Flimsy Sanity: May 2005

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Soviet Experience in World War II

Some quotes on Religion

To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.-Gandhi

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. – Pascal

Once people get hung up on theology, they've lost sanity forever. More people have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ than any other name in the history of the world. -Gore Vidal

The idea of a good society is something you do not need a religion and eternal punishment to buttress; you need a religion if you are terrified of death. - Gore Vidal

I'm sickened by all religions. Religion has divided people. I don't think there's any difference between the pope wearing a large hat and parading around with a smoking purse and an African painting his face white and praying to a rock. – Howard Stern

But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit! -George Carlin

To think that the ruler of the universe will run to my assistance and bend the laws of nature for me is the height of arrogance….. You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that _we_ are the ones that need help? - Dan Barker (Freedom from Religion Foundation)
I escaped from the stuffy attic of religion's "pray, pay and obey" mentality into journalism's open laboratory of "who, what, where, when and why." Steve Benson, editorial cartoonist

Religion is only good for good people -Mary McCarthy

In its more authoritarian forms, religion punishes questioning and rewards gullibility. Faith is not a function of stupidity but a frequent cause of it. - Wendy Kaminer -The Last Taboo Why America Needs Atheism

Statistically the probability of any one of us being here is so small that you'd think the mere fact of existing would keep us all in a contented dazzlement of surprise. Lewis Thomas

All is a miracle. The order of nature the revolution of a hundred million of worlds around a million of suns the activity of light the life of animals all are grand and perpetual miracles.- Voltaire

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei

It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion.- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure -- that is all that agnosticism means.-Clarence Darrow, Scopes trial, 1925.

Pray, n:. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy. - Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

Now, now my good man, this is no time for making enemies. - Voltaire (1694-1778) on his deathbed in response to a priest asking that he renounce Satan.

Gott Mit Uns (God is with us) - belt buckles of the Nazi SS storm troopers.

Science is the process of starting with the evidence and proceeding to the conclusion that best fits the evidence, regardless of what that conclusion may be. Fundamentalism, on the other hand, starts with a conclusion and searches for evidence to support that conclusion. Bidstrup

The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.-James Madison

Christians often decry the general decline in moral behavior these days, but, while that may well be true, it is not because people are less religious. In fact, according to recent polls, the percentage of people who attend church has not changed since the “good old days” of 50 years ago. If religion made one moral, then there should be no decline. - Unknown

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Eric Hoffer- The True Believer

Religion is belief in the existence of an almighty Being, by whom pains and pleasures will be dispensed to mankind, during an infinite and future state of existence. - Jeremy Benthan

Moreover, since self-interest is not an adequate basis for morality, there is reason to believe that heaven and hell cannot perform the regulative function often attributed to them. Heaven and hell are often construed as the carrot and stick that God uses to make us toe the line. Heaven is the reward that good people get for being good, and hell is the punishment that bad people get for being bad. But consider this. Good people do good because they want to do good - not because they will personally benefit from it or because someone has forced them to do it. People who do good solely for personal gain or to avoid personal harm are not good people. Someone who saves a drowning child, for example, only because he was offered a reward or was physically threatened does not deserve our praise. Thus, if your only reason for performing good actions is your desire to go to heaven or your fear of going to hell - if all your other-regarding actions are motivated purely by self-interest - then you should go to hell because you are not a good person. An obsessive concern with either heaven or hell should actually lessen one's chances for salvation rather than increase them. Theodore Schick, Jr.

If we can't think for ourselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness." Carl Sagan

Where would Christianity be if Jesus got eight to fifteen years, with time off for good behavior? -- New York Senator James H. Donovan commenting on capital punishment.

It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you got it. Edmund Way Teale

When you go to war over religion, you're basically killing each other to see who's got the better imaginary friend.~ Yasir Arrafat

There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it - George Bernard Shaw All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few - Stendhal

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death - Albert Einstein

Televangelists: The Pro Wrestlers of religion - Unknown

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge - Albert Einstein

The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around - Herb Caen

I won't take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth- Carl Sandburg

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind- Albert Einstein

Religion is what keeps the poor man from murdering the rich- Napolean Bonaparte
I think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability. Oscar Wilde

Faith: not “wanting” to know what is true.- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Creation science" has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectually heritage -- good teaching -- than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise? - Stephen Jay Gould, "The Skeptical Inquirer",

If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools and next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers... Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers; tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted faggots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.- Clarence S. Darrow (1857-1938), at the Scopes Monkey Trial

The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. Thomas Jefferson

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls.- Albert Einstein

When are we human beings gonna have a meeting? We took this god thing and ran to the god damn end of the earth with it.- George Carlin

When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free--free to think, to express my thoughts--free to live my own ideal, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination's wings, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to judge and determine for myself . . . I was free!- Robert G. Ingersoll

The proof in the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed it; they also believed the world was flat.- Mark Twain

Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.- H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense. Work is the true elixir of life. The busiest man is the happiest man." -Sir Theodore Martin

When you understand why you do not believe in other gods, then you will understand why I don't believe in yours. – Unknown

You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world."-- Bertrand Russell, "Why I'm Not a Christian"

The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation.-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.-- Susan B.Anthony

Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.-- Isaac Asimov

Religion is a collective insanity.-- Mikhail Bakunin,

Men rarely (if ever) managed to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.-- Robert A. Heinlein

History does not record anywhere or at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.-- Robert A. Heinlein

The faith in which I was brought up assured me that I was better than other people; I was saved, they were damned.... Our hymns were loaded with arrogance -- self-congratulation on how cozy we were with the Almighty and what a high opinion he had of us, what hell everybody else would catch come Judgment Day.- Robert A. Heinlein

The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not. - Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951)

It was the craving to be a one and only people which impelled the ancient Hebrews to invent a one and only God whose one and only people they were to be.-- Eric Hoffer

