Friday, May 29, 2009
The centerpiece of American philosophy is the sanctity and sovereignty of the individual.
Individuals, not groups nor special classes, have rights which cannot be denied to them under any circumstances. Individual achievement, success and rewardsare respected. The fruits of an individual's labor is the protected property of the individual that produced them. Each individual is free to live his life as he or she chooses provided only that the individual not initiate force against others and thereby deny them their co-equal right to freedom of choice.
These revolutionary ideas spawned America's greatness. They set the environment and were the impetus for unimagined production, progress, well-being and strength.. They established America as a country of optimisim and opportunity, and are the cornerstones of the American Dream.
In but a few months since his inauguration, PresidentObama has begun his assault on American ideals. The unique commitment to the individual is being replaced with a group mentality -- "We're all in this together," "We all have to sacrifice," "We all have to pay for the needs of the disadvantaged, the poor, the uneducated." Differences in financial achievements are sought to be minimized in the name of equality and fairness. "America's wealth has to be redistributed." "The haves have more than they need and should help provide the have nots with the better life to which they are entitled." Welfare programs are being implemented pell-mell by the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats to provide the minorities with medical care, education and financial support. In other words: "To cach according to his needs, from each according to his ability"...the very same ideas popularized by Karl Marx and the communists.
Thomas Jefferson must be turning over. All men are created equal, he postulated, not guaranteed to live an equal or even a reasonably equal quality of life. To do that would require some to be forced to work for the benefit of others. That is thebasis of the program Obama proposes to implement. And no matter how noble and desirable you perceive some of its goals to be, that entitlement program entails involuntary servitude and slavery banned by the Constitution.
Patrick Henry and Abraham Lincoln must be turning over. Freedom is not an esoteric idea. It is an aspect of our nature that we humans, unlike animals, have the power to choose. Freedom is the only environment that allows us to exercise that natural power. And since freedom can only be denied by force, every act of force initiated against us, whether initiated by one or more individuals or by the Government, is inhumane.
So, Mr. Obama, you may perceive aspects of our country that are not functioning the way you would like them to, and you would like to fix them. So be it. But you cannot legally or morally fix them by initiating force against me. The sole function of our Government is to protect us from force and for the Government to use force against is a betrayal of the highest magnitude. Think something should be done to help the poor send their children to college? Approach me through my mind and try to persuade me to voluntarily contribute some of my funds. It is called charity. Think something should be done to provide indigent citizens with better health care? Approach the medical community and seek to persuade them to voluntarily do more pro bono work. That is the American way. I told a friend the other day that the Government may corral horses, which do not have the power to choose, and make them part of our military. But it cannot force me to be the rider. It must ask me.
Make no mistake. The changes that Barack Obama has in mind are fundamental and encompassing...and if successfully imposed, will annihilate the glorious underpinnings of our great country. They are reminiscent of Ayn Rand's Anthem, the tale of a land in which the word "I" was forever banned and only "We" could be spoken in its stead.
One has to hope that Anthem remains a work of fiction.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
50% of first marriages, 65% of second marriages and 75% of third marriages can be expected to end in divorce. So much for holy matrimony.
In the year 2000 in the United States, 9,700,000,000 animals were killed to be eaten, including 9 billion chickens, 300 million turkeys, 115 million pigs, 42 million cows. The average meat eating person is reponsible for the slaughter of 37 animals per year, about 2,800 in a lifetime. So much for animal rights.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The Michael Vick dog fighting case raises a host of important questions about the concept of justice. Perhaps the one with the most pervasive impact: are plea-bargaining and justice compatible?
Plea-bargaining is an arrangement under which an accused pleads guilty to having committed a lesser offense than the one he or she is charged with, or is being threatened with, in exchange for a lesser sentence. It is reported that almost 95% of all felony convictions in the country are the result of plea bargains. The percentage applicable to less serious misdemeanors is likely as great, if not greater. Contrary to popular television dramas, relatively few cases actually make it to trial.
