Opinions

The Reality of the American and Russian Myths in America And the Environment That Sustains Them

The relentless and escalating propaganda war that Washington has been zealously pursuing against Russia has placed increased emphasis on the undeniable and glaring fact that informed knowledge about world events is woefully lacking among the general public in America. This is nothing new of course, but as we move farther into this dangerous scenario the long-term implications are become ever more alarming.

Washington does not want to see and in fact fears a strong and independent Russia, and the regrettable result could very well see Russia as our enemy once again. This is most unfortunate as it benefits no one in the long term, and as an American it is extremely dismaying to see this happen. Indeed, our government has set us on a very dangerous course, and it would be beneficial if more American citizens would recognize and challenge government and mainstream media rhetoric.

The sad fact is that many people either cannot or will not recognize that their opinions and world views have been shaped for them. But how to make people aware and concerned enough to want to mitigate the effects of a lifetime of programmed learning? This is a monumental task to undertake, and one that many would argue is pointless, but nonetheless it must at least be attempted, because to do otherwise would be a failure of social conscience and responsibility.

To get an understanding of the scope of this problem, it is important to recognize the systems and mindsets in place in American society that are obstacles to educated opinions and common sense. The following are my perceptions resulting from a lifetime of observation and experience living in America, and are meant merely to provide an overview.

There exists in American culture a myth which asserts that America is a great shining beacon of freedom, liberty, democracy, happiness and opportunity for all, and that we are truly blessed and exceptional. This is what all Americans have been raised to believe for generations, and many do believe in it whole-heartedly. This myth has been deliberately perpetuated and cultivated, but to blindly buy into this, especially now, is folly. It presents us with a Utopian idealistic society that is not at all supported by the reality of today. To put it another way, the facts no longer support the myth.

Our system is breaking down and our government is wreaking havoc at home and abroad. This cannot go on indefinitely without disastrous consequences, and it is becoming more apparent that Washington is out of line, out of control, and very dangerous. The form this government has taken is no longer recognizable, functional, or safe for anyone anywhere, and for this we are all paying the price. As the corruption, lies and hypocrisy become more blatantly obvious their rhetoric is becoming louder, more irrational, and there is evidence of panic beneath the surface. Slowly, very slowly, some Americans are finally taking notice.

Unfortunately, not only is that not happening fast enough,  many are only concerned with what is happening in America and not in the rest of the world. They fail to grasp and appreciate the negative consequences of American foreign policy, not only for other countries but domestically too. They can’t see or refuse to believe that this government thrives on having enemies, and ultimately it matters not who those enemies are. Yesterday it was the Islamist extremists, today its Russia, and eventually, completing a process that has actually already started, they will turn inward and we will become the terrorists.

Existing alongside this myth there is a Russian myth as well. This alleges that Russia is inherently bad, untrustworthy, aggressive, and is the antitheses of democracy. This mentality is a remnant of the Cold War that Washington is loath to relinquish and in fact encourages every chance they get. Keeping Russia in the role of villain has its uses for them. At home especially, making Russia out to be the aggressor and thereby a real threat, serves to deflect from their own aggressive actions and agenda. To accept the Russian myth as truth is to believe in a reality that has been contrived and nurtured to further the ambitions of a particular section of our society, and it is not done in the best interest of anyone else.

Not everybody believes the negative hype completely of course, but enough do that it is a major cause for concern, and underlines just how little most Americans truly know about Russia. What is really strange is when one takes into account the old saying, know your enemy. How many Americans, especially those who regard Russia as an enemy or even a potential one, know much about her at all? If there are any I’ve yet to run across them.

This demonstrates perfectly how pre-programmed as a society we truly are, but the program logic is faulty. The Soviet Union no longer exists, and the Russia of today has made great strides in the re-building and strengthening of the country. Have they left behind the Soviet Union completely? No, of course not, how can they?  Like it or not, the Soviet Union is a part of their past and always will be, but Russia has a long and storied history which includes much more than their Soviet past. In fact, one aspect of Russian history that Americans tend to scoff at and disbelieve is that there are unimaginable horrors in Russia’s past that Americans simply cannot even begin to comprehend because there is nothing in our history to compare to it. Point this out and see what kind of reaction you get.

Allowing these two myths to continue unchallenged is neither healthy nor advantageous. It is long past time to confront the effects of the propaganda machine which rules over almost every aspect of American society. As an explanation of what is, or what is not, happening in regards to American response to their government’s actions, the opinion has been expressed many times that Americans are just stupid and lazy, but this is too simplistic and lacking in substance.

This is a multi-faceted and complex issue and it is necessary to examine the various underlying factors and problems that are in place that allows these two myths to not only survive but to thrive, thereby blinding people to the reality of the world they live in. To get a firm grasp on our very poor understanding and treatment of Russia it would be useful to consider the following. Although listed and briefly described here, these can be found buried within the two myths themselves, if one looks hard enough. Invariably I will not hit them all, so this list will not be all inclusive. Once again, I stress that these are my perceptions. Others may disagree.

