Just the Facts, Ma’am

 

‘Fake News,’ conspiracy theory facts, salesman facts, politician facts, personal experience facts, in fact, any facts are not sacrosanct. They are subject to interpretation, pejorative evaluation, dismissed with prejudice, distorted, and otherwise abused to the point that a fact is an indisputable fact only in few circumstances. For the record, Merriam-Webster says:

1 a : something that has actual existence ·space exploration is now a fact

b : an actual occurrence ·prove the fact of damage

2 : a piece of information presented as having objective reality ·These are the hard facts of the case.

3 : the quality of being actual : actuality ·a question of fact hinges on evidence

4 : a thing done: such as

a : crime ·accessory after the fact

b: archaic : action

c obsolete : feat

5 archaic : performance, doing

— in fact

In the day, a fact was straight forward: did it work or didn’t it; my daughter’s name is Elizabeth; how much does it cost, etc. Then, however, there weren’t many facts to fathom – just what made the day work. There were times when one would have their guard up, e.g., listening to politicians, salesmen, the neighborhood gossip, even on occasion the preacher. These distortions are part of human nature; who among us hasn’t used hyperbole to make a point instead of laying out detailed, factual information. Distortion is an important affect when speaking a fact. The fact can be expressed as less significant than it may be or more so simply by changing one’s tone. Expression may imply how important a fact is or conversely how insignificant a fact is without changing the fact.

What is different in the current world is that we are overcome by facts. Compared to the day when most facts were found in the neighborhood, today’s facts are from all over the world, from every culture, from every scientific and educational subject, from every strain of historical events, from 12 billion humans – and that’s just for one day. That’s a lotta yotta (1024) – many more facts than we can handle.

Meaningful, verifiable facts tend to be local if not firsthand. An astronaut riding in the space station can verify first hand that the world is in fact a sphere. Yet a flat earth advocate, using their own collection of facts, would disagree. A friend of the mariner, not a sailor, sailed with mariner during a heavy downpour with dramatic thunder and lightning. He believed absolutely that we were going to sink and was visibly disturbed. We didn’t sink and were never in danger of sinking but there’s no doubt that sinking was a fact to the friend. Mistakenly, he credits mariner’s extraordinary sailing skills as the reason we did not sink (of course mariner softly demurred but let the credit stand).

What these examples expose is that facts don’t always represent truth. A fact may be a fact but may not reflect an implied truth. A simple example was given on national news a few days ago when Donald discussed pardons for some political individuals who had been found guilty and, considering he already had pardoned Sheriff Arpaio (charged with abusive, racist treatment of jailed Mexicans), seemed self-serving. Doris Kearns Goodwin was interviewed and made the point that past Presidents had issued pardons to unify the attitude of citizens and avoid unpleasant moments that otherwise would linger. Donald’s use of pardons deliberately set citizen attitudes further apart. However, as a fact, a pardon is a pardon.

Not wanting to burden the reader with other elements (opinion, ulterior motive, greed, prejudice and other ‘soft’ arguments for truth), we are left with the chore of validating facts before we assign value to them. No one wants to add investigative time or delay when gathering facts or truths. But the truth is that facts are so voluminous and still so important that our gut feeling truthometer is defective. Here are some tools to fathom genuine truth as opposed to Stephen Colbert’s acceptance of ‘truthiness.’

Focus on both sides of an issue. Our gut truthometer really, really wants to see only one side.

Search for sources that are more dependable for presenting facts and truths. This is a shortcut to having to search two sides of an issue. For example, PBS Nightly News may be more responsible to identify facts and truths than Rush Limbaugh. Still, you are responsible for the quality of any information.

Read. Mariner knows many people don’t want to read but these are critical times. Daily newspapers still have reasonable op-ed information; read more than one widely distributed magazine; if you have a computer with Internet access, sign up for free emails from well-known magazines and legitimately educational websites.

Every once in a blue moon, attend a city council meeting just for the heck of it or a political event where you can get free barbeque.

Donate to a cause. Cash, labor, or just hang out to see how things work. This helps immensely in sharpening your skills at interpreting facts and truths. Otherwise, there may be whole areas of important facts and truths that may not reach you through normal channels.

Mariner hopes this helps. It is a huge task these days to know what’s really going on outside the neighborhood.

