Fascist in Chief

December 2, 2016 at 11:44 am | Posted in Politics, Society | Leave a comment

I’ve been trying to keep my head down regarding the election of President Trump.  But with the election a month behind, I think I can talk about it without sounding like a petulant child.

Just to be clear, I’m no fan of Hilary Clinton, and I don’t think Bernie would have been able to govern had he received the nomination.  I’m not angry about Trump because my candidate lost.  I’m angry because Donald Trump is a fascist.

The definition of fascism, according to Oxford, makes this pretty clear: “An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.”  But fascist is considered a “dirty word” by most people, on par with “racist” or “dictator.”  So I want to be very clear that I’m not just throwing that word out there for shock value or because I’m angry that my candidate lost.  So let’s take that definition apart and look at it’s components.

Authoritarian

Authoritarian is defined as “Favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.”  A strong argument can be made that the Republican party has authoritarian leanings.   The first page of the party’s official platform is dedicated to offices responsible for imposing authoritarianism: the military and the police.  (I have no problem with either of these institutions, but their job is to enforce the dictates of authority.)  The second page of the document contains statements like “People want and expect an America that is the most powerful and respected country on the face of the earth.” and “The men and women of our military remain the world’s best.”  These themes of power and might are echoed throughout the document.

But where authoritarian themes are truly evidenced are in the dictates of political conservatism.  Conservatism, by definition, requires that individual freedoms be reduced in favor of “traditional values”.  This reduction of personal freedom in favor of established values is the hallmark of authoritarianism.

It follows then, that conservative Republicans are authoritarian.  But, it can be argued that Trump isn’t a true conservative Republican.  After all, he is well known for not adhering to the tenants of conservatism.  With his three marriages and various instances of social misconduct, it seems clear that Trump could care less about traditional and conservative values.  I would argue, however, that even if Trump doesn’t feel beholden to these values, he seems to feel that others should adhere to them.  This do what I say, not what I do, is another hallmark of authoritarianism.

Conservatism is tied closely to right-wing politics.  In fact, the definition of right-wing is “The conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system.”  If something is right-wing, it is conservative.  As right-wing is part of the definition of fascism, and conservatism is tied to right-wing it follows that right-wing policies and practices can be tied to fascism.  I don’t mean to say that all right-wing polices are fascist policies, that would be an association fallacy.  But I do think it’s fair to say that all fascist policies are right-wing policies, as right-wing is part of the definition of fascism.

Nationalism

Nationalism is defined as “Patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts” or more telling for my point “An extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.”  I don’t even know if this is worth arguing.  Trump’s campaign slogan “Make American Great Again” is about as nationalist as it gets.  Everything he has said, from The Wall to his positions on global trade is fiercely nationalistic.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with little nationalism.  Patriotic feelings principles and efforts are all good things.  But when your nationalism becomes extreme, as in “our country is better than your country” is where things get out of hand.  This second group is not so much about raising America up, as Reagan was, but about putting other countries down.

American Fascism 

If you buy both of my arguments, that Trump is both authoritarian and nationalist then, by definition he’s fascist.  This isn’t scare tactics or reactionary, it’s just the fact of the matter.  This should scare the hell out of you.  Not because Trump is a fascist.  After all, we liberals are all about you-be-you, even if we don’t agree with how you are going about being you.  No, you should be scared because if Trump is a fascist, and our duly elected leader, then that means that the United States of America, my country, is now fascist.  

I’m not saying that to be alarmist.  It just logically follows.  If the people freely elect a fascist to lead them then aren’t the people of that country fascists?  No, not on an individual level.  You might not be a fascist, neither are you or you.  But as a whole, the United States of America is a fascist nation.  Think of it this way: only 10% of Germans were card-carrying Nazi’s under Hitler, but when I say “Nazi Germany” you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It is my sincere hope that Trump will only serve one term.  His election will be viewed as a fluke.  A mistake caused by a corrupt primary process that will be corrected.  My fear is that Trump will be a successful President. A successful Trump presidency will not just legitimize fascism in America, it will open the door for more fascists to follow.  That thought literally keeps me awake at night.

 

 

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Work Hard! The Rich are Depending on You!

