Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

To Run or Not to Run, That is the Question

Recently I turned down an opportunity to have my name put on a Democratic ballot for an office whereon a Republican is running unopposed. This is part of the Democratic strategy in Texas to eventually turn the State blue, a strategy I see as the Texas plan to organize the Resistance to Trump on the way to getting our country progressive again. Why would I turn down participating in a cause in which I believe so strongly? As the new year 2018 ushers in, to try and answer this question would be cathartic to me personally and perhaps interesting or entertaining to my readers.
As I told Dr. Jon Reese in my “no thank you” Facebook post, I appreciate the flattering thought that young activists in the Democratic Party would think me worthy. But I cannot run for any public office without the full, enthusiastic support of the love of my life, my wife Sylvia. Briefly, Sylvia simply cannot function as a politician’s wife; she avoids the give and take of differences of opinion, belief, position, and philosophy. This is not to blame her at all for my declining. The better reason for my not running is the subject of the rest of this post.
Let me quote at length from my reference to Jon, the post Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, which I posted on my website www.ronniejhastings.com in March of 2012:
“Beginning as far back as high school, I have been called or labeled a progressive, a liberal, a pinko, a communist, a socialist, a fascist, a Nazi, a Democrat, a secular humanist, a scientific revolution freak, a political revolution freak, an agnostic, an atheist, a Christian, a Texas-phile, a Texas Aggie, a Marxist, a liberation theologian, a Southern Baptist, an anti-cleric, a nuclear physicist, an arrogant high school teacher, a great teacher of math and physics, an unqualified math teacher, a painter of Texas flags on barns and sheds, a history freak, an American Civil War buff, an unintentional expert on Cretaceous fossil fish teeth, a barbed wire artist, a country redneck, a designer and builder of porches and decks out of composite materials, a male chauvinist pig, a land owner, a student of comparative religion, a gadfly, a Teutonic freak, a Napoleonic freak, a lover of ’66 red Mustangs, a coon hunter, a rock mason using only unaltered, natural-shaped rocks, an optimist with rose-colored glasses, a member of a sneaky group of pranksters, an amateur dinosaur track hunter, a militaristic war-hawk, an Obama-phile, a dinosaur freak, a rock-and-roll freak, a painter of the Lake Cisco dam, a heavy metal music freak, a cancer survivor, an anti-creationist, an evolutionist, an anti-intelligent designer, a hippie, a PhD, an absent-minded professor, an empiricist, a philosophy-phile, an epistemology freak, an incurable screamer of rock songs in karaoke bars, a beer connoisseur, a protester of stupid rules, a feminist, an insatiable reader of non-fiction books, a war gamer, a lover of all things Cisco, Waxahachie, or College Station, an astronomy teacher, a fanatical football and baseball fan, a driver of tractors and trucks, and a writer of ‘improbable histories.’” Since then I’ve been called on social media an “intellectual” and an “idiot.” I’ve even recently been called “narcissistic” because I had the “gall” to write my take on the origins of Christianity, which I wrote to my personal intellectual and emotional satisfaction (also found on my website); I didn’t write it to convince or convert anyone — I thought it might help others to do something similar and give me some feedback (Talk about cathartic! I highly recommend it.).
Now, imagine someone with all these labels, given sincerely, or as a joke, or anywhere in between, running for public office! An opponent could just go down the list throwing mud, and my campaign would be spent putting out “brush fires” caused by one or more of these labels. Even if my wife was an enthusiastic supporter of my campaign, I had all the campaign money I needed, and I had a great and massive PR staff eager to do battle with all the barbs that would be hurled, it would be exhaustive, even if fun, with little time, effort, and money available to get my message and position out to my constituents.
And I am to blame for being such a nightmare candidate.
Yeah, I admit I’ve spent most of my life cultivating my image as being hard-to-label. I never sweated the contradictions with which I was described, as I’ve always figured that if it was important for someone to know the real me, they would approach me and I would be happy to oblige them. It all is based upon the fact I’ve never known anyone, living or dead, like whom I would want to be; I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin, never envious of anyone; I’ve never worried much about what others might think of me. Instead of having heroes in my life (The only exception I’ve claimed is the great Brave slugger Hank Aaron.), I’ve cherry-picked attributes from other people’s lives which I admired and tried to make those attributes my own.
Example of cultivating my image: As a Senior in high school, I was reading a copy of William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” a paperback copy with a big honking swastika on the cover in the athletic field house while waiting on a washer of players’ clothing to finish up. In comes a visiting team to use the field house and gazes suspiciously at my reading selection. When asked if I was a Nazi, I answered in a non-committed way, and my good M-4 buddy Bob Berry and fellow athletic trainer/manager, who knows me very well and who arrived upon the scene, did not blow my ambiguous cover toward the strangers.
Example of cherry-picking attributes: Despite the causes they fought for, I always admired the strategic and tactical skills of such leaders as Hannibal, Stonewall Jackson, and Erwin Rommel. Such admiration (bolstered by the fact they are all studied in classes of military strategy in all countries) has nothing to do with my admiration or condemnation of the causes for which they fought.
Little did I know that I’ve lived a life making me a maverick political candidate, a candidate making maverick politician John McCain look like a “yes” man. Psychologically, I suppose, it all stems from the fact I am an only child not wanting ever to be like anyone else, and relishing the thought that I am seen by others as being different. I really think that the more perplexing I seem to others, the more different I am to them. I don’t think this is narcissistic at all, as self-deprecation and self-denigration have always been tools at my constant disposal; I think I take criticism from my friends well; I could not have executed the things I’ve done without both their encouragement and their criticism.
Put succinctly, a candidate needs to sow the seeds of transparency; but I have a tendency to sow the seeds of opaqueness — of being hard to figure. Looking at me is like looking through a glass darkly; my waters are muddy — you can’t see very far. I hold my cards close to the vest. Good candidates make listeners and readers clap; I would more than likely make them scratch their heads.
I feel comfortable with self analysis, unafraid of what I might find. For instance, I’ve discovered recently why I like the game of American football, and the reason is not pretty. It’s the violent collisions of blocking and tackling. Give me a game of rugby over a game of soccer any day! I never played the game of American football and I tried to keep my sons from playing it; I don’t want to violently collide with others — I want to (voyeuristic-ally?) watch others do it.
In that vein of self-analysis, as I also told Jon, I consider myself an independent, not a Democrat or Republican; I am democratic, not Democratic. And, this stems from the fact I tend not to be a “company” guy, a “party” guy, or a “team” member. Needless to say, I am not a “yes” man; if anyone wants my respect, they must earn it; I do not give respect just to anyone. In spite of the fact I’ve never voted for a Republican candidate for President in my life, I’ve never supported every plank of any Democratic platform. Should I serve as a Democratic office holder, I would never support an issue the party touts if I did not personally agree with it. An office itself is no more worthy of respect than the person occupying it at any particular time. The American Constitutional political ideals establishing the office ARE worthy of perpetual respect. I support many causes and organizations, always tentatively, but am most loyal to the M-4, the group of high school buddies formed while we were in high school, as well as my life-long friend Dr. Bill R. Lee. (See Fun Read on my website.)
I am a septuagenarian, a peer of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and of Donald Trump — a “baby-boomer” forged in the three fires of the three social revolutions that exploded in the 1960’s — 1) civil rights movement, 2) women’s movement, and 3) anti-war movement; I was inoculated by all three revolutions, and all three “took.” Religiously, I use the phrase by Thomas Jefferson, “I am a sect of one.” I think the same thing could be applied to me politically, “I am a party of one.” I don’t know of anyone who agrees with me in the areas of religion and politics. And, again, I don’t try to convert or evangelize any to my views, but I do try unashamedly to get all to think and research. But, and here is where I hope my difference makes a difference: It’s OK if no one agrees with me. I’ve laid out my positions on religion, politics, and philosophy on my website if anyone wants to label me with “applicable” labels. (See Sticks and Stones…. referenced above, my five-part series on the origins of Christianity, and my six-part series on Perception Theory, all on the website www.ronniejhastings.com) I can be accurately labeled; you just gotta read what I’ve laid out for any to consider.
For anyone wanting a candidate, I, again, am probably your worst nightmare.

 

However, living as long as I have, I am not a political virgin. 1) I was in student body politics throughout high school in the 1960’s through the Student Council, including multiple class presidencies, and Vice-President and President of the student body. 2) I was department chair for both the science department and the math department in Waxahachie High School. (‘70’s through ‘90’s) 3) I was on the Texas State Textbook Committee during the ‘90’s, including the chair of the physics committee, selecting textbooks for all Texas public schools in the subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics.
In these capacities, it must be said, I was accused of falsehoods, which I politically handled through a combination of humor and self-denigration. Contact me if you want details on these events. Like the Farmers Insurance commercial, “I’ve seen a thing or two.”
If my political experiences could be of help in the progressive movement in local, State, or national politics, I would be more than happy to serve behind the scene as an adviser and strategist.
If a miracle occurs and my wife changes her mind and becomes the ideal politician’s wife and if a second miracle occurs and somehow some savvy political caucus discovers I’m not going to be controversial after all, then I would consider running in a local school board election or running for the Texas State Board of Education, both positions in which I would relish fighting for a couple of my all-time political passions — rights of students and reform of teacher certification.

 

Whew! Sorry for the lengthy self-analysis………I think I feel better…………………….
RJH

21st Century Tories?

With American conservatives in power in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election, the sharp dichotomy of political divisiveness from this election makes comparison of who makes up the two sides very easy.  21st-century American conservationism is bound to the post-both-Bushes Republican Party and to the populist “know-nothing-like” Tea Party (i.e. Freedom Caucus) movement largely populated, embarrassingly, by members of my own generation, the generation of Baby Boomers, born during and just after WWII.  Older modern-day Republicans and modern-day old populists, on the average, are made of those relatively unaffected by the three-pronged social revolution in America during the 1960’s:  Prong 1, the civil rights movement, Prong 2, the women’s movement, and Prong 3, the anti-war, anti-govt. movement.  In my opinion, President DJT, a member of my generation, embodies the oligarchical and plutocratic branch of modern American conservatism giving big business a very bad name.  Mix together these ingredients, and you have the definitive recipe of early 21st century American conservatism.  In this post I would like to make the historical comparison of this conservatism with a group we studied in American history known as the Tories of the 18th century.  (I could use “right/left” to describe the American political dichotomy, but herein I have obviously chosen “conservative/liberal.”)

