Joel's Blog http://www.scs-matters.com/blog Embrace Reality Sun, 11 Jun 2017 12:17:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 35023480 Video or Text-Based Web Pages? http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/video-text-based-web-pages/ http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/video-text-based-web-pages/#respond Sun, 11 Jun 2017 12:17:42 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3501 In previous blog entries, I have written about the way different communication channels influence the message received. We have known for a long time that the medium is the message. (See also Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium Is the Massage). One of the principal concepts behind the message inherent in the titles of books (including McLuhan’s) is that communication channels are themselves “messages.” The original discussion about this concept focused on the differences being communicated by print media and television. the movie, Medium Cool, was based on McLuhan’s concept that video was a “cool” medium, one that forced viewers to think . . . → Read More: Video or Text-Based Web Pages?

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In previous blog entries, I have written about the way different communication channels influence the message received. We have known for a long time that the medium is the message. (See also Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium Is the Massage). One of the principal concepts behind the message inherent in the titles of books (including McLuhan’s) is that communication channels are themselves “messages.” The original discussion about this concept focused on the differences being communicated by print media and television. the movie, Medium Cool, was based on McLuhan’s concept that video was a “cool” medium, one that forced viewers to think about the message to understand it.

McLuhan’s “cool” is based on the need for those doing the filming and later the editing to remain emotionally detached from what they are filming ind producing. The TV reporters covering the Vietnam War, for example, had to film combat without participating. They had to stay “cool,” emotionally detached from the action to be able to film it. Video of combat, whether “real” or “staged” (for movies) is different from text-based discussion of combat, whether “real” or “fictionalized.” Whether you agree with McLuhan’s concept or not (and I’m not sure that I do), most will agree that movies and other videos induce a different visceral experience than we typically get from text-based coverage of the same subject.

This isn’t necessarily the case for readers and viewers. If you read A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, for example, and watch one of the movies based on it, your experiences will not be the same. The book describes the people being guillotined during the French Revolution, whereas the movie shows them in a line, marching to their doom, and we hear the roar of the crowd when the blade drops. Video may be “cool” for those who create it, but it has emotional impact for the viewer. Readers can and do, of course, associate into the material they are reading, but the degree of association is less than that of those viewing video.

And then along comes the Internet…. At first, the Internet was text based. Early text-based email, for example, didn’t even provide much in the way of formatting. That is, of course, no longer the case. These days, even email allows for very fancy text formatting and the inclusion of graphics, photos, and even videos. For a brief history of the Web, see History of the Web. At this point, the Web is ubiquitous, and can communicate audio and video in addition to text. If you have a good connection to the Internet, you can even “stream” movies. Just because you can, however, doesn’t mean you should—at least not all the time.

You may have noticed, for example, that many news pages convey many (in some cases, most) stories using video. MSNBC, for example rarely includes a text-based story. When video became relatively easy to do on the web, its use on all websites started expanding. At the same time, the availability of print media declined. I used to subscribe to a daily newspaper and several weekly news magazines, but I let my subscriptions expire because the printed versions of the information increasingly lagged behind what was available online. The Internet has changed everything. If you are old enough, you can remember manual typewriters, typing pools, and “mailable” letters (those without obvious errors). To communicate by writing in the “old days,” you had to dictate a letter to be typed, proofread the letter, sign it, put it in an addressed envelope, drop it in the mail—where it would be carried by truck, train, and/or airplane to its destination. The reply would have to be prepared and sent the same way. My guess is that typing pools have ceased to exist, and there are far fewer secretarial jobs than there were.

At the same time, the use of television as a communication device has greatly increased. It used to be used almost exclusively for entertainment. Radio, of course, came fist. Franklin Roosevelt had his Fireside Chats, and radio provided both comedies and dramas for entertainment. Then television took over, and soon fostered what became known as the Golden Age of Television. Since the early days of TV, we have gone from 3 channels that broadcast black and white images for several hours a day to as many channels as you want to pay for on a “24/7” schedule. “News” shows abound and have themselves become our “entertainment.” (See my previous blog, A Media Star Is Born.) Given that, what do we want from the Internet? Why not just watch more TV? Instead of turning to MSNBC online, why not just just watch it on TV? The same individuals report on the same stories on both TV and the Internet, but the difference is that the TV stories are constrained by time, whereas the Internet stories can be accessed “on demand.”

Given the increasing ubiquity of video, I have wondered whether we are heading into a “postliteracy” age. Early humans were, of corse, preliterate—they could neither read nor write. Even as recently as the Middle Ages, most people in most places could not read or write. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century being able to read and write were considered important. My sense is that even if oral and video communication are increasingly available for all, we will still need text-based communication for critical communication, the kind of communication that requires thought and analysis. If we’re not able to do our own thinking and analysis, others will give us theirs.

Literacy is our best—and perhaps only—defense against tyranny. For this reason, my favorite web pages are those that put their most important messages in text form. Web pages that put their main messages in video format have less appeal for me.

What about you?

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When the Mode of the Music Changes http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/mode-music-changes/ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 11:29:21 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3458 You can tell a lot about people based on their musical preferences. I borrow my title from a radical group from the ’60s, the Fugs, and one of their old songs:

It would be pretty hard to know me well without knowing when and where I grew up and how I had been influenced by the music of my youth. I assume that the same is true for everyone. The concept has been most fully explored by Morris Massey, who wrote about the three main periods in a person’s maturation process:

The Imprint Period. From birth . . . → Read More: When the Mode of the Music Changes

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You can tell a lot about people based on their musical preferences. I borrow my title from a radical group from the ’60s, the Fugs, and one of their old songs:

It would be pretty hard to know me well without knowing when and where I grew up and how I had been influenced by the music of my youth. I assume that the same is true for everyone. The concept has been most fully explored by Morris Massey, who wrote about the three main periods in a person’s maturation process:

The Imprint Period. From birth to about the age of seven: we absorb everything around us and accept much of it as true. We trust our parents, until or unless they demonstrate that they are untrustworthy. We develop most of our major values—both good and bad—during this period. We tend to assume that what we are learning is true for everyone for all time.

The Modeling Period. From about the ages of eight to about thirteen, we learn by imitating others, not only our parents, but also other people, especially older adolescents and accomplished adults. This is an experimental stage: We try things to see how they feel, including beliefs, both political and religious.