November 18, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Today I was going to write a post about this quote:hardwork

But when I started researching Mr. Monbiot to write the post I came across this gem:

http://www.monbiot.com/2011/11/07/the-self-attribution-fallacy/

I don’t agree with everything Mr. Monbiot says – he’s the kind of liberal that would make my father’s eyes roll – but on this we are in total agreement.

I could write more, but that would just be self-aggrandizement.  Monbiot has already done my work for me.  So, please go read his article!

 

 

 

On God (Part II)

October 28, 2016 at 5:04 pm | Posted in Morality, Religion, Society | Leave a comment

Last week I talked about the nature of God and the importance of free-will.  This week I want to talk about another tripping point in the is there, ain’t there, a God: omniscience (and it’s corollary, predestination).

First: The disclaimers.  I recognize that I cannot prove that there is a God.  Smarter people than me have tried and the best argument in my opinion is cogito ergo sum, which is a pretty weak argument in my opinion.  Nevertheless, I continue to believe because it suits me to do so.

Last week I mentioned that free will is important to God.  God granted us free will, and has not yet taken it away even tho’ we do some pretty heinous things with it.  Without free will, we are not people, but are instead automatons and therefore nothing but extensions of God’s will.  A thinking person can kill someone with a knife, but it is not the knife that is blamed for the crime.  Without free will, we are the knife (or if you prefer, scalpel) in God’s willing hand.

A common argument against the existence of God is that God’s omniscience, the fact that he knows everything, precludes the existence of free will.  Without free will we don’t exist as people.  So if there’s a God, then we don’t exist.  If we exist, then there can’t be an omniscient God.

The argument goes something like this:  If God knows with 100% assurance what I am going to do before I actually do it, then are any of my actions really my actions?  I’m destined to do whatever it is that I’m going to do and free will has no place in that decision.  If that’s true, then my actions aren’t my own, but are instead the ‘actions’ assigned to me by whomever wrote the book.  I’m just Sam Spade in my own Universal Maltese Falcon.

Ergo: if God is omniscient, then I can’t have free will.

 

Now, a little bit more about me: I like role-playing games and Dungeons and Dragons is one of my favorites.  If you’re not familiar with Role Playing Games (RPGs) then they work something like this: First, get rid of the idea that it’s a game with winners and losers.  It’s more of an improv show at your local theater.  One of the actors in this improv is the narrator of a story.  The other actors are the characters.  The narrator describes the scene and the actors say what they are going to do.  Hilarity often ensues as the narrators and characters describe the cause and effect events of the story.  For example: the narrator might say: a dragon flies down and lands in front of you.  The actors then say: “I attack it with my sword!” or “I cast a spell and surround the dragon in ice!”  But it’s just as likely that someone will say “What kind of dragon?” or “Is it an angry dragon?”  Some players love to do something completely off-the-wall or nonsensical like “I make a PB & J sandwich.”

Bad narrators ‘railroad’ characters into positions where they only have limited – or no – options.  The guy who asks makes the PB&J sandwich gets eaten by the dragon.  GAME OVER.  Good narrators, like good improv actors, will incorporate the sandwich, the sword and the ice spell into part of the overarching story that s/he is telling.  It might even become a major theme of the story.  “The Knights of the Holy Sandwich of Antioch” or something, depending on what kind of story the narrator wants to tell.

Many times in an RPG game, the players become their own opponents.  The ‘thief’ character steals the ‘warrior’ character’s sword and events unfold from there.  This is completely off the path that the narrator wants to go in, but if the characters want to pursue it, then that’s what the narrator does.

God is the narrator of this Universal scale RPG game.  He knows all the rules, we call them physics, but they are the rules nonetheless, and has a story that he wants to characters to act out.  God can be a bad narrator, railroading the characters into specific events regardless of their choices, but he doesn’t do that, because the character’s experience is just as important as the results of the story.  More than that, a perfectly loving God is willing to change the story to suit the desires of his actors.

In other words, God is all knowing but chooses not to fix the end of the story so that we, the characters of this universal RPG can exercise our free will.  God is all-knowing, and being all-knowing chooses ignorance for the sake of his creations.

