Loyalty Is a Treasure – Disloyalty Is a Travesty

I grew up with four younger siblings.  You can imagine the constant turmoil and conflicts.  Really, what we experienced was trivial, but at the time, it seemed extreme.  Despite the changing levels of love, we were a family.  We could have our problems, but they stayed our private business.  Any threats or harm from neighborhood kids were an attack on all of us.  We took care of each other, and never disparaged a family member in public.  That is loyalty.

Loyalty can be a problematic virtue; it is a persistent, sometimes painful promise, and devoted commitment.  We possess our loyalties; we call them my friends, my family, my profession, my church, my team, our party, our country. We are ashamed or proud of them. We take risks or bear burdens for them.

Families expect it; organizations demand it; countries foster it. We expect loyalty in return.

People may forfeit our loyalty by asking us to set aside good judgment, “justifying” unethical conduct, or persistently violating our trust or shared values.

“When an organization wants you to do right, it asks for your integrity; when it wants you to do wrong, it demands your loyalty.”

Public disloyalty is a terrible betrayal; it says the worst about the betrayer.  Private quarrels, confidential problems are not disloyalty, they are getting along with people who share your values.

President Trump’s public criticism of Attorney General Sessions is embarrassing to our country and to his administration.  The crass nature of his publicized complaints violates and weakens the loyalty of his followers when loyalty is at a premium.  This was not a slip, no stealth recording; it was a New York Times interview, tweets, and press statements.  I am aghast at the whole spectacle.

Jeff Sessions was one of the most vocal supporters for Donald Trump during the campaign.  Why would Trump stab this powerful ally in the back over an act of integrity in recusing himself in the Russia/Clinton controversies?  Why this sad, rude, self-sabotage when so many important promises are waiting to be fulfilled?  I cringe when I think of how this will stain his presidency, and cripple the trust of his supporters.

Is it Important to know the sources of Truth? – Henry David Thoreau, Yes and Know

Maybe it has always been this way, but why does it seem so vital to associate an insightful aphorism with a famous person?

“Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad day-light.”

Who wrote this? Henry David Thoreau.  Beautiful in its truth and simplicity.  But what if some insignificant playwright put these words on Thoreau’s lips in his play?  Would it be less insightful?

There is a plague of mis-quotations, mis-attributions, and quotation mills, (e.g. brainyquotes.com) who do nothing to verify what people add to their sites.  I see these un-researched and inaccurate quotes used by people of incredible ability because the Internet makes it easy to be wrong and believe you are right.

When I first started seeing these “quotes.” and discovered how few were accurate, I spent months trying to raise the alarm about quotes attributed to Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and other notable historic figures.  Even after blazing the trail to truth, people shrugged and continued their reliance on provably unreliable websites.

One personal experience, before the current craze, happened to me in Colorado, while I was on a month-long “Chautauqua” through the Rocky Mountains.  A friendly lady gave me a bookmarker with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau.  “Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.”  Very touching and insightful, but a misquote by a writer, Michael Baughman, who wrote it in his book A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995) p. 156.

He apparently paraphrased something Thoreau wrote in his journal, January 26, 1853:

“It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course, it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.”

I wonder, if today, this aphorism captures our current, self-absorbed culture?  Maybe today, the “fishing” is taking “selfies” and exposing every aspect of people’s experience and perspective on the Internet.  They get noticed but not notorious, or famous, or even infamous.  They become suicidal when virtual phantoms express disdain and scorn.

Everybody seems to be fishing for something, but what do they really want and why?

What they may really want is proof, and acknowledgment that they exist and have a value, and a meaning.  Why do they want it?  Maybe the disintegration of family, neighborhood, community leaves a void they cannot fill.  Maybe this secular dissociation leaves people feeling empty, afraid, and alone.

Could it be that what they really want is what families and churches used to provide:  love and belonging?

