suffering

It’s Obvious

Reading time – 76 seconds  .  .  .

Long time reader DL offered in a private email that he sees me as an iconoclast and that I help people to realize the obvious. That’s a compliment, right?

iconoclast –  a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. – Apple Dictionary, v2.2

I’m not confident that I attack cherished institutions, as I’m not sure that any institutions are cherished any longer. Okay, perhaps that last sentence did attack cherished institutions.

On the other hand, and as you already know, I commonly attack cherished beliefs, like the notion that there is anything of benefit to trickle-down economics, except to further stuff the pockets of the already wealthy. That cherished belief and many other common wisdom, common knowledge notions deserve to be skewered. We need for them to be sliced and diced and dumped into a landfill for ultimate decomposition so that they cannot be brought back and used to harm those in the future who will be sadly unaware of the destructive power of these harmful cherished beliefs.

And there are other cherished beliefs that I stab, like all religious extremist beliefs. People who hold these cherished beliefs are guilty of the murder of hundreds of millions of people and, oddly, people of most major religions are guilty of these atrocities. There is no more effective and motivated killer than one whose cherished belief is that God wants him to kill all who don’t see things in the killer’s delusional way. There are plenty of people who screech the message to kill, literally or politically, doing it from the pulpit and the airwaves and the halls of government.

Another favorite is the cherished and arrogant belief that, “I got it right, so if you disagree, you’re wrong. Maybe bad, too.” For clarity about the ultimate outcome of such thinking, refer to the paragraph above.

Consider the politics of destruction. And the rejection of science and learning. And the refusal to solve problems and instead to allow people to suffer and to die in favor of self-centered jockeying for political advantage.

And allowing big money interests to poison and subvert our democracy. We’ve gone through many iterations of learning this lesson, then forgetting and then re-learning it, then forgetting the lesson yet again. We don’t seem to be able to keep in mind how very harmful it is and to take steps to permanently slay this ruinous beast. There is more.

Like the much-too-human and completely predictable “it’s all about me” attitude of politicians and the certainty of the corruption of politicians by big money.

And the craziness of self-destruction through citizen laziness, sub-consciously assuming that someone else will handle things to our liking. Or that they won’t, but that we’re powerless, so there’s no use in taking action. Or that just being disinterested in broader issues and instead being focused solely on our over-filled lives somehow makes sense.

These cherished beliefs are the things I write about and they are real and they are harmful to us all, but you already realize that, because it’s obvious.

Thanks, DL, for your comments. To you and to all readers, put your thoughts in the “What Do You Think?” section below both today and in response to future posts (freebie subscribe on the right side of this column) in order to help all of us be better informed and to gain a clearer perspective on reality.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Question

Pope Francis arriving in US - CBS News

Pope Francis arriving in US – CBS News photo

Reading time – 72 seconds  .  .  .

Pope Francis is visiting the United States this week and there is a question that begs an answer. Here are the facts.

  • By the time his visit is complete he will have been received at the White House and will have visited the homeless.
  • He will have addressed both a joint session of Congress and the United Nations.
  • He will have said mass multiple times for well over a million people, doing so both in English and in Spanish and he will have visited the birthplace of American democracy in Philadelphia.
  • He will have been serenaded by both Andrea Bocelli and Aretha Franklin and he will have visited prisoners in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
  • He will have gone on parade through Washington DC and Central Park in New York and hundreds of thousands of Americans will have seen him.

Not all the people who show up to see the pope will be Catholic. They are not all there to pay homage to their religious leader, yet they come by the hundreds of thousands. They inconvenience themselves, standing and waiting for hours, often in profound discomfort – some overnight – just to catch a glimpse of him.

The question is: Why do people do that?

The answer: hope.

You don’t have to be a Catholic to want a piece of what this pope represents. You just have to have a hunger for something that you can’t seem to find, something that gnaws at you and creates a hollow spot within that is frustrated for something substantial.

We’ve come to a time in America and in much of the rest of the world when our challenges seem overwhelming, when cooperation has been displaced by crude hostility. Neither our politicians nor those in Great Britain, Israel, Greece and many other countries seem to be able to carry on a civil conversation, much less solve problems.

We are far more than weary of the selfish, greedy posturing of politicians, lobbyists, and of slick marketing lies. We are far more than weary of self-destructive denials of reality and the rejection of learning. We are far more than weary of being marginalized and of seeing the hopes for our children crushed under the heel of brutes. Little wonder we feel nearly hopeless.

Pope Francis arrived in America with a message. It isn’t one of proselytizing or bible-thumping and, in fact, other than the masses he will say, his message isn’t particularly religious.

Even without saying a word his message is one of hope. It is a message we hunger to hear. It is a message we want our leaders to hear and act upon.

