Friday, November 17, 2017

Childhood's Great Vision

Getting by or getting better, what occupies our days?  Life fills up quickly with mind-numbing routine, attending to work and meals and bills and kids and homework.  Days pass, and months, just getting by.

How might a child be inspired to greatness while living in such humdrum? 
Practically speaking, it won't happen.  Unless ...

Children will aspire to what they see in people they know and respect.  A good heart is a great role-model.  Encouragement and affirmation are powerful shapers.  Meaningful conversations (not lectures) about real life are powerful.  Involving children in problem-solving and decisions is a vision former as they begin to understand what's important and what's just details.  The earlier the better.

Education begins at home; essential principles are established there.  Schools cannot adequately fill the gap.  Issues of character are furiously assaulted in the social arena. (ref)(ref)  It's high-risk and a difficult path to thoughtful adulthood; not everyone does well. (ref)
Teens are in the most turbulent period of identity development and will benefit most from parents who are an anchor of principle and values and acceptance.  Helping them keep their eye on the goal is a particularly difficult task with teens, but absolutely essential.  Pray for them every day.
Life circumstances can make it difficult, but perhaps not impossible.  Rich or poor, here or there, who we are will still have the most impact on who they become.  Their vision for the future rises out of our vision for life and how sincerely we pursue it.  

Children's ethics, principles, convictions, values, conscience, character, clarity, morality, and life goals come first from ours.  So how are we doing?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Race to Ignorance

-- Race issues are emotionally charged. We should perhaps categorize ourselves by ear size instead.  Or freckle count.
Is that reasonable?

The original photo (left) was posted claiming world genocide against whites ...
Modern science has provided the truth about racial differences.  There aren't any.  We're all 99.9% the same, genetically speaking, just human.* 

(The few visible differences have been determined to be no more significant than freckles.)

Skin color, for just one example, is a response to environment rather than ancestry.  If a white population migrated from Canada to the equator to live in the sunshine (and somehow remained isolated from other populations), their common skin color would permanently darken in response to increased ultraviolet exposure.  The trait would change in a hundred generations or so, just the blink of an eye, anthropologically speaking ... white to black, just by environment.

Or vice versa -- that's how white people appeared in Europe despite being dark skinned when their migration began from the tropical regions.

The pure white (Aryan) race of Nazi propaganda never existed, anywhere.  Every population and every individual share a common ancestry, each overlapping others as you make your analysis back through the centuries.  We're all descended from that common ancestry, and suggesting we segregate ourselves based on skin color or eye shape is perhaps as meaningful as making that same distinction based on ear shape and hair color.

So why do we struggle with racial prejudice?

We'd understand better, perhaps, by considering the root cause of such desire to identify ourselves separately from others.

  • Why do we have the 'in-crowd' in high school?  
  • Why do we have social classes based on wealth?  
  • Does in-group against out-group qualify as collective bullying?
    What part is played by selfishness, hubris, anger, insecurity, fear?
  • What legitimate justification exists for prejudicial discrimination?
At every level from individual to global, the motivation appears to be the same.  Economic, ideological, and political competition follow the same logic of us vs. them; the results are divisive and deadly.

Recent research in genetics unveils a wonderfully complex mapping of thousands of physiological elements, none of which provide any meaningful way to racially separate one group from another.  We're all 99.9% the same, genetically speaking, just human.*

Ignorance = lack of information

Race as biology is fiction, racism as a social problem is real
Discussions of racial difference often point to gang culture, crime rates, and poor educational achievement as proof of white superiority.  Research (gangs, crime, education) shows such differences arise from imposed poverty, discrimination, and denied opportunity.   
What we do and don't know

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Astroturfing - the practice of faking a grassroots consensus while hiding the sponsorship behind the message.  It creates the impression of widespread support (where little exists) in order to popularize and exaggerate credibility.

... the artificial creation of a grassroots buzz favoring a viewpoint, i.e. mass brainwashing. ...


Tobacco Industry: in the 90's, they funded the National Smoker's Alliance to generate what looked like public support for smoker's rights against legislation that would dampen their business.  It was fake support, of course, and the industry knew it.

By the time they were forced to come forward with the truth, that smoking “kills more people than murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined,” it was too late for the millions they'd killed ... deliberately, in defense of their profits.

