Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Core of the Marital Problem

I had a fight one day with my wife. We were both yelling and screaming. Finally, at the apex of the battle, I said: "I'd leave you tomorrow if I could figure out one thing!"

"What's that?" she shouted back, defiantly.

"How not to take me with me!!"

Happiness is playing the hand your dealt; not wishing for other cards.

The leaf of modern American life is not swimming; it is trying to stay afloat.

People don't change. They just become better at being the same.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The hardest part of sex is the begging.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


From a news bulletin:

"By GLEN JOHNSON (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
October 23, 2007 8:51 PM EDT

Mormon Romney Finds Christian Support

GREENVILLE, S.C. - Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has been embraced in a most unlikely place: at Bob Jones University, the influential Christian college that teaches that his Mormon church is a cult."

Unlikely? Mormonism may be a cult (to Bob Jones U.), but it is a Christian cult!! The last time I heard the Mormon Church was called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints...etc. JESUS CHRIST! What a surprise?! The Mormon Romney engendering CHRISTian support!

AP comes through again.

Hardly an Epidemic

There was a feature article from Associated Press on the Earthlink online news a couple of days ago: "Sexual Misconduct Plague US Schools". The article highlighted the fact that there were 2500 punished cases of sexual misconduct perpetrated against students by administrators and teachers in the public school system in the last five years; also highlighted was the fact that there were 3 million public school teachers and administrators in the US system, and said there were 3 sexual misconduct incidents every school day throughout the system!

At first I was aghast; as the article intended me to be. Then:

Three a day? (1) ONLY 3 a day, among 3 million potential 'predators' bad is that? Hardly an epidemic. Especially when one considers that sexual misconduct also means sexual language and inappropriate touching. (2) I'm amazed there are not MORE incidents, what with everyone--student and teacher/administrator--in their everyday lives being bombarded by sexual references and overt sexual innuendo and activity on TV, movies and in songs. I'm amazed everyone isn't walking around with moist thighs and erections. (3) Even assuming sexual misconduct has gotten worse today than it was in 'the old days' (hence the article), the way some of school kids are dressed and talking is a walking advertisement for being 'hit on'? Youth's sexual freedom=increased sexual temptation/energy/activity. Plus the fact the school teachers are younger and younger; not like the 'good old days' when most teachers (at least the ones I had) were aging spinsters and older 'gentle-men'.

Do you think maybe AP was 'reaching' for a story...maybe the authors were a little overstimulated themselves? Sort of 'sexual reportage misconduct'? Sexual misconduct is bad wherever and whenever it occurs; especially by those who have a special fiduciary responsibility to the youth under their charge...and must be contained wherever it arises...but real or feigned hysteria over a story--sexy or otherwise--does the truth, and society in general, limited service.

Cool it, AP.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Unintended Consequences From the Women's Movement

Almost everyone would agree that US Public schools today are in educational disarray. Test scores are down, employers are complaining about the lack of basic skills of new-entrants in the work force, and great universities are having to offer remedial reading courses to newly admitted students. I would like to offer a rarely mentioned contributing factor to this unfortunate situation (culled from the 'Unintended Consequences' list of social growth): the success in the last 40 years of the Women's Movement.

When I was a boy going to public grammar and high school, the majority of my teachers were middle aged women, mostly married, extremely experienced; they were willing to work for relatively modest wages for a prolonged period of time because it was a second income. (Their husbands were the primary income earners in the family.)

Moreover, women of that generation who wished to work had primarily three choices: to be teachers, nurses or secretaries. The glass ceiling in the general economy was low to the ground for woman; and even worse, there was a glass wall surrounding it. For many educated women, teaching seemed the best choice: it offered shorter hours, public respect and proximity to home (most teachers came from the cities and neighborhoods where their students lived); they could attend to their family duties as well as go to fulfilling work. Many wonderful and wonderfully (for the students) overqualified women became the great corps of teachers that raised the IQ of the post WWII generation.

Today, that same wise, experienced, knowledgeable work force is for the most part gone. Those women who were our teachers yesterday are now working in banking, the law, medicine, etc.

