Merger of CVS and Aetna

In what was a disturbing interview on PBS NewsHour between Judy Woodruff and Larry Merlo (CVS CEO), Judy pressed Merlo several times about how the merger will benefit individuals. Continually, Merlo ducked that specific question by advocating better procedures, better integration of services and a number of platitudes all of which reflect a larger corporate-driven control of market, profits by collusion and most disturbingly, the point Merlo ducked, was quality control of corporate costs by managing patients directly.

This is an article/video that is very important for the reader to read/watch. It speaks clearly to the control factor that large data clouds and massive records of daily life are being integrated for corporate benefit, not for personal benefit. Go to:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/what-the-cvs-aetna-merger-could-mean-for-you

The reader may recall a recent post in which mariner mentioned John Hancock converting it policies to a program called “interactive policies” where insured will be screened and if selected, must participate in the interactive program.

John Hancock, one of the oldest and largest North American life insurers, will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones, the company said on Wednesday.

 The move by the 156-year-old insurer, owned by Canada’s Manulife Financial, marks a major shift for the company, which unveiled its first interactive life insurance policy in 2015. It is now applying the model across all of it’s life coverage.

It works like this:

Policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch and get gift cards for retail stores and other perks by logging their workouts and healthy food purchases in an app. In theory, everybody wins, as policyholders are incentivized to adopt healthy habits and insurance companies collect more premiums and pay less in claims if customers live longer.

Privacy and consumer advocates have raised questions about whether insurers may eventually use data to select the most profitable customers, while hiking rates or not accepting those who do not participate.

Hancock says customers do not have to log their activities to get coverage even though their policies are packaged with the Vitality program. The insurer will begin converting existing life insurance policies to Vitality in 2019, it said.

As mariner understands it, your insurance company knows if you eat three strips of bacon instead of one or skip a morning run when Grandma visits and will have the right to raise your premium or even drop you for someone else who helps the company’s profit margin. As regular readers know, mariner is extremely sensitive to corporations telling him what to eat, know, or do with his life – especially if it is for the benefit of the corporation.

– – – –

To wax philosophically for a moment and promising not to be verbose, we are watching capitalism leverage a changing technological society for profit. The way to tell the difference between capitalism and other isms is that the wellbeing and advantage in other isms is driven by the individual or by government in the individual’s behalf – not using the individual foremost as a controlled instrument for profit. If there is no profit in an individual, buzz off. Who cares?

The beginning of this post mentioned the merger of CVS and Aetna. Leverage gained will be through combined databases about customers. Then, just like the book 1984, the customer will have to do what the corporation says to do – which cuts overhead and locks in pharmacy prices based on each individual’s profit value instead of what the market in general will bear.

And to top it off, one’s life is not managed by one’s own decisions.

More disturbingly, these corporate controls smell of Harari Yuval’s belief that in the future unwanted humans will not be cared for by society. Is the future now?

Ancient Mariner

 

Soul Mates

Mariner has discovered a soul mate. He is an ex-computer person that has switched to social psychology and philosophy and now writes books about the abuses that we put upon ourselves in the name of modern communication technology. His name is Jaron Lanier. He has written a book: Ten arguments for Deleting Social Media Accounts Right Now. He has an interview on CSPAN that is enlightening[1]. Mariner must warn you that his sartorial splendor leaves much to be desired but his mind is clearly focused. No one that mariner has read has delved into the disruptive consequences of social media as Jaron has.

Jaron starts his presentation by reminding everyone of the science of behaviorism; he cites B.F. Skinner, the major personality of behaviorism. Stated as briefly as mariner can, behaviorism is a person’s response to feedback, that is, if it is rewarding, people tend to return and do it again; if it is negative, people tend not to do it again. Skinner proved in his experiments with animals that manipulating reward or negativity will modify behavior in a predictable way.

Jaron suggests that the Internet and the data manipulators using the Internet have created a negative loop in the communication cycle. This is because negative behavior is more reactive and, importantly, expands in the loop much faster than positive behavior. We can reference this phenomenon ourselves with the racist and Russian impact on the Internet. The negativity flows rapidly and expands until no one can tell the difference between truth and falsehood. Another example is Donald’s constant reference to fake news; the negativity spreads quickly, outrunning positive behavior that requires confirmation. The end result is no information can be trusted.

