Contradictions


She used to say, “Sometimes a coin has more than two sides.” I never gave much thought to that adage until much later. As I observed human behavior I noticed that most humans consciously or unconsciously pick a side without thoughtful consideration of the other[s]. In doing so, whenever defense of another side is presented, humans often become defensive or they close their mind. Sometimes they do this as if acceptance or even acknowledgment of the contradiction of their particular view would rip the very fabric of the time-space continuum resulting in the cataclysmic destruction of the universe.

In the movie, “A Few Good Men”, actor Jack Nicholson shouted in court, “You can’t handle the truth”. To that, I say, most human can’t handle contradictions. Please note what Napoleon Bonaparte stated: “I am not angered when contradicted; I seek to be enlightened.” Then there was Ralph Waldo Emerson who asserted: “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” As you can see, Napoleon viewed contradiction of what he said or believed as an opportunity to learn and Emerson did not take contradictions to his views personally. In those regards, most people are neither Napoleon nor Emerson.

The subject matter in which there may be contradictions is essentially irrelevant. No matter the subject, be it religion, politics, pets, family, shoes, flowers, entertainers, movies, music, weather, rainbows, female/males relationships, soap, sports, the meaning of life or the meaning of paper towels – most humans are uncomfortable when their opinions, views or beliefs are contradicted. There seems to be this almost innate or near-genetic need to have one’s position verified or affirmed as opposed to being challenged. There is often a knee-jerk resistance to even look at a possible different side of the coin.

I have lived and paid attention long enough to have developed my own ethos, namely: There is no idea or belief I so dearly cherish so as to shield it from rigorous scrutiny or thoughtful challenge. There is no idea or belief I esteem so highly that I will not alter it or abandon it – sacrifice it in favor of standing even closer to the truth. Stated more succinctly, I hate being wrong; I detest it. In fact, I abhor being wrong so much that I desperately want to know when I am so that I can stop. And if it turns out that I am not wrong, I am still better for it having experienced a challenge to my position.

To be certain, each of us is flawed, frail and sometimes foul in our own peculiar ways; there are no exceptions – not one. But here I speak of the common reaction to contradictions – the comfort found in remaining unenlightened, in the dark or even stupid. Or the childish reaction to blindly defend even the indefensible. Either phenomena I utterly disdain. To be wrong makes one no less a person than the one who is right or to be right makes one no more a person than the one who is wrong if and only if one respects contradictions.

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Published in: on February 14, 2016 at 11:09 PM  Comments (4)  
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Let’s Play Jeopardy


Name this President:[and please remember your answer must be in the form of a question]

If he could walk on water, they would say he was too lazy to swim.

If he could raise the dead, they would accuse him of not letting the dead rest in peace.

If he could heal the sick, they would accuse him of trying to put doctors out of business.

If he does what they would have done under the same circumstances, they criticize his decision as dumb or un-American – and so they oppose him.

If he does what his predecessor tried but failed to do, some would say he was able to do it only because his predecessor laid the foundation.

If he cleaned up the mess his predecessor left behind, they would blame him for the mess – or say that the mess was ancient history.

If he speaks the truth, they shout “you lie”.

If he does something that is obviously good, they say it should have been done better.

If he does something on time, they say it should have been done sooner.

If he calls out an injustice that is prevalent in society, they say he is trying to divide America.

If he talks to enemies of the United States as a first step in seeking peace, they call him weak and conciliatory – an embarrassment to America.

If he kills the enemies of the United States, they’d complain that he didn’t do it the right way.

If he did everything the opposition wanted, they would accuse him of showing off.

If he has a wonderful idea that makes sense, they attack his personality or his heritage.

Finally, if Americans die by hurricane, tornado, earthquake or storm, they blame his policies.

Answer: Who is President ______________________?

Published in: on January 17, 2016 at 4:43 AM  Comments (1)  
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Women and Men – Power and Fear


Having observed, researched and pondered the interactions between men and women across different times and different societies, I’m glad I’m not a woman but I am ashamed of being a man – more specifically, ashamed of how men, in general, treat women.

Why does one half the species, often demean, abuse or even kill the other half? My theory:

Especially in these modern times, men need women more than women need men [emotionally]. Women provide a structure within which men can thrive and reinforce their status. Yes, men and women need each but not equally. This imbalance [perceived or not] is not something men are comfortable accepting. They fear women because women have what men desperately want [sex, support, even to some extent, the basis for a man’s identity]. This gives women power that threatens men. So they erect an infrastructure characterized by persistent, sustained subjugation or marginalization of women. In short, those whose power is illegitimate always fear those they dominate.

To that end: In some societies men tell women what to wear or not to wear – so that men do not have to exercise control over their own libido. In other countries they blame women for being assaulted because they wore one thing rather than another. There are societies where women are considered unclean even untouchable when they are menstruating; in other communities, they are considered chattel to be bought and sold like meat. In general men often judge women by their looks so much so that women even compete against each other in ways most petty, for the fleeting attention of men. In turn women often demean themselves because men cut off their access to opportunity or other resources.  Additionally, a promiscuous man is often lauded; a promiscuous woman, scorned. Men will also pay women less but expect them to do as much as a man. Men are more likely than women to abuse the other – kick, batter, choke or otherwise do what savages do – to maintain power. Thus, if a woman exercises her power, her right, she is often attacked or assailed so as to be put back in her designated place – below that of the man – so that the patriarchal system remains in tact.

Worse and tragically, if a man leaves, a woman may cry; if she dares to leave, she all too often, will die.

Men have developed a system in society that facilitates their longing for and almost genetic need for power because no matter how lowly the man’s stature, he can at least exercise power over another. Power over someone he fears and is angry that he needs her in ways that are fundamental to his well-being or his sense of self. Whether he is a corporate mogul, an important politician, a janitor or garbage collector, he can at least step on someone else and feel powerful. That someone else? Womankind.