Ancient Mariner

 

The World is Flat – a Growing Truth

The news and other public activities struggle with fake news promoted always with an ulterior motive. It makes it difficult for the average citizen because fact checking, or at least cross referencing, is a new task.

Fake news is a bad thing but it will never disappear completely; a growing organization is the flat Earth society. Check it out at

https://www.newyorker.com/science/elements/looking-for-life-on-a-flat-earth?mbid=nl_Daily%20053118&CNDID=49421095&spMailingID=13616048&spUserID=MTg3Njg2NDM4MTg0S0&spJobID=1402854118&spReportId=MTQwMjg1NDExOAS2 or check your current copy of the New Yorker magazine.

The fake news tsunami is due to the overwhelming – truly overwhelming – amount of information, opinion, and deliberate intention to mislead that comes to us at the speed of light. It wasn’t too many years ago when the only new information came to an individual by a telephone, neighbor, newspaper or a simple, short announcement of headlines on the radio or television.

Still unaccepted is a common source that represents truth. There is none. None are pure enough, disciplined enough and moral enough to convince users that this is true information.

Is there a solution?

Ancient Mariner

 

Environment as a Change Agent

65 million years ago during the early Paleocene, the first primate-like creature evolved from the family Plesiadaptis. It was a small tree-climbing mammal that looked more like an insect-eating tree shrew. It was the beginning of the great age of primates and especially the branch of evolution that led to Homo sapiens – us.

This isn’t so long ago, actually. The dinosaurs existed for 230 million years until the biosphere was rudely interrupted by a meteor strike and to a lesser degree by some growing genetic deficiencies. Even so, such long timelines expose the role of the biosphere as a major player in evolution. Humans would not have been happy living during an earlier era of Earth’s history; the continents would have to spread out a bit to permit acceptable weather patterns and ocean currents; a few intense ice ages would be required to transition to fresh water so land creatures could evolve.

The reader is aware of the old, trite puzzle, ‘what came first the chicken or the egg?’ The puzzle hangs around because there are two logical answers: immediately, the answer is the first chicken hen must exist before there can be the first chicken egg; the other path of reasoning is that the genome of the chicken first occurred within the egg – a composite of several generations of genetic shifts. But another question precedes: What came first the chicken or the environment? Inevitably, the environment must be suitable for chickens in general to exist.

Environments normally change slower than creature evolution. Still, creatures have no choice except to adapt or disappear. On the other hand, creatures will modify the environment to fit their needs. For example, ahermatypic coral draw calcium from their environment to build homes for themselves; the beaver rearranges trees and leaves to build a dam which makes a pond, which enables a home safe from predators by placing the home in the middle of the pond. Neither creature has created a new biosphere but has rearranged a few conditions to better fit their needs.

So it is with humans. What humans sense about the environment is that it does not guarantee safety or longevity. In the great migration of pioneers across the western US, the environment was a threat, not a means of sustenance; the great gardens of the British Isles and Europe which require constant maintenance and an appearance of tight control also stems from an innate sense that the environment is not necessarily man’s best friend and must be mastered. One can imagine that the whole science of astrology is an effort to place meaning into an indifferent cosmos.

Innately, humans have sought to make life better and more secure by rearranging the environment. It started in earnest by collecting iron, copper, coal, nickel and other minerals; humans have always been aware of magnetic resonance in some fashion (electric charges in fish were documented in 2750 BC) but did not begin to extract magnetic forces until 1600 when William Gilbert identified the phenomenon and coined the word ‘electricus.’ Throughout the next 300+ years, humans were able to organize electrical resources to make life easier with motors, tools, light and energy in many forms. In the early 1900’s, Einstein and Fermi expanded electrical knowledge by entering the world of nuclear physics and quantum theory – the very building blocks of the biosphere and the Universe itself.

Humans are rearranging the biosphere to fit their species’ needs – nothing more than super intelligent beavers. But there is a difference. The human brain is a genuine mutation. A new branch of evolution’s tree is emerging. It is a species that will survive as the planet’s environment experiences significant changes.

One marvels at the synchrony between environment and evolution. We humans live lives and have known families in just a hundred years or so; written history goes back only a few thousand years. Modern Homo sapiens has existed only about 90,000 years. Our scale of change isn’t worth the blink of an eye. On the planetary scale, environment and evolution are changing every moment but at such an insignificant pace that it takes eons to notice.