Politics: (now closed) offered a tool which sent a user’s letter to the editor to dozens of newspapers under different randomly generated names.  In 2003, virtually identical letters that were essentially lists of GOP talking points were published nearly simultaneously in over 70 newspapers across the US, creating the impression of broad support for controversial GOP policies.  Similar campaigns were used by  

Such tactics are not exclusive to the right; the liberal website used the same tactic the very next year.  Letters to the editor don't affect much these days, so there are twitter bots that fake and forward multiple thousands of generated messages.

Many organizations in the Tea Party movement are considered astroturfed, with direct connections to right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, and their activities controlled by wealthy supporters or the GOP.

The DNC under the control of the Clinton campaign persuaded Democrat voters that the choice of candidates rested completely on transparent process.  Not quite true, as we now understand.  By formal agreement, DNC staff and policy required approval by the Clinton campaign prior to implementation for more than a year before the primaries.

Environment: Since 1997 the Koch Brothers have spent over a hundred-million dollars funding supposed scientific organizations.  The groups are masked as think tanks whose purpose is to spread false ideas, to attack climate change scientists, and to popularize climate-change denial.  

Exxon has recently acknowledged that climate change has begun, due in large part to the burning of fossil fuels.  They had attempted to hide or obscure that truth for decades using deliberate misrepresentation detailed in a Harvard analysis and report, using non-peer-reviewed studies and editorial-style advertisements ('advertorials') challenging the science.  Exxon was aggressively and knowingly misrepresenting the results of their own scientific research across four decades, just like the tobacco industry did.  Residual misinformation generated by the oil industry persists in public thinking, even after having been repeatedly discredited.

... and anyone can buy thousands of 'likes' for their web page.

Today, it appears that the internet and media have become, among other things, a tool to shape us according to someone else's plan.  More often than not, the motive is money and power at the top of the pyramid.

Apparently, Governments also do it.
Then there's Gaslighting.

Friday, October 27, 2017

It's hard!

For some folks, it's automatically going to be a hard battle, one almost impossible to survive.  Reaching the goal just isn't going to happen without extraordinarily difficult tasks, choices, and sacrifice.

Being rich apparently insulates us from reality, from the real world, from God's view of things and people, even our own children.

This young fellow came to the teacher and asked what he needed to do to finish well.  He was told to love God and obey the rules.  The guy said he'd done all of that, and the teacher told him to prove it, but he couldn't or perhaps wouldn't.  His wealth and position, it seems, had tainted his thinking, his view of himself, his comfort and luxury and future. He couldn't bring himself to consider changing course to a better purpose.

It's hard, the teacher said, for a rich person to finish well. Really hard. Later, the teacher's friends were struggling to understand.  "If that rich fellow can't do it, how can we or anyone?"   There is a way, but it's perhaps not obvious once wealth and class obscure things.  

He meant what he said, I think.  And if I live in America, chances are I'm rich, maybe fifty times richer than most others in the world.  Is that a problem?   What do I not see, what have I missed?  How much of my life is spent on the wrong things?

And as for that kingdom he was talking about ... what are the chances the richest country in the world, the most wealth-focused economy in the world, is headed in the right direction?  

If the path I'm on seems easy, it might need a critical review.   Is the goal clear?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Threshold for Participation

A poor person in the U.S. is richer than half of the world.  True or not true?
Because there's more to the question, neither is correct.

The more complex the economy, the more it costs you to live in it.  That is the threshold for participation, and the cutoff for survival.

The conservative view is that the poor here live rather well compared to the rest of the world, so we needn't worry much about them.  On FOX news today, the discussion was about how the Reagan era saw a 7% increase in income for both the lowest and highest quintiles, so no problem.  The reality, the top quintile progressed well with their annual household income in recent years while the lowest lost ground. 

There's more, if you want to understand.

Half of the world lives at low income.  Few have regular jobs.  Most survive by fishing or small plot farms and flocks, perhaps a little trade and selling on the street.  They walk to the river for water.  There may not be public transportation or stores or health care nearby.

As an economy grows, it updates those rivers and footpaths and gardens with municipal water systems, city streets, and grocery stores, but living there means you pay your share of the cost.  

In any economy, if your contribution falls below that threshold, you're disenfranchised or worse, perhaps homeless and on the street along with your family, begging.