We need hope for a better tomorrow. It is the only way forward and every one of us knows that in our bones.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Congressional Monkeys

Rhesus monkey

Rhesus Macaque

Reading time – 1 minute, 19 seconds  .  .  .

My brother recently sent along a story (thanks, JHA) that is an adaptation of the findings of a 1967 ground-breaking experiment with rhesus monkeys performed by Gordon R. Stephenson. It is presented here for your review. See if you can read this without nodding your head in fundamental agreement at the end.

Start the experiment with a tall cage containing four monkeys. Hang a banana on a string dangling from the top of the cage, out of the reach of the monkeys. Then place a set of stairs under the banana. Before long a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana. As it does so, spray all the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, another monkey will make an attempt to reach the banana. When the second monkey starts up the stairs, spray all the monkeys with cold water. The next time a monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will assault and stop it. There is no further need for cold water.

Next, remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new monkey. The new monkey, having no experience with the cold water spray, will see the banana and attempt to climb the stairs to reach it. Immediately, all of the other monkeys will attack him to keep him off the stairs in order to avoid another spray of cold water. After another attempt and attack, he will know that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted and he will not try again.

Next, remove another of the original four monkeys, replacing it with a new monkey.  The newcomer will head for the banana and will then be attacked by the other monkeys. Note that the previous newcomer will take part in the punishment and do so with enthusiasm.

Then, replace a third original monkey with another new monkey, followed by a fourth.  Each time the newest monkey takes to the stairs in an attempt to get the banana he will attacked by all the other monkeys and will not try to reach the banana again.

Having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, none of the monkeys will try to climb the stairs for the banana, because in their experience, being attacked while trying to get a banana is the culture of the group. It’s the way it has always been.

And that is how today’s House and Senate operate, with no members having a memory of a time when hard negotiations led to compromise for the betterment of the country. Instead, we see near-universal demand that, “It’s all about me and my getting my way and I’ll attack you if you disagree with me because I’d rather get nothing done than to compromise.” (Look for a Disambiguation on this topic soon.)

And that is why, from time to time, we need to replace all of the monkeys at the same time.

Note: This narrative is meant as no disrespect to rhesus monkeys.

Here is a link to the publication of the original work by Stephenson.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Spirit

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  .

Religion is all about rules laid down by people who lived a long time ago, rules commonly called dogma. Those people said (or somebody else said) that the words of their dogma were given to them by God or inspired by God. It is an act of faith to believe what cannot be proven, like the holiness of those written words. Billions of people make that leap of faith willingly. That is their religion.

Spirituality is different. It has no rules. There is no dogma and it requires no faith. It is simply about how we live our lives and the energy and passion we put into the world. Whether we’re living in the tiny cracks of life or on the mountain tops, we are all spiritual. The only question is whether we recognize it and the effect of our spirit on ourselves and on others.

And that is what has me troubled these days, as we see that about 30% of people who self-identify as Republicans say that they support Donald Trump. He lashes out in mean spirited ways and declares his judgment of doom on those he doesn’t like. He has simplistic and misleading answers for any question and everything is metaphorically punctuated with a middle finger. The more he does his crazy, angry dance, the more Republicans seem to like him. Compounding that are the other candidates who carpet bomb the country with their negativity, their mean attacks and their outright lies. Each of them has followers, too.

What is that saying about the spirit of all these followers? Not their religion. I’m talking about the spirit in them. It’s looking pretty mean and angry, judgmental and vindictive.

Spirit is about how we live our lives. We demonstrate our spirit in that way and it appears that a lot of Americans are living in very dark ways. That’s an evil spirit that affects all of us.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

If I Agreed With You

http://www.zazzle.com.au/if_i_agreed_with_you_wed_both_be_wrong_t_shirts-235415623791821038

http://www.zazzle.com.au/

Reading time – 16 seconds  .  .  .

Frequent business travel offers many opportunities to learn.

For example, I saw a guy wearing this T-shirt at O’Hare Airport last week. It pretty well defines our national attitude toward open-mindedness, eagerness to learn, tolerance of change and even to creativity.

How’s that working for us?

If it isn’t working well, what can you do to help to change things for the better? Try this notion.

My pal Ozzie Gontang likes to say, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” As you can see, he’s a pretty smart guy. He’s wise.

So, what you can do about all that closed-mindedness in America is to be open-minded. Go ahead – I promise that just listening to people with whom you disagree won’t damage you or compromise your integrity. And for one brief shining moment America will be the better for your effort.

Then, after listening to those people with different thinking than yours, you still have the opportunity to call them an idiot and things will be back to what passes for normal in America.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Understanding Charleston and That Flag

Confederate Battle FlagReading time – 4 seconds  .  .  .

