It’s Time for Religion

There are times when we must return to religion. This is difficult in today’s helter-skelter value systems and rapidly shifting beliefs in the world in which we live. To the extent that religion itself is caught up in the raging politics of wealth, depravation and transition, finding a value to which to return is difficult and precarious. As religious believers, we are lost in a morass of myth change, unstable human value and empirical disruption.

Sometimes, it is helpful to discard that which is confusion. What has proven to be survivable, worldly, simpatico and stable beneath the fray of economics, politics, common prejudices and conflict? There is comradeship in basic human existence. There is comradeship in nature’s rule of life. There is partnership in the pursuit of survivability.

But who will lead the path to religious morality? Who will reset the world to the powers of creation and sanctity? Who will link the power of ethos and universal value to a day in the life of humanity?

You.

Elected officials and government cannot do this. Militarism cannot do this. Great leaders cannot do this. Elitism cannot do this. You can do this. Live your life according to your beliefs in Divine Providence. Do not allow your sense of right to be distracted by the confusion and misdirection of life. You know what is sacred. Believe your faith in the holiness of reality; believe in the virtue of equality among humans and humanness. If God is your leader, obey God’s rules.

Politics will not save us. Wealth will not save us. Battles against oneness will not save us. Love will save us.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

When it comes down to it, you’re not on your own

[NPR] Debbie Baker thought she qualified for a federal program that helps teachers such as her, as well as nurses, police officers, librarians and others. The Department of Education program forgives their federal student loans if they make their payments for 10 years and work in public service.

But it turns out that her $76,000 in student loans didn’t get forgiven. Baker was finally told she was in the wrong type of loan. If she’d known that at the beginning, she could have switched loans and ended up qualifying. But she says nobody ever told her.

The tough message is that no one is in your corner but you. There are many who want to help you but they can do only so much. The bottom line is, in the jungle of politics, government programs, health, career, taxes and survival, one must be responsible for one’s self – but not by one’s self! This is especially true in these times of confusion and change.

It used to be if a person had a good physician and at least knew of a lawyer, the person’s interaction with society was manageable. Today, of course, a person requires specialists for dozens of relationships with society; most of these relationships are not petty and can have an impact on finances, insurance, property and taxes – to say nothing about education and medical expenses. Even taking a vacation often requires interacting with travel agencies.

To the reader, this means two things: 1- society is like a herd of elephants; they are big, cumbersome and even if they want to help out, it’s just as likely they will crush you. 2- surviving elephants requires special knowledge; it is a sad fact that one can no longer simply visit a specialist who will guarantee one’s wellbeing. Today, one must first do homework.

  • Know very specifically what one wants to achieve. Have an idea about how the achievement will be accomplished.
  • Educate one’s self about the subject; the Internet is a marvelous place to research details. So are libraries. Particularly learn about the responsibilities of those who will help. Ideally, talk with someone who has achieved the same goal.
  • Just as Debbie made a mistake by not reading the fine print, most folks will overlook something that may be important. Fine print is everywhere today. A common error when investing is to not know the difference between a financial planner and a fund salesman. Financial planners were required by federal law to act in your best interest. Mariner said ’were’ because Donald had that rule removed early in his presidency; still, financial planners have one’s best interests at heart. Unfortunately, the larger investment firms stock up on fund salesmen; unless one is genuinely wealthy, one will not be serviced by a financial planner.
  • Use a local bank and a local attorney. Let them know they will be counted on for all actions even if circumstances require additional specialists.
  • When it comes to health insurance, it is a cutthroat business. Find neutral intermediaries to help with jargon and options. Some pharmacies offer services that will help make the best decision; there are quasigovernmental agencies (SHIIP, for example) that will help when making decisions about medical insurance. In matters of health finances, homework is required.
  • Voting is the most important civic responsibility. Shortly before voting season, write to your elected officials to request promotional literature. Mariner cannot count the number of conversations with folks who not only didn’t know much but what they did know was attributed to the wrong party.