The Rise of VARZI  – Virtual Artificial Reality Zombie Intelligence

Our pre-American forbears led lives of subsistence; work all day, every day for enough food to survive; prepare and eat the food; collapse into sleep; awake to the same exhausting challenges.  This work ethic and focus are a major part of what colonists brought to the New World, driven by the chance to own the land they work, hunt and fish the wilds about them, and live free of the crushing burdens of near-slavery as serfs, peasants, and servants.  They could not dream of a time that was not filled with all the efforts of pulling and putting together the pieces of life’s necessities.

Just meeting today’s needs was never enough. They could not afford to face the seasons unprepared. They had to be alert, to anticipate, prepare, learn, and plan for the cycles and dangers of nature; they had to be ready for the seasons, timing, preparing, sowing, harvesting, preserving, and storing of food: crops, fish, game, fruits; cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, clothing, tools, weapons; sickness, injury, childbirth; shelter, stewardship of farm animals, and on, and on.

Except for a few times, when nature did not allow work, people, including children, worked, ate, and slept.  Church was a mandatory break for the work-cycle.  Not only did weekly Sunday services provide “leisure” time for peaceful, renewing, and moral guidance, but it also allowed for physical regeneration through rest; it fostered hygiene and discipline; it fostered family and community “leisure” and play.

This kind of all-absorbing farm life continued for most Americans until technology began its ascent.  Within a dozen decades, we expanded, invented, and produced, new tools, factories, mines, roads, bridges, harbors, waterways, and railroads.  Farmers and ranchers produced enough food to allow them to sell it to non-farmers, who earned the money in towns and cities.

“Money-crops” such as cotton, tobacco, wool, hides, and furs, fed the textile mills, the leather tanneries, and tobacconists; cash was used for things the farmer could not produce easily, such as cloth, dye, needles, pins, shoes, glass, pots, pans, jars, jugs, clocks, medicines, spices, firearms, gunpowder, swords, axes, shovels, scythes, harnesses, chains, hinges, nails, buttons, buckles, candles, lamps, and things we needed then that we no longer remember.

Non-farm work had start and stop times.  Workers arrived at a certain time, worked and ate at certain times, and left at certain times.  That meant the rest of the day was up to the workers to use as they chose.  Holidays became expected days of rest.  Merchants tailored shop hours to worker schedules, which gave them down time as well.

The Great Depression and World War II accelerated three trends:  migration to cities, training in trades, and advanced education.

They also introduced and promoted the first virtual technologies, telephone, phonographs, movies, radio, and television.  Costs, broadcast time and reception areas limited the time people spent talking, listening, and watching.  But the attraction was clearly evident.  People would plan their days and evenings around their favorite news and entertainment programs.  Trips to the movies were considered treats.

The return of prosperity brought expanding demand for all the virtual technologies.  One limit on these technologies was location: phonographs, telephones, radios, movies, and televisions were locations people had to attend to use.  One exception for police and fire fighters:  two-way radios mounted in vehicles.  World War II saw the advent of “walkie-talkies,” the conceptual and technical precursors of modern cellphones.

Car radios, and the transistor radios released the listener from having to find a radio, to having a radio with them

The 1950’s, and 60’s introduced computers to American Business.  Once again, computers were locations, entombed in rarefied environments defended by physical security, and complete ignorance of the general populous.

The 1980’s advent of “personal computers;” which were portable, with some effort.  All that was missing was connecting computers through telephone systems – the Internet, and connecting radios to telephones – cellular phones.  The catalyst for the connectivity we enjoy today was the cellphone, which erased any connection between phones and locations, and made people the locations for telephone numbers.

Televisions were limited by the stations that broadcast in their reception area.  Three major national TV networks evolved, connected by satellite to the world.  Connecting televisions directly to satellites, coaxial cables, and now the Internet, brought us out of “network-tv” into the 24/7 “cable-tv” era.

Once cellphones connected to the Internet and television, where we watch movies, we arrived to today, where the distinctions have almost completely blurred.  Likewise have our senses of reality.

Now, “friends” are not people we know, “social media” is anonymous and often anti-social.  “Gamers” give a whole new meaning to “WoW,” spending days lashed to their computers, dispensing with bathroom breaks, installing Mountain Dew, refrigerators, and cutting pizza delivery slots in their doors.

We already have an entire generation living in basements.  What is next?  Maybe evolution will soon give our species extended narrow thumbs for “Texting,” and dimmer judgement for “Sexting.”  Maybe someday, all our ogling will be “Googling.” Is the “Zombie Apocalypse” upon us with the living “undead?”  I wonder if Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will converge into caskets, from which we never need emerge?  Will we live to see the rise of VARZI?

Independence Every Day – Divorce Virtual Opioids

This is a great time to be alive in America.  The average American has a better life than kings, queens, and pharaohs of the past.  We are safer, live longer, are free to go where we want, and enjoy knowledge and experiences that would have astounded the world only a few decades ago.

One area that is encroaching on our freedom is the enticing addiction to the virtual world to the exclusion of the real, here and now world.  More, and more, I walk through crowds of “zombies” stuck in their phones, tablets, music, and video.  They are not really “here.”  The inattention to life has begun to dominate our culture.  Isolation from “real” family and friends is rapidly wearing down the social skills of our society members.

The siren attraction of the imaginations of others is sapping the development and practice of imagining for ourselves.  Children need that development as they grow up.  What kind of adults, parents, employees will people become if they have no experience of self-creation?  What will our culture become when all we have is “copies” of the excellent ideas generated by a few “imagineers.”

Try doing without the virtual toys and tools you spend so much time with for 24 hours:  No cell phones, tablets, pc’s, internet, cable tv, DVD’s or other electronics.  You will quickly find out what you have been missing, such as talking with your family, reading books, playing musical instruments, inventing things, fixing things, learning things, eating with people who are present and making conversation about your life and the people you love.

We had to fight for our independence as we started this nation.  Now is a good time to exercise total freedom from the seductive draw of virtual opioids.

The News, Sans Trump? – What Is Left?

Based on the news I have seen these last 2 years, the only thing keeping U.S. news sources going is Trump.

Really, subtract all the coverage of Donald Trump and his coterie and we have what?  The major cable news channels would be reduced to human interest pieces, sports, and weather, oh, and North Korea.  Sure, the occasional terrorist attack, another Catholic priest scandal, and futile battles in the Middle East crop up every so often, but the rest would have to be just plain entertainment.

This goes double for the tiny news sites like salon, BuzzFeed, and their ilk.  Without political warfare, their nets, and their advertising coffers would be empty.

ESPN invented 24/7 sports programming.  The franchise makes a fortune from 1% actual sports activity + 99% talking, analyzing, postulating about sports figures, drafts, management changes, wagering, keeping score, and all the endless, pointless falderol of mostly man-talk (often by beautiful women).

Cable news, ala CNN, Fox, MSNBC, have taken that model to new heights of expanded air time by making everything editorial opinion, building media stars and forums to pander to one political cohort or the other.  The real feeding frenzy around everything Trump never seems to end.  Shows how hatred sells and fear captivates.

Anyway, I hope the news media enjoys the ride, because some day, they won’t have DJT to flick around anymore.

CDC Gone Wild – Get the Real Monster

Highly publicized articles, including grandstanding lawsuits by states’ attorneys’ general are pandering to news hungry media and ignoring the pain inflicted on compassionate pain management. Death by dying method (drug overdose), without distinguishing source (legal vs. illegal) is a misleading abuse of authority and power.

The recent blitz campaign against opioid drugs is terribly flawed.  According to the latest official data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (as of 2015) more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015.  Sad, we lost fewer to drugs than to automobiles (38,000), plus homicide (16,000), and slightly fewer than those lost to suicides (43,000).

But of the 52,000, how many died of prescription drugs vs. illegal drugs?  Nearly, 30,000 (58%) died from prescription drugs, the balance of 22,000 (42%) died from illicit drugs.

Opioids include prescription drugs derived from opium (such as heroin), and synthetic drugs (e.g. fentanyl) which are both prescribed, and sold illegally (manufactured and sold to drug dealers).  These illegal synthetic opioids are largely responsible for the spike in overdose deaths, because they are 10 to 100 times stronger than morphine.  Drug dealers mix them with heroin or other drugs to enhance the strength.  The potency is often inconsistent and unknown to the user.  Illegal fentanyl is a popular additive which is 10 times stronger than morphine.  Even a slight mismeasurement is multiplied by 10.

CDC is foreclosing options for legal, and legitimate pain medicine, even though illegal drugs are aggravating the overdose statistics.  They are implying that doctors are responsible through overprescribing opioids to pain patients.  Pain management specialists, who deal with chronic pain patients are often ignoring real suffering by undertreating the pain to avoid criticism from the CDC.

Readers who have real spine and neck problems know what pain is, even after surgery and other efforts to repair the damage.  I have talked to people just beginning treatment and surgery, who are being given glorified Advil and other ineffective drugs, when what their pain indicates is opioids.  Some people do get addicted and abuse opioids.  I do not dispute that.  But, not everyone who takes pain medicine becomes an addict, even though they depend on the relief they get from their prescriptions.  Dependency is not the same as addiction.  It does not automatically lead to ever-increasing desire for more and more.

Carfentanil is the scariest invention yet.  10,000 more powerful than morphine, this relative of fentanyl has been a recent bogeyman for illicit drug users.  Primary producer:  China (recently banned).  This drug is meant to tranquilize elephants. As little as 20 micrograms will kill you.

This scary substance is, knowingly or unknowingly, used as a cheap booster for other illegal drugs, mostly out of Mexico.  Think you are buying heroin, or meth?  Think again.  Houston police recently seized what they thought was methamphetamine and found lethal amounts of carfentanil instead.

The old days of drug abuse are officially over with the advent of this drug.  The next terrorist attack could easily be a batch of white powder.  A car bomb or suicide vest filled with this drug could kill hundreds or thousands, including first responders.

The point, let legitimate pain-management doctors do their jobs; spend the millions of dollars now devoted to opioid suppression on the true shadow of death: illegal superopiods.

 

 

 

 

Sails or Sea Anchors? – Who Do We Need as Our National Leaders?

What happens when what always works does not?  What happens to leaders who are blinded by the momentum of power from past successes?  Equally fair, what happens to leaders who are thrust into power by overreactions to the establishment?  Answer:  nothing good.

A maelstrom of entropy is looming over us, the world’s only superpower.  Quixotic tilting against objectified “evil-minded devils” fills our bandwidths.  Our national cortisol has spiked to threatening levels.  Our unity as Americans has disappeared, deflated by our own in-fighting.  Mean-spirited feuding has become our national sport.

Why, in less than two decades, have we Americans let our powerful family disintegrate from compromise and cooperation into rabid rabble-rousing, closely paralleling the vicious personal attacks, and snipes that preceded the Civil War?  Has such hyperbolic, gladiatorial nastiness become the minimum standard for political success?  Has the anonymity of virtual communications emboldened us to self-righteously attack and degrade people we do not know?

The winds of political change are blowing furiously in all directions; sails of power are becoming sea anchors of defeat; populist cannons are blasting broadside the galleons of the establishment; long-time admirals of state are too far from the shores of reconciliation to avoid going down with ships of hubris.

Who is ready to transform our thinking, our attitudes, and our beliefs about one another?  Who is ready to turn our swords into plowshares, to make peace with our greatness, and to make room for other ideas?  Who is prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans and salute.  Isn’t anyone else tired of this war?