If you want to understand Charleston, the Confederate battle flag and U.S. history, read this.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

It’s The System, Stupid

Freddie Gray being arrested in Baltimore for no known reason

Freddie Gray being arrested in Baltimore for no known reason

Reading time – 71 seconds

It’s been wall-to-wall coverage of the riots in Baltimore and the conversation has largely been focused on who is to blame. It’s the thugs. It’s the mayor. It’s the police. And everybody wants to figure out what the police should do to tamp down the violence. Once again we’re looking the wrong way and solving the wrong problem.

Our hard liners look at the rioting and are appalled, calling the people in the streets lazy and shiftless (“Why don’t they get a job instead of looting the CVS?”), ignorant and useless (“Why don’t those kids stay in school?”). They say that those people should have respect for the police.

Really? What happened in West Baltimore was predictable with a certainty matched only by gravity.

The people who were able to get out left long ago, taking their money with them to the suburbs and allowing the city schools to rot, so the kids left behind now receive a lousy education. The factories were rewarded for sending their jobs first to the south, then to other countries, leaving those still in the city without jobs. The businesses that stayed have been rewarded for their short term thinking that only enriches stockholders and the bosses. There was no money left for innovation or for worker training. The police aren’t policed and the bad cops take out their meanness and anger on helpless citizens, like Freddie Gray.

It doesn’t work the way proscribed by the hardliners when there is no education to be had. It doesn’t work that way when there are no jobs to be found so that the unemployment rate in West Baltimore is 21%. And it doesn’t work that way when the police beat the stuffing out of people, even if they aren’t suspected of a crime.  Wake up: The entire system is broken.

People don’t riot because they are ignorant, shiftless or lazy or inherently bad. People riot because they are angry and frustrated and feel trapped. They riot because the people who are supposed to protect them instead beat them and kill them. They riot because they have been abused all their lives and it’s gone on for generations and it’s nearly impossible to see even a tiny ray of hope.

If we don’t want people to riot, we have to fix the reasons that people riot. Just being reactive to the violence won’t get the job done. In fact, all it will do is to ensure that there will be yet another round of rioting in the future.

None of this excuses the rioting, the looting, the arson or the brick throwing. But answer these questions for yourself: If you lived in utter hopelessness, as had all your forebears, how long would you tolerate it? If the kid next door was beaten so badly by the cops that he died, how would you react? If you were constantly the last one hired and the first one fired and your children were hungry, what would you do?

This isn’t a game. It is the lives of millions of Americans in our cities and especially those in areas like West Baltimore. We can change this if we have the will to stop thinking short term and solely for the benefit of just a few and instead focus relentlessly on what really needs to be done. We can change this if we are willing to do something other than just clamp down harder. Or we can go on pretending that more police will cure the problem.

But how’s that working for us?

One last question: Who benefits from a system that works like this? Hint: Follow the money.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Hey Good Cop: Where Are You?

Rodney King Beaten By LA Cops

Rodney King beaten by LA cops

Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

An open letter to the good cops of America

When Rodney King was blasted by a Taser and then had the stuffing beaten out of him by four Los Angeles cops, what did you have to say about that? Did you speak out?

Mike Brown on the street in Ferguson, MO

Mike Brown on the street in Ferguson, MO

After Officer Darrin Wilson killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, why didn’t we hear your concern about Wilson’s actions? Why was the only public statement made by Ferguson cops focused on creating a legal defense fund for Wilson? What about Mike Brown?

Walter Scott attempts to flee in North Charleston, SC

Walter Scott is shot in the back in North Charleston, SC

This week Officer Michael Slager put 8 bullets into the back of Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC. Scott was attempting to flee, but his overweight, 50-year-old body could barely manage a jogging pace. Nevertheless, Officer Slager decided that his own life was in danger as Scott ran away from him and he shot Scott to death. Then he placed evidence near the body to make it look like he had justification for murdering Scott. We’ve all seen the video of the episode. So have you, good cop. Where is your voice of outrage over this? Where are you?

Francis Pusok being beaten by sheriff's deputies near San Bernadino, CA

Francis Pusok being beaten by sheriff’s deputies near San Bernadino, CA

Also this week, cops in San Bernadino, CA apprehended Francis Pusok after a car, foot and horseback chase ended in the high dessert. Pusok flattened himself face down on the ground, spread eagle, making it clear that he was surrendering. For his effort he got Tased, beaten with fists and clubs and kicked repeatedly in the head by 10 deputies. Other than Sheriff John McMahon saying that there will be an investigation and that the deputies were put on administrative leave, there simply haven’t been any voices of good cops raised in protest over the outrageous violence of the obviously bad cops.

In fact, when bad cops act out there never are voices raised by good cops. Is the fraternal bond so stupidly strong that good cops refuse to speak out against their own bad actors? If it is, then there is something dreadfully wrong with that fraternity. If this were a social fraternity on a college campus, it would be expelled.