Lack of Relevant Education – This is a huge concern that is not only a problem in and of itself, but one that if addressed effectively could do much to fix the others. The public education system in America has become politicized to the point that it is ineffective and redundant. The propaganda indoctrination starts here. Emphasis is placed on rote learning, testing, and unquestioning obedience to the school system. The curriculum is narrowly defined and in general lacks true objective investigative techniques and analysis. Furthermore, there are two vital elements in education that are absolutely necessary for true learning and development to occur. One is the promotion and application of critical thinking and the other is the unrestricted utilization of the question why.  It is important to note that it is not that these have been removed from the educational system, but that their role has been perverted and controlled. The use of these two essential learning blocks is encouraged only in the context of what is deemed permissible and acceptable. Thinking too far outside the defined parameters of the box and too much questioning is discouraged and is viewed in a suspicious manner. The private religious educational system too has its controls. While overall the quality of the education is somewhat better than the public system because it is more in depth and not subject to state standards, efforts are in place to mold the thinking of the young to align with a certain belief system. This also restricts the questioning and thinking process. In addition, subjects such as history and geography are for the most part taught from the American perspective only. Colleges and universities too are not the famed halls of learning they once were as now they have become big business, and are run with the bottom line and socially acceptable appearances in mind.  These approaches to education are counter-productive and lack common sense. We truly live in a global, interactive world today and exposure to other perspectives, cultures, and histories through quality and relevant education is vital in order to not only understand and make sense of this world, but to be able to effectively participate in it, and with it.

A Corrupt Media – This is rather self-explanatory, as it is blatantly obvious that American media has been bought and paid for, effectively abandoning the principles of their profession. Their screaming headlines blaming Putin and Russia for everything is not only one-sided but revolting. An enormous amount of blame can be laid at the media’s feet for the disinformation the general public is receiving. It is ultimately their job to keep the government accountable to the public but this is not happening. The propaganda machine is sustained and maintained here through the endorsement of the government’s stance on all topics, including Russia, so that those who get all their news from these sources are not getting the full story. What they are getting are deliberate lies, half-truths, and misdirection. There are other alternate news sources of course, but not everyone accesses them, or has access to them. Additionally, investigative journalism in America is not the securest of professions anymore, and anyone who is a whistle-blower is not safe. If we completely lose our ability to keep the government accountable then we are all in serious trouble, and we’re not too far from that becoming a reality right now.

The Politically Correct Culture – I tend to equate this with societal suicide. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines politically correct as “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people”. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? I believe it used to just be called common courtesy or good manners, but this has morphed into something that seems to have taken on a life of its own. We are now a society of victims. Law-abiding citizen or criminal, male or female, black or white, young or old, rich or poor, it doesn’t really matter. We are all victims. Who then, are the offenders? Well, since we are all victims, and we are all standing around looking at each other, then we must all be offenders too. Unfortunately, instead of making people more sensitive to others this culture has had the opposite effect.  In other words, it allows those who are actually being offensive to turn it around, put the blame for their actions and words elsewhere, claim they are the victims, and then continue with their offensive behavior, most of the time with society’s approval.  It has become an integral part of the political machine in society by ultimately discouraging responsibility and accountability while encouraging and advocating questionable, unethical, and sometimes dangerous behavior. This mentality allows those in power to justify their lifestyle. It’s all about appearances and adhering to their definition of what is socially acceptable. This can be seen in action daily in all segments of society as there are all these mini political environments operating within the context of the larger one. Character traits such as honesty, integrity, and dignity are not valued, and in fact anyone who truly possesses them is in the minority. On the bigger stage we are also seeing this negative way of thinking and behaving at play now in Washington’s attitude and responses regarding Ukraine and their attempts to alienate and isolate Russia. By observing and discerning available information it is not hard to figure out what is going on and that Russia is being blamed for our bad behavior.

Distraction and Misdirection – These are two very effective tools that are absolutely loaded with possible subject material so I will have to take a broad view. Let’s start with the most obvious and easily recognizable which would be media and advertising. American society has become so flooded with noise, visuals, and choices that it is mind numbing. The more overwhelmed and distracted people are the less they notice what is really happening, and people aren’t going to complain about what they don’t notice, are they? Cell phones, TV’s, games, gadgets, and sports – everything needed to do your thinking for you and occupy your time and attention, and advertising is notorious for planting the idea that by using their products or services you will be happier, feel better, look better, live longer, save money, etc. etc., all the while employing  intrusive and rude methods. Distraction and misdirection are also played out in the social issues within the country, which by their very nature lack permanent solutions. People are never going to completely agree on issues like abortion, gay marriage or gun control, and the dominance of any social issue at a given time varies and comes and goes in cycles. Things will heat up about a particular issue and there will be a lot of attention given to it, and then it will fade until something pushes it to the forefront again. When this happens it is very useful in distracting American attention away from what the government is doing domestically in regards to federal spending, NSA spying, or the erosion of the 4th Amendment, to name but a few, and these flare ups are more than likely intentional for that very reason. Finally, these methods have been instrumental in the international arena in pushing Washington’s agenda in Ukraine, and in their treatment of Russia.

Apathy and Bliss in Ignorance – These problems are prevalent and becoming more pronounced in American society as the standard of living continues to deteriorate. Conditions such as unemployment and low wages along with increases in the cost of living and taxes are proving to be more of a drain on people’s resources as time passes. Living paycheck to paycheck, as many do, and having to make choices between buying food and necessities or paying bills, and tending to their families, is all many can cope with. The reality of such an existence leads to disinterest and indifference in events that do not have an immediate impact on daily life. Then there are those who are happily ignorant. These people simply do not know, do not want to know, do not care that they don’t know, and will readily admit to it because they are wrapped up in their own worlds and that is all that really matters to them. As long as they have what they need and want then they are content. In both of these groups however, you will also find that people will shrug and ask “What can I do?” They express the opinion that they are just one person and there is nothing they can do to change anything. Think how easy it would be for the government if we all had that attitude.