Jaron warns us that while only five or ten percent of the user group will adopt negative information that is enough to disrupt politics, society norms, and stable platforms for unity and ethical values. To wit: the 2016 Presidential campaign where Donald held forth with negative values thereby overwhelming informative dialogue offered by other candidates.

Listed briefly below are the ten arguments for deleting your social media account[2]. Exploring each one is a whole post. Mariner suggests the reader buy the book or watch the C-SPAN video.

1.You are losing your free will.

2.Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.

3.Social media is making you into an a**hole.

4.Social media is undermining truth.

5.Social media is making what you say meaningless.

6.Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy.

7.Social media is making you unhappy.

8.Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity.

9.Social media is making politics impossible.

10.Social media hates your soul.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] See: https://www.c-span.org/video/?447079-2/ten-arguments-deleting-social-media-accounts-now

[2] Courtesy of Christine Pennylegion at https://inthisordinarytime.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/jaron-laniers-ten-reasons/

A Biopsy of the Christian Faith

It all started with Jesus. Today, Jesus might be found in Black Lives Matter or some other rebellious, antiauthority group. He was no saint, for sure. When Jesus said, “The first will be last and the last will be first,” that was a literal statement. The authorities of the time, both governmental and religious, were the oppressors. Jesus devoted his life to caring for the plight of the common people and resisted sources of oppression. His pastoral approach and absolute commitment to his cause was remembered by many and in time led to authors writing about him and advocating his principles.

Authors had little factual data to draw on in those days. It was a time before the printing press, dictionaries, and fact-driven accounts of history. Conceptual writing depended largely on metaphor and hyperbole. These limitations about data allowed writers to emphasize the qualities of Jesus that were unique and deemphasize political and cultural content.

The significance of Jesus’s life is not to be taken lightly. It is difficult even in today’s data driven society to articulate the spiritual qualities that are drawn from his life. His core values of absolute empathy, unlimited forgiveness, and selfless dedication remain the bastion of western civility two thousand years later.

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It is difficult today given Hollywood heroes, news heroes, and documented heroes to understand how Jesus became an international icon. Without the media we have today heroes would be hard to find. What elevated Jesus to hero status and the source of spiritual inspiration was the hardship of daily life at the time. Oppression was the political device for managing the masses. If one was a commoner, one’s life wasn’t worth much. Church versus state didn’t exist at the time; there was only state. If one expressed critical views about the Emperor as godhead, one likely would be imprisoned if not worse. Common citizens longed for purpose and value in their lives; they wanted to be saved from their plight.

The term ‘Christ’ is derived from middle Greek ‘Christos.’ The first reference to the word is in Acts 11:26 where its use is noted in Antioch, a city located in Turkey. Early followers of the Christian movement were considered agitators and troublemakers and suffered greatly. To Christians, it seemed reasonable that respecting others rather than oppressing them would provide a way out, a path to a better life. Jesus was the personification of this path. His message and the politics that came with the message spread quickly in the Roman Empire.

A century or two later, the story is told of Emperor Constantine that, at the end of a successful battle, he saw clouds in the shape of a cross and took them to be a sign of divine intervention by the god of the Christians. He issued a decree that Christians were not to be persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Within a few years, Christianity was practiced openly around the entire Mediterranean region. The popularity was good and bad. The Christian message was good but local theology and doctrine ranged from outright magic and demons to sublime isolation. The effect of parochial preference overshadowed the core message of Christianity. Constantine was confused by all the variations and decided there had to be one theology, one doctrine and one ritual. In 325 AD he summoned Christian leaders from across the Empire to gather in the city of Nicaea and establish the official version of Christianity.

The result of that gathering is what most people today consider to be the Christian religion. The collection of books that comprise the Holy Bible was determined at Nicaea. Key doctrines of faith such as the Trinity, transformation and salvation were established. Principles of ritual were clarified and centered Christianity on the authentic principles of Jesus’s life: empathy, forgiveness and dedication.

 

[Mariner is certain that is the shortest exegesis of Christianity he has ever written.]

 

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A biopsy will be taken that includes parts of theology, faith and ritual:

Theology – A Christian believes in one God. A Christian believes in a loving God. A Christian believes in God as a singularity, meaning all that exists is God; God is not a personal, opinionated or historically interactive God.

Faith – The relationship between a Christian, Jesus and God is one of spiritual coexistence. This is expressed as a triangle called the Trinity. Sharing in the spirituality of the Trinity allows transformation and salvation to occur – a state of being wholly within the Grace of God’s love.