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.-Eric Hoffer-- Reflections on the Human Condition

Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end of divine things.—Hippocrates

The methodology employed by the creationists is indicative that their work is not science. A scientific theory must be tentative and always subject to revision or abandonment in light of the facts that are inconsistent with, or falsify, the theory. A theory that is by its own terms dogmatic, absolutist and never subject to revision is not a scientific theory.-- Judge William Overton, ruling on the nature of creationism in addition to the Arkansas' Balanced Treatment Act

The public schools of this country serve the admirable function of bringing together on common ground students from a diversity of cultural and religious backgrounds. The introduction of public prayer into such a setting jeopardizes the sense of community and unnecessarily intrudes an emotional and divisive factor.-- Daniel Polish, testimony on behalf of the Synagogue Council of America September 8, 1980, U.S. House of Representatives

As Stephen Jay Gould pointed out in Time, in no other Western country is the teaching of Evolution regarded as controversial. Throughout the world, one way or another, most Christian denominations have managed to reconcile belief in God with belief in the mechanisms of natural selection. A French or German or Scandinavian politician who called for students to entertain as a reasonable deduction from existing evidence the proposition that Earth is at most 10,000 years old would be bundled off to a mental hospital.—Kathy Pollitt

Since the masses of the people are inconstant, full of unruly desires, passionate and reckless of consequence, they must be filled with fears to keep them in order. The ancients did well, therefore, to invent gods, and the belief in punishment after death.-- Polybius, Histories (ca. B.C.E 125)

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.-- George Bernard Shaw, Androcles and the Lion

Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.—unknown

The most malicious kind of hatred is that which is built upon a theological foundation.-- George Sarton, History of Science,

"And God said: 'Let there be Satan, so people, don't blame everything on me. And let there be lawyers, so people, don't blame everything on Satan.- George Burns

The gods don't drop in on us to fix things up when we've botched it. You look at human history and it's clear we're on our own...No, I don't think we're the experiment. Carl Sagan

No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.-George H.W. Bush, Presidential Nominee for the Republican party; Aug. 27,1987

"Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen." -- Michel de Montaigne

"Religion is all bunk." -- Thomas Edison

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.-James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and science, and invariably; and, on the other hand, all untrammeled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous to religion some of its stages may have seemed for the time to be, has invariably resulted in the highest good both of religion and science. -_Andrew Dirkson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.

Your petitioners are Atheists and they define their ideas as follows. An Atheist loves his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist knows that heaven is something for which we should work now--here on earth--for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist knows that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find within himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. An Atheist knows that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.An Atheist seeks to know himself then and his fellow rather than to know a god. An Atheist understands that a hospital must be built instead of a church. An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand, love and accept all of mankind. He wants an ethical way of life. He knows that we cannot rely on a god, channel action into prayer, or hope for an end to our troubles in a hereafter. He knows that we are not only our brother's keepers--but keepers of our own lives foremost, that we are responsible persons and that the job is here and the time is now."-- Murray vs. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)(Atheists have to get their scripture wherever they can find it :-)

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.- Frank Lloyd Wright

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.- John Muir

For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing. Henry Louis Mencken

What was it that Adam ate that he wasn't supposed to eat? It wasn't just an apple - it was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The subtle message? Get smart and I'll fuck you over -- sayeth the Lord. God is the smartest -- and he doesn't want any competition. Is this not an absolutely anti-intellectual religion? Frank Zappa

In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion."Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP keynote address

The Bible is the greatest hoax in all history. The leading characters of the Old Testament would today be in the penitentiary and those of the New would be under observation in psychopathic wards. Charles Smith (1887-1964) U.S. attorney, author

Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.Diderot

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? Epicurusiggest cause
Fundamentalism isn’t about religion, it’s about power. -~ Salman Rushdie

Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . we need believing people. ~ Adolf Hitler (an avowed Roman Catholic), April 26, 1933

Ministers say that they teach charity. That is natural. They live on hand-outs. All beggars teach that others should give." Robert Ingersoll

The Church has always been willing to swap off treasures in heaven for cash down here. Robert Ingersoll

The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church. – Ferdinand Magellen

Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man. - Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. - Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian

Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion - several of them. - Mark Twain, A Celebration

I take Him shopping with me. I say, 'OK, Jesus, help me find a bargain'
Tammy Faye Bakker

Are you an obsessive Gardener (Author unknown)

This obsession for gardening doesn’t really happen all at once. Instead, it sneaks up on you. How can you tell whether you’re a normal, healthy gardener or have crossed the line into dangerous territory? Easy, take this quiz!
N = Normal GardenerO= Obsessed Gardener
N= You won’t leave town when your iris are in bloom.O= ….. or your daffodils, your lilacs, your wisteria, your roses, your clematis, your lilies, your hydrangea, your asters …….
N= You have a charge account at the local garden center.O= Your spouse buys all your Christmas presents there.
N= You invest in fine gardening tools.O= You keep spare tools in your car for gardening emergencies.
N= You value all living things, great and smallO= You cheered when Bambi’s mother died.
N= You have a compost heap.O= You take its temperature every day
N= You can’t believe you ordered so many bulbs this fall.O= It wasn’t enough.
N= You know the Latin names of your plants.O= You use them in conversations …. With the plants.
N= You love to grow and cook your own vegetables.O= Cook? Who has time to cook?
N= You are proud of your baby carrots.O= You carry pictures of them in your wallet
N= You can crush a Japanese beetle in your bare fingertips.O= You love the sound it makes when you do.
N= You would never kill a ladybugO= You bring them inside for the winter
N= You have dirt under your fingernails.O= What fingernails?
N= You know the pH of your soilO= All your friends know the pH of your soil
N= You’ve had a soil testO= You studied for it.
N= You buy well-composted cow manure to top dress your garden.O= You buy a cow.
N= You think Eliot Coleman is cute.O= You think Roger Swain is cute.
N= You know the virtues of hand weeding.O= …… after dark
N= You teach your children the wonders of gardeningO= Children? Who has time to have children?

