Archive for the ‘human behavior’ Category

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Why do they DO that…?

November 25, 2016

You know that kind of folksy joke about why the family dog always picks the day you have visitors, like the minister, or the Ladies’ Auxiliary, to wander into the room, turn around three times, lie down, and BEGINS TO VIGOROUSLY LICK….well, you know how it goes….

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People apparently do things for the same reason…

People are diverse by default, not necessarily because some movement decided it should be so, and it is normal for people to associate with others most similar to themselves, That doesn’t mean they hate the folks down the road.  Nevertheless, the self anointed Interior Decorators of the culture pound the podiums and preach their version of diversity, and woe unto he who dares to diversify outside of the prescribed lines!  I had a drill instructor that could lean at a 45 degree angle, bark like a seal, and spit red hot nails, but I’d wager he couldn’t even chew butter in the moral shock wave of an irate Liberal.  Don’t make an issue of my picking on “Liberals.”  I spew ridicule spherically, not just left or right.

Thus, it is not really surprising to access an alleged source of “news” only to be informed of some newly discovered social sin, verbal transgression, thought pattern, or the latest intellectual dingle-berry to drop from the stern-sheets of the PC Beast that humanity is mandated to adopt.

Why do people do this stuff, boss each other around, vie for control, and for some irrational reason other than fear actually endorse the Gods of Glib?

That’s easy.

Because they can.

So, the latest offering is just another chapter in the continuous game of enforcing the rules against government making any law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” by making rules that nip at the heels of the First Amendment like a Narcissistic Chihuahua on amphetamines.

While, in the name of “defending our freedom”,  we send weapons and warriors half way around the globe to vanquish some folks who have the audacity to destroy the symbols and sacred doo-hickies of Middle Eastern populations who don’t practice the “only religion the only way”, things are getting dicey here at home, too.  We have our own version of the Taliban going around deciding which National Monuments displaying crosses violate the First Amendment and demanding that they be removed (polite for “destroyed”).

As with virtually any action perpetrated in the name of achieving or enforcing some “good”, these things can only be done at the cost of someone else who happens to be on the wrong wavelength, go to the wrong church, belong to the wrong political party, speak with the wrong accent, or in some other way qualify to be redefined as irrelevant.

Why do they do that?

Because they can.

…and why can they…?

…because, basically, nobody tells them they can’t.

Well, I’m here to tell ‘em they can’t.   I’m all for helping those in need, but I’m not at all for making that mission into a Cabinet position and turning it into some massive industry that consumes an immense quantity of raw materials and produces absolutely nothing.

I’m all for “defending our freedom”, but I think it’s long past the time to learn the difference between shit and shinola.  When German U-boats cruised our eastern seaboard, and Japanese aviators barbequed Pearl Harbor, we wasted no time juggling smoke and mirrors.  We defended our freedom, and we did it definitively, and we did it well.

When our nation was again attacked on September 11, 2001, “defending our freedom” once again became the priority.

What we need to do, however, is figure out where the real line is that separates genuinely “defending our freedom” and just acting as District Sales Representatives for the munitions industries, their foot-warmers in Congress, and others who keep our economy afloat by promoting and feeding global conflicts.

And for those who are still capitalizing on stage time from the recent election, I would suggest they stop projecting gloom and doom because Donald Trump seems to have grabbed the brass ring.  Get over it.  We don’t put kings in the White House, though some of them seem to think that was the deal.  No one man or woman is going to fix everything and make America great again and no one man or woman is going to flip a switch and turn the USA into a 3rd world country or a glassy spot on the globe.  Either of those two roads can only be chosen and followed by The People.  I trust our system of governance as it was devised.  I don’t necessarily trust many of my fellow citizens to understand it and follow its wisdom.  A culture of entitlement has been fostered and developed over the past few decades.  Oddly, it isn’t the recipients of “free lunch” that benefit from this atmosphere, it is those who manage the game and dole out the goodies.  And, I’m not saying they are bad people.  They aren’t.  I blame a damaged system and each and every one of us who has spent our time finger pointing instead of rolling up our sleeves and doing something productive.

