Author Archives: Father William
Newsletter – October 2016
For the record, I didn’t watch it – The Wave is about to be tested, my friend.
For the same record, I didn’t watch it, either. Looks like Hillary came out on top for this one. But I don’t get what you mean by “The Wave is about to be tested, my friend.” More, please…
I didn’t come to the pairing of the two Randy Newman songs that appear below by myself. On this past Friday, Newman released a 4 LP set of his songs, just voice and piano, and on the last side, side eight, these two songs, which should follow one another, did follow one another. I had remembered the first, but not the second (it never appeared on any album he released until now).
A Few Words in Defense of Our Country (2007) I’m Dreaming (2012)I guess what I am raising is what Randy raises in the first song: the end of an empire. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean The Wave breaks down, it does seem to mean that we don’t go forward to a more evolved system. You raised the same notion July 3rd during our Brexit-AI project, when you wrote:
“…I obviously do have concerns about returning to the darkness of plagues, pain and primitive idiocy. The upside is that the frenzy might get slowed down substantially (which would be a hard for the first ten generations), but later ones might get back to a pastoral life for some centuries before going crazy with technology again. Like you, I am conceptually very uncomfortable with this Ikea, Takata, Volkswagen, 2010 Deep Water Horizon world, but I’ve managed to mostly avoid it by living in Vermont and New Zealand…”
Most people seemed to be approaching last night as some sort of fix for their excitement Jones. They wanted fireworks, they wanted a battle. Hillary and Trump were really only the surrogates for these people’s emotional needs at this juncture in our nation’s history. There don’t seem to be actual numbers yet but the preliminary ratings are in. Debate overnight: 46.2/63 across four broadcast and three cable news networks. As a comparison: Super Bowl 50, the most-watched television show this year, received a 46.6 rating and a 72 share. 111 million people watched the Denver Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers. This is not the way to run a railroad, or a nation for that matter.
It seems the post-1900 European Empires have found ways to move on from the loss of empire that is a positive evolution. Of course the case can be made that without the help of the US-moving-into-empire, that evolution may not have occurred. It wouldn’t have been much fun to have Germany and Japan running the latter half of the 20th century. Still, the Wave seems to function whether we like the results or not.
I think you make an interesting point about the US replacing other empires. This has been an historically frequent occurrence, except for when the Dark Ages hit, at least for the western world and in the Mediterranean (Egypt, Greece, Rome).What I have been pondering, the past day or so, is the atomization of all this anger and frustration in our country. There are so many fractional groups angry at other fractional groups. There is overlap, in some cases, but for the Wave to work, there has to be, I think, sufficient coalescence around something, some person, some paradigm, for us to exit the Unforming. This, I think is the big challenge for our Nation. We certainly aren’t up to it now, it isn’t clear to me that we will be up to it in the future. There exist too any feedback loops presently that server to reinforce the retention of beliefs, rather than opening people up to new beliefs or changing beliefs. The next empire, some say, will be China. I guess if they can build an island in the South China Sea, they now have tennis courts on the island ;-), they can build one or two in the Atlantic or Pacific. Who needs Cuba, when you can build one or two yourself ;-). An addition from The Donster… “I found this review fascinating in its parallels to today. Very chilling.”
A major new biography—an extraordinary, penetrating study of the man who has become the personification of evil.“Ullrich reveals Hitler to have been an eminently practical politician—and frighteningly so. Timely… One of the best works on Hitler and the origins of the Third Reich to appear in recent years.” —Kirkus Reviews “An outstanding study… All the huge, and terrible moments of the early Nazi era are dissected…but the real strength of this book is in disentangling the personal story of man and monster.” —The Guardian (U.K.)
…and another from a Friend…“Thanks for pointing out this article, Don. Oh my yes: chilling. “I do think Trump is hugely skilled. So was Palin. Trump is even more skilled. And, much more ambitious. The parallels with Hitler are absolute. And he obviously has practiced Mussolini’s facial expressions.