I agree I have made generalizations [thus, there are exceptions] but they are more true than not. Women have a power that men fear and that fear is a driving force in how they ultimately view and treat women. I’m glad I’m a man but I am not proud of it. This is not to say that women are saints and morally superior. After all, they are human and as such they are the moral equivalent of men except that, for the most part, they are dominated by men. I can only hope that I have distanced myself sufficiently from the majority of my half of the species in how I respond to the power of women.

Published in: on January 9, 2016 at 11:52 PM  Comments (1)  
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Penciled-In Thoughts On Paper Minds


One of the most fascinating things about the human mind is that in an important respect it is like paper, especially in the beginning. Like paper, others can write on it (only in pencil), and like paper, the human can decide whether to believe what is written on it or whether to erase it. Most of the writing, however, is never erased.

Humans can be led to believe almost anything. This is especially true if the culture they are born into present certain ideas and notions as true or if they hear something often enough and if the stupidity/ignorance is presented in an organized fashion.

For example: Humans used to believe that diseases were caused by the “gods” because someone wrote that on their minds. Many humans used to (some still do) believe that women were intellectually inferior to men because someone wrote that on their minds. Currently, there are also humans who believe that if the young boys in their village swallow the ejaculate of the older males, their passage into manhood is assured [the Sambians]. They believe that because someone wrote that on their minds. Furthermore, some humans believe Blacks are intellectually inferior vis à vis Whites, and other humans believe that if a woman is raped, her family should kill her because shame is brought on the family. In short, humans will believe almost anything written on their minds and the list of examples (from the bizarre to the sublime) is endless.

Obviously, the more people who believe what is written on their minds, the easier it is to get younger people to accept what is written without fear of the beliefs being erased. Thus, the list of hypothetical beliefs noted below is no more shocking than what was once or is still believed:

• In order to avoid burning in hell after dying, the number 23 must be branded on a child’s forehead if the child is younger than eight (unless the child is a twin, then she should be branded only if she is older than eight).

• Having sex standing up is protection against contracting an STD.

• Spanking a groom and bride on their bare buttocks with a paddle made of pine wood during the marriage ceremony will guarantee a long and happy marriage.

• Running around the outside of the place of worship three times while naked, in the dark, will ensure forgiveness of the sin of fornication.

• Eating snakes is a sin. Eating squirrels once a year is a requirement for redemption.

• Drinking horse urine reduces fevers. Adding a cup full of dog urine to your bath water brings good luck.

• If a woman gets pregnant after eating the root of a certain plant, she has been unfaithful.

• People with gray eyes are more intelligent that those whose eyes are blue or green, and there is no such thing as brown eyes.

• A long tongue portends a long but unhappy life.

The list of hypothetical beliefs as represented above can extend ad infinitum, and for each one, there is a comparably asinine or ridiculous one that was once believed or is still believed. Humans can believe almost anything because they seldom challenge or even question what is written on their minds by their families and the other parts of society. The idea of erasing a belief is as foreign to many as is the idea of cutting off one of their feet. No ideas or beliefs are written in stone; most people simply do not want to erase the penciled in thoughts of their paper minds. If only they lived and breathed the following advice then the stupid would not be so stupid and the wise would be wiser:

“There is no idea or belief I so dearly cherish so as to shield it from rigorous scrutiny or thoughtful challenge. There is no idea or belief I esteem so highly that I will not alter it or abandon it – sacrifice it in favor of standing even closer to the truth.”

Published in: on January 5, 2016 at 5:33 AM  Comments (1)  
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Gun Control: Stupid is Easy; Thinking is Hard


If I recall my high school Latin correctly, “Si Hoc Ergo Iste” is translated as: “If this, then that.” In other words if this is true, then that [which is something else] must also be true. Where the idea of stupidity comes in, is where a statement is declared but the stupid simply stop short by not applying the same line of reasoning to a similar situation. They fail to do so because critical thinking is difficult at best and arduously and painfully taxing at worst. In fact, it is to be expected that stupidity would be far more common than critical thinking. Now lest you think I am being harsh by using the word stupid, notice what Albert Einstein said about human stupidity: “”Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

To my point: I have received, on numerous occasions or have heard many times, the following assertion [or some variation thereof]: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” As a gun owner myself, I find the statement to be offensive to my own sense of intellect. This is often the response many gun advocates present when attempting to explain their resistance to various gun-control measures. The statement is at best witty but as Voltaire stated, “A witty statement proves nothing.” Or the gun statement is at worst and most certainly, damn stupid.

More exactly, of course, guns in and of themselves do not kill people. But people use guns to kill people! That is like saying, “Arsenic does not kill people” — unless you consume it, stupid!! So you keep it out of the reach of children. If you do not, you could be charged with neglect or abuse. No court would accept your defense in not keeping arsenic away from your children if you stated, “Arsenic does not kill people; people kill people [or themselves].”

But getting back to my Latin, si hoc ergo iste. If guns don’t kill people then logically, nuclear weapons don’t kill people. Yet, the United States and several other nations do not want Iran to have nuclear weapons. What would any person with at least some semblance of intelligence think if Iran asserted its right to have nuclear weapons by saying: “Nuclear weapons don’t kill people; people kill people.” Do you think the NRA and its followers in Congress would accept that argument? Yes, but only if they were stupid. But somehow when it comes to guns, that argument seems to have weight even though it is just as stupid. Furthermore, if the above statement about guns not killing people is true, then why not let the mentally ill and criminals have guns? After all, “guns don’t kill people.”

The statement that guns don’t kill people is mindless and insulting to anybody who has at least two cents worth of intellect. Yes, it is a witty statement — easy to recite and requires no thought. It is something the stupid can repeat while thinking they sound profound. No wonder it is oft repeated.

