Measuring Civilization: Wheels on Meals

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Are you civilized?  Is your neighbor?  How about your President?

Trick question.

As far as I can tell, we don’t have a measure of “how” civilized we are.  Sure, an economist will point to GDP, a geographer could point to population, and a librarian could point to how many reference works exist.

But HOW civilized are we?

One measure put forward many years ago has to do with eating.

I love eating.  And I love studying behavior.  Let’s put the two together.

If I took your civilization and withheld the food supply so it was, say, 25% of normal, what would happen?

Would many people starve quietly, still obeying the rules of decency and law so that civilization continued peacefully?

Or would there be some sort of breakdown in the rules?  Would people become more like wild animals, stealing, robbing, murdering, even cannibalizing?

Let’s bring some rigor to the process.

Take any group of people, say the group you’re stuck in a meeting with today, and make them supreme.  By that I mean, make everyone else in the world go away.  They have the whole Earth to call their own.

How long can this group survive using the rules of society they grew up with?  Will they thrive and grow into a new society?  Or will they end up at each other’s throats?  Or, my favorite, will they run away from each other, dying alone?

Make the group your whole nation.  Or the whole Earth.  You choose the group.

Then restrict their food.  Give them only so many calories every quarter day.

Here’s where the fun starts.

I know that when I get hungry, I attack.  I attack the fridge.  MUST EAT screams my stomach.  The rest of the body follows.  When my stomach is full I go back to being all nice and civilized.

How many quarter days would I allow civilization to survive?  Maybe two.

How about you?

 

Dividing Flirt from Felon

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I was in a meeting the other day where two friendly members made a professional date.  Alan then made comments to Barb that made me uncomfortable.  Barb laughed them off, so I’m not sure if she felt the same way.  To make sure, I’m going to ask her the next time we meet.  If she was uncomfortable, then I’m going to ask permission to talk to Alan.

It got me thinking about more important things.  Those things have to do with biology.  Our very genes want us to make more of ourselves.  Our genes also encourage us to have a partner.  These are not necessarily the same thing, but they can be.

More importantly, the urge to reproduce is very ancient.  That “phenotype” is one of the very first to be programmed into sexual animals.  After all, if an animal didn’t have the urge to reproduce, their species wouldn’t be around very long.

The other phenotype is wanting to have a partner.  That’s fairly unique among animals, but not unique to humans.  Plenty of other organisms like to have long-term mates.  It makes sense.  They get to know you, you know them, you help each other out.

Alan and Barb also have these urges.  Barb is young so that both urges are probably strong, despite her having a boyfriend.  Alan is older and married, so his urge *should be* less.

This means that each wants to be alluring to the other.  Yes, both already have others in their lives, but that doesn’t mean their basic urges turn off.  So we end up with this:

  1. We want to be alluring.
  2. When we’re talking with someone we like, we let them know by flirting.
  3. If, and this is huge:
    1. Both people want the same thing (each other) then they are going to keep flirting, and talk, and touch, and before you know it they become intimate.
    2. Both people DON’T want intimacy, this is what happens.
      1. At a certain point, one person’s flirting becomes another person’s harassment.
      2. If the person who is harassing doesn’t stop, the harassment is assault.

And there’s the rub.  Both people want to be liked.  Both people want to enjoy each other’s company.  But to the extent we must encourage allurement and flirting (in any form), then we must also encourage learning when to stop.

That’s part of what #MeToo is all about.

Societies that don’t want to deal with all of this tend to suppress their women in burlap and burkhas.  Even in the most modern societies, you can find women who are being bundled up.

Is it bad?  Is it good?

Neither.  It only is.  But the conversation is important.

So, as Jane Austen’s Elizabeth says to her Aunt Gardiner: “Where does discretion end and avarice begin?”

 

Jeweler Screws

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As a student of behavior, it’s great to make sweeping generalizations inspiring others.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore details that muddy up one’s life.

This is one of those diddly details.  I’m trying to make the best of it, and use it as a lesson for staying on track and being a good STUDENT of behavior, instead of a VICTIM.

For our 25th anniversary, and for Valentines, and for her 50th birthday, and for recognizing neutron stars, I wanted to do something very special for my wife in solid gold.  That’s total gold.  24 carat.  No extra ingredients.

Jewelers don’t like pure gold because it’s very soft.  But I wanted pure gold in a very special shape.  Not only because it was a special occasion with special math involved (halves and all that), but also because physicists and chemists had figured out where gold comes from.

Colliding neutron stars.  Cool, huh?  So all the gold on Earth started out as space dust spewed out from a couple of neutron stars that couldn’t keep their hands off each other.