Isolation – With the exceptions of Canada and Mexico, America is physically too far away from all that is occurring in the rest of the world. Granted, we have moved beyond the times when information took weeks or months to be relayed; it is instantaneous now. But the sheer distances involved provides a real disconnect and a false sense of security. Watching an event thousands of miles away unfold on a screen is not the same as having it happen in your own backyard. With many people, unless they can relate to something or feel threatened by it on a personal level, they are unlikely to be overly concerned. Additionally, the geographic isolation experienced by the country as a whole can also be applied to individuals. Obviously this does not include everyone, but there are huge numbers of Americans who have never been outside of their own community let alone outside of the country. This physical isolation serves the propaganda purposes of our government quite well because for the most part we lack experience, understanding and empathy of other cultures and ways of life. This then causes us to project our American values, morals, and expectations on the rest of the world, which is exactly what the government wants. This is a great contributor to the idea of American exceptionalism, and when Americans think of places like Russia it seems so far away and foreign that it may as well be on another planet.

Cold War Mentality – As mentioned previously, Washington has done nothing to move America past this, and in fact is doing all they can to make sure it endures. This is totally unfair to Russia who has attempted to move past it, and they have made great strides in this respect. Washington refuses to acknowledge any of this however, and will jump at any chance they get to point an accusing finger at Russia. It is hard to conceive why they would want to risk another cold war, but their actions give the impression that they want one. There are reasons they may want one, such as hegemony and resources, which have been discussed extensively elsewhere, but I believe there is another underlying reason that, perhaps unconsciously, plays a part. Washington is both fearful and jealous of Putin, which in turn makes them angry and spiteful, and it’s not too much of a stretch to see this. Putin is the strongest leader Russia has had in a very long time and possesses qualities that are lacking in American leaders. Under his leadership Russia is getting stronger, and his foreign policies and skills are very effectual. He has proven that he can handle pressure, and demonstrates professionalism, restraint, and common sense.  He also happens to have a very competent foreign minister in Lavrov. Together they make an effective and successful team which really underscores Washington’s own incompetence, and this infuriates them. They cannot tolerate being bested in any way.

Hopefully this goes a little way in helping to explain from one Americans’ point of view the reality of what is happening in America, and the major obstacles that will need to be overcome to increase awareness in the general public. This can all be broken down and expanded on of course, but that is too much to undertake for the purposes of this article.

The goal here is twofold. One is to encourage people to investigate everything, question everything, and realize just how much their thinking is influenced by others who have no one’s best interest at heart except their own. I don’t know about anyone else, but as much as possible I do not want my opinions to be dictated to me. I want to own them through my own efforts. The other is to encourage people to research and learn about Russian culture, history, and current events in order to increase understanding, empathy, and cooperation.

Russia is not some terrible country full of terrible people, but a country with its own strengths and weaknesses and with a valid right to exist and prosper. They are definitely not deserving of the treatment they are currently receiving, and the gulf between Russia and America must be bridged for there to be any real and lasting progress and peace between us.

Politics

Where Would You Like Your Conflict Served?

Ever found yourself eating in a greasy diner – not because you want to – but because it’s the option at hand? The environment is unclean and the menu choices are not very appetizing or healthy. This presents a conflict between the need to eat and the desire to. But since it’s what’s available you cross your fingers, make a choice, and hope for the best. Sounds a lot like our presidential election this year, doesn’t it? Except there is much more at stake than just indigestion or food poisoning.

So how to decide which poor choice to go with at the polls? It’s common practice for lies to be told and campaign promises to be broken, so other factors need to be considered. One important area is the potential for increased future conflict and war, and both candidates show signs of it. The difference between them is where it’s most likely to be played out.

An escalation in international conflict and war under Clinton is highly likely. She has aligned herself with the neoconservative warmongers and in fact doesn’t hide it. She will be an aggressive president pursuing aggressive policies all over the world. Top of the list is Russia. Further and severe deterioration in relations with Russia will occur. We have been pushing and provoking them for quite a while now. Eventually they are going to push back. What then? Assuming they could be easily defeated is a dangerous mindset to have. Such things rarely proceed and play out as people expect.

Nuclear war has been avoided for many decades, but cooler and saner heads in Washington no longer prevail. I cannot help but wonder if mutually assured destruction is turning into self-assured destruction. If Clinton is elected – and this is the most likely outcome – be afraid. Be very afraid. The tension level is going to ratchet up considerably. She is going to push them, and she will push hard.

While Clinton’s penchant for conflict lies abroad, Trump’s  – with the exception of Mexico – lies mostly at home. He is adept at bringing to the surface people’s base emotions. Perhaps because he is so expressive with his that people feel more freedom to vent their own. He likes to stir the pot because he is good at it and he knows it. Stirring the political pot hasn’t been a bad thing because our political system needs shaken up. But I very much fear that this would be his normal mode of operation in domestic matters if he is elected.

Tact and diplomacy don’t seem to be traits Trump possesses. If he does he hides them well. His aggressive rhetorical style has the potential to raise tensions in this country to an extremely uncomfortable level. Of course some of that over the top rhetoric is because it’s campaign season. It always increases during this time. However, in Trump’s case I don’t think it can all be put down to that alone. I think we’ve been getting just a little taste of his true personality. He is good at antagonizing prejudices, thereby undermining efforts of cooperation and negotiation. He could very well be a president of one step forwards, and two steps back.