Woman's Secrets to a Great Relationship

1. It is important to find a man who works around the house, occasionally cooks and cleans, and who has a job.
2. It is important to find a man who makes you laugh.
3. It is important to find a man who is dependable and doesn't lie.
4. It is important to find a man who's good in bed and who loves to have sex with you.
5. It is important that you never let these four men meet each other.

Author unknown

Education by Scott Bidstrup

Education Isn't Just Dying In America, its Been Dead For A Century

Consider the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. There are many high-school students today who would be unable to even read the transcripts of those debates, much less understand their meaning. Yet in Lincoln's day, the debates drew large crowds of farmers and tradespeople who sat in rapt attention for hours on end, listening to the most technical arguments in obscure political theorizing. How can it be that such people as constituted these crowds, understood political science to such a degree?
They were the 19th century equivalent of what today we would call "trailer trash." These were often among the poorest and least educated in society. They were the herders and the plowmen, the blacksmiths and the wheelwrights, people with only a few years of formal education. Very few had the equivalent of a modern high-school education; most had not even completed primary school. Yet when you read the letters written to home by Civil War soldiers, you cannot help but be struck by the eloquence and understanding of these men. They knew how to write, and more importantly, they knew how to think. A century and a half later, their letters still move us with their deep understanding of the moral dilemmas they faced, and their subtly eloquent descriptions of their suffering and pain. They often made reference to the literary and philosophical figures of classical Greece and Rome. These men, in spite of their humble origins, were truly educated.

Would that after three times as much formal schooling as most of these men had, our modern high school students were even half so literate. This of course, begs the question: Why were these men literate, when modern high school kids are not? Why have we allowed our educational system to deteriorate to such an appalling degree?
It is my opinion that the reason education in America has floundered to such a degree is that a man who understands his rights, who can think critically and analytically, and who can challenge what he is taught is a politically dangerous individual. Such a person understands oppression. He knows the meaning of tyranny. He can figure out for himself when he is being cheated, robbed, and systematically denied his rights and the material wealth he himself has created. In other words, I believe that those who have the gold don't like people questioning who makes the rules, nor do they like questioning of the rules that are made.

It is not surprising to me at all that the collapse of American education began with the rise of the industrial elite of the Robber Baron Era at the end of the Civil War.
What has been called the "factory model" of education was adopted to turn out large numbers of barely literate people who would work in a servile condition in the appalling conditions of the new factories, and who were ignorant enough not to question the justice of working long hours in dangerous and unhealthy conditions for low pay, but educated just enough to do the simple, monotonous tasks that were needed to be done. Of course, this was sold to the American people as a means of "spreading the benefits of public education." The real intention of the new public school system was of course a means of turning out servile workers for the benefit of the rich industrialists who controlled the state legislatures and by extension, the public school system. America has paid a very dear price indeed for the result -- among industrial nations of the world, we have gradually become the least educated, the most politically, economically and philosophically naive, and without a doubt the most provincial and most poorly informed.

And now the religious right have begun to co-opt public education in this country and turn it to their purpose. The result is a nation of school boards afraid to teach honest science as it is, afraid to teach the basics of republican (small 'r') democracy and the principles of civics that underlie it, afraid to teach the classics of literature and philosophy (both European and oriental) in a way that instills critical thinking skills for fear that they may question the values (and in all too many cases the bigotry) their parents embrace. They are scared to give school kids a basic understanding of their own reproductive tracts so they don't fall prey to the myths of their peers, and the result is a teenage pregnancy rate several times that of most European nations which don't fear sex education. Is it any wonder that a century of slow degradation of the public education system, finished off by a hysterical assault by the religious right, is producing a nation of philosophical illiterates and intellectual pygmies? And does anyone believe that democracy, which requires an educated, thinking electorate, can long survive in such an environment?

The antidote to all of this is the enforcement of academic rigor (demanding accurate and pertinent academic performance of students), and the instilling of critical thinking habits starting in the earliest grades. The insistence on the practice of critical thinking skills throughout the public education process would do wonders for America, economically, socially and culturally. Best of all, people who have learned to think critically as a matter of habit (which will happen if it is a skill practiced throughout the public education process) develop a love of learning and new ideas. The reason is that they can pick them apart and come up with novel interpretations. America would experience a cultural and economic flowering that would be the envy of the world.

Best of all, this reform can be accomplished with relatively little investment. It is a change in teaching style and method, rather than requiring new technology or facilities.

Yet it will never happen. Why? Because, as the late Dr. Carl Sagan observed in an interview on National Public Radio back in 1996, large numbers of people who can think critically will be seriously threatening to the power structure. The theofascists who are gradually taking control of important institutions in this country would feel undermined and at risk. So they'll oppose every effort to institute this basic and simple reform.

Chick Movies

Are about love and men's movies are about fighting for justice. But songs are nearly all about love and liked by both men and women. Interesting.

Is there anything more boring?

Than someone else's sex life? I don't even watch sex scenes on television. Feel like I am invading their privacy. Sex is like shitting. It is interesting and pleasurable to the one doing it, but it is not my business. Pornography is probably the stupidest waste of time ever invented.

Excellent article on Trauma

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/31/health/psychology/31essa.html? If you are not registered with the New York Times, use the name pravn1984 and excalibur to register -compliments of http://www.bugmenot.com/.

Abortion is Sophie's Choice

I have only compassion for someone who chooses abortion. Most people sympathize with rape and incest victims but I have nothing but pity for any woman faced with the choice. Sex is a powerful natural urge and birth control mistakes happen. Children are parasites for 20 years or more -they aren't just born and then get on their legs and go graze like Bambi. Someone, (and this is nearly always the woman) must give up their life for the child. Choices about school, a career, resources already stretched going to feed another mouth, the end of independence, a chance to contribute to humanity - many thoughts go into the decision. Everyone praises Helen Keller and she was an amazing woman, but Anne Sullivan gave up her life to make her so. What man would give up his life so that another could succeed? Your reward for this self-sacrifice will probably be resentment.