It can’t be fixed all at once, but we need to start somewhere.  The ultimate goal, of course, is to have government get the hell out of the way so the American people can do what they have always proven they can do best.  Produce.  Create.  Protect our freedom.

So, I’m saying to those who think otherwise, it’s time for you to move on.  Government doesn’t make things, doesn’t fix things, doesn’t produce anything.  The people do.  You have graced the living room floor of America and done your “ablutions” long enough.  Get out.

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Brat politics…

November 14, 2016

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Melting plots…

October 11, 2016

other tales of derring do….

Who hasn’t heard the term “melting pot” used to describe our American society? I don’t recall the first time I ever heard the metaphor regarding our multinational and multicultural makeup, but supposedly the first time anyone heard it was around 1780 or so when everything we hold dear as Americans was being organized, or thought up and authored. The idea of equating the USA with a melting pot became a sacred part of our persona in the early twentieth century on the heels of a play by that name. It makes for good press, good politics, and good tradition. So does Santa Clause.

So, are we really unique as a “melting pot”, or do most large pieces of real estate with their own flag tend to be so homogenized? Even more interesting might be the question of are we really a “melting pot” at all as the metaphor is intended to convey? I think the vision being suggested is that of a natural process, like melting snow. I’m more inclined to think of it as a “crucible,” where material is stuffed into a container and a blow torch is taken to it to make it change.

***

My interest in history, American or otherwise, waned at about the time my peers and I stopped cutting out construction paper turkeys and it really didn’t kick in again until I took a Western Civilization course halfway through college. I had transferred schools and it was a required course. It was a summer semester and I was attending a small private university in Florida. Accordingly, I had arranged my schedule so that I only had classes every other day and I was always done by 1 pm to allow for maximum beach time. Sweet.

Anyway, the history course was taught by a visiting professor who was department head at his home school. He stayed in the dormitory during the week and went home on the weekends. He was reputed to have broken more rules than most students, in the meantime.

Now, as I said, this was a small, private institution. It exuded rather conservative values, had a strictly religious President, and even had a dress code, so when the good Professor showed up on the first day wearing a Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts, and flip flops, while nursing a large Dixie cup that some swore held Scotch, I kind of warmed up to the guy. When he told us to skip buying the recommended text book and that most of what we had been taught about history in public school was garbage, I started to like history as an academic pursuit.

That’s not to say it was an easy summer yawn between trips to the beach. It was actually  a lot of work, and I was surprised to find I had earned a high grade in spite of myself. He lectured, and all of our homework involved a considerable amount of library research and defending our own original interpretations of, and conclusions about, various topics. We didn’t talk about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, but we did learn that he had been a master at cooking the books.

So, I became a student of history when my schooling was nearly over, and I’m still fascinated by it. I also still retain the skepticism the Professor instilled in me, and I strive to guard the elusive boundary between feel-good stories and verifiable fact. Of course, as editor of the school newspaper at the time, that may have been part of my persona anyway.

***

Back to the matter at hand. Are we a “melting pot”, and have we ever been such? In my opinion, the whole “melting pot” shtick is one of those deniable fibs so prevalent wherever politicians and circus barkers tread. In other words, “sort of but not really,” which is no answer at all, of course, but since I am neither a politician nor a circus barker, I don’t have any qualms about declaring it “untrue”, or some metaphor to that effect.

It is an irrefutable truth that the primary instincts of humanity are survival and propagation of the species, which needs are often, but not always, satisfied by stealing the other guy’s stuff and illicit pajama parties, sans pajamas. While those who have always tended to do so were singing Kum-Ba-Ya, cutting out paper turkeys, designating melting pots, and other such activities, the general population was busy farming, making widgets, and killing people in other countries rather than thinking about homogenizing. I’ve always tended to believe it was more normal for us to play King of the Mountain than to Melt, anyway.

