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What’s Worse Than U.S. Economy? Try the World

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While Obama and Congress do the dance of death over a stimulus package that has a snowball's chance in a snow storm of actually accomplishing anything…

…we watch our 401ks shrink to 301ks, 201ks, 1 1/2 01ks…

…we fear for our jobs, our health, our futures, our children's futures…

…we empathize with those who are losing their jobs, their homes, their hope…then

what can we do about the fact that carnage around the world, the likes of which we can no more comprehend than we can world peace, makes our problems seem trivial by comparison.

  • Today, MSNBC reported that 10 million people in Kenya face starvation because prolonged drought (global climate change, anyone?) has again devastated their harvests.  It's a little hard for the country to handle this because "of the cost of sheltering and reintegrating 600,000 people displaced by violence following December 2007 elections. More than 1,000 people were killed, and many farmers were too frightened to return home and plant crops." 
  • Zimbabwe, take I:  Beloved and saintly President Robert "I Am The Walrus" Mugabe is correct, cholera is not raging, it's rampaging through this tract of land that no longer exists as a viable nation.  Millions are on the verge of starvation, clean water supplies are only available for high government officials, and the capital's two largest hospitals shut down weeks ago because doctors and nurses hadn't been paid.  And when they were, the money was worthless.  The rate of inflation, as estimated by John Robertson, an independent economist in Zimbabwe, is now eight quintillion percent — that is an eight followed by 18 zeros.    
  • Zimbabwe, take II:  Troops in Zimbabwe with no pay, no food, and no support, have taken to eating elephants.  (Not to worry, the country has more elephants than they can care for.)  According to the BBC, "The economy is collapsing and soldiers have recently gone on the rampage in the capital, Harare, after being unable to withdraw their salaries in cash from banks."  Odd, it's the army that's keeping Mugabe in power.  One can only hope they lose their taste for elephant and consider dictators…nah, that's gross.  Sorry.
  • As if it weren't bad enough that Mexico has become a battleground between the drug cartels, the government, and whoever else has a grievance, the government itself is so mired in red tape that virtually nothing works.  Consider something as admittedly complex as getting medicine.  Cecilia Velázquez's son has a immune deficiency and an infection could kill him, so he needs daily meds.  No problem.   "First, two government doctors have to sign off on the prescription. Next, four bureaucrats must stamp it. Last, she has to present it (in quadruplicate) to a hospital dispensary.  The process takes at least four days and sometimes as many as 15."  Her son often has to go for days without his medicine.  And that's one of the better government systems. 
  • Slaughter in the Congo continues despite the well-armed and trained UN forces positioned there.  Just last month, rebels murdered over 150 young men in under 24 hours…just miles from a UN post.  This vindication of man's inhumanity to man was led by a commander wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.  "In the past year alone, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes as the rebels, led by a renegade army general, have waged a fierce insurgency against the government and its allied militias."
  • Oh yeah, the Middle East.  Israel & Hamas reject the UN's anemic cease fire proposal.  Israel rightly noted that there was nothing that would prevent Hamas from continuing it's missile bombardment and tunnel transportation system.  Hamas has a more reasonable objection:  They were "angry that it was not consulted during exhaustive diplomatic efforts at the world body." 

Not to worry, though.  Big Brain Thinkers have the solution, if one discounts Jimmy Carter's idiotic and naive claim that if people would just listen to him, he'd have solved this issue in 1835.  Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post today opined that the Israelis should have followed a political rather than a military approach.  His well-reasoned and carefully-constructed argument was contradicted by another op-ed, same paper, same day, where Charles Krauthammer argued with equal brilliance that Israel's military approach was working, if they have the guts to stick to it. 

 

"Hamas's leadership is not only seriously degraded but openly humiliated. The great warriors urging others to martyrdom are cowering underground… Demonstrably unable to protect their own people, they beg for outside help, receiving in return nothing but words from their Arab and Iranian brothers. And who in fact is providing the corridors for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians? Israel."

 

Any more that I've missed?  Oh yeah.  Somalia.  'nuff said.  Russia & the Ukraine feinting and jabbing in a cloud of natural gas while Europe gets a wee too cold for comfort.  North Korea making more nukes while its population starves. 