The Socialization Period. From about 13 until the early 20s, we are increasingly influenced by our peers. In “olden times,” this influence would have come mainly from older-but-still-young people in our tribe, village, or community. Shared values are, after all, what make the sense of “community” possible. Our sense of “tribe” has expanded in modern times, with the changes in communication technologies.

As we develop as individuals, we look for ways to get away from our earlier programming, we naturally turn to those who seem more like us—part of our “tribe.” Other influences at these ages include the media, especially those aspects that seem to resonate with the values of our peer groups. My mom and dad hit critical stages of their adolescence in the 30s and 40s. My dad loved the popular music of the 30s and 40s; my mom loved my dad. Until about the time I turned 13, I heard a lot of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and other greats from the Golden Age of Jazz and the music of the 1940s—World War 2.

I was 13 years old when Bill Haley and the Comets released “Rock Around the Clock”:

That was basically the birth of Rock & Roll, which blended African-American blues and jazz with country music. Elvis Presley became the most loved or hated musician in the country depending on one’s age. In general, young people loved him, and older people—at least older white people—tended to hate him—unless, of course, they were in the music business. The mode of the music had changed….

Although I never mastered music well enough to sing or play an instrument, while I was in college I had a lot of friends who were gifted musicians, performing both so-called “classical” and folk music. Quite a few of them played professionally. Then came the war in Vietnam. And, at about the same time, the mode of the music changed again. Heavy Metal and Acid Rock gained popularity with young people and notoriety with older folks. When I wasn’t slaving away over a typewriter in Vietnam, I put on headphones and listened to Cheap Thrills with Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company and Music from Big Pink, featuring a group called simply, “The Band.”

Just as my father had not been able to make the shift from the music from the ’30s and ’40s to the music of the ’50s and ’60s, I have not made the shift from rock & roll and folk music to rap and hip hop. The mode of the music changed….

This is, of course, a metaphor for the way everything changes. I grew up driving a car with a stick shift (4 on the floor). For the past several years I have been driving cars with automatic transmission. News stories suggest that my next car may drive itself. For most of my driving life, I would have hated the idea. At this point, especially given the traffic on our interstate highways, I would be glad for a car that I could put on “automatic,” lean the seat back, and sleep until needing to exit the highway. I also started political life as an Eisenhower Republican. I lost my enthusiasm for Republican politics with Richard Nixon.

At that point, I became an “almost-Democrat.” I can’t say, “Democrat,” as I have disagreed with a number of positions taken by the Democrats over the years. As Lord Acton famously said, Power Corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Politicians are prone to self-aggrandizement. Politicians, regardless of party, tend to pass laws that benefit themselves and those who curry favor by rewarding them financially. For all practical purposes, there are no poor people in Congress.

History suggests that increasing the divide between rich and poor can cause serious problems: France at the end of the eighteenth century, Russia in the early twentieth-century and China in the 1940s. In each of these cases, the mode of the music changed. And when the mode of the music changes, you can’t be sure what the result will be. What tune would you like to be singing (or listening to) for the next several years? The tune I would prefer is “peace and good, brotherhood”:

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Stuff That’s On My Mind http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/stuff-thats-mind/ Sun, 02 Apr 2017 16:17:47 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3410 The original impetus for this article was the North Carolina Bathroom Bill. I am writing this from the perspective of a male who has been sharing bathrooms with women all my life—not always at the same time, of course, but most of the time, people use bathrooms one at a time. There are exceptions, of course. Public bathrooms (airports, highway rest stops, restaurants, and other public places). If you have ever flown anywhere with a woman, you know that when people exit the plane, men enter the men’s room, take care of business, and exit. In all likelihood, the female . . . → Read More: Stuff That’s On My Mind

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The original impetus for this article was the North Carolina Bathroom Bill. I am writing this from the perspective of a male who has been sharing bathrooms with women all my life—not always at the same time, of course, but most of the time, people use bathrooms one at a time. There are exceptions, of course. Public bathrooms (airports, highway rest stops, restaurants, and other public places). If you have ever flown anywhere with a woman, you know that when people exit the plane, men enter the men’s room, take care of business, and exit. In all likelihood, the female travel companion is still waiting in line to get into the women’s room by the time the man is ready to head to baggage…. Separate isn’t equal.

Unisex Bathrooms for All

It seems to me logical to make all bathrooms unisex, as was true on Ally McBeal.


There’s no reason men, women, lesbians, gays, bi’s, and trans people can’t all use the same bathroom and have all the privacy required. It is simply a matter of design and education. A complicating factor, of course, is that Numbers of people identifying as LGBTQ seems to have been steadily increasing. It is not clear whether the increase in homosexuality is “real,” or whether we are just more aware that some people have same-sex tendencies. The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, seem to have had a fairly high degree of tolerance for same-sex relationships. History is typically better at recording the “what” than the “why.” Transgender may have been with us for a long time, too, but the surgery and hormone therapy have only been available recently.

Whatever the causes of LGBT sexual orientation, those so oriented are still human first. They are perhaps the Samaritans of our time and deserve to be treated by the quality of their character rather than their sexual orientation.

Rachel Dolezel and Trans-Blackness

Another thing I’ve been thinking about on-and-off-again since it first hit the news, is the Rachel Dolezel story. You have probably seen news stories about how she and her older brother were the white children of conservative Christian parents who later adopted four Black children to show commitment to the “pro-life cause.” What’s often overlooked in a review of Rachel’s life indicates that Rachel’s older brother was the favored child, and that Rachel and her adopted siblings were treated as “inferior.” Given her family background, I find it easy to see why she rejected the “whiteness” of her brother and parents and identified with the adopted Black children. For this reason, I am willing to cut her some slack. If she wants to identify as Black (or, as she now says, Trans-black, that’s OK with me.

Conservatives and Conserving

I often wonder what “conservatives” are conserving. They don’t seem to care about wildlife. They don’t seem to care about the environment, including clean air and water. They don’t see to care about the poor and hungry. They say they care about “the American way of life,” but what—exactly—is that? Most of us have ancestors who came here without “papers.” My mother’s parents came here from England and Norway in the days when immigration wasn’t regulated. Most of my father’s ancestors were here when the European invasion began. I grew up in California playing with, and later working with, Mexicans who traveled easily between Mexico and jobs in California “without papers.” One of my first summer jobs was cutting apricots before they were dried in a kiln. The best cutters were primarily Mexicans, probably undocumented. I found them good natured and helpful.