In fact, I doubt the first “Pilgrim” to step ashore had even taken his first dry land dump before plots were underway to screw the natives out of their stuff and mess with their squaws. I suspect the good natives had similar thoughts of their own, once they figured out that Europeans were neither demons nor gods, and had some pretty nifty stuff just ripe for relocation.

Let’s face it, construction paper Doctoral Theses, et al, notwithstanding, Europeans were one-way tourists to North America, and they didn’t step ashore with any intentions of being either Melters or Meltees.

”Nice place you got here….now, get out. It’s mine.”

We worked our way all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific with bullets, not kisses. The only thing melting for the next four hundred years was lead. It still is, and in spite of a rabid uptick in efforts to turn us into 326,000,000 pairs of legs with one head, we’re still melting about as well as Cinderella’s step-sister eased into the glass slipper. Given absolute freedom to associate, homogenize, or anything else as we might please, the majority of people would seek out others similar to themselves, for the most part, with no criteria out of bounds because of some ill conceived rule. You see, there are some intellectually challenged folks out there who have convinced themselves and a steady trickle of initiates that “if we can make it look like a duck, walk like a duck, and smell like a duck…voila! It WILL-BE-A-DUCK! .”

The Politics of Tofu

People don’t “melt” and become “one”, although that phraseology has a certain romantic appeal to it. People compete; both sides don’t win like one big happy family unless someone making the rules cheats. We form alliances, which requires cooperation, usually in order to more effectively compete against other alliances.

I mean, the “melting pot” myth is catchy and all, but I think our energies would be better spent just figuring out how to acknowledge and accept our differences as normal.   It’s a simple concept:  if you don’t stick your foot or your nose where it doesn’t belong, I won’t break it. Neither Kum-Ba-Ya nor brute force has provided the answer, and I don’t know that there is one.   As one of the Unmelted, my best chances for remaining so most likely hinge on my quiet oath to resist temptations to melt someone else.

Human nature isn’t likely to change any time soon, but I don’t have to participate in its less than savory rituals, or lend them my tacit approval.

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On communicating clearly…

June 11, 2016

…without getting punished….

I don’t even remember how I got on the topic, but I’ve just spent an inordinate span of time trying to find a definitive roster of words, phrases, idioms, and thought balloons which I am summarily denied the freedom to use, and I’ve come to an enlightening conclusion. There isn’t one.

It reminds me of early childhood. I was sternly cautioned to NEVER utter certain words. I wasn’t told what they were, but being a resourceful child, I discovered them through the process of elimination, beginning with the venerable Anglo Saxon word for “excrement”, which I printed in block letters with a blue crayon in my table drawer in First Grade.

I don’t actually know where I learned these words because, believe it or not, neither my father nor mother used profanity. Well, for the most part. My mother was known to cut loose with a few minor expressions of angst on occasion, and not necessarily without just cause.

By the time I made it into junior high school, then, I had a fully developed repertoire of Potty Mouth that would make a sailor cry, and I was fairly adept at wielding it with a growing infrequency of contextual misfires. By the time I strapped on a Navy uniform, I could verbally peel paint, but, of course, I was told by those in authority, which was virtually everybody, that an officer and gentleman doesn’t use that kind of language. As had been the case from first grade on, the admonition and attendant real and implied threats were not accompanied by a list of what I mustn’t say. It was presumed, again, as I suppose it always had been, that I knew.

Later, in Corporate America, when I was given the opportunity to sport an appropriate charcoal grey pinstriped suit, white shirt, and a conservatively colored diagonal striped necktie, Windsor knot, and step into a pair of wing-tips, I encountered the same old manual I had under previous indoctrination procedures.

“Just be sure you never do THAT…..”

“Do what?”‘

“….You know.”

and:

“Just be sure you never say THAT…..”

“Say what?”‘

“….You know.”