Serendipitously, we live at a time where both the environment and the world’s specie profile are changing more rapidly than usual. The question to ponder is how much change is forced by our beaver habits and how much is caused by planetary shifts and cycles? Mariner suggests the combination is algebraic, changing more rapidly and more drastically than a normal curve of change would suggest.

Speaking in broad terms, it appears the human brain prefers the world of artificial intelligence, that is, an environment less dependent on mammalian characteristics and more dependent on an environment of electromagnetic existence. As our brains wrestle with this odd transition, the mammalian behaviors still hold on to make life awkward; sort of having one foot in and one foot out, so to speak. CBS news covered the fact that electronic giants like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs limit the use of smart phones by their children; just one small incident of struggle between the mammalian instincts and the brain’s preference for electronic communication.

We have pondered the end of the Earth and Sun since primitive times. The idea of Armageddon and the idea that we can escape to a heaven reflect our awareness that the mammalian age will not last forever. Will a life of artificial intelligence enable survival for a longer time as the Earth moves through ages of growing disruption to the mammalian environment? Perhaps the forces of environmental balance push species survival – invoking evolution one day at a time.

Ancient Mariner

 

Corporatism – the Overlooked Enemy

PBS news covered a story today about the National Football League setting rules for how football players must behave, the issue being whether the players can kneel in protest of racial and law enforcement abuse during the National Anthem. This may or may not be challenged in court (mariner has little confidence in US citizens being concerned about freedom, rights, ethics and morality) even though the act clearly is protected by the First Amendment.

This NFL mandate is so simple, so clear, so unobstructed and so much an example of how corporations increasingly are setting the nation’s moral standards. The protectors of our rights and the interpreters of our cultural image are supposed to be our legislators, our religious leaders and our independent court system. Woefully, all our protectors are easily swayed by corporate influence. It is more important for the NFL to sustain profit levels than to honor an individual’s rights under the Constitution.

The takeover of American justice by corporations is accepted as the norm. Consider the following cultural v. business situations:

Net Neutrality – the right of all individuals to share equally in public speech and information. Communication Corporations want to destroy this ethic in order to increase profits by charging individuals for faster access. To add insult to injury, these corporations intend to block an individual’s access to sources that may be detrimental to the corporation’s control and profit.

The Facebook fiasco is typical of Silicon Valley shaping cultural behavior and leveraging innocent participation as a source for additional profit – at the cost of privacy and security.

Mariner was opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership not because it was a new approach to international trade but because it was rife with rules about how nations should treat employees, the rights of employees and governments and other cultural impositions – under the guise that these rules would balance participation among disparate nations. It should be noted that corporate teams wrote TPP while national representatives provided signoff. When does a corporate platform have the right to dictate culture and ethics to any country, let alone 12 or 16?

Labor unions have many faults and are subject to abuse. Still, unions are a mechanism representing employees (AKA citizens just like football players) when a corporation imposes on fair practices similar to income, working conditions, and other behaviors that affect the cultural presence of employees in the society.

We all know US governments have failed and are the direct cause for the malignant populism that has delivered Donald. The governments have failed because they take their cue from corporations rather than the electorate.

US corporate taxes would be funny if the issue wasn’t so important. Corporations pretty much can handle profits any way they wish – even to the extent of hiding profit in blind banks. Is this behavior ethical? Is it a freedom? Is it the primary cause of an oligarchical government?

Mariner must remind himself not to watch the news.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Economic Strangulation

It was Jean-Paul Sartre who wrote, “When the rich wage war it’s the poor who die.” This quote comes to mind as mariner reads no less than four sources writing simultaneously about the effect of oligarchical and plutocratic forces on American society. The common thread is the loss of the ‘American Dream’ – the dream that says anyone who works hard and believes in guaranteed freedom will live a fulfilling life as an American citizen.

Terms:

  • Oligarchy – a form of government where power rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family or military influence.
  • Plutocracy – literally ‘rule by the rich’.
  • Meritocracy – a social system in which people get opportunities and succeed based primarily on their talent (Merit) and effort.
  • Democracy – a government wherein citizens elect officials to represent their interests.

The original vision was a meritocracy; successful citizens are based on performance measured through examination and demonstrated achievement. Politics completely trashed this vision by the Civil War. Further, the economy shifted in a way that more profit multiplies the ability to make even more profit without ever tying growth to production of goods or services. This form of investment has no trickle-down effect – a convenient myth proffered by the wealthy. The excess wealth is never redistributed to the population; rather, wealth is locked into families through trusts, real estate and investments. This economic arrangement draws more and more profit to the wealthy few and literally deprives working citizens from sharing the national wealth.