Just on a lark mariner decided to list within one minute as many specialists as one may need when engaging society:

Banker, attorney, financial advisor, primary care physician, optometrist, dentist, automobile mechanic, heating and air conditioning technician, proficient carpenter, proficient electrician, baby sitter, public school teacher, marriage counselor, psychologist, fitness center instructor, Tai Chi instructor, real estate agent and on TV, advice for everything from Doctor Oz to movie reviews.

The point is that today one cannot go it alone and must do homework as well. Make sure the right person and the right decision occur.

REFERENCE SECTION

‘1 Million Americans Will Be Shot in the Next Decade’

Video by The Atlantic

“I see more gunshot wounds as a trauma surgeon here in the United States per week than I did when I was serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan,” says Dr. Mallory Williams, chief of the Division of Trauma and Critical Care at Howard University Hospital. “There’s no question about it.”

In a new Atlantic short documentary, American Trauma: How the NRA Sparked a Medical Rebellion, Dr. Williams and other esteemed trauma surgeons explain how the severity—and, frequently, fatality—of gunshot-related injuries has galvanized the medical community to take action against gun violence. However, in many ways, their hands are tied: In 1996, Congress passed an amendment—lobbied for by the National Rifle Association—that prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” This includes conducting government-sponsored research on the effects of gun violence.[1]

Ancient Mariner

[1] For video see: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/593707/trauma-doctors/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=video-series-atlantic-documentaries&utm_content=20190711&silverid-ref=NDkwMjIzMjA1Mjg2S0

This is a strange, scary World

The Atlantic Magazine has an article about the love relationship between Evangelical Christians and Donald. Mariner suggests only the strongest in faith and self-confidence read that article.

Reason, a so-named ‘skill’ of Homo sapiens, is not to be trusted. Reason is free to imagine anything, whether reasonable or not. Further, the human success derived from inventions and discovery, while entertaining and imaginative, has not changed the human brain one iota in its 100,000 years of immediate evolution.
Humans first respond to the five senses as all creatures do (one will never put one’s finger in the fire twice); humans then respond to sustained survival (me, my offspring and my belongings come first); finally, humans make the mistake that they can create a reality that fits one’s unique perspective, bending or dismissing empirical reality, existential experience and the core virtues of sympathetic awareness – the last of which is present in all mammals.

Relating to theology and doctrine first, humans toyed with how the universe came to be. In the western world, the earliest documentation of a theology emerged around 7500 BC with the creation of Cybele, the female creator of nature who always had two fierce lions beside her.[1] Cybele may have been the first super hero because of her ability to procreate an entire biosphere. In the rest of the world ancient Egyptians and others applied anthropomorphic values: rocks were gods, trees were gods, the Sun, the Moon, etc. Later, theology allowed males to be gods and also to have more than one god at the same time. The panoply of Greek and Roman gods reads like Downton Abbey.

About 2,000 years ago, a religion emerged that was based on love as its core value. The power of God was love. God created Jesus so people will understand who god is and how they should live accordingly. While proselytizing in Turkey, disciple Paul learned that the local name for this new religion was ‘Christian’. The name stuck.

Until this day there has been confusion about how god relates to individuals or perhaps how individuals relate to god. There is a huge library on this issue, especially on whether god is a personal god (Old Testament) that interjects himself into the daily life of individuals or is a force to which all believers respond (New Testament).

Perhaps the sagest observation was made by theologian Reza Aslan who said, “Humans want a god like themselves.”

A good segue to the second subject, politics. Many Evangelical Christians (ECs) have adopted Donald as a current day savior (for the sake of sanity please don’t correlate Donald to Jesus). Forgetting every verse of faith and decorum in the New Testament, ECs believe Donald will preserve the culture and doctrine that ECs believe. The enemy is the rest of the population who generally are more liberal and Donald’s non-Christian behavior, indeed criminal behavior, is exempted just so he can fight the liberals in the nastiest way possible.