Isn’t that’s really the nature of love?  If you love something you put limits on yourself for the good of the thing you love.  If you’re unwilling to make sacrifices for the things you love, then you don’t really love them, do you?

It’s Schrodinger’s cat, but with spacetime instead of felines.  As long as God doesn’t look in the box of our future, then we both have free will, and don’t.  God loves us, and wants us to continue to move along his cosmic story, so he doesn’t look in the future box.  He lets us do the right thing, the wrong thing and the crazy off-the-wall thing because that’s what free will does.

On God (part I)

October 21, 2016 at 10:25 am | Posted in Morality, Religion | 1 Comment

In the “About Me” section of my little corner of the web you’ll see that I call myself a Buddhist.  I’m certainly not a good Buddhist, and I don’t tell a lot of people that I’m a Buddhist because with that label comes a whole bunch of preconceptions (see Spiders and Butterflies), and I want people to see me, not my labels.  And, I don’t want people to use me – an admittedly ‘bad’ Buddhist – as an example of what Buddhism is all about.

I believe in a God.  But, when it gets right down to it, I can’t prove there is a God.  I gave this matter a lot of thought – meditated on it, you might say – and eventually came to the conclusion that I believe in God simply because it makes me happy to do so.  I like the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent being watching over me and keeping me safe.  Now, I’ve also had some personal experiences that reinforce my belief, but if I’m going to to be honest, the belief was there first.  I may have, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, twisted my facts to suit my theories.  I recognize this, and yet I continue to believe.  In my mind, that’s okay as long as I’m being honest with myself.

With that little disclaimer out of the way, I’d like to talk a bit about God.

God, by my definition is 1) Omniscient, 2) Omnipotent and 3) Perfectly Loving.  Many of my atheist friends have difficulty believing in a God who meets these three components.  But it does work, if you take a moment to really think about what God would have to be.

We must first dispense with the idea that God thinks of things in any kind of human scale.  If God created the Universe, then he would have to be at least 14 billion years old. Assuming that God experiences time at all, His understanding of existence would be vastly different from our own.  To wit: An entire human lifetime represents a tiny fraction of an eyeblink to God.  To put it a way that might make it easier to understand, let’s chop a few zeroes off of God’s age.  Instead of at least 14,000,000,000 years old, let’s say God – and therefore the Universe – has been around for 140 years, or nearly twice a human lifespan.  If we look at human events on the same time scale:

  • A human lifetime (~80 years) would be 25 seconds long
  • World War II (~6 years) would be just shy of 2 seconds
  • All of human existence (~2 million years) would be 7.3 minutes long

So, when people ask why a perfectly loving God doesn’t do something to prevent bad things from happening, I have to respond with:  What bad things?  From God’s perspective, the human species has only been around less than 10 minutes.

But, let’s put it another way:  Your child – whom you love dearly – falls on the playground and skins her knee.  The child cries, but you, the loving parent, know that that the injury will be forgotten in a few minutes.  You might give your child a kiss on the injured joint, distract her with something shiny and then the injury is forgotten and your beloved child returns to the playground.  This, to God, would be the equivalent of World War II.

What’s more, many of my contemporaries are now, as middle aged adults, proud of the bumps and scrapes – and even the scars – they carried from their childhood.  Scars make stories, and stories are what our infinitesimally short lives are all about.

But there’s more to it that even that.  What happens when we die?  We return to God.  Death, in this view, isn’t a bad thing.  It’s the equivalent of going home.  Our railing against death is roughly the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum because s/he has to leave the toy aisle at Wal-Mart.

That’s why God let’s “bad” things happen.

What God really does take interest in, in my opinion, is our immortal souls. But, there is almost nothing on Earth that can hurt our souls.  They are, by definition, eternal.  I do say almost nothing, because I think there are ways to injure a soul.  Severe shocks to the psyche can ‘injure’ the soul.  But I’m talking about the kind of shocks that cause life-long instability and emotional scarring.  If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why does He allow these types of things to happen?