Obviously, the wealthy have the resources to enjoy a fulfilling life but the national culture increasingly loses any opportunity for fulfillment of any kind. The absence of fulfillment in life is a major reason for class stultification; it is at the root of several clashes between citizens, for example racial tension, indifferent commitment to moral values, and jobs leading to even lower salaries and job dissatisfaction across all industries; even more insidious is the effect on family life. The bottom line is that without meritocracy (and a functioning democracy), there is little motivation to achieve or to be accountable for the nation. Mariner believes that low voter turnout is tied directly to a belief that whatever happens in the plutocracy won’t change anything in the voter’s unfulfilled daily life.

It is common knowledge that the Federal Government and most state governments are plutocracies. Those elected to represent the citizenry actually represent special interests that are wealthy in nature or stand to increase profits unfairly by manipulating legislation through elected representatives. It was in the general news a few months ago that Congress spends its first five hours every day soliciting donations from lobbyist sources. There is no doubt in any corner that plutocracy has replaced representative government.

The final thread, perhaps the most damaging in the long term, is the inability of the United States to remain the leading influence and economy of the world’s nations. What was new in the original documents creating the US was the power of the citizens striving in a meritocracy governed by a democracy. Today, education, science, reinvestment in jobs and technical advancement – all and more are cast aside in favor of sustaining an oligarchy and plutocracy. Overwhelming evidence can be seen in dozens of national oligarchies around the globe.

There’s an old slogan that has come to represent the energy of populist and other uprisings but the core truth is universal:

“Power to the People.”

Ancient Mariner

God’s Christmas Garden

There is a strain of theology that suggests the phenomenon we call history is evidence of a God who is not necessarily a god of intercession but who has set certain conditions in place that cause reaction and compensation to occur. This is true of the stars, planets and other astronomic phenomena as well as the conditions of living things – including living things on Planet Earth. This strain of theology is a subset of pantheism; the difference is that God didn’t create everything and just walk away; before departing, God set a timer of sorts to avoid a static, unchanging universe. We perceive this timer as history – the ongoing reaction to and compensation for events. Mariner’s more colorful analogy is when he sets up the garden under the Christmas tree the last thing is to plug in electricity. Lo and behold! Immediately mariner must react to and compensate for unexpected conditions. There is an eventful history in mariner’s Christmas gardens.

So it is that humans continuously and unconditionally react to the vagaries of God’s timer. Humans devised a concept of God in such a way that a relationship could exist between humanness and Godliness. On the other hand, some suggest that being superior and distinct is self-serving and grandiose; that in truth Homo sapiens is nothing more than a smart gorilla. This dichotomy may be the essence of human life on earth and perhaps provides the electricity that creates history in our Christmas garden: we are hedonistic idealists.

So much for theology. Let’s move to dogma. For clarity in our metaphor the smart gorilla will be divided into two separate persons: Smart and Gorilla.

Gorilla is a product of evolution, of the laws of creation set in place before God left. Gorilla is no different than any other mammal insofar as the need for safety, nutrition, sex and comfort. Frankly, this is as far as dogma goes for Gorilla: pursue safety, be sated, have sex, and be comfortable while performing these acts. Provide a male Gorilla with a handful of gorilla maidens and existence is complete. Should any of these requirements be challenged in some way by another gorilla or any other beast in creation, Gorilla becomes Mighty Joe Young and will defeat any challenge. This aggressive behavior is more a ritual than a dogma; it will be addressed later.

Gorilla had been around for millions and millions of years before Smart came along. Evolution has positioned Smart as the junior partner, a Charles Darwin type of experimental mutation. Like many other unnecessary mutations, Smart is a troublemaker because Smart turns out to be an abuser of Gorilla’s environment and has an unbearable ego. Smart’s egotistic tendencies lead to the importance of sanctification, validation, modification and self-promotion; a set of terms that are Smart’s dogma.

Now Smart and Gorilla will be rejoined to live in one brain. Because Gorilla is the dominant self, Smart does not often get a chance to express independent behavior. In fact, Smart in many ways uses Gorilla’s behavior to a level that damages Gorilla’s environment and causes unnecessary fights with other Gorilla families. Survival of the fittest is now laced with survival of the most vain. Still, all in all, evolution’s law that the fittest will survive is in play. In the Christmas garden analogy, vanity may be electricity – the active ingredient for further evolutionary history.

Stay with mariner here – mariner decides to have an interview with Smart:

“How are you and Gorilla getting along?” he asked Smart.

“Being a mutant is not an enjoyable experience,” Smart replied. “I’ve been living in an old fashioned gorilla body for a long time; seems it’s about time I took charge of this new branch of evolution’s tree.”

Mariner was puzzled. “What do you have in mind?”

“I’ve started making changes where I can,” Smart said. “The planet has adapted to electricity; then I started introducing devices like the telephone, radio and television. That moved faster than I thought it would and already has become integrated with gorilla physiology.”

“What do you mean integrated?” mariner asked.

“If I am ever to take charge of my own being, I have to swap out parts of Gorilla’s body for parts that fit my own nature. The medical field has made the most advances by using electronic replacements. Think about Gorilla’s sense of hearing – Gorilla couldn’t hear more than one hundred yards away until I introduced the telephone. Now Gorilla can hear around the world. Or should I say Smart can hear around the world. For that matter, hearing aids let Smart hear even when Gorilla can’t.”

Mariner was intrigued. “You’re suggesting that your body is quite different than Gorilla’s body. Is there any part of your body in common with Gorilla’s body?”

Smart paused for a moment. “I am alive just like Gorilla but even that requires redefinition. What is ‘alive’ made of? Is the Sun alive? It has a lifespan; what is the definition of life – not by defining parts but by defining function?”

Mariner responded. “You are a new branch of a tree that contains carbon-based life forms. Whatever the definition of life’s functions, Smart still will need a body of some sort.”

“That assumption is spoken like a true carbon-based creature” Smart retorted. Look around at the new devices that are moving Smart to the edge of Gorilla’s capabilities: Remember that old movie ‘The Stepford Wives’? They exist today and are sold as sex toys; there are robots that can carry a real conversation with humans; there are robots that can learn a thousand times faster than humans; for the first time intelligent electronic devices don’t have to look like humans – consider Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri and the like.”

Mariner commented, “These are excellent electronic devices that foretell the promise of Artificial Intelligence but I don’t see the connection with your statement about replacing Gorilla parts.”

“I don’t use the term ‘artificial.’ Intelligence is intelligence. Pay particular attention to advances in brain-related technology. Did you know mental imaging can be captured in an electronic device? Did you know that for some time now the brain can actually command dexterity in artificial limbs without an electronic box? Did you know that recently electronics were able to replicate human thought outside the brain? Do you see what Smart is doing?” Smart paused.

Not really sure,” mariner said.

“The time is rapidly approaching when I will exist in an electronic state and no longer require Gorilla’s mammalian body.” Smart went on, enjoying the vision of a new state of being. “I am making rapid progress now. It won’t be too many decades before human lower court judges will be replaced with Smart – sans the gorilla suit, of course.”

What will a Smart lower court judge look like?” mariner asked.

“In the beginning, androids may be necessary but all one needs is my brain linked to a data source. Eventually, perhaps a small box attached to the global network. My brain will be integrated with external intelligence devices providing a unified super intelligence.” Smart stopped.

Mariner mused a bit. “That sounds like using a virtual reality mask.”

“Now you’re getting the drift of things – just remove Gorilla.”

Mariner opened a new direction. “How does Smart eat without a body? Is exercise important?”

“Nutrition is chemically based; I will eat through tubes. My body is still evolving; my existence will be a combination of network integration and mobility of some mechanical sort. Have you ever watched the show ‘Battlebots’? It’s truly primitive but the technology is solving issues around mobility. I’ll need some type of mobility. I like the idea of multiple bodies at once; something the Battlebots have introduced with their second and third attack aides.”

“So all you will keep is the brain you and Gorilla share?”

“Yes. Likely the physiological support will fade away over time.”

Mariner closed the interview. There was the whole issue of society, politics and freedom but mariner had to give more thought to that before he could talk to Smart again.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

In Irons

Mariner knew the whole of US reality is a circus when the press made fun of how Donald held his water bottle. Funny thing, mariner holds his water bottle exactly the same way. The reason is familial palsy.