All of the above represent but one day of media coverage, yet the carnage, the murder, the political instability, the pure incomprehensibility of what is going on in the world rolls by day after day like the wide Missouri…and we do…nothing. 

Who is the we?  Can't just be the U.S.  The U.N. is a joke.  The EU is a collection of one-liners looking for a comedy venue.  Russia's basking in 19th century dreams of imperialism.  China's become such a capitalist pig that no crime against humanity is grave enough to make them rethink their international economic policies.

Hmm.  I guess there is no we.  After the Holocaust, Jews rose with one voice to proclaim "never again."  Good slogan.  Only problem is that no one listened, and it's happening over and over and over again while good people do nothing. 

I wonder.  What will we tell our children?

 In Jameson Veritas

 

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About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Mark, good article. Three comments, however:

    1. The Kingston Trio sang much the same song at the Hungry I fifty years ago, back in 1959; the song was written in 1953. Damn, it seems like only yesterday. To use an even older phrase, the more things change the more they remain the same.

    2. As all right left thinking people know, it is all the fault of the U.S. and, most recently, George Bush.

    3. Come 20 January, these problems will vanish.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Arch Conservative

    Thanks for the perspective Mark. Sometimes we forget just how damn good the average American has it compared to so many in the world.

    You forgot Haiti where some are so poor that they literally eat dirt.

  • Zedd

    Not sure what the point of the article is. Is it to say “Even though we are going through tough times, there are those who are worse off” or “Don’t highlight any bad things about the U.S.” or what?

    What was the point?

    Yes there are worse places… surprised? New revelation? Newsworthy?

    Not sure what Jimmy Carter has to do with the article other than to make a reference to someone from the “left”.

    Please elaborate. The point is???? Did I miss something?

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/39420/joanne_huspek.html Joanne Huspek

    Interesting thoughts, especially since I read this after seeing my most recent 401K statement, now worth less than one half what it was worth this time last year. The only way for me personally to stay positive is to remember that there are many who are worse off.

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Zedd, the point is simply that, paraphrasing, I think, “all that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    We do nothing. When your children (if you have them, I don’t) ask you what you did to alleviate these barbaric world conditions, what will you tell them? That you were busy stockpiling against a depression.

    I’m actively looking for ways to get engaged. It’ll be small and ultimately meaningless I suppose, but, since I’m on a cliche train, “the death of any one person diminishes me.”

    My generation asked our fathers, “what did you do in the war daddy?” (WWII)

    O.k?

    Dan–I was barely around then, but one of the bizarre consequences of the Cold War is that it kept tribal rivalries from erupting into wanton slaughter. I do think conditions today are worse. And we don’t have a clue how to address them…except wait for January 20th.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Cindy D

    Mark,

    I loved this article.

    Remember everyone, there are people worse off than you. Feel better. Watch TV. Be happy.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Zedd, the point of Mark’s article is that you Americans lived in a little bubble of prosperity that the world does not share – and while he didn’t say as much, your economic policies help keep lots of folks eating nothing but dirt – like the folks in Haiti do. Your bubble of prosperity has burst and you still do not seem to get the point.

    The other point is one that Mark didn’t address – it would be hard for him to.

    America is a big dog – and when it takes a shit, it stinks something awful all around the world. But dogs do not smell their own.

    I didn’t comprehend that until I became an ex-pat and starting getting whiffs of the shit America has dropped all over the planet. I guess being in that little bursting dog-bubble of what used to be prosperity blinds you to those realities, Zedd.

  • Clavos

    your economic policies help keep lots of folks eating nothing but dirt – like the folks in Haiti do.

    Our economic policies have little to nothing to do with the plight of the Haitians.

    I have been visiting Haiti since the late 50s, when Papa Doc Duvalier was president dictator.

    Haiti’s disastrous economy is entirely due to the incredibly bad leadership it has had for the last fifty years. Virtually every Haitian “leader” since the 50s has failed to enact any significant remedies to the island nation’s troubles, and in fact, most have been thieves who have stolen what few financial resources Haiti has acquired during that time.

    The country is destitute. It cannot even grow crops to any great degree, although it once had significant arable acreage, because the starving, desperate citizens have stripped the land of all the trees, using the wood for fuel, and erosion has literally sterilized the soil.