This political circumstance was true for Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and all of history’s despots. ECs believe all virtues are dispensable to sustain the EC world. Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.

But mariner knows this will begin the decline of the Evangelical Christian. Dare he say God works in mysterious ways?

Ancient Mariner.

[1] See mariner’s post, Cybele, posted April 7 2016

Beyond Donald -3

Isn’t this fun? Regular readers will recall the last two posts moving beyond Donald and clearing out the debris and smoke of Flanders Field. As the smoke thins, a farther view of the horizon emerges and reality is visible again.

֎ Housing. The word ‘infrastructure’ conjures thoughts of highways, antipollution, communication, public transportation, even climate change. One of the most critical areas, however, is housing. Two influences have led to the US housing crisis: a shift from manufacturing to investment as the backbone of the economy and – because houses are a major investment – an exaggerated resistance to socially integrated housing.

  • By the latter, mariner means Not in My Backyard (NIMBY). In Silicon Valley, the public school teachers cannot afford to purchase a home near their school because those with mansions around the school will not allow ‘cheaper’ housing that may reduce the value of their mansions.
  • NIMBY also applies to gentrification of neighborhoods in cities and suburbs where a new home buyer invests in a fixer-upper and joins a Home Owners Association (HOA) to set rules of exclusion that will preserve the value of homes in the neighborhood.
  • Housing is growing scarce because homes are too expensive for the younger generations, because homes are held onto by an aging population, and because the lack of US housing regulations doesn’t enforce multiple levels of housing or zoning. Already, there is a shift in the social structure of a family. The Census Bureau reports:

“Young adults are experiencing traditional milestones such as getting a job, marrying and having children at a later age than their parents.

One of the striking signs of delayed adulthood is the rising number of young adults who live in their parents’ home – now the most popular living arrangement for young adults.

A third of young people, or 24 million of those aged 18 to 34, lived under their parents’ roof in 2015. More young adults lived with parents than with a spouse in 2016. Almost 9 in 10 of the young people who lived with their parents a year ago are still living there.”

  • Regulations that permitted multiple family buildings (tenements) have suffered at the hands of HOAs and are less than important to local governments because of the resultant increase in the tax base for cities and counties during gentrification.
  • Over the next 25 years climate change will have a significant impact on housing in flood plains. Mariner notes many places along the Mississippi River that already have driven small communities from their homes – not to mention the nation’s coastlines and metropolitan areas.
  • The housing issue will not be as easy to remedy as one may think. One of the side effects of capitalist profit-taking over the last 40 years is that investments (like houses) have grown in value while salaries have not kept up. Salaries are part of the issue.

As mariner suggested in Donald -2, the US needs a burst of new productivity, new gross domestic product, and a new image of what America stands for. Housing is critical both for its need and for changes in government oversight.

Ancient Mariner

Beyond Donald -2

In the previous post, mariner envisioned the time of Donald to be similar to Flanders Field in WWI. With visibility clouded by the smoke of conflict and confusion, the horizon of reality could not be seen. Mariner contributed some verifiable realities about the US economy as the nation begins again to move into the future.

In this post, mariner seeks to clear enough smoke to see the reality of education. Do not worry, Betsy Devos is gone – and so is Lori Loughlin.

The contemporary grading model for public schools and colleges, i.e., As, Bs, Cs, or 100s, 90s 80s, etc. plus the separation into grades, i.e., 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. plus ringing a bell to change classes, plus being required to sit still at a desk – are a grading methodology established in 1853 by Horace Mann and others. 1853! Nevertheless, readers must offer kudos to Horace for advocating and installing (in New England) government-supported free public education without prejudice to race, religion, or social status.

By and large, primary and secondary schools still abide by this methodology; colleges have added variations – but still tests – like ACT, SAT and activity history (cheerleader? sports? honorary recognition?)[1] In the last thirty years or so, individual teachers have been exploring teaching not with individual desks but having students sit around a table; students are allowed to influence content and to be openly expressive. Still, though, that damned bell rings to ruin the mood.

