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The Political Divide

The Political Divide

by Marco M. Pardi

The differences between the conservative and the radical seem to spring mainly from their attitude toward the future. Fear of the future causes us to lean against and cling to the present, while faith in the future renders us receptive to change.” Eric Hoffer. The True Believer.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are open for comment.

Readers throughout the world will agree that all advanced nations have some fundamental document, usually referred to as a Constitution, which enshrines their core values. And, most if not all have mechanisms for formally altering that document should the need arise. But therein lies the rub.

Through most of my life I’ve heard the American political divide stated as Conservative versus Liberal. In the 1960’s, we endlessly heard the term Radical. In recent years we are increasingly hearing the term Progressive. I have never identified as a member, official or merely sympathizer, of any such group. But the question remains: Who’s who?

Until John Kennedy came along my family was knee-jerk Republican, which meant Conservative. Unsatisfied with labels I looked into the values and feelings of that group. And I found what I felt were deep and irreconcilable contradictions. For starters, it seemed the conservatives were dedicated to conserving the values enshrined in the American Constitution without consideration of the accelerating pace of change in every aspect of our lives. Yes, there is a long train of Amendments, but they were grudgingly won in protracted court battles often long after the original petitioners are dead.

But then, as I was growing up in the extremely repressive 1950’s under a “conservative” administration, I noticed that, while “Freedom” was the mantra, there were book and film bannings in several cities and public libraries, words that could not be said and scenes that could not be shown on television, “Public Service” films on television which relegated women to a status about equal to a household appliance and children to indentured servants. “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, which was to be recited with vigor at the start of each school day, whether you believed in a god or not and whether, as I had, you took that oath at your Naturalization Hearing thinking it was a solemn and once in a lifetime oath. (I tried explaining to a teacher that when I took that oath I did not know it had to be renewed every day. Oh, that went well.) In short, the core value of “Liberty for all” was directly contradicted by everyday life.

These contradictions were far more apparent when we looked at the rules and regulations aimed at personal life, such things as sodomy laws, cohabitation laws, abortion laws, etc., versus corporate life and making a profit. Corporations of every type fought hard against every attempt to promote and develop consumer safety, such as in vehicle design; consumer health, such as clean air and clean water regulations; food safety, and the list goes on. In every case the conservative mantra was Deregulate, just as it is today in the conservative camp. Buyer Beware applies today almost as much as ever.

It’s strange that for the last few years conservatives have been praising the “good old days” of the 1950’s when, in the 1950’s, people of the same political and social orientation were praising the “good old days” of a mythical frontier past. Nothing like a good old Tom Mix “western” movie, or a Hopalong Cassidy cowboy series on a Saturday morning. Shoot the bad guys, save the helpless damsel, ride off into the sunset. All without indoor plumbing. The “good old days” meme is less common today, but the drive to squelch advancements in science on every front – except where there is profit to be made, is alive and well.

I didn’t hear the term Liberal much in the 1950’s. I did hear “egghead”, “pointy headed professors” and other pejoratives aimed at anyone who dared to publicly think aloud. They were the “ivory tower” types, probably lurking on elite college campuses and plotting to subvert our virginal youth with their talk of the United Nations and other “world government” cabals. But if there could be anything which drew me to listen and learn, it was people who dared to think aloud.

Now, I should not give the impression I agreed with everything proposed by the Liberal voices. I thought some of it was naive, and even a few steps from self destructive. For example, I watched the rise of communes, and their all but certain demise as they gallantly refused order in favor of “doing your own thing”. But those fledgling efforts were fringe groups, lacking the DNA to grow and replicate. However, what the larger society missed was the principle underlying these efforts: the realization that “It Takes a Village……” and that village is global. When people crow that the United States is the most powerful nation on Earth they must equally realize that powerful nations render effects far beyond their borders. And those effects have consequences. No nation stands for long atop the mound if their actions, or inactions, erode and weaken the very mound upon which they stand. And being the world’s number one exporter of arms, the number one exploiter of all non-renewable resources, and the sole deserter from international accords while it pursues its “Do your own thing” mentality in profit making is simply a version of an imploding commune writ large.

Admittedly, the shift from the largely mythical history of the United States toward being a responsible member of the world community will not happen quickly. But then, quick solutions have themselves become the expectations of too many Americans. In saying the liberal position favors forward thinking while the conservative position favors (often false) memory I am reminded of how I explain the bedrock of science. Science does not advance only by re-inventorying what we’ve known; it advances by asking what do we not know. This brings us up to date with the Progressive movement we are now hearing more of. The title itself should clarify the operant ethic: Progress, but carefully defined and carefully developed.

I remember an ad from the 1950’s, “Progress is Our Most Important Product.” And I remember thinking at the time, But what if what we have works? Progress for the sake of progress leads to abuses, such as charging more for a product simply because it has been redesigned with no clear benefit from doing so. Our politics are a product of our society and while we must be adaptive to new realities we must be equally careful to reject change for the sake of change. This has never been more obvious than in the 2016 Presidential election.

And so, when considering the buffet of political groups on offer, what happens when the diner finds nothing on the table fully appealing? Does she go away hungry, choosing not to vote? Or is she drawn to that sideboard in the corner, the one with the narrow selection called Third Party, or Independent, or Green Party, or whatever is fashionable these days?

Frankly, when I hear of people casting their votes for outliers I think of someone who is asserting a personal position at the cost of a national vote. In other words, throwing away a vote just to feel better. Yes, making a statement is important. But only if someone is listening. Votes cast on the fringe deplete those which could have been cast for a viable candidate, and sometimes contribute to a “spoiler” effect. Votes cast for a statement of principle may be personally satisfying, but masturbation never gave birth to anything.

Democracy has its flaws but totalitarian Fascism is unimaginably worse. In the 2020 election cycle the choice has never been clearer. A common saying in the voting season is, “Hold your nose and make your choice”. Of course, the message is that rarely, if ever, does a candidate or party completely satisfy a thinking voter; there will be areas of disagreement. But the election of 2016 undeniably demonstrated that the United States is running low on thinking voters, or those who can and do think are simply walking away.

Even if you are not eligible to vote, please think, and think aloud. And if you are eligible to vote, please do so in a thoughtful way.

Lipreading in the Age of Covid-19

Lipreading in the Age of Covid 19

by Marco M. Pardi

Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything” Laurence Stern. Tristam Shandy. 1767

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. Registration as a follower, which is free, is recommended for those wishing to comment. All previous posts are open for comment.

Read my lips. No new taxes.” So said George H.W. Bush while accepting the Republican nomination for President at the Republican National Convention on August 18th, 1988. We did. And what did we get? New taxes.

While George’s words came back to him in the next election, they should not be called outright lies. Instead, they were more likely a simple display of lack of foresight; he had little idea of the quicksand his policies were developing and how they would inevitably swallow him. So even after eight years serving as our de facto President while the former actor Ronald Reagan watched his old movies, napped, and read his lines as directed, G.H.W. Bush was unable to carry out his official four year term without facing reality.

This time is different. We have a carnival barker for a president, a man for whom several “fact checkers” have documented in excess of 20,000 outright lies or deceptive statements since taking office. It would seem the fact checkers could dramatically lighten their load by switching to documenting the vanishingly rare truthful statements that may have inadvertently escaped him.