When I was older, I worked as a day-laborer in construction. Many of my co-workers were Mexican and probably undocumented. Farmers will tell you that they have been relying on Mexican labor for harvesting their crops for decades. What is likely to happen to our food production if/when we make it too difficult for Mexican agricultural workers to help with our harvest? My guess is that we will have to choose between allowing undocumented workers into our fields and importing fruits and vegetables rather than workers. The “American ways of life” relies on undocumented workers.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t watch for and control the crooks and thugs. If you have read much history (or seen the movie Gangs of New York, you would know that the “bad guys” were once the Italians and the Irish. My guess is that until we figure out a way to focus on the bad guys instead of designating certain groups as “bad,” we will continue to have problems eliminating crime and career criminals.

The Republican Party

I became aware of politics when Eisenhower and Stevenson were running for the Office of President. My parents were for Eisenhower, as were the parents of most of my friends, so I was, too. There is no way of knowing, of course, how we all might have felt and show things would have changed had Stevenson been the victor. I was at the time and continue to be a fan of the Interstate Highway system. The economy was doing well for most people. Under Eisenhower, the tax rate on wealthy Americans was high about 90 percent, and the economy was booming. Unemployment was low.

My guess is that Eisenhower would be embarrassed by our current Republican Party. The GOP has become increasingly dysfunctional. If ever there were a dysfunctional bunch of politicians, it is most of those who now identify as Republican. Their most important goal seems to be to maximize the wealth of those who are already wealthy, regardless of the cost to everyone else.

Their views of climate change are highly influenced by the industries they own. There really is no such thing as clean coal, for example. Fracking to extract natural gas and petroleum, also creates serious environmental problems. This, of course, relates directly to the Republican idea of “conservation.” The land certainly is not being conserved. In general, Republicans starting with Ronald Reagan have had little interest in conserving anything from which wealthy people and corporations can make a profit.

Republicans seems willing to legislate in favor of anything from which profit can be derived. In my opinion, the worst of these are for profit prisons the virtual elimination of public schools. While I agree that public schools haven’t always been as good as they should or could be, they are fundamentally the “great equalizer” for those of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. We need a strong public education system if we want a strong social system. The better educated the citizenry, the better off we all are.

A democracy works for everyone. We we keep inching closer to (and where we may already be) is a Plutocracy. If you have read much history, you may remember what has happened in the past when plutocracies developed. Some examples are France in the 1790s, Russia in the early twentieth century, and China in the 1930s. While I don’t think that we are close to a revolution at this point, I am also aware that the French and Russian aristocracies did not think that they were going to be in for some less-than-pleasant times. Big changes often occur suddenly….

Fake News

We have always had some “fake news,” of course. A rumor starts and spreads quickly. People eventually discover that the rumor isn’t true. Our current political situation and communication technologies, however, allow rumors to spread more quickly and widely. That means that rumors—fake news—can spread more quickly and farther than ever before. Current technologies made it possible for the Russians to influence our election. Producing fake news has, in fact, become a full time occupation for some.

Back in the days when our only source of news was print media (news weeklies, newspapers, and fliers), many voted based on “gut feelings” and little knowledge. Currently, as much as we would like to vote based on “the truth,” we still have to struggle to discover what is real. Most of us vote on what we value and what we want to be true. This is not a good way to run a democracy. As unglamorous as they are, we need to vote based on the hard, cold facts of reality. That means we have to learn to weigh short-term profits against long-term consequences. Does “science” always get it right? The answer is “no.” That’s because science is a methodology rather than an absolute. Science is a process of increasing approximation. It is never absolutely correct, but—with the right methodology—it keeps getting closer and closer.

We would do well to be more scientific in our approach to producing and consuming news. That means holding our news providers responsible for discovering and reporting the truth. Like the Houyhnhnms of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel’s, we should be shocked when someone says “the thing that is not true.

Searching for Christians in Christendom

While I do not identify as Christian, my quarrel is with the church and with those who believe that the Bible is literal truth rather than with what we know about Jesus. Literalists add up what they think are the years and ages in the Old Testament and conclude that the Earth was created 5,000 years ago. What the literalists miss is that most of the early chapters in the Old Testament, the Books of Moses, were based on an oral tradition. I was still in high school the first time I read the Bible, and one of the things that baffled me was the inclusion of the “begats.”

It wasn’t until I got to college and took a two-semester course in Christianity and the Bible that I learned how much of the Bible is based on an oral tradition. Stories and records were passed from generation to generation in Ancient Israel, the same way that the stories in the Iliad and Odyssey were told and retold in ancient Greece. They have been attributed to Homer, but he wasn’t the only poet who told the tales. Just because the Books of Moses were transmitted orally doesn’t mean that they aren’t true. It does mean, however, that they are metaphorically true rather than literally true. King James and his translators didn’t know that, of course.

At this point in time, however, more of us need to ask how that should influence what we believe to be true about world history. Did it literally rain for 40 days and nights, flooding the entire planet, while Noah and his family stayed safe in an ark with two of every animal, or is that story intended to convey the importance of following certain rules of personal conduct? Not all the “heroes” of the Old Testament led lives that we would consider “godly.” Kings David and Solomon, for example, had more wives than are permitted even by the Mormons. The main problem with Biblical inerrancy is the failure to recognize the teachings of Jesus.

My sense is that things would be very different if more of those professing to be Christian were actually doing what they could to imitate Christ. Would Jesus have been in favor of raining death and destruction on our enemies? Certainly many of the rulers described in the Old Testament would have taken that view, but if we behave the way they did, we would seem to be betraying Jesus. And, if we do that, what does that make us?

The More You Know, the Less You Fear

A postmodernist author, Julian Barnes is credited with the saying, “The more you learn, the less you fear.” I think that’s generally true. The more you know, the less you fear. What we are most afraid of is what we don’t know. I think we would do well to remember that as we move into the unknown social and political territories we are currently facing.