    Haiti shares its island, Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic. The contrast between the two countries could not be more stark. Even though the Dom Rep cannot be considered by any measure to be affluent in the sense of First World countries, it is infinitely better off than its neighbor, with a thriving tourist industry and a relatively rich agricultural sector, as well as a busy manufacturing industry, especially in textiles.

    Haiti, unless a miracle occurs and a “savior” steps out of the shadows to take charge, will not improve in the foreseeable future.

    Living in Haiti, for the vast majority of its people, is literally hell on earth.

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Cindy, glad you liked article but message isn’t go watch TV but go DO something…anything…but I think you got that.

    Ruvy, you’re letting your negative feelings towards your former home show. I was just as critical of the EU, Russia, and China. (I can’t believe I’m going to say something nice about the Busher, but his HIV/AIDs programs in Africa have been spectacular.)

    China won’t allow anyone to act on Somalia because they sell them so many weapons. Russia & China prevent the world from finding any way to address the maniacal Iranians because they do so much business there.

    It’s human nature. Studies have shown that people–all people–react more strongly to one lost child than millions dying of malaria. I’d go back and find it, but I’m too lazy–my old article, “Three Steps From the Caves.”

    We’re all savages, some of us coated with a thin veneer of civilization that can be torn off at the slightest provocation.

    The U.S. stinks the most because we’re the biggest, but the odor from Russia, China, and the EU are growing stronger all the time.

    The problem is just the U.S. To focus on that is to miss entirely the point of my article.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Mark,

    Ruvy, you’re letting your negative feelings towards your former home show.

    Me? Negative feelings towards America? You must be thinking of another Ruvy – some other bald headed guy writing from the Samarian mountains!

    Seriously, what you’re seeing is a perspective that is not reasonable to expect you to have. For all of your criticisms of America and the world, they are all from within that bursting bubble of American exceptionalism.

    That is why it is so hard for Americans to smell the shit that America leaves throughout the world. A dog can’t smell his own – he only knows to bury it (or is that a non-dominant cat?). Anyway, I think you get my point.

  • Cindy D

    Mark,

    Some responses indicate your article is already making people feel better.

    Maybe it will lead to everyone finishing everything on their plate tonight.

  • Jordan Richardson

    This article reminds me of a Randy Newman song in which the singer makes the point that the Bush Administration isn’t all that bad because, hell, they aren’t Nazis.

  • Baronius

    “your economic policies help keep lots of folks eating nothing but dirt”

    Nonsense, Ruvy. Al those third-world sneaker factories may be ugly, but they provide income for a lot of people. The meager savings of US immigrants sustain their families back home. US military power and trade deals keep create a (precarious) equilibrium for the world. Our private charities and public international aid provide plenty of assistance. And if you don’t like our impact when we’re doing well, you won’t believe the impact of our rough patches.

  • Cindy D

    Much like sweatshops, I think eating dirt has gotten a bad rap. It’s probably very filling and contains iron and other nutrients.

  • Clavos

    It’s probably very filling and contains iron and other nutrients.

    Especially if it’s in a cemetery…

  • Cindy D

    Death or mistreatment. Is that all their is?

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Ruvy, sorry, you’re right, I was thinking of that other Ruvy. Oh well, what can you expect from a balding guy writing from the mountains of Northern Virginia?

    But I continue to disagree that one cannot accurately assess US influence–good and bad–from within the bubble. Or…one cannot accurately assess it from anywhere.

    One’s biases, prejudices, beliefs, desires…etc. all distort how we take in and process information. I’m anything but a moral relativist but I am very much an experiential relativist.

    And I’ve never seen a dog bury its own shit…roll in it, sure, but bury it? Gads, that stuff is good cover–at least that’s what some dogs think.

    Cindy, I’m glad people are feeling better. That is, after all, my mission in life, FOFL.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Cindy D

    Mark!

    nooooo…

    how can they be motivated to do anything if they feel better?

  • Cindy D

    and i didn’t mean you article did it. i thought your article was motivating enough. i just think that…well, why don’t people do anything any other time?

    look what they’re doing with it. they’re saying. “oh yeah, there are hungry people. i should appreciate what i have more.”

    not a bad thing. but it ends there. if it ends there. nothing happens. people can feel better, go back to being happy, start watching TV (it’s just a metaphor for entertainment). just my musings.

    so what’s different about you? why are you motivated? (it’s a real question, not psychoanalysis) i want to know how to motivate as well. maybe if i ask what motivates someone else, it could be a start.