I realize that this is an oversimplified generalization of both candidates. But when I step back and view them this is what I see. Clinton representing increased international conflict and war, and Trump increased domestic conflict and – who knows – a possible future Civil War. Perhaps I’m wrong. In this case I definitely wouldn’t mind being wrong. In this present environment of worldwide unrest, conflict, and war – anything is possible. Anything is what we should be prepared for.

 

 

Society

Childhood Lessons

Remember experiencing those tough childhood lessons as we learned the rules of our society and how to function within it? Where we learned about acceptable behavior, and how to interact with others? Well those years formed the basis of our character and those lessons were meant to teach us how to survive as adults. As with most things, the old is eventually replaced with the new and the lessons have changed. However, these are timeless lessons that we need to reintegrate into the raising of our children. Their displacement has been nothing short of a disaster.

So what are these childhood lessons that our societal system now rejects? They’re to be found in those watchwords of old such as respect, accountability, and responsibility. Children were taught to respect others and to work through their problems. Children were given responsibility and held accountable, and in the long run these lessons were their own rewards. This was all an important part of the learning process; a necessary rite of passage to the adult world. Childhood is about experience and exposure. This is how they learn about life.

But these childhood lessons are now considered to be a form of child abuse and have been condemned as being too harsh and damaging to children. So a “new and improved” trend has emerged that encourages a “victim” and entitlement mentality. Children no longer have to respect anyone, and everything that happens is someone else’s fault and never their own.

We see parents who are afraid to parent and some who think they don’t have to. Teachers have little control in their classrooms. We have a juvenile justice system that is setting many kids up for failure as they take this new trend to the extreme. Consequences are often lenient with therapy and medication replacing punishment and restitution.

This new approach poses an interesting juxtaposition. Authorities like to stress that children don’t have the intellectual development and capacity for understanding concepts and consequences. Yet there is a heavy reliance on therapy and counseling. Lots of this treatment, along with sympathy – sometimes real, sometimes feigned – is heaped upon children. Yet words don’t have the same meaning to or the same effect on children as they do adults. Children aren’t stupid and they quickly pick up how important words are to adults. Because of this children are learning the art of negative manipulation and how to work the system.

But this new trend isn’t all bad, or at least it doesn’t have to be. It’s given a voice to children where in the past there was none. It recognizes the different needs and development stages of children and tries to meet them. The problem is that things have swung too far in that direction. The new way has merit, but it’s a tool, not a complete solution. It’s as though the old way is all bad and the new way is all good. This simply is not true. Like with anything, there are negative implications with extremes. This is as true with the new as it was with the old.

Child abuse is a terrible thing, but it’s nothing new and the new trend hasn’t eradicated it. It’s merely been moved from society’s closet to its front room. There is a acknowledged awareness with more help and resources available now than in past times. This is good, but it also should be realized that there are not child abusers lurking behind every door, and not all children are victims of child abuse.

A middle ground needs to be found; something that can combine both ways. Yes, it’s important to recognize and protect the rights of children, but rights come with responsibility and accountability. To be learned they must first be taught. Childhood without these lessons makes for trouble in adulthood. No matter how much we may wish it was not so, childhood is a hands on learning experience and not without pain and hard lessons. Society pays when these childhood lessons are forsaken.

World

We the Audience Members

 

Being an audience member is fine when attending an event, such as a Shakespearean play. Attendance is optional, and if the performance is poor you can always leave before it’s over. You will not get your money back, but the experience is not going to have any long term effects on your life. It can be put behind you once you leave, and you don’t have to ever return to it.

Being an audience member is not so fine when the performance is happening on the local, national, and world stage. Attendance is not optional, it’s mandatory. We cannot exit the theater because it’s all around us.

We are reluctant audience members forced to witness poor performance after poor performance. Negative feedback is frowned upon, and disruptions can lead to retaliations. There is, after all, a huge divide between the performers and the audience, and much that separates the two. Not only that, but while these “performers” get all the kudos, we the audience members get the bill. And what a hefty bill it is.

You can count on these performances being poor, because that too is mandatory. Lying, finger pointing, misdirection, crying foul, and hypocrisy are not only encouraged, but expected. They are either unaware of how ridiculous they look and sound, and how unbelievable they come across, or they don’t care.

Unfortunately, these repeatedly poor performances have had a benumbing effect on some audience members. A standard of poor performance has been set that has some taking their cue from this and imitating it within their own spheres of influence, with less than acceptable results. The few who are brave enough not to play by these rules can expect ridicule, poor reviews, and denunciations from their peers.

Performances are so consistently poor that for the most part these performers must generate their own fans. Certain sections of the media must support them to protect their own personal interests. Young people are also apt to be drawn in due to their limited life experience and inclination to get caught up in the moment and the rhetoric. In addition, when it comes down to it these performers must support each other to protect their own positions.

Disappointment in these performances is a given, with some audience anger, frustration, and embarrassment thrown in at times to top it off. They try to lure people in with the promise of better performances to come, but it’s always more of the same. They show up and the results are dismal. Hopefully this cycle will eventually run its course with better performances to come, but until then be wary of eating too much of their popcorn. It’s hard telling what they’re putting in it.

