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Aristotle said: “philosophy begins in wonder," 

It also ends in wonder. The ultimate way we relate to the world as something sacred is by renewing our sense of wonder.

-Sam Keen-

 

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Moving day .... (again)
I don't like this blogging software, so I am moving once again. Please see my new digs at:
 
Fri, March 7, 2008 | link

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Yikes!!!
Horrors!  We were without cable TV and internet access for most of the day.  You would think it was the end of the world! I was a bit peeved at DH for freaking out over the cable problem, until I discovered that I could not access the Internet.  I was similarly freaked out. 
 
I would like to feel all self-superior to DH.  I could care less if the TV is out.  I don't watch TV. 
 
I do care a whole lot when I can't access the Internet. I don't think there's a lot of difference between him freaking out about the TV and me freaking out about the computer.
 
Either way we are admitting by our behavior that we are depenent on these "conveniences" for our daily "fix" of entertainment/information/or-some-combination-of-the-two.
 
Hmmm. I guess I've no room to feel self-righteous.
 
Tue, March 4, 2008 | link

Monday, March 3, 2008

How low can we go?
My favorite articles in the newspaper are the filler articles.  Sometimes I feel I learn more from them than from the rest of the paper.  This one caught my eye today. It's about a couple of ill-behaved mothers who got into a brawl at a child's birthday party in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, allegedly because a kid was hogging a game the birthday kid wanted to use.  Huh?
 
Let's see... how many disgusting things are expressed in that one sentence? Immature adults? General, inexcusable incivility?  Hovering parents who can't let their kids deal with a problem and then wonder why their kids can't deal with problems? Use of violence as a means to settle disputes?  Getting upset by petty BS when there are more important thing in life to get upset about?  I could go on. 
 
What is wrong with us as parents?  We hover over our children and don't let them own their own experiences, good, bad or indifferent.  We don't give them the opportunity to struggle with difficult tasks or with interpersonal problems, setting them up to be unable to persevere in difficulty and incompetent in their social interactions.  We are uncivil and rude in our own dealings with others, and then wonder why our kids are rude and mean-spirited.
 
That kind of behavior happens too frequently everywhere in our society. I've seen it in school parking lots, at the checkout counter in stores, at the library, at work.  Ninety percent of the altercations I have witnessed in my life were over petty things that did not merit a hissy fit.  I can understand throwing a public fit over a serious infraction, particularly if low-key efforts to resolve a serious problem have been tried and failed.  Throwing a fit over something petty simply because we believe that we (and our children, property, time, money, or what-have-you) is more important than the dignity and self-respect of the person we are dealing with is WRONG. It is mean. It is a bad example to set for our children.  It contributes to the atmosphere of meanness and nastiness that seems to be poisoning our society.
 
In a society where mothers will stoop to duking it out at the Chuck E. Cheese over petty bullshit, how will we handle serious differences over important issues?  I really don't want to know the answer to that. 
 
I'll tell you one thing: I feel really, really sorry for the children of both of those women. Partly because I am sure they were totally humiliated by their mothers' behavior.  Even more because I'll bet they tend to solve their own problems in much the same way.
 
 
 
Mon, March 3, 2008 | link

Sunday, March 2, 2008

While I am on the subject of economics ...
I may not know much about economics, but here's a speech by a guy who does know whereof he speaks.  This speech was given by Bill Gates in January at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. It got a little press, but not nearly enough. I have read the whole thing several times and each time I read it, I am more amazed and inspired.
 
The thing that struck me the first time I read an excerpt from the speech was that Mr. Gates was articulating something about capitalism that I always thought might be true but could not articulate.  As much of a wooly-headed liberal as I have been on many issues, I could never embrace the socialistic model of government that seems to be the logical end of much of 20th Century "liberal" thinking.  I couldn't do it because something always told me that capitalism could accomplish the same end, and do it better.  I never did understand why I believed that nor could I articulate how that might work. I took it for my American indoctrination that captialism was the most highly evolved form of economic thought. 
 
I have worked in the non-profit sector and I'm here to say that traditional charities are not the answer.  Gates is right: the profit motive is the answer.  He wants to sell a computer to everyone in the world.  That requires making sure everyone in the world has the wherewithal to buy a computer.  Traditional charity would say that we should give them the computers.  Libertarians would say "fuck 'em if they're poor".  Laissez-faire capitalists would say, "if you can't pay, too bad," which is similar to the libertarians only slightly more polite.  Socialists would have the government subsidize computers for the poor, subject to all manner of bureaucratic red tape and degrading BS that ends up making the poor feel even worse about their circumstances or might very well make them give up on trying to get the computer in the first place.
 