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Waist Deep in the Big Muddy http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/waist-deep-big-muddy/ Sat, 25 Feb 2017 16:57:49 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3387 The title of this blog comes from a Pete Seeger song:

The lyrics contain a number of metaphors that apply to the current political situation in the States: First, times and circumstances change. What was once safe doesn’t necessarily remain that way. Second, having a “big fool” set direction may not turn out well. Third (and one of my favorite quotations), “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” which was doubtless based on George Santayana’s original: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Remembering history by itself isn’t sufficient. . . . → Read More: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

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The title of this blog comes from a Pete Seeger song:


The lyrics contain a number of metaphors that apply to the current political situation in the States: First, times and circumstances change. What was once safe doesn’t necessarily remain that way. Second, having a “big fool” set direction may not turn out well. Third (and one of my favorite quotations), “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” which was doubtless based on George Santayana’s original: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Remembering history by itself isn’t sufficient. It’s only the first step.

If you have read anything about history, you know what the political situation was for most of our ancestors. You have probably read at least a little about Genghis Kahn, Julius Caesar, Adolf Hitler, and Mao Zedong, other other despots and dictators of lesser renown. Human history is replete with wars, famines, slavery, and superstition. One of the many quotable ideas from Henry David Thoreau is, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” The rest of the quotation is appropriate for our current times:

What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

Back in the mid-1980s, Professor Neil Postman published Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. The principal focus of the book was the way the change from a print culture to a video culture (primarily TV) changed both public and private conversations. It has been a while since I read Postman’s book, and I can’t remember if he made the connection with Thoreau’s comment about despair being concealed under “games and amusements,” but the concept is appropriate. Consider the number of situation comedies that have been on TV over the last quarter-century or so. And, I must confess that I plead guilty to having enjoyed many of them. I don’t think that in and of itself is a problem. After all, many of Shakespeare’s plays were comedies. The mode of delivery was different, but the basic content of Shakespearian comedies, was highly similar to that in the comedies of TV’s “Golden Age.”

The tragedies also amuse, of course, as do “murder mysteries.” Theater and literature (both poetry and novels), have always served to comment on or distract us from what is happening in our own lives. In some cases, we can use what we read or see (on the stage or on TV) to better understand the problems we face and to gain appreciation for possible solutions. A common saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same, is an indication that regardless of how our technology changes, human nature remains essentially the same.

When we think about slavery, most of us in the states think primarily of what we experienced in the States. Slavery, however, has a very long history. We had to fight a civil war to eliminate it in this country, but most cultures (with very few exceptions at this point) eliminated slavery in the nineteenth century. The world had slavery from the beginning of humanity to the middle of the nineteenth century, and, of course, a few places/cultures still have it. And, of course, slavery isn’t the only primitive custom that is still with us in at least some cultures and locations. Our “modernity” is fragile. It is a thin veneer covering primitive tribalism and territorial warfare.

Our current political situation in the States (and, perhaps to a lesser extent, in Europe) provides a glimpse into the tug-of-war between the desire to advance and the desire to regress. Those who want to advance are in favor of increasing inclusiveness, with everyone being essentially the same and desiring equality. Those who want to regress, are thinking in terms of “us-versus-them” and the need for “us” to exclude and/or dominate “them.” Among a variety of other things, the concept applies to religions, countries, and sexuality. In the States, for example, under the guise of “religious freedom,” some what to deny religious freedom for others. The so-called “Bathroom Bills” are another example of fears gone wild. What, exactly, are people so afraid of? Baking a cake for a gay couple’s wedding is not going to make the baker gay. As best I can tell, if Jesus were alive today and working as a baker, He would be glad to bake the cake. He, after all, really was a Christian.

So here we are, waist deep in the Big Muddy, and we need to decide if we’re going to follow the Big Fool into the murky waters of past hatred or move into the sweetness and light of the future.



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Content of Character http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/content-of-character/ Wed, 01 Feb 2017 18:52:55 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3360 When Martin Luther King said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” (in his I have a dream speech), he was, of course, referring specifically to racial disparities. Unfortunately, racial disparities haven’t disappeared, and perhaps even more unfortunately, our culture has added a variety of other disparities by which we judge people. Like skin color, they are all superficial in nature and say nothing about the content of their character.

The first thing that occurs to me is the bias many hold . . . → Read More: Content of Character

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When Martin Luther King said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” (in his I have a dream speech), he was, of course, referring specifically to racial disparities. Unfortunately, racial disparities haven’t disappeared, and perhaps even more unfortunately, our culture has added a variety of other disparities by which we judge people. Like skin color, they are all superficial in nature and say nothing about the content of their character.

The first thing that occurs to me is the bias many hold against those whose sexual orientation is “other”: Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender (LGBT). Given the current preoccupation with Muslim immigrants, religious affiliation also belongs on that list, as does the desire some have to build a wall separating the States from Mexico. We can add country of origin to the list as well. When we consider most cultures, gender is also a source for unequal treatment. Many cultures, not just the US, treat women as “second-class citizens.”

If such disparities were easy to eliminate, cultures would have eliminated them a long time ago. In fairness to our ancestors and our cultural evolution, we have made progress. Even as recently as the Medieval period, most people lived and died at the whim of royalty. At one time, most of the world’s cultures, had slavery. In the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t been that long ago that husbands were allowed to beat their wives, sometimes to death. As the person responsible for most of Debra’s and my NLP training, Richard Bandler has said, “The best thing about the past is that it’s over. The best thing about the future is that it’s yet to come. The best thing about the present is that it’s here now.” The trick, of course, is to take action in the present that will lead to a better future.

History suggests that violence begets violence. The idea of “getting even” has been around a long time, and we have evidence to show that revenge really is “sweet”. One of the reasons that violence begets violence is the desire for revenge, even if “getting even” takes a very long time. The Serbian genocide of Bosnians during the Bosnian war, for example, had its roots in the Middle Ages, when the Bosnians enslaved the Serbs. As Karol K. Truman has said, Feelings Buried Alive Never Die. They return as zombies and cause all sorts of trouble.

The real question is whether enough of us can be sufficiently courageous and wise enough for us all to avoid a zombie apocalypse. Christians have been taught for a long time to love their neighbors as they love themselves. If it were easy to do, surely we would have done it by now. Our first response to those who are “alien”—not like us—is fear and self-defense. Instead of welcoming our neighbors who need help, we turn them away, close our borders, and build walls and fences. It seems to me that there’s a big difference between defending yourself when attacked and striking first out of fear of attack. Too many of us seem willing to cast the first stone.