A couple of years later, at a Regional Sales Conference in a major city, one attended by thousands of my peers, their Supervisors, their District Managers, and reportedly even God Himself (actually the company president….same difference, according to some), I met as man who had the audacity to break all of the rules. Now, I’d never seen so many pin-striped suits, white shirts, and wingtips in one place in my life, and when somebody with “credentials” told a lame joke, ten thousand grinning idiots laughed on cue. Well, I don’t recall the gentleman’s name but I’d say he must have been about forty (which was “old” to me at that stage), and he must have had outrageously elevated sales figures or been somebody’s brother in law, because he had on a rumpled blazer, grey slacks, non-descript shoes, and his hair was not exactly well groomed either. One of the Vice Presidents, a notoriously devout man and a stickler for propriety, was giving a presentation and had thrown out a general query regarding goals for the coming year. The man in the blazer barked out a rather ambitious claim, which got everyone’s attention. The VP challenged his ability to deliver on that, citing obstacles that would be in his way. The man considered the challenge for a moment and then boomed out, “Well, sir, there’s more than one way to kiss a cat’s ass without gettin’ hair on your teeth!

Except for a few unintended guffaws, the arena was dead quiet. Not only had the man DONE “that”, but he had SAID “that” as well. To this day, I suspect he must have been related to Evel Kneivel.

So, fast forward about forty plus years to the twenty teens, when, as seems to be the way of things, the populace is still being cautioned/threatened to never do “THAT“, or to say any of its cognates from the universe of the spoken and written word. For the most part, it isn’t so much a case of updating the list as it is a matter of adding on to it. That’s what I was curious about. What is ON that list, anyway. Not only do I remember George Carlin’s seven forbidden words being at the start of that list so long ago, but I remember the expansions and updates over the years, though I can’t recite the specific words off the top of my head.

Maybe nobody else can either, which would explain the lack of a list, but if people from the judiciary can talk sternly about “hate speech”, and the like, somebody must have a reference somewhere.

Be that as it may, I’ll wait no longer and have decided to compile such a list myself. It will take some research, and perhaps a bit of the old reliable trial and error, but I’ll manage. So many of the things that would have put me in the coat room for recess, earned me a session of my mother’s considerable potential for wrath. or put the kybosh on long term career plans in earlier times, would now potentially place me in front of a judge, or worse, at the mercy of bureaucratic vengeance. Either that, or it might make a third grader yawn.

My list will be organized into “sections”. I would say “families”, as that would be more accurate, but, believe it or not, the word “family”, according to blogger Dr. Joe Wenke in a Huffington Post article from September 1, 2013 I once read, “the phrase “traditional family values” is itself a form of hate speech,” apparently because groups not supportive of same sex relationships use it to describe, well, their opinion of what traditional family values might be. Like I’ve said, obscenity is a subjective concept

This could be an interesting study, actually. Times have changed, and as has been the way down through the ages, political juice has a great deal to do with whose mouth gets to chew on a bar of Ivory soap and whose does not. Today is reminiscent of (from what I hear), say, eleventh century England, when The Good Old Boys could pretty much call it as they saw it and everybody got along fine except for the recreational homicide, which, of course, was entirely normal as well as being the precursor for twenty first century election culture. That all went up in smoke, preferably lavender scented and with a lute played in the background, when those perfy Normans showed up to rewrite a perfectly functional Anglo Saxon dictionary and lay down an endless and ever changing cacophony of rules about where to speak and how to wipe.

It seems that much of George Carlin’s paint-peelers of the seventies are now standard fare on Prime Time TV, while the minor verbal noogies we used to toss around out by the swings at recess could today be reason for National Guard tents to show up next to the gazebo in the town park.

In any event, stay tuned (can I say that, or does that sound too much like “go tune yourself”….?)…

 

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“Speak English…!”

February 21, 2016

whatever that means….

People being hypocritical and downright ugly when it comes to politics is nothing new. The bright side is, we aren’t having shootouts on the floor of Congress. Things are calmer, believe it or not, than they were in the early nineteenth century. That notwithstanding, I wince at some of the things candidates and/or their supporters will do in the race for the Most Crass trophy of the campaign season. If Trump wins the White House, it will be a rare Win-Win Bifecta.