To be sure, there are better arguments one can pose in opposition to gun control legislation [whether the arguments can withstand rigorous scrutiny is another matter] but using the above argument, I would think, should be insulting even to the most ardent gun advocate — unless the advocate is stupid.

Published in: on December 20, 2015 at 8:59 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Imagine


Imagine a “God” who has nothing to do with our successes or our failures.

Imagine a “God” who does not want credit for catastrophes or blame for “miracles” (or even vice versa).

Imagine a “God” who does not need a Satan with whom to stand in contrast.

Imagine a “God” who does not need a “hell” with which to punish or a “heaven” with which to bribe.

Imagine a “God” who is something other than a “He” or a “She” (maybe an “It” or a “They” or something entirely different).

Imagine a “God” whose ego does not require or desire praise, adulation, sacrifice or worship from humans.

Imagine a “God” who does not need humans to kill or punish “in the name of God,” because if such a “God” wanted to kill or punish, It or They would do it without any help or participation from humans.

Imagine a “God” who does not believe in the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the Book of Mormon, the Veda, the te Ching or any other book as being “holy” or “divinely inspired” but rejects them as the product of the human imagination and various contradictory interpretations.

Imagine a “God” who does not need prophets, priests, preachers, ministers, deacons, reverends, mullahs, monks, ayatollahs, elders, nuns, and so forth, to speak or teach the will of “God.”

Imagine a “God” for whom how humans treat each other is infinitely more important than whether people believe someone did or did not die for their sins, or whether a particular place or day is “holy,” or whether people should wear this and not that, et cetera, (the list extends much too far and wide).

In other words:

Imagine a “God” not made in the image of Humans.

Published in: on December 7, 2015 at 8:59 PM  Leave a Comment  
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How Sweet The Bitter Taste


A man lies in bed dying from an affliction for which there seemed to be no cure. He mumbled to himself that he would give anything to be cured. Suddenly, an old woman appeared and offered a solution to his predicament. She handed him an elixir that he had to take every day for the rest of his life. The potion would cure the ailment, and he would live an otherwise long and healthy life. There was one caveat, however.

Each time he took the potion, it would cause pain, and there was no way to avoid it. Sometimes the pain would be very brief or barely perceptible; at other times, it would be much longer or excruciating. The duration and severity would vary depending on the circumstances. But, he would be alive and otherwise healthy. If he stopped taking it, he would definitely suffer, wither and die an arduous death.

The man agreed to swallow the potion but just before he did, he asked the old woman what was the potion. She replied, “Love.”

So goes it. Life is best lived if we love, whether we love a child, a sibling, a parent, a spouse or friend. We are genetically structured so that loving someone is what we need to do to be fully human – to express the meritorious side of our humanity. Loving someone, however, comes with a price. We expose ourselves to pain; in fact, we invite it. Pain caused by the one we love scraping her knee as a child or failing to be put in the high school homecoming game. Pain caused by the one we love being mistreated or being disappointed. Pain caused by a loved one’s broken heart or unrequited love. Not to speak of the pain caused by the one we love being sick or dying.

We love; therefore, we feel for – we empathize with – the people we love. It is almost as if we feel what they feel – sometimes even more painfully. But to stop loving is to stop living (though not necessarily to stop existing). So, we drink the potion completely knowing we will suffer pain, later or sooner. So, we drink the potion and choose the pain of loving over the pain of not loving.

Published in: on December 1, 2015 at 7:44 PM  Leave a Comment  
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The Eleven Commandments of Beauty


I. Thou shalt strive to be even more beautiful on the inside than thou art on the outside.

II. Thou shalt honor thy physical beauty, with plenty of self-respect and class.

III. Thou shalt always remember that grace and charm make your beauty, even more beautiful.

IV. Thou shalt not adulterate thy beauty by abusing thy body with illegal or dangerous substances or excessive use of alcohol.

V. Thou shalt not be envious of or covet the beauty of another beautiful woman because, although all beauty is not created equally, each one has a right to their day in the sun – to be admired.

VI. Thou shalt not steal from others the joy of respectfully admiring thy beauty

VII. Thou shalt not abuse the power or advantages that accrue to thee because of thy physical beauty.

VIII. Thou shalt not kill others with thy beauty by callously and recklessly breaking hearts.

IX. Thou shalt not diminish thy beauty by being crude, stupid or self-centered.

X. Thou shalt not forget that physical beauty grabs attention, but physical beauty alone does not keep it.

XI. Thou shalt live by the above Ten Commandments to avoid becoming ugly!

Published in: on December 1, 2015 at 4:21 AM  Leave a Comment  
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The Unfair Fight: Truth v Opinion


Truth and opinion are constantly battling each other for acceptance and the battle is often fought within the context of a zero-sum game. Former New York Senator Moynihan once quipped that we can all have our own opinions, but we can’t all have our own facts. The problem is most humans confuse the one for the other. In fact it is that phenomenon that is the source of much of human misery. Voltaire, the French philosopher once stated, “Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes” (Brainy Quote).

Truth moves in tandem with fact, but opinion is the one that often masquerades as either. Truth and fact can be elusive, even evasive. Thus, the valid is often difficult to identify or acknowledge and so when presented with an issue, one must sort out, collate and present as is – in all its naked glory – what is fact or truth and what is opinion. Humans often find this task to be daunting and demanding.

As a matter of course, humans prefer opinion over fact or truth because opinion often does not tax the mind but rather sedates it. Fact and truth are exacting taskmasters whereas opinion often requires mindless compliance, which is the course of least resistance. Once opinion is introduced into the equation, the answers are often the same: Wrong! This is starkly evident in science, religion, politics and all the other realms of the human experience. Opinion has the advantage over truth because humans, as a matter of course, have demonstrated a proclivity for choosing the shiny rock rather than the diamond in the rough.