Currently, the US military budget is the largest in the world. Why are we so afraid? Or have we been sold a “bill of goods” by those who can profit from keeping us fearful? Who gains when we are made to feel afraid? And when we are afraid, what does it take for us to feel the fear and do the right thing anyway?

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True Colors http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/true-colors/ Fri, 20 Jan 2017 12:59:32 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3337 One of the TV shows I watch with regularity is Austin City Limits, a PBS show featuring live music. A couple of weeks ago, the featured performer was Cindi Lauper. Although many years have passed since I first heard her sing, she still puts on a good show. One song in particular caught my attention for what it has to say today as we face a future less certain than we have typically known in the past. The song was . . . → Read More: True Colors

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One of the TV shows I watch with regularity is Austin City Limits, a PBS show featuring live music. A couple of weeks ago, the featured performer was Cindi Lauper. Although many years have passed since I first heard her sing, she still puts on a good show. One song in particular caught my attention for what it has to say today as we face a future less certain than we have typically known in the past. The song was True Colors. Here she is performing it:



The opening stanza seemed especially appropriate in view of the recent presidential campaign in the US.

          You with the sad eyes
          Don’t be discouraged
          Oh I realize
          Its hard to take courage
          In a world full of people
          You can lose sight of it all
          And the darkness inside you
          Can make you feel so small
          But I see your true colors
          Shining through

For obvious reasons, the song was adopted by the LGBT community as an unofficial theme song. The song, however, applies to all of us in one way or another. One of the things about this last election cycle is that we had the opportunity to observe other people’s “true colors,” and they weren’t always beautiful. I had, perhaps, been living with the illusion that we—humans—had been making progress, moving generally in the direction of sweetness and light in Matthew Arnold’s sense of “beauty and intelligence, the two key components of an excellent culture.”

As the election cycle progressed, my confidence in individual and social progress slowed, stopped, and went into reverse. We had, I thought, been making progress in achieving greater racial parity and harmony, greater acceptance of those in the LGBT community, better strategies for eliminating poverty, and more affordable health care. My sense was that other challenges we faced, primarily global warming and military and religious conflicts, we would be able to examine and address our problems in logical ways. As a well-know politician would say, “Wrong!” Although it is too early to predict what the next year or so might bring, it is not too early to say that we currently seem to be moving in the wrong direction.

I say seem because, if you are in a maze, you sometimes need to backtrack and take a different route to continue making progress. If you have ever hiked in the wilderness or driven rural roads, you know what I mean: not all trails or roads end up going where you want to be. The shortest route from Point A to Point B may be a straight line, but a straight line won’t always get you to Point B. We have been here before, of course. History is replete with examples of progress that turns out to have been a false promise. At one time, coal was considered a wonderful resource for heating homes. By the eighteenth century, during coal was being recognized as producing harmful pollutants (see Hard Times, by Charles Dickens). Oil was supposed to rescue us from the “filth” of coal. At this point, we seem to have reached a dead end with oil, and now need to change directions again.

“True Colors” applies to all. In Lauper’s song, “true colors” are assumed to be good. That isn’t always the case, however. A person’s true colors are shown by his or her behavior, and actions speak louder than words. We are wise to pay closer attention to what people do than to what they say.

Here are the rest if the lyrics for “True Colors”:

I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy, can’t remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there
And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there
And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
True colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
    Song writers: Billy Steinberg / Tom Kelly

My sense is that the song offers good advice for what we can do when things aren’t going our way: call a friend (or send an email or text message). Spend time with those you love and trust. Although there is some sense that ignorance is bliss, our principal focus should be on programs that offer hope. A little news helps us keep track of where we are, but it is tempting to focus too much on bad news and relatively easy to fall into despair. That, however, is not a good strategy. Letting our true colors show by being “present” and not being afraid has a much better chance of proving desirable outcomes. If we are afraid, “they,” the bullies, have won. You may have noticed how much of our current literature and movies have been dystopian.

It’s hard to say, of course, whether those who produce dystopian literature (both books and films) were anticipating what was to come or creating a future that matched their vision. Humans seem to be the only species on the planet that has the ability to imagine a future different from the past and present. That puts us in the position of choosing what kind of future we want for ourselves, our children, and those who will follow. My sense is that if we can’t envision and work for a future that is better for everyone, we may well be domed to ride the Snowpiercer train through the next several generations.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping for something better than that. Ignorance is not bliss. The more we know, the better able we are to navigate uncharted territory, and we are, once again, going into uncharted territory.

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A Media Star Is Born http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/media-star-born/ Sun, 01 Jan 2017 08:10:36 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3315 Given the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election, everyone needs read Neil Postman’s 1982 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Reading it won’t change the outcome of the election, of course, but it will provide understanding for how and why it happened the way it did. Postman’s main point is that print encourages logic and reflection. Visual media, and television in particular, encourage the feelings of the moment. To be taken seriously and believed, written documents need to be logical and coherent. To be successful, visual media need to influence feelings. We . . . → Read More: A Media Star Is Born

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Given the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election, everyone needs read Neil Postman’s 1982 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Reading it won’t change the outcome of the election, of course, but it will provide understanding for how and why it happened the way it did. Postman’s main point is that print encourages logic and reflection. Visual media, and television in particular, encourage the feelings of the moment. To be taken seriously and believed, written documents need to be logical and coherent. To be successful, visual media need to influence feelings. We do not expect one show to be related to the next, whereas we expect a book to maintain coherence from start to finish.

Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death long before Donald Trump decided to run for office, and Trump was not the first “media mogul” to choose politics for his staring role. Ronald Reagan was his role model, and Postman addresses the differences between Reagan and presidents born in earlier centuries, including Abraham Lincoln. Postman also discusses two of the books that were commonly assigned in high school English classes. George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. These dystopian novels are still well worth reading for their vision of the future. What was future to them has become our present. One of Postman’s points is that we have become more like Huxley’s “brave new world” than the dystopia described in 1984. TV is our drug of choice, and we don’t need to be coerced into “serving the state” by threats and punishments, we simply need to be entertained.