The American Revolution was a close affair, whose outcome was in doubt for many years.  As I have said elsewhere (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]), American colonists rebelling against the British crown and Parliament won by two decisive factors (besides tactical and strategic opportunism and plain old luck):  a) the fledgling upstart nation made itself a secular, not a sacred, cause, and b) the French crown furnished the colonist cause with vital military and financial aid.  What contributed more than anything to the Revolution being so nip-and-tuck and up-in-the-air was the large population of colonists who did not support the rebellion, those who remained loyal to Parliament and King George III — those who became known as Tories or Loyalists.  There were not only patriot militias in the Revolution, there were Tory militias.  At Revolution’s end, at least three fates awaited these Americans who opposed the rebellion.  1)  Those who could afford passage made their way back to England, joining the likes of Benedict Arnold, 2) those of more modest means made their way to Canada (Today, many residents in the lower peninsula of the Province of Ontario between Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron are descendants of Tory families who crossed either the lakes or the Niagara River.), or 3) many Tories went “underground” with their “true” patriotism and gradually became indistinguishable within the new society of the United States.  Almost all identified Tories faced violence and/or threat of violence as the Revolution concluded; many never tasted liberty and justice until they left the USA; “the spirit of ’76” could not tolerate anyone deemed “traitorous.”  Even the bastard son of Benjamin Franklin was a Tory New Jersey governor, incarcerated during the Revolution, and he eventually moved to England in 1782, away from his father.

Clearly, 18th-century American Tories fit the “original” definition of conservatives — those who in principle oppose change in their lives, usually because they live more comfortable lives than others around them.  This is why conservatives often are the rich and powerful.  The original definition of liberals identified those who, like the conservatives, wanted for themselves and their families, money, power, property, and happiness; but liberals were not against change in their lives if that change meant others could also have the money, power, property, and happiness both liberals and conservatives enjoyed.  This is why liberals are often connected with the idea of “spreading the wealth,” which, contrary to conservative political mythology, does not mean “robbing Peter to pay Paul;” liberals know that enough new wealth can be created, in principle, to allow all who work to live as comfortably as they.  Succinctly, conservatives have always tended to exclude others, while liberals have always tended to included others.

The Tory position toward the American Revolution was obviously conservative; the Patriot position toward the American Revolution was obviously liberal.  Only subtle differences in these “original” definitions are still around here in the 21st century.  Today conservatives fear change will be at their expense, with complete disregard to today’s inequality of wealth, which causes the inequality in wealth of the 18th century to pale in comparison.  Liberals have struggled to learn change must not be at the expense of any one of the three principles from the French Revolution (another liberal rebellion), liberty, equality, and brotherhood (liberte, egalite, and fraternite, or LEF for short). [The French Revolution, despite virtually the same ideals as its American counterpart, devolved into the Terror when equality was emphasized above those of liberty and brotherhood.  Because of this liberal “black eye” concerning the Terror, I’ve proposed those who sustain all three ideals of LEF in perpetual equal importance be called “liberalists” instead of “liberals,” but, so far I’ve not gotten many “takers.”]

I therefore argue that in 21st-century America, conservatives are modern-day Tories.

This “Tory” argument is another approach in my earlier critique of American conservatism:  An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], and An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012].  Ancillary to these three posts are suggested changes in the modern American political system aimed at both conservatives and liberals:  Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth [Jan., 2013], and Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013].

One of many parallels one can draw from this approach is how in America attitudes of the rich and powerful toward the poor and disenfranchised has remained remarkably unchanged for about 240 years.  In the colonies, British aristocrats in the form of colonial governors, many of the rich “landed gentry,” and rich British and American merchants tended more often than not to “look down” upon the poor peasant class of small farmers and workers, and especially down upon African-American slaves.  Concern for the bettering of the lives of those struggling to live was not a priority of Tory-like conservatives.  Today, oligarchs and plutocrats of many ilks have a similar lack-of-concern; or, as I like to crudely and rudely (some would say unnecessarily) say, conservatives, on the average, don’t give a shit about others beyond their own; liberals do give a shit about others.

I personally witnessed conservative disdain toward those not considered “of their own” in the small west-central town of Cisco, Texas, in which I grew up; this disdain by conservatives was like a pervasive xenophobia — uncomfortable with, dismissive of, and mistrusting of those who were “different” than they.  The rich and powerful, usually town folk and large land owners, tended to “look down upon” poor town folk, small land owners, poor to middle-class farmers and ranchers, and generally anyone who lived in the country outside town; conservatives tended to classify people according to the size of their bank account, the amount of property they owned, and on which side of the city limit line they lived.  There were very philanthropic, well-to-do people in my home town, but to me they seemed “few and far between,” although I grew to recognize them as part of the “Cisco liberals.”  I saw conservative disdain by the rich “from both directions” or “straddling” this social judgement because I lived in a lower-middle to middle-class neighborhood in town and, simultaneously, “lived” on the farms and ranches of both sets of my grandparents outside town.  I was fortunate that this unique perspective of my growing up never ingrained into me to “look down” upon anybody.  But I sure sensed others “looking down” and sensed being “looked down upon.”  All I had to do to be so sensed was to wear my “country” working cloths downtown.  It was fun to project myself as a city boy sometimes and as a country boy at other times, but I soon grew to understand that what would not be fun is to become as those who “looked down upon,” or, who were, as I know now, modern American conservatives — who were, in words of this post, modern American Tories.  I rejected the social bigotry that was obviously germane to the conservatism I knew; it took me a long time to figure out what that rejection meant I had become, but eventually (with the help of the social revolutions of the 1960’s and the political definitions above) I realized I was a liberal.

The attitude I’ve developed toward American conservatives as described above was encapsulated years ago when my wife’s maternal grandmother said, as she was encouraged to be impressed by the gubernatorial mansion in Austin, Texas, “Well, that doesn’t make him any better than we are!”  At that moment I knew I had politically married into the “right” family for me.

I think I see why conservatives, modern-day Tories, fall prey to the social bigotries of their society.  They simply parrot the bigotry of their parents and grandparents so doggedly they fail to see that what they politically preach is racist, inhumane, xenophobic, anti-Christian, greedy, sexist, misogynistic, selfish, and/or “blue-bloodied.”  As I’ve told many of my generation who voted for and support Trump, they themselves may not be social bigots, but by their vote and support, they have “hitched their wagon” to the basest of these forms of social bigotry, because of Trump; they are guilty by association.  While it is certainly true that both conservatives and liberals can be bigots, my experience has seen more social bigotry in the former than in the latter.

Lest I be accused of being too “black/white,” compartmentalized, or simplistic regarding the conservative/liberal duality, I fully acknowledge that instead of two separate parts of the political spectrum, the spectrum is a blend of the duality.  And all along the spectrum individuals can be as free from social bigotry as possible, as Jesus taught.  Just like men can have female attributes and women can have masculine attributes, there are liberal conservatives and conservative liberals, both groups hopefully being bigotry-free.  For a long while I have considered myself to be a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, and I’ve met others who feel the same way.

Nonetheless, it seems logical that  since the rich and powerful are few in number, a new-comer to the earth might, looking at the American political situation, predict that conservatives would never be put into office by the voting electorate.  But, since we have approached closer than ever to universal suffrage during the 20th century in America, conservatives are in office as much or more than liberals.  Part of that can be explained by corruption, as conservative oligarchs, like the Koch brothers and Cisco’s Wilkes brothers, can attempt to “buy” elections by having more campaign money than some liberals, but that is not the full story.  Conservatives have co-opted the political tactics of aristocracies, monarchies, and church leaders to convince the poor and disenfranchised-from-the-“American dream” that they too can become rich and powerful like the conservative rich and powerful.  And certainly that is possible, but it is like telling all junior high football players they will be able to play in the NFL; odds are they will not play in the NFL; likewise odds are most Americans will not become rich and powerful.  The odds are better to go from poor and destitute to rich and powerful in the United States than anywhere else in the world, I agree, but to suggest that is common is to be cruelly misleading.  The ease of that transition from poor to rich is the myth of conservatism, as it gets the demographically non-conservative to vote for the conservative, to vote against their own best interests; voting for liberals is to vote for those who are interested in the demographically non-conservative climbing to the same demographic as the well-to-do liberals and conservatives; liberals tend to see the “American dream” as potentially attainable, as difficult as it is to realize, for all who work to develop fully their personal attributes.  When in office, conservatives usually work to see that it will be even more difficult for the poor-through-middle class to climb the socio-economic “ladder,” by funneling wealth so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, like in pre-Revolutionary France.  Thus, conservative politicians and their supporters are often culpable of using the myth of conservatism like propaganda to which every fascist could relate.  A corrupt, bigoted American conservative, as the Trump era has shown, can sink to the autocratic depths of fascism and communism.

Hamstringing even slow, healing change among the modern American Tories is their almost reverent deference to authority, authority of any sort.  It is like the divine right of kings turned into 21st-century jargon.  The election of Trump among his supporters brought phrases like “We should respect the office of President always, and therefore, anyone in that office.”  I think the framers of the Constitution were so “gun shy” of kings, queens, kingdoms, theocracies, and aristocracies of all ilks, for very good reasons, they knew that any office created by the Constitution is never at any given time any better than the individual occupying it.  So the expulsion of Nixon in the wake of Watergate should not be viewed with tragic sorrow, but with great pride, as the system set up by the Constitution providing the peaceful transfer of power, even in times of crisis like Watergate, allowed the American people’s elected officials to preserve the dignity of the office of President for future Presidents.  In that spirit, Thomas Jefferson taught that one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do is to be critical of all elected officials.  Those of us howling about what Trump is doing to the dignity of the office of President are doing so out of the spirit of patriotism, the “spirit of ’76,” the bane of Tories past and present.  Bottom line, patriots:  elected officials must earn our respect, not be given it!

Germane to this myopic, almost blind, deference to authority practiced by modern-day Tories is the conservative tendency to not only defer to authority, but to believe everything authority tells them.  The insanity and danger of this tendency was what the third prong of the social revolution of the 1960’s cited above was all about — don’t just believe what the government tells you; vet and check out what they are telling you for yourself.  Today this is so much easier to do with cyberspace media (internet, etc.) than it was back in the 1960’s.  In other words, grow a “metaphorical pair,” a spine, a courageous, confident skepticism!  Parts of this conservative tendency to believe are intellectual laziness and ease of distraction.  Formally educated or not, every American citizen can become an informed voter, but it takes effort, and in my experience, it also takes time, like enough time to read and reflect on a novel like War and Peace.  Vital to an informed electorate is the ability not only to distinguish between fact and opinion, but also to recognize distraction from evidence.  From the time of the original Tories and even much, much earlier, conservative and liberal authorities have “gotten away” with corruption and scandal because ill-informed voters cannot follow the “scent of the trail.”  Once a voter learns such guidelines as “what evidence supports this,” “follow the money,” “what did he/she know and when did he/she know it,” and “where have we seen this before in history,” the trail will get hotter and hotter if there is actual corruption and scandal.  Therefore, my fellow American citizens, don’t be like a Tory, be like a hound on a hot trail or a shark in bloodied water.  Hold all politicians’ (conservatives’ or liberals’) “feet to the fire.”