Truth and fact are worthy of relentless pursuit, and sometimes they may even take on a fugitive-like stature, but opinion should be slaughtered at every turn – except where it is openly acknowledged that opinion and not fact or truth is at play. When the man called Jesus spoke of truth to Pontius Pilate, Pilate quipped, “What is truth?” He was never given an answer. The philosopher, Diogenes is said to have walked the streets in broad daylight while holding a lantern. When asked why, he is reported to have said he was searching for an honest man. May we all do likewise – searching for facts or truth, and along the way, give no more power to opinion than what it deserves so as to ensure that the fight between the two is fair.

Published in: on December 1, 2015 at 4:17 AM  Comments (1)  
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Education versus Critical Thinking – re: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D.


One of the great follies of the human experience is that too many people assume that an educated person, such as Dr. Neil degrasse Tyson, is also a critical thinking person. Such a folly is somewhat understandable given that critical thinking is often a function of being educated. Education and critical thinking, however, are related but not synonymous. It should also be noted that critical thinking is a challenge for those who are educated and can be even much more difficult for those without an education. Stated otherwise, one has to consciously and deliberately link education and critical thinking because it does not happen automatically; critical thinking does not automatically follow education. The link between Dr. Tyson’s extensive education and his ability to think critically was essentially none existent in at least one instance.

At this point, it would be prudent to do what Voltaire once said: “If you want to converse with me, first define your terms.” To that end, for the purposes of this matter, I am defining being educated as being informed, having been taught what one did not know previously, to have learned, usually in a formal setting. Whereas, I am defining critical thinking as being able to identify and assess assumptions, being able to identify and evaluate explanations of cause and correlations, being able to recognize flaws and inconsistencies in an argument and being able to establish appropriate inferences and conclusions from information.

Having established this framework for discussion I now reference the appearance of Neil deGrasse Tyson [astrophysicist] on the Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on 05 November 2015. Also appearing opposite Dr. Tyson was a pastor, Carl Lentz. One reporter, Tana Ganeva, wrote an internet article for the AlterNet about that program and called it, “Neil deGrasse Tyson Wins Debate With Christian Pastor Using Flawless Argument About Asteroids, Genitals”. This so-called debate was about the never-ending argument regarding the existence or non-existence of “God”.

Before proceeding further, I want to make it clear that personally, I do not care if “God” exists or not. The existence or non-existence of such a Being does not alter my own existence one way or the other. If “God” exists, then good for “God”; if “God” does not, then still good for “God” [if you know what I mean]. I have no need for religion. I have no need for spirituality. On the other hand, I have no need for specious scientific ideas, theories or hypotheses presented as logical and conclusive. I only have a need for ideas that flow from critical thinking.

Dr. Tyson’s response to one of Pastor Lentz’s comment was, “I think of, like, the human body, and I look at what’s going on between our legs,” Tyson said. “There’s like a sewage system and entertainment complex intermingling. No engineer of any intelligence would have designed it that way.” Notice that last sentence. It is this sentence that casts doubt on his ability to think critically [at least in this instance].

A critical thinker would state it another way. The fact that our genitalia function as a “sewage system” and an “entertainment” system can be seen as being efficient rather than something that an intelligent engineer would not do. Case in point: A couple of hundred years ago, many homes in the US had a separate shed called an “out house.” It was thought that defecating and urinating were too foul of thing to do in the house. Later, not only did engineers/architects design a separate room in the house but, for efficiency and convenience, people could do more than just defecate and urinate in the bathroom. People could brush their teeth, take baths/showers, shave, apply makeup and even dress in the same room in which they also defecated and urinated. Engineers of intelligence often pursue efficiency by combining two or more functions in the same thing. So, the fact that we have a “sewage system” between our legs that also serves as an “entertainment” system is not a valid argument against intelligent design. Based on the aforementioned definition of critical thinking, Dr. Tyson failed to evaluate his assumptions or the flaw in his argument.

Secondly, Dr. Tyson also stated, “Anytime someone describes their understanding of god, it typically involves some statement of benevolence or some kind of kindness. I look out to the universe — and yes, it is filled with mysteries — but it’s also filled with all manner of things that would just as soon have you dead, like asteroid strikes and hurricanes and tornadoes and tsunamis and volcanoes and disease and pestilence.”

Again, this argument is feckless and is out alignment with the definition of critical thinking. Suppose the theists or the religious communities’ perception of “God” is mistaken? After all, they have no concrete and objective evidence of “God’s” mercy and benevolence. Maybe “God” is not a loving god but one who is indifferent or maybe even cruel. In other words, just because religion describes “God” one way and reality indicates something different, does not mean that “God” does not exists. It means the religious people are not thinking critically.

Furthermore, other scientists would tell Dr. Tyson, that tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and the like serve a useful purpose. All Dr. Tyson had to do was consult with meteorologists and geologists and they would tell him what are the benefits of those natural phenomena. Yes, they are often destructive to humans in the short term but are beneficial to the earth and subsequently and ultimately beneficial to humans in the long term.

To be sure, there are much more cogent and incisive arguments against the existence of “God” but Dr. Tyson’s argument lacked critical thinking. Despite Tana Ganeva’s description, Dr. Tyson’s argument was not “flawless”; it was shallow and vacuous. To be fair, Pastor Carl Lentz did not launch any powerhouse argument in favor of the existence of “God” either. In short, the “debate” between those two was akin to a fight between an amateur boxer and his own shadow; neither one landed a blow despite all the sweating and huffing and puffing. Quite honestly, I expected more from Dr. Tyson than I did Pastor Carl Lentz because of his scientific — and hence supposedly logical background.

Once again, I do not care if “God” exists or not. My only point is that if one is going to mount an argument for or against something, come ready, and come strong. Challenge assumptions, seek out the flaws in an argument, evaluate explanations. Be a critical thinker. Do not rest on your education and assume that it is sufficient or that it automatically means that you are a critical thinker. And lastly, do not be afraid to constantly question what you believe. After all, that is what critical thinkers do.

The Beauty of Thorns


Thorns protect roses from those that would feed on them.

To many, the most dangerous and to a few, the most important kind of person, is the one who thinks critically. Dangerous because such a person is difficult to control or manipulate with rhetoric or specious explanations. Important, for the same reasons. These people are a counter-weight to the sycophants and a threat to the powerful. The lenses through which they see this reality are cut from a different type of glass; they perceive what others only see.

Thinking critically, however, is difficult work and many times, annoying to others. One of the most annoying tools of critical thinking is questioning what others accept as true. Challenging norms or convention often leads to being criticized for asking, “Why?” or “How can that be true, if this is true?” The more cherished a belief or the more popular it is, the more irritating any challenge to its acceptance. But critical thinkers do not challenge just to be contrary; they seek to be enlightened.

When not being an irritant, a critical thinker is often considered “weird” because she/he will often ponder what others never even consider. For example, “Why is there such a thing as beauty?” or “Why is the universe so vast?” “Why are all polar bears left-handed?” “Are there other infinities besides space, time and numbers?” “If there is such a thing as free will, then why is there such a thing [given the state of human affairs] vis a vis the fact that other animals, from which many believe we evolved, act mostly on instinct?”

If only I could be such a paragon; I live to be one of them. They are the thorns of society without which its rose would easily be devoured and any beauty lost.

Published in: on April 14, 2015 at 11:36 PM  Comments (1)  
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Limitations and Friendships


I once visited my oldest cousin and as the conversation moved from one subject to another, he casually stated, “I would kill for you … but I wouldn’t expect you to do the same for me.” I never thought much about that statement until decades later. Implicit in that statement was that my cousin recognized and respected my limitations. He never tried to change me; he accepted my limitations as easily and as readily as he accepted his own proclivities toward violence. Later, I embraced that lesson as a fundamental component of being a friend.

The reggae singer, Bob Marley, asserted, “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” My sentiments might be classified as a corollary to that statement: You will disappoint others and others will disappoint you; but never disappoint yourself. In short, it is others’ limitations that often result in one being “hurt” or disappointed — unless you learn to accept that that is the way life spins. You should know your limitations and know them honestly and thoroughly. More importantly, however, you should pay close attention so as to know the limitations of others, especially of friends or others that occupy your space.

Limitations are part and parcel of being human — part and parcel of a person’s identity and thus, they also define friendships. Friends accept or adjust to each others’ limitations. This being so, consciously or unconsciously, we know that people are not likely to erase or redraw the lines that mark their limitations. We also know or feel that to express a dislike for a person’s limitations may rock the boat resulting in sinking the friendship — or, at best, stabilizing it.

After reflecting on the various friendships/relationships I have/had, I realize that my limitations have created problems for others — and vice versa. Sometimes you end up being the better friend or not. Friendships are rarely symmetrical; sometimes you give more and sometimes you give less but almost never the same amount.

Another way to think of friendships is that they are like roses. If the rose is not worth the thorns, then don’t pick it; otherwise, enjoy the scent as blood drips to the floor.

Published in: on April 9, 2015 at 12:04 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Has It Been Worth It?


Early on in school, I learned that each individual is the unique combination of one egg and one sperm. Thus, a different egg or a different sperm would result in a different person. That is pretty straightforward. What I found fascinating are the odds of that one sperm fertilizing that one egg. Depending on the overall health of the male, his ejaculate will contain between 40 million sperms to 600 million sperms! Typically, only about 200 sperms will actually reach the egg, but only one sperm can or will meet the challenge of successfully fertilizing that one egg. Nonetheless, that means that each of us are here because we won the lottery — we beat the odds which were 1 out of an average of 320 million at worst or at best, 1 out of 200 at least — depending on how you wish to calculate. The point I wish to emphasize is that the birth of a person is the product of random chance. Otherwise, you would have to believe that some superior, and presumably intelligent, force deliberately picked a specific sperm and egg so that you would be born.

I have often wondered, given that I have lived a few decades beyond the age of ten, has it all been worth it? The trifecta of joy, pain and the mundane — has it been worth it? Or would it have been better if a different sperm and/or different egg were fertilized so that someone other than the “I” that I am, were born? True, the lives of those I touched or were responsible for bringing into this life, would have been very different [if in existence at all], but was it worth it?

I think of the people that I have hurt or injured [as well as those who have hurt or injured me] and I ask, would it had made a difference if my mother had given birth to someone not made of the exact egg and exact sperm that generated me?

Statistically, and hence more than likely, my absence via the existence of someone else, would have made no significant difference. A little better or a little worse, but overall, no significant difference to humanity as a whole.

Which begs the question: What am I, Carlespie Mary Alice, worth? The answer to that question is related to the first one: Has it been worth it? I conclude, I am worth the same as almost every single person that ever existed, who does exist and who will exist. I am worth as much as the struggling farmer in a remote village in Africa or as much as the shopkeeper in India eking out a living.

That saddens me not because I wish I were worth more than my fellow humans but because that is what humanity is worth as a whole. We live, we struggle we die. This circle of life is little more than a noose — a noose tightened by the few in power.

There are more grains of sand on the beach than there are people walking on it. Almost all of us, are merely grains of sand. Or as someone stated, “Life is a beach and then you drown.”

Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 6:56 PM  Leave a Comment  
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The Context


It has often been repeated, “Timing is everything.” That pearl of wisdom is correct more often than not. This near truism is evident in a number of ways:

The chance meeting of two people who were not ready for love but now are.

The birth of a child just before one of the parents is stricken with sterility-inducing disease.

Finding employment just before losing one’s home.

Etcetera.