Memorial Day honors the men who gave up a few years of their life for a cause. Women give up the entire productive period of their lives and their chance to be creative humans so that the race can go on. The Right to Lifers see it as such a simple choice, murder or life. They think women who have abortions are selfish when sometimes they are exactly the opposite. The morning-after pill is just being fair. I see things simply also - Every child should be a wanted child.

If only the Right-to-Lifers would see war as clearly.

Stupid is Stronger than Smart

Stupid can rally people because stupid hates. Hate is powerful, tolerance is rather wimpy. Brutality is hard, compassion is soft. Greed is all-consuming, generosity is more casual. War is decisive, diplomacy is compromise. Theft is easy, work is hard. Herd mentality is simple and popular, thinking for yourself is difficult and lonely.

How to Be A Fan

There are so many people's work I admire. Not just song writers/artists, movie stars, but also novelists, non-fiction writers, scientists, lots of people. I think rock stars must be sick to death of screaming fans and tired of doing the same songs over and over like automatons. How do you tell people you admire them and do they even care what some stranger's opinion is? Truly creative people are not influenced by money so buying their products is not that great a token of admiration. Collecting autographs seems rather stupid - to waste seconds of their life that could be spent on creation - proof for the fan that they stole some time. So how do I tell Bernard Malamud that his book, The Fixer moved me to tears, or tell Annie Lamott that her book Bird by Bird was delicious, or Gary Larson that The Far Side is like Mark Twain reincarnated in cartoon or thank Robert Whitaker for sticking up for schizophrenics in Mad in America. I think the computer has given us the means to be a good fan. We can write reviews on Amazon - actually put a little effort into saying thank you. I don't know how to thank the scientists and I should buy more local art.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Love those quotes

'The purpose of writing is to make your mother and father drop dead with shame.'
J P Donleavy

"Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important."-- T.S. Eliot

Competence vs. confidence

Some time ago I read this article about how intelligent people are unsure of themselves and incompetents are confident of their ability. http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/science/health/011800hth-behavior-incompetents.html In that same vein, I also ran across an article about hiring practices and the writer talked about how his nephew (in charge of personnel) rejected all the applicants that didn't exude confidence..."What Jay wants to see is if the writer sounds confident. It's the single most important quality an employer desires in an applicant. The next round will test that, and the actual qualifications, but it's confidence that opens the door in the first place."

Aesop said "The smaller the mind the greater the conceit". Personally, I have found that to be true - the more intelligent people I know are also the most modest.

Is this why we are stuck with rather stupid leaders instead of the rise of the best and the brightest? That ability won't even get you in the door? This might also be an explanation of why the valedictorian fails and the sports star succeeds? Competition favors the thugs over the thoughtful.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day Story

My old boss Cliff Thomas in California had magic. Anywhere he went, people would crowd around him and laugh. Anyway he told this story about being in the service in World War II. He was in the advance crew that went into areas before the regular soldiers would go. (I don't remember the military terms). Half his comrades were killed. Cliff was wounded and sent back to California to recover. One weekend he went AWOL from the hospital to see his girlfriend. When he got back, they threw him in the brig. The war ended while he was in confinement and he could hear everyone celebrating wildly. Cliff sat in solitude. Along comes this fresh, new lieutenant and orders him to scrub the floor. Cliff says, "So I punched him....It was easy." Said he was one of the few that had been through the whole war and came out a private.

The Greatest Gift

The best thing we could do for the world is give the poor countries sanitation. I think then they could solve the rest of their problems themselves. All civilizations started with plumbing.

My Sunday Sermon

Anyone craving mystery does not need to think about UFO's, Red Sea partings, second comings, etc. Think about your chicken egg you are having for breakfast or an apple seed. Now go and sin no more.

A Laugh for Gardeners

I saw a movie on Ruth Stout in the 70's and despite a lot of memory problems, I remembered her name and the gist of her theory. Anyway, I decided to look her up. This article is good for laughs. http://www.homestead.org/Gardening/Ruth%20Stout%20-%20The%20No-Dig%20Duchess.htm

By the way, I would like to thank whoever invented the computer. I can now be a hermit and be as happy as "an angel full of pie" (Pres. Truman- I think- heard it once and it stuck but didn't find it when I googled it).

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Secret of Jimmy Yen by Adam Khan

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Plagiarism and Copyright

Anytime I think I have an original thought, I run across it later in an article or on the net. We are unaware, but we are stealing other people's ideas all the time, remixing them and calling them our own. All research is just a form of theft. I don't understand how rearranging the words gives exclusive rights.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lazy - two views

There are really two kinds of lazy. The lazy that is behind innovation - looking for an easier way to do things. And the lazy that wants others to do your work, and probably not in the easiest manner either.


Eric Sevareid prayer

Eric Sevareid was a national newscaster from my little home state and always gave thoughtful, insightful commentaries after the national news. This is his prayer titled (I think) "I Want a Few Friends Left at the End":

Release me from the craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all. But thou knowest, Lord, I want a few friends left at the end.

Keep me from the fatal habits of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains, they are increasing and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible for me to be mistaken.

Keep my mind from the recital of the endless details. Give me wings to get to the point. Help me extract all possible fun out of life. There are so many funny things around us, I don't want to miss any of them.

A Little Disappointed

I am a little disappointed in my fellow human, yet again. I wrote a little novel and wanted to put it on the net. I hired a web designer to format it better and paid her more than fairly. She left off the meta tags and I asked her to add them. On the meta tags, she put that she was the author and held the copyright. I could have believed it was just oversight - a cut and paste error from the example she sent of her own website, but her site has her and her husbands name and changing it to just her name must have been a conscious decision. It makes me so sad, I really liked her work. Have to put another nasty checkmark in my shitlist book. What is really ironic is that I entered it into the Creative Commons Public Domain category. Who steals something you are giving away? I'd gossip her name, but what if I'm wrong? Won't go back to see if it happens a second time so I could be sure.