But as the smoke clears beyond Donald, education is no longer a pure – or effective – ideology. Race is an issue; religion is an issue; social status is an issue; cost is an issue and to be blunt, the electorate is satisfied if their children can read, write and can deal with rudimentary arithmetic. Beyond that expectation, education should not be a first-line expense for their taxes.

Due solely to an outdated economy manipulated by capitalism and compliant government for 40 years, education and housing both suffer pricing that is beyond the general public’s reach. Some progressive candidates advocate free education via paying off student debt and cancelling tuition. Mariner is suspicious of this approach because it deals only with the imbalanced economy and doesn’t mention learning targets, new concepts for elementary education or modifying that grading system students have lived with since 1853. Education is more important than ever as the approaching technical age changes every aspect of an electorate’s reality.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] For a good survey of issues related to methodologies, check out The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux, by Cathy N. Davidson, Basic Books 2017.

Postmodernism

Mariner was drifting through the endless world of the Internet last evening when he came across the author Frederic Jameson, a prolific writer in the 1980s and 1990s who contributed ideas about postmodernism. Mariner hasn’t thought about postmodernism since the 1990s. It is refreshing to revisit the perceptions of Jameson and others about the philosophical interpretations that underlie the way people perceive the world today.

Most readers are aware of ‘the age of enlightenment’, a movement that occurred in the 18thcentury. It evolved because of new scientific understanding at the time and the beginning of industrialization – both of which changed how people lived and identified with society (Luddite rebellion in 1811).

Then, from about 1900 to 1965, came modernism. To keep the post short, mariner cites Wikipedia:

[Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and sciences, were becoming ill-fitted to their tasks and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world.]

It is intriguing to note that the end of modernism was imprinted in American history by three significant assassinations: John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. As an example of the breadth of philosophic change at the time, one of mariner’s favorite authors, Paul Tillich, wrote “Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions” in 1963 and “Situation Ethics: The New Morality” by Joseph F. Fletcher was written in 1966. Since then the role of Christian doctrine in American culture has been changing dramatically.

Postmodernism is the next interpretation of society, religion, art, economics, etc. It defines how everyone today experiences society and daily ethics. In the turbulence of the sixties, from Viet Nam to Woodstock, a conservative resurgence occurred to quell general disruption and was empowered by the election of Ronald Reagan. During this conservative period especially during the 1990s, philosophers like Jameson began to realize a new world was emerging that would be culturally segmented and institutions of every kind would not be sacrosanct.

Just like the earlier periods of enlightenment, change has been brought about by scientific advancement, an emerging new kind of economy, and a separation of human values from religious and ethical traditions. Today, the polarized conflict between conservatives and liberals in all walks of life represents the same conflict experienced at the end of earlier periods of philosophical change. It is interesting that shifts in global philosophy occur more rapidly each time.

Ancient Mariner

 

Democratic Debates – 2

Kamala Harris won the ‘remember me’ contest with her impassioned description of being bussed to school. It also pointed out something about Joe. Joe is an old school politician. His career was in a time when legislators were collaborators and in public, at least, dialogue was polite. Make no mistake, Joe is a seasoned politician but his perspective on the realities of Congress does not match the Congress of the 21st century. Today party politics is a dirty business devoid of statesmanship. What counts is raising lobby money and voting a hard line in an effort to beat the other party.

Donald doesn’t help. He provides no reasoned leadership to help balance the agenda of Congress. Congress is no more sophisticated than dodge ball. One could legitimately say that the Federal government is in disarray – including the Supreme Court who, similar to the political parties, produces decisions that don’t help the nation.

Many sociologists blame all this dysfunction on the high speed shift of world politics, technology, the Internet, morphing economics, and an over extended era of out-of-date mores. In the gap between yesterday and tomorrow, plutocracy and authoritarianism grow like nasty weeds in the garden of democracy.