But if timing is everything, then so is context — perhaps more so. The Roman emperor [161 to 180],and stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, stated, “Poverty is the mother of crime.” This was true almost two thousand years ago and it is still true today — with reference to “street crime.” Ignoring the context of poverty, one can easily assert that an entire group of people are by nature, nocent and prone to rob, rape and kill. But taking into account the context of such activity, leads one to understand why the absence of poverty helps explain the absence of street crime especially in areas where there is affluence. It explains why most of those in prison do not come from wealthy or upper middle class families. Context does not necessarily excuse miscreant behavior; it helps explain it.

Content entails knowledge of most, if not all, the relevant facts and information. It precludes being narrow minded, bigoted and otherwise being fixated on staying in ones comfort zone so as to avoid the entire truth of a situation. It enables the deist to understand both the theist and the atheist. It allows the Democrat to understand the Republican — and vice versa. It can answer the “why” a partner is unfaithful or “how” could a friend betray another. But it does not always excuse, and it does not necessarily justify — it may simply explain. And sometimes, explanations [derived from context] can lead to resolution, a detente or even forgiveness.

Taking things out of context is another way to sacrifice the truth or to obfuscate it. Ignoring context is another way of settling for half truths or whole lies. Timing has to do with the outcome of events; content addresses the essence of the events.

Context is everything because everything has context and one cannot appreciate truth or near-truth without it no more than one can appreciate a word without its sentence and a sentence without its paragraph.

Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 6:41 PM  Comments (1)  
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Advice From A Black Man To His Grandchildren


As children born in America, you are not citizens of the United States of America. Do not think that you are. Nonetheless, you have a special status bestowed upon you by virtue of your parents and my parents. This special status is exclusively a function of your physical traits. Nothing more and nothing less. You are a black African-American, which makes you a resident [as opposed to a citizen] of the United States of White America — for you, there is no United States of America.

There is an unofficial but socially constructed caste system in this country that shoves you, and others who have physical characteristics similar to yours, at the dirt end of the totem pole. White males sit atop this pole. Most non-black people of this country will stridently disagree with what I just stated; research by their own institutions, however, confirm my statements and disproves their objections.

Given these facts, I offer the following grandfatherly advice about how to navigate this Neo-Jim Crow system:

First of all, never forget that there are some non-black people who genuinely respect others irrespective of their skin color or sub-culture status. These folks are not racists; they are authentic in judging everyone by their character and not by the color of their skin. When you stumble across such a human being, love him, love her, tightly for they are uncommon.

There is another group, however, that is equally and overtly authentic. These humans are self-proclaimed racists. They do not hide behind a façade of acceptance of black African-Americans. They hate you and deem you to be intellectually and morally beneath them. Avoid these people as much as you can. They are feculent, foul and stupid.

Between these two extremes lies the majority of non-black people. Members of this group wear a mask behind which lies their authentic selves. They will smile, act courteously and proclaim they are “color blind” or “race neutral.” Their contempt for you is hidden until circumstances make it advantageous to reveal it. Their civil behavior with regard to you is a cloak that they wear most of the time. Underneath, however, these people fear you, disdain you, think you inferior as they behave as if they do not. Again, you will see the genuine person when it serves them best to remove the cloak — often at your expense or loss.

Translated, this is your reality and the reality of your future children: White skin privilege will always trump black skin misfortune because that is what the system is designed to do.

Since, as a black African-American, you have practically no institutional power, any prejudice or bias you have will have a comparatively minimal effect. Stated otherwise my children, White people operate almost all government, economic/commercial, and social institutions in this country. They have the power to hire, fire, give, take, create, destroy, grant, deny, etcetera, at a level we have never had or are likely to have in the foreseeable future. In short, Whites can inflict far more damage or bestow many more rewards, as they see fit, on us than we can on them. And any resources they grant you will be because they realize you still cannot hurt them.

For example, academic and government research data reveal the following:

You are significantly more likely to be turned down for a loan than a White person with the same financial profile.

You are significantly more likely to be charged a higher interest rate for the same loan as would a White person — even if your financial profile is the same as or better than his.

Even though White police officers are significantly more likely to be killed by a White person than by a Black person, White police officers are significantly more likely to kill a Black person than kill a White person.

You are significantly more likely to be arrested than would a White person for the same offense.

Or, if you are tried for the same crime as a White person, you are significantly more likely to be convicted even if your criminal history is the same as his.

Then, if you and a White person are convicted of the same crime and you two have the same criminal history, you are significantly more likely to receive a longer sentence than the White person.

Given the same education and experience [or better] you are significantly less likely to be hired or promoted for the same job as a White person.

And I could go on and on.

This is not my opinion. Anyone with the IQ just above stupid cannot mount a cogent argument to dispute the above findings. As a Black person, we are stunted at every turn with respect to housing, employment, healthcare and justice. The point is, you will be penalized at almost every juncture for having black skin whereas your counterparts will be privileged for having non-black skin. That is your reality. Your lives as Black people are represented by the equation:

Social Standing divided by Melanin = PRIVILEGE. Recalling your math in elementary school, the lower the amount of melanin, the greater the privilege.

To some extent, however, if you are a famous singer, athlete, actor, or the like, then you are not perceived to be as threatening because you would be entertaining the non-black folks. Many will flock to you with shallow adoration but in the absence of your fame, you would be just another black person deserving of no more respect than necessary not to reveal their racism.

Another point to remember is that some White people will say they do not see race; they say they are colorblind. Do not be misled for I am raising you to be smarter than that. So-called “color blindness” results in their being less sensitive to issues defining race. They become willfully clueless to the nuances and trappings of white skin privilege and black skin misfortune. An authentic non-racist sees race, acknowledges and embraces it as simply being superficially, but not substantively different. They see color, but do not judge you by it.

Others will declare that they cannot be blamed for what others in the past did. They will assert that they did not own slaves or lynch Black people or deny them entry into certain establishments. They will state that that was in the past and that they have nothing to do with that. Such a belief ignores a salient fact: They did not wield the whip that beat the slaves or provided the rope that lynched the black man and they did not deny a job to a qualified or more qualified Black person BUT they enjoy the benefits that accrue to them for what their ancestors or other White people did to Black people. They may not have stolen the fruit but they are enjoying the pie made with that fruit while we still stand in the back waiting for crumbs.