Ritual – Living in accordance with the life and discipline of Jesus; experiencing God’s power through a combined effort of empathy, forgiveness and selflessness; sacrificing the physical nature in behalf of the spiritual nature (laying down one’s life for another is a transformative act).

Mariner wants to clarify an important term before describing the state of the biopsy. The word ‘empathy’ is used frequently when one would expect the word ‘love.’ In mariner’s opinion, the English language is short on words for the various kinds of love that exist. Something isn’t right when we say, “I love God” and also say, “I love the coffee table.” During the time of Jesus, it took three Greek words to say love: eros, meaning physical attraction; philos, meaning brotherly love or friend love; agape, meaning love of God or conversely God’s love of humanity accompanied by a feeling of awe. It seems correct to combine a genuine feeling of empathy with acting in behalf of that empathy, and further to commit one’s self to continuously perform in behalf of empathetic opportunities – in other words, the core behavior of Jesus.

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The biopsy.

Generally, theology is in rough shape. Surprisingly, in recent decades more Christians have grown comfortable with a God that is a singularity while still advocating faith and ritual. But for centuries Christian education began by starting with page 1 of the Old Testament. Few students if any stayed with Sunday School long enough to learn the New Testament – the Christian part. The Old Testament, aside from a theistic relationship full of lamenting about God’s fickle ways, presents an image of God which is very anthropomorphic and very much a God who will interfere with history if what’s going on isn’t to God’s liking. A large majority of Christians with just Old Testament exposure still relate to the Old Testament God to help them with their daily activities or otherwise blame God for acting against them if bad things happen.

In the New Testament, God is a love power, a power that created the universe and all that exists. God drives a hard bargain for believers because believers must expand God’s love in order to benefit from God’s love.

Faith, too, is in poor shape as Christian practitioners cut short the dynamic of living hand in hand with God and thereby be transformed into a life of infinite reward. Faith in anything is hard to come by these days. Cultural stability for all of humanity is not readily available. The human tendency is to batten the hatches and retreat to a less troublesome spot where the stormy seas are kept away. However, this is a good time for Christians to measure their faith. Instead of retreating, step out into the world to improve the situation. This behavior requires a Christian to have faith that God will ‘respond’ with feelings of comfort and wellbeing despite the physical and emotional tribulations of spreading the quieting power of God’s love. Remember that Christianity is a transformative religion; somewhere it says your faith will make you whole.

Ritual is in critical condition. Many parts of ritual have ceased to function. Ritual is where Christians execute the core values of Jesus’s life: empathy, forgiveness and selfless dedication. Too many Christians are pew Christians. In Matthew 28:19-20, Christians are charged to go forth and spread the Word. In churches, this is called evangelism. Further, the Word can’t spread in pews; empathy can’t be served in pews; forgiveness can’t be served in pews. The church service has become the primary act in a religion that calls for finding salvation by giving one’s personal, face-to-face actions to people in need. The church service has a role in restoring theology, faith and ritual but the God relationship is outside.

Finally, selfless dedication to the church building has replaced selfless dedication to God and spreading God’s love. For too many Christians, the buildings and assets are sacrosanct without the accompanying theology, faith and ritual found in Jesus.

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Sociologists would step in at this point to explain the ill condition of Christianity by reflecting on the influence of changing culture, good and bad economic security, and the will of the flesh as core to the survival of the species. Economists would defend the importance of wealth even at the poorest levels of society. Scientists, educators and data experts would say that Jesus’s Israel no longer exists. Even Joseph Campbell would imply that the Jesus myth has faltered.

Mariner holds that these are excuses but not reasons for ill health in the biopsy. Religion is the responsibility of the individual. It is a personal search for a richer experience. Even without the gathering at Nicaea, humans would search for quality values in life. Many stop at wealth; many are incapable; most seek comfort, avoiding spiritual responsibility as an enriching experience.

More than ever before, our times need Jesus walking the streets spreading the love of God. Jesus, however, gave his life on the cross; it’s time for Christians to pick up the cross and take his place.

Ancient Mariner

 

Walking as a Cultural Phenomenon

When was the last time you rode a horse to the Post Office, elementary school, fast food restaurant, relatives, friends or a nearby shopping district? Probably not for a long time if ever. Most likely you ride in or on a vehicle. Walk? Poo – who has time to walk? Walking is for health obsessives and retired people. However, it is true that the most important physical function of Homo sapiens is walking. Walking was our survival tool back in the early days; we could walk all day without stopping. Still present today are parts of the brain that lie idle until you walk.