Of course thank God these social and economic gains have occured for women: but like all things in life, it has come at a price: the lessening of the available pool of highly talented and qualified teachers for the US public schools. The free educational lunch on women's workforce limitations is over. (By the way, the same is true among predominantly black schools: the best and the brightest black intellectuals who used to teach in inner city public schools and colleges are now also lawyers, doctors, businesspeople, etc.)

"What God giveth; God taketh away."

I'm afraid the 1960s and 1970s social movements for freedom for women and blacks did not factor the 'Unintended Consequences' of this teaching talent shift...and therefore did not make the necessary now-competitive-with-the salary adjustments to keep a high-level teaching work force in place. Instead the school systems (and the electorate who put the school boards and Mayors in place) continued to offer 'a-second-income-salary' to teachers; which of course logically left the talented people who could demand--and get--much more in the general marketplace to leave the school system.

You pay for what you get. That was a rule I and many of our generation grew up with: When a society chooses (rightly and properly) to no longer enslave people in any particular social, economic and political form, it must accept that that social freedom comes at a short term social cost: many benefits formerly attained in that system--absent social repression--will be lost (in the case I'm speaking of: great teachers at low cost). Slavery is not illogical; it is highly beneficial in the short term to the Masters.

And if that society wishes to continue to reaping its former benefits at the previous high level (in this case, highly trained, no-where-else-to-go teachers of the 3Rs: 'reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic') IT HAS TO PAY OR IT HAS TO PAY: it needs to offer higher wages for the now-free women and black /teacher-workers--and all other teachers, for that matter. Or, if it doesn't pay in dollars and cents, it will pay in another fashion; the continuing dumbing down of the US public school system.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Parental Involvement in School; Today versus Yesterday

My daughter was visiting me in California. She said she had to leave a day early to hurry home to DC to attend her daughter's school's parent's night. She said the school requested/required that parents get very involved in school. I said goodbye. I told her I understood.

After all, my wife and I had been very involved in her schooling when she was in pre-school, kindergarten, grammar school and high school. What is good for one generation is just as good for the next. I watched her drive away to the airport, I thought of my parent's generation...and...a sudden, blasting illumination on the road to Tarsus: I don't remember my parents being involved with my school at all! I don't remember my parents visiting any of my classes, neither in grammar school, or high school, or being in the PTA! I don't even remember if my schools even had a PTA.

Visit a classroom? Are you out of your mind? The only time I remember my parents or any other parents visiting the school was when (and if) the kid got in trouble. And, believe me, our parents were not happy when that occurred.

Generally a teacher's growled warning earlier that they MIGHT call our parents to come to school if we didn't shape up was enough to put the fear of God--and discipline--into us. (I remember if I complained to my parents after school about teacher yelling at me or throwing a piece of chalk at me, the first thing my parents would say was, in an even deeper growl: "What did you do wrong?!" Teachers were never wrong; just kids were.)

Were my parents just lazy? I mean, both my parents were available to come to school and help: my mother was a say-at-home Mom and my Father worked nights. Maybe they didn't love me enough to care to participate? And, worse and more troubling, by their non-involvement did they permanently scar my future; diminish my future educational and occupational horizons?

By the way, my parents weren't unique in their absolute separation from school...the closest most parents got to school involvement was reading their kids' twice-a-semester report cards. And I don't remember any of my friend's parents participating in school activities or attending classrooms to help...or going to school at all...except for maybe school plays and graduation. What was wrong with that generation? Didn't they like their kids? Didn't they care about their future?

Perhaps the depression and WWII had so marred and scarred them that they didn't care? Or perhaps the resultant 1950's economic good times kept them so selfishly hovering over their new porches and backyards and barbecues that they totally ignored their children? A sudden thought: I played high school football AND basketball...and I don't remember my mother and father attending ANY of the games? And I don't remember feeling particularly weird about it? What was going on then?