The opposing camp is not devoid of turd-in-the-punchbowl moments, however, as in the recent Sanders rally in Las Vegas where civil rights icon Dolores Huerta was rudely shouted down with cries of “English only! ” when she volunteered to translate for Hispanic attendees. That’s quite a swan dive into the River Styx for a crowd so far left they have to rappel down the port side of the dais to find their platform.

The indignant bursts of angst over people having the audacity to speak anything but the precise language spoken and understood by the complainants is nothing new. In fact, it is extremely “human“, but usually originates with those of limited education and those afflicted with an iron clad “my way or the highway” or black and white manner of thinking.

Perhaps, though, it would be more effective to inquire whether or not those goose-stepping to the beat of “English only” chants are fluent in any of the more than 250 aboriginal languages spoken in North America today, just as they have been spoken for thousands of years. If that sounds unfair, perhaps we should limit it to English, as the protestors demand. OK.

Shall we require that speech be limited to the East Anglian English that characterizes the New England dialect? Perhaps the southern New England form that was greatly influenced by the Dutch colonists in what is now the New York City region, with the stereotypical “ Brooklynese ” as it’s banner would be preferred by some.

Die-hard Yankees sometimes roll their eyes at the sound of the “Southern accent” and consider it to be the sign of ignorance. To the contrary, the middle Atlantic areas of what today constitutes Virginia and the Carolinas were settled by the “upper crust” of England, the wealthy, and those loyal to, and supported by, the crown. All regions have “sub-dialects”, and the south is no exception. The “Black English” stands out, particularly today. It is a mixture of the ancestral African languages, the Southern English spoken by the slave owners, Creole, and more. As with any dialect or sub-dialect, it contains its own unique pronunciations, words, idioms, and cultural foundations. Cajun, of French-English-Southern derivation is another.

South central Pennsylvania, parts of northern Virginia, and New Jersey sport a noticeable dialect influenced by the origins of those who settled there as well, sometimes misnomered “Pennsylvania Dutch“. They were the Midlands English, the Welsh, German, and Scandinavian people who came here for various reasons. My teen years were spent in southeastern Pennsylvania and often heard things like “about the house” pronounced more like “aboot the hoose”.

When I lived in western North Carolina, there were isolated pockets of civilization back in the mountains, in what were called “coves” essentially dead end valleys, where there were still remnants of a dialect known as “Appalachian English“, with distinctive elements of a strong Celtic and Gaelic influence. It is a Scotch-Irish derivative with some Old English features.

Wherever Europeans settled, and wherever their descendents moved to as the West was settled, one can find words, phrases, pronunciations, often peculiar to limited local areas, reflecting the intermixing of older dialects and cultures.

We are indeed a “mixing bowl”, whether those who suffer cramps when they hear a word or pronunciation outside of their limited lexicon like it or not.

Ah, but that’s not all. The “English” spoken in England long before Europeans set foot on the American continents was itself fractured, and for the same reasons American English has no single pedigree.

Prior to the Norman invasion and conquest of England, Gaelic and Celtic tongues were long established, and the Anglo Saxons of Jutland and West Germany brought with them the earliest form of what we call English today. It would be unintelligible to any of us now without focused learning.

Early written materials were mostly in the West Saxon dialect of English. The other three primary dialects were Mercian, Northumbrian and Kentish, and none could easily understand or communicate with any of the other three. Not until the reign of Alfred the Great (877-899) were the separate “Englands” and their languages united under one crown and one “official” dialect. Besides defending against Viking raiders, his emphasis was on education and establishing “Wessux” as the preferred and recognized dialect. The teaching of English began to replace Latin as the scholarly language.

The Norman Conquest complicated things further. Not only did the French language become the “official” language of the country, but the Norman French culture changed England forever. Then, as we see today and as was mentioned at the beginning of this piece, discrimination and division of peoples by such minor factors as how words are pronounced, the practice wasn’t a new human behavior.