The pressure on the accused to enter into a plea arrangement comes frequently from aggressive prosecutors who are concerned about getting a conviction, who want to close as many cases as quickly as possible, and who are focused on the number of “wins” they achieve. The threat of excessive charges carrying extensive sentences, and the uncertainty of what may happen at trial can sometimes induce even innocent accuseds to enter into plea agreements. Supporters of plea agreements argue that both our courts and prisons are so overburdened and overcrowded that there is no conceivable way for all criminal cases to be heard and all those guilty to spend full terms in prison.
But the pressure on the accused to plead guilty to something often comes from an unexpected source, the defense counsel. Faced with the tedium of preparing for the potentially long trial of a client who may be short of funds to pay adequate counsel fees, a defense attorney may push for a quick resolution of the case via a plea bargain.
What is justice and why is it a virtue?
Justice is the principle of treating everyone in the universe for precisely what and who they are, as manifested by his or her statements and actions. It is a virtue because we must make constant decisions as to what does and what does not sustain and nourish our lives, and the use of justice as a tool in dealing with other people is vital to that decision-making.
The admonition to “judge not lest ye be judged” is wrong on both counts. Man must and should judge for the reasons stated, and should want, even demand, that others judge him so that he can claim justice to be an active, viable principle in his life. To treat the evil as good is to betray justice and to act against one’s life’s interest; to treat the good as evil is to make a mockery of justice.
Three main charges were leveled against Michael Vick: running a dog fighting operation, financing a gambling ring and executing dogs. Vick entered into a plea bargain under which he pled guilty to the dog fighting charge, admitted financing but not gambling on the fights and admitted “having a hand in” but not executing some dogs. The sentence? Possible 20 years, actual sentence two years.
Where is justice?
If Vick is guilty of heinous crimes that could warrant 20 years’ imprisonment in a federal penitentiary, a sentence of less than 10% of that term certainly does not seem like justice, does it?
“He is a first time offender” is an argument used by some to invoke leniency in sentencing for Vick. Does the term refer to anyone who has a clean record, as Vick does, or just to those who have not previously committed any crimes? Is a serial killer who has killed a dozen people but has a clean record a candidate for leniency? The testimony of Vick’s accomplices is that he has been engaged in these activities for years and thus he may be more accurately defined as a first time accused rather than a first time offender.
If Vick is not guilty of the charges against him, but pled guilty out of fear of being charged and found guilty by a jury of crimes with longer prison sentences, then no punishment is just, is it?
If Vick is guilty of some crimes but not others, or if the prosecutor is not certain he could get a conviction, then do we not need a jury trial to determine the crimes before we can assess the penalty?
If the prosecutor wanted a plea agreement because he is so busy he can’t go to trial on all the cases he has in front of him, or because our prison space is insufficient to house all criminals for full terms, then that is a confession that our judicial system is in shambles and justice has been preempted by administrative ineptitude and convenience. Federal and state authorities should be called to task for their failure to fulfill one of the vital responsibilities of government: to keep our citizenry safe through an efficient criminal justice system.
If Vick supports the idea of “and justice for all,” as I assume he does, them he would want justice for himself as well, wouldn’t he? And if so, he would want to confess to all his crimes without a plea bargain and serve the full sentence applicable to those crimes. Wouldn’t you? Shouldn’t you?
Any way you look at it, a plea agreement impales the concept of justice, both for the alleged criminals and for the rest of us as well. Committing Crime A and paying the penalty for Crime B is not justice. And, no, it is not partial justice, either. Justice is an all or nothing matter: the sentence is just or it isn’t. A is A.
Ayn Rand said “that to place any other concern higher than justice is to devaluate your moral concern and defraud the good in favor of the evil.” And that is what all of the alleged reasons for plea bargaining do. They place expense – the expense of hiring more prosecutors and judges and building more courtrooms and prisons – as a concern higher than justice. It isn’t, never has been and never will be. Particularly in the richest country in the world with the largest governmental budgets.
What is a crime?
Another issue of justice raised in the Vick case is whether dog fighting, gambling and killing animals should qualify as criminal behavior. After all, to logically implement justice, we need first to assess the nature and criminality of the acts committed.
All crimes entail the violation of individual rights. Individual rights are the manifestation on a political level of man’s natural need for freedom. Man, to survive, must make choices and implement appropriate action…and he needs to be free to do so. Since man’s freedom can only be restricted or restrained by an act of physical force, the conclusion is clear: all crimes must contain the element of physical force exerted against another. Murder is the forceful taking of someone else’s life, robbery is the forceful taking of someone else’s property, etc. And since the right to life gives man the right to defend his life and his property, and to consent to force being used against him, a crime, more particularly, involves the nonconsensual initiation of physical force against another human.
Animals have no rights. They make no conceptual choices; they are programmed to act a certain way given a particular stimulus. They need no freedom and have none to be violated. Which is why it is moral for us to own them, to fence them in, to neuter them, to eat them. Man does not need to eat fish, chickens, turkeys, pigs, lambs, cows, deer, and, yes, dogs, in many countries, to survive or to be healthy. He eats them for pleasure; they taste good. Think that would be lawful to do if animals had rights?
Accordingly, Vick’s activities concerning dogs may not be admirable but they are not criminal. Dogs are living entities and as co-living entities we might want to extend to them a bit of decent treatment, Treat what Vick did as minor violations of civility, if anything, fine him, slap him on the wrist and send him off. To take away his good name, his career, his liberty, is not just.
Of course, gambling by and between consenting adults (see casinos, race tracks, lotteries, church bingo nights) ought be a perfectly legal activity since it does not involve the initiation of physical force against another human. And running a gambling ring should be legal as well.
I have titled this column, Justice Vick-timized because that is what has happened. I wish charges against Mr. Vick had been dropped. I could then have titled this column Justice Vick-torious.
Here are my questions for the day:
If eating animals is ok, then so is killing them. No?
If killing them is not ok, then neither is eating them. No?
Would Vick have been better off legally if he had eaten the dogs after he killed them?
And here's the reason: lies take the people to whom they are told out of reality and deposit them in nonreality...where there is nothing of possible value to their lives nor to yours. The admiration or love a person voices for you can give you no pleasure if it is based on lies you have told that person of what you have or haven't done, of what you truly feel and believe, of who you really are. The person they are loving does not exist...nothing exists in nonreality. And the admiration or love is specious as well, without reality to give it substance.
Human beings use their bank of knowledge to make decisions as to what actions to take. Counterfeit money in the bank will result in misguided, valueless, potentially harmful and dangerous, decisions.
The price paid by the person who feels the need to lie to "save face" and avoid embarrassment, or uses lies in an attempt to gain undeserved values, is high: the loss of confidence and self-esteem in his ability to deal with the realities of his life, confidence and self-esteem critical to the attainment of happiness and well-being.
The Bible says "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) And so it shall, free of the fear of slipping into the living death and vacuum of nonreality. Lies are not nice that way.
I sail, soar on a journey of discovery and revelation through sublime dimensions of time and space...
I can contemplate, choose, create, transform...
I can sense in unbounded and infinite degree the full majesty and wonder of all that is and of all that is yet to be...
I can engage and entwine with other Universes...
I can spawn new glorious Universes...
I am on a journey with no end, spiriting out of one galaxy into another...
I am fire and water and wind...
I am a magnificent Universe...
As are you
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL IS LIT BY YOUR DESIRE TO REACH IT
THE WORLD IS NEVER BORING, BUT YOUR CHOICES MAY BE
THE MOST VALUABLE THING YOU WILL EVER PRODUCE IS YOUR IDENTITY
THE SONG YOU HEAR IN THE SILENCE IS THE CALL OF YOUR SOUL
THE SUN DOESN’T RISE EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE, YOU DO
WE ARE EQUAL IN OUR RIGHT TO MAKE OURSELVES UNIQUE
SET FLIGHT TO YOUR SOUL, IT WILL CARRY YOU WITH IT
GREAT SONGS ARE WORDS SET TO MUSIC; GREAT MUSIC DOES NOT NEED THE WORDS
LEARNING COMES BEFORE LIVING AND LOVING BOTH IN THE DICTIONARY AND IN LIFE
A KISS IS A PHYSICAL THING AND AN EMOTIONAL THING, BUT IF DONE RIGHT IT IS ABOVE ALL A SPIRITUAL THING
RAIN CAN WHET YOUR APPETITE OR DAMPEN YOUR ENTHUSIASM; YOUR CHOICE
The idea that you can’t know anything for certain is popularly held, despite the fact that it is self-destructive: after all, if you can’t know anything for certain, then you couldn’t know for certain that you can’t know anything for certain.