Walking has more benefits than lifting weights, yoga, meditation, housework, gardening – even swimming. None of these are bad; in fact if you pursue them, continue! But walking is magical. The whole brain – conscious and unconscious, troubled and untroubled, thinking and unthinking, healthy and unhealthy – knows immediately when you begin to walk. At a proper pace, walking even induces meditation, leaving the rest of the brain to pay attention to the erstwhile idle walking instructions.

The benefits of walking have been proven over and over and over again. The health industry is rife with advice to patients to walk. Mariner went to Mayo Clinic recently with four diverse conditions in mind. Every physician said walking will improve mariner’s situation.

Why don’t we walk as part of our daily routine? Time. Time is why we don’t darn socks anymore, don’t have clothes that should be ironed, prefer to survive on frozen, ready-to-eat meals, order everything online instead of using storefronts, use Interstates instead of US highways, put up with abuse when flying, driving one’s self and the kids to a neighborhood event instead of walking, on and on . . . except watching television. We always have time for television from 5:00AM to 2:00AM; certainly there is no time to walk for Pete’s sake!

Actually, we all have time. It’s just not how we do things. Using mariner’s town and family as an example, we do drive everywhere even though walking anywhere in town is not a great effort. Two things must occur: 1, slow the day down. Believe it or not, everything still will be accomplished. 2, if your destination is within a mile or two, walk instead of drive. In mariner’s town this applies to the bank, Post Office, laundry, three family households, library, churches, golf course, convenience store, discount store, lumber yard, fair grounds, car garages, etc. In our town, we can walk to two gas stations. Simply make time in your time-driven schedule to walk as part of your daily experience. Simply say to your family as you leave, “I’m walking to the Post Office.”

Mariner will not engage in the detailed chemistry or benefits of walking – information is everywhere; just type ‘benefits of walking’ in your search engine or go to your library.

If mariner must walk, you must walk, too.

Ancient Mariner

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Next Thursday mariner plans to upgrade his eyeglass prescription. He is undecided about whether to tune them to Dish or DirecTV or Roku; so many options . . . His bridgework is due for an upgrade, too. Should he include the health monitoring package? Which hospital? . . . My dog is having a chip implant so mariner always knows where the dog is; mariner plans to have an implant as well so the dog, among others, always knows where mariner is.

Someone suggested an imbedded mood chip that automatically dispenses an antidepressant. That is depressing – how about a chip that helps with sex? Mariner has joined a clothier website that sells chip-embedded clothing. Integrated with his weather app and his appointment calendar, it buys his clothes and each day picks his outfits. As to what to eat for breakfast, a meal is set out based on his key nutritional KPIs (such as hydration, body mass, and hemoglobin levels) recorded from that health option in his teeth. Mariner is not sure the dog cares about that. To drive to work, make sure to fasten your seatbelt. That’s all you need to do; the car drives its self and knows where you are going because it is integrated with your appointment…. There is a keyring bauble that can locate one’s cellphone no matter where it is – usually at home when travelling. As to locating one’s smartphone, it’s the other way around: the smartphone always knows where you are.

– – – –

Writing recently about how humans can wage war with telecommunications, mariner became interested in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Chicken Little already has fled to the basement to build a lead-lined safe room. We are familiar with the servant robots that sauntered about on the Jetsons; we are aware of robotic machinery in factories; we are aware of desktop functions like editing, faxing and checking out Facebook. We are aware that businesses like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, et al, know our every move, taste, income, political preference, when we will buy an automobile and what model – more than you know yourself. AI has invaded our bodies and our brains or, in other arenas, makes better decisions than human brains. This is scary stuff!

For the moment, humans are not entombed in coffins at birth as depicted in Matrix. But AI technology is well on its way to living your life for you. A new phenomenon called ‘fake news’ has emerged. We are susceptible to fake news because we no longer live in a human-based sphere of empirical knowledge. For many, the existential reality is hundreds of TV channels that have no foundation in a person’s empirical reality. This includes television news as well as many fabricated websites on the Internet.