Most of Trump’s lies are so transparent they need no in-depth analysis. More concerning, however, are seemingly casual statements which go unchallenged. For example, his administration has pushed through a record number of right wing extremists to appointments as federal judges. Most of these have been below public scrutiny. But in more high profile appointments Trump routinely claims he has known the person for a very long time and has admired his work. Two questions should immediately arise: When selecting a person in a far flung region of the United States how does a five or six time bankrupt real estate grifter from New York City know this person “for a very long time”? Trump was a registered Republican in 1987. But between then and 2015 he switched his party five times, from Republican to Democrat to Independence Party of New York and back and forth as the wind blew. So how does a person with no firm and long lasting political convictions “admire the work” of anyone for a “very long time”?

It seems to me the answers are obvious. He has no idea who these people are and no idea of their judicial record. What he does have an idea of is the desire of the cabal of neo-fascists who are using him to further their own ends. They prevented his removal from office subsequent to his impeachment, thereby interrupting what should have been his frog-march into a Southern District of New York criminal court on bank fraud and tax evasion charges. Donald J. Trump is merely the mask hiding the lips of the ultra-right neo-fascist party which has been masquerading as the Republican Party since the late 1970’s. Unfortunately, unlike the surgical masks worn during this pandemic, the mask known as Trump will far more likely infect people than protect them. That seems to be the reason his party dd not dispose of him when he was impeached.

Who are the other players in this Kabuki theater? Actually, though they may not realize it, the rest of the planet has existential stakes in the coming presidential election. On one measure alone, impact on the environment, the neo-fascist party has already rolled back or eliminated every safeguard put in place by previous administrations. Some Americans may dream of escaping this nightmare by moving to some far off country. But the reality comes home quickly enough when air currents from unregulated U.S. industries, energy conglomerates, and motor vehicles bring particulates which alter worldwide weather patterns and poison those often advertised exotic springs from which so many people derive their over priced bottled water.

More specifically, both the American National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have found that the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (GRU), Russian Military Intelligence, is using a hacking tool code named “Drovorub” to break into an operating system used across many computer server infrastructures. The specific team identified is the 85th Main Special Service Center (GtsSS) and the military unit is 26165. The Chinese are also separately involved but, unfortunately, the Ministry of State Security, the Guoanbu, is practically opaque to Western Intelligence. And, of course, the Iranians are in the mix. The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, more easily referenced as the VAJA, is deeply entrenched in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to name a few countries.

The Russian intent, as made clear by Vladimir Putin, is much more targeted than his directed efforts at disrupting the 2016 elections; the intent is specifically to ensure that America’s most incompetent and dangerous president is re-elected. Putin has been, and is being quite candid about this. On the other hand, China has made it clear that they “favor” a Joe Biden presidency.

How is it that two totalitarian States have such different outcomes in mind? For starters we can say that each and every Putin wish has been granted at least partially if not fully. From the start of Trump’s presidency there have been serious questions of whether Russia holds extremely damaging “kompromat” on Trump, making him a 21st Century version of The Manchurian Candidate.

China, on the other hand, holds massive American debt. A three millennia long player in international trade and politics, China plays the long game, knowing that delayed payment is better than no payment because your debtor is defunct. And, the debt can always be played to extort concessions from the United States in the Pacific Region. For this to work, the debtor country must have stable and sane leadership, not an unpredictable and pathologically ill President – even if he is only a mouthpiece for an equally ill cabal.

So, as we move toward the countdown to elections we are likely to see the thoughts and tactics of Hitler and Goebbels put once again into action: In his excellent book, The Coming of the Third Reich, Richard J. Evans quotes from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, that good propaganda speaks to feelings and not reason and that “it should never admit a glimmer of doubt in its own claims, or concede the tiniest element of right in the claims of the other side”. Sound familiar? It should. It is the daily lip-synch from the Oval Office.

Of course, it must be obvious whom I will vote for, but the critical task ahead of those of us who care is to help others understand what they will be hearing and seeing over the next couple of months. In her excellent book, The End of America, Naomi Wolf advises us that, “Dictatorships specialize in faking news and falsifying documents. Hitler wrote that ‘all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand.’… To back up its disinformation campaigns, such regimes often rely on false documents. These counterfeit documents often assert that there is a threat to the home population.” Does “The Deep State” come to mind?

Trump himself has given his blessings to the Q-Anon cult. This mixed confederation gave us the famous claim that the Clintons were running a child abduction and sexual slavery ring out of the basement of New York pizza parlor. An armed man drove several hundred miles to rescue the children, charging into the place and shooting up the store only to find there was no basement. That’s the power of repeated propaganda.

In all fairness, the word propaganda began as a neutral term. It simply means to propagate or dispense or disseminate an idea or claim; it does not in and of itself indicate the claim is true or false. However, over the years the word itself has become a pejorative. If someone wants to label the claim of another as ipso facto false, they label the claim “propaganda”, and it does the job. So while lips will be moving all around us as they voice claims, it will be up to us to read them and determine their veracity.

In the hands of amateurs propaganda can be amusing. A current example is the intense television video depicting Joe Biden as responsible for needlessly ruining the lives of thousands by initiating and supporting Draconian laws which put many in prison for unjustly lengthy terms. The video was directly aimed at the African-American population. But then the Black Lives Matter demonstrations captured the news nationwide and, though it was obvious that agent provocateurs (a time-worn Republican tactic) infiltrated the demonstrations and fomented the violence and burning, many people became concerned over the call to defund the police. Actually, defund was a poor choice of words, like global warming instead of climate change. The philosophy of defunding was aimed at reducing the police capabilities to arm themselves with military hardware appropriate to invasion of another country and redirecting that funding toward increased training and community outreach. But, like global warming, the term stuck.

(The original video depicting Biden as a law and order zealot has been pulled from the airwaves. It would have directly contradicted the next false message.)

Suddenly, the Republican propaganda machine shifted to depicting Joe Biden as favoring defunding and even eliminating police (he certainly does not, and has said so repeatedly). Now we are bombarded with claims that a Biden election will bring chaos, anarchy, the end of civilization, insurmountable danger to our children, and other unpleasant disasters. But the fact is that Trump himself initiated efforts to monetarily defund police across the nation to the tune of half a billion dollars. Biden is against monetary defunding, Trump is for monetary defunding, but the propaganda still plays to the fears and ignorance of the population.

Ultimately, the ability to read lips and discern the meaning comes from sound and developed education. Our national pause as we contend with Trump’s utterly failed management of the pandemic response has hopefully afforded many the time and opportunity to better prepare themselves for the decision they will render in November. If you are eligible to do so, please vote.

The planet you save may be your own.

Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s Remorse

by Marco M. Pardi

I regret nothing, says arrogance; I will regret nothing, says inexperience.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach. Aphorisms

All comments are welcome and all previous posts are open for comment.

In the past few months I’ve read, seen, and personally heard a remarkable number of seemingly otherwise intelligent people expressing regret for having voted an utterly incompetent con man and fraud into the Presidency of the United States. I say seemingly otherwise intelligent because I’m mystified by why they would have bought into the lies and deception and voted that way in the first place. But then, many of these people were “single issue voters”, as in the “Right to Life” crowd – a vile misnomer which should read “Right to Birth” – who hoped this candidate would end abortion and even contraception. In essence, their magical belief in the full humanness of a fertilized egg helped elect an administration with social, military, environmental, anti-science, and foreign affairs policies that doom millions to an early death while destroying the lives of countless species on this planet. Of course, there were other agendas as well, such as those who hated Hillary Clinton but could not articulate a single coherent reason why.