The answer to that is: free will.  It is perhaps the greatest gift God gives to us.  I say that because it’s the only thing he has never taken away from us, despite our propensity to misuse it.  In order to prevent us from hurting one another – in both tiny and large ways – God would have to take away our free will.  Our free will, the ability to do evil if we choose too, is important to God.

God doesn’t want us to do evil.  He wants us to choose to do good.  If he takes away free will, forces us to always choose good, then he makes us automatons – simple extensions of God.  Without free will, we literally cease to exist as people.  I don’t believe God wants that.  I believe we must be free to choose; and that means we must be free to choose to starve millions of people to death in order to make a grain quota.

I’ll continue on this thread next week talking about omniscience, omnipotence and predestination.

I rarely bring these beliefs up in casual conversation because it always feels like I’m belittling tragic events in human history.  That’s not the case at all.  Tragedy, not just the Russian Famine, or World War II, but personal tragedies are real and painful things.  Please don’t take this to mean that I don’t relate to personal or global tragedies, I do!  But God doesn’t relate to them the same way that we do, simply because of the difference in scale.

Free Education

October 14, 2016 at 11:25 am | Posted in Education, Society | Leave a comment

I’ve worked a big chunk of my carreer in the education sector, and I believe that education is the single most important thing a society can do for its people.  Moreso, even, than health care.  An educated person, after all can maintain their own health.  They know why sanitation is important, and they know what to do when they get sick.

It might, therefore, surprise you that I don’t favor the ‘free’ education programs being promoted by some.  I don’t believe that there is a student debt crisis, and I don’t believe the American taxpayers should pay for a college education.

First, there’s the mythology of the college debt crisis.  Yes, 1.3 trillion dollars is a lot of debt.  But it’s shared by some 43 million students.  That works out to about $30,000 dollars each.  Not a small sum, to be sure, but it’s less than a car loan, and much more valuable.  Plus, it likely has a much lower interest rate than a car loan.  If students weren’t repaying these loans, then their’d be a crisis, not for the students, but for the lenders.  You can bet that if students weren’t repaying these loans, there wouldn’t be a ‘movement’ to ‘discuss’ free education.  There’d be legislation in place… yesterday.

So, the average college student goes roughly $30,000 into debt to get an education that will, on average make them about $23,000 more per year than someone without a degree.  That’s not a crisis, that’s a sound financial investment.  What college student’s are stuggling with it the idea that the college degree will get them a high-paying job immediately after graduation.  As a man with a BA in History, I can tell you that that’s just not true.  Over the long run, the degree is worth more – and sometimes it’s worth more because you have a low paying job when others don’t have a job at all.  So, the value of the degree is not debatable.

I said earlier that I believe in education.  The more education people have, the better off they are.  You might therefore ask why don’t I want everyone to have a college education?  Simply put, the definition of “a college education” doesn’t exist.  In fact, a college education is really just a piece of paper that says I went to college.

Students aren’t stupid, they know that they’re paying for a piece of paper, not an education.  This is why many college students don’t show up for class, they aren’t interested in learning the material, they’re interested in completing the course.  If they can get credit for the course without doing the work, they’re actually economically efficient.  Colleges are largely supportive of this model.  While most colleges are not-for-profit institutions, they are still interested in increasing revenue and decreasing expenses.  This means, among other things, keeping students enrolled.  Failing students don’t enroll, they drop out.  So the college has an incentive to lower education standards.  Stronger academic rigor not only pushes paying customers out, it costs more money.  Lower standards both decreases  expenses while simultaneously increasing revenue.

If both the customer (the student) and the service provider (the college) have a vested interest in lowering standards, then you can bet that standards are going to get lower.  Which is what we’re seeing.

The one thing that keeps standards up, is the value of the education.  If college graduates actually have more value than non-college graduates then college graduates get better jobs.  This is reflected in the colleges reputation.  While I don’t have the statistics to back it up, I would argue that most colleges and universities today do not have high academic reputations simply because they have bowed to the fiscal pressures mentioned above.

What I’m getting at is if college is free, there will be a deluge of students who aren’t interested in an education, but are interested in a diploma.  Colleges will drop their standards even more in order to attract this low-hanging fruit and the tax-payer money that comes with them.  Yes, there will be certain schools that will maintain their academic reputations, but in the end the American people will be financing a generation of idiot BA’s.  Everyone will have a degree, and no one will be any more educated.

