Category Archives: Social Commentary

What it says.

Martial Arts

Ron Peterson, then owner of World of Self Defense in Minneapolis, with a student, sometime in the early 1970s. Copyright World of Self Defense

I knew Ron Peterson in the mid to late 1980s as one of his students. I also knew the current owner, Ron’s son Steve Peterson, who was 12 or 13 last time we were in class together. That was when I received my Sankyu, or 3rd level brown belt. I’d have loved to keep up, but never found a school as good. That’s World of Self Defense in Minneapolis, just across the alley from my old house. Ron was an excellent teacher. Rather than concentrate on “forms” and strict adherence to nomenclature (other than the names of the techniques) we concentrated on learning, as we would put it, how to “maim and kill.” This has been a useful skill, even without a black belt, as the truth is for some reason, nobody has so much as looked at me funny since I was Ron’s student. Looking for an effective self-defense school? I’d recommend this one.

A lot of Judo, Aikido, and Karate amounts to applied physics. In fact, only Karate can be used on the offense. In Judo and Aikido (this is the one Segall uses in his movies) you use the opponents energy against him. Very cool. Done right, a Judo throw is virtually effortless to execute. And Aikido can tie an opponent up into some amazingly complex knots with a few simple gestures. But there is another part of martial arts that is also important. That is, staying calm. Yes, joking aside, if you can stay calm and keep your head while others are losing theirs, you’re 99 percent of the way to success in winning your battles. The various techniques are physical, it’s true, and the way to do a physical technique as effectively as possible is to relax every muscle that you’re not using. This saves energy, and concentrates the energy you do use in the most useful place for it. This I learned at World of Self Defense, and it has been valuable in many ways.

So, my Liberal, Leftie friends, my advice at this time is to not obsess on what the President and his minions are doing. They have the right to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court if they want to, and whomever they want it to be, it can be. Rather than argue that point, and lose sleep, consider, what is the most effective thing you can do, you yourself, to put an end to all that? Worry about what the next President, even if it’s Biden, is going to do? Worry about the incumbent refusing to accept the results of the election? Ranting about those awful people behind the incumbent? I don’t think so. What you can do is to relax all of the muscles, physical and mental, that you aren’t using, and work to replace the incumbent and his minions. And, remember, ranting about how bad your opponent is, is a big sign of weakness. Strength isn’t noisy, it just acts. So, act. A few suggestions? Join the ACLU, work to elect not just Biden, but anyone you think will overturn the current reign of fear. Post thoughtful and calm analyses, not rants. If you can’t stay calm, I’d suggest simply turning off all media, social and otherwise, for a time. Until your blood pressure subsides, at least.

Sure, the world’s a mess, the country’s going to Hell in a handbasket, there is evil loose in the land. So what’s new? Stay calm, stay strong, watch for opportunities. And above all, vote. Early or on the day, it won’t matter. If you mistrust the mail, drop your ballot off. But vote! You can go back to being a cynical wreck after.

Here’s the Thing

Tyrion LeChien, Beagle

I just noticed that my last quite a few posts have been from my friend Leslie, which is fine ’cause she’s a good writer and living an interesting life, until just the other day isolated from the novel coronavirus, even. (Go back one post to see, or search the tag “odd godfrey” or “Odd Godfrey”) But, this is my blog, and I’ve been remiss. It’s also supposed to revolve around, vaguely at least, writing. And I have been writing again, after several months. But more about that as we go along.

We should have gone to France last Spring and found a house to live in after we’ve moved there. Well, we didn’t. We will, I’m sure, once we can do so again. Just today, though, I was reading that the second wave is hitting in France, and sort of hard to boot, so that may be a while. Honestly, I imagine that by this time next year we can all be talking about what we did during the pandemic. For real. Sooner than that, maybe, but I dunno. Meantime, I’m worried about (got to be something, right) ditching the anti-science people so that we can for sure get out of this pandemic some day. I imagine by now that only those who believe in actual magic spells can possibly think that there’s anything to be gained by retaining the current administration. The current crop of conspiracy theories is (should be) award winning in its creativity and scope, but of course, like all conspiracy theories, it’s total bunk. I know Liberals, and they ain’t never going to get it together to form any conspiracies, and you can take that to the bank. Anyhow. Vote early. Drop off your ballot of you’re worried about the post office, but vote. It’s the only way to restore basic sanity to American society.

Whilst awaiting the election results I’m working on a project that I’ve been working on for at least a couple of years. This time, though, it’s being written right, and I think you’ll like it once it’s out. (Hold your breath! 🙂 ) And even occasionally blogging something original that I actually wrote all by myself, such as this post, for instance. And every day I try to get just a bit better at the French language. Tous les jours, un peut meilleur. I know, “better” is mieux, but that would screw up the rhythm. Nothing wrong with being a little bit the best, is there?

My moral is that the world is going to get better, but there will be a mess of frustrations before that happens. My advice is to ditch the orange guy and his entourage, wear your mask, and ignore conspiracy theorists. If most of us can manage those three things, life will turn sweet once again. I promise.

COFFEE OR STARBUCKS?

FIFTY CENTS

See that liquid in the cup pictured above? That’s actual coffee, made the way I like it. Many people today think that they like coffee, and in fact spend fifty bucks a week or more on what they think of as coffee, but in fact, they hate the stuff. How can I know that? Because they don’t buy the stuff pictured above. The least un-coffee like thing most people buy at Starbucks or similar places is what they call a Latte. Latte, if you didn’t know, is the Italian name for milk. If you order a cup of latte in Italy, that’s what you’ll get. For the privilege of drinking a latte with some coffee in it, they pay four or five bucks for their hot milk. *

Besides paying five bucks for a cup of warm milk, they get to wait while a barrista concocts their order, after, of course, concocting six other orders that take a long time to make. Why so long? Good question. In Italy, when I ordered caffelatte, it took about twenty seconds for me to be served. At an American coffee shop, it takes several minutes for each order at a minimum. Coffee shops in Italy get really busy, too. It’s not the volume of customers that slows the process. Maybe it’s all the variations Starbucks offers, with several kinds of milk, at least two kinds of coffee, five or six sizes of cup (yes, not all are on the menu.) The net effect is that one waits five minutes or more for a cup of warm milk mixed with what is, in the case of Starbucks at least, terrible coffee.

Okay, nice complaint, but what else is there to do?

Well, I’ll tell you.

The Good Stuff

Pictured just above is a bag of the Good Stuff. 100% pure Kona coffee. From Hawaii. Whoever raised, picked, and processed it was paid at least the minimum wage in Hawaii. The growers are subject to all of the regulations provided by the FDA and other agencies to ensure safe, wholesome product is delivered. It’s about forty bucks a pound.

FORTY BUCKS A POUND?????

That’s outrageous!!!

Isn’t it?

Well, all together, that mug of coffee pictured at the top of this page cost me about half a buck to make, maybe a tad less. A bag of that stuff lasts me about a month, at two or three mugs a day.  Since I like the taste of coffee, and since Kona is arguably the best tasting coffee available (even I can’t make it taste bitter or otherwise bad,) I drink it black. But, if you don’t like that, you can get it roasted dark and ground into powder with which to make espresso. A small espresso maker can be had for as little as sixty bucks ($60) on Amazon. That’s less than two weeks worth of Starbucks swill.** Of course, if you like standing around waiting for some barrista to mix up an inferior cup, well go right ahead and spend your money foolishly. But, before doing that, maybe you would enjoy trying some pure Kona, which (honest to goodness) is never, ever bitter. You’d be surprised how much better good coffee tastes when compared to whatever that stuff is that Starbucks uses. And you get automatic Fair Trade status, and you’re even buying American. If you just gotta have those “lattes,” drop sixty bucks on an espresso maker. Or try it plain and black. Who knows, you might actually get to like coffee.

The full set

 

*In Italy, these drinks are called “caffelatte”, or coffee with milk. In France it’s Cafe au lait. The proper name in English is “coffee with steamed milk.”

**Based upon $5 drinks, one per day, or seven per week.

 

A Masque

Don’t remember who this is of, but the artwork is in Dublin.

It is mandatory at the moment in Nevada to wear a face mask (masque) in public. Most people are okay with that, but there are always some very vocal opponents to anything that smacks of not letting one do whatever one wishes. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to Wal-Mart a while ago for a loaf of Italian bread and some other things. I was amazed to see that compliance seemed to be 100 percent. Yes, everyone I saw was wearing the required face covering. I don’t know if the die-hards gave up, or are simply staying home. Either way, it works for all of us in general. This got me thinking.

Are there fewer narcissists in other countries? I’ve been studying France, not just the language, but the nation, preparing for a planned relocation (dĂ©mĂ©nager). France has almost the identical constitutional guarantees as the US. In fact, no less than Thomas Jefferson gave advice to Pierre L’Enfant as he was writing “The Declaraton of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” during the French revolution. The same L’Enfant for whom a plaza in DC is named. The two countries have very similar philosophical underpinnings. Yet, in France, they were able to enforce with stiff fines social distancing, staying home, and mask wearing. (As a result, France is emerging well from their crisis conditions, while the US struggles with renewed incidences of infection.) That’s right: you’ll pay up if you violate the special coronavirus restrictions. Yet, the French worship individual freedom, they like to put one over on the government (they use what they call “System B”, which means getting things done without the government finding out.) Their rights of speech and action are spelled out, much like ours. Yet, they did not  use any clever methods to evade the special restrictions imposed by the pandemic. In America, some swear that wearing a mask in public was the first step toward the SS dragging people out of their homes. (Which is ironic, since the idea is to keep people in their homes.) Well, most of us know that mask wearing is probably the fastest way to get over this mess, but in this country, there is a very vocal minority who can’t yell and scream enough about their rights being violated by mask-wearing orders. Huh? Ever hear of “promoting the general welfare?” It’s somewhere in the Supreme Law of the Land. You should check for it.

Which is why I ask the question about narcissists. Are there fewer narcissists in France? In Germany? In Spain? Or is it that we allow those people to influence our national policy, even though most of us know that they are dead (yes, dead) wrong. I honestly don’t know. I think I’ll Google it, then post a virulent rant on Facebook. That’s how to get things done, right? 😉

 

 

ATTENTION!

A Home-Town Landmark that was Gone When I was Born

This post is about some of the effects of Attention Deficit Disorder. A few sentences first to explain what that is.

First, it is not really a disorder, and no one blessed with the condition has any shortage of ability to pay attention. The main effect is that one is incapable of being bored. If one gets bored enough, one loses consciousness. That’s why often kids with the condition seem hyper. Movement creates interest, it’s as simple as that.

Second, one of the major effects on the blessed recipient is that the child misses out on a lot of social cues. For instance, they might miss the subtleties of how to kid, and actually insult friends without meaning to. Also, the child may well miss some deeply ingrained and important societal constructs. Remember these two things as you read this.*

Third, someone blessed with ADD can usually tell when they’re being lied to.

As you may have guessed, I am so blessed. I had teachers in elementary school who were very frustrated with me. One kept sending home nasty notes, to no avail. Occasionally I was asked why, since my test scores showed that I was smart, did I not do better in school. The first time, and only the first time, I told the truth: school was boring. Somehow, the faculty and administration were not impressed with my honesty on that point. But it is time to move to my main point.

My main point is that I missed a lot of subtle, unspoken socialization. I did have trouble in school resulting from not knowing the proper way to “praise insult” a friend. But there is one really big part of general American socialization that I completely missed out on. That is, the idea that some people are more equal than others. I have felt, and been grateful for, what is now being called White Privilege for almost my entire life. Sheesh, would I hate to be a minority. I even got to take advantage of a whole boatload of White Privilege without asking for it! I did not ask because, from school days to now, the people one asked for even more, extra-special privileges, are people who, basically, I tend to despise. Yes, folks, I hate seeing a succession of pasty, old, white dudes in charge of the country. (Okay, one of them is now orange, but it’s the same difference.) I’ve never liked the pasty old dudes in charge of, well, anything. Churches, clubs, government organizations, anything. The first group of such dudes, who, honestly, I admire in many respects, set up a system of hypocritical lies right in the founding documents of this country. Sure, all free white men are created equal, and endowed by their creator, etc. But nobody else is! The roots of racism lie in those men having to justify to themselves holding other groups (anyone not one of them, initially) in slavery, exile, inferior status, second-class citizenship. Over centuries, the definition of “whole person” got expanded by adding other ethnic groups (slowly, don’t want to rock any boats here) and, very reluctantly, to women, but the jury’s not totally back in yet on that one. Anyone else, well, fuck ’em and the horse they rode in on, dontcha know?

And I did not get that. I knew that “Coloreds,” as known in the 50s were denied certain rights, but I couldn’t see why. It was obvious that John Law was using Marijuana to keep a thumb on the Mexican migrants who picked produce outside of town, but I couldn’t see why. When, at nineteen, I first smoked the stuff myself, I really couldn’t see why, but that’s probably for another post. The net effect of ADD for me, then, was being able to see American society more for what it is than for what my teachers taught me that it was. It’s not bad in design. In fact, rather than White Privilege, we should extend American Privilege to anyone born here or naturalized, at the very least. Nothing wrong with young people getting help when they need it, after all. And some people are a lot happier governing than most of us would be, so I’m okay with them grooming their own. But, their own has to be an open group based on inclination and talent, not on being lucky enough to be born an Old Pasty White Dude.

And, for the record, I’m a genuine White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. William Powell was living in Philadelphia in 1729. In 1730 he married a girl from Ocean City. Twelve of their sons (!) fought in the revolution. In particular, one Phillip, who fought with a Connecticut regiment, and who received a nice letter of recommendation from his CO. My great-grandfather Andrew Powell fought for the Union with the 123rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and got himself shot in the ass in triplicate for his trouble. He limped for the rest of his life. He was father to my grandmother Bertha Powell, who gave birth to my mother, who, well, you know. So, I have old-time American Cred, and I’m sick and tired of the cretins who think immigrants are the ruination of America. If you think that, you’re deluding yourself. I know this because I can see our society without the subtle prejudices that most of us soak up without knowing we’re doing it. Thanks to the blessings of ADD.

By the Way, I’m pretty sure that an army of medical professionals and scientists knows more about epidemiology and diseases than a gaggle of pasty white dudes in the white house. Again I say, Sheesh!

 

 

  • Worried about your child having ADD? Here’s a quick test. Give them unlimited access to Mountain Dew for an afternoon. If they have any form of ADD, they will have a calm and happy day. (Sugar does not make a child hyper, that is a total myth. If anything, it may make them sleepy.) If your child is a third-grade boy, and they do not have ADD, they will not be calmed by the caffeine. What you have is a third-grade boy.

Paradigms

Just this Once, an Illustration that Goes With The Title!

What? You thought it was pronounced “paradigims?”

A paradigm, pronounced just like what is pictured above (for non-north americans, those coins are worth ten cents, and are called “dimes.” There are two of them — a pair) is an excellent example of something, and that something can be a football league, or how a society is organized and operates. As it happens, every so often (about once in everybody’s lifetime, in fact) a free society needs to reorganize and develop new paradigms to live by. Prior to the depression/World War Two, nobody liked the idea of consumerism, moving to the suburbs, commuting to work. After those events, that’s how we’ve lived for the past 80 years or more. It worked great for a while. Some of the other paradigms we’ve lived by include the idea that, to a “good” person, minority citizens need help; to a “bad” citizen, minority citizens are inherently inferior. Also, growth is good for its own sake. Bigger is better, and so is faster and further. Moving around a lot is the way to live is another. There are oodles of paradigms by which we all attempt to make our way through life. But the paradigms that work so damned well when they’re first developed turn into big negatives when they’re used past their expiration date, so to speak. And that’s where we are.

The conservative among us can see this perfectly well. And it frightens them. That’s why they say that they want to “Make America Great Again.” After all, when America was truly ruling the world, those paradigms were how we were living. Makes sense that they’d work again, if we can only get back to them. But, there is a problem with that idea.

It won’t work.

Commuting is a major cause of ill health, in more ways than one. The car ads present a world that cannot exist. No matter what you do, you will never be able to cheerfully park right in front of the country club and leisurely stroll in. You will never have the twisty mountain road to yourself. You will never be able to do a damned thing to avoid that nasty-ass commute you’re stuck with every damned day.

Those minorities are not minorities any more. There are more “non-white” children in the US than “white” kids. Nothing can be done to reverse that. In some places, such as where I live, “white” people are no longer a majority of the population. (This causes, um, nothing, actually, except that you need to be polite to everybody regardless of how they look.)

And our use of burning fuels to power all of our stuff is resulting in a shift in worldwide climate that will make continuing to use the old paradigms impossible in the first place. These are examples; there are plenty of other things that aren’t working properly anymore, but these should be enough to show what I mean. Short story is that it’s time for new paradigms, new approaches to how we live and relate to each other. I have a feeling that one of the new paradigms (for the US, not for most of the advanced world) will be that health care is a right. (No arguments in this forum, please. That’s what Twitter is for, after all, and I’m just stating what I think will happen, not registering an opinion.) For another, we will need to find alternate sources of energy that don’t involve burning things. (Again, no arguments here, please.) And we will no doubt learn to live in an actual multi-cultural country, not just one that pays lip service to the concept. And there will be more, much more, that I can’t begin to see from where we are today.

The new paradigms will seem to create a world that is ever so much better than the one that came before. There will be what you might call “Nouveau Archie Bunkers” who pine for the mid-twentieth century, but most people will be happier. Until, in a few decades, whatever these new paradigms are start to malfunction for reasons I couldn’t begin to guess, and we end up back at the end of the world as we know it.

That is exactly where we are today, and, in the words of Michael Stipes, I Feel Fine!

Crisis Mode

Walapai Trading Post in Peach Springs, Arizona

There is a book titled Generations: The History of America’s Future, by Strauss and Howe. (The Link goes to Amazon.) It is a book about the cyclical theory of history, and it posits four main generational types. What’s important for this writing is that the cycle repeats roughly every 80 years, more or less. (This is not absolute. The Civil War, for example, threw the entire process off by at least twenty years.) Eighty years ago World War Two had started, on September 1st. In fact, every eighty years (more or less) there happens a crisis that seems likely to end civilization, if not life as we know it. The authors believed that the next crisis (as of 1980) would probably be environmental.

One of the principal ways of determining the validity of a hypothesis is how well it predicts future events. Environmental crisis, huh? Imagine that.

We are most certainly at an environmental crisis. The only place on the planet where this fact is at all political is in the USA, and that’s because the Koch brothers and their friends want it to be, because they make their living (and a great one it is) from fossil fuels. Everywhere else, it’s science, not politics. Sigh. So, we find ourselves in a situation where life as we know it is threatened, and our fearless leader (I know, no comments, it’s sarcastic) is determined to return to the days of big coal and big oil. He’s on the side of climate change denial, politically. So, we may well be pretty completely screwed if we don’t figure out what to do and damned fast, huh? It absolutely consumes some people, this crusade to “save the planet” (a ridiculous term as the planet is perfectly healthy even if too warm for humans.) It is, in short, a marvelous distraction from what must be done in a free society every, oh, eighty years or so.

I mean, it is time to shift to a new paradigm on how we organize and operate as a society. And, as always, the opposition to the shift is extreme. And extremely obvious, except that we’re distracted by the crisis, as has been the case since the days of Queen Elizabeth I. Last time, the way out of the economic doldrums was consumerism, flagrant overuse of materials, automobile culture, and spending more than you make. It’s been fun, and that’s a fact. My generation, children of the Baby Boom that followed World War II, is an example of what those authors call an “Idealist” generation, given to introspection, social rebellion, and things like running naked through the woods. What, it happened before Woodstock? Oh, heck yeah. You ever read about the Transcendentalists? Ever wonder why Thoreau was so popular with Boomers? Fellow travelers, folks. The reason that Idealist generations get that way is because their parents, very Civic-minded and trusting of institutions, had a rough row to hoe, and they make damned sure that their children don’t suffer the way they did. In this cycle, this has led to, in recent decades, a belief that life should be fair and painless, which causes great distortion of reality, which is seldom fair, and never painless. Nobody, absolutely nobody, has ever been able to “have it all.” Besides which, the culture of Postwar America is now threatening to end our ability to live on this best of all possible planets. (We evolved here, so this is not hyperbole.)

One thing we’ll need is for everyone, and by that I mean everyone, not just “white” people, to contribute their knowledge, skill, and intelligence. Big paradigm shift there: everybody contributes to their abilities. (I know that sounds like Marx, but it isn’t. Karl was a nice guy, but way to much a dreamer to be useful.) They old idea of a “white” race lording it over other, inferior races, which goes back to needing an excuse for enslaving people, is one of the ideas that are going to need to fall. Also, the idea that bigger is better, that we need automobiles (we need convenient, affordable transportation, which doesn’t have to be automobiles per se,) and that the goal of any corporation is to enrich the stockholders, all useful since WWII, are also in need of replacement. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the current “Conservative” backlash evidenced in the current administration is due to the fact that, on some level, even the Koch brothers can see what has to happen. If your entire identity is tied up in the old paradigms, well, friend, you are not going to be happy about the change.

In conclusion, and you knew there would be one, we will overcome the crisis in climate. it will, in fact, provide a hell of a lot of work for a hell of a lot of people. And the new paradigm, not yet fully formed, will be slipped in behind all the fuss over climate. And, if past cycles are any indication, Generation X will provide the leadership, and Millennials the front-line expertise, to do it. Gen X will, of course, receive no credit, because such is the fate of those caught between Idealist and Civic zeitgeists. (I truly am sorry, but I’m only one guy.) The current Conservatives will, in fact, hate the next twenty years, and spend the remainder of their days complaining about how great it used to be and how awful it is now. Think the opening of All in the Family. And, yes, it appears, and will appear even more so in the next few years, that we have failed, and that civilization is doomed. And, in a sense, it is, as our no longer useful paradigms are tossed into the trash to make room for the new.

Well, that’s my opinion, anyhow.

R. E. S. P. E. C. T.

Made famous by Toulouse Latrec. you’ll find it in Paris.

One thing that seems to be in short supply in America these days is respect. I mean respect for each other’s basic humanity. I guess it is largely because social media seems so anonymous, and can in fact be so, that I see so many cases of someone blaming entire groups of people (MAGA wearers, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Rastafarians, Pastafarians, Vegans, meat eaters, women, men, and whoever created mosquitoes, for examples.) I’ll tell you this right now, folks, if you do that, you’ve just lost your argument. Sure, it feels good, but it just shows your own weakness. Ironic, that. Anyway, interpersonal respect is what keeps a society functioning. Respect of authority isn’t it. Respect of social position isn’t it. Respect of wealth or job title isn’t it. It is simply respect for the basic humanity of another person. That is what we need to cultivate, and stat.

We might look to France for some guidance on this, because the French are very much committed to respecting each other’s basic humanity. My first morning ever in France, in 1976, I went to a change booth in a train station (no ATMs in those days) and received a stern lecture from the change lady on how to be polite in society. Fortunately for me, I took her lesson to heart. Not only in France, but after I returned home. I generally say hello, goodbye, please, and thank-you. For years I took that as basic courtesy, and was at first amazed at how much easier simply being polite made things. But, to the French, it is courtesy, yes, but also much more.

In France, the word for hello is “bonjour.” Literally that means “good day,” but it has been used as “hello” for so long that people had to adopt “bonne journĂ©e,” which originally meant “good trip you can take out and back in one day.” FYI. Anyhow, you first say “Good Day” and then you add, “Madame” or Monsieur.” Madame literally means “My Lady.” Monsieur literally means “My Lord.” So, no matter who you address in France, you are saying, “Hello, My Lady,” or “Hello, My Lord.” Sounds a bit over the top, but it works. If the President of France wants to speak to a beggar on the corner, the President must first say, “Hello, My Lord” or “Hello, My Lady.” Only then is it proper to begin a conversation. This is why sometimes Americans believe the French to be impolite: because in America we don’t go for such ceremony, and anyway, shouldn’t the shopkeeper say hello first? (Sometimes they do. I would, but it isn’t required.) No matter who you are addressing, it is assumed that you are invading their personal space, and you owe them the simple acknowledgement of that fact, which is to say, a polite greeting. Is the beggar on the corner a Lord or Lady? Probably not, but by using those terms, you grant them the basic dignity due to any human being.