There have been many articles and books published on why we vote the way we do, even strongly against our own best interests. Yet, distilling population data down to the individual with whom you are speaking still leaves a void. I perceive that void as the individual psyche, an amorphous cloud of emotions, biases, prejudices, and beliefs hopefully overseen by a governing body of rational thought. But what happens when the governing body loses its grip?

I’m not a psychologist, although one of the federal agencies for which I worked classified me as “psychological anthropologist” so I could travel widely and freely doing what I do best. But after seven decades of observing and listening I am still occasionally surprised when I hear someone I “know” say, “Well, I voted for Trump but I won’t again.” Is it the person of Trump they are disillusioned with, or have they realized the agenda of the people who ushered Trump into place? A few simple and non-threatening questions often bring out the answer, and usually it is the former: disillusionment with the man. Typically, they didn’t give much thought, if any, to the horde of flesh eating parasites hiding in Trump’s shadow, even after so many of them were dragged into the sunlight and dismissed and/or convicted.

That leaves me with the feeling that this now remorseful person remains vulnerable to the next demagogue that group of parasites loquaciously props in front of us. In sum, no great epiphany has occurred, the person with whom I’m speaking remains the same. So how do we reach the multitudes still out there?

In the early years of the Viet Nam misadventure we tried the “Hearts and Minds” approach, attempting to sway the South Vietnamese population to see us as allies and friends. The Tip of the Spear was the military group known as the Green Berets. Trained in the local language, field medicine, and the fundamentals of the culture, they quickly gained the sobriquet “Armed Anthropologists”. Well, we saw how well that worked out.

But it wasn’t an ill informed policy. Years earlier we saw how the failed Presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson was brought down by common sentiment labeling him as “effete, an egghead”, and other aspersions directed at his intelligence. Clearly, an appeal to the collective intellect of the American voters was doomed at birth. An appeal to where the voters “lived”, that is, to their feelings, beliefs and emotions, may have worked far better. Facts and logic cannot gain traction in a vacuous mind. The Stevenson campaign failed to recognize that.

We saw repeatedly throughout Donald Trump’s campaign rallies that he aimed for the heart, not the head. As he strutted before his audiences the camera panned over seas of vapid, pre-orgasmic faces waiting suspensefully for his next inane, titillating claim. And the show went on.

Even now, though the rallies have dwindled in attendance for various reasons, the effects are manifest in the numbers of people refusing to wear masks during a nationwide, indeed worldwide pandemic. We so often hear the mythical refrain, “It’s about my personal freedom”, a core value in American life. But it’s not about personal freedom; it’s about one’s sense of responsibility to others. However, that calls for an exercise in logic, albeit simple, and those neural cells are just not active, if there at all.

About a year ago some in-laws and friends came for a visit. We had a mixture of three different languages represented and the accents were quite thick, sometimes making it easier to just drift into another language. One asked me why, after years of speaking English, she still spoke with an accent whereas I had none. I explained the large and universally flexible neural network associated with speech and how, in early speech development, our significant others reward some sounds and discourage others thus rewarding some neural pathways and allowing all the others to fall into disuse and become difficult to bring into use. Essentially, why children are more able to successfully become multi-lingual than are adults. I think the same applies, to some degree, in the development of other – directed logical thinking versus self – directed emotional feeling. If we do not stress thinking of others to children we must not be surprised when they grow into an adult who thinks only of his own wants and needs versus those of others. And I think this applies to “anti-vaxers” and anti-abortion/contraception people as well. In their mythical and magical little worlds they fail to see the damage they do to others, becoming reservoirs for disease, allowing their children to be at risk, and relegating women to the status of brood mares while at the same time voting to cut social and financial support to the resulting children.

Just as we take our time with children as they learn to form and properly employ words, we must do so with the development of logical thought and the calculation of consequences. In fact, this practice would be helpful in immediate ways as children enter school. For example, mathematics is logic expressed as numbers. Of course, the process of learning takes time but the earlier we start the easier it will be. I remember when high schools offered courses such as Home Economics. These should be reinstated nationally as required courses which include in depth learning about the environmental and social impacts and costs of products used in our everyday homes. Sex Education should be taught in every school with an emphasis on contraception and the long term costs of raising a child.

Admittedly, enrolling a formed adult in this process presents far greater challenges. Certainly, the easier course would be to claim these people are beyond repair and just hope the next generation corrects the problem. But the very existence of the next generation is mortally threatened by the actions of this one. There will be those we are tempted to give up on – “He’ll never change…” – and there will be those whose expressed logic is still heavily accented with personal biases, prejudices, and beliefs. But there are ways to start. One simple starting point is with the advertising industry. The messaging has to change from, Do you want this to Do you need this. Every item or consumable over a certain dollar amount must carry an equal time message stating its long term cost, the environmental cost of its production, transport and storage, and the social impact of these costs.

Churches that teach the “Prosperity Gospel”, that some God wants you to be rich and prosper, should be fully taxed in amounts commensurate with the damage to society and the environment their nonsensical myths are bringing. There are no socially redeeming qualities in the wanton destruction of the environment.

So, I recoil internally when I hear someone express remorse over having voted for the voracious locusts now holding most of the power in this country. Far more than what these late-comers feel, I want to know what they will do. I think two of the most overly used words in any language are, “I’m sorry”. Show me, don’t tell me. As the old Hollywood adage goes, Talk’s cheap.

Tough Love

Tough Love

by Marco M. Pardi

If you are visited by pain, examine your conduct.” TALMUD. Rabbinical writings.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are also open for comments. This post might inspire those who have not previously commented to do so. It is strongly suggested that, if you have not registered as a follower, you do so as it makes posting comments easier for you. And, your comments are less likely to go into the roughly 600 SPAM emails I receive daily, mainly from Russians with erectile dysfunction.

I should have read the Talmud before beginning school. Paddled by nuns, pounded by monks, I took a while to review and restructure my oblique deviousness and make it into a successful career. But those injuries healed long ago. And, without doubt, many would agree I must have learned something from them. Which brings me to the pains of the present day and what lessons may be learned therein.

I’ve written several times of the recent developments in the United States, chiefly the emergence of the decades old American Fascist Party now dressed as Republicans. And, I’ve written of the increasing global threats to most life forms as these same people dominate the industries which, for their short term economic gain, are polluting and killing this planet beyond repair. But some readers might wonder how else I spend my day.

I subscribe to and/or belong to at least fifty organizations ranging from medicine to politics, science to environmental and animal rights, and national and international social issues. Consequently I receive hundreds of emails daily, about half of which enable me to take action in some form. Careful to avoid sitting too long at a stretch, I pace myself with two to three hours dealing with these emails interspersed with other activities. So, I average a bit over six hours daily reading and engaging where I can. But lately something has been developing in my consciousness: More than just the nagging thought that many of my petitions and carefully crafted letters fall on blind eyes, or never reach the addressed person anyway (my State is firmly Republican; every meaningful state office is in those hands), I’ve begun to wonder if trying so hard to help people is in fact enabling the problems from which they are suffering.

I have always reacted on behalf of the dis-empowered, be they human or non-human. Very early in my college teaching career I was the age of the average student. That, and my subject matter, encouraged students to seek my advice and, sometimes, help in personal matters. One student was having an ongoing battle with alcohol. He and his mother were quite poor and his mother was disabled. Several times his mother, or a friend, called me to come over and talk him through another bout. And, several times I took him to county detox to get dried out.