Donald is the ringmaster. Worse is that the entire news industry has joined the circus. So has Congress. So has forty percent of the electorate. The President’s cabinet is a group of foolish clowns worthy of eighteenth century British cartoonists. If Donald actually had the powers of a Roman Emperor, he would be Nero fiddling while Rome burned. As it is, he is Don Quixote fighting with windmills. Meanwhile, the United States dwindles in morality, international power and cultural meaning – noticeable on a daily basis.

The nation is a ship in irons. Its sails flap uselessly while the future blows by. Meanwhile, China has a global effort fully active on every continent and in every important nation – including our neighbors; China soon will be the international force that defines world markets – including the US role in those markets. But Donald Q is chasing the windmill of isolationism.

Night after night, news media focuses on Donald’s affair with a whore. That the viewers of news accept both the behavior and the coverage as de rigueur is frightening; morality has become a rubber band stretched by entertainment value. Can the reader hear the calliope?

Racism has been welcomed back to the circus by Donald. Immigration is a global issue as economies, cultural abuse and war force human families to leave what they know, what they own, and likely, what they love. In Donald’s US circus, add religious intolerance to the show. Quietly, the Attorney General removes laws protecting any disadvantaged person regardless of their plight.

There are some good acts; the Me Too movement, California’s defiance of many of Donald’s efforts at disassembling the fabric of American ethics. But it is a disrespectful circus we watch. There are menacing shadows.

Mariner has decided to leave the circus tent. There is solace in silence. Mariner retrieves news from foreign press and other websites that are not taken in by the music. This savage time will pass as it always has throughout history – but at what cost?

Ancient Mariner

Coming of Age Past 60

Of all the disruptive suggestions offered by mariner to make life equitable in the coming artificial intelligence age, setting an age limit of 60 rather than setting a limit on elected terms received the most comment. Mariner responds to these comments in today’s post.

֎ Genetic Disposition. As Homo sapiens grows up, lives life, and grows old, both the mind and the body go through distinct changes we are familiar with and about which we compensate in some way. The body certainly is subject to age else professional sports would be filled with old athletes and tenure would become a union issue. Only the most dedicated, ascetic athletes maintain energy levels past 50; mariner suspects few of these few athletes serve in elected government positions. The mind follows a similar path, becoming more pragmatic and less adventuresome in its thoughts.
֎ Role in Culture. Mariner remembers studying the Japanese custom of elevating its esteemed leaders and thinkers to a supernumerary status in their later lives. They were called upon in special situations when their acumen helped with solving problems. Here in the US after notable careers, many US leaders and thinkers continue to shape the direction of politics and other disciplines by belonging to think tanks and consulting with active leaders. Many return to professional careers, continuing to shape the dynamics of society. Many leverage their political influence by becoming lobbyists – perhaps not a best choice from the electorate point of view; some even become university presidents.

The point is this: Codgers (cf. last post) have a jaundiced view. It is jaundiced because times change; the values codgers learned in life are passé or have context that no longer applies. Two examples will suffice:
First example – Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was at one point the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. This committee was responsible for, among other things, developing legislation and regulations related to technology which at the time oversaw the growth of the Internet, computerization and telecommunications. One can research his career on Wikipedia. He passed few communications bills and virtually no meaningful technology bills. Upon his retirement, he confessed he did not understand how computer networks worked. After long instruction by staffers, he grasped the idea that wires transmitting data were comprised of tubes through which data was transmitted – similar to department stores. Senator Stevens was born on November 18, 1923; he was 86 when he left the Senate in 2009. Because the Senate Chair had no comprehension of modern telecommunications or its social ramifications, Silicon Valley runs unimpeded to this very day – allowing abusive data practices similar to Facebook.
Second example – Senator Strom Thurman was born on December 5, 1902. He represented the state of South Carolina from 1954 (age 52) until he retired in 2003 at the age of 101. Notorious for his resistance to civil rights legislation, he was able to prevent universal civil rights in everything from public schools to restaurants. When he stepped down at the end of his career, he had singlehandedly kept states right rule and segregation in the Dixie states even to today when racism is not an idea but a function of daily life. His opinions on race always were 40 years behind that of the general public.

Mariner deliberately cleansed the examples from party inclinations in order to clarify the effect of codgerism. One may challenge mariner for selecting two seemingly extreme examples. Mariner challenges back for the reader to take a list of age 60+ legislators and compare their later advocacies to the needs of the day.

֎ Taking Measure of Priorities. Psychology and pop psychology sources are full of models, comparisons and timelines reflecting the stages humans pass through in a lifetime. Mariner truncates abundant references into five stages of life:

0-20: An age of learning the rules of life; imprinting mores and behaviors that are meaningful for personal integration into society; acquiring identity and role in society.

20-40: The age of the warrior; passion, energy and commitment focus on growth and achievement; establishing family and challenging society are prominent.
40-60: The age of the expert; seasoned experience translates to power in society; peak of insight to mitigate conflict and procedure.

60-80: An age of withdrawal; wisdom replaces achievement; acquiescence replaces challenge; tolerance replaces discipline; physical presence wanes.

80-?: The age of the self; reflection; personal necessities; physical and mental decline.

Mariner acknowledges that moving from one stage to the next or even transitioning within a stage is not driven by toggle switches; the change of weather seasons more closely fits. However, searching for representatives among 350 million citizens, the stages are a stable rule.

֎ Energy to Burn. A marvel we experience is watching very young children burn energy through constant movement, gesturing, animated conversation and otherwise consuming an endless supply of energy. The amount of energy we have, not only at hand but in reserve, dwindles steadily through life. For adults, there comes a time when the energy required for determination just isn’t there. We acquiesce to ‘going along’ rather than pressing our opinion forward. Genuine statesmanship in behalf of others suffers the most as we approach the age of withdrawal.

Given the four conditions outlined above, mariner believes older age is the cause of more dysfunction across a legislative body than having one extremist hang around too long. Mariner suspects that older voters, sharing the transition into withdrawal, are more comfortable with their own kind as a representative. Certainly don’t want those brash youngsters changing everything.

To show magnanimity, mariner will yield on age 60 and replace it with age 65 – if only to match Medicare policy. In return, he submits that cabinet members, too, be subject to the age rule.

Ancient Mariner

Coming of Age

Mariner has mentioned a number of times that he is an old codger. He is aware that his age has constrained his point of view regarding many of the social, political, economic, ethical and technological changes that are dragging us kicking and screaming into the future. While he considers himself educated, perceptive, and acceptably compassionate, still he suffers from ideological and social isolation in these turbulent times. The most significant indicator of withdrawal is a growing lack of interest in news – world, US, political or otherwise. Even his Scientific American Magazine, subscribed to since 1964, occasionally goes unread.

Another indicator of ‘codgerism’ is a growing lack of interest with groups who identify with causes and community activities. Mind you, this is not absolute in nature; mariner could no more be a hermit than could a herring. It isn’t that mariner disdains the efforts of these groups, some of which are quite wholesome; it’s more that the context for individual participation has changed.

A few examples may enlighten the reader as to the subtle shift in perception that seems to underlie codgerism. (Mariner dare not apply a euphemism to the lovely women of his generation.)

Mariner has older friends who make his age seem juvenile. They remain traditionally religious and struggle just a little with the new role of the church and the ‘loose’ attitude of parishioners. When the friends were growing up and well into their adulthood, the church was the center of theological meaning, morality, politics, social identity, and the center of collaboration with others. In rural areas this was especially true. His older friends are more gracious toward parishioners than mariner; they suffer their current church mates amicably while mariner carries a mild prejudice against do-nothing pew Christians. Another friend is a professed Taoist; today there is no difference in behavior between the faiths.

Another example of attitude isolation or codgerism demonstrates how technology can leave whole segments of a society isolated in their social understanding. The example, well known, is the invention of the automobile, electricity, and steam engines. In the 1960’s mariner was blessed to meet a very few old timers (codgers?) who spent most of their lives on farms with horses for transportation and kerosene for light. This example illustrates well how the speed of life, the confrontation with new technically driven habits and new life priorities can leave a senior person in a quandary about behavior and morality. One fellow mariner spoke with was proud of the fact that even in 1964 he had never been more than 54 miles from his home. So much for modern travel opportunity (How many of us disdain that damned smartphone – talk about a technically driven change in social behavior!).

To finish this line of thought, from 1890 to 1964 was a disruption of morality, social upheaval, human value, technically driven lifestyle changes (telephone, radio, TV, computers, commercial flight, and interstate highways just to mention a few totally new influences on daily priorities) that happened faster and more completely than any era shift in history. The entire shift, unlike the Reformation or the Industrial Revolution, happened well within a single lifetime. If one were alive between 1900 and 1964, there were a lot of lifestyle issues that had to be reinvented several times. Folks who lived through those years, were they still alive, could help today’s generations cope. Yes, we are in the midst of another era change – at the speed of light.