World

Hard to Imagine Massive Change

Massive, unsettling change – it’s hard to imagine it happening to our civilization isn’t it? We wake up every day with the expectation that our world will be as it was yesterday. Creatures of habit and routine, we depend on this for our sense of safety and stability. It’s hard to imagine waking up and finding that the world as we know it is no longer. Since it’s hard to imagine, it’s easy to deny the possibility, but that doesn’t mean that we should.

The world is experiencing a period of transition. We are struggling to make sense of, and find solutions to numerous issues and problems. But we are attempting this with outmoded systems and mindsets that no longer produce effective results, only more of the same. It’s like the saying goes that “the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over expecting different results”. Take a look around there is a lot of this going on.

We tend to view drastic changes and events in other areas of the world in a disconnected way. We aren’t feeling the pain or reeling from the life changing societal events that others are. America has been relatively stable for a long time and this has insulated us. Collectively we have forgotten much, nor do we care to be reminded. We think we are safe, and for right now we seem to be, but how safe is it to assume this can’t change?

We tend to scoff at the possibility of major upheavals, believing that it cannot happen to us. We rely on the powers that be to overcome anything that threatens our way of life and our safety. How can we be so convinced that there will never be another world war, a devastating epidemic, an economic collapse, or any other major occurrence? The field is wide open. These things have happened before and they can happen again.

Think about how life would be different if something devastating did happen. What would a new reality look like, and could we survive in it? These aren’t pleasant things to think about. This is not meant as a gloom and doom prophesy, but to point out that these are possibilities that we may be faced with at some point. There are lots of powder keg situations in the world, any one of which could act as a trigger for catastrophe given the right conditions.

No one can see into the future and know how things are going to play out. Most people just want to live their lives and not think or worry about such things. But if the worst happens then we may wish that all we had to do was think about it, because then we’ll be forced to adapt, and that could be much worse.

Transition periods can go either way. We will either successfully work through it, or we will fail. Transitions are painful though. They involve a lot of change, something most are resistant to. But if we want to survive, then we must change. This is especially true considering that we now possess the capability to destroy ourselves. This is particularly hard to imagine, but it is a fact not to be taken lightly. The status quo cannot be sustained indefinitely – it’s becoming increasingly unstable. History is full of beginnings, endings, and turning points and no society is exempt from this – including ours.

Society

Contentious Social Issues

Oh those troublesome social issues; what a true breeding ground of condemnations, hostility, and willful blind ignorance for the close-minded and self-righteous they are. People are always fighting to have laws, policies, and people put in place that reflect their positions, but the fact remains that they cannot change people at their core – much as they wish they could. Even if it were possible, I don’t think that would make them happy. Where would they direct their anger then? They would be lost without it and certain contentious social issues provide the perfect channel for such people.

The two that fit the bill the best are abortion and homosexuality. These volatile issues are conditions that have been a part of the human experience forever and they aren’t going to go away. It doesn’t matter if you approve of them or not; they are a fact. Tremendous energy is wasted by people trying to make the system match their own personal beliefs – for that’s what it amounts to – while more pressing concerns are ignored.

Claiming that abortion is murder is merely a personal judgment – not an indisputable fact. It’s an extremely private matter that people have no business imposing their personal beliefs on. Such condescending behavior is misplaced. Instead of worrying about those who aren’t here yet – in fact aren’t even developed enough to be here – why not worry about those who are and are in need of help?

For example, human trafficking is a huge problem and many children are victims of this. They are here now, they need help now, yet we’re not hearing the same outrage as is directed toward abortion. In fact, we’re not hearing much of anything. Why is that? Is it because it’s easier and safer to attack average people than it is to take on potentially dangerous ones?

The impression here is very strong that shows of concern are directly related to a preoccupation with social appearances and an inflated sense of righteousness that no one is entitled to. In other words, a need to be seen as virtuous people who are doing God’s work is often used as a means to justify a superior attitude and a perceived right to interfere in others’ personal decisions.

What is deemed as God’s work is open to interpretation however. If God exists, and he has a problem with abortion, then let it be between him and the person who has one. It’s no one else’s business. To claim to speak for God is presumptuous in the extreme – an epidemic that has plagued civilization for centuries.

To make matters worse, many of these same people feel the need to extend their positions to include birth control. The best way to prevent abortion is to prevent pregnancy. To ignore or deny this disregards common sense and responsible behavior, and highlights the extraordinary view these people have of themselves. Their constant attempt to interfere in the personal lives of others demonstrates stupidity and arrogance taken to the next level.

Some of these same individuals can be found attacking homosexuality and the LGBT community. They are offended by this behavior, and I wonder why. Could there be some underlying issues here? Such intense concern with others’ sexual and lifestyle choices are suggestive of an obsession with sex on some level, or else a sexual insecurity. These may be unacknowledged, but even if there is awareness, they are unable to openly admit to this. Reactions bear this out because many aren’t just disproving, but are “threatened” by it. This is evident when observing their reactions. They get a little too angry; a little too offended, and protest a little too loudly.

Gay marriage and gay parenting are also contentious issues. Consenting adults should be free to choose and marry who they wish. Love can really only be defined on an individual basis and level. It’s not for society to dictate as long as the parties are responsible adults. We all know there are plenty of heterosexual couples who don’t fall into this category. We should be supportive of any couples who do.