In my opinion, what needs to happen instead is that college funding is slowly decreased over time.  Perhaps 20 years.  At the same time, scholarships are provided to those students based on their high school performance.  For example, those students who are in the top 10% of their class have 90% of their tuition paid for at whatever college they are admitted to.  This will (finally) encourage and reward those students who work hard in high school and AREN’T on a sports team.  I’m also okay with providing additional funding incentives for those student who come from fiscally strapped communities.

My father once told me that an high school diploma today is worth the same an a Jr. High School education was when he was a kid.  And a bachelor’s degree is the equivalent of a high school diploma.  What we need to do is make a high school diploma worth more, and save the bachelors degrees for those who value education, not just paper.

 

Body Image

September 30, 2016 at 11:22 am | Posted in Health Care, Society | Leave a comment

There is this idea that I keep hearing about that women are under a great deal of pressure about their body image.  I’m not going to argue that that’s not true, because that would be silly.  What I want to point out it that this isn’t just an issue for women.  Men get shamed too, we’re just not supposed to talk about it.

Just the other day I was talking to a friend of mine and she brought up the idea that “you don’t have most of society telling you you must be this or that… and no Sports Illustrated covers you can never attain…”  The idea that she believed this, and that most of society believes this, just galled me.  I started to get into it with her, but we were at work and it wasn’t really the time or place.  Plus I didn’t want to get to critical, she’s my friend, and when it’s all said and done, her friendship is more important than my opinion on a social issue.

Most of the male body-image shaming comes in the form of bullying from other men.  A boy or young man who is out-of-shape, i.e. fat,  is an easy target for bullies.  Overweight men get shamed at the gym too.  That’s hardly new.  We also have unattainable social images presented to us as well, or do you not see the “Sexiest Man Alive” magazine issues that adorn our grocery store checkout aisles every few months.

The difference, however, is that men aren’t supposed to talk about how society shames them for not being “perfect.”  Talking about body shaming actually leads to feelings of emasculation, which only exacerbates the problem.  Most men are taught from an early age, that if they feel bad about their bodies, they should do something about it.  I personally would never complain to anyone about my body image issues, because I know that in the end, I’m responsible for my body image.  The closest I ever come to expressing my dissatisfaction with my body image is saying “I have got to get to the gym more!”  Which, of course, is followed by single-handedly eating a whole pizza.

By no means am I saying that men have it worse than women do.  We don’t.  Men have it easier, for one, because cultural ideals for male beauty tend toward being larger (or more specifically a “key body image for a man in the eyes of a woman would include big shoulders, chest, and upper back, and a slim waist area”).  Not only does this make being overweight less of a problem, it gives us the option to wear more clothes (which adds bulk).  Those clothes cover up flaws and fat.  Women, in contrast, are encouraged to be smaller, which means less clothing and consequently fewer ways of hiding imperfections.  In other words, women have to be slimmer/fitter to fit society’s notions of beauty, ergo, more pressure.

In the end, what I’m trying to say is that while women don’t have an easy time of being “beautiful” they aren’t alone.  Men face this problem too.  Men are fat-shamed and bullied too, we just aren’t supposed to talk about it.  In the end, this isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a people issue, and should be addressed as such.  Women aren’t the victims of this, and men aren’t the perpetrators.  People are the victims and people – male and female – are the perpetrators.  Thinking of this as a gender issue only isolates the victims, male and female, from their allies.

 

There is no them.  There is only us.

Spiders and Butterflies

September 23, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Culture Wars, Society | 1 Comment

I recently watched this video where the poster claims to “explain how to end the violence against black people.”  I didn’t agree with the claims made in the video, but I did like the point he made about butterflies and spiders.

Before I even get started, however, I want to make if very clear that I abhor police shootings and violence against any community, black, white, Hispanic, Muslim or what-have-you.  Black lives do matter, and these shootings are appalling and need to stop NOW.

