Am I Becoming An Insensitive Bastard?

My lifetime partner might think so.  Here are a few articles that have come to my attention in the recent past that may (or may not) support his/her view:

  • Beyoncé Slammed for Sampling Shuttle Tragedy on New Album
    To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
    For putting a six-second audio clip of an official mentioning the Challenger disaster at the beginning of her song, “XO”, twenty-seven years after the incident, Beyonce is considered extremely insensitive for mocking the crew’s sacrifice and opening “fresh wounds”. Really?
  • JetBlue just made the ultimate faux pas on Twitter
    To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
    JetBlue is forced to apologize for tweeting three words that reminded people of the Hindenburg disaster, which occurred seventy-seven years earlier. The life expectancy in the United States is currently 78.74 years. What is the normal mourning period (especially for someone who was less than two years old at the time of the tragedy)?  Looking at this from a different perspective, the article notes that 36 people died in the tragedy.  I’m willing to bet that over a million times that number have died tragically since then.  How long will you be able to devote to grieving over each one of these people?  Are some really more worthy than others?
  • Coke pulls Fanta ad over Nazi controversy
    To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
    Apparently, it is now considered completely thoughtless to reminisce about the Good Old Days if there was strife anywhere in the world during that time period. In how many years during the last century would such recollections still be possible?
  • Under Armour pulls controversial ‘Band of Ballers’ T-shirt
    To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.

    The T-shirt was deliberately made to resemble the photograph of the raising of the American flag at the battle of Iwo Jima that “promptly became an indelible icon — of that battle, of the Pacific War, and of the Marine Corps itselfA“. The article notes that “more than 6,800 American troops died in that battle”. Not mentioned, by the way, is the fact that the United States actually won that battle and thousands of old geezers still take great pride in their part in defending our American way of life. The T-shirt, on the other hand, is about basketball. Lighten up!
  • US Senate Candidate Apologizes for Offensive ‘War Cry’ Comment
    To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
    In the video clip, this lady is making fun of herself, not any minority group, for her own misunderstanding of the term “Indian American”. The “offensive” gesture lasted maybe two seconds, during which time all five fingers were extended (as opposed to just the longest, as would be displayed in a gesture that I have become much more familiar with).  The event clearly shows her ignorance, not her animosity.  I’m inclined to think “no blood, no foul”. It’s clear that the offended parties take themselves much more seriously than she takes herself. Probably too seriously.

I’m sure there are many other examples, but you get the idea. I know, I know – you have to take these stories with a grain of salt; there are some in the media who know they can sell more ads by fanning the flames of controversy regardless of how small those flames really are, and the outrage in at least one of the stories may be politically motivated. Still, I’m beginning to see a trend, and it’s not a good one.

Here are a couple of seemingly unrelated situations that may metaphorically give hints as to where I’m going with this.

  • FCC Part 15, which applies to many consumer electronic devices, says that the equipment must meet two requirements: (1) The device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) the device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation. To me this just makes sense.  Radio interference degrades the ability to communicate.  First, in consideration of others one should create as little interference as possible.  Second, since there will always be some interference, if your equipment can’t accept interference it may be worthless.
  • When operating a boat, “the vessel’s wake must not be excessive nor create a hazard to other vesselsA (See also A).  That sounds entirely reasonable to me.  On the other hand, any vessel that cannot handle the ocean’s waves would not be considered seaworthy, so while a ship is responsible for any damages caused by its wake, those damages would be harder to prove and collect when they occur in the open ocean.

It has been reported that “real men” don’t cry.  Even though that is erroneous, I can assure you that real men do not go looking for things to cry about. And while, contrary to popular belief, real men are not defined by what they wear or what they do or don’t eat, it is entirely fair and reasonable to judge a man by how they behave.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Here, as you should have guessed, I am using the more general definition of “man”, as in “mankind”, which includes both sexes.
I propose the following rule of manhood:

A real man needs to be able to take more #$@! than s/he can dish out.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
And what are MY qualifications on this matter?It shouldn’t matter whether I consider myself a contender, a shopper, or merely a bystander, the statement should be able to stand on its own merits. If these rules are too stringent for you, sit back down with the wannabes.  If you have a better rule or argument, let’s hear it.
It grieves me to see people racing to find new ways to be offended. These are clearly haters and wannabes instead of problem solvers, and should not be taken seriously.  For example, the first four of the above examples involved alleged insensitivity to the tragedies of others.  We have all lost loved ones.  Those who claim to be hurt and offended that long after the catastrophe, in my book, are either faking it (in some sports they would be called floppers) or they need serious professional help.

Now that you know how I feel, what is the answer to the title question? Is it me or “them”? I think everyone needs to continually ask themselves this question. You should always allow for the possibility that you are wrong as a first step in reducing your own error rate.  Although being politically correct is obviously not one of my objectives, I do actually believe in considering the needs, rights, and points of view of others in my decision making process. It seems to me that following the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) should be sufficient.  But then again, if one actually were an insensitive bastard that wasn’t easily offended, treating others in the same callous manner that one finds tolerable toward oneself just might not be enough.  Unfortunately, we are all burdened by our own biases, so finding the answer to this question is not easy, and may not even be possible without the help of friends.  That’s why I’m turning this discussion over to you.  Thanks in advance for your help.

How Long Have I Been A Skeptic?

I have no idea when all of this started, but this may shed some light on the issue.  It is the earliest memory I have of me questioning conventional wisdom.

The Story Of The North Wind And The Sun

I was in elementary school in southern California – I don’t remember what grade – when we had an assignment to read this short story.  It’s one of Aesop’s Fables.  If you missed it, or can’t remember that far back either, you can find it at www.storyarts.org, among other places.  As the story was explained to me, it was supposed to illustrate the superiority of persuasion over force or, at the very least, that the sun is stronger than the wind.  However, that’s not the way I saw it then.  And now that I’ve had years to develop my experience and wisdom, that’s not how I see it today.  Even back then it  was clear to me that both the sun and  the wind had their individual strengths and weaknesses.  The north wind, although not feared in the same way as his cousins, the tornado or the hurricane (a.k.a. cyclone, a.k.a. typhoon), is no slouch and has sunk ships, caused massive amounts of damage ashore, and taken lives.  The sun may seem benign, even benevolent to those living north of the 40th parallel, but large swaths of land have suffered due to his excesses, and in fact he can only be tolerated at distances greater than around ninety-three million (93,000,000) miles.  At the time I read this story, I was not aware of all of these statistics or the full power of either of the contestants, but even then “I wasn’t born yesterday”.  We didn’t get snow in southern California, but it can get windy enough to appreciate the north wind’s power.  And then there was that story about the three little pigsA, which showed the destructive force of wind (caused in this case by a lone wolf).  On the other hand, in the summer the sun was so strong that people used to say they could fry an egg on the sidewalk.  By the way, nobody in southern California ever claimed to be using the power of persuasion when they are trying to fry eggs.

It was clear to me back then that the sun was obviously smarter than the north wind, and designed the rules of this friendly little contest to take best advantage of his own talents.  The goal was to get the man to take off his coat.  Had the contest been to get the man to put ON his coat, most of us can see that the sun wouldn’t have had a chance.  The first lesson for the north wind might be to be wary of letting your opponent make the rules.

Secondly, it is crucial to be aware of your own limitations.  For the north wind to think that a strong, cold breeze could force somebody to part with their coat is delusional.  One can never improve if they don’t even know where they are deficient.  And even if it is not possible to correct a particular flaw, as long as you are aware of it, there may be a way to compensate.  Odysseus was an excellent example of this in his dealing with the sirens (scroll down to the eleventh section of “The legendary story of Odysseus”).  By taking the advice of a women (Circe) and making allowances for his weaknesses, Odysseus was the first person to listen to the Siren’s great song and live to tell about it.

The final lesson to be learned from this story was that a good public relations team is worth its weight in gold. The way they put that spin on the sun’s use of force was masterful. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I’ve had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around, to my own peril. Even today I don’t put enough effort into public relations, continuing to hold on to the naive belief that if you work hard, your efforts will automatically be noticed and you will be rewarded – even though experience has disproved this theory time and time again.  Seemingly, some people never learn. Being able to learn from your own mistakes is crucial.  If you could learn from the mistakes of others, you would be well ahead in the game.

The Statue – A Modern Fable (or Allegory?)

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, in the land of Euwessovay,

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
The anglicized version of the Greek word Euwessovay would be “U.S. of A.”

a huge island far off the coast of ancient Greece, there lived a great sculptor, who came from a long line of great sculptors descended from PygmalionA.  This sculptor was commissioned to create a statue for the leaders of the Scotus Society,

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
One club in the new land was so enamored with this ancient society that they made their name a backronymD of the older group. They now call themselves “The Supreme Court Of The United States”.

and as you’d expect, he did an outstanding job.  The Scotus Society was a powerful group of old men, who were considered to be the wisest in the land, and as many of you know, “statue” is an ancient Greek word for corporation.  Everybody in ancient Greece knew that a statue, although created by humans for the benefit and enjoyment of humans, was not really human; even Pygmalion knew that.  Unlike the famous work of this sculptor’s ancestor, this statue was not in the form of a beautiful woman.  To ensure his commission, the sculptor took a lesson from another compatriot of the old country, NarcissusA, and made the statue in the likeness of the society elders.  When they received the statue, the members of the society each saw himself in the statue and immediately fell in love.  They loved the statue so much that they unanimously decreed that it would thereafter be considered human with all of the rights and privileges thereof.  And thus was the law of the land.  Not quite satisfied, they later decreed unanimously that this statue would be granted the highest honor and privilege in the land, specifically the right to completely disregard the “Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness”
To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
This quote is attributed to Thomas Jefferson, who in the Declaration of Independence claimed these terms were unalienable Rights endowed by our Creator.

of all lesser humans, namely women, and to ignore all of their needs and individual religious beliefs, as his gods commanded him.”

Nobody yet knows how this story will turn out.  Although it was born from the mind of men, this statue is no AthenaA. And in this version of the Incarnation, it is the mother’s role that is missing instead of the father’s; maybe this new human will be the atheists’ answer to Jesus Christ.  Nonetheless, this statue is now a proper and natural citizen of the great island state of Euwessovay, which means that because it is male, this statue could well be declared the country’s next Grand Commander.  And because statues never die, we could all be serving this great leader for years to come.

The Blind Men and the Elephant – The Full Story

There is an old story about several blind men who encountered an elephant.  This story plays an important role in several religions around the Indian subcontinent, as explained in great detail in Wikipedia.

Here Is My Version:

“Once upon a time, an aide brought an elephant into a home for the blind in India where a team of scholars was writing the first blind dictionary.  The elephant was soon surrounded by a number of blind men.  The first man, after feeling the elephant’s leg, declared that an elephant is like a pillar, and then proceeded to jot down his notes.  The second man, holding the tail, announced that an elephant was like a rope before he recorded his findings.  The scholar next to the elephant’s ear decided that this creature was like a winnowing basket, while another by the trunk couldn’t quite figure out whether he was dealing with a tree branch or a water spout.  He took careful notes.  Other men found the belly to be a wall or a granary, and the tusk to be either a solid pipe or a plowshare.   The head resembled a pot, the back a throne, and lastly, the tip of the tail evoked a brush.

While reviewing their notes, a discussion broke out among the scholars about their differing individual findings.  Since each of the men was certain that his own observations were correct, an argument developed, which grew heated, and before long the team was embroiled in a full brawl.  Only one man survived the scuffle.  He proceeded with the project and as a result it was his (limited) definition of an elephant that ultimately went into the blind dictionary, and so it remained for many, many years to follow.  While this man was finishing his work, the elephant was neglected, and eventually became hungry, and then agitated, and then wound up trampling the man to death as it made it’s escape.”

The Rest of the Story*

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
* with a tip of the hat to the late Paul HarveyA

The aide returned a couple days later to find everyone dead and no elephant, so he ran to get the police and then returned home.  After their investigation of the scene, the police concluded that the elephant was the principal suspect in all of the killings and so, using the last scholar’s description, they put out a bulletin for it’s capture.  When they canvassed the neighborhood, one gentleman asked if this was the same pink elephantD that had been haunting him for years.  After reviewing the notes of the victims and other evidence at the scene, they found nothing that would rule out that possibility.  After an exhaustive search, however, the perpetrating pink pillar was never found and the case was eventually closed.

So What?

There have been several morals derived from the earlier versions of this story.  I feel that it reveals important human foibles and I may be referring to this story in future discussions and possibly coming to my own conclusions.

How The The Hobby Lobby Decision Affected Me.

I had probably been growing disgruntled long before the Supreme Court made this decision,

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
For those of you who haven’t heard, the Supreme Court just decided that corporations who state at the beginning of their articles of incorporation that their only purpose is to make gobs of money now have more religious rights than you doA.
but that was the event that triggered my first ever effort at political creative expression – a short allegory (or is it a fable?), which may be what led to me starting this blog.  Although my faith in the Supreme Court was completely shattered (for the moment), the world has not yet come to an end as predicted.  Still, for me this was worse than learning that Santa Claus didn’t exist.  In that earlier instance, the realization finally came after discovering several aspects of the story that just didn’t add up, so it wasn’t that big of a shock.  My biggest concern then was whether or not the presents would stop coming once I admitted that I knew the truth.  Now after this latest event, I have to ask myself whether any of our personal liberties are safe, and even more important, was ANYTHING my parents taught me really true.

For example, when I was young I remember hearing about how one person’s rights end when the next person’s begin.  And then there’s the one about how with rights come responsibilities (try telling that to the gun worshipers).  And what about those history lessons; the way I understood it, our forefathers came to this country to get away from other people telling them how and to whom they should worship.  Had they been greeted upon arrival by a delegation of natives assuring them that although the government here could not dictate such things, it could hold you down while you were pummeled into submission by your boss, I’m sure they would have reconsidered.  I believe the pilgrims would have either

  1. turned around and gone home (we have too many immigrants in this country anyway),
    To see the note click here.To hide the note click here.
    Do I need to give some sort of signal when I’m being facetious?
    or they would have
  2. used that as an excuse to massacre the current residents and steal all of their land (the American dream, and probably the true motive right now behind Israel’s foreign policy (we may talk about this more in a later article)).

After I wrote my allegory/fable, I showed it to a very small set of carefully selected friends.  Unfortunately, most of these friends were too polite to comment.  One brave soul suggested I was too esoteric. That could explain why I never quite made it as a math teacher.  Their critique is the reason I provide extra notes and footnotes to explain some of my terms and references.  If you are already familiar with the terms, you might want to skip the references to maintain the flow of the prose.  None of my friends even hinted that it might be safe to give up my day job, and so I haven’t.

Look for this allegory/fable about “The Statue” here soon.

Who I am (Part 1)

What you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for:

Those of my attributes that aren’t relevant to the discussion at hand are really none of your business. My sex is one of those, or should I say gender, because you will not find on these pages any “battle of the sexes” comments about why one sex is better than the other or engaging in any discussions using cliches and tired stereotypes to bash the opposition.  I always thought those were stupid, even as far back as the preteen years, when catching cooties from members of the opposite sex suddenly became such a huge concern for most of my friends.   Similarly, I won’t be discussing my sexual orientation.  I know what it is, and my partner knows what it is, and since you are neither of those, I’m hard pressed to understand why you care.  I doubt my height, weight, or race will have any role in this blog either.

Why I’m doing this:

Many people would consider me old.   You would probably pick up on that soon enough.  Back in the 1970’s, during the CB radio craze, “Silent Knight” was my handle (“Holy Knight” was never considered).  Being true to character, however, nobody ever heard that name from me. I had learned early in life that you can learn more with your mouth shut.  As I’ve been aging (especially more recently), I find myself becoming more opinionated, however, or maybe just more concerned about the direction this country is taking.  I understand that’s the path a lot of people take as they get older.   I just hope I have a few more good years left before my wildest fears get the best of me and I’m forced to become a Republican.

Politics is an acceptable topic for this blog.   Religion is also an acceptable topic for this blog. Since I am by no means an expert on any of these topics, I was hoping I could count on my readers to keep me honest.  As I hinted in the first paragraph, I will not let these discussions deteriorate into mindless sound bites and one-liners.  I expect respondents to actually address the issues and questions brought to light by those before them instead of talking past them in parallel conversations. Facts are important (but might be refuted by other facts). Facts cannot be trumped by theories or opinions, and even anecdotes could be considered suspicious.

We will discuss people’s rights in this blog. As an example, this is my blog and your right to free speech ended when you entered.  I expect to be a gracious host

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
As usual, “host” here is the generic, gender-neutral form which could include “hostess”.

and welcome encourage opposing points of view, but I am under no obligation to let you trash all rules of civility and intelligent discourse to spout some mindless, unsupportable crap.  In that case, I may or may not use you as another fine example of an idiot, at my sole discretion.

More about me:

As you guessed, I consider myself to be liberal in most areas (although what once was considered liberal has since been relabeled “socialist”, and may now even be called “communist” by those who obviously have no idea what they are talking about.

Although I mention religion as a possible topic, I didn’t say anything about my own religious views yet.  That’s not something I can do in 25 words or less; I was hoping I’d have time for that later.  Also later, the astute reader will learn some of the various life experiences I have had, but only as they relate to a particular topic.

The last thing you may need to know is that I have absolutely no fear of numbers.  Numbers are merely a subset of human language and a shorthand in effective communication.  I am likely to fact-check the numbers before other parts of an article.  But if you think you can avoid scrutiny by simply leaving them out, be aware that any argument you make that is devoid of facts (many of which are best described with numbers) may suffer in terms of credibility and may not make it very far in this conversation.  Just saying.  Thanks for listening.  I am looking forward to a hearty discussion.