Then there are some who would, out of discomfort or irritation, exhort us black African-Americans to “get over it”, or they accuse us of always playing the “race card”. We will get over it when they stop doing it and we will stop playing the race card when they stop dealing it. In this country, White people invented the race card and they play it each time they exert their privilege at the expense of a Black person.

Furthermore, many non-black persons will point to “black-on-black crime”, [as if White people do not commit crimes against other White people] poor academic performance, and the plight of the black family as evidence that we are not worthy of a place in their sun. They complain that we “should take responsibility”. On the surface, that argument appears sound, but it is specious. First of all, many blacks do “take responsibility” but they still receive treatment as second or tertiary class people. The instances are plentiful where highly educated, well-spoken and well-mannered blacks are still subject to the same treatments as blacks who are not as fortunate. Secondly, given the centuries of horrific slavery, oppressive Jim-Crow laws, and the current systematic racism that is sanctioned by all the major institutions, it is a wonder that blacks have even moved from the lowest point of the dirt end of the totem pole to the highest point on the dirt end of the totem pole. Any group of people who have been treated the way we have for a sustained period of centuries would be right where we are.

Heed my words and pass them on to your future grandchildren for they will serve them well long after I have left this planet. Keep fighting for fairness. Do not pity yourselves but do not be delusional. Do not lie down but understand that you are standing in a room designed to keep you from standing erect. Power and privilege will never be willingly shared. They will never be given freely. The only way we will be ‘judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin’ is when society determines that the social construct of race is no longer utilitarian. Until then, as long as white skin privilege is protected, the battle against racism must continue.

Published in: on November 27, 2014 at 8:00 PM  Comments (2)  
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US Politics 101


Excerpts from the essence of a political speech:
********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************
My opponent wants to provide health insurance for all because she’s trying to put the funeral industry out of business.
My opponent wants to encourage children and adults to get more exercise and to eat healthier foods because she’s trying to put physicians out of business.
My opponent wants equal pay for women because want women to pay higher taxes too.
My opponent wants to forbid prayer in school because she does not want God to hear how poorly our children are being educated.
My opponent wants to spend more money on education so that the uneducated can be too smart for their own good.
My opponent wants to extend unemployment insurance because she wants insurance companies to increase your rates.
My opponent wants to raise the minimum wage because she wants to put welfare workers out of a job.
My opponent wants gay people to be able to marry each other because she wants divorce attorneys to have more clients.
My opponent wants the poor to have more food stamps so that they could eat more food and therefore have to go to the bathroom more which would help the toilet tissue industry.
My opponent wants to raise your taxes so that the poor can buy boots in order to pull themselves up by their bootstraps which means there will be fewer boots for your children.
My opponent wants to spend less money on the military and the war on terrorism so that there will be more money for the government to waste on regulations and legislations.
Even if my opponent agrees with me she does so because she wants to prove me wrong.
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Moral of the speech? Even if a political opponent walked on water, she would be criticized as being too lazy to learn how to swim and if she raised the dead, she would be criticized for not letting them rest in peace.

Politicians often see their job as not to address the nuances of an issue with the intent on serving the citizenry but to paint their opponents as disingenuous or sinister so that they themselves can continue to serve their economic masters. It is this service to their economic masters that requires them to justify or rationalize their service thereby allowing the advantaged to continue to exploit the disadvantaged. Politicians often act as the conduit through which wealth and income can flow up from the less-than-rich to the uber rich. In order to do this, however, politicians must be elected. The rich provide the funding for election and the sheer intellectual inertness of enough of the electorate provides the votes. I say intellectual inertness because much of the reasoning of many politicians is as inane as the criticisms cited in the political speech above. Most politicians can say the most blatantly asinine things and enough of their sheep will believe them.

The rich are the bull and the politician shovel their shit; and the citizenry is left to step in it.

Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 6:54 AM  Leave a Comment  
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So What’s Wrong With Affirmative Action?


On 22 April 2014, John Fund at the National Review wrote, “Yesterday, the Supreme Court voted six to two to uphold the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), which was passed with support from 58 percent of that state’s voters in 2006. It simply enshrines in Michigan’s constitution that the state should not engage in race discrimination. Opponents of the initiative sued, claiming the measure discriminated against racial minorities who might wish to lobby for preferential treatment.” Agreeing with the US Supreme Court’s majority, Mr. Fund took exception to Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent by stating, “Her insistence that existing affirmative-action programs don’t result in the admission of unqualified students — and effectively amount to quotas — is at odds with the facts.”

This case specifically addressed the issue of affirmative-action programs at the University of Michigan in which Michigan voters opposed the use of race as one of the elements for consideration in admitting students to its institution. In short, opponents of affirmative action characterize it as “reverse discrimination” and that it also stigmatizes the beneficiaries as being less qualified because they were chosen based on race as opposed to merit.

With respect to college admissions, opponents of affirmative action are disingenuous and hypocritical at best or, at worst, they have redefined discrimination as something that no longer happens to Blacks [at least not to any actionable extent]. I present several reasons for my assertions.

First, there is the matter of “legacy.” Students whose parents are alumni [especially if they have made donations to the college] are given an advantage vis a vis other students whose parents did not attend that particular college. This practice has as much to do with merit and objective decision-making as skin color has to do with morality. Legacy perpetuates the sense of entitlement — and often, by default, white skin privilege since more whites are college educated and have more financial resources than non-whites in America. To afford an advantage to those whose parents graduated from or donated to the institution is tantamount to buying that child a place near the front of the admission line. Legacy is a form of favoritism sanctioned by the elite. This being so, where is the outcry of discrimination from white students who are denied admission because another white student’s parents graduated from or are donors to that college? Is it more unfair to be passed over because of race as opposed to being passed over because of one’s parents’ alma mater — or lack thereof? Legacy is not borne of merit. Legacy is affirmative action for whites who were born into a status they did not earn.