Searching for meaningful truth, we defend ourselves with ‘truthiness,’ Stephen Colbert’s invented word that says truth is what feels right, not what facts say truth is. Mariner visited Facebook for a few weeks. Facebook is an alternative reality which sits at the center of life experience for active participants. The smartphone is the portal through which we give our sense of self away to the AI world. At some point, AI will know enough about you to replicate you in an AI world. At that point, it may be time to pick out a coffin.

– – – –

Before closing his post, mariner asks that we pause to honor the passing of Fats Domino. He died Tuesday at the age of 89.

Before closing his post, mariner urges every reader to contact their Congressman to press for impeachment. The Donald phenomenon is no longer about compensating for a King complex; it is about stopping a brutal, unnecessary war, perhaps nuclear, with North Korea. Removing Donald is the only way to unplug a tragic and imminent future.

Ancient Mariner

 

Uncle Sam needs YOU

Here is some encouraging news: in the 2018 elections, 209 democrats are registered to run for the House of Representatives. This is quite a phenomenon. See past elections in the following chart provided by the Campaign Finance Institute:
Democrats Republicans
2004 22 – 29
2006 48 – 24
2008 57 – 49
2010 40 – 78
2012 42 – 40
2014 45 – 52
2016 44 – 28
2018 209 – 28
The desire to rid our governments of fleas (earlier post) has taken hold. This is a welcome army for reconstruction of failed governments – especially the failed Federal Government. But the party is short on Generals – especially Generals who will articulate the goals, who can instill unity, who can arm the campaigners with the words and common cause that at the moment are missing weapons.
The republicans know they are in a fight in the 2018 elections. However, it is not a level playing field. Gerrymandering alone will defeat democratic campaigns; as will the money, indeed the wealth in many republican coffers. Those of us who consider ourselves unattached to electoral activity must now help our enlisted activists and campaigners. Mariner is reminded of the many efforts by common citizens who supported WWII by collecting string, metal, and gave up many food items in the household; even gasoline was available to civilians only in limited amounts. But American spirit was high – it was the least they could do and do willingly.
Can we raise our spirits to help the political troops? Enthusiasm is contagious. Since Kennedy, there has not been a natural democratic advantage of this magnitude. Perhaps it is the eclipse…
The least we can do is nag fleas with letters and telephone calls. Let them know what legislation is not allowable and what they are bound to do to serve their constituency first – even before their lobbyist managers. Remember the Civilian Defense Corps? It is your time to do what you can do and do it willingly.
Ancient Mariner

Pick a Degree

One thing about which every one of every political persuasion can agree is that the United States of America is dysfunctional. Even more critical is the slow but obvious move toward authoritarianism. Today, Sessions introduced procedures whereby the press can be sued – no longer a free press. Whether a Donald Drumpf follower, or Bernie the revolutionary, or Mitch the turtle, or Paul the vampire, or Jeff the leprechaun, or out in the oceans saving whales, one can agree that the US culture, its governments, and its economy are similar to a herd of horses that have escaped from a corral – running willy-nilly and snorting gleefully at their independence from accountability.

Mariner has written numerous times about the plight of our ethics, economics, and the tsunami future we face no matter what one believes. He will not iterate these circumstances here. If the reader wants detail, feel free to roam the library in the sections at the top of the screen.

The topic today is to explore to what degree you can, or are willing to, bring the horses back to the corral.

Mariner is reminded (from another time) of the chore of shining his shoes. It was not something he enjoyed. Shining shoes had nothing to do with the day’s reality. Shining shoes was tedious; it was messy and never failed to get shoe polish on his dress pants and shirt sleeves if he made the mistake of dressing first. Fortunately, general dress codes have shifted away from sharp looking leather. Make note, however, he still shines the few pairs he has when a shine is needed. He is blessed that he doesn’t wear them very often.

Do you have a chore you don’t like? Perhaps it’s a bothersome detail like balancing checkbooks or washing the dog; maybe finally raking the leaves out from the garage. There are more such meaningless chores – as many as can be imagined.

Well, imagine one more: cleaning out and fixing your nation. Not something one thinks about on a daily basis but wow does it have a lot to do with reality. The chore of cleaning out and fixing the government can be done with varying degrees of participation.