In the video, Charity Croff makes a claim that if you have a butterfly and a spider in your house, you’ll capture the butterfly and release it unharmed, but you’ll kill the spider.  He explains that black people are the spiders of our society, and that makes it acceptable to kill them. He further claims that  if the President were to dress in “sagging jeans, a black hoodie and a gold grill” to every function and subsequently do his “greatest work yet” it would change the nature of our society.  That might be true, but I doubt it.  Here’s why:

How we as individuals interact with society, that is the way walk, what we wear, even what we eat, tells the world who we are. These things that we do are our cultural labels. Most of us put on a label that allows us to interact with others so as to create the least amount of cultural friction possible.  In mainstream US society, if a man wants to wear his respectable label, he might wear a suit and tie.   If the President were to start wearing “baggy pants, a black hoodie and a gold grill” it would change the way he is perceived.  He’d no longer be perceived as respectable, but as a thug, and people would treat him accordingly.  This isn’t just about the clothes worn by… we’ll call them inner-city youths.  If the President wore a thobe and/or ghutra, he’d be perceived as a Muslim, and would be treated accordingly.  The point being, that the perception of the individual would change, but it wouldn’t how society views the cultural labels.  It takes years for a society to change.  That’s why we talk about cultural trends in terms of decades e.g. “the 80’s.”

These labels have nothing to do with race, geography or even family.  They aren’t just the clothes we wear, but the way we speak, the foods we eat, the media we consume.  We swap these labels as needed depending on who we are interacting with.  We are different around women than we are around men.  We are different around our moms than we are with our friends.  We are different around our bosses than with our spouses.  If I decide to don a cultural label that others perceive as that of a “thug” or a “slut” then I have to expect to be treated as someone who is part of that group.

At this point there are probably many people who are offended, I did after all, use the s-word**.  We are all taught not to judge a book by its cover, but in truth we all do it.  Maybe you’re super respectful of those things that I’ve described as labels.  Maybe you don’t judge the young man in the baggy pants, or the woman in the fishnet stockings.  But I’ll bet you judge the man with the confederate flag t-shirt, or the woman with the floral bonnet.  We all do it because we have to.  Faced with billions of choices to make every day, we have to use the limited information available to us to decide right in the instant how we are going to interact with another person.  The labels that the other person chooses are the only clues we have.

It’s true that a person has the right to wear whatever he or she wants to wear.  But that person also has to deal with the consequences of that choice.  You can wear prison garb to a job interview, but it’s probably not going to help you land the job.  This brings up an interesting question: why do people choose to dress in a manner than others might find threatening or otherwise off-putting?  Personally, I believe a person dresses threateningly if they are in an environment where they themselves feel threatened.  If you look like a spider, you probably won’t have to worry about butterflies harassing you.  And as you  look more spidery, perhaps you have less to worry about from the other spiders.

What I’m saying is that while I don’t agree with the conclusions Mr. Croff makes in his video.*  I do like the spiders and butterflies analogy he uses.  If a person chooses to look like a spider, however, he or she should expect to be treated as one.

Finally, with all that I’ve just said, that’s not an excuse to shoot anyone.  That person might look different from you, and maybe that makes you uncomfortable, but you can’t resort to violence because someone looks threatening, and you certainly can’t resort to deadly force because you thought someone might be a threat.  That’s not just  wrong, it’s cowardly.  I would further state that police need to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us.  It is their job to protect and serve everyone, not just the butterflies and maybe especially the spiders.

*Nothing but respect for Mr Croff.  Just because I don’t agree with him doesn’t mean I don’t respect him.
** Personally, I find the term ‘slut’ ridiculous in today’s society.  There’s nothing wrong with being sexually available.  If it offends you, perhaps you should ask yourself why?  (And put your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to get your opinion!)

Jesus from the Stars

November 27, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Culture Wars, Religion | Leave a comment

Christians often assume that their truth – the truth taught in the Bible – is universal truth.  I’ve wondered what would happen if some alien race came to earth and started spreading their religion and it turned out to be exactly the same as Christian dogma, except all the names were different.  Because on Planet X, there is no Bethlehem, so Jesus couldn’t have been born there.  The name “Jesus” would have no meaning in their language, so he would have undoubtedly been named something completely alien sounding.  No Italy, so no Rome, so no Roman governor, so no Pilate to order Jesus’s crucifixion.  For that matter, no crucifixion because who knows what kind of torturous death the inhabitants of ancient Planet X used on their incarnations of God.