Today’s new era shift began in 1980. As happens so frequently with the birth of a new age, entrepreneurs and profiteers leverage newly turned fiscal opportunities. The entire economic ethic shifted toward corporatism and toward investment profit more than direct business profit. Today, of course, we struggle with a growing oligarchy. From 1980 to today, workers have not participated in GDP; salaries generally are only 40 percent of what they should be if adjusted for inflation. Further, the age of oil has affected the environment and weather; it is not under control. Again further, the Internet has abolished privacy and individuality. Finally, artificial intelligence will completely redefine the meaning of work, income, individual security in all its manifestations and even the international politics we are familiar with today – all in the reader’s lifetime.

So. Mariner’s disdain for the electorate, the pew Christians, and all the nation’s elected officials is the result of codgerism. This is not his era. Where are Nat King Cole, Patsy Cline and Elvis? They sang in English. What happened to union negotiations? What happened to salaries? Want to know why it takes two income producers to sustain a family? They’ve been robbed of their share of income from their nation’s economy. Want to know why an eight-year old narcissist was elected President? The country is screwed up. What all old codgers have in common is the wisdom of living a lifetime, finally absorbing some decent cultural values, and not easily swayed by gimmickry. True, these merits may not take us to the future but they just may help with fairness and grace; factors that aren’t dependent on economic opportunity.

The ancient codger offers some issues the disadvantaged electorate may want to tackle to make life in the new AI age friendlier:

֎ The US will continue to falter until, above all else, we first celebrate our commonality rather than our differences.

֎ Make the redistricting process politician-free and base it on simple geographic and population formulas.

֎ Automate voting to eliminate voting suppression schemes. Anyone should be able to vote at the drop of a hat. Some nations fine voters for not participating and pay them when they do.

֎ Forget term limitations. In times of great change, our leaders must have grown up in the age at hand. The current legislative bodies are full of codgers. Set an age limit for running for office; perhaps 60.

֎ It will require extreme effort but success is crucial. Remove money from elections and governance by imposing caps and limiting contributions to the districts in question. While we’re at it, put heavy penalties on lobby contributions.

֎ Remove the banks from their role of dominating the economy and its profits. Profit must come from the work of the people, not the wealth of the autocrats.

 ֎ The great abuse of the AI era will be discounting humanness. Today, AI already has made major moves to eliminate human individuality as a legitimate factor in the evolution of society.

Mariner understands the resistance caused by his age. But he ain’t stupid. The electorate shouldn’t be stupid either.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Another Animal at the Zoo

In an effort to remain sane and to maintain rational emotional feelings, for several weeks mariner has avoided American news programming, tolerating only BBC, CGTN (China), selected CSPAN and, with the aid of the fast forward button, The Eleventh Hour on MSNBC. For years mariner has been saturated by the home and do-it-yourself networks. He tends not to watch fictional programming.

What is left? Science channels (seen all the programs), geological and environmental programming (been everywhere, travelled through time and space, seen all the conditions); mariner knows how to be a junk dealer, bootlegger, hotrod mechanic, gardener, and furniture maker. Scrounging about for anything, mariner uncovered the veterinary shows. There are several series. The theme is that animals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish of all kinds are brought to a vet’s clinic having all kinds of maladies.

Mariner suffered a binge watch the other night. He had enlightenment. As he watched the animals, he wondered how they dealt with human creatures while not knowing the intellectual dimensions, knowledge and cause and effect processes that are foisted upon them. In most cases the patients had learned to tolerate humans, even accepting dependence for comfort and care. But intellectually, there had to be an immense gap between patient reality and human reality. When they were healed, did they have a causal awareness between newfound health and the creatures wearing masks and poking with needles?

Then mariner had his burst of insight. In 150 years, when artificial intelligence has been thoroughly ensconced in human culture, humans will have the exact intellectual experience as the animals. There will be no way to link human consciousness with the surreal reasoning of a robot. This insight applies not only to visiting our electronic vets but also our electronic government, our electronic softball game versus robots and (one wonders) our spousal relationships.

We will be no more than a baby opossum experiencing the AI world in complete ignorance; tolerating them and even accepting dependence for comfort and care. There’s always a concern that AI vets will, just as human vets, decide to have us put down.

Ancient Mariner