But then a young woman came to me and asked if I would accompany her to an Al-Anon meeting. She was afraid to go alone. It was at that meeting that I first heard the concept of “Enabling”. I was so stricken by the clarity and sense that the next time I got that call to talk Xxxx through a bout I told his friend and his mother to just lock him out of the house. They did. Not long after, he enlisted in the Army and got straightened out. He was not the only one I “closed the door” on. Al-Anon also said a person has to recognize and acknowledge they have a problem. And for some, that comes only when they “hit bottom”.

Almost 20 years later, after working in field epidemiology for just over six years, I transferred into research at the Atlanta headquarters of the Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. I had been working in Public Health clinics in several cities, dealing with cases of sexually transmitted diseases. The research division I entered in Atlanta dealt with HIV/AIDS. So, the physicians I worked with were curious about my work background. Most of them had no idea CDC posted clinicians around the country to deal with STDs. And, they were appalled that the services provided were not only absolutely free, but must be provided even if the patient refused to disclose his or her sexual contacts. I heard a very resounding chorus of “ENABLING” from my gathered colleagues. They were outraged. What they said was perfectly logical, and all I could offer in return was that these policies were effective in getting people to come in for treatment and that we did manage to treat a good percentage of contacts. Contact tracing. But, I did have to admit that a very high percentage of patients were multiple repeat infections who knew they had a free “fixer” at their nearby clinic.

But this was a few levels up from letting a repeat drunk sleep it off in the bushes. I thought about the daily parade of hostile patients, the times I, and others under my supervision, got assaulted, the “You gotta treat me” expressed by so many, and the intense pressure from state and federal levels to “crank out the numbers”. I thought about how my most dire, and I thought effective, warnings to patients apparently meant nothing as I saw them again and again. And then I thought of the babies born with congenital syphilis. I thought of the unsuspecting sex partners now infected with HIV, for which there was no treatment in sight at that time, the babies born addicted to drugs and condemned to lives in this morass we call the “underserved populations”. Alcoholics Anonymous, a blatant religious cult despite its denials, preaches of a “spiritual awakening”. What, if anything, would awaken these people?

And so, as I write this, I have an email page open to the hundreds of emails I receive daily. Many of them are from environmental and animal welfare groups I’ve subscribed to and supported for many years. Others are from social issue and political groups I’ve subscribed to in the past few years. How many petitions will I sign and send today? Probably close to one hundred. How many letters will I craft to politicians, from the President down to the local dog catcher? Probably a dozen or more. And how many petitions for increased financial aid to the now unemployed, and those about to be evicted, and those with dwindling food supplies, and whatever other crisis is put before me will I sign and send today? I don’t know. My keyboarding fingers, 5 out of 10, are slowing as I wonder if I’m not ENABLING the “I’m aboard, pull up the ladder” mentality of those who voted the current regime into power, those who were in their “comfort zone” and so couldn’t be bothered to vote and those who voted the “Tea Party” and other sociopaths into Congress before bothering to find out they were distinctly unqualified, those who openly committed to making the Presidency of a Black man a failure even if their actions brought the country down around them. Are these people like the student I “helped” whenever he needed it? Are they like the STD patients who know there will always be someone there to medicate them for free? Can a person hit bottom if we rush to place a safety net under him every time he does something stupid? Does a person feel he has a problem when there is always someone there to solve it for him? I hear so many express a desire to get things back to the way they were. But I am convinced that a person who has truly learned from a crisis does not wish to return to the circumstances, however pleasant they may have been at the time, which got him into the crisis. People who talk of “returning to normal” do not recognize and acknowledge what normal actually was.

And yet, I am deeply aware of the collateral damage. I will forever carry the memories of the children I saw living in hunger and squalor while their mothers “ran the streets” trading sex for drugs. I understood those children in ways many do not. My daughter has the family albums showing my brother and me as “very slim” figures during WWII in Italy; the occupying Germans stole all the nutritious food. I was three years old and standing in baby shoes; the occupying Germans stole most of the clothing. I’m nearing 80 years old and carry the effects of inadequately treated childhood Pertussis; the occupying Germans stole most of the medicines. So, no one needs to tell me to think of the children when considering the limiting or withholding of the safety nets.

So the classic “I hope he’ll be okay” when locking someone out of the house, and the “we do what we can do” when treating unnecessary diseases morphs into a new paradigm: By always jumping in and supporting people are we in fact preventing them from recognizing and acknowledging the problem, or must we let them hit bottom and accept the collateral damage?

Returning to “normal” would be the worst thing we could do. It was a fantasy built on unseen suffering for far too many, and a tragic cost to the environment that was far too much. Major changes are needed. But will a society addicted to a fantasy actually feel the need to change? Without hitting bottom? Is rushing to place safety nets the way to bring “spiritual awakening”?

This blog is read in many countries. I know I can speak for several of the regular commenters when I express the hope that we will be privileged with comments from those who have not yet done so. And, for everyone, thanks for what you do.

Lemmings

Lemmings

by Marco M. Pardi

The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass-movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the single-handed defiance of the world.” Eric Hoffer. The True Believer.

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Remember the lemmings? As a young boy I heard the myth of these small rodents racing en masse over cliffs to die on the rocks below. Each was driven by an impulse to suicide. Not being inclined to believe stories, I put that in my Maybe file. I was unaware of the fact this myth was centuries old and that some recent film makers had actually thrown lemmings off cliffs in making a film to further that myth. In fact deaths do occur during mass migrations, but not from suicide.

Another example of seemingly reckless behavior is found among the Wildebeests who migrate from Tanzania’s Serengeti plain to Kenya’s Masai Mara. Most of us have seen films of them rushing across a river while crocodiles feast on the young, the old, and the infirm. But this migration is driven by climate, not despair.

Today, while the facts of incidental deaths during mass migrations are more commonly understood, the principle underlying the myth still points uncomfortably toward demonstrable tendencies in human populations.

In his 1979 book, Piercing the Reich, Joseph E. Persico recounts an episode I had heard several times before. An agent recruited by the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA) had successfully infiltrated into Berlin during the last months of WWII. As the city was being reduced to rubble by Allied bombers he asked a Berliner, “Why does the entire nation choose to commit suicide for the sake of one lunatic?”

The man answered, “It’s difficult to get the lunatic certified. He happens to be director of the asylum.”

Does this sound familiar? It should. Among several analyses by trained and experienced professionals a recent letter to Congress signed by over 350 psychiatrists, CIA Profilers, and other mental health professionals warned that the mental health of Donald Trump, titular President of the United States, is deteriorating rapidly and presents a danger to the United States. Another 37 psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers said in a joint letter that President Donald Trump is unfit to be president.

“We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

It should be noted that these and similar letters and opinion pieces were written and publicized long before the Covid-19 pandemic and the related economic meltdown. That is, they were formed before Mr. Trump claimed the virus was a Democratic hoax intended to discredit him, that the virus would disappear in warm weather “like a miracle”, that wearing a mask was for sissies and ingested or injected bleach would clear out the virus. As of this writing the U.S. death toll stands at over 135,000, many attributable to the weeks long delays in any responses or actions taken by the administration charged with protecting the safety of the American people.