Now, four years ago when I did this, it was only a partial theory than generally accepted physics, because there was no evidence.  Then, only last year, we got evidence.  Three huge telescopes that are set up to measure gravity waves recorded the collision of two neutron stars.  Bang.  Gold!  And a whole lot of other heavy elements.

Back to me and the jeweler.  I asked them to make this.  They were local, they were nice, and they did it.  Cost a lot.  My bride was very happy.  She always is.  Heck I could have made it out of steel and she would have been just as happy.

Fast forward four years.  The jeweler has moved.  My wife is taking out the jewelry, and guess what?  It’s tarnished.  What?  She tries to remove the tarnish, and it doesn’t come off.

Gold doesn’t tarnish.  I’m feeling, angry, anguished, cheated, vengeful, disappointed, angry again, depressed, and trapped.  Angry with them, angry with myself.  How could I have allowed this to happen?

I’ll go to another jeweler and get it checked.  I’ll go to a lawyer and see what my options are.  But my guess is that the money is gone, along with my friendly jeweler.

What’s the lesson?  I’ll let you help me figure it out.  The bigger point is that I can’t let it get to me.  My wife is still happy, she always will be.  The money is still gone, and it’s unlikely to come back.

At least this life’s lesson, this life event, can live on the internets so that others may be able to learn from it before it happens to them.

Learning.  That’s what being a student is all about.  I just wish it didn’t have to be so darn expensive.

Or painful.

 

Two A-Salty for Words

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In my writer’s group, I listen to everyone read their material and tell myself I’m way better.  It’s great for my self confidence.  Of course, they probably do the same thing to me, so our karma balances out.

We live in the snow belt.  Feels more like the snow crotch.  This belt is made of snow, and despite my carbon butt-print, global warming isn’t enough.  Too much white stuff.

Snow.  Not drugs.

Our lake sits on top of salt deposits.  If you live in a place that uses salt during the winter, it’s probably our salt.  Thanks.  Salt, and assault, seem to be everywhere, even here.

Amy sits between me and Nerdy Bill.  She knows Bill as a co-worker and writer.  They’re talking about a working date.  Bill’s got a wring on his fing, is a lot older than Amy, and is quite a bit bigger.

I’m not trying to listen, but I hear him making references to not getting drunk on a weekday.  Ha ha.  Isn’t that funny.

Then he says something about her sitting in his lap.  Yuck, I’m thinking.  What lap, dude?  He has to reach for his computer keyboard.

Wait.  Now he’s telling a story when there were so many Bills in his elementary classroom that he was rechristened Will.  He’s laughing.  I’m crying.

Amy is laughing!  Now she is saying “that’s funny!”  I’m thinking Amy is having a stroke!  Or was she flirting?

No, Amy has a boyfriend.  She is probably only being nice.  But Bill is being yucky, with extra YUCH.

I should have told him he was making me uncomfortable.  He was.  I shouldn’t care what Amy thinks, or should I?

That was in the middle.  At the end of the meeting, our leader, Charlie, was suddenly attacked by a dog-loving woman.

Charlie also loves and owns dogs.  For some reason he’d brought one to the meeting and left him in the car 3 hours.  He’s not allowed to bring him in.

Yes the weather is cold, about 30 degrees F.  Before you get all “poor doggie,” the dog had a sweater on, and, here’s the best part, he’s still a dog.  Dogs can handle cold weather for a long time.  I’ve seen huskies in Alaska in minus 20 degrees F staying out all night.  They’re fine.  They’re dogs.

But this woman bolted in at the end of the meeting, accosted Charlie, told him he was cruel to animals, and called the police!  Then she ran out.

Did she think she was helping the dog?  Did she think she was teaching Charlie?  No to both.  Her assault was violent and uncomfortable.

So, maybe it’s winter.  Maybe it’s people.  Maybe it’s the salt.

 

PS – Shout out to ee cards for putting this image on the web for us to enjoy.  Get more at ee cards!  Send one today.

Hollywood Child Abuse

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When it comes to kids I’m all for them.  Adults screw them up.

If I’m remembered for nothing else, I want to be remembered as the guy who fought for the kids.  Today’s kids.  Tomorrows kids.  Remember the children.

Wife was watching a well-acted show that stars Lily Tomlin.  She’s wonderful and I’ve always enjoyed her work.  She’s also one of the producers.

I was reading this book while wife watched season 2 episode 12 dealing with suicide, among other things.  Well done.

But there’s a scene with a young girl, and she drops the F-bomb at two points.

There’s a certain kind of adult who takes pleasure out of seeing a child swear like an adult.  Why?