The poverty line in the U.S. is indeed middle-income compared to the whole world.  That's because basic participation in the economy costs much more than in India or sub-Saharan Africa.  Here, if you don't have a cell-phone and a vehicle, you'll not likely be able to hold a job.  If you don't have a computer and internet, you're kids will have difficulty getting an education, and you'll have difficulty keeping up with your bills and finances.  A good diet, health care, shoes and clothes, soap and toothpaste ... making your way forward requires the ability to participate in the economy in which you live.

The GAP - The more useful measure for this issue is inequality.  When the privileged extract wealth from the economy at the expense of the rest, the result is a widening gap, or inequality.  The flow of wealth from bottom to top fosters persistent corruption in business and government, and deprivation below.  That's within a single country or economy.

Globally, countries can face the same difficulties.  There's a threshold for a country's participation in the global economy.  Poorer countries struggle and extractive trade policies are deadly.  Western countries have extracted wealth from African countries for centuries, for example, resulting in a deadly inequality and extraordinary difficulties for countries and their people.

Progress goes disproportionately to the top of the economic pyramid.  At the bottom, millions fall below the threshold for survival every year.  For them, there is no way out unless something changes, perhaps if someone lends a hand.

Do your own inquiry - Human Development, extractive economics, and the GAP

Or look at fair trade vs. free trade, archenemies in international politics and competitive economics.  If international trade is just a competitive sport, then workers being abused and destitute isn't a problem.
Then there's the question of minimum wage vs. fair wage vs. living wage.

Change Makers and Help Bringers

The rich world's troubles and inequalities have been making headlines for some time now. Yet a more important story for human welfare is the persistence of yawning gaps between the world's haves and have-nots. Adjusted for purchasing power, the average American income is 50 times that of a typical Afghan and 100 times that of a Zimbabwean. Despite two centuries of economic growth, over a billion people remain in dire poverty.  Why might that be?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Protest, issues and responses

Burning flags and draft cards, protests and demonstrations.
Disrespect? Or a call to the nation for change.         
Our military veterans have earned the respect of us all. In serving,
 they offer their lives to preserve the liberty and justice we so
cherish.  More than two million served in Vietnam.  They

served with courage and at great personal cost.  Then 
  and now, they deserve our deepest appreciation.
Those who sent us there, however, were
deceptive and unjustified in their
decisions.  They mislead us.
Protest is often disruptive. The war in Vietnam brought protests that included riots and flag burning, campus demonstrations and the death of innocents.  The protests were pointedly about the need for change.  Public response was divided much like today with many attacking the 'unpatriotic' voices.

We found it difficult to separate our loyalty to country from the issues being raised.  The Vietnam war felt like a choice we had all willingly made and that we needed to uphold, but it wasn't.

From a recent conversation,
"Today's uproar reminds me of the 60's and the response to anti-war protesters. It was becoming clear, the war was devastatingly wrong, based on misrepresentation and unethical decisions. Instead of hearing the message, however, many attacked the protesters. And some died, precious young lives ended.  

And then there were those fifty-eight thousand more who died on the battlefield, those hundreds of thousands injured, those thousands more who never got over the war, a million refugees, and the two million civilians who died.  

The protest was valid.  The truth behind the war was eventually acknowledged, but it's troubling and rarely discussed."
Kaepernick and a few others take a knee in protest against modern discrimination, oppression, and death, whether at the hands of police or by prejudice and inequality, now entering its fourth generation.  It's a call to the nation for change.  
Public response today is divided with many attacking the 'unpatriotic' voices.  
The protest is valid.  The truth will perhaps eventually be acknowledged.
"Which is more troubling ...
- that a protester takes a knee during the anthem, or 

- that black teens have to be taught how to avoid being beaten or worse when (not if) they get pulled over?"  
That's what the parents of black children do, did you know? (ref)(ref)(ref)(ref)(ref)

Curious; read further.

Look up Jonny Gammage for a little insight into Kaepernick's concerns.  
Or Master Sergeant Rossano V. Gerald, or Philando Castile, or other examples.
See Harsh History for more on protest and reason.  
Or The Courage of Conviction.

Our hope, perhaps, is that we would be a noble nation, understanding and slow to anger, not easily offended, not quick to judge or condemn, and wise in our decisions.  🤝