One final warning concerning a thankfully few number of “ultra” conservatives — the horrible state of mind to which irrationally committed conservatives can stoop, in which they are un-phased by facts; the ideology in their heads “trumps” (pun intended) the evidence “staring them in the face.”  These are conservatives who seem to have the attitude, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”  — a complete refusal to consider evidence.  At the close of the Watergate scandal, many conservatives still believed Nixon was innocent and/or he was framed!  This example reminds me of a story I used to tell my students in class to warn them of the “insanity” of irrationality and abandonment of “common sense.”  Briefly, the possibly apocryphal story (to me “apocryphal” means “if it’s not true, it ought to be”) went like this:   In Belton, Texas, years and years ago, a con man collecting money from his “marks” supporting the development of his “perpetual motion” machine, using a prototype with which he was publically “wowing” his credulous audience, was eventually exposed by skeptics who found a hidden battery/wire boost of energy to keep the prototype moving.  The money was recovered and returned to those who had been conned, but a few refused their money because they still believed in the con man!  Whether from fear of embarrassment or lack of the ability to understand the significance of the battery, those who refused to take back their money chose their faith in a crook over the facts before them.  I personally experienced the same phenomenon years ago when I got a Biblical literalist, creationist friend of mine to admit that, no matter how much evidence I placed before him, he could NOT admit that he possibly could be wrong!

It is not hyperbole to state that it is possible that modern-day American Tories, today’s American conservatives, can sink to this depth of mental bankruptcy and intellectual indecency; this depth is like “credulity on steroids!”  I’ve not yet met anyone of liberal tendencies who seems in danger of such depth.  I am relieved to say that the overwhelming majority of my conservative friends also seem not to be in such danger, so I want by this to warn them not to be associated with such danger.  In fact, let me exhort the entire political spectrum, conservative or liberal, to “call out” anyone on that spectrum who has sunk to this depth, anyone who, in terms of the “farm/ranch lingo” of my upbringing, has gone, politically speaking, “bat-shit crazy.”

 

I think history is on the liberals’ side.  Post WWII’s emergence of progressive political ideals in Western Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, and other nations has marked the transfer of more political power into the hands of the electorate than into the hands of the elected; this despite conservatives’ everywhere “dragging their feet” against this transfer; remarkably and thankfully, our vote is mightier than the sword or the dollar.  Consequently, history’s political compass points in a direction constituting anathema to 18th-century Tories, and, therefore, anathema to 21st-century Tories.  It is the “good sort of anathema” towards which to steer the future.

RJH

NFL — 2016-17 Style

For reasons not quite clear to me I have delayed my annual NFL commentary to over a month after the Super Bowl. Perhaps I assumed it would require more effort and thought because we no longer have Peyton Manning to ponder. But, now, I think “Nah-h-h-h…I was just procrastinating.” Pretty straight forward, now that I think about it: Unbelievable SB LI, rookies can take over if you give them a chance, and NFL front office has at last, perhaps, started doing something useful and begun staring at its own navel.

The NFL got perhaps its finest example of a fairy tale Super Bowl; if only it could bottle it and open its likeness every February!  Usually I have mixed emotions over who is in the Super Bowl when I have “no dog in the fight” (no Cowboys or Buccaneers).  Those mixed emotions are based upon the old traditional bias of going with the “old” NFL conference, the National Conference, over the “old” AFL conference, the American Conference (confusing franchises like the Steelers and the Colts notwithstanding).  So, I’m pulling for the Falcons, but it never felt “all in,” for I’ve always been on Brady’s side over the stupid “deflate-gate controversy.”  To suspend “Tommy” for four games over the PSI in the “hog’s bladder” is nonsense to me.  So, back in my mind, as the game started, I thought how sweet it would be for Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots to win and plaster egg all over Goodell’s face; sort of a “karma” thing to me.  But, winning the game after being down 28-3?  It was like karma wanted to make a statement with ten exclamation points at the end!  I felt sorry for the Falcons; players like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and their whole defense deserved better than that!  The NFL brass got what it deserved, but the Falcons should have won that thing; it was like they showed their inexperience and thought they had it won going into the second half.  Nonetheless, the “poster boy” for the all-year work-out NFL player, for the good ‘ol “Protestant work ethic,” Tom Brady himself, was in the end triumphant.  (Also, I have to admit it was “way cool” to see the most “spaced-out” Aggie ever, Martellus Bennett, win a SB ring, just like his brother with the Seahawks, Michael.)

What a windfall for the Cowboys, those two rookies, Dak and Zeke!  Just when you think all players need “breaking in” before they become NFL starters, people like these two happen.  Of course, that dynamic duo and all us Poke fans know the reason for the incredible 2016-17 season was that great offensive line, which stayed relatively injury free.  Were it not for that unbelievable sideline pass by Rodgers, the Pokes would have played for a SB berth.  That’s how good the defense was all season also.  Tony’s leaving the team is bittersweet to say the least; expect him back working for Jerry after he hangs up his helmet.  The upcoming draft will tell us how high our Cowboy hopes should be for next season, but for now, we need to savor this one.

The NFC South felt good to me this season.  Seems all four, the Falcons, Bucs, Saints, and Panthers were improved and more competitive.  Elsewhere I liked the Chiefs, Vikings, Seahawks, Broncos, and Cardinals, though that Seattle/Arizona tie made me put off the NFL for at least 50 seconds or so.  The possibility of the Raiders going to LV is just too intriguing and pirate-like not to come true.  We shall see.  And when, when, will the Texans get the QB they need?  I sure enjoyed the Houston season also.

The NFL brass made some headway on self-identity this season.  I saw signs of stopping treating millionaire abusers of women like children, and of facing the problem of closed head injuries like responsible adults.  But the front offices of the NFL still have a long way to go.  I think that it needs to get behind ideas like postponing participation in football for young boys and like changing at all levels how tackling is taught and coached.  Penalty for tackling leading with the helmet needs to be reviewed, especially the consistency of what is penalized.  Still think the day is coming when playing football at all levels will be considered legally like volunteering for combat duty.  And, by the way, love the introduction of women as officials; I thought the “rookie” did a great job.  Are other roles for women in the NFL opening up in future?

Wanting to keep this short this time, so until next Super Bowl, may your team not suffer those awful throwback uniforms (Who cares what the Bears wore in the 1940’s?) and may you have some financial windfall in the coming year allowing you to afford attending more than one NFL game next season.  Is it too early to talk about the horror of the stands being filled by only the rich?

RJH

 

21st Century Luddites?

After the 2016 Presidential election, participants in and supporters of the US coal mining industry were asked why they voted against the industry being phased out, despite the widespread agreement it is a “dirty” source of energy contributing mightily to atmospheric pollution and climate change, and despite the promise that participants could easily be retrained for far more healthy employment in the future.  One particular answer from a participant spoke volumes to me — something to the effect that not only had his family been coal miners for generations, he categorically rejected the notion of being retrained in anything other than what he had been doing!  It was sort of a “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” answer.

I thought of the Luddites.  Luddites were primarily textile factory workers in England during the Napoleonic Wars years who created a movement of destruction and violence from 1811-1816, which was crushed by heavy-handed government reprisal supported by the factory owners.  The Luddites were most famous for breaking into factories and destroying the new looms and other machines that were doing the Luddite labor at less cost, more efficiently, and more productively.  It probably is a misconception they destroyed the machines out of fear of the machines themselves replacing them, as some research suggests they actually feared that time spent learning new skills (retraining) germane to the new machines would be wasted.  This suggests that perhaps a lot of destruction, maiming, and death could have been avoided had the factory owners at the time offered to retrain the dissident workers at full pay.  Nonetheless, the term “Luddites” came to mean those in opposition to industrialization, automation, and, today, computerization.  What has not changed from the early 19th century to today is that factory mechanization clearly allows faster and cheaper labor and allows operation to be done by fewer laborers, who can even be less-skilled — meaning working for lower wages than the workers-before-machines who were replaced by the machines.  This is not to overlook the present-day need for highly skilled and high-wage workers to maintain and repair the machines; the point is that the number of skilled and well-paid workers needed today is less than in the days when far fewer products were manufactured by workers.

The Luddites seemed placed in a historical spectrum of labor whose roots go back to the medieval guilds, which gave way in the emergence of modern Europe (16th and 17th centuries) to organizations such as village and town support groups for traveling journeymen, which pointed toward labor unions following the era of the Luddites.  As you watch at length programs such as How It’s Made on the Science Channel, fostering the notion that machines “make everything” nowadays, the social and political influence of modern labor unions seems less germane to industrial economies in the last couple or three decades or so, simply because the unions did their job protecting workers so well in the past.  I suspect this spectrum is laced throughout with a workers’ stubborn refusal to change with the times, as per the Luddites.

I have witnessed in the past 30 years or so a “change of economic times” affecting farms and farm workers in the agricultural region south of Cisco, Texas — the town in which I grew up.  So much of southern Eastland County used to be “peanut country.”  My paternal grandfather was a peanut farmer, and my father grew peanuts on the family farms near the end of and during his retirement.  The paternal side of my family traditionally had two “cash crops,” peanuts and beef cattle raised on pasture land not devoted to planting peanuts.  Before my father died, the peanut economy south of Cisco was irrevocably transformed into today’s disappearance.  First came the mechanization of peanut farming and of cattle feed farming (hay), so rapid that with tractors and all the accompanying attachments and implements, my father could do more by himself than what 3 or 4 of us could do only 15 or so years before.  Then came the expansion of irrigated peanut farming elsewhere in Texas, making the small acreage peanut farms of Eastland County pressed to compete with volume of production and the ability of larger farms to sell at lower prices; the small scale peanut farmer of Texas was being phased out.  Despite attempts to irrigate peanuts also in the county, the main peanut mill in Gorman, Texas, dwindled into non-existence; peanut farmers could not economically survive even one bad season.  Farms did survive by turning the peanut fields into hay fields, mostly nowadays growing coastal bermuda grass; peanut-growing implements became scrap iron or decorative antiques.  Southern Eastland County is today a hay/pasture/cattle agricultural economy.

What if the peanut growers of Eastland County had taken the attitude of the Luddites, the attitude of modern coal miners, and refused to change, citing family traditions of peanut farming as I have just done?  They would have gone to their graves owning fallow, unused ground, assuming they had not been forced to sell in order to pay the land’s taxes.  They would have lost everything, for they were never unionized like the coal miners; they had no economic “safety net.”  Instead they changed (begrudgingly, I admit) by seeing their land as something different — producing hay underwriting the cattle industry pervasive all over the county, not just in the southern part.  They are still farming today, needing fewer workers than ever before, thanks to machines, and producing hay (some irrigating, some dry-land), pasture land, and cattle.  Their fathers and grandfathers would not recognize the family land today!