Is it that as adults we lost our innocence at some point, and we enjoy seeing a child lose theirs?

The fact is the show had a child actor appears to swear (it could have been dubbed) in order to complete the scene.  Turning that child into an adult is something that should be treated with great respect and tenderness, not for profit.

That child most likely didn’t want to become an actor as much as her parents wanted her to act.  Certainly her agent and the other actors see her more as a money-making team mate rather than what she truly is, a child.

What is the impact upon her?  Does anyone care?  (Yes, I do.)

Look at the track record Hollywood has upon other childhood actors.  It’s not good.

Why do we allow this to happen?  What can be more important than a child’s life?

Rhetorical questions, because we know the answers.

Greed.  Power.  More greed.  And because money made today is worth more than a grandchild’s happiness.

So, please, the next time you see a sweet, innocent child, love them and help them to keep that innocence as long as they possibly can.  Face it.  They’ll lose it soon enough without our help, without our greed, and without our short-sightedness.

C’mon on.  Swear you’ll do it.

Thanks.

PS – Today is 22 January, 2018, and I just learned young gymnasts were happy their team doctor was being put away for many years as he’d been molesting them for some time.  The tragedy is compounded by the fact that their parents and coaches didn’t believe them – or didn’t want to.  Perhaps they, too, were blinded by greed.

Honest Sheriff

I had the pleasure of visiting a friend down in Appalachia country recently.  It was a delight, the countryside was beautiful, and everyone I met was not only a character, but someone I could easily spend time with.

One gentleman was the Sheriff of a neighboring county.  He related many stories of interesting arrests, puzzling homicides, and even emotional vignettes.

Of the latter, the story that should be more public was when he was interested in soliciting the vote of Mr. Big.  Mr. Big had too much money, even more power, and liked everyone to know it.  When our Sheriff wannabe went to visit, Mr. Big immediately reminded him who he was, and eventually proceeded to offer him a wad of cash to help the campaign, under the table.

Our Sheriff said, “I came for your vote.  Besides, you once gave me a contribution worth more to me than all your money.”

Mr. Big was thrown for a loop.  When?  We met before?  You asked me for money?  I remember everyone I buy off.

Years earlier, our Sheriff hit a bad patch.  Wife up and left, young son and he scraping to get by on a meager policeman’s salary.  He’d gotten to the point where he’d stopped eating to make sure his son was fed and the rent was paid.

They went to a fast food place that had kid toys in the boxes.  But you had to buy the box, and our Sheriff didn’t even have an extra dollar.  Mr. Big was walking by, and without taking notice, bought the meal including the toy.  Mr. Big left.

Our Sheriff didn’t forget.

Mr. Big immediately had a huge check written to the campaign, as much as the law allowed.  He also took out two full-page ads, on his own dime, stumping for our Sheriff.

Our Sheriff won and started doing great things right away, saving the county money and solving crimes.  He and Mr. Big became life-long friends, even up to the day Mr. Big passed on.

So, here’s to our Sheriff.  There have to be more out there like him.  I thanked him personally, and I’d like to thank all the others out there that have integrity, honor, and do the right thing.

Thank you.

 

Shag the Flag while Kneeling

While eating with another couple the other night, both of them expressed anger at football players who kneel during the national anthem.

Why did they kneel?  To protest violence against certain groups.

Why were my friends angry?  Because it was disrespectful to the flag and the nation.

Disrespect?  I said it sounded more like making a statement, something protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the US of A.

No, they said, it’s disrespectful to not stand and salute the flag.

Ah, the flag, I said.  I asked them if they knew that there were official government protocols for displaying and treating the flag?  (None of which are binding, by the way.)

They said they did.

I told them my neighbors like displaying their flags all day and night, through any kind of weather, any season.  The guidelines say you should display it only from sunrise to sunset, among other things.  Keep it out longer and you’ve got a decoration, not a flag.

Treating it like a decoration is just as disrespectful as kneeling during the anthem.  At least kneeling in order to make a statement serves a purpose.  What purpose does a house decoration serve?

They didn’t like that.  He said “I keep my flag out all the time.”

I didn’t comment.  But it’s a free country.  That’s what makes us great.  Flags can be decoration in all sorts of ways.  You can get your flag in terms of swimwear, or for your ultra patriotic house.

But unless you treat it will full respect, and truly understand what it means, you’re also just making it a decoration, and your statement is rather superficial.  Kneeling during the anthem is showing both respect, and objecting to what your government may be doing.  Yet another right guaranteed to all of us under the constitution.