But while the administration advised us to “not believe everything you see or read” scientists and scientific institutions began finding their voices. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading Infectious Diseases expert in the United States – and much of the world, and the Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – CDC, emerged from scrambled first responses to positions of internationally recognized authority. CDC, a preeminent scientific institution always muzzled each time a Republican administration takes power, is regaining its voice in the face of outright lies spoken by a former game show host and repeated by the man who claims to be “President”.

However, the emergence of Dr. Fauci and the CDC is apparently threatening to this person, characterized by lifelong Profound Narcissism and Sociopathy. Whitehouse officials have acknowledged that a large part of Trump’s antipathy to Fauci stems from the much more favorable media “ratings” accruing to Fauci.

Yet, as of this writing the collated national polls show a disapproval rating for Trump of 55.6% and an approval rating of 40.3%. Some might take heart in the higher disapproval rating, but 40.3% is a far higher percentage than that of lemmings lost on a migration or Wildebeests culled by crocodiles. It strongly suggests that a major part of the electorate is unable to process factual information coming at them daily.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this is that getting Trump elected seems not to have been the primary focus of Vladimir Putin, rather it is the icing on the cake of sewing broad and crippling distrust in the democratic process itself. And who, after seeing what had been believed to be the least likely outcome of a democratic election held by mature and educated people, would not wonder that something had gone terribly wrong with the democratic process? Looking at the comprehensive economic and environmental wreckage and the hardened polarization among previously amiable co-workers, neighbors, and even family members, that’s got to be some cake Putin got.

By the way, for those who point to the pre-pandemic employment figures and the stock market, please realize those gains were made almost entirely by de-regulation of everything from the safety of your drinking water to the air you breathe and the products you buy and use, including previously somewhat safe food. And, look closely at the employment figures. When they are taken from employer reports they fail to recognize that two or three employers may have hired the same person; many people have two or three jobs due to the low pay and poor or absent benefits in any one of them. The stock market is not an index of how the economy is presently doing. It is an indicator of how the economy is expected to do. People buy stocks in a company on the expectation the company will increase its earnings, not on how the company is currently doing. In short, such investment is a gamble of investing in an imagined outcome. Look at the people who lost fortunes on the “dot-com” bust. How many lemmings went over that cliff?

Readers of this site know that I’ve written extensively of the development of Fascism in the United States. Interestingly, despite Donald Trump’s posturing and gestures imitating Mussolini, I don’t credit him with being intelligent enough to understand and follow an established system of political thought. To the extent that his expressed philosophy and actions do resemble those found in Fascism it is only an incidental resemblance provided by his truly Fascist handlers. So, instead, I credit the American Fascist Party of the 1930’s and early 1940’s which went underground during WWII and re-emerged in the late 1970’s with Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell as their chief puppet and chief spokesperson respectively. For background I refer the reader to Chris Hedges’ 2006 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the war on America.

I remember an advertising slogan from “Madison Avenue” that said basically, “A million people can’t be wrong!” Well, over 67 million people voted for Trump and other “Republican” party candidates. I’m no expert on lemming populations but this seems to be an unusually large wave eager to race over a cliff. Ordinarily I would stand aside and bid them farewell. But this wave threatens to take much of the rest of life on this planet with it. Like potential stock investors, we might examine this prospectus and wonder if this is a company in which we want to invest; is this a company with a future?

Introspection

Introspection

by Marco M. Pardi

Everything can be used as an invitation to meditation. A smile, a face in the subway, the sight of a small flower growing in the crack of a cement pavement, a fall of rich cloth in a shop window, the way the sun lights up flower pots on a window sill. Be alert for any sign of beauty or grace. Offer up any joy, be awake at all moments, to ‘the news that is always arriving out of silence.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, as quoted in Sogyal Rinpoche: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

Can one be a saint if God does not exist? That is the only concrete problem I know of today.” Albert Camus, The Plague.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. And, all previous posts are open for comment. If you do not wish to comment, please forward this site to someone.

The past few months have certainly brought us opportunities for introspection. The suddenly growing specter of a highly contagious and potentially lethal virus, particularly dangerous to those with underlying conditions and/or challenged immune systems; the simultaneous dismantling of air, water, and food safety regulations by a regime which likely will attempt to steal another national election; and, the national explosion over the growing paramilitary actions of institutions we once called “police” have battered us from every side. But in the spirit of Nir Vana (Sanskrit: beyond wind) it is possible to find oneself in a spontaneous state of timelessness and omnipresence in which we hear our Larger Voice issue the challenge: WTF am I doing here?

Each of us has likely had these moments. I’ve had many; probably some curmudgeon psychiatrist would say, Too many. I do remember many of them and I’ve learned to differentiate them from the rather two dimensional visuals which are pleasing but somehow not fulfilling. Lying on my back on the Sahara Desert, looking up at the stars crowding the night sky was pleasing. But it was Me here, Stars there; not a state of timelessness or oneness, especially when listening for any approaching dangers.

On the other hand, I was dispatched to do a job in a city in the very far North. Unforeseen circumstances required me to extend my stay by a few days so I took the car that had been provided for me and drove into the mountains on the northern edge of the city. Acquiring a map would have drawn unwanted attention, so I just drove. It seemed I must have been the first person to ever use this narrow road; I saw no other vehicles or any signs of humans anywhere. Coming out of a mountain pass I suddenly saw the road drop away to an impossibly vast expanse of snow, earth, and sky. Awestruck, I found a place to conceal the car from the road and walked to an outcrop where I could experience the vista without the sight of the road or the ticking of the car losing heat in the frigid air.

As I sat still on a boulder I at first saw a sight like what is depicted in popular science articles of other planets. I almost looked for two moons, or another sun, a nearby planet. And some “where”, some “time” it was no longer two dimensional. I was in it with everything I could see, and everything I could not see. I was in it long before it took form and long after it dissolved. I was I, and I was i I was the Cosmos beyond time and space, and I was a sub-atomic particle on a dirty speck on the fringe of a minor galaxy moving among billions of galaxies through space. But where on that spectrum do I find myself, the bag of meat I shuffle around in, the “skin encapsulated ego” as Alan Watts described it? Am I just the collection of experiences as they flash through my present and become my past? If so, would that mean I’m just living in the past despite my affirmations to the contrary?

The United States, indeed the world, is having to confront its brutal past, even the fatal shooting that happened just a few nights ago in Atlanta. Many people would take offense at my placing it in the past, but it is. The effects are in the present, not the action itself. And our reactions, which are part of those effects, will become our past. Will they define us as we move into an indefinite future?

Sarah Moss, an outstanding author and instructor of Creative Writing, happened to publish in the June 2020 issue of Travel + Leisure magazine a relevant article. Writing of her move from Cornwall (England) to Coventry (England) she speaks of the transformative power of creatively melding memory with present experience.

Coventry was brutally bombed by the Germans in World War II. The post War rebuilding was hastily done, seemingly searching all the while for a modern form. Thoughts of Cornwall kept coming to Sarah, but she realized one day in Coventry, “I needed to learn to enjoy the place for itself rather than picking out what reminded me most of where I wasn’t.”

She tells of an exercise she uses in her writing workshops: “Go outside…. and find something….a leaf…a stone…a discarded item. ….think about how it grew, or was created, where it began, and what it carried to you.” Her message is almost identical to that of Buddhist Mindfulness.