These 80 year old women wear me out

Went to help my neighbor, Astrid (Isn't that a pretty name?) with her garden. She is 85, in remission for cancer, and might have osteoporosis because she is all bent over. I can't believe how she works. She has a small shovel because she cannot lift much, but that little spade goes twice as fast as mine. I also pick chokecherries for the winery with Claudine who is close to 80 if she isn't already. I would be ready to quit each day a lot earlier than she would - she has a goal of 20 gallons a day and we stick to it. Always considered myself a good worker, but I might have to re-evaluate my grading criteria. Might be a little on the lazy side. Take Astrid's and my gardens for example. Her gardening is neat, orderly and planned. I, on the other hand, am using the Ruth Stout method. Pile lots of leaves to use as mulch and let the worms do the work of rototilling. The most work I did was dragging the neighbors bags of leaves down the alley.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

My little Town has 18 Churches

Reminds me of this joke (sorry I don't know who to attribute it to):
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well, are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are your Christian or Buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, Me too! Are your Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, "Baptist!" I said, "Wow! Me too! Are your Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are your Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off.

Two Noah's

What makes more sense, that God told Noah the First to gather up all the birds, beasts, insects, plants etc. and then sail (actually pictured with no power source) around distributing the kangaroo to Australia and the buffalo to North America, or that Noah Webster was inspired (obsessed) to gather all the words, figure out where they started from and how to pronounce them? I'll have to check how the dictionary came about. Seems almost impossible for one human. What do you do, write a word down every time you hear a new one? Keep them on notecards and continually alphabetize them. I hold the dictionary in awe.

The Crime That Made Us All Suspects

I was disgusted when terrorism was treated like a war and we promptly bombed the hell out of Afghanistan. When the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building was bombed, we didn't bomb the shit out of Indiana, or wherever the culprits trained.

I think it was a crime, and should have been treated like one. A mass murder that we should have expended all our energies to solve - not a retaliation against innocent bystanders. This approach would have enlisted the help of the entire world.

So who is suffering in this war on terrorism? The Iraq people surely, but also ourselves. We are being treated as prime suspects, almost strip searched before we can travel. When we are robbed, do we stay in hypervigilance forever - and let it eat us up? Or do we go to counseling and get help to realize that good and bad co-exist and we have to get on with our lives. We forgive not for them (they don't really deserve it) but for ourselves - so we can get back to a time when we were not scared.

Gossip - Mankind's Feedback

Another thing I like about eBay is the feedback section where buyers warn each other about shady deals. The bad news is that sellers can also leave feedback - a mistake because buyers fear retailatory feedback and some sellers withhold feedback until they get favorable reviews. I think the seller's feedback should be restricted to listing non-payment exclusively.

That is why I like gossip in my little town. Not lies - I hate that. But when my neighbor tells me how the car dealer screwed him on a repair job, or how Larry windowpeeps, or Cathy shoplifts - this is information I want and need for protection. (Their sex lives do not interest me.) How do people in big cities survive?

Monday, May 23, 2005

No Drones

I wish someone would come up with a t-shirt design featuring the words "No Drones: Do Your Own Damn Work. " Would apply to not only bees but the planes that hunt down people. Make mine extra large.

Truth or Consequences

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, can you imagine the hassle of writing your address all the time. I like the sentiment, but what a burden!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Misquote

I never said, "I want to be alone." I only said, "I want to be left alone." There is all the difference. — Greta Garbo.

Interesting article about auctions and ethics


I once saw this program on PBS about the differences between the US and the Mexican culture. Two little girls from each country were told that if they took turns moving a single checker and could get it to the opposite side they would get a prize. The US girls just moved the checker back and forth, making no progress. The Mexican girls instantly took turns moving the checker first to one side, then to the other so that they both could get prizes. Sometimes cooperation makes more sense than competition.


There is No Place Like Home

I have decided not to go out of town for rummage sales anymore. I went to the neighboring town for their city-wide sales yesterday and it could have been a disaster were it not for a young couple. I bought a map to the locations, but for some reason, I could not seem to get my bearings. I boldly (for me) asked the couple if they were going to sales and if I could follow them. They said they didn't have a map - so since I did, it worked out for both of us. Only one sale had anything interesting so I doubt I will recover my gas costs. Tried going to another town a couple times and that was horrible too - couldn't find my way around. From now on, I'm just going to stay home - where it is fun, not so much work. After all, it is just my hobby, not my job. The town I went to is rather sad, too. A railroad town built so the real rich management is on one side and real poor worker houses on the other side. The poor houses don't even have streets wide enough for two cars to pass, so there are lots of one ways which make navigation even worse. I saw that rich/poor divide in towns built around the dams also.

Reading the Encyclopedia

My cousin Dale read the student version of World Book Encyclopedia when he was a kid. PBS had A.J. Jacobs, the author of The Know-It-All : One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World on. His book is about his reading of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Wonder how many other people read encyclopedias - or dictionaries for that matter?

Monday morning blues

One of my favorite books is "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Melville. Anyway the gist of the story is that this company hires Bartleby as a clerk but he is totally insubordinate. Anything they tell him to do, he replies, "I'd prefer not to." They try firing him, but that doesn't even work.

Anyway, I kind of want to say, "I'd prefer not to" to the local school librarian who is moving the library. I volunteered most of the school year, but she is so incredibly lazy so I finally got fed up and quit. I don't mind helping someone who is trying, but lazy people tick me off. Now she offered to pay me to help on the move. I tried to tell her how to make the move go a little more smoothly, but she talked over me. She thinks money is an enticement to me, but the only reason I am going is to make the janitor's work easier. I'm going to do it the way I think it would be easiest. I don't care what she says, I don't need any money - I have more than I can spend as it is - the benefits of being easily satisfied.