 I am not saying that modern US coal miners will turn violent if they are not allowed to continue coal mining in the tradition of their forefathers, but I am saying the peanut farmers of Eastland County, Texas, should give these miners and their supporters pause.  The miners run the risk of being 21st century Luddites (without the violence) and dooming their traditional economy to an ignoble end, causing further, unnecessary environmental pollution along the way.  Circumstances forced the peanut farmers to change, just like circumstances are forcing coal mining to change; I think that the miners, just like the farmers, have no choice but to change.  So focused are the miners and their supporters on tradition, nostalgia, and reverence for the values of their ancestors, they only look to the past, not to the future; they are, in a word, anachronistic.  They are so anachronistic, they even vote against their own best interests, and thereby vote against the best interests of their children and grandchildren!  They as a group remind one of the irrational, tradition-bound “secret societies” many medieval guilds became.  Using the peanut farmer analogy, it would be like the farmers giving their heirs no choice but to continue growing peanuts, despite the regional support structure for growing “goobers” having long since dwindled away!  “Good luck, son and daughter, because I know you are going to have a harder time than I had!”  Again, downright medieval, if you ask me.

Nor am I saying worker organizations like unions are a cause of the “insanity” of “Luddite-ism.”  If the coal miner unions get behind the backward-looking position of the miners-who-refuse-to-change, then the very concept of unions is being abused.  Protection of jobs does not entail battling progress; unions should always be in step with what is best for the future of workers, not with irrational loyalty to family tradition.  Unions are the reason for child labor laws, safe and humane working conditions, and the exercise of workers’ basic rights; they are not perpetrators of the ancient, archaic idea of guilds based upon family tradition.

Also, to not change with the changing economic times is myopic and selfish.  When farmers in Eastland County gave up raising peanuts, they did not see that as betraying their family traditions; they did not cease to revere, love, and take pride in their peanut-farming heritage!  Farmers knew their ancestors would have done the same thing in their place, given the same circumstances; the way one makes a living is not sacred — it is an individual choice.  Do the coal miners actually think their ancestors would be proud of their continuing doing the same unhealthy things as their grandfathers did?  I have a hard time believing that.  Instead, I think it comes down to the fact it is easier not to change than to change one’s employment.  In a word, they are, ironically, lazy.  Those who do one of the most physical, dangerous jobs still around may well be too lazy to change to an easier, safer job.  It takes effort on the part of the worker to be retrained, an effort the Luddites were not willing to exert.  So it is with today’s coal miners.  They need to be reminded, as they comfortably and longingly gaze into their past, that this is the 21st century of accelerated change, and that coal mining does not “revolve” around them, just as peanut farming did not “revolve” around denizens of southern Eastland County.  Coal mining must look to the future, and will evolve according to environmental circumstances and changing means of obtaining clean energy, not according to the traditions of coal miners.

RJH

 

Prayer

Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), after being applied to, among other things (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]), the existence of God (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), was taken to the subjects of belief (I Believe!, [Oct., 2016]), hope, and faith (Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]). Could prayer be far behind? Of course not.

Rev. Paul M. Burns, son of my good friends Dr. Jim Burns (Ph.D in physics and retired Presbyterian minister) and Judy Burns (award-winning retired public school teacher), has written the book prayer encounters (ISBN 978-1-4497-5194-4, WestBow Press, 2012), whose subtitle is “Changing the World One Prayer at a Time.”  The importance of prayer in the life of so many believers seems obvious; a prayer life is vital to an individual’s faith.  Prayer not only is found in some form in most major religions and in our common exchanges of concern (“I’ll pray for you,” “Pray that will not happen,” “We need to pray together as God’s people,” “I pray, God, You will lead me to understand,” “I pray You will lead me to someone who..”, etc.), it is, as the book’s subtitle suggests, a teleological tool in nature — one means to change the world.  I have prayed with a congregation, lead small groups in prayer, said grace at the dinner table, and had a secret place near where my grandparents lived where I regularly prayed in private.  I have encouraged others to pray for my son Dan when he was hospitalized for a closed head injury years ago responsible for, I think, PTSD effects in his brain today (We All Can Have PTSD, [Jan., 2017]).  Prayer is something with which I am not unfamiliar.

Paul’s book is a series of individual cases in his ministry where prayer was applied toward making someone’s life better, as would be expected.  The days when we pray for our enemies and adversaries to be “smitten” I trust are few, far between, or non-existent.  Each case in the book is engaging, heart-breaking, heart-warming, and inspiring; the book is a good read.  What struck me was that in each case the prayer was not always answered, but in all cases the answer or non-answer is seen, in hindsight, as understandable by faith.  Those emotionally involved in the case praise God if the prayer is answered and explain no answer to the prayer by referring to God’s will.  The spectrum of prayer results in the book triggered my own recollection of personal prayer results — results of praying to which I referred in the previous paragraph.  Ambiguous and sometimes inconsistent outcomes of prayer had triggered my curiosity for years, but I never focused on the question of prayer ontologically until now.  So I ask, what is prayer?  What are we doing in our heads when we pray?  It seems to me Perception Theory can be of help.

I will try to avoid two extremes concerning prayer.  On one hand, prayer is skeptically and/or atheistically dismissed as nonsense, and on the other hand, prayer is communication with God, with gods, or with saints as if you are talking to a deity or a holy one across the breakfast table.  Neither extreme makes sense to me.

From the introduction of Perception Theory to its application to faith (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], and (Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]), prayer can be inferred as a non-veridical activity relegated or looped inside the mind.  It might have reference to parts of the real, veridical world outside our heads, but like all ideas and concepts, these references are not the actual real world, but, rather, are processed perceptions of empirical data from that world created by the blending of the data and the non-veridical proactive mental processes of the mind confined to the brain.  In the end, prayer is part of the epiphenominal menagerie of creations of our evolved, “big” brain.  Since the existence of God in Perception Theory strongly suggests God is like an “imaginary friend,” then prayer might be as simple as talking to the imaginary friend we carry around in our head as the concept of God.  We confide in real friends out in the veridical world around us as well as idly chit-chat with them; so it is with children who create imaginary friends in their heads.  Communicating with real friends can not only be fun and helpful, it can be downright therapeutic.  Prayer, communicating with our concept of God (or of gods or of saints) in our heads, can also be fun and helpful, but since prayer is seen as “serious” business, then prayer is usually therapeutic.  Hence, along with our capacity to make up gods and god stories, to be religious, came the capacity to make those gods our imaginary, surrogate friends to whom we take our thoughts, mental conflicts, and struggles with the veridical world outside our heads for a “help session.”  We take our burdens, our wishes, our hopes, and our need for answers to the “feet of the Lord,” to the “listener” inside our head, our imaginary friend.  Prayer, therefore, functions as a self-induced psycho-therapy with a modus operandi of confiding in our imaginary God in our head.  As the old Christian hymn to prayer says, “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear; What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

Prayer has survived as a coping tool in our heads, a part of the evolved epiphenominal “baggage” around the concepts of friends, gods, and god stories.  Its survival value is proportional to the importance for the species of individual self-introspection and self-analysis (self-induced psycho-therapy) within our heads.

In Julian Jaynes book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (ISBN 0-395-20729-0, Houghton Mifflin, 1976) a fascinating hypothesis was put forth:  Before about 500 BCE, we had evolved a brain with two copies, the left and the right hemispheres, which could communicate (or “talk”) with each other; we had a spare brain, in other words, in case something went wrong (brain damage) with one of them.  This “talk” between hemispheres was like the gods within us — the origin of gods, god stories, theology, and religion; the gods talked to us all the time.  Around 500 BCE human culture had become so complicated and demanding, division of labor had to be relegated out to the different hemispheres of the brain, ceasing the talk of the brain to itself; the gods stopped talking to us in our heads, explaining why so many great religions in which we had to find the gods’ voices outside us (or try and re-find them inside us) arose around this time — Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, great Prophets of Israel, and Confucianism.  I am not saying I subscribe to this hypothesis, but its similarity with the idea of “talking with God” when we pray seems to me very compelling.  Prayer is, like the gods very ancient — an epiphenominal, non-veridical means by which we furnish ourselves with “bootstrap” sessions of psycho-therapy, or an evolved tool to keep ourselves sane, perhaps because, as Jaynes suggests, the gods stopped talking to us long ago.

Like religious belief, hope, and faith, prayer is confined within the individual’s “subjective trap” (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  Praying together assumes others’ minds are like our own, something we can never know with any degree of certainty.  Making that assumption, our group prayer sessions (at least two persons) are like mutually agreed-upon group psycho-therapy.  It is understandable how a group prayer can be answered differently in the minds of the group, given the differences of expectations among the individuals’ heads within the group.  If a group explodes in agreement that the prayer is answered, such as when my son came out of his week’s coma that followed his closed head injury, it can be assumed the expectations, hopes, and supplications across the minds in the group during the prayer were very similar, though, of course, that can never be objectively demonstrated (at least not yet).  In this sense, prayer for something explicit to occur is like making a bet, like predicting the future, whether as an individual or as a prayer group.

Let’s say a drought-stricken individual or group prays to God (or to a saint) for rain.  In the “old days” sacrifices of the fruits of the harvest, of animals, or of humans would be offered to induce the deity or deities to answer the prayer for rain.  Today, we’ve pretty much gotten past those requirements, to the “relief” of our fellow plants and animals, I’m sure.   The psycho-analysis model of prayer predicted by Perception Theory would say the prayer for rain serves as a self-induced assurance not to worry so much about the drought, as religious belief and hope transforms into faith the prayer will be answered.  That assurance is not nothing to the supplicant, though any effect of the prayer out in the real veridical world cannot be demonstrated; the assurance is the value and justification of prayer; without it we would worry ourselves silly asking questions for which we cannot possibly find an answer.  Whether it rains or not is really incidental, and simply a matter of chance involving local meteorological conditions, conditions presumed to “play out” whether rain is prayed for or not.  The epistemological/ontological mistake of the supplicant or supplicants is to attribute rain or no rain, attribute the outcome of prayer, to the god or gods inside the brain(s) of the supplicant(s).  The non-veridical concepts of the human mind had nothing to do with what transpired in the veridical world, except to be the non-veridical processed perceptions produced partly by empirical data bombarding the body’s senses for each individual.  It was going to rain or not rain, prayed for or not.  Yet, the religious believer says rain was the answer to prayer, or says no rain is the “will of God” beyond human understanding (or due to some flaw in the prayer and/or in the “hearts” of the supplicant(s)).  No wonder many thinkers are of the opinion religious belief is like a mental illness!  I say that prayer is its own reward, providing therapeutic assurance and lowering stress, regardless if the prayer is “answered” or not.  Seen this way, prayer is neither the hollow nothingness of the atheist, nor is it communication with anything outside the heads of the believer.  It is something in between.