We do, of course, resemble 1984 in the way the world is divided into three major “nation-states” competing for resources. But at least in the West most of us, with the exception of ethnic and racial minorities living in some areas, are free from direct governmental coercion and treats of severe punishment for small infractions. In Brave New World, people are bred for their station in life, with Alpha’s at the top of the hierarchy. Everyone is kept happy with his or her station in life by taking soma, a recreational drug that facilitates compliance with the social order. Unless something goes wrong (as it did for the protagonist of the novel), everyone lives happily from birth until death.

Postman’s principal concern was that visual media, and especially television, were reducing people’s ability to think logically. TV, he feared, was essentially our “soma.” My own experience suggests that he was correct. Readers who know my history know that my background includes a Ph.D. in English literature, with emphasis on the nineteenth century—the century of the long novels…. My bias is essentially the same as Postman’s. I enjoy TV (and especially movies once they make it to cable), but I find print a better source of “quality” information. Not too long ago, I used to get much of my news from magazines (primarily “Time” and “Newsweek”), but I no longer subscribe. Too much of what was in the news weeklies had become “old news” by the time the magazines arrived. The same stories had been covered by the evening TV news. The pace of life has been increasing since the nineteenth century, and print is basically a “slow” medium.

In the eighteenth century and before, the only way you could travel between Europe and the Americas was sailing vessel. In the nineteenth century, steamships reduced travel times. In the twentieth century, air travel reduced travel times again. We don’t yet know how that will change in the Twenty-First Century, but it is safe to assume that travel times will be reduced. Communication technologies have, of course, also changed. A very long time ago, the only way to get a message from one location to another was to carry it physically, either by individual or by horseback. In the nineteenth century, the telegraph speeded the transmission of information anywhere the wires were strung. (Before that, the Pony Express did its best to get information from St. Louis to San Francisco as quickly as horses could be made to run.) I spent my time in the military as a clerk-typist, creating documents that had to be physically carried to their storage location. Although electric typewriters were available at the time I typed my dissertation, they were still too expensive for most college students. And look at where we are now with keyboards, screens, and computer memory….

Things have changed, and it is not surprising that politics have changed along with them. My sense is that neither Washington nor Lincoln could have beaten Donald Trump in this last election. (As I write this, I am aware that if Trump should somehow see this blog, the part he will quote is that “neither Washington nor Lincoln could have beaten [him] in this last election.”) Trump knows how to use modern media. He received more free publicity than any other political candidate, not only during this election cycle, but ever. No matter how offensive some of his statements and behaviors were, they worked for him rather than against him. Like a “rock star” (think “Elvis”), he has loyal fans who will stick by him and accept his self-indulgences. The real question is what happens next…. Rock stars tend to burn themselves out with drugs and or alcohol, but we can probably think of a few with steel wheels even though they’ve been running against the wind.

The question now, of course, is what’s next? As is true of many TV shows, Trump has been fairly unpredictable. If he and the Republicans do much of what they seem to be planning, many of those who voted for him may be greatly disappointed. Many, of course, vote against their self-interest with regularity, much the way some individuals will remain with an abusive spouse. I once had a colleague (with a Ph.D.) who was choosing to remain with an abusive spouse. I asked her why she stayed. She said, “The hell you know is better than the hell you don’t.” I suspect that something similar is at work with voters: the familiar is more comfortable than the risk of change. The great family therapist, Virginia Satir referred to the “lure of the familiar.” The rule is that most people choose familiarity over comfort, especially during times of stress.

Many of those who voted for Trump found him “unfamiliar,” but their anchor point was the Republican Party, and they were thinking that this time giving additional tax breaks to the wealthy really would create prosperity for all. Some of those who found him familiar, primarily those Hillary Clinton said were in the basket of deplorables, are hoping that they will finally receive everything that’s rightfully theirs.

It is, of course, hard to tell what comes next. Every week the NCIS team has a new crime to solve. Every season, True Detective has a new plot line and new characters. Trump will become President on January 20. What will the new season bring, and who is busy writing the script and working on camera blocking?

Be sure to stay tuned….

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Not with a Bang But a Whimper http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/not-bang-whimper/ Sat, 17 Dec 2016 13:38:20 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3295 T.S. Eliot ends his poem, . . . → Read More: Not with a Bang But a Whimper

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T.S. Eliot ends his poem, The Hollow Men, with what is among the most often quoted lines in all of English poetry: “This the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” The poem was written in 1925, essentially the “eve” of WWII. Europe was beginning to fall apart, with Fascism on the rise and communism tightening its grip on Russia. The euphoria of the 1920s was coming to an end, and the depression of the 1930s, The Great Depression, was just around the corner. The future looked grim, and WWII would soon follow.

I have thought about Eliot’s lines with some regularity the past year or so, beginning with the run up to the election in the States and, then again, since the votes were tallied. Politics have never been especially “neat and clean,” going back as far as Julius Caesar. Much of Western law is based on the Magna Carta, which was written because people recognized that kings could not be trusted. Our technology may be better than that of the Ancient Romans and Medieval kings, but human nature seems to have remained essentially the same. Our dark underbelly has always been there, of course, but it is certainly more visible currently than it had been previously.

At this point, we should be fully aware that those with power tend to abuse it. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the big fear in the States was of “Godless Communists.” In the States, politicians were expected not only to avow Christianity but to ferret out those who weren’t Christian. Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, best known for looking under rocks for Communists, was asked the now famous question, “Have you no sense of decency?” by Boston lawyer Joseph Welch. People thought about McCarthy’s line of questioning and decided that he did not, and that ended McCarthy’s political career.

When I entered the Army during the build-up for the Vietnam War, basic training included assurances that “Thou shalt not kill” did not apply to “Godless Communists.” It was OK to kill North Vietnamese and Viet Cong because they “had no souls.” This was basically a Joseph McCarthy line of thought. Soldiers, of course, need to believe that killing “the enemy” is justified. It’s also reasonably well known that one war begets another. The losers of conflicts feel the need to get even. Why did the Serbs engage in “ethnic cleansing” of the Bosnians? The motivation was to “get even” for medieval conflicts. The common expression, “What goes around, comes around,” is an indication that people have known that history tends to repeat itself. The repetition has variations, of course, but when we look at current events, we can see the repetition of themes that echo through history. As George Santayana said, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The current political situation in the States didn’t spring fully formed from the heads of our political parties. A lot of “festering” contributed to our current situation. Too many people unhappy over too long a time leads to change. There is, however, no guarantee that the change will be for the better. From our vantage point, we can look back at some of the most recent revolutions (French, Russian, Chinese) and analyze the causes. The question is whether we can apply what we know about history to our current situation and move forward based on understanding the causes of human resentment. My sense is that Santayana probably meant that we should “understand” as well as “remember.” From the Serb’s perspective, it wasn’t “ethnic cleansing” so much as it was “getting even.” The same is also true of the Nazi’s in Germany. They were “getting even” with those who had robbed them of what they believed was “rightfully theirs.”