Years ago, I was hosting a radio talk show in New York on current issues and drove down to Princeton University to interview a biology professor on the then rampaging dispute between Darwin’s theory of evolution and creationism. After completing the taping of what I thought was an hour of intelligent data, the professor volunteered something to the effect of “You know that everything I said is all made up, just a story, we never can know anything for certain.” When I asked him if he voiced that view to his students, he said “certainly.” I was shocked to see that such an illogical perspective was being promulgated at such an esteemed institution and chose not to air the “fictional” interview on my serious show.
Neil Armstrong, after returning from his historic trip to the Moon, gave a commencement address at the University of Cincinnati and echoed the noncertainty mantra this way: “Truth is seldom absolute. It’s more often dependent on the perspective of the observer…Truth can best be described as the best currently available description. And certainty is exclusively the property of the freshman.” I assume Mr. Armstrong meant “uneducated freshman.” If he is right, then I suppose it was just dumb luck rather than scientific facts that enabled Mr. Armstrong to successfully make his historic trip. And if he is right, what would be the point of having a university?
The popularity of the belief in noncertainty (buttressed by the “What’s true for you may not be true for me” slogan) likely stems from man’s general disdain of absolutes and extremes, like two plus two is four. That bit of exactitude is generally accepted as necessary in building a house, but not so in the discussion and resolution of ethical and social issues. In those areas, man does not like to feel boxed into certain rules of behavior, which absolute truths would impose, but wants the room to express his own individuality and to compromise his beliefs when the occasion suits. The price he pays for occasionally believing that two plus two is three is the loss of confidence in the correctness of his life’s choices.
The noncertainty doctrine does away with the implications of IQ tests, since if there is no certainty, no in fact reality, then there is nothing to be intelligent about and we are all intellectually equal. A view that seems to please many.
One final thought: to be consistent, those who believe in noncertainty can not logically utter a single word, for every word spoken acknowledges some truth. Merely saying “I”, affirms that there is an existence and that there is a you that exists. “I believe” affirms that you have the capacity to think and that you are thinking of something. Keeping absolutely silent is certainly the only right thing to do.
Silence is golden, isn’t it?
In November 2008, Washington became the second state (to Oregon) to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Washington’s Initiative 1000, popularly known as the Death with Dignity law, passed with an almost 60% majority and allows physicians to prescribe (but not administer) lethal doses of medication to terminally ill mentally competent patients with a prognosis of less than six months to live.
The arguments of those who oppose giving individuals the assistance they need to end their lives generally fall into two categories: Religious and Risk. A third argument…that physicians assisting in suicide violate the Hippocratic Oath…is not relevant since the Oath is no longer obligatory and has been reworded many times and is subject to varying interpretations. And individual physicians may choose not to offer such assistance.
The Religious argument is that human life is sacred in the hands of God and that only He has the magnitude to determine when it should end. To those who believe, it is the ultimate argument to ban and refrain from engaging in PAS. But one’s religious ideas, in America, may not be imposed on others. You are free to have your religious beliefs and to live by them and I am free not to have those beliefs nor be required to be subject to them. That is the essence of freedom of religion in our country. Our governmental laws have all been made subject to our inalienable right to freely choose the course of our individual lives.
The Risk arguments are predicated on the finality of suicide and the understandable concerns that some of those who opt to end their lives may do so without awareness of the possibility that their condition may have been misdiagnosed or may go into remission, or may choose to do so for what are considered insufficient reasons (e.g., not wishing to be a burden to family), or may be, in their weakened condition, unduly induced to elect suicide by others who may benefit from that choice.