War - What is it Good For - Absolutely Nothing

Revolutionary War - We could have been like Canada - higher standard of living, better education, better health care, more holidays, more international respect.

Civil War - slavery would have ended with technology. The hate generated goes on still.

World War I - caused World War II

Korean and Vietnam War - enough said

Afghanistan - bombed the shit out of primitive people. Increased hate and resentment.

Iraq - now how is their life better, again? Increased hate and resentment.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Maximum Wage

Would it ruin some great eternal plan if there were a maximum wage? This would pump millions of dollars into the economy. Some might even trickle down to working people and those that merit it could get a raise.

I was reading the bio's of some of the expensive officers in eBay (just because I like the company) and they move around amongst companies like major league baseball players. Company loyalty seems not to be an issue. I just think we could get someone cheaper to say the same things -cut costs (find someone desperate in a poor country and put less quality in the product), increase prices, and give myself a raise. Hell, I would be their CEO for a flat $10,000 a year with no perks, provided they gave me a good secretary to do any actual work.

With a maximum wage, innovation would be encouraged because if someone cannot live on say, $200,000 a year, they would have to invent or create something man cannot live without to make the big bucks. And this maximum counts all the perks and includes all public servants. Perhaps we could weed out the greedy and give some new blood a chance to work on our problems. I can dream.

p.s. May 22 - I just heard Richard Florida on PBS talk about how the creative class - the scientists, technocrats, people who create things are leaving the US. His book "The Flight of the Creative Class" says money is not a motivator for these people responsible for any improvements to society, so there is another argument for the maximum wage.

Friday, May 20, 2005

An Occupation that Should Be Outlawed

Political speech writers. If the politician cannot use words, he or she is in the wrong occupation.

Econ 101

Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them. — Leo Tolstoy
(Get a daily wallpaper and quote from www.paperquote.com)
I love selling on eBay, because you hear the most interesting stories. One time I sold a plastic Cool Whip accordian dispenser thingy to a girl who said she and her brother used to fight over it when they were little. Made $2.00 on a 25¢ item. Another time I sold a -new in the original tattered box - egg cooker to a woman who had gotten one like it for a wedding present 50 years ago and needed a replacement. People who consign their expensive collectibles to me to sell are often disappointed because the market is flooded. Too many other people bought the litany that collectibles could only rise in value. The diamond suppliers certainly don't want us to know how common diamonds are.

I like simple truths. EBay is supply and demand, an economic principle even I can understand.

A use for Kudzu

Heard on PBS that some researcher gave kudzu root (didn't hear how-tea, powder, whatever) and heavy drinkers drank half as much alcohol before they would become satisfied. Wouldn't it be great if it worked on obese people, depressed, compulsive shoppers, etc. If we could just feel satisfaction. If it worked out, we could retire that old Rolling Stones song. Bet the lobbyist-owned government would ban it and spend our tax dollars to destroy it. South has been trying to eradicate it for years.

A wacky system

I had a chuckle today. My friend and her husband, an older couple, pride themselves on having everything paid - not in debt to anyone for anything. Anyway Dorothy applied for a Penny's charge card and was rejected. None of those credit card companies really want someone who can and does pay their bills. Penny's does give a 10% discount for every time you apply for a credit card so she just reapplies every time she goes to the store and accepts their 10% discount. Cool.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Greed the Uncurable

Excesses of most kinds are frowned upon. A preoccupation with sex or pornography, too frequent use of alcohol or drugs, religious fanaticism, hypochondria, vanity to the point of a standing appointment at the plastic surgeon, the list goes on. The one that no one seems to find fault with is greed - greed for money or greed for power. The other excesses are personal vices but greed means you don't want to play fair - a sick obsession that more is still not enough.
We make a feeble attempt to stifle greed during childhood when we make our preschoolers share. But then we give up. When the nominee for Secretary of Labor (who of all people should know better) is caught hiring illegal aliens so she can keep even more of her over-generous wages, when corporations have their over-priced products made by women and children in deplorable working conditions for incredibly low wages, when CEO's make millions (obviously unfit to compute value - the very basis of sound business decisions), there is a sickness that needs treating.

There is the sentiment that if you have a lot you must be worth more. Maybe it is true that we value the rich more than the poor. A lot more was made of the relatively few rich people that died when the Titanic sank than the thousands of poor Vietnamese "boat people" that drowned or the multitudes of blacks that died enroute to America to become slaves.

As far as I know, we all get but the one life. Is money or how many people we have following our orders the things that determine it's value? The price someone arbitrarily affixes to an hour of your life? I know you can always get people worked up about a mechanic making $40 an hour but no one cares when you mention some CEO makes $8 million a year. How much crap can a person own and worry about anyway? It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.--Henry Ford


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Charity Begins at Home

There are approximately one million charities in the US. To contribute to most is to get yourself on the mailing lists of many others. I used to just throw their flyers away and keep the address tags, but now I've decided to become more aggressive. http://www.charitynavigator.org/ is a great index of charities. The pie chart that shows the program expense, administration expense and fundraising expense is a little misleading since naturally little known charities must spend a bigger proportion on fundraising. More telling, I think is the salary of the CEO. How many $20 contributions are needed to make up a $600,000 salary? What ethical person could take that much money from people who need help? From now on, I'm going to return their envelopes with a note that explains that the CEO salary of ____ is too high and I have decided to give my money to a local charity.

Giving locally isn't all cut and dried either. Our two thrift stores have restrictive overheads also. Most of the volunteers sort through the daily contributions and take anything decent home. I heard one rumor that one woman even has a second house for storage and holds regular rummage sales in the neighboring town. I sell stuff I find on eBay and they resent me. If I buy anything it means they missed it. I went to both the charities and offered to sell on eBay for them, but both declined my offer.