  • Zedd

    Mark,

    I guess what I am concerned about is that feeling good is not always the best thing. If embarrassment, distress, fear, or uncertainty causes you to see the error of your ways and re-evaluate the way you do things, then its not so bad.

    Americans don’t have the problem of self loathing. We are the popular jocks of the world. Americans KNOW their greatness all too well. Some think we inflate (in a sort of embarrassingly delusional way), our excellence. Perhaps this encounter with reality because of the current economic situation is good for us and maybe we need to feel not so hot. Maybe we need to self evaluate in order to actually become the people that we THINK we are.

    And yes I agree, we have become complacent but we will not get whipped into shape by saying “but we are better than everyone else”.

    Perhaps I missed how you drove the point that you were attempting to make but it just seems as if you were deflecting and too quick to run from the pain that would heal us. Much like all addicts, the rationalization is what keeps one stuck. We are stuck on the feel good/instant gratification. Telling us that we are better than everyone doesn’t quite help us get over ourselves, buckle down, and defer the feel goods (a la relying on credit cards, buying the bigger faster and shinier do dad… etc) and behave like responsible citizens. Like those past generations that you mentioned.

    Maybe you were saying, “quit whinning”. But what came out, from reading the comments that followed, was “it aint so bad we are still pretty great”.

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Zedd, gadfry daniels, I have been terrible in communicating if that’s what you’ve taken away from my article & comments. In no way did I intend to suggest that we should be feeling good about being Americans while the world disintegrates. (My comment to Cindy about making people feel good as my mission was sarcasm, but perhaps not sarcastic enough.)

    I noted twice: what are you (meaning all people, including Americans, since most of the folks who read this are Americans) going to tell your children about how we did so little while so many suffered?

    …feeling good is not always the best thing. If embarrassment, distress, fear, or uncertainty causes you to see the error of your ways and re-evaluate the way you do things, then its not so bad. I couldn’t agree more.

    I didn’t intend to say we’re better…just bigger. What I won’t accept is that all the world’s problems can be laid at our doorstep. Human beings are, as I’ve said, fundamentally savages and while we can tame those savage impulses, we should never pretend they’re not there.

    And I don’t really care how people feel–I care about what they do, and we, the world, is not doing enough to end the carnage. Americans are not pretty great–although there’s a strange cultural and spiritual impulse to doing great things in the U.S.–we’re very big and we influence the world in good and bad ways.

    I tend to be most flip about those things that affect me most deeply, which may account for my not be as clear as I intended.

    Go back and read comment #5, which was addressed to you. I don’t know how to make it any clearer. All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

    Good people around the world are doing nothing. Americans are not excused. Evil is winning.

    I hope that clarifies things.

    Cindy,

    I’ve always been motivated. I think I owe a lot of it to my parents and their ethics; certainly, being Jewish (agnostic, but a Jew nonetheless) has been a powerful influence on my belief that we have a responsibility to others.

    My bride taught me many years ago that if one focuses on fixing the world, one fixes nothing. Rather, focus on the people you can help, the small things you can do.

    One problem, and this requires a long article, not a comment, is that the more people become frightened or threatened, the more they focus on those most close to them.

    Also, psychologists and neurologists have shown that human beings care more about one lost child than millions dying of malaria.

    I don’t know how to motivate anyone else to accept responsibility for things happening thousands of miles away. I wish I did. People hear words and distort them into what they want/need to hear.

    I’m afraid I can’t help you & I’m blathering on. I’m also in a lousy mood, so I probably shouldn’t have even attempted to respond.

    Bah…

    My name is Pozzo. Is that not enough for you? One day I came. One day I was gone. Is that not enough for you? (Waiting For Godot–from memory, so maybe not entirely accurate.)

    My whole live has been lived in words and now I have retired to satire and parody. Perhaps, were I stronger, I’d leave those easy realms. Maybe, someday, I will be stronger.

    Is that not enough for you?

  • Cindy D

    Mark,

    Okay. Where do your parents live? lol I guess I’ll have to start sending people there.