But the Risk arguments involve protocol not principle. Appropriate procedures can be established, as were done in Oregon. to raise to a high level of human certainty that the risks have been minimized or eliminated.
The patient electing suicide must make at least two separate requests two weeks apart and two physicians must approve the prescription of lethal medication. Additional precautions can be taken.
In the eleven years since Oregon implemented its PAS law, 341 people have terminated their lives. But for one individual who was approved for PAS and is alive today two years after he was told he had less than six months to live, there is no indication that the law is not working as intended.
The argument that someone may choose suicide for what is considered an insufficient or inappropriate reason is rooted in the popular but misguided parental view of government. The function of government is not to protect an individual from himself – or herself – but the precise opposite: it is to protect each individual’s freedom to choose the scope of his life.
It is an obscene double-cross for the government, set up to protect freedom, to impose its standards for living in denial of an individual’s right to choose otherwise. And for the government to do so in the name of upholding ethics is ludicrous: the denial of freedom is never ethical. Man’s natural capacity and need to make choices is what spawns the need for an ethical code.
We mercifully put injured horses to sleep to take them out of their misery; in 48 states, we do not extend that mercy to humans, we do not grant them the relief, the escape, they seek from a painful life that has all but ended.
The right to choose death is not, as some say, a separate issue from our constitutionally guaranteed right to life. It is the right to life. The right to say YES is the right not to say YES. Sustaining life takes effort, more for some than for others. Each day, we consciously or otherwise choose life by choosing to do those things that sustain and enrich our lives…or we choose death by making contrary choices. We have no alternative in this regard. There is no such thing as the right to life absent the right to death.
By any measure, the two most important days in our life are the day we are born and the day we die. The former is not within our choice, the latter should be.
Human life is sacred, if sacred means of supreme value…sacred in the hands of the individual.
Another example of Proverbial Garbage.
The message behind the “curiosity killed the cat” proverb, as it is applied to man, is that there are places man ought not poke his nose lest he discover something not to his liking, or flat out endanger his life.That may be as vile a piece of advice as man has ever conceived.
Man’s steady progression from the caves to the stars and beyond is rooted in curiosity about the world in which he lives, curiosity about what is out there, what is possible. When coupled with the desire to make the life of mankind better, richer, more meaningful, more enduring, it has produced every solitary invention from the matchstick to organ transplants. It has been a vital component in every work of art ever created. It is the fuel that has propelled every archaeological journey that has shed light on our past and our heritage. It can be found at the heart of every romantic relationship.
When a child asks “Why is the sky blue, Daddy?” or “Is there really a Santa Claus?” it is voicing the latent curiosity that is in each of us and is the beginning of its quest for knowledge about the world in which it lives. Those questions, and many others, are the signs of a healthy, active mind.
Certainly, all life entails risk and a commensurate measure of care should be taken when engaging in any human activity. But to denigrate to any extent the life giving concept of curiosity rather than to honor it, to cast a shadow over it or to suggest it is man’s enemy in the slightest, is to dampen his passion to explore the unknown, to know more today than he knew yesterday. My father would ask me each night what one thing did I know then that I hadn’t known in the morning. That was his way of sparking the seed of curiosity that he knew was within me…that is within each of us.
What separates us from the animals is our ability to learn ever more about our world, and our ability to use that knowledge to enrich our lives. They are fed by curiosity, which may have killed the cat, but has given man an exciting, abundant life.
Another example of Proverbial Garbage.
If “beauty is only skin deep” is meant to remind us that there may be some things in life more valuable than beauty, then perhaps that saying has an element of truth to it. But if it is meant to suggest that beauty is of little importance since human skin is not very substantial, less than two thousandths of an inch thick in places, then that popularly accepted bromide is as far from the truth as imaginable.
We humans are captivated by beauty. We search for it constantly. We yearn for it to be an integral part of every facet of our lives…the people we love, the home we live in, the clothes we wear…everything.
