Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The End of Civility

What is civility?  Is there a common definition anymore?  As we grow into this instant global information net must we rethink what or how we understand civilized conduct?  Unfortunately I think the only answer we can offer is yes, we must.

Surfing around the multiple media sites seems to me to be akin to a carnival mid-way with barkers yelling out to gain your attention, and just as in the mid-way they must be rewarded with sufficient audience to continue.  This has moved to our television as well.  Comedy, dramas, melodramas, and variety shows have lost their appeal, it is all about pseudo-reality. 

On social media condemnation of, and attacks on, individuals are now the standard.  Find a poster that expresses your anger, copy and post!  You have now made your contribution to the social debate. Pain free, thought free. But then how many hours do people we pay to see, devote themselves to the fawning of celebrity and the destruction of it?

I was reminded today of a quote variously attributed to Ms. Eleanor Roosevelt, Admiral Hyman Rickover, or unknown that says, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.”  If the public and commercial media are any indication we have become a people of small minds led by politicians of like quality.  I guess that is what we deserve.

I wonder, do I set this next round out?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

It’s a Conundrum

We have become obsessed with government regulation to keep us safe.  We impose these regulations on our producers, manufacturers and industries to the point we drive production overseas where we have absolutely no visibility on how things are done.

Then we set our priorities on paying for big programs, with managers for managers and assistants to the managers, so that when budgets are built the workers themselves are too expensive and the work force is reduced to the point where we only randomly inspect goods coming into our country.  Then we wonder how dangerous stuff gets into our products.  In our zeal to protect ourselves – have we?

We complain about how the rich get richer, while the poor stay poor.  We set up vast bureaucracies to redistribute wealth.  Unfortunately the tax code regulations, written, rewritten, modified and amended over the past 100 years, are a vast hodge-podge of rules established to fund the government while encouraging business, and perhaps protect those whose political favor is sought by the politicians.  Because of this, the wealth distribution really only happens between the middle class and the poor while the rich are able to maneuver within the labyrinth of shelters and loop holes.

We now talk about more taxing of the 1%; unfortunately 99% of the people who say that don’t have a clue as to what it means because they are the self-same ones who say their taxes are too high.  They clamor on the backs of the political operatives who’ve found someone to blame for our problems.  They are inflaming the passions of people who want everything - but want someone else to pay for it, just as they did when they argued that taxes were too high in California and pushed for Proposition 13.  We don’t like to pay taxes so let’s not!  Of course what was a jewel of a State University system back then -- isn’t anymore and the entire infrastructure of the state is questionable, but so many people know what is right let’s just do all their right things, even if we don’t have funds, heck it is only debt and that’s someone else’s problem isn’t it? 

Then we come to the protections of the Constitution.  Historically we viewed the Constitution as not only the framework for our government, but in its amendments the bedrock of protections of the individual against the transgressions of the state.  Now we seek to use those protections to bludgeon the individual when their wishes run counter to the loudest voices of the political movements, and we do so through a willing court system that carries those self-same political agendas.  It is for some - more important to get their way then to protect the concept of independence and individuality, so in the name of some cause they are willing to sacrifice their freedoms, one same step at a time.

History has shown political movements are like pendulums.  Swinging first one way; then the other with increasing movement to the extreme, until something cataclysmic forces them to reset.  It is inevitable, just a matter of time before it happens.  Then what?

It is indeed a conundrum.

Monday, July 6, 2015

So Many Memories

We must live in the present, for that is where life happens.  The joys, the sadness, the triumphs and defeats are now.  Just ask the US and Japanese Women’s Soccer Teams, where they thinking about yesterday or tomorrow?  But the present becomes the past and is replaced by the future.  Thoreau tells us “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”  But at some point we should step out of the present and review the past if we are to prepare for, and shape the future.

How do we know what is right, just, and moral, if we are convinced to condemn the memories because they offend? Where will our context for future evaluation come from?

One sun drenched morning in 1980 I climbed down the steps of an aircraft that had taken me a thousand miles into harms way and had brought me home.  Without men – this aircraft was nothing, but without this aircraft we were just individuals.  Together we formed a group united in purpose and willing to do whatever was asked of us.  We carried the hopes of a President and an unknowing nation into an effort that, at best, was assessed as only a little better than a 50% chance of success.

As I sat under the wing of that aircraft, limp and still as the heat rose off the hard packed desert, I was flooded with the memories of the last 15 hours and let those events flow from me.  The complete and overwhelming sense of failure, the sense of pain for those we lost, and concern for those we brought home severely burned and wounded.  I spent some considerable time in prayer seeking to understand why.  God doesn’t seem to tell me the why’s to a lot of my questions.

Little did I imagine this would be the opening salvo of America’s long religious war with the Middle East and radical Islam?  But perhaps that is too smug an idea.  The west has been at war with Islam since before the crusades, but like a fire it ebbs and flares.  Today, with modern weapons it just seems to be noisier as we replace secular states allowing fundamentalist’s to gain power and they in turn exert their powers on their neighbors.
So here we are now 35 years later and I’ve added so many more memories yet these initial ones continue to offend me for the tragic nature of their origin
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