So, most of the symbology of Christian teaching would be lost.  But, if the truth’s Jesus taught are truly universal, then  this otherworldly savior would also have to preach them to his followers.  Right?

Now, imagine the inhabitants of Planet X come to Earth (or we go to Planet X), and we start sharing our stories.  Do you think we’d be smart enough to figure out that God took mortal form on both planets?  Sadly, I don’t think we would.  Our minds would be too fixated on the symbolism of the religion, and not on the teachings of the savior.  And that’s assuming the inhabitants of Planet X share similar values to ours.  There are an infinite number of possible differences that would completely up-end our understanding of Jesus’ teachings.  Most of the parables become meaningless jibberish when removed from their cultural underpinnings.  We only barely understand the parable of the Good Samaritan today, and we share the same DNA as the Samaritans.

So, then next time you find yourself proselytizing, just try to keep Planet X in mind.  You might actually get farther.

Nook U Lar

November 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Military, Politics | Leave a comment
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I’m afraid I don’t understand why Iran can’t have nukes when other developed countries can.  More than that, I don’t understand what gives us the right to say that someone else shouldn’t have nukes?  What country has actually used nukes on another country?  Who has the 2nd largest nuclear stockpile in the world?  Who has tested the most nuclear weapons?  Who spends the most of “defense?”

To be clear, I don’t want Iran to have nukes.  And I understand the logic of using our considerable economic and diplomatic power to dissuade Iran, and other countries like them, from developing nuclear weapons.  But it seems to me that we should not be taking point on this issue.  We should let our like-minded allies and friends be the one’s doing the talking.  Great Britain doesn’t want Iran to have nukes, great!  We support Great Britain’s position and will back their policy.

By leading the drive to prevent others from using nukes, it seems we actually make that drive less likely to succeed.  We, and those who follow our lead, come off as hypocrites.  Better instead to let Switzerland – or someone like them –  lead the charge, and we stand behind them, backing their policy.  If our goal is to prevent nuclear proliferation, then the quiet man in the background is probably a better position.

There seems to be this idea that the United States has to lead everything.  In some cases it’s best to let others lead.  Iranian nuclear armament is one of those instances.

Measures

November 14, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in communications, Society | Leave a comment

The other day I ran across the aphorism “We measure what is important to us.”  I’d seen this old saw before, and it has always caused my brow to furrow.  Do we measure what is important to us?  Really?  After giving the matter (too) much thought, I came to the conclusion that we don’t measure what is important to us.  Instead, we measure what is important to others.  

When you look at it, what’s the purpose of measuring something?  If you ask your grandmother (or great grandmother) for her famous carrot cake recipe there’s a good chance the recipe will include a “pinch” of cinnamon or a “dash” of salt.  Gramma knows exactly how much salt to put in the cake, it’s only when she needs to share that information with someone else that it become necessary to use a precise mechanism for measurement.  Shared standards become important, but for gramma, a pinch and a dash works just fine.

We measure things in order to communicate information to other people, not necessarily because we think it’s important, but because we are trying to get an accurate representation of our “carrot cake.”  What’s more, the carrot cake isn’t even important to gramma.  It’s important to the person who has asked for the recipe.   In business what matters to us is our personal success.  Ideally we’re able to tie our personal success to the company’s success, but in the end we’ll leave the company if our personal success is heading in one direction and the company’s is heading in another.  So, in business, we measure what is important to those who impact our personal success.  In other words, if your boss wants the carrot cake recipe, you give it to her using measurements you both can understand.

When we get down to it, what’s important to us as individuals doesn’t have to be measured.  We know what’s important.  Right or wrong we place value on things and tasks based on our personal experience and choices.  A mother doesn’t evaluate her children – she simply loves them.  A man of faith doesn’t measure his devotion on some scale of righteousness, he simply lives in accordance with his values.   But what’s interesting is when we try to provide these measurements to other people.  Because invariably, we fail.  Don’t believe me?  Try it yourself.

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