And beauty is not limited to the physical. The feelings expressed in a poem or painting or piece of music may be as strikingly beautiful and exquisite as that of a mountainside or sunset. As may be the goodness expressed in a human personality. As may be the lesson to be learned from an abstract saying or proverb.
It has been said that beauty is the harmonious blending of the elements comprising what we are contemplating. Ask almost anyone to describe the very best of anything in his or her life, and the word “beautiful” will almost surely be prominent in the description.
The lingering mystery is, “Why?” Why are we so fascinated by beauty? Why is such a level of importance accorded to it universally? Why do we love it so, want it so, seem to need it so?
A definitive answer eludes us. We know that beauty touches something very basic in us, that it lifts our spirit, that it inspires us, that it seems to raise life itself to a higher plane. Is it visible evidence of the potential for perfection that we hope is in each of us? Does it reflect the supreme and sublime mastery inherent in a god’s creation? Does it suggest a new and transcendent way of seeing the world we live in? Of seeing ourselves? Does the grandeur of beauty suggest the grandeur of humanity?
John Keats, in Endymion, wrote:
A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.
Is the solution to the mystery of beauty’s exquisite charm and power to be found in its eternal nature? Does its enduring nature quietly give hope to our secret longing for eternal life? While the mystery remains, one thing is clear: Beauty beckons and enthralls us even as we wonder about it.
It is not surprising that the Biblical demon of pride has survived for so long. Despite thousands of years of Biblical admonitions and countless preachings that pride is a precursor to misfortune and disaster, we continue to feel the wonderfully gratifying feeling of pride when we believe that we have done a job well. Traditional religious teaching is that we err when we praise ourselves rather than God for our acomplishments.
But that view is predicated on the mistaken belief that feeling proud is something we choose to do...and that we can just as easily choose not to feel proud. That is not so. Pride is an emotion and like all other emotions, it is an automatized response to our perception of reality. When we perceive that we have done a job well we choicelessly experience nature's built in self slap on the back, the gratifying feeling of pride.
Of course, if our perception is mistaken, either totally or to a significant degree, others will see our pride as false pride. But that is a misnomer since the feeling of pride is not false, it is real, but undeserved. When someone chooses to display a feeling of pride without an underlying perception of accomplishment, perhaps for the purpose of impressing others, that is false pride. More accurately, that is a lie. And if the religious admonition is recast to "A lie goeth before a fall," I am in full accord. A lie does precede a fall, a fall in self-esteem when one realizes the reality, consciously or otherwise, that he or she is not good enough, smart enough, worthy enough, to be successful in life without faking it.
So who then have an interest in slurring pride and trying to convince us that that the good ought not feel good about themselves? Who fosters the notion that congratulating others for the good they do is an act of beneficence, but congratulating oneself is a moral degradation?
All those who wish to control you, to have power over you. The confidence and self-esteem that pride engenders is their enemy. The individualist who believes in and values himself or herself is harder to conquer than a horde of conformists. Their attack is predictable: “You are only one. Think more of the many others than you do of yourself. Sacrifice your standards, your dreams, your rewards, so that all may be seen as equally worthy and deserving. Reject vanity, conceit and egoism in the name of goodness.” Those who surrender their pride surrender a part of their selves and are easy targets for the marauders in our midst.
To replace pride, the power seekers have ennobled humility to the stature of a virtue. The dictionary defines humility as “the state of being not proud, lowly, unassuming, insignificant, meek.” No wonder it is found close to humiliate, defined as “injuring someone’s self-respect.”
This curious question remains: Can you be both proud and humble?
W. S. Gilbert joyfully answered it this way: “You’ve no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself—and how little I deserve it.”
Society has deluged itself with Proverbial Garbage...sayings that are flagrantly wrong and those that are right but flagrantly ignored.
If variety is indeed “the spice of life that gives it all its flavor” (William Cowper, The Task), why then, in most things most people do, does repetition rule?
We do our morning chores (brush our teeth, wash our face, dress, eat) in the same order each day, we drive to work over the same route, eat the same foods at the same restaurants, watch the same television shows, have sex in the same position, sleep on the same side of the bed, vacation at the same sites and do just about everything else we do the way we’ve done it a thousand times before.