  • Cindy D

    (somehow i suspected it wouldn’t be an easy answer)

  • John Spivey

    Mark,

    It’s good to hold all of the questions in mind like a koan, but I don’t think the answer is fixed and obvious. Britain stayed between the Muslims and Hindus for centuries, yet when they left India the animosity was still there, only larger. Why do human’s hold onto their bitterness and vengeance despite all this terrible evidence that as a survival tactic it doesn’t work. I know a guy who flew of to help in Darfur, which is a good thing in the short run maybe, but the bitterness and vengeance continues unabated as a mindset around the world. I think it’s because we humans think that this is who we are and what we are fated to be–fundamentally sinful and violent beings living in a pointless existence. The real question is how do we change the mindset, change the view of the meaning of life. On a personal basis I have to find out what it really means at a very deep level to be a real human being, to find that life is neither a sin nor a probabilistic mistake What does it mean to be real without the blinding excess of bitterness, anger, and vengeance, without the blinding excess of judgment and condemnation? How can I move beyond the fear and futility I feel in the face of all these events and find meaning, find a firm place from which to take a real stance in life? When I can do that for myself, then I’ll know what to do for the suffering world. My answer is my own, your answer is yours. What does your presence teach the world?

    John

  • Zedd

    Mark,

    Ah, I get it.

    Agreed.

    I am teaching my kids about being responsible, kind and accountable. I expose them to what the world is like for most of the planet’s inhabitants. I try to teach them compassion through our active involvement in volunteer work. I had them budget their allowance from early on. I push education. I refuse to replace gadgets for them every year, upgrading each time. I’ve tried to teach them about marketing strategies and that the item on the commercial is designed to make some guy rich not to make their lives better. We work on conserving energy. I really want them to get it and to be powerful women inside while enjoying beautiful things (art, music, things of the spirit, make up and FASHION)- We are girls and love cuteness.

    What would you suggest that we do to empower the next generation to be good people? I want to give them the best. I want to expose them to as much of what will be wisdom for them when the begin and live their lives as adults.

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Cindy, meet John Spivey, the one person who might be able to lead me out of the wilderness. If there were a God, I’d say he’s one of God’s truly spiritually profound creations. He’s written an amazing book, The Great Western Divide. Everyone–go forth, buy, read, and learn.

    John…what the hell are you doing back here??? What a delight.

    Somewhat drunk & in a foul mood, I shall attempt to first understand and then respond.

    Nothing in the mind is fixed. One holds all the questions and watches them as through a kaleidoscope, shifting and twisting. The honest person knows that even the questions are suspect; the fool sees answers. The honest person takes action woven into uncertainty. The fool acts bravely and without question.

    Humans hold on to bitterness and vengeance because, in evolutionary terms, we are savages, just three steps from the cave, and when we were in the cave, bitterness and vengeance did work. And while it no longer works when one considers humanity in its entirety, it does work for the “me”, now, in my small, little, fragile world. That is a horrible truth, the one those who would show a better way must acknowledge.

    But humans aren’t sinful–that presupposes God. And there is no fate that cannot be overturned with a strong will. Violence, on the other hand, is in our nature, in our genes. To deny it is to give it power, sway over our actions when we’re most vulnerable.

    I have long fought against anger, judgment, bitterness, and condemnation, sometimes with success, sometimes not.

    As you know, the past few years have not been kind, even though I think I’ve begun to emerge. You seek a spiritual place from which to define your presence. Perhaps I’ll be able to join you seeking my own place. Perhaps not.

    But my presence, if there is no spirit, is simply a function of what I have done in the world, how I have acted. And it may not teach the world in the broadest sense, but it teaches those whose lives I’ve touched, just as you have taught me. I will not say what I’ve taught here, on BC, but I will tell you at some point.

    Maybe if you hang around, I’ll moderate the satire and sarcasm & once and a while speak of things that matter…assuming I know what they are.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Cindy D

    Hi John Spivy :-)

  • Cindy D

    i keep trying to write something but it keeps coming out as a wisecrack. so…

  • Zedd

    Is that laziness or fear? Tongue in cheek, and satire can on some occasions be chicken little popping his fraidy cat head out.

  • Cindy D

    Hiya Zedd,

    Probably discomfort at digesting a serious moment.

  • Cindy D

    maybe laziness :-)

  • http://www.johnspiveyfurniture.com John Spivey

    Mark,
    I’m afraid you overstate my case. To Cindy, hello. i’d like to write more, but it’s getting later and the mind fogs a bit. I’ll check back in the morning.

    John

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Well, it’s morning and my mood is somewhat improved.

    Cindy, yes, I fully understand how difficult it is to maintain a serious tone…and I say that in all seriousness. But one can try.

    John, I overstate nothing. I am the Walrus.

    Zedd, ah, so we have reached a degree of understanding. Good. You ask “What would you suggest that we do to empower the next generation to be good people? I want to give them the best.”

    The answer is simple & contained in John’s comment,#24: “What does your presence teach the world?” Writers need to learn the most important rule of composition: Show, don’t tell. (Well, one of the most, anyway.)

    The same is true of life: words are meaningless unless supported by consistent behavior. If you want to teach the next generation, you do it through your actions.

    What that requires is that you carefully and honestly examine your own behavior. Do you preach integrity and cheat on your income tax? Do you tell people to be fair but take advantage of others? Do you applaud honesty but often lie or act with deceit?

    It’s oh so simple to say, but oh so difficult to do. We can only know ourselves through our behavior, and that’s how we present ourselves to the world. Present yourself with integrity, honor, decency, honesty, kindness, sharing, empathy…all those good things…and you’ll send a powerful message.

    Or…more simply…walk the talk.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Cindy D

    “In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embrace that, life is wasted.”

    Carl Jung

  • http://www.johnspiveyfurniture.com John Spivey

    Mark,

    Very good grasshopper… in the end our integrity is really all we have. It extends beyond, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Being an old mathematician, I use the word integrity in the sense of wholeness, off consistency throughout the system. For my life it means unifying all the disparate fractured parts into a unit where all the parts pull in the same direction and the same purpose. I can’t do away with my anger and violence, I can only pull them into the fold and let them change. Our brain is built in layers that reflect our evolution, with a reptile’s brain at the core. Some people would say that this is who we are. My experience shows me that i can examine all those layers and unify them. Each of the layers provides valuable information about the world, but cannot be in charge. So, who is it that does the unifying, that creates this alignment of direction and purpose? You have to find it in yourself. I know that it exists in you or you wouldn’t ask the questions. It’s not so hard to find moments of this unity, this integrity, but it’s much harder to maintain in the face of the onslaught of the world. This is the real practice. It helps to have friends and community for encouragement and support. Once you find this unifying part of your being, don’t ever forget it exists. Practice remembering it daily. I have been tempted to try my hand at writing here again. It’s a way for me to practice my own integrity and remembrance. I won’t talk about the things I can’t live out.

    Cindy,
    I wholeheartedly agree with Jung. I have had two wonderful mentors in my life. One of them was a personal student of Jung, so I feel an affinity.

    Zedd,
    I think the greatest gift I gave my daughter was my integrity. Though she is really my step-daughter, we have never had a falling out because she knew she could trust me and that I would always be there.

    John

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    John, thank you, master.

    You define integrity: “For my life it means unifying all the disparate fractured parts into a unit where all the parts pull in the same direction and the same purpose.”

    Ouch, could you make that definition any more difficult?

    I, struggling, would define integrity as behaving in ways consistent with one’s ethical and moral standards. Again, I tend to focus on behaviors, while you are much more self-reflective.

    “So, who is it that does the unifying, that creates this alignment of direction and purpose?” Ah, the question that has plagued philosophers and seers forever. Based on what I’ve read, I’d have to say it’s an unconscious process to which we have little or no access. (Strangers to Ourselves, Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious–fascinating, disturbing book)

    And if it’s the unconscious, and if we can only intuit what’s it’s doing through the examination of our behaviors, self-reflection may be self-defeating.

    Isn’t the end result the same, though? We both search for the life well lived, for a way of being in the world that positively influences the people around us. Of course, you do it because of your spiritualism (and internal wanderings.) But why the hell do I do it?

    All this stuff doesn’t work in comments. We should try to do a joint article where we examine these issues with more time for reflection and discussion. Not sure if BC is the right venue, but it’d be fun.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Baronius

    You’re pursuing largely Western approaches to the problem of ethics, but ignoring the dominant thread of the Western tradition, Christianity. Ethics isn’t why I became a Christian, but it is nice to have a couple of thousand years’ worth of insight. Less time required to reinvent the wheel.