It is a good sign that 15.3 million people viewed debate number one. The electorate has a degree of awareness that the 2020 election is not just another election. With a single election, a broken government must be repaired and a new leader must be found to steer the ship of state into the troubled waters of tomorrow.

Simultaneous to the time of the election, Congress must, must create a new economic direction. At the moment, the only concept on the table is the Green New Deal. It will restore honest jobs and wages to a lean working class; it will set an agenda for technology; it will redirect energy resources away from fossil fuels; most importantly, it will focus the nation’s attention on a war greater than any in history: climate change.

22 republican senators face reelection in 2020. Even more important than defeating Donald – if that can be imagined – is to take the Senate out of the hands of republicans. Republicans need time to reflect on how the world has shifted the concept of conservatism – else they will only increase the pain of dealing with rapid change.

Ancient Mariner

 

Reparation Revisited – the Native Americans

Readers raised the question whether the US owed the Native American reparation. Setting aside the fact that Europeans arrived on the Atlantic shores and proceeded with a policy of genocide, some may contend that the Native Americans received reparation via the establishment of indian reservations. This is as rewarding as saying the Japanese Americans that were forced into internment camps during WWII were pleased about the fact they were put in prison.

Andrew Jackson’s order to relocate the Cherokee Nation to Oklahoma (Trail of Tears) is more demonstrative of the fact that reservations were no reparation. The land for reservations was the poorest that could be had. During the Trail of Tears, 4,000 men, women, and children died and included Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw that were relocated under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. For centuries the original Cherokee land occupied the entire area from the Mississippi River in the West to the Blue Ridge Mountain in the East. There was pressure to claim those lands to find gold and expand farmland for those who weren’t Native Americans.

Mariner doubts anyone then or now claims that exile to useless internment camps (reservations) was reparation. In a recent post travelogue, mariner noted the poor state of reservation economics; the average Native American has assets averaging 10% of the rest of the US population.

Taking into consideration the displacement of Neanderthal by Homo sapiens, the propensity for invasive genocide throughout the ages, the desire to eradicate via multiple terrorist wars in Africa and the Middle East, humans are of the same propensity as the black plague, jackal, hyena, Komodo Dragon, and of course, our predecessor, the chimpanzee.

Food for thought: For those without money, plutocracy is a form of slavery by deprivation without constraints or interest in a person’s whereabouts or bodily wellbeing – for now.

Ancient Mariner

 

About Reparations

This is a knotty issue. The idea of reparation has existed since the Emancipation Proclamation. Every decade or so the issue is raised to a level of public awareness and becomes an issue in US governments, especially the Federal government. Reparation is an unusually complex idea that doesn’t fare well in politics. In part this is due to the mechanics of political discourse which seek compromise through procedural bargaining; reparations are not something that can be resolved with bargaining. The idea exists or it doesn’t. This post is, in part, a review of arguments during a Hearing before Congress on Juneteenth Day (June 19th).

Even more complex is the fact that three clearly distinct social functions are forced together: racism, economics and citizen parity. Can racism, today still a major social conflict, be reconciled with money, that is, will racism disappear among whites because the blacks received some money? Is slavery’s $75 billion contribution to the US GDP an investment that deserves reconciliation? Is it fair to poor whites that, because one is black, the blacks get a leg up on surviving in a plutocratic age?

In Congress Wednesday, most debates centered on whether today’s blacks can represent black slaves in the first place. Inevitably the three aforementioned social functions cloud the rationality of that debate. One witness’s testimony stated, “If I receive reparation, it means I am still a slave.” Ta-Nihisi Coates, a respected black journalist, made the case that American history is a continuous flow that encompasses all that has transpired in the nation. Senator Mitch made the common case that none of us alive are responsible for slavery and that introducing reparation would be disruptive. Coates jumped on that argument citing:

“But well into this century, the United States was still paying out pensions to the heirs of Civil War soldiers. We honor treaties that date back some 200 years, despite no one being alive who signed those treaties. Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for. But we are American citizens, and thus bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach.”