Are we supposed to understand the frustration of deputies chasing on foot over rocks and up mountains after a bad guy and then accept that they get to vent their frustration on the guy who caused the chase and that it’s okay for them to beat him to unconsciousness? If you think that, good cop, then you are badly misguided. And you are part of the problem.

Here’s the thing: If you can’t keep your emotions in check so that you act professionally at all times, then find another line of work, because you aren’t worthy of the public’s trust, nor worthy of authority over anyone else.

On the other hand, you likely know quite well the difference between right and wrong. We’re just not hearing about it from you. We’re not hearing your outrage over the brutality of the bad cops. We’re not hearing you press for special prosecutors in cases of police misconduct so that the cozy relationship between cops and prosecutors doesn’t short circuit justice. All we are hearing is your thunderous silence in the face of the reprehensible behavior of your fellow cops.

It’s time to stand up and be counted for what is right, good cop. Where is your voice? Where are you?

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Be Like Monica

MonicaReading time – 61 seconds  .  .  .

Monica Lewinsky was a 22 year old intern in the Clinton White House when she engaged in her youthful indiscretion with the President. At the time President Clinton was 49, old enough to be her father and certainly old enough to know better. He was supposed to be an adult.

– John Boehner is supposed to know not to invite a leader of a foreign government to speak to a joint session of Congress without first getting approval from the President.

– Mitch McConnell is supposed to know that hostage taking by withholding a vote on a new attorney general is harmful to our system of justice. He is supposed to know that shutting down the government and shuttering homeland security are assaults on America.

– Mitt Romney is supposed to know that 47% of Americans are impoverished, not moochers.

– Ted Cruz is supposed to know something – anything.

– 47 Republican senators are supposed to know not to meddle in foreign policy, that it is under the purview of the Executive Branch of government. And they should at least quote the Constitution accurately and they should never direct a foreign government to distrust the United States of America.

– Governor Scott Walker is supposed to know that he should not be in the pocket of the Koch brothers.

– Sarah Palin is supposed to know – oh, forget it.

What each of these people have in common is that, like President Clinton, they are old enough to know better. They are supposed to be adults. Their indiscretions are anything but youthful and theirs are enormously damaging to America, which Ms. Lewinsky’s activities most certainly were not.

She has moved on, with several painful lessons having been learned, including how our sensationalist press feeds our sensation-seeking citizenry and how that is instrumental in the painful bullying and shaming of so many people. Watch her powerful TED talk here. She has grown and is intentionally being of service to others.

Too bad so many of our “pubic servants” in Washington, people who are supposed to know better, are intentionally refusing to be of service to America.

————————————-

TODAY’S ACTION STEP: Corporations that receive government contracts secretly funnel undisclosed piles of cash to help elect and re-elect the very same lawmakers responsible for awarding those contracts.

The President has the authority to shine a light on these influence payments with the stroke of a pen on an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending. Tell President Obama we want disclosure by federal contractors both HERE and HERE.

  • ————————————-

    Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

    ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

We’ve Forgotten

brainReading time – 39 seconds  .  .  .

Before the New Deal millions of Americans spent their later years, when they were no longer able to earn a wage, in abject poverty. That’s a key reason Social Security was created. We seem to have forgotten about all that suffering of our elderly.

Before Medicare millions of Americans spent years in health crisis, which often led to bankruptcy. It frequently led to having to choose between getting critical medical care and eating. We seem to have forgotten about that suffering, too.

Before the GI Bill only a small percentage of Americans went to college. That bill and the education it spawned were major contributors to the phenomenal economic growth of our nation and the personal wealth expansion that followed World War II. It lifted millions of Americans out of poverty and into middle class security. At the same time that was happening we were expanding our state colleges and universities in order to provide low cost education. That, too, made it possible for Americans to be prepared for our rapid economic expansion and to join the ranks of our middle class. But we seem to have forgotten about how those investments in education helped everyone.

Before we had food stamps millions of Americans were hungry all the time and children went to bed at night with empty stomachs. That program alleviated the suffering of our poor to a great extent, but it appears that we’ve forgotten how bad it was for them.

Actually, we’ve forgotten how bad it was for us, because the ancestors of most Americans suffered like that.

And that’s the point. We have a national amnesia about how bad some people had it before we as a nation decided that there was something we could do about it and we’ve forgotten that those people who suffered were our own families. Now many of us are comfortable, removed by multiple generations from our families’ suffering and our comfort has caused us to lose sight and to lose compassion.

If loss of compassion for others who suffer is somehow okay, we at least should recognize that pulling the plug on programs that help our own people is the same as pulling the plug on America.

But we seem to have forgotten where we came from.

————————————-

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

1 2 3 4 5  Scroll to top