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Baronius, good points. John certainly doesn’t rely largely on western philosophy. His world is an amalgam of eastern and western traditions.

    I’m not sure about mine. Karma, for example, means action. The action one takes in this life is reflected into the next. How different is that from my notion of right behavior.

    And I didn’t intentionally ignore Judeo-Christian philosophy…last night I was too tired to include it, but some of the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus are important, perhaps essential components to an ethical life, lived with integrity.

    Like I said earlier, this comment section is totally inadequate to addressing these issues. It needs a fully thought-out article.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Baronius

    Mark, true; probably not an article for the Politics section, either.

  • http://www.johnspiveyfurniture.com John Spivey

    Baronius,

    Ah, we meet again. For me there is no problem of ethics and no reinvention of the wheel. The only rule for my life is, “First do no harm.” Basic, primary. Not ten rules, not one hundred, just one, as in unity. I consider all those who might be harmed by my choice of actions and proceed thusly. I may somehow offend people, but not actually harm. For all the couple of thousands of years of insight, Christianity has largely passed that “first do no harm” by in favor of control, forgetting the figure of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane when confronted by the Romans. In conjunction with that though, I have to say I’m a black belt martial artist. I acknowledge my capacity for violence and provide a channel for bringing it into the fold and letting it inform me. My experience of Christianity has not been one of integrity and walking the talk, but rather one of “do as I say, rather than what I do.”

    I don’t see that I’m pursuing a Western approach to ethics as I have no tradition to defend. When I attended a Baptist affiliated university they would ask us our religious affiliation every semester when we registered. I would write down “Zen-Baptist” in jest, but it has its faint ring of truth these days.

    I must go. I’ve taken time from lunch to post this and being self-employed I know the boss will know. I must get on to Mark later.

    John

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    Mark –

    Um, sorry to bust your bubble but America is NOT the country with the highest standard of living, and we are NOT the country with the highest life expectancy, and we are NOT the country with the highest average level of education.

    And we do NOT have the best economy in the world.

    Hate to tell you this, guy, but I suggest you travel with open eyes, and perhaps you might find – as I did – that there ARE better places to live than America.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love America and I’d still die for her – but there are better places to live.

  • Cindy D

    John,

    I have been tempted to try my hand at writing here again.

    I, for one, would love that! I really hope you decide to do that. How exciting!

    (you’ll forgive me though, no masters for me…)

  • Cindy D

    I urge you Mark, to reconsider that position, as well.

  • Baronius

    John, that comment wasn’t particularly directed at you. It seemed like most of the discussion was covering old (centuries-old) ground, that’s all.

  • Cindy D

    The problem is, people interested in politics are the very people that could put any of this to use.

    So, it’s all politics.

  • http://www.johnspiveyfurniture.com John Spivey

    Cindy,
    Personally I don’t know what a master is any longer. I have met spiritual masters who screwed everything in sight, martial arts masters who drank far too much sake off the mat. So, what makes a master. Some people think I’m a master at woodworking, but I’m not. I make too many mistakes I have to recover from. I’m good, I make beautiful things, I get immersed in the work and it teaches me things. That’s all I know. Maybe mastery is a process more than an end. Laying claim to the title can stop the process.

    As to spiritual matters, all I can lay claim to is that I walk the talk. If I write here again, it’s a self-serving thing, as by my own calculus I will be forced to live up to whatever I put in print. My life is no bed of roses. I do have a wonderful wife and daughter, but my back hurts, I have no health insurance or retirement, and my work isn’t selling in this economy. Yet, I still hold unity of being as best I can. Some days are better than others in that regard.

    Thanks for the invitation to come back. Now, on to Mark

    John

  • Cindy D

    John,

    Here is how I see it–and you. That master thing just holds you back. Hey, we all have wisdom. As I am sure you know.

    Speaking of drunk karate “masters”. I thought it was only the one I knew!

    No one should be burdened with a label of “master” any more than anyone should hold any authority as wise.

    Hello–Hitler, Lenin, Bush.

    I look forward to reading anything you write. You have wisdom I could use.