“I’m saddened by the number of well-known people, flawed (because they are far-right conservatives) who support him. I assume they are the same as those described in this article: people who think their own careers will be advanced. Greedy. Shocking.“These days of the election season are fascinating and awful. How did we end up with nothing but flawed candidates? Not just Trump but the others too, including their VP choices. (Pence seems especially worrisome.) Somebody recently wrote that a big problem is the ease with which people can be distracted from important things. True. The Brangelina divorce as a primary news item??! Zheesh. “I am happy to say that our local paper does a pretty good job of avoiding such stuff. Good for them. “On that tack: I read an article recently which points out the consultants’ “solution” to lagging profits of the big news conglomerates following the big downturn: the article pointed out that consultants — as we know — have been advising cutting the number of reporters and going to canned news, especially so-called news about entertainment and human-interest stories, i.e. crime and deviancy. The headline of this article pointed out that people, actually, want important news. But that’s not what much of the media is doing in their efforts to increase profits. Sigh. Sadly, another version of just Digging a Bigger Hole. “Back to this election: like so many others, I continue to be puzzled by what is happening. None of the explanations that I read make any sense. Obviously I am isolated from large swaths of people. “Mark Twain ended his days completely disgusted with humanity. I’m not that grumpy nor discouraged but I am puzzled.”
Thank you, Donster and Friend. We need our “reasonable” politicians to understand how powerful being “unreasonable” can be and learn to better communicate with angry voters. “Basket of Deplorables” is erroneous and stupid and misses the mark in so many ways! “Unreasonable” emotions determine many more votes than “logical” facts.Actually, this takes us back further than March, in some respects, it takes us back to the election in 2008 and the Don’t Think Of An Elephant thread and the main point of that book. We’re eight years down the road and the Democrats/Progressive can’t counter, or match, the Republicans/Conservatives when it comes to forming persuasive messages. My god, as Krugman pointed out look at the numbers for Libertarian candidate and what his party’s platform represents. Yet, many of the millennials are supporting him rather than Hillary. Let me share something with you, perhaps you didn’t know this, it’s chilling. Two weekends ago, I was at the East Bank Club and ran into a past Public Defender friend. We were talking about the state of affairs here in Chicago. The gang violence, etc., what to do about it. How clueless Rahm is about the problems and solutions. At one point I said: “ It’s just messed up that these gang members are just killing people— sometimes they are recording the murders with their cellphones and posting it on social media. When we started out in the 1970’s, that wasn’t even on the radar.” He said to me: “It’s not just messed up, it’s completely bizarre.” Badges of honor, however, should be worn. Killing somebody is a badge of honor in the gangs. So, why not boast by posting? Makes perfect sense. Gil Scott Heron wrote the “Revolution Won’t Be Televised” but it will, Roger Ailes has seen to that. You introduced me to the power and seduction of the screen, it has proven to be more true than I think you imagined back in the 60’s. This was just a TV introduction back then, now, it’s far, far truer, because it isn’t just two screens, as we had back then (movies TVs). It’s every computer screen. Every piece of propaganda, misinformation, etc., that can easily be found on the Internet, including how to make bombs to blow up a marathon race or maybe even Wrigley Field just before the Cubs are about to win the World Series in late October, which will be broadcast on Fox (of course!). What a coup for ISIS that would be. Take out a bunch of Jews in the front rows and send a message about America’s pastime. Let’s go back for a moment, to the subject of the pervasive under-current of anger and how much it has become a part of most of our lives, in one respect or another. For instance, think of what getting on a commercial flight was like in the 50-70’s. Now look at it. Who wouldn’t have some anger when they actually get on the plane. And what’s the difference? I would argue being treated like a human being versus being treated like a unit to be handled. Now think about the experience when you had a problem with a product or service in the past. You started out with a certain amount of anger, but then you went to the store, or called on the phone, and the people, for the most part, were trained to treat you well and to be helpful. But you were always greeted by a human voice or an actual person. That initial touch of humanity, right at the beginning, is a huge psychological thing, it may ring the mom or dad bell deep down inside. Now, look at what we have? We start out angry and are made even more angry by the literally inhuman treatment we receive before we can possibly get to a human being.