Some of the roots of our current political unrest in the Sates go back as far as slavery, which was followed by our Civil War and Reconstruction. The migration westward following the “Dust Bowl.” the Industrial Revolution and mechanization, and the “globalization” of the economy all produced resentments and fears as well as opportunities and—for some—increasing wealth and opportunity. Major revolutions of the past show us what happens when those “on the bottom” feel the need to even the score with those “on the top.” The question is whether we can remember the past well enough to avoid repeating it.

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Coronation http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/funny-thing-happened-way-coronation/ Sun, 20 Nov 2016 13:03:31 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3265 Although all presidential elections in the US are “historic,” our most recent election will probably go down in history as the most historic of all. As most of you already know, the election featured the first woman candidate to be nominated by a major political party, and the first major oligarch who pretended to be the candidate of the people. It also featured more—a lot more—of the usual yelling and screaming—and sometimes punching and shoving—than most US presidential contests.

One of the influencing factors was, of course, accomplishments of President Obama, many resented him because he was the first . . . → Read More: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Coronation

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Although all presidential elections in the US are “historic,” our most recent election will probably go down in history as the most historic of all. As most of you already know, the election featured the first woman candidate to be nominated by a major political party, and the first major oligarch who pretended to be the candidate of the people. It also featured more—a lot more—of the usual yelling and screaming—and sometimes punching and shoving—than most US presidential contests.

One of the influencing factors was, of course, Hillary Clinton, the first woman in history to be nominated by a major political party, and Donald Trump, a businessman and “reality” TV star and producer. As for timing in history, the US had suffered a serious economic downturn in 2008 and was busily engaged in a number of wars in the Mid-East, so it was easy to overlook the accomplishments of President Obama, many resented him because he was the first African-American president in US history.

You have probably heard the expression, May you live in interesting times. “Interesting times” are typically punctuated by wars and political intrigue, and we currently have both in abundance. Books and movies have, of course, been forecasting a dystopian future for a long time. To mention just a few (and ones you doubtless know at least something about), George Orwell’s 1984 is perhaps the best known. Because they are so much more visually, movies have dominated the dystopian genre recently. The Aliens series is perhaps the best known. In that series, “the Company” wants to capture and study one of the aliens so that they can “weaponize” it. We have related dystopian themes in Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner. The common theme of dystopian literature (including films) is that rich people exploit poor people for “fun” and profit.

One of the things rarely covered in dystopian literature (including both books and movies) is how the culture in question went from a functioning democracy to what for most of those in the film is a dystopian nightmare. My guess at this point is that the people voted for it—not on purpose, of course, but because they were persuaded it would be the best option. About 60 years ago, an older cousin was teaching me to play chess. At some point, she asked me whether I thought something like what had happened in Germany in the 1930s could happen in the States. I said, “No, I don’t think so.” She thought I was wrong.

At this point, I no longer remember the reasons she provided, but I have never forgotten the conversation. And, of course, current conversations about the similarities between Trump and Hitler have been in the recent news with some regularity. Hitler’s rise to power began in 1913, but it wasn’t until 1930 that Hitler really took over. And it wasn’t until 1938 that the really serious stuff began. If we are on that path&#151:and I’m not saying that we are—Trump and his followers still have a lot of time to move more fully in that direction. And those who prefer a different outcome, still have a lot of time to change our political course.

Germany, of course, was badly damaged by WWI, and the suffering following the end of that war allowed Hitler to come to power. It also created a great deal of resentment of those who weren’t “true Germans.” While we in the States haven’t suffered anything quite as bad as that in the Germany of the 1920s, we have definitely had pockets of “left-behinds” (not to be confused with those left behind at the time of the Second Coming of Christ). Although it is too much of a generalization, Clinton won urban voters, while Trump won rural voters. In some ways, it’s the coastal states and the flyover states. For one reason or another, many of those living in the “flyover” states thought they would do better having Trump in the White House.

Trump, of course, promised to help the rural communities by bringing back coal. He also promised to increase oil and gas jobs, and to bring back jobs in steel and manufacturing. Anyone who might serve as president (including Clinton, had she been elected) would make an effort to boost the economy in areas influenced by changing technologies. Manufacturing technologies change. At one time, every town had a number of buggy whip makers. Buggy whips are still around, of course, but these days they are made by machines rather than by individual craftsmen. Even if we are able to figure out how to use more coal and oil without killing everything living on the surface of the earth, the old jobs aren’t coming back. People will be replaced by machines. Trump isn’t going to change that. Hillary could not have changed that, either. People waiting and hoping for the resurgence of assembly line jobs like those of the 1950s will be disappointed. We need to develop jobs and industries that will support those people.

Xenophobia is a natural result of fear, and especially fear of change. Although every culture has a history of xenophobia, we seem to have had more than our share in the States. In the pioneer days, a common saying was “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Of course, that saying probably originates from knowing that white people have stolen the land from the Native Americans. I suspect that sense is also responsible for the fear of immigrants: we (whites) stole the land from the Indians, and other ethnicities will steal what’s ours from us. The movie Gangs of New York chronicles the conflicts between Irish and Italian immigrants in the nineteenth century. Much of the racial strife in the States is a direct result of slavery and associated guilt and anger. The natural human response to bad things is, “It can’t be my fault, so it must be yours.”

We are, I think at a pivotal time in our history. A lot is going on. Much of the world is embroiled in war, resulting in mass migrations of those attempting to escape the conflict. Regardless of what the deniers say, the global warming is beginning to have a major influence on life on earth, and we do not have a Planet B readily available. Most of the challenges we face would have needed to be faced regardless of who was elected. Had Hillary been elected, the advantage would (probably) have been a slower, less tumultuous transition into the future. With Trump in office, the advantage will (probably) be a faster, more painful transition. A metaphor might be treating cancer with chemotherapy over many months or treating it with major surgery.