Second, there is the matter of sport’s scholarships. It is painful to contemplate that a student who otherwise could not even qualify to clean the bathrooms at a college but can secure a full-scholarship simply because he/she can dribble a ball or throw a pass. Never mind if that person can barely multiply by seven or write a coherent paragraph about the economics of racism in America. Athletics are often a significant source of revenue for many colleges; athletes are often walking dollar signs. Thus, the college is faced with two choices: Offer full scholarships to students who would lack the facility to be admitted based on academics but who can generate thousands if not millions of dollars for the college by simply being good at running off-tackle or blocking a player from making a basket; or offer a full scholarship to a disadvantaged student who shows promise and could use the education to become a productive member of society. In other words, athletic scholarships benefit the college in the short-term. Academic scholarships benefit society in the long-term. To be sure, there are some athletes who are well-schooled and academically bright. Nonetheless, they are awarded a full athletic scholarship as opposed to an academic scholarship. Why? Could it be that though they are intelligent and have good high school grades, etcetera, they still would not qualify for a full academic scholarship? Money trumps merit almost every time.

This is where the hypocrisy can have revolting consequences. Most of those college athletes do not go on to play professional ball and too many are still academically ill-prepared for life in a capitalist society. These athletes generate revenue for the university but more often than not, they do not lead lives that are as productive as other students who gained entrance based on matters other than legacy or athleticism. The universities use them and then dismissively discards them. The leaders at the college perform a fundamental calculus: Invest thousands of dollars in an athlete and earn a huge return for the institution or invest in a non-athletic student and allow society to earn an even greater return. The college may assert that it does both because the options are not mutually exclusive. Both options would be on equal footing, however, if the athletes were also academically on par with non-athletes at the college.

So where is the outcry about sport’s scholarships? There is silence because there is too much money to be made. Where is the outcry from white people about scholarships being offered to black athletes [no doubt at the cost of some white students who could have used that scholarship money to become a physician or a CPA]? The answer to those questions can be inferred from a poster plastered around the streets of an old nineteenth century southern city: “Wanted: Dancers, singers, musicians … All others considered dangerous!” It is fine for blacks to entertain. People love to hear us sing and watch us entertain, but if we choose to pursue something other than entertainment, then we are often short-changed — we are considered dangerous or at least less worthy than our white counterparts. Colleges are big businesses that often mimic their Wall Street cousins for whom money is both the Alpha and the Omega.

Also, consider this: According to the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, data [from 2012] clearly indicate that white women were/are the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action. This may come as a surprise at first thought but upon further reflection it makes perfect sense given that the task of distributing or sharing resources in a non-discriminating manner, lies primarily under the purview of white males. If people of color and women have historically suffered discrimination, then it would be typically human for those charged with implementing anti-discrimination legislation to favor those most like themselves — white, first — because color trumps gender — then, white females.

Last of all, there is the matter of racism in these United States of White America. Opponents of affirmative action [both white and black] will often quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words in which he longs for the time when a person “would be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin.” The problem is, many studies indisputably reveal that blacks are more often than not still judged by the color of their skin. To deny the prevalence [albeit less overt than during the old Jim Crow era] of racism is to deny facts as plain as five plus four. Chief Justice Roberts stated that to end racial discrimination, one must stop discriminating, hence, affirmative action or consideration based on race must be proscribed. I agree with Justice Roberts except that too many Whites have not stopped discriminating. That is the problem. If affirmative action is reverse discrimination, then it is discrimination in reaction to discrimination by those who are best served by it. Once the dominant group stops discriminating then there would essentially be no need for affirmative action [pejoratively called, reverse discrimination]. So, I ask, where is the application of MLK’s words on the part of those in power to determine who gets to enjoy resources and those who do not? Why is it that those words are invoked when whites feel discriminated against but there is silence when whites exercise White-Skin privilege at the expense of those whose skin is not white?

Or, we can address the argument of reverse discrimination from a different perspective. One person described this “argument as nothing more than semantic smoke and mirrors.” She explains: “There’s discrimination for something (presumably “positive” such as when countries like Germany pay reparations for a select group—Jews, in this case) and discrimination against something (presumably “negative”). But the narrative confuses the two and so have folks like Ward Connerly, Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas and others championing the dismantling of affirmative action. (Ira Katznelson’s book, “When Affirmative Action Was White”, is a good reference, as is Randall Kennedy’s, “For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law”).” In short, discrimination is not always baleful; it can be a positive action to correct a negative one. But those in the position of privilege are not willing to pay the short term cost. Do not be confused: The kind of affirmative action that the courts have struck down is not one of two wrongs [discrimination and so-called, reverse discrimination] trying to make a right.

Without question, there are many whites who are not racists and who actually fight against it at every turn — sometimes to their own detriment. But not enough of them do. Which is why there is persistent disparity in sentencing [and the enforcement of law], in compensation, in employment and housing as well as education. These facts are as real as the earth spinning around the sun and not vice versa — Justice Roberts comments notwithstanding. If education is one of the gateways toward equality then abolish legacy and award scholarships based solely on academics and other criteria that are not associated with privilege or physical prowess. And stop discriminating at the front end so that there will be no need to take corrective action at the back end. If no consideration should be given to race when applying for entrance into college, then none should be given to legacy or a person’s athleticism. But this is not likely because the status quo has a specific utility as does having a permanent underclass.

So what’s wrong with affirmative action? What is wrong with affirmative action is the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative because that decision constitutes a tacit sanctioning of affirmative action for some and the blatant rejection of it for others. This striking down of affirmative action is a way to resolve the cognitive dissonance borne out of racism by denying its prevalence so as to prop up the status quo that favors the privileged.

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