This is repetitively psychologically costly to us as individuals, but here’s the thing, I think, it would be costly to companies to go back to the old system, unless the company is as big and monolithic as Amazon, who has a terrific human call center. But for the most part, I doubt the vast majority of business can actually afford to re-humanize their businesses. Just like it is doubtful newspapers can stop the incursion of AI to write news articles for the papers and add, not subtract reporters (and it won’t be just newspapers, the news services on the Internet will/are adopting similar models).It goes back to Maslow too. As a culture, and as individuals, we are regressing in meeting nearly every category of Maslow’s needs So, of course we can’t be rational — we’re too hungry for the basic stuff. So, this is what I missed before in my Brexit/AI essay. I framed Maslow largely in terms of the need to work. But the flip side, or something, is I think we need humans on the other side of a lot of common interactions, that we’ve taken for granted because these tasks have always been done by humans. Supplanting machines for humans will not meet our psychological needs unless, or until, our psychological needs change to accept machines for where humans once were. It’s not the world either of us want for ourselves. Fortunately, we can mostly avoid it, but it will become increasingly difficult to do so as time marches on.
And so….. I had literally put my head on the pillow, turned off the light, and then it hit me, could be wrong, but not all that wrong: Who’s the robot in this election? – Hillary. Who’s the pandering human in this election? – The Donald. Maslow could decide this election. At the very least, to answer Hillary’s question: This is a large part of why she isn’t up by 50 points in this election. For all his flaws, and everything else, and perhaps because of it, Trump is so much more human than Hillary, at least as they are projecting themselves to the electorate. Humans love. Humans hate. Humans say and do all kinds of conflicted, dumb things ALL THE TIME. And humans forgive dumb, stupid, hateful things ALL THE TIME. Hillary did with Bubba. Huma did with Anthony until he just crossed the line too far. I think the people, and certainly a whole lot of the people, want a human, even at what appears, presently, to be a severe cost.
=================================================3. THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ENDORSEMENT BY EDITORIAL BOARD, THE REPUBLIC, AZCENTRAL.COM, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016
Hillary Clinton is the only choice to move America aheadSince The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles. This year is different. The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified. That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president. What Clinton has (and Trump doesn’t) The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting. Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not. Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not. Clinton knows how to compromise and to lead with intelligence, decorum and perspective. She has a record of public service as First Lady, senator and secretary of state. She has withstood decades of scrutiny so intense it would wither most politicians. The vehemence of some of the anti-Clinton attacks strains credulity. Trump hasn’t even let the American people scrutinize his tax returns which could help the nation judge his claims of business acumen. Her flaws pale in comparison The Arizona Republic never endorsed a Democrat for president from 1892 to 2012. Here’s who the newspaper supported in general-election contests and why: (Research courtesy of author Bob Nelson and state historian Jack August) Photo illustration by The Republic Make no mistake: Hillary Clinton has flaws. She has made serious missteps. Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State was a mistake, as she has acknowledged. Donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of State raise concerns that donors were hoping to buy access Though there is no evidence of wrongdoing, she should have put up a firewall. Yet despite her flaws, Clinton is the superior choice. She does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. Her approach to governance is mature, confident and rational. That cannot be said of her opponent. Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down. Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads. That’s beneath our national dignity. When the president of the United States speaks, the world expects substance. Not a blistering tweet. Whose hand do you want on the nuclear button?
Hillary Clinton knows the issues, history and facts. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)Clinton has argued America’s case before friendly and unfriendly foreign leaders with tenacity, diplomacy and skill. She earned respect by knowing the issues, the history and the facts. She is intimately familiar with the challenges we face in our relations with Russia, China, the Middle East, North Korea and elsewhere. She’ll stand by our friends and she’s not afraid to confront our enemies. Contrast Clinton’s tenacity and professionalism with Trump, who began his campaign with gross generalities about Mexico and Mexicans as criminals and rapists These were careless slaps at a valued trading partner and Arizona’s neighbor. They were thoughtless insults about people whose labor and energy enrich our country. Trump demonstrated his clumsiness on the world stage by making nice with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto only a few hours before appearing in Phoenix to deliver yet another rant about Mexican immigrants and border walls. Arizona’s been there on immigration (it doesn’t work) What’s more, Arizona went down the hardline immigration road Trump travels. It led our state to SB 1070, the 2010 “show me your papers” law that earned Arizona international condemnation and did nothing to resolve real problems with undocumented immigration. Arizona understands that we don’t need a repeat of that divisive, unproductive fiasco on the national level. A recent poll shows Arizonans oppose both more walls and the mass deportations Trump endorses. We need a president who can broker solutions. Clinton calls for comprehensive immigration reform, a goal that business, faith and law enforcement leaders have sought for years. