The Ethical Divide

Watching the news today is not pleasant. It is wearing as a virulent war wages across civilization, as political collaboration collapses into populist and plutocratic conflict, as millions of families experience layoff, job loss, mortgage foreclosure and eviction. If it isn’t the virus, it is stagnant racial conflict, it is the collapse of European democracy into authoritarian abuse, it is the elimination of whole societies as wars that should have ended long ago drag on for decades. If not these issues, it is the collapsing educational system, the disrespect for Constitutional government, the incompetence of elected officials who do not understand the path of history as it evolves into an unknown future. And it is the dwindling of global resources that is ignored by eighteenth century economics.

But there is good news. A movement is emerging. The first newsworthy awareness of this movement began in 2017 when José Andrés (full name, José Ramón Andrés Puerta), a famous chef with a chain of restaurants in Spain and the U.S., organized a charity kitchen to feed survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. He fed hundreds of thousands. In 2019, Andrés repeated his charitable miracle in Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas when Hurricane Dorian devastated those islands. He established World Central Kitchen as a permanent organization that provides aid to victims of natural disasters.

Of course not everyone has the wherewithal to underwrite charity at such a scale but the better news is the hundreds of special efforts emerging to extend support to those in need. The characteristic of this movement is its local, unincorporated approach consisting of local volunteers and independent leaders, who have stepped up not just for hurricanes but for first responders, victims of the virus, job loss, and the generally needy who have no resources because of today’s disruptive world.

A good example is The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church located in Conneaut, Ohio where a female parishioner organized fellow church members to set up a free kitchen on Saturdays to feed the public so they would have food for the weekend.

Lisa Baker, a volunteer with the Food4Life Atlanta Survival Program, said she’s encouraged by the number of people who are volunteering their time to help. “The first couple of days, I kept hitting refresh on our database, and it was kinda scary watching how many volunteers signed up,” she said. “We have more than 900.”

Other examples are endless. It is clear that common citizens of every class, every religion and every community have stepped out of normal life to help others. Mariner’s term for this is ‘pass it forward’ but these compassionate folks are passing it forward in giant doses!

If you want relief from the terrible news broadcast, distract yourself by participating in the one real, valuable and progressive movement – helping today’s economic victims. Contribute cash, better yet jump in – it’s restorative.

Ancient Mariner

On Being a Stick

A stick always has two ends – if it has been broken from its tree. When it is attached to the tree, it is part of a larger presence, something that has evidence of a higher calling as part of nature. It is true that the branch (it is not a stick until it is separated) or even the entire tree may be dying or dead. Still, there is an aura of purpose, a part of the grand scheme for the planet’s biosphere.

Is the human species a stick or a branch? There is much evidence that humans have ceased being a branch; humans do not enhance the growth of the biomass, its natural balances or its evolutionary progression. The only human value to the world’s natural environment is species decomposition as mulch for the planet’s grand scheme, the same as a stick.

Unfortunately, on its path to mulch, the human stick exudes bile and poison and extinction to any environment around it. As Roundup is to vegetation, humans are to the environment.

The mariner, in spirit at least, has evolved into a minimalist. Three cheers to the ten million homestead families in the United States alone who have chosen to escape from the grist mill of human economies and who have returned to living only as the world around them will tolerate. Three cheers for the Amish who have sensed a limit to what nature will tolerate. There is no profit in nature, only balance. Ignored by the human species in pursuit of profit, the planet will tolerate only so much. The human species may end up being mulch, like a stick.

It is proven that humans alone are responsible for the extinction of 16,000 species since 1850. It is the combustion engine and energy production that has led to climate change, with seas rising more rapidly every year and forcing devastating shifts in weather patterns around the world. Human efforts in chemistry have improved war to the extent that a nuclear bomb can eliminate life, human and otherwise, in an entire city in one day.

Finally, artificial intelligence, a human contrivance, likely will eliminate the independent spirit of the human species. As independence fades, mulching grows nearer.

Ancient Mariner


Thoughts as the Shelter-in Continues

Mariner is fortunate that for the moment his financial status is sufficient, his curiosity in social studies has not waned and there are more physical chores than may be achievable in the gardens, home repair and shop projects. He is truly fortunate. Still, mariner like millions around the world is stifled by the lock downs, the isolation, the fear, the diminished ability to live a normal life.

Taking note of the television’s creation of slowly moving landscapes and the screensavers on the computer, mariner has declared his large living room window his own screensaver. He sits for periods of time noting that his screensaver has loops of viewing just as the landscapes do. There is the woman who walks her two little piles of dog hair in the morning and in the evening; there is a high school runner who will pass the window three times in half an hour; there are the three children who ride their bicycles to the nearby playground and back again; golf carts pass on their way to the golf course and back; UPS and FEDEX pass each day. Just like the landscapes, mariner has watched the summer turn into fall and now into winter. The meditation crowd has nothing on the mariner!

The problem is that mariner’s brain takes these screensaver moments to think about reality, economy, cultural collapse and impending issues that mariner’s readers are tired of hearing. To wit:

A book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (2013) by D. Acemoglu and J.A. Robinson, suggests that a nation can be too wealthy and therefore become susceptible to moral degeneration and economic weakness. Mariner is reminded of a series of tests with mice done in the 1960s. The mice had all the comforts possible: food, water, playgrounds, little nest apartments, etc. Eventually, the mice showed growing signs of disrespect, abuse, gang discrimation and even rape and murder.

The key factor for human societies was that the population has overthrown an authoritative plutocracy and spread the wealth to the population (AKA democracy). American citizens are experiencing this phenomenon. To be brief, consider Lori Loughlin spending $500 thousand and lying about her daughter’s athletic prowess to get her daughter into the appropriately prestigious university. Pondering at his screensaver, mariner wonders whether the rise in college tuition is because more people have the wherewithal to pay – making each seat in the university a scarcity versus market competition. Is this how the economy weakens? It has been proven that elite universities are attended only by the economic elite. Is this why colleges of lesser prestige are failing – the price doesn’t justify the reward?

It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize the disruptive nature of this behavior as it relates to economic class. Mariner has cited several times that the labor class has been deprived of sharing in the wealth since 1980; hence Donald’s Base. Humans are mammals, too – just like mice.

Maybe it’s better not to watch the screensaver too long.

Ancient Mariner

Don’t forget to dot the I

Many, many years ago mariner knew a woman who was raised deep in the back country of Tennessee. In her forties, she was not literate. Don’t surmise that she was unintelligent or otherwise had shortcomings; actually, she was mentally sharp and had a pleasant personality. Simply, she had never been taught to read or write.

Mariner was friends with her children and he visited often. One time, he saw a grocery list she had written so her husband could buy groceries on the way home. Most of the items were single letters, marks and shapes rather than words. One drew my interest; it was a stick man, a plus sign and two whole eggs. “What does this mean?” I asked. She said it was a man plus 2 eggs – in other words, ‘mayonnaise’.

She never received the credit due for her contribution to literacy. She invented a literate style used by many young people today – emoji.

Written language began and existed for centuries without the ability to use the same printed word/sounds in different situations. The Egyptians were famous for their massive and intricate accounts of history using only graphics and images, every account unique in its documentation. The first language to use letters and words was the Indian language called Brahmi, several hundred years BCE. There were other ancient written languages that existed a millennium before that but they weren’t as organized.

Certainly civilization as we know it could not have evolved without letters and words. But today a new phenomenon is evolving and it replaces letters and words with images. Is it because it’s too much trouble for the thumb to bounce around on a tiny keyboard? Is it because reading and writing are too slow in our super fast computer society? How many folks have said, perhaps often, “reading is too slow – show me a chart or a picture.” Or perhaps, “Just give me a link, I’ll read it later.” (and never do)

Mariner ponders whether sentences, too, will disappear. Perhaps only in news broadcasts will a viewer ever read a whole sentence on the TV screen. Words, usually dressed up with color and shapes, are all one needs to understand a commercial. But why stop there?

Big Data has learned to communicate directly with our subconscious brain. The conscious brain isn’t needed much anymore. Primary education theory is moving toward natural skills training; Liberal Arts is disappearing from colleges and universities. Will literacy be next?

Ancient Mariner

Of Politics and Nature

Two topics today. First, Amos offers some observations about the election; second, some observations about the roles of nature on the one hand and mariner on the other.

֎ The campaign between Donald and Joe has strung out far too long but finally has ended. There is a tendency to believe that once Donald is gone, the Federal psyche will return to normal. Alas, this is not the case. Donald has reformed the GOP from the ground up; many elected Congressmen are staunch conservatives and further are social extremists as well. One Congressman even supports QAnon.

Cleaving the head of the GOP (Donald) is more like cleaving the head of Medusa – leaving her many snakes to run off in every direction. It will take at least one and likely two more Federal elections before the GOP has ferreted out the extremists and develops a new legislative base that focuses on the current century.

֎ Mariner is experiencing a micro-example of what cattle ranchers experience in western states where the wolf has been reintroduced to the balance of nature as an apex predator – and protected from human hunting as well.

Mariner’s backyard is an amateur attempt at creating a private, green and pleasant environment that blocks out the fact that he lives in the midst of three used car lots each with massive concrete slabs a helicopter can land on and huge multi-port garages. [The reader may recall an earlier post where it was observed that many homes in his town have too many vehicles to park off the street therefore forcing the extra cars to park at the curb. Blame the abundance of vehicles on U.S housing and wage policies that force grown children to live with their parents because they can’t afford their own residence. The inconvenience is that if cars park at the curb, the streets are too narrow for 2-way traffic.] Homeowners have abandoned the attached garage model and have sacrificed their backyards to something akin to a truck depot.

Mariner apologizes for rambling. Back to his amateur garden.

An abundance of damage to expensive plants and a voracious consumer of the vegetable garden, rabbits are unwanted in mariner’s garden. They are wanted dead, not alive. In recent years he and his neighbor never kill less than a dozen rabbits per year on the property – an oasis amid endless concrete slabs. Helping the mariner with his anti-rabbit campaign are two or three stray cats that do their share of finding and eliminating rabbits. Within mariner’s garden, cats are an apex predator.

However, like the cattle rancher who understands the role of the wolf in nature but doesn’t appreciate the loss of cattle, mariner must respect the cats for their role but the cats do not limit themselves to rabbits. All the small rodent-like creatures are prey as well and, alas, so are birds.

Mariner prides himself on offering a pleasurable environment and bounty to birds, squirrels and selected insects. He maintains two birdbaths in his gardens. Until recently it was not uncommon to see whole flocks of sparrows and finches sitting around the entire perimeter of the birdbath. Higher class birds like doves, cardinals, crows and jays are regular visitors. The Monarch is afforded a row of milkweed. Is this not the Garden of Eden?

Unfortunately, yes. Nature keeps things rolling by allowing oversight by many kinds of predators – except for H. sapiens, who has become a problem just like mariner’s rabbits.

One of the cats has learned to sit by one of the birdbaths. The cat hides under an adjacent Baptisia shrub. When a bird lands on the birdbath the cat leaps faster than the eye can follow to catch the bird. Birds aren’t stupid. They don’t visit this ol’ watering hole anymore.

While this doesn’t cost mariner income, it puts his sense of justice into a dilemma. His feelings are contested just as those of the cattle farmer. There is a difference in scale, of course, but not sympathy. Mother Nature is tough.

Ancient Mariner


There is no Lee in Today’s World

Mariner hasn’t seen Chicken Little in a while. He doesn’t come out of the henhouse. Inside, he sits trembling and wears a World War I army helmet. By his side are prayer beads, a prayer rug, a few wicks to light a candle, a ready-to-leave motor scooter and an AR-15.

Chicken Little suffers a malady that many suffer in today’s world: There is no lee. Lee is a sailing term that references the side of the boat away from the wind; it also references any place where safety may be had as a storm approaches. Today, the world offers little in the way of a lee.

There have always been storms, even really disruptive ones that change how the world and its biosphere survive. What is notable today is that everything is changing at once; there is no anchor to hold onto. Religion is adrift; nuclear war lurks in the shadows; the weather is changing; seas are rising onto the land; governments are becoming dysfunctional as global resources dwindle; a worldwide virus is killing hundreds of thousands all over the world; violence and militarism spread as if they were a virus; new technology threatens ancient behavioral norms; the Earth itself seems unsure about the future. Where is a lee? Where is a big tree that one can tie to while the storm of change threatens?

Mariner may sound like a naïve romantic when he suggests that the entire human race has nothing to cling to except itself. It may be that clinging to fellow humans may be the only lee available – such as it is. Take note that everywhere in the world that conflict and destructive behavior exists, things get a lot worse, not better. Are there any among us who would prefer to live in Syria, Belarus, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, or Ukraine? Does anyone look forward to living in Burundi, Eretria or Sudan where it is as likely to die from starvation as it is to live into adulthood?

If the United States is not careful, it will cast aside its humanity, its economy and even its sovereignty as it willingly moves toward social conflict and separatism. Everyone is stressed by the rapid transition from the relative comfort of the 1900s to the undefined, unsympathetic future of the 2000s. An accelerant in the nation’s move toward mistrust and violence is its President, Donald Trump. Donald is a Romanesque throwback to the times when abusive narcissists rose to power through division and unscrupulous behavior.

It is a common word in the news today and often a call to arms in its own right: The word is ‘unity’. The lee, that tree to tie one’s self to is one another. It is quite easy to say, “I’ve got your back if you need me (even though your politics are different). At the moment, given that diversity doesn’t continue to grow, words of conflict are simply words. Set them aside. What is left is sharing; pass it forward; compassion – and survival.

Ancient Mariner