  • http://www.johnspiveyfurniture.com John Spivey

    Mark,
    This afternoon I tried to write some ideass down on a piece of wood while I was working. Call them “thoughts on a stick.”

    Have you ever been so immersed in an activity (like your music) that suddenly thoughts cease. Religion, nationality, and politics cease. At that moment, who is doing the activity. It’s not the unconscious. The unconscious is a place, not an identity or a being. Musicians and artists tend to worship it as a being, a god, but it’s a place, a land of great beauty and great fear and horror. It is a place where all the thoughts and fears of humanity reside, a place of devils and gods. The land of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The entity doing the activity is still you, just a part that is little accessed, little recognized. Coming to unity requires not only the recognition and coming together of all the familiar old parts, but it requires recognition of this part that is beyond the fray and requires allowing it to take the lead. We seem to have great difficulty in believing that this is actually in us, is part of our birthright as human beings.

    One of the great lessons from 12 step programs is the lesson of powerlessness. We can look at all the problems in the world and feel overwhelmed at the complexity. Instead we can say, “At this moment I am powerless over this situation.” Use the time to become whole and gather personal power and when the moments arise to help, you will recognize them and have the knowledge and energy to do what is necessary. Otherwise we are blindly flailing.

    There’s too much to cram into this comment and I fear I’ve failed to convey what I ‘m really trying to say. In a nutshell, it’s in you. What keeps you from seeing it?

    Send me and email about what you want to do about an article.

    John

  • Zedd

    Mark,

    @#33,

    Why the heck didn’t you write an article making that statement.

    I remember your comments from a couple of years ago and they were quite profound, often followed by a light hearted ribbing to dilute their potency (perhaps an attempt to deny the nerd within). However when I read this article, I wondered if it was the same person.

    I do live that way. It requires the constant self evaluation of ones intent. I believe in living well, finding joy and good in as many moments as possible. I believe in simple. It works for me and I try to impart the value of beauty in the simple things to the kiddos. I want them to be full and realize that this journey is theirs to enjoy and that money and trinkets simply don’t offer that type of joy. I hope they get it. I have to remind myself too.

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    You are having much too much fun.

    Waiter, I’ll have what she’s having.

  • Cindy D

    Zedd,

    Grab a glass.

    I’m actually working from the factory today. The manager said she wanted to have a drink. My job was to supply the intoxicant.

    We’re going to make it a once a month job.

    Who said work isn’t fun?

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    John #48 –

    VERY well said!

    Only problem is, the more profound the observation, the more likely some will decide to ignore it.

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Glen, Lords & Muffins, I never said we were the best at anything…I said we were the biggest. There’s a difference. If I’m not communicating, stop reading; if you’re not reading, stop writing. Grrrrrr…..

    Zedd, why aren’t I being more profound? Because I’m a shallow little mugwump? Arghh. The truth is that, for the past few years, I’ve found it almost impossible to write anything. It’s slowly coming back, but I’m just tossing off satiric nonsense because it’s easy. I don’t edit, I don’t really think, I just let the rhetoric machine (the unconscious) bather on.

    I’m treating articles on BC & my blog as things to do to pass the time when there’s too much pressure on me to do other stuff. I’ll work on it, but don’t hold your breath.

    John, we’re in violent agreement, and I’m, surprise, not expressing myself well. When I was writing well & easily, it was a glorious, spontaneous combustion where the unconscious would take the lead but my conscious mind was always watching, sometimes surprised, sometimes dismayed, always ready to edit and hone and refine.

    And during those times when the writing just flowed, there was nothing but the writing. I’ve had the same experience with music–but performing and listening. I never meant to imply that the unconscious is not part of who we are–simply that it’s very powerful and not well accessed by the conscious.

    I think we’re in agreement..right?

    And I will e-mail you.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • http://www.johnspiveyfurniture.com John Spivey

    Mark,
    If you dip water from a well, is the well taking the lead?
    John

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    John,

    Bad analogy…assumes the unconscious is as passive as a well. The conscious and unconscious are two active, aggressive entities wired together in strange and wondrous ways scientists are just beginning to understand.

    That is, if your analogy’s about that. If you’re talking about heavy metal, then the answer’s no. Well’s aren’t nice…they’re deep, dark, and filled with weird creatures. They give you lead, LOL!

    In Jameson Veritas