If, I say

If, as they say, wisdom — or at least practical wisdom or prudence — demands that we seek to control those things within our province and ignore those things we cannot possibly change, if, I say, that is what wisdom demands, then we need to ask a few questions. To begin with, we need to be able to recognize those things within our province. What things are within reach, as it were? What things CAN we control? Please note that this demands not only self-awareness, but knowledge of the world around us.

We are faced with many very large problems, nationally and globally. There is not much we can do about many of those problems except to elect leaders who seem to mean what they say and hope they are not simply lying in order to be elected. They may have the power and position to do something about, say, nuclear disarmament. We do not. Based on the historical record, however, we should not be too optimistic on that account.

Let’s stay a bit closer to home. Take global warming. Again, this is a huge problem and we can only hope that those we elect to public office realize the problem and are willing to risk their careers to take on the corporations that are determined to deny the problem in the name of larger and larger profits. Radical change requires a major commitment on the part of governments and those who support governments. But there are things we can do as well.

We can recycle; avoid plastics whenever possible; turn the heat down in the winter and put on a sweater; turn the air conditioning up in the Summer; drive economical cars or, better yet, walk or ride a bicycle; replace inefficient heating and lighting systems with more efficient and economical ones. You know, small things that matter. We can become engaged in movements to save the planet if we determine that those movements show promise. We can support them financially and, better still, become involved personally. And there are other things of this sort that we can determine are “within our province” — if we are serious about addressing the problem.

But closer than that to home are the folks around us who are homeless and without food. Those of us who can help with donations to worthy causes can do that; those who are in position to do so can help out at food kitchens and participate in drives to raise money for food and clothing for those around us who suffer. It appears that there are many in this country who do genuinely care and who grab their checkbooks when they read or hear that there are those in need. There are some who belittle this effort, saying that it is the easy way out. But for many this is the only option if they are to help at all. And it is something that helps those who need help.

And we can love those around us, family and friends, who need our support and who support us in our hour of need. There are many things we can do to “be there” for those close to us. This sounds trite, but it is a step toward the wisdom we seek, the wisdom that eventually leads to happiness.



I have a theory. It’s a bit far out, but it is not entirely implausible. So I thought I would put it “out there” to see if anyone could refute or confirm it. At the very least, it’s food for thought. It has to do with The Donald. I think he is sabotaging his own candidacy — on purpose. We know he didn’t really want to run for president; it was just a bit of a joke for him at the outset. Get a few delegates but, more importantly, get his name before the public and draw attention to himself, which we know he loves to do. This is the man who names everything he owns, even his helicopter, after himself.

My theory rests on the assumption that he is not as stupid as he appears. (No one can be as stupid as this man appears — except, perhaps, those who follow his lead blindly.) Given that assumption, and given the possibility that he knows pretty much what he is doing and why he is doing it, my theory isn’t that far-fetched. It may, in his mind, be simply a game he is playing, or an experiment to see how stupid those around him truly are. If that’s so, then he discovered — as did we all — that there are a great many more stupid, bigoted, angry people out there that any of us thought was the case, sad to say. However, I may be giving him far too much credit. The entire urge to scuttle his own campaign may well be unconscious.

In any event, his behavior of late is even more difficult to explain than it was a month ago. He is turning people against himself in increasing numbers, even Republican members of Congress and former Republican luminaries (and the V.F.W. and mothers of crying babies),  as he expands the range of his hatred and fear of those who differ from himself. He seems to be aware that he is losing ground and he attributes that to the “fact” that the election is “rigged.” That is to say, he knows he is going to lose and is preparing himself and his mindless minions for the inevitable — perhaps to get them brooding about the “fix” that’s taking place as he loses ground on Hillary. It’s his way of maintaining control. Given the volatile nature of his followers I dare say he will go out with a bang.

But I take it one step further: I think he wants his campaign to be unsuccessful because the thought of being the president of the United States, with all that this implies, scares him to death. In spite of his huge ego, he has very little real confidence in himself.  His behavior has all the earmarks of psychological compensation. That’s why he brags as he does and struts his bully self before the public, threatening to hit people and mimicking the infirm, belittling those who appear unfit in his eyes. He has created a public persona that appears larger than life while behind that facade hides a frightened little man.

That’s my theory. Take it or leave it. But think about it. The man is a living contradiction. Thus it is not far-fetched to think that he would want to undermine his own campaign. In the event he can look back (and write a book) in the conviction that he would have won if the campaign hadn’t been “rigged”(his invention) — and if he hadn’t sabotaged it himself. That is to say, ultimately, he’s the one in control.

Ignorance and Fear

Socrates famously said the ignorance brings about evil in the world. He put it otherwise. He said knowledge invariably leads to goodness. I stress the obverse, but in either form he was a bit off the mark, it seems to me. I would say that ignorance leads to fear which quite often leads to violence. It is not ignorance, per se, that leads to what Socrates would call “evil.” It leads there through fear. And we are learning all we need to know about fear these days, thanks to the media, prodded by the frenzied right-wing, who have discovered that fear is an excellent way to control the population, to reject any attempts to control the sale of guns, and get such things as increased defense spending in Congress.

In a previous blog I quoted the Hanlon’s Razor that tells us “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” This is a profound adage, if you think about it. It is indeed stupidity that leads to the fear that, in turn, leads to violence. Think about it. Imagine you are in a dark house alone and you hear something drop in the kitchen. You immediately are afraid and you reach for a poker (if you are near the fireplace) or a make-shift weapon of some kind. Then you find out it was the cat who knocked over the sugar bowl and you breathe easier. Your heart stops racing and you calm down. But think about the direct and immediate connection between your ignorance of the cause of the noise and the fear you feel as a direct result of your ignorance. And one can expand on these examples endlessly and continue to imagine what might happen if you had a real weapon, say a hand gun or an automatic rifle in the drawer next to you. You might have shot the poor cat! Or your nephew. Or a neighbor who was watching television in his living room next door. Absurd, you say? Not really. It simply explains how so many violent acts are committed each day by frightened people who shoot first and think later. I say again, ignorance leads to fear which leads to violence. Not always, to be sure. But often.

And when we consider the widespread ignorance in this country fed by the fear-mongers who feed off it, we might want to pause and reflect. Consider, for example, the self-appointed guardians of our southern boundaries who are armed and ready to protect us from the hated immigrants, children though they be, who (they think) will their jobs away and cripple our economy. I have blogged about this, as I have about their conviction that theirs is a right guaranteed by the Constitution to carry those weapons and be ever-prepared to use them — even though (as I have noted in past blogs) the Bill of Rights guarantees the militia the right to carry weapons, not frightened and stupid thugs. But because many choose to read the Constitution through glasses tinted by fear and suspicion, their right is insisted upon even though it is a fiction.

As F.D.R. said long ago: we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Indeed. And its first cousin, stupidity.

Of, By, and For The Wealthy

I was recently faulted by one of my readers for attacking the Republicans, particularly the Koch brothers, for their outrageous spending on political elections. I attempted to right the ship by noting that it is not the Republicans I attacked, but the spending itself (though I doubt I hid my dislike of the Koch brothers very effectively). That’s why I try to draw historical parallels, contrasting today’s political goings-on with those early on in the history of this country. Indeed, there’s hardly any basis of comparison between today’s politics and yesterday’s. Part of it is TV, of course and the lightening-fast speed of communications these days. But most of it is due to the limitless amounts of money the very rich have that they are willing to spend on political candidates — on both sides of the political aisle. A recent story in Yahoo News makes the point rather vividly:

The disparity is most evident in the race for the White House, where Crossroads GPS, Restore Our Future and other organizations aligned with the Republicans spent nearly $37 million on TV ads through the first few days of June, most of it attacking Obama. That compares with about $11 million by groups supporting the president, with much of it from Priorities USA Action.

Again, the disparity is not the issue. The issue is the $48 million that has been spent SO FAR on regaining or holding on to the White House. And it’s only early June! Moreover,  this does not include the amounts that are being spent on Congressional candidates. The only possible word to describe it is “obscene” in a country where thousands cannot put food on the table.  And, as I have mentioned (and we all know) the recent Supreme Court decision on Citizens United has literally opened the flood gates to allow the wealthy in this country to gain complete control of the government. Don’t look now, but it’s happening!

Given the fact that so many of our problems as a society transcend economics and come back to environmental abuse — global warming, destruction of habitat, elimination of animal species, oil spills and leaks in pipelines, and air and water quality — brought on by big industries that spend a fortune not only buying politicians but also fighting federal regulations, their unfettered influence should be a major concern to us all.

But as one of my readers is fond of pointing out, it’s not simply the politicians or even the corporations with their unlimited political war chests that are the problem. It’s us. All of us. We have allowed this to happen as we go about our daily lives whimpering from time to time, but always doing our own thing while watching the pocketbook to make sure it has the necessary change in it to buy the latest trinket. We are not only politically ignorant and apathetic, we are self-indulgent and spoiled. We are used to having things our way and even though we are now in the midst of deep-seated planetary changes we prefer not to think about that fact. Our continued ignorance is due, in large part, to the myriad ways those who control the media have been able to divert attention away from the real problems that confront us all. But we are willingly inattentive and easily diverted.

As long as we keep our heads buried in the sand and ignore such things as melting ice caps, thawing permafrost, rising ocean waters, overpopulation, waning food and water sources, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, things will go on as they are now. It will take a major calamity to get our attention. And by then it may be too late. Until then, we remain the problem.

It has nothing to do with which political party outspends the other. It has to do with the fact that our government is becoming further and further removed from the people who ought to control it and increasingly in the hands of a few wealthy individuals whose only desire is to advance their own agendas. This government is no longer Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It has been bought by wealthy special interests and we have let it happen.