As for parenting, the quality of parenting skills is not dependent on gender but on the character of the parents. Children with a safe and secure home life should always be the goal, and if a gay couple can provide this than why would anyone oppose it? Look at how many troubled children there are with heterosexual parents. Yet apparently many believe the gender of parents are more important than the quality of a child’s life, just as many believe it’s more important that every child be born with little concern for their life after they’re here.

It’s not the beliefs these people hold that should be questioned as much as it is their motivations. Using God as an excuse for venting personal biases and hang-ups is unacceptable, and so is projecting those biases and hang-ups onto others. It’s okay to have beliefs and opinions. It’s not necessary to like these things or approve of them, but a sounder perspective is needed. With all the serious problems we face, focusing on very private and personal choices of individuals is petty and intrusive. It accomplishes nothing except to continually fuel the fans of anger and conflict.

In case it has escaped anyone’s notice, the world is experiencing chaos and turmoil on many levels. We face much more important concerns and our energy would be better directed to addressing these. After all, we do have the potential to destroy ourselves and life as we know it, and if that happens then nothing will matter.

 

 

Society

Commercial Bliss

I have decided that in my next life I’m going to come back as characters in commercials. Why not? In commercials there is guaranteed happiness. I can have everything I’ve ever wanted, along with everything I never thought I wanted but have been convinced that I can’t live without. I will eagerly enter into the world of commercial bliss.

I will have the perfect family. You will see us sitting down at the table savoring our preprocessed food with true enjoyment. No arguments or sad faces, only smiles and laughter. We will live in a perfect house in a picture perfect neighborhood with charming pets and neighbors. Our lawns will look fabulous as we cheerfully mow them on our brand new mowers. Be sure to notice our two shiny new luxury vehicles sitting in the driveway.

My perfect house will be spotless because I will finally be able to truly enjoy housework. I will use my fabulous dish soap that not only makes my dishes sparkling clean but keeps my hands nice and soft too. Of course I will have a top-of-the-line dishwasher for those times when I don’t want to be bothered. I will have the most powerful vacuum on the market to keep my carpets extra clean, and my hardwood floors will be spotless. Even bathroom cleaning will be a joy and bring a smile to my face. When I’m done I’ll be sure to have a “Calgon take me away” moment. The aroma of wonderful products will always be drifting through my house bringing calm and peace to all who enter.

I’ll be enjoying all those things that bring my family closer together. Perhaps we’ll watch a funny movie on our state-of-the-art entertainment center with surround sound for that perfect movie experience while eating our imitation theater popcorn. Or maybe you’ll find us playing in our beautiful pristine backyard pool or on our large deck barbecuing on our amazing grill. All the neighborhood kids will want to be at our house because it’s always so much fun and the sun is always shining. There will never be a tear in the eye or a cloud in the sky.

Things that I dreaded doing in my former life will become pleasurable pursuits, like shopping for car insurance. I will enjoy this experience so much that I will call an agent at all hours just to chat. Paying my outrageous phone bill with all the hidden charges won’t bother me because I’ll have the latest and greatest cell phone with even more features that I don’t need or use. My new washer will so enthrall me that I will watch my laundry go through all the cycles. I will gladly pay my overpriced provider for over two hundred TV channels, even though I only watch a handful.

It won’t matter that I’ll be up to my eyeballs in debt. You can’t put a price on happiness, and commercials sell happiness, do they not? I’m sure these honest people would never engage in any sort of deceptive practices as they have only our best interests at heart. Their products and services are so great there is no way I can possibly lose as they will greatly enhance my life. I won’t have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses; the Joneses will have to worry about keeping up with me.

Sounds over the top and too good to be true doesn’t it? Well it is, but it’s in direct proportion to the messages they convey. Any “happiness” derived from a product or service is generally short lived, and always comes with cost attached. This is the part of the commercial bliss message they conveniently leave out. We would do well to remember that. Tuning them out and turning them off is the sensible thing to do. After all, that’s what they do to us.

Society

Workplace Battles

Every day, all across America, there is a battle in the workplace that makes for a difficult and stressful atmosphere for many. It’s an undeclared and largely ignored battle which comes complete with tactics, strategies, and propaganda. Power plays and drama are evident in the actions and attitudes of employees on one side, and employers and managers on the other. Long term consequences may be unintended yet they are harmful and clearly not thought out.

You are lucky to find a workplace in which common sense and cooperation prevails on both sides, and some do manage this. However, most of the time this seems to not be the case. The two sides are working from different angles with different goals. There is little effort or concern with forming and maintaining productive relationships, at least other than superficially. This friction between the two sides can be found in all types of businesses – large or small, public or private. It’s an equal opportunity problem.

It’s said that shit rolls downhill. The supply at the top is so plentiful that it doesn’t take much for the laws of gravity to kick in and send it all running downhill. Yes, the goal of  business is to make money, but perspective is so strongly skewed to that purpose that this pursuit comes at its own cost.

Employees are seen as merely tools in this pursuit. In the minds of those on top, the worth of their employees doesn’t extend beyond what they can provide for the sake of business profit. There is no real effort or sufficient motivation to truly include employees as an integral and valued part of the business.

Stretching their employees to get all they can out of them is an art form they are continually trying to improve upon. Under-staffing, cutting hours, and limiting benefits while imposing an increased workload is common. This doesn’t inspire loyalty or motivation. This is a demanding and stressful situation that results in a negative atmosphere affecting not only employees but consumers. It shows through the quality of the final product or service.