While we’re facing the coming “surgery,” remember that fear always underlies hate. If you hate Trump (or hated Hillary), look for the underlying fear. Getting rid of Trump (or Hillary) won’t make your fear go away. All he (or she) did was provide focus for your fear. The same is true for race-based hatred. The fear would be there regardless of whether the race you had attached it to. All you need to do is look at human history to see that people found reasons to hate each other and kill each other when “the other” was the same race. This is true on every continent. The English spent a lot of time killing each other. The French, Germans, Italians, and other Europeans also spent a lot of time killing each other long before they started invading “foreign” countries. So did the Chinese and the Japanese. And so did those who live in what’s now called the Mideast—if you’ve read what Christians call the Old Testament, you know that there’s a new and different war in every chapter.

So it is not just Trump (or Hillary) but it is an underlying fear that you haven’t been able to address directly. I fully understand that it is easier to blame someone or something else than it is to look inside for the real cause of the fear, but we need to do that. Yes, we not you. If you find it first, please let me know….

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Politics as Usual? http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/politics-as-usual/ Sun, 30 Oct 2016 14:50:37 +0000 http://www.scs-matters.com/blog/?p=3229 Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” The sense that Republicans are “lock-step” in pursuit of their objectives, while Democrats are no better organized than a herd of cats, has been around since the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the frantic search for Communists thought to have infiltrated the US government. Republicans learned how to stick together during the “Cold War,” and it was not long until they had developed what came to be known as the Southern Strategy, which was essentially race-based politics, designed to take advantage of White . . . → Read More: Politics as Usual?

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Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” The sense that Republicans are “lock-step” in pursuit of their objectives, while Democrats are no better organized than a herd of cats, has been around since the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the frantic search for Communists thought to have infiltrated the US government. Republicans learned how to stick together during the “Cold War,” and it was not long until they had developed what came to be known as the Southern Strategy, which was essentially race-based politics, designed to take advantage of White fear of increasing political power in the hands of Blacks.

A long time ago, when I was still an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois, I had a friend who owned a service station. One day when I was at his station to have my car worked on, he made a racist comment. I said that I didn’t feel that way. His reply was that I needed to consider where I spent most of my time, which was at the University. His point was that the Black people I knew were different from those who lived in the area of his station. That was probably true. The Blacks I knew were doubtless better educated and in better shape financially. Education and economic security make a difference in human behavior. They aren’t, of course, the only influences. Some of our culture’s biggest and best-known crooks (Bernie Madoff comes to mind) have been wealthy and well-educated.

Things have, of course, changed a lot over time. In earlier days, most people didn’t have access to much in the way of information. Newspapers did what they could to write about candidates for political office. Before and during WWII, radio did what it could to provide news coverage. You may not remember FDR’s Fireside Chats, but you’ve doubtless read about them. To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time a US President deliberately used mass media to connect directly with the US public. Eisenhower continued the concept of “Fireside Chats” on television, which, at the time of his presidency, was an increasingly popular medium.

I was 13 years old before my family had a television. Before that, it was radio only, not only for music, but also for drama. My son has never known anything other than color TV. That’s a major change in one generation. My dad grew up getting his news from newspapers (often with both morning and evening editions). For most of my adult life, I got my news from evening TV newscasts and newsweeklies (primarily Time and Newsweek). Now, I still watch evening TV news, but my primary source for news is the Internet. The Internet grew magically and mushroom-like.” About 20 years ago, my father came to visit me in Kalamazoo (my mother had died a few years before), and during one of the TV shows we watched, an advertiser said that viewers could obtain more information at such-and-such a site, “dot com.” With his most-annoyed voice, my father said, “I don’t know what ‘dot com’ means.” I told him that it was a “web address,” and his look suggested that I had just made things worse.

Times—and technology—have changed. Whatever else has happened with technology, the Presidential Election of 2016 may go down in history as the election that forever changes the way those of us in the US view political parties and politics. The debates were, of course, televised. Then the video was made available online, as were extensive summaries and pundit commentary. We know more about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton than has ever been known about candidates in the past. Current technology is very good about providing information, both accurate and outright lies. One of the things that seems new to me is the “fear factor,” which, at least in my opinion, is a lot scarier than the the TV show by that name. When Eisenhower and Stevenson were the candidates, most people thought we’d be basically OK with either as President. That sense of security diminished over time, primarily because of the increasing amount of information available. In 1964 we elected Lyndon Johnson because we thought that Goldwater was prepared to use nuclear weapons against China. We voted for Johnson hoping to avoid war, and then he increased our military presence in Southeast Asia.

Although we are still concerned about North Korea, Southeast Asia is no longer a major problem. That doesn’t mean we can relax, however. Our involvement in the Middle East has a long history, and we are perhaps at a critical point in our relationship with that part of the world. We are also at a critical juncture with beliefs about global climate change. That issue brings up the conflict between science and faith. Politicians align with one side or another, depending on their vested interests. Those from areas being negatively influenced by climate change typically (but not always) align with science, while those from areas aligned with the fossil fuel industry oppose efforts to regulate that industry. The combination of the various vested interests and the changes in communication technologies has greatly influenced the political process.

If you are among those who have been thinking that this is the worst election ever, you have a lot of company. Whether you are a progressive, a liberal Democrat, a middle-of-the-roader, a conservative, or an ultra conservative, this election provides you with something to be upset about. We can, of course, take comfort in the old saying, “This too shall pass.”

The saying is often attributed to the Bible, but its origin is actually Persian. Our current political situation shall pass, and what happens next is in our hands. A long time ago when businesses were offering employees classes in “time management,” those teaching the classes often began their training by asking a participant to come forward. The instructor would say, “The next 5 minutes are yours to manage. Manage them well.” Most participants had no idea what to do. The learning point was that time could not be managed without an objective. You had to know the goal before you could manage the time required to achieve it. We have a similar situation with the upcoming election. The news coverage focuses on the desires of those with vested interests that will do everything they can to get you to support the outcomes they desire. Whether you agree or disagree with what a particular candidate has said or done, look past the particulars and consider the “big picture.”

So … what are you hoping for after the election dust settles? Focus on that and vote for the candidates you believe will help turn that vision of the future into reality. As for me, I’m hoping for more peace, love, and brotherhood.




(Thanks to AlanAvon2011 and YouTube)

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