To suggest, as Paul Burn’s book does, that prayer changes things is, therefore, correct in one sense, in my opinion.  It can bring on therapeutic healing inside the mind(s) of the supplicant(s).  My experience is that when I pray, I feel better afterwards.  And though I cannot ever know for sure what is inside the heads of my fellow supplicants because of the subjective trap, the behavior of my fellow supplicants after prayer is consistent with their feeling better also.  In other words, prayer can create “good vibes” in the social collective minds of the supplicants, as it did when family and friends near and far prayed for the recovery of my son.  No wonder back in 1986 when my friend Rev. John Armstrong of Canada asked if I would welcome a Muslim friend to join in the widening circle of prayers for Dan, I said something like, “Absolutely!”  I wanted Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists — anyone of any faith — to join in praying for Dan.  I know two things about the outcome of Dan’s ordeal in 1986:  a) the more prayer, the better all of us felt, and b) in the end, Dan made a full physical recovery.

We now know (National Geographic, Dec. 2016) that having faith that healing will come (often fueled by prayer) will trigger the “natural pharmaceutical shelf” in our bodies toward healing with the biochemistry we all inherently have, even if no real medicines (placebos) are only employed.  This could be the key to understanding how the tendency to become religious, along with its attendant prayer, had evolutionary survival value in our deep past.  It therefore is possible that the non-veridical healing inside the minds of prayer supplicants can, if the “good prayer vibes” resonant in the minds of those deemed in need of prayer, has a veridical, real world link (Part of medicine is “bed-side manner.”).  Perhaps prayer can in this way positively change things outside our heads as well as inside, at least to the boundary between our body and the world surrounding it.  Ironically, however, credit for the healing is usually given to the god(s) in our heads thought to be outside our heads, not to the non-veridical tool of prayer in our heads correlating with our biochemistry, or to the attendant physicians plying their skill with modern medicine.

If what is prayed for has to do with something outside the body in the veridical world, like the rain example above, obviously triggering natural pharmaceuticals is not directly germane to the answer or no answer to the prayer (e.g. rain or no rain).  But these biochemicals, like endorphins, could be germane to the therapeutic lowering of stress in the supplicant(s) brain(s); they could be connected to the “real” reward of prayer (self-induced psycho-therapy), which has nothing to do with the prayer’s outcome.

In summary, then, prayer is not nothing, according to Perception Theory.  But it also is not contact with anything outside our bodies; ultimately, it is contact with ourselves within the subjective trap.  That it has value to our well-being has a strong case; psycho-therapy is as important as physical therapy (the two possibly linked by our own body’s physiology), as we’ve known from the days of Freud.  Perception Theory would say that the psycho-therapy of prayer demonstrates this importance back to the dawn of our species.

RJH

 

Hope and Faith

I remember singing in Sunday School, “Have faith, hope, and charity, That’s the way to live successfully, How do I know? The Bible tells me so!”   I assume the song’s words are taken directly from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 13:13, KJV).  The three words faith, hope, and charity are called the “three theological virtues” or just the “three virtues.”  Having sorted out what Perception Theory tells us about “belief” (I Believe! [Oct., 2016]), two of the three, faith and hope, or, in the order I consider them here, hope and faith, will be considered.  Both are related to belief and though both are “separate virtues,” the pair, I intend to show, are very similar in Perception Theory, yet are very distinguishable from one another.  (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  Indeed, they are paired conceptually in Hebrews 11:1:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV)

Despite my skepticism Paul should even be call an apostle, much less an accurate describer of Jesus (Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012]) and despite the consensus Paul did not write Hebrews (Priscilla, Barnabas, Luke, Clement of Rome, and Apollos of Alexandria have been proposed as more likely authors of Hebrews than Paul.), the presence of the same two words (hope and faith) together in both KJV verses provides a convenient “cutting board” upon which to dissect the two with Perception Theory.  In I Believe! [Oct., 2016] belief is far from having anything to do with evidence, yet the Hebrews verse links “substance” and “evidence” with faith.

Hence, if this linkage is accurate, faith has more to do with evidence than belief.  In fact, starting from absence of evidence, starting from belief, and heading in the direction of evidence, I see hope first, followed by faith, with evidence (“I know” statements –I Believe! [Oct., 2016]) coming only after faith.  “I believe” statements and “I know” statements, with hope and faith “sandwiched” in between, are all four non-veridical activities of the brain, with “I believe” statements devoid of resonance with the “outside,” real, veridical world beyond the volume of our brains and “I know” statements as resonant with the real, veridical world as they possibly can be (as possibly allowed by the “subjective trap”).  This would suggest that both hope and faith exist as resonating non-veridically based concepts, “in between” the looped non-veridically based existence of “I believe” statements and the strongly veridically-based existence of “I know” statements.  In other words, belief is looped non-veridically based, like God, and hope and faith are possibly resonating non-veridically based, like freedom (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]); both hope and faith at first appear to “reach out” to the veridical world in a way belief does not bother to do.

To Perception Theory, however, hope is like a “wish statement” that may or may not resonate veridically.  To hope God hears our prayer is looped non-veridically based, but to hope your sick loved one gets well is resonating non-veridically based.  Hope statements can be in either non-veridically based camp — looped or resonating.  To Perception Theory faith leans strongly toward the resonating non-veridical, like having faith that your sick loved one will actually get well, which means the loved one’s health will be described with “I know” statements of wellness in the future.  If the sick one does not get well, the hope still seems justified, but the faith seems ill-placed; hope cannot ever count on “I know” statements to come, but faith risks counting upon “I know” statements coming.  One’s hope can never be squelched by the real veridical world (it is so looped); one’s faith can (it is so resonate).  Faith, then, is like a “prediction statement,” a declaration that something will in future be supported by evidence, and by, therefore, “I know” statements.  With hope I wish, and with faith I predict or bet.  Moreover, faith is embedded with a confidence in a “real world” outcome, whether justified in hindsight or not.  This confidence reinforces the resonance of faith with the veridical.

Hebrews 11:1, therefore, is way off-base.  Faith cannot be substance or evidence of anything.  I can believe or hope in just anything (wishing); conversely I cannot bet on just anything (predicting) and be considered sane, no matter how confident my faith.  Based upon what we know about the universe that seems to be outside our heads, hoping that unicorns exist can be seen as “cute and charming,” while confidently predicting that unicorns exist will probably been seen as silly.  Stating I have faith that unicorns exist is not evidence that unicorns exist, but stating I hope unicorns exist “gets a pass” from those who demand evidence.  One is simply not taken seriously when hoping, like he/she is when bestowing faith.  Hope is more like belief than faith; faith is more like predicting freedom in a veridical society than hope, but with a confidence often falsely interpreted by others as connected with evidence.

An analogy might be in order:  I am about to witness the results of a wager I’ve made at a casino in Las Vegas, say.  It’s the results of a pull of the handle of a slot machine, the final resting place of the ball in a roulette wheel, a roll of the dice at the craps table, the revealing of the cards at the end of a round of poker, or the public posting of the results of a sporting event I have bet on.  Normally, I hope I win (which is not the same as saying I predict I will win), but if I don’t (if I fail to win), the worst that can happen is the loss of my wager.  However, if I win, any conclusion other than to realize how lucky I am would not be warranted; I happened to beat the odds, the probability of which I knew was very low when I made the bet.  But if I have bestowed faith in winning the wager, as we have seen above, it is almost redundant to say I am betting, that is, predicting that I will win.  (Recall I can place a bet with hope, which is not a prediction.) If I have faith that I will win, predicting that I will win, then the amount of the wager, the bet, relative to my gambling budget, is a measure of the strength of my faith.  If I fail to win, my faith will be seen as ill-placed and in hindsight unnecessary; confidence in my winning (in my faith) in hindsight might seem cruelly laughable.  However, if I win, my faith, along with the confidence attending it, seems (irrationally) justified.  In minds wherein suspension of rationality seems commonplace, the human mind tends to think that the win might not have happened without the faith and its attendant confidence.  But the win would not have happened without the bet, and the confident faith before the results had nothing to do with the win, but too often the faith and its confidence are seen as the “cause” of the win!  Such an irrational conclusion is nothing short of believing in magic; it is a view of the win that is all in the head of the winner, and has nothing to do with the evidence from the real world that actually determined the mechanics of the results.  Perception theory would say that veridically the results, win or lose, were the outcome of random probability; any hope or faith put in the results are non-veridical processes inside the brain (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).

Now, let’s get to the “elephant in the room,” the “gorilla sitting in the corner.”  Believing that God exists is just like hoping God exists — neither tells one anything about God’s existence, except that God is a concept in the head of the one making the belief statement or the hope statement (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  Having faith that God exists in the real veridical world bets that, or predicts that, God exists like freedom, a dog, or a rock.  Bets and predictions can fail (as in gambling), as have all bets and predictions concerning both unicorns and God, so far.  Faith in God outside our heads, as faith in unicorns outside our heads, is ill-placed — in terms found in Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, it is absurd.  Unlike freedom, God and unicorns do not resonate with the veridical.  I can think of at least one statement about God in which we can all make an “I know” statement — God is a concept in our heads.  It is curiously difficult not to say we can all have faith that God is a concept in our heads.  Also, curiously, I am betting, have faith, that the concept of God, under “high resolution,” is different for each and every head.  Perhaps this “God difference in every head” will one day be shown to be only a hope (an inescapable belief) or. even perhaps be another “I know” statement.

RJH

We All Can Have PTSD

PTSD (acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder) has started expanding its applicability way beyond its military context, it seems to me.  Historically, the concept of PTSD developed from the stress of combat and other horrors of war causing either damage to brain physiology or to the individual psychology of the mind, or both.  Its symptoms, regardless of particular causes in particular cases, are a myriad of brain disorders that cause mild to chronic disruptions of normal brain function.  In World War I, it was called “shell shock,” and in World War II on in to Vietnam, it was called “combat fatigue.”  I want to make the case that all of us can have shell shock and combat fatigue without experiencing a second of combat, without a speck of horror or brain damage.

My most vivid experience of PTSD in a Vietnam vet was when I was working with faculty members from Waxahachie High School years ago in preparation for a faculty party to be held at the Waxahachie National Guard Armory several years ago.  Helping us build stage sets for party performances was David Simmons, building trades instructor at the high school and a Vietnam vet.  The Waxahachie Guard was moving the last cargo truck out of the building when David, upon hearing the truck’s engine, immediately had a flashback to Vietnam.  He dropped his hammer and had to be helped to sit down on the edge of the stage we were building.  For a few moments, he could not stop the imagery in his head; only when the truck had exited the building did he return to “normal.”  Clearly this was purely mental PTSD, as I am not aware of his suffering a head injury during the war.