Before we start defining degrees of participation, let’s consider an overarching strategy: Bring ‘nice’ back. And ‘fair’. In other words, rebuild the center – both in legislation and with elected officials. Fixing the government will require cleaning out bad influences that over time destroy our centrist democracy: gerrymandering – a terrible malpractice. Redistricting committees should be made up of common citizens like a jury in a trial. Money – it has been analyzed many times and it always is the same: Congressmen and other Federal and State elected folks spend five hours a day soliciting lobbyists for donations so the officials can run in the next election. There are two things wrong with this: (1) lobbyists own our legislators; our laws have overwhelming phrases, words, regulations, etc. that make corporate interests happy – to our disadvantage. (2) Maybe if the elected officials could spend that five hours working in committees, something may get done! Further on the money issue, the communications industry makes a killing during elections. Sure it’s a business working to optimize profit but ads are the other side of why so much money is needed to run. What if contributions could come only from the district in question?

Finally, the Federal Election Commission needs some teeth so they can restrict folks like the Koch brothers from deliberately swamping a local election with endless money. This is a practice of the political parties as well.

Then there’s the whole blocking freedom to vote issue. Those who practice eliminating votes are prejudiced by race, class and power.

So that’s the strategy – eliminate practices that are bad for centrist democracy. Further, elect candidates that are nice and seem fair and intelligent. If a campaigner spends too much time talking about one-sided, special interest issues, be wary.

— Degrees of Participation.

Personal opinion – Not every person is an extrovert or has intense opinions. This degree asks only that you telephone your appropriate representative and express your personal opinion whenever you learn of a public issue about which you have a preference. This is not a bad experience; officials and their staff are always nice – after all, you are a vote. A good example is the mariner’s town: loose dogs were a nuisance. Townspeople called their town council members. This provoked a planned approach for dog ordinances.

Citizen Representative – You may feel that a group has more influence than one person. Besides calling your representative, you regularly attend meetings of local issue groups or a political party. Further, you may have a cause like clean water or a common cause group that expresses your views. Donate a stipend – even a dollar or two helps. Become active during election season; campaign for a candidate, vote in primaries and again, if you can, contribute a stipend.

Citizen advocate – besides calling your representative and becoming active during the election season, participate in ad hoc groups advocating a common cause. Visit elected official offices in Washington, DC, perform sit-ins, and attend rallies.

These are varying degrees of engaging in the task of fixing our democracy. The situation is so dire as to take the nation down dark roads if we don’t fix it now. Remember: rebuild the center.

Ancient Mariner

Cultural Resistance

Having presented Gar Alperovitz’s idea that if a democracy is to sustain itself in the future, citizens must become personally and physically active in supporting their policy issues – whether local or national. Mariner feels this is a tall order for today’s common culture. There was a time in the past when a telephone line was the only door to the outside world. In rural and exurb areas, a caller shared one line with four or five neighbors. Individuals could learn a bit about what was going on by listening to the radio and reading newspapers but to communicate with one another was more difficult than we may remember.

Consequently, “clubs” were common. Churches, too, played a role as a central location where neighbors could gather and talk to one another. When mariner moved to a small Iowa town in the 1960’s, he had a choice of a stamp club, coin club, VFW, Masons, Eastern Star, Lions, garden club, American Legion, playing card club(s), Rotary, sewing club, bars (where everybody knows your name) and informal groups that met regularly in hardware stores, gas stations and morning coffee shops. Outside activities were frequent and included ice cream socials, dinners, corn festivals, lunches, baseball, a larger county fair (larger inclusion than today because of the farming community and forgotten homemaking skills along with as many local booths on the midway as professionals). Size of the town? Nine hundred, tops.

Television was new. Areas contiguous to the town didn’t have electricity until after the war (1946-54). Television provided something to do at home besides darning socks, sewing buttons, crocheting, canning, playing cards and working jigsaw puzzles… and going to meetings.

The Internet and powerful multipurpose telephones that need no wires have crushed face-to-face group participation. The closest thing to a club is a special link of users many of whom have never met one another and frequently don’t share a common neighborhood or state.

The reader gets the point. Today’s culture is fast; it is comprehensive in content; it is dismantling not only human contact in neighborhoods but even the need to visit a retail outlet where humans used to gather – Amazon takes care of that.

Alperovitz suggests our survival requires us to reverse this trend. Civility, fairness, honesty and all the other virtues unattended by corporations et al, are in our hands. However, culturally today’s folks are unaccustomed to physically leaving home to have discussions with other humans. That requires a lot more overhead than watching CBS News. Has the reader ever accompanied a group to visit their state legislator’s office? Governor? US Senator?

It is refreshing to see organized groups who fight for ownership of their policies. Can we turn the cultural norm? Even if wildly successful, it will take time – maybe even a new generation.

Ancient Mariner

Generalisms

Mariner has been writing often about myths. Myths are a legitimate, indeed critical part of religious understanding; without myths, the indescribable spirituality we draw from our faith would not be possible. From the same box of tools for explanation is the generalism.

Everyone uses generalisms every day. We use generalisms to express opinion without having to give a lecture and in the context that offering the generalism does not mean it is absolute. A simple and innocuous example is:

Larry says, “Hello, Tom. I plan to have a Thanksgiving dinner this year. What do I need?” One knows instinctively that Larry does not want a half-dozen recipes dictated or directions to the library or a show and tell about Tom’s last four Thanksgiving dinners. Tom uses a general statement to offer Larry an opinion: “Oh, maybe the common items are a turkey, potatoes and gravy, some vegetables and desert, like a pumpkin pie.” A generalism is an excellent means for expressing a large, unofficial collection of information. It should be noted that a generalism is not an idea; it is an assimilation.

Like myths, while absolutely critical to insightful communication, generalisms can be abused:

One can adopt a literal value for a general statement. This is called prejudice. Good or bad in intention, a generalism is not a specific, formulated entity; making a general statement innately means there are many exceptions and diverse perspectives included – one cannot legislate by means of generalism. It is this error that confronts Donald at every turn. Further, one cannot live a healthy and insightful life trying to act according to a set of prejudices.

One cannot infer a further generalism from an existing generalism. That is the same as executing a split-middle in a syllogism: All cats are four-legged animals; all horses have four legs; therefore all horses are four-legged animals. The derived generalism: all animals have four legs; ducks are animals; therefore ducks have four legs.

However, it is this abuse, building a generalism referencing another generalism that is the foundation of racial prejudice in the US: Whites are successful; blacks are less successful; therefore blacks are not the same as whites. The derived generalism: Successful whites are ambitious; blacks are not as successful; therefore blacks are not as ambitious. One can imagine the multiplicity of prejudice by those who believe generalisms to be literally true.

Broadcast news has drifted from investigative reporting to information of viewer interest, that is, generalisms and placating viewers. This weakness has allowed Donald, among many other misrepresented issues, capable of running an entire campaign and Presidency leveraging generalisms. Donald’s flamboyant pontifications were the news – invalidated by facts. News organizations have lost credibility as a consequence; individuals and legislation hurtful to our culture succeed without scrutiny or public awareness. Generalisms are not always the proper form of communication for the task at hand.

Three cheers and a gold plaque for NBC White House press reporter Peter Alexander when he corrected Donald’s claim to have the Electoral College’s highest win votes in history since Ronald. Peter had done his investigative homework and called out Donald on his blatantly touted falsehood; Donald wasn’t even fourth. Asked how the public could have faith in him if he lies, Donald said someone else gave him the information. Except for Peter, would the public have accepted the generalism not knowing the facts that make the generalism false and self-serving?

Generalisms are not facts, they are presumptions.

Yet, because the public prefers not to spend time postulating and judging facts, generalisms are more entertaining therefore draw a larger viewer share. As the official prevaricator of information, broadcast news owes the public more than entertaining generalisms. A condition lasting several generations, the public will require therapy to restore the requirement for facts.

[The first news center was converted from a public service to a profit center in 1977 (20/20). By the late 80’s all news was competing for profit rather than better news based on facts.]

The public has become lax about being correctly informed – paradoxically, during an era when more facts are free, more information is quickly accessible and more available than ever. If the news won’t investigate, the viewer is vulnerable unless the viewer decomposes news generalisms into the ‘facts’ that may or may not support them.

Ancient Mariner

 

Do we at least still love our mothers?

In one way or another, the past three posts deal with H. sapiens’ relationship with the physical world. Other post series deal with H. sapiens’ treatment of fellow humans and some deal with how H. sapiens has allowed the machine ethic to take over theology, government, economic priority over life, and morality.

Just to highlight each subject:

Humans have started the sixth major extinction of life in the history of the planet.

Humans have destroyed the orderliness of the planet’s biosphere to the point humans will join other creatures in unnecessarily becoming extinct with them.

Humans have chemically altered the chemistry of the planet sufficiently to receive their own geologic epoch – the Anthropocene Epoch; Geologic epochs usually last two or three million years but humans ended the Holocene Epoch after just 11,500 years.