When you combine this basic respect with the French educational goal of being able to discuss literally anything without getting personal, you end up with a polite society where it is considered normal to argue. (No, shopkeepers won’t argue with you. Once you’ve exchanged “bonjours” they’ll be so eager to help that you’ll almost feel guilty.) Imagine a society where arguments were not the Monty Python type (No they aren’t!) but rather reasoned and defensible. We could have that, if we respected each other. We certainly don’t need to go to the lengths of calling each other My Lord or My Lady. In fact, a bunch of patriots once fought a war for the right to eliminate Lords and Ladies. But we can still be respectful. A few suggestions:

  • Don’t call people names. Not even if you hate them. Remember, as we writers occasionally point out, that everyone is the hero of their own story. You may not agree with their reasoning, but you can respect their right to an opinion without getting snarky.
  • Say hello to everyone you expect to interact with, and to anyone on the street with whom you happen to lock eyes. And when you want something from someone, say “please,” and after you get it, say “thank-you.” and Maybe throw in a Sir or Ma’am to really seal the deal. (Yes, watered down versions of those old titles, but still appreciated.)
  • Don’t blame groups, any groups, for society’s problems. We are all members of society, so we all contribute, each in our own way, to the problems. Boomers didn’t wreck the world (trust me,) nor are they any better than any other generation. We all have our quirks. Millenials aren’t lazy. Generation X has never slacked. And Generation Z, while pretty young yet, will make a great contribution (that history will forget) to the welfare of humankind. (Such generations always do. The last one invented rock and roll. They called them “silent,” ironically.)
  • Don’t get over invested in a particular world view. For one thing, in philosophical terms, it’s as likely as not that you have some significant information wrong.
  • Stay cool, stay respectful.

Ladies and Lords, we can do this. We can make America better simply be being mutually respectful. And, very importantly, by being respectful even of those who don’t respect us. In that case, remember, that’s their problem, not yours. Okay?

Great. Now go forth and be respectfully kind to each other! Thank you.

American Conservatism

Two Cats to Soothe Your Eyes

In an Earlier Post, I wrote about racism and its origins. Among other things, it is noteworthy that prior to enslaving Africans, Europeans never mentioned race at all. There were people in other places with dark skin, but that was as far as it went, because, who cared? Nobody. No reason to. Once you start doing wrong by people, though, you need to justify your actions to yourself. Enter race. The “Black Race” is clearly inferior, or else how could the “White Race” have enslaved them? Obviously, some serious genetic deficiencies are evident in the world. This was the worldview upon which the United States of America was founded. Even dour New Englanders were okay with other races being inferior to the “White Race.” They just didn’t think that this justified enslaving them. And, of course, we did benefit as a nation. Those slaves were instrumental in building the nation, whether they ever get credit for it or not. We eliminated slavery with our Civil War, but not the idea of racial superiority. Our laws covering cocaine, for instance, stem from an instance where somebody in Georgia axe murdered his family. He was “black,” and so the New York Times editorialized about “protecting our Negro brethren.” Yes, the New York Times. I once saw a post extolling the virtues of Ray Charles’s song, “Seven Spanish Angles,” in which the writer noted how Ray was backing up Willie Nelson on the piece. Trouble is, as Willie could tell you, Willie was backing up Ray, but the writer assumed the opposite, because, well, “Blacks” are inferior in every way, right? (Ray’s first gig was with a country band, for the record.)

So, what does this mean for Conservatives? Well, traditionally, America has benefited from a bogus structure of racism. It has allowed “White” people to enjoy tremendous prosperity, all the while they can not notice the underlying support they’re getting from “inferior” races. So, what Conservatives want to return to, to Make America Great Again, is simply the former mindless acceptance of a structure that suppressed a lot of minority people to the benefit of “White” people. In short, what Conservatives want to conserve is good old European-American racism. It’s really that simple. So when the current Republican leadership is accused of being racist, well, they are. No getting around it. Of course, there is a huge fly in the ointment of traditional racism.