So, before you get all angry over football players who have a political conscience, think about your own actions first.  You know what they say about throwing stones in glass houses.

 

9/11 Nudity

Today is a day of respect and reflection.

As we reflect, let us ask ourselves WHY?

Why do perfectly healthy young men, all Saudi, dedicate their lives to destroying so many other innocents?

Why do their religious leaders condone such actions?

Why does the Saudi government condone, even support such actions; as recently alleged in recent court filings? and possibly in still-redacted government reports?

Why do our leaders and academics not discuss the underlying reasons all these people would want such violence?

Here are some possible reasons for the violence.

1) These Saudis and other religious extremists are crazy and like to do such things.

2) Perhaps these extremists are intent on starting a 100 year religious war, like the Crusades of old?

3) Or perhaps these extremists are registering their inability to fight Western evils in all its forms?

My bet is on number 3, because the other two don’t make sense.  It’s also the one that extremists use for recruiting.

What are these evils?  One is unconditional support for Israel and other religious countries, no matter how their Islamic populations are treated.  Another is our export of vice in the form of gambling, entertainment, movies, TV, songs, etc.  And finally, the icing on the cake, is that there are no regrets on the part of Western leaders.  Vice is big business!

On this day, this day on which we should all pause and respect those who died because of extremists, and those who have gone and fought the extremist enemy, we instead have fresh evidence as to how we are exporting our own morals onto those who don’t want them.

A beautiful young woman decided she would gain fame be desecrating ancient monuments in Egypt.  They warned her, they tried to stop her.  She and her photographer managed to survive, and escape with the pictures they wanted.

Was the experience enough to stop them from publishing those pictures?  Oh no oh no.

But what’s worse is the several news organizations decided they would help her by publishing her story to the internet.  And so it grows.  It’s news, of a sort.

But what is worse is that we are insulting today’s Egyptians.  We are insulting their very identity.  And we are tempting them to strike back in any way they can.

Here are a few links to her story, and a few others highlighting the US effort to “fight evil” as well as how “evil” also exists within our borders.

We will never fully appreciate the sacrifice made by those in the twin towers until we are ourselves brave enough to ask WHY.  Until we have enough backbone to fight against hate and disrespect WHERE EVER it appears.

The young woman should be publicly chastised, and the pictures deleted.  She should be returned to Egypt to suffer their laws.  The gentleman trying to murder people in his car should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Those organizing “far-right” rallies should be suppressed by every leader who has sworn to uphold the costitution, sung the National Anthem (of the US), or recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

Until these things happen, nothing will happen.  Until the next set of extremists make their stand.

Honor those who perished, honor those who truly serve, and honor those yet to come by answering WHY.  Then do something about it.

Thank you.

 

 

http://www.francesoir.fr/culture-medias/voyage-sexy-et-nudite-les-deux-passions-de-marisa-papen-photos-instagram-blog-nue-tour-du-monde-seins-topless-blog

http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/egypt/belgian-model-s-nude-photos-at-pyramid-draws-egypt-s-ire-1.2086855

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4872328/Nude-model-reveals-forced-spend-night-jail.html

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/model-marisa-papen-and-australian-photographer-jesse-walker-arrested-in-egypt-over-naked-photos/news-story/5797489cd1517920cc4f67f3a8c65fd6

https://thinkprogress.org/man-arrested-at-far-right-rally-for-allegedly-attempting-to-run-over-counter-protesters-3fc95906c458/

 

END

Brilliant Suffering

I finished Larry Brilliant’s autobiography today, and enjoyed it immensely.  If you read his book, you know what I mean and can skip the remainder of this paragraph.  If you haven’t read this, I recommend it highly.  His life truly begins as he joins the love of his life in pursuit of the meaning of life.  Germinating at the feet of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, nourished by the Summer of Love and hardened by the abuses of that era, Larry becomes a radical doctor helping those no matter who they are.  His soul-mate decides their shared paths go through India, and to India they go in pursuit of enlightenment.  Guru Maharaji determines that Larry’s dharma lies in helping others, and that his karma yoga is through work.  The ultimate prize is eliminating killer smallpox, a disease that killed over half a billion people in the 20th century alone.  That’s more than all the wars and famines and tragedies all put together.  The adventures, the successes, and the failures are enjoyable told and hold many lessons.

Larry asks the ultimate question that every compassionate soul has asked through the ages: Why does suffering exist?  He typically pondered this while holding the body of a dead child.  I am going to answer this question in terms that rely on what we know of biology and ecosystems and philosophy.  I’m going to keep it as short as possible, so that much detail may be lacking.  And I’m going to answer it in such a way so that it addresses a related question: What is the best way to relieve suffering in the world in the long term?  Most recently, Jeff Bezos has asked this question, inviting his twitter followers to submit their suggestions as to how he focuses his charity.