Those of Norman French origin, to whom the language and culture were the norm, and those who learned and adopted the language and culture, gaining favor in the eyes of the conquerors, represented the “upper classes”. The “native” English (those claiming the designation in 1066, though other cultures and languages had preceded them), were the lower, laboring classes. The English raised the crops and livestock consumed by the Normans. The English called their animals “cows” or “pigs”, which became beef or pork to the Norman French. Language determined social status, and many other things.

Hundreds of years later, our language continues to borrow from the languages and cultures of immigrants, perhaps most noticeable today being Hispanic, Asian, and perhaps soon the Middle Eastern peoples.

So, what is one to say, what is one to do, when admonished to “Speak English”? How does one separate the individual ingredients of “dump stew”?

Personally, I would do nothing, as someone who would make such a suggestion obviously has a severely limited understanding of what English actually is.

 

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Tabloid journalism & comments….

January 15, 2016

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On farming …

January 12, 2016

and covering your donkey ….

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So it is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

 

[That little story was swiped from Facebook without permission, ……………..what?…..]  

 

Everyone (I suppose) loves a “feel-good” story. Like any story, of course, when told around the campfire often enough, and for an extended time, the details cannot help but change.

This is not by any design or intent. Perhaps the greatest reason would be context. Another would be the nature of human communication or language itself.

“Watching a buddy’s back”, for example, is kind of a nice metaphor for friendship, teamwork, and so forth. The precise meaning depends upon context. One might safely assume that the concept was first given voice during some primitive confrontation somewhere, sometime, and when used in that same context even today could be taken quite literally, indicating concerns regarding survival. The intent and meaning today, however, is normally a mixed bag of the literal and the metaphorical. While the circumstance surrounding the phrase’s use may be metaphorical, and would be considered an exaggeration of the mood accompanying a literal context, the intent would be to lend precisely that kind of intensity to a more benign situation.

The study of philology, or the history and origins of words and phrases, may provide some insight.

An immeasurable and indistinct length of time ago, one of humanity’s primary concerns was survival. If a person should survive into the following day, he would then focus on water, and food. Thirst and hunger abated, or at least temporarily distracted, things like shelter and clothing, such as it were, could see daylight. Extensively changed, often beyond recognition, and certainly beyond any imaginable context for most of us, much of our modern communication could likely be linked to those times long before car payments and credit limits and matters of “style” became the first things one thought of upon awakening in a comfortable bed to the aroma of automatically perked coffee.

Thus, I would suggest that the warm-fuzzy tale of a farmer and his fields of corn must bear such a history, its origins lost among the multitude of lessons of survival no doubt learned through observing the experiences of those who didn’t survive to tell the tales.

As mentioned earlier, contexts change, as do intents, though function may remain related. The path of human development and evolution evidently favored those who gathered into groups and coined such strokes of genius as “safety in numbers,” just as they favored those who ate organic material instead of pretty rocks.

Several hundred contexts later, with countless factors added to, or subtracted from, the pile, such allegories as the corn farmer tale came to be part and parcel of various religious tenets. As is often the case, “points” are made, in more ways than one, by the use of exaggeration, overstatement, and the clouding of boundaries between contexts, so that survival of the group transitioned to survival within the group, and so on. Securing enough points to earn whatever the promised rewards might be meant following the tenets of one’s inherited or chosen creed better than one’s neighbor, who, ironically, one was also often charged with ensuring the welfare of. Sometimes that meant giving your best seed to the farmer down the road.

Presently, early in the twenty first century, the evolving metaphor has come to link salvation, in its various formats, with providing for the survival of imperfect strangers through the provision of metaphorical as well as actual Free Lunch, Potlatch style.

And similar to the tale of the fortunate farmer (and his even more fortunate neighbors, who apparently enjoyed the products of his labor), seeing to the welfare and good fortune of one’s neighbors, even if it means conscripting the assets and unwitting participation of The Unwashed, may very well be about taking care of one’s own backside far more than that of one’s neighbor.

 

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