Businesses advertise quality, caring, and trustworthiness in any way they can. It’s the height of hypocrisy and false advertisement. You cannot treat people poorly and expect ideal results in return. Yet they do because they don’t have the vision to see beyond the bounds of their professional interests. Their world is very narrowly defined.

Therefore many businesses suffer from “the revolving door syndrome”. They have a hard time attracting and keeping quality employees. This means continuous training and many rookie mistakes as new employees learn the job. Responsibility for this syndrome lies partly with the business and the work environment, and partly with employees themselves. In addition to the “us versus them” mentality, there is also friction between employees.

Many people today seem to have poor work ethics. They lack a strong sense of responsibility, are lazy, and cut corners if and when possible. They just don’t care about quality or their co-workers. Absenteeism is also a problem. Some who work for a business that provides sick pay learn how to work the system to take as many sick days as they can get by with.

It makes it harder on other employees who are left to pick up their slack. It’s like having to babysit and pick up after a toddler, not to mention that it’s just rude. And they often somehow manage to get away with it. It’s very frustrating for those who do care and are responsible to have to work alongside such people. It’s bad enough having to deal with indifferent owners and managers. Adding co-workers to that mix makes for a more stressful and unpleasant work experience.

These irresponsible people are also restricted by boundaries, but theirs are personal and not professional. They too neither know nor care about anything outside of their own concerns and goals. It’s a shame when people’s worlds are as narrowly defined as this. It presents a true barrier to understanding, cooperation, and improvement for all concerned.

So how intentional is it that such an atmosphere not only exists but thrives as well? The drama present is indicative of blame on both sides. They each complain about the other and undermining attitudes and behaviors flourish. In some places it’s so bad that you have to wonder how the business functions at all. They certainly don’t function well or to their fullest potential.

Trust and respect is absent and without that there cannot be a truly cooperative, positive environment. Common sense says it would be in the best interest of business to cultivate a workplace that brings out the best in people and not the worst. Responsible people should be actively sought and retained, but there must be an incentive for them to stay.

Respect and a positive environment are huge incentives. Profits could still be made and even increased as worker productivity and satisfaction would also increase. Businesses have a much better chance of attracting and keeping customers when the workplace is healthy. This means healthy on the inside and not just the trappings of appearing to be so.

For this situation to change an effort must be made by both sides. This will only happen if perceptions are broadened and the need for change is recognized and the desire for it is genuine. The workplace battle is exhausting and uses up energy and resources that kills confidence, motivation, and loyalty. This affects everyone as people depend on employment to earn a living, and consumers depend on businesses that are trustworthy, sincere, and quality oriented.

I admit that there is much about the business world that I don’t understand. Likewise, there is much about the human world that those in business don’t understand. Humanity cannot advance through the nurturing and manipulation of numbers alone. Numbers need people or they lose their meaning and importance, and people need people or else we all lose our meaning and importance.

Society

Minding Their Own Damn Business

Whether from near or afar, people just cannot resist sticking their noses into other people’s business. It’s a constant bombardment of intrusive, rude, and indifferent people wanting to push their own agendas or beliefs. Self-righteous and judgmental people do it because they think it’s their right, others are after monetary or material gain, and some do it for the feeling of power it gives them. This leads to a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress. Whatever the reason, humanity would be a lot better off if people would worry about minding their own damn business instead of everyone else’s. However, it seems most people are unwilling or unable to do so.

Many people who claim to be religious tend to be rigid in their thinking believing it’s their right and duty to tell others how they should behave, what they should believe, even what they should do and how they should act. Quick to judge and single out, they set standards and expect others to follow. They’re very reproachful of those who don’t conform to their script, yet notice how they can’t take the same treatment themselves. Why dish it out if you can’t take it? Still it happens all the time.

This generates a negative cycle of discrimination, hatred, and insincerity. Why waste a tremendous amount of time, energy, and resources on something that has no resolution – at least not in this life? What a massive and unproductive waste this is.

Life is complex, what comes after is unknown, and no one has all the answers. Nevertheless most Religious people act as though they do, all the while ignoring their own religions’ bloody histories. We will never all agree and come together under the same belief, and there are thousands of years of history to back this up. They haven’t learned this lesson and are repeatedly guilty of not minding their own damn business, and so the cycle continues.

There are also those who make other people’s lifestyle choices their business for financial purposes. For example, insurance companies are increasingly putting restrictions, for what they refer to as incentives on those they insure. They want everyone to make healthy choices to keep down costs, but costs are going to continue to rise no matter what so their excuse holds no water. Every year they make cuts and restrictions, and yet every year costs continue to rise.

Most average citizens have a lot of stress in their lives, the kind that people with money don’t understand or care about. Rather than addressing the causes of stress, these people add to the stress by punishing, or wanting to punish, any unhealthy behavior. Like it or not, this unhealthy behavior is a form of stress relief. Most of the free mental health hotlines made available so people can “talk about it” don’t seem to be solving anything.

There are many employees living paycheck to paycheck and dealing with difficult employers, which also create a heavy burden to bear. Everyone’s method of dealing with stress is different, and you cannot dictate to people what theirs should be. It just doesn’t work that way no matter how much you want it to.

Some people are healthy lifestyle advocates. There is nothing wrong with this, but they believe everyone should be able to easily and willingly drop any bad habits, and be happy and healthy all the time. Really? Sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it? This is an unrealistic outlook with an unattainable goal.