Economics continually grows more abusive to the planet population as international scope and computerization focus on an intense gathering of wealth for the few and in addition, without conscience increase the hardship on the quality of life for the rest.

Similarly, governments support corporate interests and refuse to openly and fairly care for all their citizens equally.

The measure of human worth and virtue is measured in dollars.

In sociology, a machine is any entity that is used to more easily achieve a goal. Machines can be a hammer, sunglasses, nuclear weapons, governments, organizations and prejudices. Humans have replaced religion with machines. Life according to a higher plane of existence and transcendent ethos is disappearing very rapidly. Today, it’s the machines that dictate morality.

Mariner believes this is overwhelming evidence that religion has been obliterated in the West; the East is catching up quickly. People today have lost faith in themselves which is what religion is all about. People chase the machines. It is a plastic world with no ethos, no reward for life, and no intrinsic value for achievement.

Consequently, the mariner will offer a generic religion starter kit for those who feel the absence of spiritual happiness.

 

RELIGION STARTER KIT

First, you need a god. How you envision god is very, very important. Many of you are aware that several practicing religions forbid any image of god – not even writing a name for god. There are two reasons for this: first, god has no shape; god is not a thing. God is a state of perfect being. Second, you can’t worship images, not even presumptions of images. The Jews call this Baal worship. The Christian Bible cites god in several places saying “you will have no other gods before me.” That includes pictures and words of god; they truly don’t look like god at all[1]. God is a singularity. This will have meaning in a moment.

Many religions have the same creation story where god creates a perfect world in a special location. God puts a male and most often a female at the location and they do something they aren’t supposed to do. This creation story is very important to the manner in which we utilize god in our lives. The story establishes something called ‘duality.’

Duality is a condition of existence. Everything – everything – has two or more sides or values. Examples: start and stop; top and bottom; light and dark; far and near; man and woman; good and evil, and so on. Do not try to find an exception. There is only one exception: god. In perfection, god cannot have more than one state of being. God by definition is a singularity.

Duality is our opportunity to sense more than one value for something. To move through life, we are constantly bombarded with things which require us to judge the correct value. In the area of religion, this judgment is about good or evil values; whether something is right or wrong in merit. There is an affinity between singularity and good judgments; there is a rejection of singularity when judgments are bad.

Now you must add an item to the starter kit: faith that a state of perfect being exists. You should seek feelings of perfection and what that does to your feelings of self. A hint about what perfection feels like is a transcendent sensation that lifts you above duality and is very, very peaceful. It isn’t so important that you imagine some literal moment; remember god isn’t a thing; god is a state of perfection. Further, your human desires likely do not reflect perfection – you exist in a dualistic reality. Speaking anthropomorphically, god draws you to be like god – to exist in a state of singularity. But first you need a god.

In the starter kit is a set of measuring devices which you use to measure the amount of perfection in an event, thought or motive in your life. These measuring tools are sort of like handy decision aids like a pregnancy stick or a ruler to measure legal fish or the air pressure in your tires. The scale on each of these tools has words to help with measuring:

Is this event, thought or motive good duality or bad duality? How much of god’s singularity is present? How much beauty? How much love? How much order? How much truth? How much empathy? How much compassion? This set of words determines the quality of an event that is created by humans. It is not advised that you invent your own sticks. Usually they measure bad duality. For example, common measuring sticks of bad duality are opportunism, prejudice, pride, greed and avarice. When you think about it, a state of perfection doesn’t have much that can be measured. However, all of dual reality can be measured for compliance with a state of perfection.

When you have this much of the kit assembled, it is time to practice your religion. Always carry your measuring sticks with you; your measurements will help you focus on god’s singularity and to live a happier and more satisfying life. The remaining parts of the starter kit require some seasoning on your part before you can assemble them.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] Religion is about answering ‘why’ we exist and ‘what’ provides goodness in our lives. The mariner references old religions to help with understanding; the starter kit is quite transparent when it comes to sanctification, ritual, interpretation of goodness and what a transcendent being looks like or how it is identified. The generic identification of god is up to you. Joseph Campbell suggested that the term ‘myth’ always gets in trouble because people place their faith in the myth rather than in what the myth represents (Baal worship). Campbell said, “A myth is a metaphor for things we cannot easily explain or articulate.” So it is with the term ‘god.’ A common metaphor is “Goodness is godliness.”