — and a host of other economic models.  As theories — they do not threaten, conquer, or tease.  They don’t preen or pose for the camera.  Those are human behaviors.  An economic theory does not creep across a nation or kidnap people unawares.

And if this man thanks a person who calls himself or herself a “progressive” is an unwitting (or co-conspiratorial) communist, Marxist, fascist, capitalist, socialist, humanist, nudist or Buddhist, then he is mistaken and needs to buy some real history books and a dictionary.

we are unable to close our border with Mexico, but we have no problem protecting the 38th parallel in Korea;

First, to claim we have no problem protecting the 38th parallel in Korea demonstrates a kind of social ignorance that is embarrassing.  It took war to even begin to accomplish what he claims is simple and easy — and thousands of lives lost and disrupted.  We can only assume this man is willing to send his own children/grand children and neighboring children to Ciudad Juarez to die so that he can keep Mexican workers from crossing the border into Texas and harvesting our cotton for less than minimum wage.

Wait — what was he saying about the “land of the free?”

if you protest against President Obama’s policies you’re a terrorist, but if you burned an American flag or George Bush in effigy it was your 1st Amendment right.

Let’s start with the question: Is this true?  Does protesting against “President Obama’s policies” make you a terrorist?  Really?  I can imagine that a few drunk and disorderly folks might be arrested at a Tea Party rally — but I’ve never actually heard of it.   As opposed to those arrested in an ongoing basis in the Occupy protests.

But getting out a turn-stile clicker isn’t really necessary — since the jails are no more filling up in Obama’s second term than they were in W’s.

In a real argument –we’d call this a straw man.  Everybody knows it’s not a real claim.  It’s just fighting words meant to draw more fire and more flame from both sides.

You can have pornography on tv or the internet, but you better not put a nativity scene in a public park during Christmas;

Once again — apples and oranges.  You can’t use public funds gathered from all taxpayers to pay for a celebration of 1 group of taxpayers.  You can’t use public spaces bought and paid for with everybody’s tax dollars for the sole use of one sub-group.

And I have no idea what that has to do with porn on the internet or pay cable.  You pay for both services — so if you don’t want to watch porn — don’t subscribe.  If you don’t want it accessible on your search engines, then put up the child guards.

Gee whiz.  Do we have to do everything for this guy?

we have eliminated all criminals in America, they are now called sick people;

And again — is this true?  No.

In fact, I’d just call this lying to try and make a point.

And doing a bad job of it.

we can use a human fetus for medical research, but it’s wrong to use an animal.

Is THIS true?  Okay — yes, it probably is wrong to use animals in inhumane ways, but when it comes down to it — we still do research on them under some circumstances because it is the only sound and scientific way to get certain answers.  As for using a human fetus for the same goal?  No, we don’t.

I am pretty sure he is trying to talk about stem-cell research, but doesn’t have all his facts.

We take money from those who work hard for it and give it to those who don’t want to work;

Another logic problem.  The intent of phrasing his statement in this way is to give the impression that all the money taken from those who work hard for their money is given to those who simply don’t want to work.

And is that true?  No.  More than 38 cents of every tax dollar goes to buy a standing army and pay for wars.  In fact, less than 3 1/2 cents of each dollar has anything to do with social welfare programs.  So what is this man talking about?  Fire departments?  The National Forestry Service?  The EPA?  The FDA or the CIA/FBI?  How about health and safety inspectors?  Or school nurses and teachers and counselors?  Public assistance after natural disasters? Does he want to stop paying for those things, too?

No.  Nothing so specific as any of that.  He’s talking about trying to make a case for the “good ol’ days” — when we let people starve to death by the railroad tracks.  When we locked up the mentally and physically disabled in warehouses and left them to die.  When people who got old and were unable to work could be stacked like cord wood in “retirement homes” and left in the care of minimum wage drunks and school girls.

we all support the constitution, but only when it supports our political ideology;

Really?  He must be talking about people I’ve never met.  I support the Consititution.  And the Bill of Rights.  They are both amazing documents.  But one of the things that makes them amazing is that they are nomic.  That is, they are living, changing, adapting, refine-able, re-think-able documents.  Amendments and questions and re-evaluations are built into the system.  We can, as a nation, grow and change over time.  And THAT is the most precious aspect of this country’s core pieces of paper.

They are not stagnant.

And really — he should have quit while he was ahead.  the rest of this “editorial” is too much FOX and not enough newshound.

we still have freedom of speech, but only if we are being politically correct;

Nobody of serious mind believe that.

parenting has been replaced with Ritalin and video games;

In a few houses, maybe.  But in some places it’s replaced by cigarette burn-discipline and ballroom dancing.  Give me a break.

the land of opportunity has been replaced with the land of hand outs;

Nobody believes this, either.  He’s just trying to be quotable.  Like the FOX and newshound line above….  Cute and quippy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

the similarity between Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill is that neither president did anything to help.

You know, I think he’s trying to demonstrate that he dislikes the mistakes of both men equally.

Nice try.

And how do we handle a major crisis today?  The government appoints a committee to determine who’s at fault, then threatens them, then passes a law, raises our taxes; tells us the problem is solved so they can get back to their reelection campaign.

Again, no reader of serious mind thinks this is anything more than rhetoric badly scored.  He’s trying for the big finish.  The big punch at the end.

FAIL

What happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I’ll tell you what happened.  We made our way through the infancy of our nation; we survived the greed and dishonesty of slavery and fought the Civil War.  We got ourselves into one “war to end all wars” — only to discover the difference between bravado and foolish misplaced loyalty in 1917, and the insanity and hate of 1937, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44– and the relief of 1945.  We saw our families broken and torn apart by pride and war and drought.  And we started growing up.

At every decade — we grew up.  And we grew up more.

And here we are again.  Still growing up into a prosperous nation.  A healthy place to raise children.  A place where those with no freedom can come and find some.

We still have a lot to learn — but we are not children any more.  Telling fibs and trying to pass half-truths off as sound reasoning — gone.  We’re wise to  those games of childhood.  Or we are becoming wise.  And wiser still.

Half-baked rhetoric and un-researched pseudo-facts don’t fly in the days of Google and the interwebs, old man.

I guess that’s why he put his “editorial” in the local paper.

copy of the image of the editorial as posted on Facebook, 12/19/12, with name obscured

copy of the image of the editorial as posted on Facebook, 12/19/12, with name obscured