However, neither Larry Brilliant or Jeff Bezos, or even most people are going to like the answer here.  For the truth is raw and uncompromising, much as Mother Nature shows Herself to be when in her full glory.  We tend to forget that to Mother Nature, all forms of life and death and joy and suffering, are all aspects of a single existence.

Moreover, when you look closely at the holiest of all holy texts in every religion, you see that they agree on that fundamental truth.  Life and death, joy and suffering, are all part of the same thing.  You can’t have one without the other.  A Tibetan monk explains to Larry, when he asks the question yet again, that suffering will always be part of the human condition as long as ignorance and obsession exist.  In the same scene, Larry is blessed for the simple fact that he is fighting a great scourge of humanity, and to alleviate any suffering is an act to strive for.

This is not an argument against charity, but an answer to the question “How can I be most charitable?”  At the same time, I hope to explain why suffering exists in any form, and why our best charitable efforts may in fact not appear to be charity.

Suffering may come from many sources, from outside ourselves, but also within.  We generally agree that some suffering is good for the soul, for it makes us tougher, makes us more willing to take risks.  But when is suffering too much?  Who is to decide?

Nature decides, using the most fundamental rules possible: life and death.  When she unleashed smallpox upon humanity, a third of its victims would die a gruesome and painful death.  Another third would be permanently handicapped.  The remaining third?  Survivors.

Now that we have eliminated smallpox, we will not know what made those survivors different from the rest.  What kind of world would this be if smallpox still existed?  Would it be a better world?  We simply don’t know.

And that’s the point.  For those of you who are spiritual and wish to second guess God, you can feel angry about the death of an innocent baby to such a gruesome disease.  But if God is playing the game for all of humanity, and not only that one baby or her family, then who are we to be critical?

Suffering exists, and we must learn from it.  As long as ignorance exists there will be suffering.  Such is the wheel of life.  No matter what your religion or how you talk to your God, fundamentally they all say the same thing.  Sub ek, all one.

Which brings us to the final point, how then do we best spend our precious charitable resources?  If you are moved to help someone read a book, buy groceries, or weed their garden, then you should.  However, if you have access to billions more resources, then consider this.  You should be pushing mankind further, higher, faster.  For Jeff Bezos, every last bit of his energy should be directed to making his dream of colonizing space a reality.  Spending even a few moments on any other endeavor may make him more popular, but only increases the risk of getting humanity off the ground.

Improving humanity means greater knowledge, and that automatically means less suffering.  It’s not the same thing as putting silver into a beggar’s hand, but it is far more lasting.

Namaskar

 

May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May they never be disassociated from the supreme happiness which is without suffering.
May they remain in the boundless equanimity, free from both attachment to close ones and rejection of others.

 

Define Tyrant

The very first step towards understanding ANYTHING is knowing that a THING is a THING.

What????

Whether it’s the colors of the rainbow, or knowing if your leaders are corrupt, you first have to have a way to think about those things: colors, corruption, whatever.

These are definitions.  If my own little brain can’t define colors very well, then I’m never going to have a decent conversation about rainbows; even WITH MYSELF.

If I want to talk about rainbows with you, then I need to share my definition of colors with you as well.  If you agree, then we can have a nice conversation about rainbows.

The same goes for tyrants.  What is a tyrant?  Some people are already calling tRump a tyrant.  Many of his supporters totally disagree.  Who is right?

Let’s take a stab at a simple definition.  Let’s pretend that one way you can identify a tyrant is if they use their position as a public speaker to incite a mob towards violence.

Now, violence in general could include rugby or smashing beer bottles.  But what if the violence is targeted towards certain people?  Like people who wear yellow stars?  Or people who talk funny?  Or people with skin that looks like coffee or chocolate?

Here’s my definition.  A tyrant is someone who uses their public position to incite mob violence towards opposition or a group that is different from themselves.

Guess what?

We have video, much written experience, and even a lawsuit about President drumpf using exactly these tactics during his speeches.  I wish it was only during his campaign that he does this, but it turns out that he continues to use the highest office in the (previously) “land of the free” to do the same thing.

Now, many of his supporters will be quick to point out that this is fake news and have alternative facts.  However, Pres 45 did exactly these things even in his last press conference.  More like a press battle, but if you look carefully, you can see that he is at battle with a free and independent press, and pushing his supporters to punish them appropriately.

Disagree?  Fair enough.

So, what’s your definition?