I don't make enough to give enough to qualify for the itemized income tax form, (I don't need no stinking receipt) so I can give the true charitable way - anonymously. So I think I will send cash to the local pet groomer who takes in homeless animals and works hard finding homes for them. Or send cash to the young man with a brain tumor - not that it would help, but it would make him feel less alone. Or help the old lady with cancer who always took such pride in her yard but cannot pull the weeds anymore. Charity, after all, begins at home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Survival of the Fittest

Some people defend themselves by saying their actions are just "survival of the fittest" and that winning makes one superior. But what Darwin actually said is quite different. "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change." Joining the herd is your best chance of survival. Even if it is likely not the wisest, or the most ethical - as long as everyone else is doing it - you're only following nature. Of course this advice is just if your only goal is simply survival. If your goal is something a little more lofty like leaving the world a better place because you lived in it, then you are a thinking animal, not just a herd beast and things become more complicated. Anyone who studies human civilization, sees a pattern in which the best and brightest and most ethical do not rise to be leaders but are destroyed by the masses. "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."--George Bernard Shaw

Monday, May 16, 2005

Where have all the birds gone?

My neighbors are both bird lovers and they are upset. All the sparrows and most of the other birds that show up in the spring are absent. They are thinking someone may have poisoned them. Durwood said he misses even the sparrows - people just hate them because they are plentiful and common, but as birds go, they are just doing what comes naturally. Maybe messy, but what in life ain't?

In Honor of Studs Terkel's Birthday

It's Studs Terkels birthday today. He is the oracle for the common man - his classic book Working consists of interviews with common working people. I only wish he had interviewed me about my stint as a short order cook so I could vent. It's been years since I read the book, but as I remember, the only one content with his job was the accountant, who liked that answers were right and wrong. He didn't interview people who were working for themselves, for I think he would have found a different attitude. An essay I read once (I thought it was E.B. White but I cannot find it in his work) talked about how man loves a gamble and will work hard if there is a chance for success. Day to day labor for the benefit of others without any share in the profits is more stressful than is the uncertainty of self-employment.

Here in full is an interesting article taken from Massimo's Skeptic & Humanist Web column in honor of Studs birthday:
When I say "heart attack" what are your first thoughts in terms of causes? A good bet is that you will consider cholesterol levels, and immediately after that, diet. After a bit more thought, you might want to add stress induced by a job with too much pressure and responsibility, and finally—just maybe—you will consider the possibility of a genetic predisposition. These are all the causes we hear from the media are associated with heart disease, and indubitably there is a lot of research to back these claims up.
However, and most astoundingly, research available since the 1960s and repeated several times since, also shows that all the above factors are actually minor causes of heart disease. The best single predictor of heart problems is indeed stress, but of an entirely different and still widely ignored type: the stress that comes not from doing too much or being under self-imposed pressure, but from being ordered around with little or no control over your destiny.
A study conducted among 17,000 British civil servants (and before that on a million employees of Bell Telephones in the 1960s) clearly shows that the status of a person’s job is the most reliable predictor of heart attack, more than obesity, smoking or high blood pressure (though these count as well, so don’t rush to get that triple cheeseburger just yet). High cholesterol is also a risk factor, but only in people that are genetically predisposed to it. It seems that your heart is by and large at the mercy of the size of your pay check.
The studies linking the pecking order on the job with heart problems found that what happens is that being ordered around diminishes your sense of control over your life, which causes stress mediated by the release of the hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol not only create problems for your coronary arteries, but depress your immune response, so that you are also more likely to fall prey to an infection—which is not helped by the fact that the rise in cortisol is accompanied by a decrease in serotonin, meaning that you don’t sleep very well and you never feel rested.
Privatization can do that to you too. A follow up study on British civil servants explored how they were coping with the new 1990s concept of no job security. Suddenly, these people could loose their jobs for reasons that had nothing to do with their performance and all to do with the capricious oscillations of the market economy. Predictably, the employees in question felt no control over their source of livelihood, which caused stress and eventually illness—all of which had little to do with diet, drinking and smoking.
Researchers have been able to explode another myth related to heart attacks: the idea that it is a disease of the rich, suffered by CEOs because of the high pressure they experience on their job for prolonged periods of time and the associated responsibilities of such a situation. Well, if you are a CEO and are planning on using that as an excuse to raise your bonus this year, forget it. While there are exceptions, the heart attack rate in this category is actually much lower than the population at large, presumably because these people are actually very much in control of what they are doing, since they are everybody else’s boss (and even when they "fail" they get to retire with a few extra million dollars in their bank accounts). This category becomes at risk—rather ironically—only after retirement, possibly because their new "relaxed" life style is actually associated with very little control. Taking it easy for someone used to issue orders and be in charge can be fatal, literally.
Human beings are primates, and evolutionary theory teaches us to expect something similar in our inter-specific cousins. Sure enough, studies on baboons have shown an increase in stress level and production of cortisol in males that join a new troop, because when they do so they find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order, with little control over availability of food and mates. The same is true for monkeys studied in zoos, where researchers found a nice inverse relationship between pecking order and the furring up of arties. Next time you see a monkey or ape, remember to empathize with their working conditions.
Amazingly, you can even demonstrate the effect experimentally on humans by dividing people into two groups, giving them the same tasks, but ordering around one group and empowering the other with self decision making. The latter group experiences lower levels of stress hormones, blood pressure and heart rate.
What are we to learn from all this? For one thing it is interesting that we are experiencing a continuous pressure in modern society to "take responsibility," follow a healthy life style, control our diet, watch closely what sorts of habits and addictions we develop, or else. While this is all good advice in general, why don’t we ever hear that the single most important factor affecting our health is the lack of control over our lives that modern society forces upon us? I am no neo-luddite (see my August 2001 column), but shouldn’t we question the social order at the least to the extent that it makes us unhappy and possibly kills us?
I am not of course suggesting that we are experiencing a "great media conspiracy" to blame us instead of the system. The danger is a lot more subtle than that since the facts are out there for anybody to check, if they only bother to. What started me on this was reading a summary of what I have discussed in the widely available volume by Matt Ridley, Genome. Then again, no newspapers, TV news, or talk show picks up on this sort of information, disseminates it to the public, and raises awareness. The reason is probably that questioning the system and lifting the blame from the individual goes directly against an entrenched aspect of the American psyche, it challenges the basic assumption of individualism and "opportunity" for everybody that this country is all about. Well, at least once in your life it is healthy to question even the most fundamental assumptions. Go for it, it might hurt less than you think.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


He who fights against monsters must beware lest he become one himself - Nietzsche

Studies show that children and adolescents who are victims of schoolyard bullying face an increased risk of developing depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and are at increased risk of schizophrenia according to one New Zealand study. Dr John Read from the University of Auckland presented research at a psychiatrists' conference in Canberra, showing there are similar changes in the brains of abused children and adult schizophrenics. He says his research shows up to 60 per cent of women with schizophrenia may have been abused as children.

Bullying is the most common form of violence in our society. Bullying behavior is behind all child abuse, domestic violence, workplace violence, hate crimes, and road rage. It travels from the strongest to the weakest and it does not dissolve into nothingness. Men bully their female partners, women bully children, older children bully younger children and younger children bully their pets leading to a "vortex of violence". Young children, who are at the bottom of this ladder absorb it, accumulate it and wait until they are strong enough to erupt. It is well documented that many violent criminals were victims of child abuse.

The same vulnerable feelings are felt in most bullying. Marilee Strong described her reaction to parental abuse in A Bright Red Scream: "In some ways, an abused child faces terror worse than anything a soldier experiences on the field of battle. She lives in a world of continual and unpredictable danger and may, with good reason, fear for her life. Yet she has no gun to protect her, no squad to back her up, no training for her combat role. She is completely alone, completely powerless, completely at the mercy of her parent's will, she cannot fight back, cannot escape. She is trapped."

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and many of the perpetrators of mass violence exemplify the incomprehensible injustice of retaliation against bullying by attacking innocents at random. Between 1992 and 1999 there were over 250 violent deaths in schools that involved multiple victims and in virtually every school shooting, bullying had been a factor. Deadly assaults do not occur from one brief encounter. Like other forms of child abuse, bullying pits a weak, single individual against a strong, dominating aggressive foe who chronically victimizes his/her prey. Many of the bullied are in survival mode of just getting through each day hoping they'll endure that day.

The bully or bullies dehumanize their victim and conduct a deliberate, hurtful, repeated assault on their prey's esteem. Charles "Andy" Williams who shot 15 people, killing two at Santana High School, Santee, California was constantly called "faggot" and "geek" at school. Bullies stole his cigarettes, wallet and skateboard repeatedly. His peers constantly ridiculed him. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who made Columbine infamous, were harassed, bullied and put down on a daily basis for years. Every day when Harris and Klebold came to school, they were met by a gauntlet of students that harassed them in the hallways and cafeteria and called them "dirt bags," "dirt balls," or "homos" and other names. They were also hassled by having orange juice poured on their trench coats so they would have to wear the sticky stuff all day. Frequently the football players would physically assault them by throwing a body block on them banging them into the lockers or the wall.

Everyone said we should fear the loners. Loner children should be protected precisely because they think differently and become our inventors, our artists, our lyricists, writers, poets, comedians and yes, sometimes our "nuts". Society benefits if only these children can live to adulthood without committing suicide or becoming mentally ill for loners live under constant stress as prime bully bait. The pressure to conform is enormous to teenagers. To witness the phenomenon, walk the halls of your high school and tell me you don't find the uniformity spooky. You, too, will feel like you have entered a cult because everyone dresses the same, combs their hair similarly and talks in the same clichés. Naturally, any independent thinker, anyone who doesn't dress regulation, anyone you maintains a free identity will be made into an outcast. The hated students, unfortunately, have no choice on their outcast status, they have been sentenced by their peers to relentless ridicule. Classmates create a prison without walls and concur, "We have judged you and find you unfit for our society."

The social ostracism these students experienced forced them to seek help in some cases. The psychiatric community who basically rejects talk therapy in favor of psychotropic prescriptions brands the victim "chemically imbalanced" and promises that the proper dulling medication will help them adjust. Some would say that the aggressive bullies should have been referred for psychiatric evaluation but it was Harris who was prescribed Luvox, an antidepressant and Kip Kinkel, (who killed his parents and two students in Oregon) who was on Prozac. Just maybe we are medicating the wrong segment of society when cruelty is ignored or rewarded and victims have to have their brains altered.

Our society has a tendency to blame the victim for his troubles. I remember reading of a young German student who said the Jews were responsible for the holocaust because they allowed themselves to be victimized. We have made the term "victim mentality" a derogatory term and privileged people sneer at anyone who doesn't admit that he is to blame for his own troubles or asks the courts or government to provide redress. We don't decry the "bully mentality" for this society praises winning at all costs. Conformity is the golden rule of the bully mentality and "love it or leave it" is their prayer. Any laws passed to give any minority equal access to America are a threat to the bully mentality. Whenever minorities want handicapped access, anti-discrimination laws, or "hate crime" legislation, the bullies cry "foul" and claim the minority is getting extra advantage. The bullies ridicule fairness by mocking it as "politically correct" and not once admitting it is morally correct in a civilized society to protect the vulnerable from the cruel and the greedy.

Because people with mental problems are usually passive and nearly always isolated and alone, they are the very easiest to bully. All bullying wants to take away the power of the victim. Perhaps the most insidious bullies are those authorities who seek to further reduce a person's autonomy and claim that it is "for their own good". Many states are considering "forced drugging" when study after study has proved that current drugs are ineffective and dangerous. The public has been convinced that psychiatric sufferers are a public menace and must be subdued.