Coates also made the point that throughout history even to the present, blacks continue to suffer injustice often in brutal and savage ways – implying that, in a cultural way, slavery still exists.

. . . .

As mariner alluded to in the first paragraph, debating (a) was there an immoral act; (b) whether there is financial culpability; (c) whether accountability for slavery has a statute of limitations; (d) the impact of reparation on life in a contemporary plutocracy and many other lesser opinions, mariner senses that these arguments are disparate – pieces from a larger puzzle that don’t fit together in the space of reparation.

The puzzle that accommodates these pieces rearranges their relationships.

Today’s racial war began with a profiteering invasion of Africa for the sole purpose of establishing slavery in the US. There was never any intention by the pirates to reimburse their native countries. There was never any intention of equality for slaves. The Civil War ended ‘legal’ slavery and destroyed a southern economy that was based on slaves as chattel. Intense animosity remains to this day sustained by differences in color, culture, financial class and political identity. In other words, the conflict associated with African blacks is not over. The Civil War is over; actual ownership of another person as chattel is over; but a tribal war between races continues to this day. Is it possible to apply reparations when the war hasn’t ended?

While it may seem irrelevant to dialogue today, the original sin was against the nations of Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Should there be reparations to these African nations for profiteers spiriting away 75,000 citizens? Reparations can be negotiated for this because that chapter of history is complete. All that remains were it desired, is to settle on an amount.

Rather than try to create reparation that cannot be defined, perhaps the primary effort should be to end the war. Mariner is of the opinion that paying out some cash to end white responsibility is a cop out. End the war. End racism. There is no amount of reparation that would equal the end of the race war with blacks. The economic parity isn’t a payback, its equal pay for equal work; equal opportunity for education, medical care and other opportunities assumed by white people without notice.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

New Things

֎ “Flesh-eating” bacteria that live in the ocean may be spreading to previously unaffected beach waters thanks to climate change, according to a new report.

In the report authors described five cases of severe flesh-eating bacterial infections in people who were exposed to water or seafood from the Delaware Bay, which sits between Delaware and New Jersey. Such infections have historically been rare in the Delaware Bay, as the bacterium responsible for the disease, called Vibrio vulnificus, prefers warmer waters, such as those in the Gulf of Mexico.

But with rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, V. vulnificus may be moving farther north, making these infections in areas previously off-limits, the authors said. [Livescience.com]

֎ Also from Livescience.com, Scientists Develop New Laser That Can Find and Destroy Cancer Cells in the Blood.

Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood. And now, researchers have developed a new kind of laser that can find and zap those tumor cells from the outside of the skin.

Though it may some time before becoming a commercial diagnostic tool, the laser is up to 1,000 times more sensitive than current methods used to detect tumor cells in blood, the researchers reported June 12 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

News programs have been announcing that Facebook will have its own digital currency, largely circumventing traditional banks. In Africa Senegal has had such an arrangement since 2011. The reason Senegal moved to independent digital cash is because there are very few banks in Senegal. Virtually all cash transactions are made between special smartphones called E-Wallets. This device-to-device method has its good side in that it is difficult to track an individual’s transactions without a credit card that is tracked by banks who leverage financial information to other sources and, of course, it is more convenient than writing checks or carrying cash.

The downside is Facebook. If every cell in one’s body had a unique name, Facebook would know the names and sell them to anyone. The same is true of personal likes, dislikes, friends, family, possessions, religion, politics, daily habits, cuisine – and now where one spends their money, how much they have and the state of their finances.

Soon there will be as many types of cryptocurrency as there are paper currencies. Be prepared. Cryptocurrency is here to stay and will be an independent adjunct to every large corporation’s products. Just watch Walmart and Amazon as they incorporate their own version of cryptocurrency. Paypal has a great future as a blockchain.

By the way, does anyone have a real quarter? This pinball machine still requires cash.

Ancient Mariner