Equally clear are PTSD-like cases of closed head injuries, such as result from motorcycle accidents.  I remember my friend Rick Qualls and I visiting a motorcycle accident victim who was seeing blood on the fossils he was collecting; we were “experts” invited by his mother to examine the fossils and help him be a little more critical in his hopefully therapeutic hobby.  We to no avail could convince him his iron-compound stains were not blood or that blood does not normally leave trace fossils.  At least he was not a “vegetable,” but that was little consolation to a mother whose son’s close head injury had interjected tragedy so cruelly into the family.  The son was experiencing something personally real in his head, just as David was in his head inside the armory, but the something was permanent, not temporary, as in David’s case.

I have come to think similarly about my older son Dan, who experienced a closed head injury in 1986 as a freshman in high school with a collision on bicycle with a van.  He is Sylvia’s and my “miracle child,” as he clearly recovered completely from all his physical injuries and almost recovered completely from his brain injuries.  Years after his accident, only the stress of traumatic events like divorce revealed his inability to deal with higher cognitive functions, as now in the past few years he is incapable of finding and holding a job.  Only recently have I recognized his cognitive trauma as PTSD-like, showing symptoms like paranoia, depression, mistrust, and hallucinatory reports.  But his brain recovery was so complete he now has a healthy case of denial, stubbornly refusing to recognize he is behaving abnormally.  But, when seen in comparison to the motorcycle accident victim, our son could have suffered mentally much worse.

Also helping me to recognize my son’s form of PTSD (in my opinion), was my recent development of Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]) and its wide spectrum of applications in our universal experiences (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], and I Believe!, [October, 2016]).  Perception Theory was suggested to me during explaining the role hallucinations played in the origin and development of Christianity (At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015]), in which I shared my own flashback-like hallucinations.  Emerging from both projects conjured the realization my own non-combat hallucinations (only requiring some kind of trauma of the mind — not necessarily bad or harmful trauma) might mean I too have a form of PTSD, and, by extrapolation, all of us have the capability to empathize with PTSD victims, for we have experienced it ourselves, but have not recognized it as such.

 

I know I can empathize with David, with the motorcycle accident victim, and with my son Dan, for I have had several PTSD flashbacks over the years.  Rather than repeating those in At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], I thought I would share with you three others:

1)  I grew up, as I’ve said in my memoirs and in my book SXYTMCHSC1964M4M (ISBN 978-0-692-21783-2, College Street Press, Waxahachie, TX, 2014) {See Fun Read, [August, 2014] to read how to attain a copy}, I grew up simultaneously at three homes, one with my parents in town in Cisco, Texas, and in the two rural homes of both sets of my grandparents outside Cisco.  The “home” of my maternal grandparents, the McKinneys, was completely destroyed by a tornado in May, 2015, a site that belongs to my wife and me nowadays.  For sentimental reasons I had the bulldozer and track hoe “cleaning up” the site leave a surviving iron yard gate still swinging on its hinges, so that any time I want, I can go out there, open the gate, and slam it shut.  That sound it makes when closing conjures images of the house and yard and of me going in and out the gate as a young boy.  I cannot help but see the house and yard, even though they are not there today.  The images are triggered by the slamming of the gate; it’s like being one of Pavlov’s dogs.  There is some possible bad trauma in this example, because of memory of the tornado, but the images are pleasant and very sentimental.  This feels to me as a PTSD-like experience of bittersweet memories and pleasant imagery, triggered by an iron-on-iron collision.  The imagery doesn’t last but a few moments, but can be re-conjured by slamming the gate again.  (This gate triggering also seems to work, at least mildly, on first cousins of mine who spent a lot of time at the site also as young children.)

2)  In the summer of 2007 I arranged a very personal and emotional moment upon myself when I confided in my good friend Bill Adling (See SXYTMCHSC1964M4M.) that I was about to write my life’s novel at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  He was the first in whom I confided such information, and I had insisted I tell him in private away from our wives.  The site chosen to reveal my secret to Adling was a neon display advertising the Beatles-based performances of “Love” by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage.  The display had places at which we could sit.  It is hard to overstate how important the Beatles are and were to Adling’s and my friendship — for example, the two of us, along with our fellow fast friend/high school prankster Bob Berry, claim to be the very first Beatles fans in Cisco as 1963 changed to 1964.  How appropriate a setting for me to share my secret with Adling!  Fast forward to the summer of 2016, when just my wife and I were “taking in” Las Vegas and I was wandering around the casino floor of the Mirage while my wife Sylvia was still playing video poker.  I wandered to the spot where the neon display was 9 years earlier (It was now gone, despite the fact “Love” was still playing — we saw the show again, incidentally.), but I recognized the spot by its surroundings.  And suddenly, here came into my head bright neon lights, Adling’s face, and exchanged words I seemed to remember from almost a decade ago!  It was very fleeting but no less vivid.  The “trauma” must have been the “stress” of keeping the secret from everyone except Adling at the time, but the feeling was exhilarating, making me momentarily almost giddy!  I now look upon this moment as a PTSD-like experience.

3)  The third of this trio is the most PTSD-like to me and, coincidentally, the most gross.  Near the McKinney house of 1) above, my Granddad McKinney, among other animals, raised and kept for selling and butchering (Yes, the tornado left the rock and concrete foundation of the old slaughter house.) hogs, lots of hogs.  Playing in and around the lots, sheds, and barns there as a boy, I was in a constant menagerie of not only hogs, but cattle, chickens, turkeys, and peafowl.  Fast forward to just a few years ago, I had stopped at Brendan Odom’s house (Brendan today leases much of the land my wife and I own, including the McKinney place.), which coincidentally is on the road between where my Granddad McKinney lived and my Granddad Hastings lived, to ask him something.  Away from his house but sort of in the extended front yard was a covered cattle trailer, one of my dad’s old ones, in which Brendan kept wild hogs he had trapped for sale to buyers with customers craving “wild pork.” (Today, because of the collapse of the small-scale hog market, no one today raises hogs such as my grandfather did.)  As I walked by the trailer, I noted there were no hogs in it, but that there recently been some “residents,” as my nose was bombarded by the unmistakable odor of hog shit!  And the imagery flowed in my head of hogs wallowing, hogs sleeping, hogs feeding, and hogs squealing.  I could not stop seeing them!  As David’s trigger was auditory, mine in this moment was olfactory.  I had to walk away almost to the house to get the imagery to stop.  The trauma, as well as the trigger, was the incredibly bad odor, so the images were not particularly pleasant.

 

Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016], (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], and I Believe!, [October, 2016]) suggests what is going on in our heads during PTSD experiences.  Some non-veridical trauma in our mind triggers uncontrollable perceptions upon our inner world view, momentarily or permanently blocking or suspending the non-veridical brain mechanisms by which we normally determine that what we are perceiving at the moment “must have been a dream.”  The uncontrollable perceptions seem as real and the controlled perceptions we receive from the “outside world” outside our brains.  They are suspensions of rationality, much like what we do when we fall in love.  Often they make us doubt our sanity, and often we are reluctant to share them with others for fear they will doubt our sanity.  Yet, history has shown they can cover the spectrum of individual perception from the destruction of life, through little or no effect, to the basis of starting a religion or a political movement.

PTSD-like experiences are profound epiphenomenal capabilities of our brain, part of the evolutionary “baggage” that was part of our “big brain” development.  I would guess it was a trait neutral to our survival (or, “tagging along” with our vital survival trait of the ability to irrationally fall in love), and, therefore, could be a vestigial trait passed into our future by the same genes that produce our vital non-veridical existence within our brains (in our minds).  Whatever future research into them brings, I will always be fascinated by their possible triggers within an individual, whether it be combat, closed-head injuries, a sound from the past, the Fab Four, or hog shit.

RJH

2016 College Football — A Forgettable Season?

When Alabama went up 14-0 on Clemson during the championship game, I thought “Here we go again, another ho-hum year with the Tide taking it all…..” But, here came the Tigers to make it a classic comeback victory and not make it so ho-hum after all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not being complacent with the 4-team playoff (Its still not enough teams to make the championship NOT a bullshit championship.), but I came away at the end of the 2016 collegiate season feeling better than I thought I’d be at first.

It’s tempting to call the Aggies’ season a ho-hum one, given the pattern of starting like a house on fire and ending like a deflated balloon (8-5).  But look at the season’s opener.  A&M came out of a disastrous QB soap opera in 2015 with a big question mark at QB — Trevor Knight.  Trevor turned out to be a God-send, so much so that many Aggie fans thought he was going to lead us to the Promised Land.  But two incredible home overtime squeakers over UCLA and Tennessee should have portended that we were skating on thin ice, not thick.  One self-inflicted wound by Trevor as he dove for a touchdown at Mississippi State, and the deflation began.  They were so much damn fun to watch, however, I can’t wait to re-up for next year’s season tickets.  Sylvia and I want to thank friend and former student David Wesson for the use of his house on the Bryan-College Station city limit line, making four football weekends so much easier on us than usual.  Thanks again, David!

I’ve finally settled on which SEC teams to follow in addition to A&M:  the two Mississippi schools (Ole Miss and Mississippi State), Tennessee, and Auburn as an upper tier and Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Missouri as a lower.  (Sorry, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, and LSU — may be adding you some day).  Looking forward to making some away games at famous SEC tailgates with my son Chad in future — we’ve done LSU twice, and now have Ole Miss, Georgia, and Tennessee on our list.  My beloved Texas A&M, College Station is not only the largest campus in the State of Texas, it is the largest in the SEC, making it very easy to wander in the conference with no animosity.  The size of the A&M athletic program, its many SEC championships so far, Johnny Manziel, and the fact we entered the conference as nobody’s “doormat” all combine to make getting along with everyone so easy within the toughest football conference.  I’m not looking for rivals, because, in my opinion, who needs them?  We’re doing just fine, thank you!

In case you might not know what doing “just fine” in the SEC entails, we Aggies can easily tell you — more money, more coverage of all sports, and broader recruiting ranges.  In such a situation, W’s and L’s have a way of taking care of themselves.  The reason I can be so “mellow” about W’s and L’s and rivalries, even though I rejoice with Aggie W’s and am disappointed with Aggie L’s, is that I don’t care about bragging rights, I don’t talk smack either before or after games, I don’t bet on football, and I don’t play any kind of fantasy football.  The historical reason for what might seem an odd philosophy of football fandom, if the reader is interested, can be found in the post Confessions of a Cisco High School Lobo Football Trainer/Manager 1960-1963, [March, 2014] on this site www.ronniejhastings.com.