She goes further and tells us of the 14th century cathedral destroyed in the bombing of Coventry and contrasts its standing remains with the attempts to raise a new city around it. In effect she asks, do we want to erase the past? Or does denial of trauma achieve only repression? Yet in looking at the new buildings she sees the hopes of craftsmen haunted by their past but bringing (some) wartime developed technologies to “a new and better purpose”. She sees that something from the past she asked us to pick up and she learns to appreciate its present.

I remember, as a young boy, walking through the streets of Firenze (Florence) looking at the walls of residences and the sprays of deep pock marks left by heavy machine gun fire, the cracked and broken streets never designed to withstand the crushing weight of the steel treads of armored tanks, all looking as fresh as if they had been gouged there the previous night, not six years before. The legacy of a nation which had submitted to the Siren call of Fascism. Ah, but the economy was rebuilding, repair crews were in the streets, the tourists were coming….to look at treasures remaining from previous centuries and checking them off their lists of must-see. Musn’t let them see the scars of yesterday, the horrors of an earlier childhood.

No one can seriously say our present is pleasant to look at, that it’s an immense vista which invites us into a future of oneness and harmony. But here and there, perhaps obscured just now behind the burning building, that flowing cloud of tear gas, or those waving signs there are those testaments of efforts made over the years on our behalf. They are the rights which still stand even as the courts are increasingly stacked with those who would curtail or obliterate them. They are the institutions which, though chipped and pockmarked by repeated assaults, safeguard our generation and provide for the development of those which will follow.

The regime currently in power in the United States continues to mercilessly assault and bomb the Integrity of the United States, once the cathedral for the aspirations of so many around the world. But come November we will have choices to make: Will we allow the past to become our future? Will we obliterate – repress our past? Or will we marshal the craftsmen who can remold our cathedral into a testament of honest memory upon which we can build a better future? A mistake made is not something to be forgotten; it is a touchstone for assessing and measuring our efforts to make a progression, not a repression.

Grasp the reality we now live in. Understand what has brought it to us. Craft a more pleasing future from it. But don’t pretend it never was.

A Challenge

A Challenge

A Forum for Guest Speakers

Last evening I received a very powerfully written piece in response to my opening of this site as a forum for readers. I sincerely hope you will read it and be inspired to write your own post and send it to me.

Each of us has contacts outside this group. Please consider passing along these very meaningful posts as they come in. My request is reproduced below:

These past few weeks have been packed with fundamental issues which have gone poorly addressed for some time. Each of you saw the impact, as far as New Zealand, the writer of that piece on personal experiences with autism had. I’m hoping you will do the same with issues of concern to you, send it to me, and I will mask you as I did the earlier writer if you wish. Marco

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May Actions Speak Louder Than Words

“I truly believe that compassion provides the basis of human survival, the real value of human life, and without that there is a basic piece missing.” ~ the Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness

Thank you, COVID-19 for exposing deeply rooted and long ignored injustice and inequality, and for showing us who truly essential workers are. Thank you for putting the world on pause so we can appreciate racial, gender, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities. I believe that the Great Pause has given us the time to be aware and the momentum to act.

I challenge the reader to let actions speak louder than words. We do not need another corporate email on solidarity without action. So, what can you do?

1. Recognize that great people are average people.

2. Listen. We have two ears and one mouth.

3. Do what you can to better your community.

4. Participate in the political system – vote, send emails, attend town halls.

For some, the capacity for activism and community service may mean staying aware and questioning the stream of propaganda from all sides. Others can volunteer at a local community non-profit for a few hours each month. If you can afford to donate to a charity or be selective on what goods you buy, choose those from sources you think are ethical. For others, community service can be a career.

There is a tale of Two Americas – we are waking up to overt racism and the difference between the Black/Brown and the White America in police brutality, but it does not stop there. We cannot fix our communities – that means helping our neighbors – without recognizing that systematic disparities like food deserts, poverty, unequal access to healthcare services must be fixed. The tale of Two Americas includes urban centers and rural areas – both suffer immense disparities in access to basic services like food or the ability to deliver a healthy baby. Invest in education, invest in women, invest in mental health, invest in services that help average and working people meet their needs. I challenge you to go to any U.S. metropolitan area, look at mansions, then look across the street at run-down apartments and not feel a sense of disgust. Is this the Great America we want to return to? Because I do not.

Finding Peace

Finding Peace

by Marco M. Pardi

There is no such thing as perpetual Tranquility of mind while we live here; because Life itself is but Motion and can never be without Desire, nor without Fear, no more than without Sense.”

Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan.

I do not want the peace which passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Helen Keller

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are open for comment. If you do not feel like commenting, you might pass this along to someone else, perhaps someone you intensely dislike.

If you are not deeply troubled by current events going on in the United States you are likely not breathing. As such, you are not concerned about breathing in Covid-19, the lethal virus our Dear Leader assured us was a “Democratic hoax” and would disappear “like a miracle”. You are not concerned about the tear gas breathed in by increasing numbers of peaceful protesters. Least of all you are not concerned about the greatly increased air pollution generated by the roll back of the Clean Air Act and other environmental safeguards under cover of the other headline issues. No need to check your pulse; you need a heart for that.

By now some readers have assumed I have not found peace. But then, the people who read this site and especially those who comment are of the cerebral type, so no surprise there. What has initially surprised me are the ways increasing numbers of people have adopted as means of finding peace. Turn off the television; watch the knitting channel; meditate; watch porn videos; read a superficial novel; go on an isolated vacation; etc. But all of these are inherently selfish. The common denominator is: Don’t speak out, don’t get involved. These are coping mechanisms, they are not solutions.

Meditation is excellent in the proper context, but it should lead to something beyond the self. And, I was never a fan of vacations, even when faced with “use it or lose it”. Vacations too often are just a different source of stress.

Some Christian people have increased church attendance. But wasn’t Jesus put to death at least partly because of his strident resistance to oppression? How can these people call themselves Christian if they just seek the selfish acquisition of momentary peace?

I communicate with a wide variety of people. Ordinarily that exposes me to several different subjects and perspectives. But now, beneath those surface discussions there is a tension, an often unspoken Keep Calm and Carry On which is increasingly threadbare. The nationwide, and now international explosion over the killing of George Floyd is not outrage over the killing of one man; it was the explosion of rage over generations of this treatment. But this is not simply a “racial” issue; it is the clash of the Haves vs the Have Nots. And I’m not talking just about money or material goods. I’m talking about opportunity.

Early on in this current situation we may have hoped it was “the last straw”. But the deep undercurrents of a centralized ethic held by a very small minority of “Americans” are rising up in response, voiced by a call from the minority winner of the last Presidential election for the American military to act with violence against the American people. This is the man who mocked police for guarding a suspect’s head while he was put into a squad car. “Slam ’em in there! Rough ’em up!” This is the man who told his rally audiences to beat up demonstrators; he would pay any legal costs.

If this call for the military is heeded, and acted upon, there is no predicting the outcome. And coping mechanisms are mere band-aids on the deep psychic wound of uncertainty. When we do turn on the television, put down the novel, or return exhausted from a “restful” vacation what will our world be? Will we have to convince ourselves we live in freedom? Must we chant patriotic freedom mantras to make it so? Or should we drop that pretense altogether?

Check out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Presented in a pyramidal graph, the basic need second from the bottom is Safety and Security. What safety and security are we feeling today? Without the satisfaction of this basic level we cannot find peace, no matter the daily litany of lies told us by Our Dear Leader and his minions.

Some years ago, toward the end of a long and highly varied career with the federal government, I realized I needed to reclaim my humanity. And the best way for me to do that was to return to college teaching, even if only part-time. I did so during the Bush administration and most of Obama’s two terms. I enjoyed helping students discover themselves and develop the confidence to move forward into careers, of whatever kind, with understanding and self esteem. But health uncertainties caused me to withdraw from teaching in 2014. Now I wonder, over the past three years of frank and outright greed, hatred, and looting of the public funds and of the aspirations of so many, how I could stand in front of a class and honestly encourage them to find peace in their self confidence and in their developing wisdom.

Many people know I have a long history in the study of Thanatology and many years in its application. This also has been beneficially useful in conversing with friends and relatives about the one reality we hold in common. But recently I’m hearing, among some who are dealing with serious medical issues, a growing hymn of “Why should I fight to remain in a world of ecological destruction and greed driven political viciousness? This is not the world I would want to live in.”

Do you have a coping mechanism for that? We’ve heard the promises and assurances before, only to see the situation worsen as we turned our attention elsewhere. Some new series on Netflix. A Hollywood divorce scandal. The SuperBowl. What will do it for us this time? What will bring us peace?

Come November, unless the regime – including the stacked Supreme Court – succeeds is suspending elections we may vote the entire collection of vile grifters and Fascists out of office. But then, what have we accomplished? Will we have found peace, or only silence from those who still live among us? Yes, we can “change the system” through legislation. But we can legislate actions, not feelings and beliefs.

Any day now I will get a call for testing to see if I’m a bone marrow donor for a dear cousin, the youngest of our generation. With even successful chemo (which she’s been given a 15% chance of surviving) the transplant might raise her odds to 50% after the chemo. I will not find peace in her ordeal, but I will find a measure of peace in my trying to help. And I am looking after my own health. As I’ve said before, I was born into Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and I do not want to book-end my life dying in yet another Fascist dictatorship.

Pax vobiscum. Marco

Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism

by Marco M. Pardi

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply.

In a galaxy long ago and far away a boy experienced primary and secondary school under the tutelage of cloistered Ursuline nuns and monks of the Brothers of the Holy Cross. Among the lessons they imparted to him the one which recurred most often was: The most meaningful and long lasting lessons are those which arise from excruciatingly painful mistakes. No pain, no gain?

Later, as a grown man, he looked back at life through that principle and decided he must have learned a great deal. And chief among that learning was the realization that there are no mistakes and there is no justification for claiming credit.

As with other discoveries, it didn’t take long for someone to borrow a principle from biology and attempt to apply it to sociology. But it was actually Thomas Henry Huxley who coined the term Darwinism, and Emilie Gautier who originally used the phrase social Darwinism. Herbert Spencer originated the phrase Survival of the fittest. Darwin himself would have rejected the latter two phrases, especially since fittest came to be measured as closer to the White Race and the cultural and economic characteristics thereof. In fact, Darwin’s concept of fit was purely biological: Fitness was measured by reproductive capability and environmental adaptation, not individual strength or the size of one’s bank account. Nonetheless, social Darwinism was quite popular throughout the latter 19 century and early 20th, falling from grace only after the exposure of the horrendous Nazi eugenics (eu – good; genics – genetic structure).

Although social Darwinism is now rarely mentioned in intelligent company, the feelings still prevail in some subcultures and even in some Western religions. Social and economic success is viewed by some as proof of “God’s” approval, much the same as military success in slaughtering another population meant “God was on our side”. And, it lives on in some forms of entertainment such as the “Darwin Awards”, publicizing stupid acts which end in disaster for the participants.

But what about those lessons? I recall bridling at authority figures seeking to control my behavior and saying, “Let me make my own mistakes”. Yet as a parent I certainly wanted to prevent negative outcomes for my child, but I also saw undue protection, insulation from reality, as a negative form of parenting. How could I distinguish between a behavior that could result in a sore bottom from falling versus a behavior which could result in a broken neck? When do I agree to remove the training wheels from the bicycle? At what point do I assert my experience based judgment and intervene? And how well could I defend my assertion of caution if I had only presumptions of danger, not factual experience of negative results?

Somewhat later I observed a form of threat that was immediately effective. While working in a Sexually Transmitted Infections public health clinic in a very rough part of a huge city part of my duties included translating for the physicians working there and for the patients. As patients checked in they were given a number so as to protect their privacy. Usually, I would step into the waiting room and call out three numbers so these individuals could come forward for me to draw blood from them. But one afternoon our Vietnamese physician, a rather severe looking man, stepped into the waiting room with me and called out three numbers. No one moved. He called again, and received only surly looks. The physician then turned to me and loudly said, “Rett dem die. Rett dem aww die” and turned back into the examining rooms. I was almost knocked down by the three bodies rushing in after us. Later, in that and other similar clinics in the early years of HIV I sat with patients and explained to them that their HIV positive results meant they could engage in only safe sex or they would transmit an incurable, non-treatable and almost certainly fatal disease to someone. I signed that counseling session into their medical records. And, I saw them return again and again to be treated for gonorrhea, a certain indicator they had engaged in unsafe sex. I doubt any of them told their partner of their disease status before engaging in sexual contact.

I’ve also read of judges ordering young reckless drivers to spend a number of hours in a hospital emergency room and/or the morgue. Recalling the hour in the Air Force doing required – for all personnel – viewing of such films as Slaughter on the Highways, a particularly graphic film, I can’t say it had much if any effect on how I drove my sports car. My main concern was repair costs, not safety.

So I began to wonder. Just what does it take to get someone to understand the potential seriousness of their choices? Do I have rights and responsibilities, and how far do they extend? I recall thinking, Let the stupid go on killing themselves. A kind of social Darwinism. I remember the saying that, in democracies, people get the government they deserve. The 2016 presidential election was a clear example of what happens when otherwise intelligent people decide to sit out an election and hand off the choice to “the other guy”. It’s like assuming your sexual partner has been forthright with you, or that the driver of the car you are in is mindful of highway safety. You become collateral damage.

But does that really sink in? We’ve come to the point on this planet where we are reaching the incurable, even un-treatable level of damage to our ecosystem. The incomprehensible greed of a numerically tiny portion of the American population is abusing (I’ll spare you the metaphor) all life as we know it on this planet. I’m aware that, following my lengthy rants about the environment, some readers of my columns have found other things to do. I will say, however, I have challenged officials from the White House on down to the local level to answer my question of: Why should I not seek their indictment on charges of Reckless Endangerment. Were I to print the responses I’ve received I could paper the inside of my house.

But I’m speaking not only for my daughter and my grandchildren but for all life on this planet, including humans too stupid to act on their own behalf. “Rett dem die” is a social Darwinist fantasy. If it were only them I could entertain the notion. But our dishonest partners in this life and the glibly careless, thrill seeking drivers of our economic rape of life on this planet are killing more than themselves.

Over these past few years I admit to having thoughts of just keeping quiet, letting ignorance and stupidity cull the herd. I’ve thought that only a major cataclysm, if even that, will change any behaviors. Unfortunately, like the lights coming up on a stage, the full awareness of all that would be harmed by a cataclysm brought on the by the ignorance or stupidity of a few simply overwhelms any resolve I may have had to remain quiet.

There are those who endeavor to still my voice and the voices and efforts of others like me, but we will force them out onto the field under their true colors: Greed, Avarice, and Gluttony. MAGA. Make America Gag Again. Maybe this time we’ll actually vomit out these toxins.

Normal

Normal

by Marco M. Pardi

The condition of alienation, or being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. R.D. Lang. The Politics of Experience. 1967.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are also open for comment.

For many years a common truism in popular psychology has been that clients in counseling feel much better when they are told their fears and fantasies are normal. It seems there is some innate desire to conform to the group to which one feels he or she belongs. This desire takes over even when we know there are problems. For example, we talk about sunrise and sunset even while knowing the sun does not move; it is an acceptable cultural illusion. But we don’t refer true believers in sunrise and sunset for psychological counseling, or at least a primary school science class. As the hideous phrase goes, we go along to get along.

Of course, there are escape valves from the culture game, if only imaginary. As a youngster who never seemed to fit in I slipped quietly through the folding doorways we call book covers, into societies of the past and societies of the future. In a well structured narrative I could feel quite normal. But at some point I recognized the problem: As long as I brought ME into that society everything was actually abnormal precisely because I was a person of one era slipping into a life, albeit fictional, in another era. And that, making everything new and strange, was the attraction. But if I had somehow truly been in that era I would have no awareness of a person from another era. I would feel normal. That is, no different from the person I was without the book. SNAFU (situation normal, all fucked up).

So, all these years I’ve been living in the normal, until the abnormal election of Donald Trump. And since then I’ve been advised to get used to the “new normal”. But what exactly is, or will be that new normal? At first it seemed to be a U.S. president who lied about everything. It was not that lies were never told before, but never told in these numbers and about anything and everything. But after the press counted over 17,000 outright lies and misleading statements we stopped getting the daily or even weekly counts. I guess we reached the new normal. Oh, Trump is speaking; it’s all lies. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

And then something new came along. And, of course, Trump lied. He said it was not as bad as the yearly flu. He said in the first warm days of Spring it would disappear “like magic”. How are these lies and not just mistakes or wishful thinking? Because early last Fall he was warned by the medical divisions of the intelligence agencies exactly what we were in for. His earlier de-funding of the scientific panels comprised of experts from across the science community to assess and develop mitigation for pandemics did not stop that community from also warning him….again. But there were deals to cut, money to be made, and career professionals who testified at his impeachment hearings to fire.

Okay, so we know stupidity yields bad results. Trump has been here a while, the country is more divided than it has ever been since the Civil War; this is normal. But covid19 is still relatively new, and so it merits examination for what it may usher in as the “new normal”. In times like these it is vitally important that we are aware of, understand, and take steps to rectify what we don’t see as much as what we do see.

The general public apparently does not see that, while our eyes are on the apocalyptic cloud of covid19, our lives are being changed, and even threatened by an orgy of de-regulation, hand-outs to mega-pollutant industries, incubation of a host of diseases in overcrowded holding facilities for migrants and asylum seekers, and rushed appointments of ultra-conservative judges to oversee it all.

And once the pandemic is under an as yet undetermined level of control, awaiting us all is the prospect of returning to jobs, gratuitous shopping, packing ourselves into mass transit vehicles, frolicking at “concerts” and sporting events; a better normal than ever before. Or so we are told. By a man who lies about the day of the week.

New normal. A recently completed and peer reviewed study from Harvard confirms what we have suspected for decades: Environmental pollution, particularly air pollution, provides the “underlying condition” that greatly contributes to fatalities associated with pulmonary viral infections. And, figures are already clearly showing higher corvid19 fatality rates in areas of the country blanketed by greater intensities of air pollution. But, the regime in the White House has made it clear they value money more than human life, or any other life on the planet. The regime is removing controls on the coal industry, allowing much greater levels of mercury, arsenic, lead, acid gasses, and lethal particulates to enter the atmosphere from coal fired plants.

This action by the regime rolls back the more than 80% reduction in mercury in the past decade. Mercury causes brain damage in infants. Although airborne in coal plant emissions, it settles in fresh water and penetrates filtration systems to find its way into drinking water and products made with water. No problem; both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are being emasculated to the point of being meaningless. Thus, no violations.

Arsenic, chromium and nickel are carcinogenic. Lead damages children’s nervous systems. Acid gasses cause serious lung disease. All are multiplying exponentially in our environment under the regime’s deregulation.

The Clean Air standards in place until the Trump administration saved 11,000 lives per year and prevented 7,400 heart attacks and thousands of asthma attacks. The health cost benefits were over $90 billion per year, outweighing the costs at a 9–1 ratio.

One would think a political party that loves money more than life would jump at that cost ratio. Well, no. Not when the owners of the for profit health and insurance industries are almost exclusively members of that same political party. They fight the Affordable Care Act and MediCare and MediCaid while promising (for decades) to provide a better health plan. So far, that plan seems to go as follows: The regime’s policies make you sick, you gladly pay to get well. Or, you die. Welcome to the New Normal.

As the fossil fuel industry, the truck and auto manufacturers, and the beef and pork producers frolic amidst the severely reduced emissions standards, particularly the super planet warming methane, the majority of people appear largely unaware of the melting circumpolar permafrost and its implications. Permafrost is a mixture of organic material and soil frozen in place for thousands of years. As it melts due to global warming vast amounts of methane from decomposed organics are released into the atmosphere, hastening the melting further. But along with that released methane is an unknown reservoir of hitherto dormant viruses, known as paleo-viruses. It is almost certain that many, if not most of these paleo-viruses have never encountered Man. And, of course, we therefore have no herd immunity to them. How are these paleo-viruses a threat for those who do not go near the polar regions? Simple. As the exposed soil dries and breaks down to dust the circumpolar winds, including the Jetstream, pick up the dust and blow it around the planet. I’m betting some of that dust in your home is micro-sand from the Sahara, and dust from Siberia.

The current political party in power in the U.S. has a long history of trashing health sciences, even defunding programs such as pandemic preparedness and response groups. All while rushing to provide us with the next pandemic.

Another landscape change we are now getting glimmers of is the effect of isolation, social distancing, home schooling, and unemployed family members on the children who will survive this pandemic. Calls to Domestic Abuse Hotlines have skyrocketed. Gun sales are soaring (gun dealers are considered “essential businesses”). Schools districts that can afford to do so are delivering meals to kids at their homes, or the kids go without. And districts that can afford it supply cheap laptop computers to home bound children so they can continue their school year. Of course, in areas with no internet access this issue is pointless. In homes where the electricity has been cut off because the now unemployed parents can’t pay, this issue is pointless. To worsen matters for children, several Republican governors are trying to completely ban all abortions – except a few “saving the life of the mother” – in their States under the utterly spurious guise of “conserving needed Personal Protective Equipment”. This condemns women to carry and deliver babies they will never be able to care for, seriously detracting from their ability to care for children they may already have.

An untold number of children are seeing their beloved pets dumped, at shelters or on the street, because their families can no longer afford to feed and care for them. I wonder how this shapes the psyche of the child.

But the ultimate example of Pointless might be what had up to now been the child’s willingness to enter into and contribute to what he had thought was a well functioning society. Can we now fault a child for turning his back on the pointless?

So what is to be our “new normal”? Will it be the incredible, never seen before, beautiful economic rebound promised by the loud mouthed, rotund carny-barker in the White House? Will it be a generation of young people hardened to think and act only for themselves as our planet becomes unfit to sustain human life? Will they see government service as merely a pathway to the satisfaction of greed? Or will there be an awakening that will throw off the nightmare that ignorance and frank stupidity has brought us?

Will we notice? Or will it all be “normal”?

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