By all means, continue educating people about health and encouraging better choices, but start minding your own damn business a little more and stop making those who don’t conform to your ideal into pariahs. Improvements and moderation aren’t commended and they should be. Remember prohibition? It didn’t work and the war on drugs isn’t working either. It’s time to find a different angle to work from.

Also included among those who should be minding their own damn business is, of course, the government. Terrorism is now used as a very convenient excuse to intrude into the private lives and communications of their own citizens. This is a valid concern, but it’s not the whole story. The bigger government has become the more intrusive and controlling its existence. We will see in the future that the definition of who is a terrorist is very flexible, and more and more people will be put in that category. Believe it or not, it surely is coming.

Let’s not forget business. They live for figuring out how they can limit our choices, take more of our money while delivering less, and coming up with fancy new gimmicks to draw us in. In their ruthless pursuit of their bottom line and control over us, they too aren’t minding their own damn business by actively seeking to influence and direct the lives of consumers for their own benefit. They take this approach not only with their customers, but their employees as well. After all, there are no individuals anymore, only businesses, and they must always project the most perfect image possible. It’s all a continuing facade that will hopefully eventually collapse around itself and the joke will be on these mega corporations.

We would all be better off if people would start minding their own damn business and stop interfering in others. All the time, effort, and resources expended could be put too much sounder use by addressing more practical concerns – of which there are plenty. There are many pressing issues that need dealt with now, and other people’s lifestyle choices aren’t among them. We need to work with what we have and what we’re capable of instead of striving for the impossible. The results if we tried couldn’t be worse than what we have now.

 

 

World

Trust is Lost and People are Moving

It’s unmistakable that people worldwide are on the move and we are all at least witness to this, even if we aren’t all moving yet. Rising levels of discontent, disillusion, and alarm have brought about a process of awakening that has provided the push for this movement. Evidence of this is clear no matter what news is followed, and this movement takes many forms. Leaders of all types fear this as it threatens their sense of control and stability. These events should really come as no surprise to them. This is what happens when trust is lost. It causes people to move.

Movement on the internet is extensive as people flock to express their loss of trust. It is here that people are moving words and expressing their ideas, opinions, personal experiences, and concerns. Social media, blogs, YouTube and other sites are common outlets. It’s also here where investigative journalists and independent news sites can publish what the mainstream media refuses to. Is it no wonder that an open internet scares the hell out of the powerful and influential? The last thing they want is communication, awareness, and unity of any kind. This can topple empires.

Protests have been popping up in various places around the world for quite some time. People are gathering in large numbers to take a stance against things like Monsanto, climate change, the war in Syria, the TPP trade deal, and austerity measures to name but a few. Police in riot gear are also a common sight at these protests. Europe especially is seeing a lot of protests and contention due to the refugee movement and is looking more and more like a powder keg.

Movements have sprung up because people no longer trust that any changes or improvements will be made. America has seen Occupy Wall Street, which didn’t last, and the Tea Party which has since been absorbed by the Republican Party and is no longer what it was in its beginning. Now we are seeing the Black Lives Matter movement, but it remains to be seen what will happen with that. Most likely there will be more movements pop up in our future as situations remain unchanged and those with power remain obstinate while people remain dissatisfied.

People are leaving war torn regions. This is a literal movement of people who have lost trust in the ability of any government to improve the situation. Violence and death in these areas plays out on a continuous loop with no end in sight. These areas are not physically, economically, socially, or intellectually viable, stable, or safe for the average person or family. Is it any wonder that those who are able to are leaving?

Whistleblowers and investigative journalists are nothing new, but the personal risks they now run are more dangerous than ever before. They are viewed as enemies, and they are being dealt with in an increasingly hostile manner. Every year many lose their lives, their freedom, or experience harassment, and yet continue to bring out into the open that which others want to keep hidden. Every time they do so we are reminded that our loss of trust is not misplaced or the result of paranoia.

Organizations have been formed to try and protect and fight for rights as the only truth that can be trusted here is that the restrictions are increasing and invasive. Privacy, the internet, the Constitution, intellectual property, mass surveillance, civil rights, gun rights, – these and other areas are where very real battles are being waged daily. Leaders, corporations, and special interests are trying to take away or severely limit what little we have left, but they are encountering opposition and will continue to do so.

Trust has even been lost between world leaders. They all lie, engage in double-dealing, and have their own agendas. They are playing a game with very high stakes. How can people who operate in such a manner possibly trust one another? Well they can’t, and they don’t. This is why they are unable to work together, at least for any length of time, or on any type of equal footing. They have proven that their expertise lies in creating or exacerbating problems, not solving them, and we are the ones with the most to lose.

Trust is not always lost all at once. Sometimes it involves a long, slow process of awakening. This is what is happening now. The momentum is building, and is going to continue to build because for the most part the trust is gone, and what little remains are fragile. Trust is a wonderful, comforting thing when you have it, even though it is often taken for granted. When it is gone it leaves a huge void and that void is being filled with movement by people who are experiencing and taking the loss of trust seriously.

Yet what is the sad underlying truth of all this? It’s that governments, leaders, and the powerful have never really trusted the people at all, and now the people no longer trust them. This is not a sustainable situation.

There can be no peace without trust, and there is too much that is wrong for any trust that may be left to be maintained indefinitely (in some cases), or re-built (in others). So stay tuned and be watchful. There is more to come.