With that awful Baylor football scandal last season, my list of Big XII teams to follow has been altered.  I’m now following Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, Kansas State, and my all-time favorite underdog, Iowa State.  And I would be less than honest were I not to say I like watching West Virginia football also. (Sorry, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Baylor)  Big XII’s soap opera is really interesting — expand, play a championship game, or both, or neither?  Only the movers and shakers in Austin know for sure, I’d say.  I might add to the Big XII teams whose colors are not burnt orange and white:  when you get big enough, take a tip from the Aggies, grow a pair, and man up!

2016 brought a season when the Pac 12 did not do so well outside the Huskies, the Big 10 did better than expected, but not so well in the bowls, and the ACC showed why it should one of the “Big 5″ conferences in football.  But, still, still I had to “protest watch” a real playoff in Division I at the end of the season, protesting the fact my favorite collegiate sport still has no true playoff, and, therefore, still has no true champion like James Madison when it won the Div. I championship game in Frisco, Texas, over Youngstown State.  Only four teams make it that much more frustrating — don’t you think teams like Oklahoma, Michigan, USC, LSU, and Wisconsin deserved a shot at a true championship as much as Alabama, Washington, Clemson, and Ohio State?  I sure do!  (As you can tell, just because I don’t talk smack doesn’t mean I don’t rant repeatedly and relentlessly.)  Let’s don’t do just 8, even, let’s do 16 (Div. I does more than 16!)!  One more time, let me say:  seed them like a tennis tournament based upon their ranking at the end of the conference championship games; to hell with expensive committees!  And every match-up (1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, 3 vs 14, etc.) will be one the traditional bowl games, rotating the two surviving teams’ championship game among the already designated “top” bowls.  Do the math, and there are 8 games on one extended weekend (Fri, Sat, Mon), 4 games the next, 2 games the next, and finally the championship game for a total of 15 mega-money making bowls.  There are around 30 or so bowls at the end of each season, so to keep the other 15 bowls going, set up one-time match-ups between teams ranked 17 through 50 or so (allowing for teams who might decline a bowl invitation) as a “reward” for a successful season, according to the age-old bowl tradition.

 

Can’t say a lot of progress was made toward dealing with the problem of football concussions, but signs of teaching future tacklers from the beginning not to lead with their helmets and not to target other helmets seem promising.  Also, I have to have faith helmet technology will improve to increase head safety, although how you prevent the brain from jostling upon impact is yet to be tackled (pun or no pun intended, depending on your mood right now).  I foresee the time that football players of all ages will have to have the sign a waiver (or their parents sign a waiver in proxy) stating that they are aware they are voluntarily putting themselves into possible life-damaging harm, sorta like signing a waiver before going sky diving.  Sobering, but, unfortunately, necessary.

I have to admit that my love of the game overrides the sobriety just mentioned.  Have to also admit that 2016, once I think about it, was not a forgettable season after all.  Looking forward to next season.  Until then, may the little rubber beads that fly up when you drag your toe just in-bounds for a spectacular reception stay out of your sweaty eyes, and may linebackers everywhere find in their DNA traces of Neanderthal-ism, so that they no longer have to rationalize to the press and to fans their uniformed violence.

RJH

 

40 for 40

Upon retiring from public and private school classrooms after 40 years as a physicist who was “called” to teach physics and higher math to college-bound high school juniors (11th grade) and seniors (12th grade), I had accumulated over time certain sayings, thoughts, mores, musings, beliefs, philosophies, etc.  I decided to pen 40 of them, one for each year of my teaching career.  I do not pretend all of them are originally mine, as I’m sure many are paraphrases and/or plagiarisms of sentences that have personal meaning.  Many are school-related in particular, education-related in general, or related to both inside and outside the classroom — to life itself.  There is no order, as I left them in the sequence of my writing them down; therefore, they are not numbered, not only to remind the reader of their random sequencing, but also to remind they have to me no hierarchy — placing them in some order of importance is a prerogative of the reader, not a preference of mine.  Perhaps they will in part or whole have meaning or usefulness to the reader.  My highest hope is that they will in part or whole be thought-provoking.

(In-depth commentary upon many of these can be found throughout the posts under the title Beyond Good and Evil, on this site www.ronniejhastings.com .)

=> Unquestioning faith is not a virtue; it is a disability.

 

 

=> Knowledge is power for self-control and self-determinaton; knowledge is freedom of thought; knowledge carries with it the responsibility to pass it on to others.

 

 

=> Respect must be earned, not freely given nor expected.

 

 

=> There is no science of education.

 

 

=> Believe what people do, not what people say.

 
=> Einstein was right about what he said about the universe not because he was Einstein, but because the universe behaves as he said.

 
=> Schools are for the students, of the students, and (for upper grades) by the students.

 
=> The language of the universe is mathematics.

 
=> To be a great teacher, one only needs to be 1) competent and 2) caring.

 
=> Everything can and should be questioned, even this sentence.

 
=> Everything can be made fun of, but only if you include yourself and everything you hold sacred.

 
=> Don’t try to foist your values off on others, especially when they are not solicited.

 
=> We all are children of the stars; we are starstuff.

 
=> Human existence is starstuff in self-contemplation and in contemplation of all other starstuff.

 
=> Funerals are for the living, not for the dead.

 
=> Marriages are for the community of the bonded pair, not for the bonded pair.

 
=> It is highly probable men and women cannot understand each other, for, were that understanding possible, the fascination for each other necessary for pair bonding (& necessary for the propagation of the species) would not be near as intense. The two sexes were meant to “drive each other crazy,” so that we will always fall in love.

 
=> Schools are not businesses; schools are not sports teams; schools are not technology exhibitions; schools are not expensive baby-sitting facilities.

 
=> Schools ARE facilitators of developing students’ minds, coordinated by a group of professional colleagues called the faculty.

 
=> Education is multi-pathed communication among students and teachers.

 
=> Personal tastes and choices (e.g. food, drink, music, sports, literature, politics, religion, life styles, etc.) are not to be mandated by society; ethical behavior (e.g. The Golden Rule), on the other hand, is NOT a matter of taste.

 
=> Science is reliable because it is never considered sacred or finished; nor is science held beyond vicious self-scrutiny, which also makes it reliable.

 
=> Science is not so much “believed in” as it is “subscribed to,” as if subscription to any and all theories can be changed when a better alternative or better alternatives come(s) along.

 
=> Teaching is never better than when the teacher tries to “teach his/herself out of a job.” No greater gift can a teacher give a student than the self-confidence that the student can learn the curriculum just as well without the teacher.

 
=> The teacher who does not learn from the students is not paying attention to his/her classes.

 
=> Particular courses that should be added to public secondary school curricula (required or elective) are 1) philosophy, 2) comprehensive, responsible sex education, 3) comparative religion, and 4) the Bible as literature.

 
=> Teachers are not 2nd class blue collar workers; they are professionals, like medical doctors, veterinarians, and lawyers.

 
=> School administrators are too often nothing more than over-paid hall monitors; their job is to support classroom teachers, not manage them.

 
=> The highest paid professionals in a school district should be tenured teachers.

 
=> Students are the clients of teachers; teachers work for their clients, not for administrators, school districts, States, or nations.

 
=> Teacher contracts should not contain the word “insubordination.” Administrators are supporting peers of teachers, not teachers’ “bosses.”

 
=> Education courses are unnecessary for teacher certification; only a period of classroom “student teaching” is.

 
=> “Lesson plans” are unnecessary; they only fill administrators’ filing cabinets; teachers individually develop the syllabi by which they teach day-by-day.

 
=> As professionals, teachers should mentor teachers-to-be, who function in the classroom in a secretarial role and observe the “nuts & bolts” of teaching as part of their “student teaching” requirements.

 
=> HR departments of school districts are support staff for teachers, not strong arms of the district administration.

 
=> For each subject a teacher teaches, it should be taught as if it is absolutely vital every student knows its content; students should feel the teacher’s passion for the subject.

 
=> Teachers should be hired and fired by other teachers.

 
=> Outside the classroom a teacher should have interests beyond his/her specialty; a teacher should have an extracurricular mental life.

 
=> Schools waste taxpayers’ money through at least two corrupt “good ol’ boy” systems: 1) promoting administrators’ careers via favoritism instead of merit, and 2) exclusive use of school supply companies that deal in ridiculously inflated prices.

 
=> Understanding does NOT necessarily also mean agreement.

RJH

 

Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency

As promised, here’s some suggestions that have popped up to use the next four years or so, and, amazingly, the man in these suggestions has not been inaugurated yet. For starters, some preliminary comments:

a) Lest we citizens not exactly thrilled with the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election be accused of being closed-minded, we must perpetually allow for the possibility, no matter how minuscule it may appear, we will need to show support for any actions by the new administration that meet our approval. None such have appeared thus far, in my opinion, but, then, for us eternal optimists, hope springs eternal.

b) Any specific causes or organizations I cite herein are merely personal suggestions that work for me. The reader should substitute and/or add the name or names of his/her preferences for mine, if desired.

c) We must banish thoughts of doing everything we can to discredit Trump, else we become no better than the grid-locking Republicans in Congress and elsewhere who held our nation hostage for petty political purposes during Obama’s two terms. Again, if Trump does well, let’s be supportive. For the good of our country, we must hope he does well.

But the sad reality is, he’s been our President-elect a little over a month now at the time of this writing, and there is little or no encouragement for us to be optimistic. Logically, we need to play it safe and assume the worst, else we are guilty of not being prepared for whatever may come. This is a suggestive guide for being so prepared from my point of view.

The philosophical modus operandi when dealing with Donald is to think of history as a parade of great ideas, not a parade of great men/women. Since none of us, living or dead, was or is perfect, thinking of history this way saves us frustration and disappointment whenever an individual’s imperfections become apparent. As Presidential candidates go, Trump is one of the most imperfect in a long, long time. I’ve not seen one like him since Nixon.

Wielding history in this way, American history is on “our” side. Donald is not only a narcissistic, grown-up, and greedy playground bully, he can be compared to the likes of mega-maniacal Nixon, to past fascist dictators like Hitler and Mussolini, and to present fascist-like dictators like Putin (Apparently now Putin is the richest individual on the planet.). If he (Trump) actually tries out some of his ideas (e.g. the wall) while in office, Dr. Rick Covington’s suggestion that they could be compared to some of Mao’s idiotic and tragic policies would be well taken. Obviously, to use history in this way, we must know our history; we cannot “brush up” on American and world history too much in the days to come.