Gates is offering a whole different approach. Cooperative efforts between government, NGO's and business to simultaneously improve the economic conditions of the poor (making sure they are healthy enough and educated enough to work and creating jobs for them to do, thus putting disposable money in their hands -- which they can use to buy computers, or whatever else they may need) and developing products they actually need (wireless internet for rural places where there is no cable; cheap computers that may not have a lot of bells and whistles but can unleash the power of the internet for people in remote places; medicine they can afford, etc.) 
 
He's not talking about traditional Robin Hood-style charities that take from the rich and give to the poor, nor is he talking about pie-in-the-sky government programs that might sound good but will never get off the ground.  He's talking about corporations making money by focusing some of their most creative people on developing products the poor actually need and supporting economic development programs to help them be able to afford to buy those things.
 
Mr. Gates believes in what he is saying enough to put his billions where his mouth is.  His vision inspired a Warren Buffett who is, if possible, and even more amazing guy than Bill Gates, to kick in a few billion of his own.  Why? Because they both know that children whom the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation educates and keeps healthy will grow up to buy computers running Windows, drink CocaCola (and many of the other inumerable products manufactured by Berkshire Hathaway companies).  Gates and Buffett didn't get to be a couple of the richest people the world has ever seen by being stupid or throwing their money down a rathole.
 
The initiatives they are talking about will help the poor. They will also absolutely guarantee continued (enormous) profits for Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway and any other company smart enough to get on board with the program.
 
It's win, win, win. The poor are better off. The companies make more profits, which they use to pay taxes, creat new jobs and pay large bonuses to their CEO's.  Working together.  Cooperation.  Vision.  Considering what other actually need as opposed to what we think they should need.
 
Having spent this morning reflecting on these lovely concepts and inspiring ideas, I am going to skip the Sunday paper altogether and go straight to the beach.  I'm unwilling to consider the small-minded, petty, mean-spirited sniping at one another that our politicians would have us consider to be political discourse.
 
 
 
Sun, March 2, 2008 | link

Bad news ... and Bad News
One of the newspaper articles I read this week on the subject of the economy warned that we were about to enter a period of "stagflation".  The article attempted to explain what that means. I didn't understand it in the 70's and I still don't understand it other than that I know from experience it is definitely a bad thing. The article added, presumably by way of consolation, that this time it wouldn't be as bad as the 1970's.  That's good, 'cause the economy in the Seventies really sucked. 
 
I have never understood the underlying economic reasons for recessions, inflation or stagflation but I developed a theory based on what I could understand intuitively that I continue to believe today because no one has been able to convince me that I am wrong.  My personal economic theory is this:  if you spend more than you take in for more than a brief period of time occasionally, you will be in trouble.  My theory works on both the microcosmic level, as in the level of my personal checking account.  I believe it works on the macrocosmic level as well.  Politicians can make up all the excuses and fancy theories in the world about why deficit spending is a good thing. I'm not buying it. 
 
If our would-be leaders really want to do something good for the country (and the world economy), they should come up with a plan to balance the god-damned budget.  I realize that I have not been paying attention, but it seems to me that all three of the leading presidential wannabes have talked a lot about spending billions on health care reform (which is desperately needed), the war, and other social and political issues. 
 
My question to them is: "how are you going to pay for that?" What is your gameplan for balancing the budget? 
 
And if any of them says they can do it without raising taxes he/she is lying and automatically out of consideration as far as I am concerned. 
 
The anti-tax crazies can scream all they want, but I don't see any way to get things under control without massive spending cuts as well as potentially large tax increases because once again, for the umpteenth time in my lifetime, our political leaders have dug our country into an economic hole from which we will only be able to extricate ourselves with sacrifice and discipline on the part of everyone in the country. 
 
Today in our country sacrifice and discipline are considered to be dirty words, about on a par with "liberal" and "motherfucker"  (the latter two being more or less equivalent terms if I'm understanding the newspapers correctly these days.  I could be wrong about that. I don't understand 2/3 of what I read in the papers partly because it is so ludicrous and partly because most of it is so abominably written ... but I digress).  I fear that we do not have the will to make the changes in our life-styles that would help bring things under control.
 
Discipline. Sacrifice. Delayed gratification. These are the qualities our fore-fathers (and mothers) exhibited that made our country great.   We Boomers have been pampered, spoiled and coddled from birth.  It could be that our day to start paying our way has come. 
 
.... then again, I might be just a crotchety old bag who doesn't know what she is talking about. 
Sun, March 2, 2008 | link

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