That is that the game is up. As of a few months from now, there will be more “non-white” children in the United States than “white” children. (If you’re wondering about all the quotation marks, read my earlier post.) In another generation, those who insist on the superiority of the “White Race” are going to be seriously outnumbered. Fine with me, because I live in Clark County, Nevada, which is already a majority minority county. “White” folks have a plurality, but they cannot blindly dictate policy any more. The irony of the situation is that Vegas was once the “Mississippi of the West,” due to the extreme segregationist policies enforced here. Sammy Davis Junior had to go into the resort through the kitchen before presenting his sold-out shows. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. It can’t be, even though there are still plenty of people here who probably wish it could be. But, how could it?

The game being up explains the fierce following of MAGA folks. And I’m not calling them bad people, or stupid either, because bad and stupid people are everywhere. I am calling them victims of a centuries-old scheme of racism combined with a skillful application of populist propaganda. Too bad for them, really.

We could just wait it out and let things sort themselves out, of course. But the damage could be quite substantial to our institutions, prestige, and economic vigor. So, my advice is that all of us who see things for what they  are get out there next year and vote those people out. Don’t start fighting over ideological purity, just put up someone we can all at least tolerate for a few years, and vote them out. Please!

Stereotypes

The oldest house in Paris, next to the Jardin de l’hĂŽtel de Sens

Which makes the house, duh, l’hĂŽtel de Sens. Since you’re curious, here’s a bit of the garden.

The garden and hĂŽtel pictured are in the area of Paris known as Saint-Paul. You can call up a walking tour of the quarter on your phone and follow it around, which is what we were doing when we visited this garden, which is in fact a lovely park in a quiet neighborhood. The building is medieval, as you can see. Most of Paris was razed and redone during the 19th century at the behest of Napoleon III, but a few things, like this and Notre Dame, were spared. So it’s worth looking for.

While we were looking for it, and other parts of the quarter, we walked looking at our phones. Time after time a Parisian native would stop us and ask us if we needed help finding something. Of course, we didn’t, but this behavior was from people popularly thought of as snooty and unhelpful, on the good side. I’m here to tell you that such is not at all the case. Indulge me in another story if you will, this time involving motor fuel and cash.

Tami and I carry the same credit card, so when one of ours (nevermind) was lost on the bus from the airport to the Gare Montparnasse, we had to cancel it. This meant that we had no credit card with which to buy gasoline for our rental car. (We did set it up so that the card was valid for the rental car company, and nobody else, until the end of our rental period.) (Europecar. I recommend them.) We took a train to AngoulĂȘme, where we stayed for five days. Charente is a beautiful area (formerly a province, but long story,) and here’s the view out of our bedroom window to prove it.

A view to the East from AngoulĂȘme near the center of town.

From AngoulĂȘme we drove to Bordeaux, Saint Émilion, Cognac, Royan, and Chabonais over the course of several days. By that time we were low on gas. The station we found (there aren’t as many as we have here) was credit cards only at the pump. The kiosk where one can convert cash to a ticket with which to buy fuel was broken. Thing is, I had never really spoken French before, but when we decided to ask someone to use their card and I’d give them cash (our debit card still worked at least, but not on gas pumps) I looked around and saw only French people. It was raining hard, too. I asked the man at the next pump, “comprendez-vous Ainglais?” and got a “non.” Digging deep, deep into what I’ve learned from various sources (Duolingo is a great place to start) I then used my no doubt horrible French to ask him the favor. He was eager to help the poor American, and I gave him fifty Euros, after which he pumped fifty Euros and one cent worth of gas into our car. (Amazingly, that exactly filled the tank.) I gave him every compliment in French I could think of, and he smilingly said goodbye.

I ask you, is that rude and unhelpful? (Spoiler alert — no, it is exactly the opposite of rude and unhelpful.)

I’ve posted about this before, but whatever you do to other people is reflected back on to you. In France, we take pains to be polite. French polite. That means always say hello, please, thank you, and goodbye. To everybody. Sounds silly, right?

Not to the fine, friendly, helpful people of France it doesn’t. Votre santĂ©, France!