Nixon was forced to resign when threatened with impeachment for his part in the Watergate break-in; “Tricky Dick” was a criminal and clearly in violation of his oath of office. Trump is already setting himself up to become in violation of his oath of office, in my opinion, by essentially taking the same position as the Russians on the hacking scandal (Can you say “treason,” boys and girls?), and by deliberately clinging to conflicts of interest (refusal to publicly release his taxes, violation of the emoluments clause) once he is in office, in clear violation of Constitutional requirements of the President. If the possibility of impeachment grows after he takes office, we must be patient, for, if I remember my Watergate history correctly, it took months for the pressure on Nixon to build up to where he found himself “painted into a corner.”

“Gird your loins” with the history of elections of Presidents who did not receive a majority of the popular vote. Personally, I think comparing Trump with Rutherford B. Hayes is quiet rewarding. In the election of 1876, Republican Hayes received 47.9% of the vote compared to Democrat Samuel Tilden’s 50.9% (Compare these numbers with Trump’s and Clinton’s percentages, taking into account the third-party percentages.), yet in the shameful “Compromise of 1877” a deal was cut between the two parties wherein Hayes could be President in exchange for the Republicans removing federal troops from the South, thereby ending Reconstruction and ushering in the systematic disenfranchisement of former slaves, the infamous “Jim Crow” laws. Incidentally, as I’ve discussed with Dr. Jon Reese and others, we can assure that the President-elect is always the one who receives the majority popular vote nationwide (without having to amend the Constitution): As several States have already done, have the State’s Electoral College (EC) set of voters pledged to vote for the candidate receiving the national majority vote, a result that can be reliably known today by the time polls close in Alaska and Hawaii. The EC vote would then be a redundant affirmation of the whole country’s choice. Clearly, this would have elected Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Hayes’ administration followed upon the heels of U.S. Grant’s corrupt administration, helping to perpetuate the infamous “robber barons” of the late 19th century (You know, the villains in the newest Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp as Tonto.). These characters notoriously rode tax breaks toward destruction and rape of the environment, all in the name of profit. Sound familiar? Trump appears to be a modern-day version of a robber baron, giving big business in particular and business in general a bad name. He is “in bed” with the huge oil and gas industry (e.g. Exxon-Mobil) so snugly, he clearly is anti-environment. In other words, he not only doesn’t care about our rights, he doesn’t give a crap about our planet. Those who worship at the shrine of money, mammon, and capitalism need to be reminded there are lots of “filthy rich”examples much better than Donald, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.

I’ll always be amazed at the rabble who insist we need a business person in the White House. History doesn’t bear the weight of that argument, in my opinion; greedy capitalists tend to morph into Scrooges. The robber baron lesson means in a Trump administration we must support those from whom the robber barons steal — the poor, the hungry, refugees fleeing one or more of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the infirm. Give to humanitarian and charitable organizations like UNICEF, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the Clinton Foundation, St. Jude, Shriner’s hospitals, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for Humanity, to name but a few. As individuals, we usually can’t afford to give to all, but at least we can give to one.

Trump is of my generation, so we all need to know how to assess members of my generation, the so-called “Baby-Boomers.” Only part of my generation “took” to the “3-pronged” social revolutions of the 1960’s — 1) the Civil Rights Movement, 2) the Women’s Movement, and 3) the Anti-war Movement. I graduated high school a “male chauvinist pig” in 1964 and emerged from undergraduate school at A&M in 1968 “inoculated” by all three prongs. Another member of my generation, Hillary Clinton, over about the same period of time, morphed from a “Goldwater Girl” to working for voters’ rights for the disenfranchised in far south Texas. But I’m afraid too many of our generation did not “take” to the revolutions, and Donald Trump was certainly one of those. I’m guessing over half of my generation merely replaced their parents and/or grandparents, emerging from the revolutions unchanged and longing for the “good old days” of the 1950’s. We know Trump’s dad dealt with housing for blacks in New York City following Jim Crow laws. Moreover, Trump’s financial successes appear to be the result of “daddy bailing him out,” rather than the result of Trump’s business acumen. In other words, Trump in the 21st century still apparently believes the world is still “ruled” by rich white men, as it practically was back in the 1950’s before the revolutions. So, when dealing with my generation, individually find out if he/she “took.”

As a person “stuck” politically, morally, and socially in the 1950’s, Trump cares for no one’s rights but his own. Consequently, he seems capable of bigotry based solely on xenophobia, in my opinion. Our support of organizations directly defending the rights of us all, especially if we are not white, male, rich, and Protestant, is now of greatest importance. I plan to join and support the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). For women’s right to make their own choices about their lives, I want to support Planned Parenthood. I also want to lend my support to Sanctuary Cities who give succor to desperate immigrants looking to America for their salvation. In all situations wherein anyone’s civil rights are being denied, we must speak up, not tolerating such denial ever. Just the fear of losing one’s basic rights can devastate lives; recently a student I was tutoring spoke of a friend of the LGBT community sobbing in fear over the 2016 election’s outcome.

What about the younger generations than mine, which I will call the generations of my children and my grandchildren? Why would they vote in 2016 against their own best interests, or not vote at all? Many seemed to squander their vote on a hopeless third party (Look where that sort of thing landed Iceland recently in a many-partied election!), or they believed Trump actually cared about the working class. I think these voting patterns showed the inability to recognize propaganda — the inability to not only think critically, but to think skeptically. Even young children can learn to recognize truth not from authority, but from evidence. Basic education should universally include course work demanding critical and skeptical thinking skills, like well-taught science and math classes. I support good strong civics curricula which emphasize the principles upon which our Constitution was based, and I support high school philosophy courses wherein students are taught to question everything they are taught. This is why I feel compelled to support science education groups like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Students should not only be able to distinguish between propaganda and political reality, they should also need to distinguish on their own science from pseudo-science.

Moreover, we need to keep hammering home the idea of free higher education for successful students in state colleges and universities, just like public education is “free” to the “customer” in the classroom. If lottery, gaming, and horse racing revenues were plowed into higher education, plans such as the one put forth by Bernie Sanders and embraced by HRC could easily be paid for. The idea is admirably based on merit, rewarding successful academic work; whether a student gets funded for the next semester depends upon meeting the standards of success in all courses in the previous semester.

Then there were those “one-issue” voters who voted against Hillary or for Donald as if their “favorite” issue was the only plank in the party’s platform, or the only concern of the party’s policy makers. Many of these myopic voters seemed to me to be evangelical Christians whose one issue was abortion, or the make-up of the future Supreme Court. These voters need some sort of rationality therapy wherein a party’s total platform is scrutinized to produce a “political spectrum average.” This “plank average” comparison, I think, would show any open-minded citizen that for decades the Democratic party’s average is by far more humane, uplifting, Christian, tolerant, safe, and supportive than the Republican party’s. It is part of our job to provide this therapy in elections to come.

To keep, in a Trump administration, our country from being too much under Russian influence, yet not restart the Cold War, we need to foster broader understanding of Russia and of our allies and adversaries overseas. Thanks to the glaze with which the greed of business can coat clear thinking, Trump is rightly already called, in Lenin’s words, “a useful idiot” for Putin’s Russia. It is Russia’s young populace we need to be concerned with. Read in the December 2016 issue of National Geographic about today’s young Russians and how suppressive of young minds Putin is, not only in the best tradition of Stalin, but also of Hitler and Mussolini. If Trump and his cronies continue to act like “Putin’s puppets,” Putin might well get away with his crimes in the Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. We have to rally citizens to work to strengthen NATO, not undermine it. Germany’s economic and social leadership in Europe today should be a blueprint worthy of our consideration.

In dealing with Russia, we must remember this is a country that did not have a Renaissance, a Reformation, or an Enlightenment, as we had in the West (and which explain our rise toward democratic and universal suffrage). It is too late for Russia to have a Renaissance or a Reformation, but, just like Islam could use a Reformation, Russia could surely use a vigorous, modern version of the Enlightenment. And we cannot be the agents of these necessary changes; Russians have generate their own Enlightenment, just as Muslims have to generate their own Reformation.
We need to make sure our fellow citizens are familiar with the words “kakistocracy” and “kleptocracy.” (Look them up, and thanks to Karolina King for pointing the first out to me.) The gloomiest statement we can make right now about Trump is that he is busy assembling a kakistocracy (of which he is the head) toward a government functioning as a kleptocracy — all to the demise of what most Americans hold most dear. Talk about our Founding Fathers spinning in their graves!

Yet to dwell on this gloom to the point of fear, desperation, and/or resignation is too myopic of us. As I like to remind myself, “We’ve come a long way, baby!” to get where we’ve got to today! Remember things like when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908, women could not vote and African-Americans as well as Latinos could not play major league baseball. If you don’t have one yet, develop a perspective both broad and deep; such can be both personally and perpetually enlightening and encouraging.

As Delores Covington has rightly pointed out, we must always remain vigilant. Thomas Jefferson is usually given credit for statements like “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Moreover, Jefferson also reminded us that one of the most patriotic things we can do is be critical and skeptical of our government, which sounds oxymoronic. But TJ is right on point. WE are the government, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Self-criticism, both individual and public, is vital. One could say the particulars of this “survival guide” are suggestions on how to be critically vigilant, and, therefore, patriotic.

Clearly, the “vigilance point” above applies to ANY Presidential administration. To be vigilant would be just as important if HRC (or anyone else) had won the election.

Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, not only was he one of the first advocates in our country for public education, he was one of the pioneers taking the first steps toward universal suffrage, in the form of being an advocate for the “common man vote,” where a male got to vote regardless of how rich he was and/or how much property he owned. His concern responding to criticism of the common man vote was that an uninformed electorate might vote in an incompetent, dangerous person into public office; hence, his strong advocacy for public education. The 2016 election possibly might be seen as the election of Trump by an uninformed electorate — Jefferson’s fear might have been born out. Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America expressed concern that the United States could be ruled by the “tyranny of the majority,” which is of little concern, in my opinion, if the majority is wise enough to respect the rights of the minority. Given that Trump was elected, however, by a minority of the electorate, uninformed or not, his particular election could also be seen as portending the “tyranny of the minority,” de Tocqueville turned upside down.

Over the years of too many Republican administrations, I have been energized by political protest music, like that of our new Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan, and by songs like “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour and “The ‘Fish Cheer’/I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish, as well as the instrumental National Anthem by Jimi Hendrix. All of you, I’m sure, can add your own inspiring music examples.

And don’t forget to be grateful for the great humor that will undoubtedly evolve from the Trump administration, as wonderfully illustrated by SNL. All political comedians and all us wanna-be-comedians are going to have a field day! To quote the Lennon/McCartney lyric from “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, ”A splendid time is guaranteed for all!” Example: Who does Donald Trump think was the greatest job creator ever? Adolf Hitler! Hitler not only gave us the Volkswagen, he eliminated unemployment in Europe for years!

RJH

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