Why do we wallow in repetition and the boredom and the “been there, done that, seen that, said that” malaise and lethargy it engenders, and choose to forfeit the myriad flavors that variety offers?
Perhaps the ironic answer is that choosing repetition, whether consciously or by default, saves us from further choices, from the perceived burden of the thinking that is entailed in making choices, and from the risk of making bad choices and suffering their consequences. In sum, many perceive repetition as an efficient and comfortable and safe way of living life, albeit without much flavor.
But there is the rub. One of the distinguishing characteristics of humans is our ability to choose. It is inherent in our nature and separates us from all other living things. Whether it is defining our own personality and character, selecting a career or loving mate for life, or choosing what to eat for breakfast, choice is the human way to live and robot-like mindless repetition is not.
To those who have opted for a repetitious, safe and familiar lifestyle but find it not to be as fulfilling, interesting, rewarding and challenging as they would like, I offer variety as the antidote and the words of John A. Shedd in Salt from My Attic, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
In the process, however, many foolishly surrendered the one aspect of themselves that survival demands: an independent mind. They blindly accepted the authority of the group or of the group's leader, they unthinkingly took unto themselves the duties and obligations extorted by the group, they placed the alleged interest of the group above their own.
Today, many continue the error of their forebears...seeing themselves not as individuals but as links in a social chain, concerned more with living up to the mores and preferences of the group than those of their own choosing, suppressing their individuality in their quest to get along and to belong, to be accepted into the group...only to find they have lost their identity, their uniqueness, their passion for life, their soul.
The consequence is a half-hearted, burdened life, lacking conviction, devoid of direction, uncertain and despairing, with none of the passion that only a free-spirited, confident, courageous, imaginative, independent miind can spark.
It has properly been stated that a human mind cannot be forced. That is evidence of and a tribute to its naure. But it can be surrendered.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Take the case of waterboarding captured terrorists. He has outlawed the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique on the basis that "it is torture and torture is wrong." Presumably he would prefer to see thousands, millions, of innocent people killed rather than our using waterboarding to find out about future terrorist attacks and to stop them.
But actions to be evaluated as good or bad, moral or immoral, must be seen in context. Initiating force against and killing innocent people is wrong...but killing in self-defense against the initiator of force is not. Lying is morally wrong if it is used to gain you something you are not entitled to...but it is perfectly moral to lie to the thug who has invaded your home and asks whether you have any jewelry or where your child is hiding. Context of human action is critical!
As non-signatories to the Geneva Convention, as violators of all rules of warfare, terrorists have forfeited the right to demand certain "civilized" behavior. Even if waterboarding is torture, they have no right to be exempted from it, and our President has no right to refrain from using it in performing his duty to protect us against initiators of force.
I put the word "civilized" in quotes as a literarily sarcastic way of stressing that human civility does not and never should impose a requirement that we fight evil with one hand tied behind our moral back.
Quite the reverse. Our message to all should be clear:
"World, initiate force against us and we will respond with unrestrained power of a magnitude you cannot imagine. We are totally, unrestrainedly, committed to the preservation of our lives."
My message to President Obama is also clear:
"Sacrifice yourself and your family, if you wish, to a "sea of blood" by way of a mindless no-torture rule... but you have no right to sacrifice me."
Or your minor children, for that matter.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The results were as could have been expected. Students are turned off to an education that is loaded with meaningless (to them) tripe, and school came into the full social and drug and sex playground it is today. Those few who still see school as a joy to pay attention to are often scorned, labelled nerds, seen as strange relics of a bygone day, and shunned.
As society expanded, schools had reason to expand...and could have and should have, and should now, include courses on logical thinking (something so many are woefully deficient at), how to choose a career that will be fulfilling and exciting over 50 years (and do away with the thank God it's Friday mentality), how to find happiness (something we all want), parenting (something almost all of us will do), minor automobile repairing and maintence, and the like.
It has been said that the test and use of man's education is that he (she) finds pleasure in the exercise of his (her) mind. Why oh why have we deserted the great joy of learning?