Conclusion (after much bewilderment and critical self-examination):

My Mom and Dad didn't have to help out at school because they had done all their work AT HOME before we ever got old enough to go to school! Mom and Dad had already inculcated in us--AT HOME--the habits of hard work and discipline and respect-for-our-elders; and so, by the time we went to school, the teachers--and we--didn't need any more of parental educational involvement. Parents had already prepared the way for teachers to teach.

That left teachers, and schools freed-up from having to teach kids social and personal skills, and with plenty of time and energy for teaching academics, the three-Rs: 'reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic'.

Behavioral problems? I don't remember any of us kids acting out in school! Yes...I do remember...once. It stands out because it four years of high school; and I have no memories at all RE grammar school acting out! I do remember there was a fist fight occasionally among boys (we didn't all it 'battery' or 'physical abuse' then) in the schoolyard; but they never last long because a teacher would show up and stop it; and that was that. No one--not even the furious fighters--would challenge the absolute supremacy of the teachers to end a fight.

Now I don't want you to think I went to a sweet suburban or private school. I went to public school, in inner-city public school in New Jersey; a town of one square mile holding 60,000 people. Lots of immigrants; Italian then; Cuban today...the only distinction from then to now is that now they eat predominantly tacos now instead of pizza. But the city is populated with the same people as yesterday: middle- and lower-middle class...or "Upper Poor" as I used to call it. Factory workers, dock workers, petite bourgeois and proletariat.

There was a dress code of sorts--your clothes has to be clean and neat and not ripped. Boys wore sleeved shirts and girls wore blouses and skirts. And sweaters. But cleavage? Only in the butcher shop; when the butcher used the cleaver to cut the rump roast. (I don't even think boys were allowed to wear jeans!). Guns? Knives? Are you kidding? No one ever considered the option.

Yes, it was the 'boring' 1950s; when my mother or father never locked the front door when we went out, or certainly not the car. Thieves stole from thieves, not 'citizens'.

Granted these memories are all from my childhood, from my child's point of view, and therefore probably somewhat naive...and perhaps even romanticised. But, discounting all that, the salient fact, my mothers and fathers participation --or rather non-participation--in school...that is true. And I wound up passing my SATs on my own (without parents or tutors), and I got into a very "good" college; and I made decent living after that...and have had and am having a good life...without any history of direct parental involvement in my school.

Mom and Dad stayed home and worked; I went to school.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Repeat Performance: On Islam

I beg the reader's indulgence: I would like to repeat an item I wrote in this blog on Sunday, December 24, 2006. I think it is still apropos.


In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century, Christianity (and its more secular offshoot, The Enlightenment) tried to put a human face on Capitalism. In the Twentieth Century, Communism tried to put its human face on Capitalism. They both succeeded; more or less. Now it is time for a new reforming idea.

During these last two centuries, God-inspired Christianity and god-less Communism issued their separate yet similar challenges to post-Industrial Revolution capitalism: basically, “Share the wealth.” Christianity threatened hell, and Communism threatened revolution. Both were somewhat successful. Capitalism smartly (for itself) hewed a moderating path. Its free enterprise institutions opened their profit centers to include child-labor laws, minimum wages, Social Security, socialized medicine, eight-hour work day, etc.

However, in the early Twenty-First Century, the reforming effectiveness of Christianity and Communism has been severely weakened. Christianity is under attack, seen as co-opted by its coziness with the ruling classes, and threatened as irrelevant by post-modern Euro centered rationalism (“The greatest event of the Nineteenth Century is the death of God,” Nietzsche opined).

Communism in its turn experienced a Russian Iron Curtain fall with a metallic, clanking thud. World wide Communism has crumbled (even its last great bastion, China, is experimenting more and more with free enterprise zones); it appears communism’s pillars have been eroded by its own inherent contradictions. (Marx had an idealist’s view of human nature; too much time spent in the London Library, perhaps. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need…” Indeed! His Communism was nothing more than Christianity without Christ; “Blessed are the poor, for they shall attain the Kingdom of Proletarian-ism”. Marx’s Communism was a Don Quixote idealism; not a real world economic operating system. It demanded political repression to endure as long as it did.)

So as the new millennium slowly unfurls itself across the globe, unfettered Capitalism reigns solitary and supreme once again. The World Bank and the IMF have become the dominant if not sole dispensers of human values, the all-powerful arbiters of economic morality, and the ultimate enforcers of global politics. America’s Marketplace Democracy is trumpeted around the world as the only cure to the ailing Third World. The panaceas of Freedom and Free Enterprise are inextricably co-mingled; or, as the old song say it: “You can’t have one without the other!”

But, as “Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Capitalism’s face is naked once again (if not outright ugly). Its modified face of humanity is being replaced by the cold logic of maintaining tactical superiority in the global economic arena; it increasingly wears the poker player’s deadly face.

The equity-sharing union movement is in a state of inertia, if not outright contraction. The threat of global warming is ridiculed as ‘Green hysteria’ by the corporate state. Merger mania is reducing the top of the pyramid to an infinitesimally sharp point: only a few are allowed access to its lofty and narrow perch. The incessant call to profit rules this world, not God or Marx. It is a world guided by Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’: with its self-serving belief that each person’s pursuit of individual gain will eventually ‘trickle down’ to the masses. Social justice is thus reduced to: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Unfortunately (or perhaps inevitably) the boat is beginning to spring a leak. The greater the recent productive success of Capitalism, the greater has been its recent allocation failures. (Which is all logical, I suppose: Capitalism is organized toward production. Distribution and its benefits are a social concern.)

One can almost hear Jesus and Marx crying out again against the excesses of today’s Pharisees, Philistines, and factory owners. UN and US statistics highlight the growing disparity between rich and poor; 3000 children die in Africa every day of malnutrition alone. In the boardrooms and salary structures of Capitalism’s showcase, Corporate America, the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor: executive salaries are increasing to obscene multiples of average working person salaries. And even in the middle class, it now takes two breadwinners individually working longer hours to maintain the old life-style.

Is Capitalism destined to remain unrestrained for the remainder of the millennium? Is this the real meaning of the “New Economics”, of "Neo-conservative"? Or is there a reforming philosophy on the horizon to challenge it, to once again offering to humanize its automaton’s face? Will a new philosophy arise to challenge Adam’s Smith’s cold, uncaring ‘invisible hand’? Another Jesus, another Marx on the designing board? Who? What will be the new dissenter to unfettered Capitalism?

Islam is offering itself as the Twenty-First Century’s replacement of Christianity/Communism.

“Follow us,” the Imams shout from the prayer balconies. “We will share the wealth. ‘Alms to the poor’ is one of the Five Pillars of our Faith. Jihad is not just military war. It is a war against injustice and poverty. Help us topple the United States and their oil company Crusader’s, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAR, who are not true Muslims. The sheiks are Harvard Business School graduates. They are Capitalist wolves in desert clothing.”

There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, and most are poor: from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, to Nigeria, they span the globe. The West often thinks of Muslims as Arabs, but Indonesian Asians are overwhelmingly Muslim: as are Turks (who come from Indo-European stock), Sudanese who are African, Bosnians and Albanians who are European Balkan, Egyptians who are North African, African American Muslims who are North American, Chechnya’s, who are Russian. All are Muslims. Even in Sub-Saharan Africa the Muslim faith is strong (Nigeria is already majority Muslim).

I suggest the war with Islam will be a Hundred Year’s War, like the West’s century long battle with Communism; and before that, reforming Christianity. The new war has already been going on since the 1980’s: Lebanon (the Hezbollah bombing of the military barracks), Palestine, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo; they were--and are-- Muslims wars against the West; all. And let us not forget ‘9/11’.

But generalizations are abstractions; they tend to distort. All Christians did not march in the Crusades. All Israelis do not follow Sharon. All Muslims do not advocate war to solve outstanding economic and social issues. But all Muslims do share a common goal with the rest of humanity; they seek a better life.

Islams leaders are not stupid. They know that once the eternal combustion engine goes the way of the dinosaur, and/or when fossil fuel becomes a spent resource, the Middle East and many points east becomes just so much sand.

So the real threat to Western Capitalism lies not in the Islamic terrorists (although it is naïve to dismiss the military threat; bin Laden is just the tip of that iceberg); the threat comes from poverty’s cries blended into the shouts of Islam’s revolutionary message.

Jesus’ and Marx’s ideas took root not through the power of their weapons (they had none), but through the power of their truths; so Islam’s challenge to Capitalism lies not in arms (or anthrax), but in the telling truths of desperate poverty, and logic of the poor's demand for world wide economic equity.

More than needing a human face, Capitalism--no longer challenged by Christianity and Communism--will need a new reconstructive surgery. The poor are destined to reject being poor forever. The world is too small for that. TV bombards them with daily images of the ‘good life’. And Islam is proselytizing mightily to represent them.

Islam and Christianity and Communism share a great many similarities. A Muslim refers to the Islamic ‘brotherhood,’ one is reminded of the Communist term, ‘Comrade’; or for that matter, the Christian concept “We are all the sons and daughters of one God,” they say.

Another point of similarity: Mohammed thought of himself as a follower of Abraham and Jesus, another prophet heeding Allah’s call (Allah, by the way is not some fetishist cult figure; it is just the Arabic word for 'God', similar to the Jewish/Biblical word for the one God, Yahweh) to bring the mercenaries (in his case, the merchants of Arabia) back to the spiritual fold (similar to the Old Testament Jews confronting the Philistines, and Jesus taking on the moneychangers).

Another unifying democratizing element that Islam can offer to match the universal appeal of Christianity and Communism is Islam’s required prayer ritual: five times a day all Muslims everywhere in the world, stop their daily efforts, kneel and pray--while facing the exact same point on the globe. (One should not underestimate the universal bonding created by that daily gesture.) Another element: when a Moslem makes the ‘hajj’, the required once in a lifetime trip to Mecca, the rich and poor alike circles the Kaaba wearing the same, plain white outer garment, to signify their equality before the eyes of God.

Finally, Islam, like Communism and Christianity before it--as mentioned above--is transnational, trans-ethnic, and trans-racial and trans-socio-economic. It includes Caucasian, Arab, Egyptian, African, Asian, Indian and Pacific Islander; and rich and poor, educated and illiterate, villager and city-dweller.

In case we in the West get complacent in overestimating our economic, military, and political might when compared to the Muslim world, remember that the Jewish Abraham was nothing but a wandering clan leader of a small monotheistic sect when he took Western Civilization on its now 5000 year journey; the Christian Jesus (Son of God or not) was a thirty- something meditative desert rat holing up in caves until he made his earth transforming point through accepted crucifixion,, and the Communist Marx, albeit from a slightly better of middle class home (no manger or stable birth for him), was not flush with money or influence at the start of Communism’s worldwide revolution. In fact, the heroes of our American Revolution, such as Patrick Henry and Nathan Hale, were not big steppers on the world stage when they and their friends decided to put it to England. (And: “Give me Liberty or give me death” and “I regret I have but one life to give for my country”—sounds awfully similar to the philosophy of today’s suicide bombers, no?) Big fires often start with small sparks; especially if the locale is surrounded by rags, and the rags are highly flammable.

This next hundred year’s war, if I am right in assuming that it has already begun, will be a long one. Although based on some universally appealing factors in Islam comparable to Christianity and Communism, it will not be like the Twentieth Century’s battle, between the East and West. It will be between the North and the South, between the whites and the yellows/browns/blacks, the rich and the poor (echoes of Communism’s rallying cry). If Capitalism doesn’t deal with the southern hemisphere’s economic poverty, deprivation and disease, it will drive them into Islam’s opposing camp. In this global war, as in most wars, economic concerns will trump all other geopolitical considerations. It will be a terrorists’ war between the have and the have-nots, with Islam asserting itself as the new voice of the economic disenfranchised, rallying the globe to speed up the process of a fair allocation of the earth’s resources.

But we in the North (formerly the West) must not fool ourselves into thinking that the allure of Islam is restricted to dancing virgins in heaven. Its appeal lies much deeper and more pragmatic than that. Islam offers many of the spiritual attractions of Christianity, packaged with the economic focus of Communism; two for the price of one, a formidable union of philosophies and goals. I remember the shock expressed by Americans when it was discovered that many of the ‘9/11’ terrorists had lived in America for extended periods of time prior to their suicide missions: “How could those people live in America, among Americans, and still want to annihilate us?” The question still lingers. Between the lines I hear an ironic follow-up: ‘You mean, not even Burger King, shopping malls, survivor shows and Jerry Springer couldn’t dilute the seduction of their beliefs?’

Forget the Islamic militant crazies. They are just the obvious extreme. Christianity and Communism had their crazies also.
Remember instead, the Middle East was the birthplace of Western civilization; agriculture, the law, medicine. When Europe was finally emerging from their long Dark Ages, and in America its natives were still chasing herds of buffalo to survive, the Byzantine/Ottoman/Persian/Mongol empires had already dominated the world for centuries.

The Arabs and Iranians and Turks were once the class act of advanced civilization; science, health philosophy and education flourished in their cities as nowhere else in the civilized world. Scholars flocked to their universities. The books that created the Renaissance were stored in their libraries.

The genes that created those societies are still in their people. Five hundred or so ‘down’ years is a short period of time in the history of mankind. The Twenty-First Century may well be the century of Islamic comeback, the new ‘hegira’, or flight through the desert, of the Prophet Mohammed, to re-group and challenge the greedy infidel.

Capitalism is on notice.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The late 1960s

Unlike most baby-boomers in general, I have limited respect for the 1960's and early 1970's. I found its rallying cry, "Do Your Own Thing" of-putting and suspect. Blacks, women and gays found their long overdue and well-deserved freedom in the period, but the attendant costs have been under reported.

I find that the period's heightened, propagandized sense of self-absorption and self-indulgence abhorrent. In the period's loud and self-aggrandizing self-promotion, its adherents created an implicit attack on consensus and group solidarity; it let loose a torrent of negative resonances in the US society: an increased disintegration of social respect and harmony, political polarization and political particularization, a sense of individual victimization, a great wave of personal isolation and individual alienation and a profound loss of group solace and comfort.

Freedom is a mixed blessing.

Managed Capitalism

The necessity for Managed Capitalism as opposed to Cutthroat Capitalism (or Laissez Faire Capitalism) is two fold: to protect individuals within the system, and, just as importantly, to protect the system itself.

The proper and essential function of government is to save us from ourselves.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sex and Filmmaking

Billy Wilder's analogy on the extended duration in making and releasing a film: "It's like getting laid, and then having to wait six months to find out if you had an orgasm."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"What is the female equivalent of misogynist?" "Female."

Sunday, October 07, 2007


"There is no justice. There s only the law...which is a feeble attempt to keep men from each other's throats."

"The law is an agreed upon set of shared rules by which a social group (generally accompanied by the group's developed degree of economic attainment and some sense of democratic equality) attempts to luxuriously transcend its own base natures."

Friday, October 05, 2007

In Defense of Moral and Ethics Without the Need for God

Human beings are defined, as in accordance with the entire universe in which they inhabit, by their constant and unremitting quest for survival maintenance: that is, maintaining their present form, while almost paradoxically moving toward a more advanced and therefore more secure form by constantly mutating, re-arranging their molecular structure into more efficient and effective combinations.

In their constantly evolving movement through the molecular universe into better and better (read, 'higher') life forms, humans (the large molecular 'group' we belong in) have evolved a set of group tactics and behavior logical to their common end: they have discovered and codified rules of common interactive behavior, called morals and ethics, which aid their cause of evolution and not devolution; by maintaining cohesive and constructive interrelationship structures to advance the common species ongoing-ness-needs. Man is a social animal for a purpose: and his common rules of group morality and ethics rebounds to aid the observing individual in his quest for survival; Adam Smith's economic theories (serving-self-serves-the group-serves-the-self) expanded to the universe.

Where is God in all this? Is He still to be considered the originator, the source of all moral precepts and ethical concepts, or is He to be seen as merely the 'Johnny-come-lately' marketing director, who has lent His name to the overall 'human species survival firm' late in the game, to help the firm better sell evolutionary-based (and therefore logical) morals and ethics to the evolutionary buyer?

In actuality the firm really didn't need a marketing director because the group-survival value of morals and ethics would have 'sold themselves' in the long run, because the products are intrinsically valuable. However, the species of humans realized in the midst of the game that its survival quest products, morality and ethics, could move 'off the shelf' more quickly and the entire species would benefit from the products if and when when the 'sales pitch' could be affixed to a more easily identifiable entity or concept: called it God (or Gods).

In this line of thinking, morals and ethics are self-perpetuating; they need no transcendent- or God-basis to justify their existence; they stand firmly on evolutionary logic; the logic of constructive and inescapable value to human evolution and happiness; happiness being defined as the intrinsic sense of inner satisfaction and peace when one is acting in one's best overall interests. Something like: "Being good--moral and just and fair--is it's own best (and smartest) reward."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Two Endangered Species of Phrases

I mourn the death, or at least sickly condition, of two phrases that seem to be rapidly disappearing in everyday discourse: "I'm sorry"; and "Thank you." They are nice phrases, happy phrases, good feeling phrases. Both imply on the part of the speaker a recognition that others outside herself/himself have an importance in the world.

"I'm sorry" means I regret that my words or other actions have intruded both uninvited and perhaps costly to you into your world. And "Thank you" means I realize you have extended your world to embrace my needs, often at the expense of your own.

Both phrases can only exist and thrive in a shared world; a world of mutual consideration and courtesy...where both speaker and recipient bathe in the recognition of each other's--especially the other's--importance and worth.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Busing: A Subtle Form of Racism?

Busing children to out of neighborhood schools to achieve racial balance is racism, especially when inner city/ghetto kids are invariably bused to well-heeled suburban schools. The idea seems to be: learning can only occur when the economically dispossesed learn in the same classrooms with the 'possessed'. Does that mean black, or Latino...or even poor white kids...can't learn with people of their own race or culture.

Does that mean ambition, hard work, study habits only be learned cross-culturally? That black kids can't be inspired to learn by other black kids; Latinos by Latinos? That their parents can only be motivated to get involved with their children's education by getting joining the PTA at white suburban schools?

Busing advocated mean well...but they should put the extra dollars into the whole educational system, Black, Latino and Caucasian...and focus their energy on student learning and not forced, and, I would argue, naive social integration. Look at most 'integrated' schools: even after decades of busing black kids are still (logically enough, they have more in common) hanging out mostly with black kids; Latino kids with Latinos; Caucasians with Caucasians.

Real educational affirmative action should be color and race blind. The legacy of slavery and the difficulty of immigration will not, and cannot--and should not be solved--by throwing us all together and then proclaiming us equal.

We are not. Each group is starting off their group educational quest from a different basis...and each group needs different...and different amounts to achieve equality of opportunity and eventual through that equality of opportunity equality of achievement.

Blacks and Latinos--and even 'white trash' for that matter--don't have to be bused to the suburbs to discover they might want a pretty house and a pretty yard. Talk about a racist concept! Wanting more/better is intrinsic in all human beings...and if it is only culturally induced (which I don't believe) Blacks and Latinos certainly can 'learn' to want more and better on their own by watching TV and films; not to mention rubbing elbows with the successful lifestyles of other Blacks and Latinos. They don't need to have their economic shortcoming school-daily shoved in their face.

Spend educational money on the schools...bettering them...where ever they are located. And let educational need dictate school budget allocation. Make us all students equally educated according to their needs, and sooner rather than later we will feel and act integrated...because we are educationally, and then economically, and then socially...really equal (as part of the America experience).

Monday, October 01, 2007

Semi-Awake Dreams in the Early Morning

Sachel Paige, the old Cleveland Browns pitcher, a man who was denied access to the Major Leagues for years because of the color of his skin, said it best: "Don't look back; they may be gaining on you." The past is an unrelenting pursuer, with a Simon Legree-like relentlessness.

When I awaken every morning, I never remember my deepest dreams; they seem to occur during the dark hours of the night, as the mind mysteriously does its bit of muscle-memory stretching, creating surreal scenarios from my past, twisting bits of new and obscure facts into a new (and I believe healthy) logic for my overall well-being.

However, immediately after the completion of these deep forgotten dreams, a group of more recent shallow dreams occur; and stay with me; they are the dreams and ruminations of the semi-awake period, during the two hours after the deep-sleep-forgotten dreams, but before I get out of bed; before I can summon the energy and courage to abruptly toss off the covers, head for the bathroom, face the toilet bowl, flushing, turning to the sink, and with toothbrush active against my teeth and gums, and with warm fresh water tossed against my face and through my thinning hair, begin the new day; before heading down to life-saving breakfast.

During that period of semi-sleep, when more conventional dreams rule, the semi-conscious ruminations become more exacting in the re-creation of my past and recent events; present-world reality become more recognizable in their details and a common theme pervades: personal non-fulfillment.

In those semi-dreams of early morning limbo--which seems invariably to coincide with sunrise--I always find myself re-considering promises not kept, scripts unwritten, phone calls unmade, alliances unresolved and dreams/hopes dashed. Half-awake, I wrestle with these old events, hoping to change the course of their endings, promising myself to change, to become better, to close old loops and achieve for the past events a new ending. But in spite of my desire to find new fairytale endings to my too-real past unfulfilled stories, I find repeated failure, and the pain and disquiet of these repeated non-fulfillment's nagging at me, torturing me, refusing to let me go...until I conceive the one single act I am capable of positively accomplishing in that bed of torture: I get up.

I leap from bed, purposely kill them (the past incompleteness), shatter them, send them back to the past with my new chosen now-reality: I face the world with new tasks to perform, new goals to accomplish, new challenges, and, in the most proximate form: a new breakfast. In Satchel's terms, I windup and blow my fast ball past the past, end all those old events 'gaining on me'...and rise from bed, and trot downstairs with new hopes and new chores and new possibilities, including most especially fruit, cereal, coffee and the morning paper.

Sensory Selectivity and Hamburger Eating

Did you ever notice how we really DON"T watch someone sitting across a lunch table eat? I mean, we look at them, we talk and hear and see their faces: but we don't really REMEMBER the specifics of them eating? I went out to eat with someone yesterday, a very elegant lady. She ordered a hamburger, but I don't remember her eating it. While I remember most of our conversation, I remember the dress she was wearing, the way her hair was coiffed...I have no specific recall any of her eating habits!

I mean, she must have (if my own eating patterns are any indication) parted her lips and opened her wide mouth over and over again, teeth flashing before they cut and tore through bun and oily burger meat, masticating and swallowing, masticating and swallowing, jaws working overtime with each chomp within her mouth, her tongue intermittently flicking across lips to wipe off the larger residue of grease and ketchup before she took the next bite...I think it was ketchup...anyway, as I said, I don't remember the details of her eating.

Isn't human evolution wonderful? As we moved from basic animal to civilized human, we developed selective sensory registering and memory: forgetting the more primitive aspects of our daily survival rituals; we relgate them to indistinct focus and obliterated memory. Nose sniffling and mucus blowing, sneezing, coughing, eating (not to mention eventual waste management) are overlooked, never focused on, like the bent tip on someones nose, the hair protruding from an old man's ears, the purple blemish/welt on a woman's face. Elegance above all.

'Good manners' absolutely require these grosser realities of everyday human behavior must be accompanied by indistinct sensory registering and recollection...unless, of course, they occur from a corrupt business associate, an ex-wife or ex-husband who is collecting too much alimony, a boy friend or girlfriend who have just announced they have chosen to date someone else, especially someone of the same gender, or most especially a son or daughter who refuses to display good manners in the presence of invited guests; in that case, we can remember nothing but the less refined attributes; selective memory indeed. In cases like that what we rememeber most are the disgusting personal habits: wheezing, eating with mouth open, picking their teeth, and the way they swallow.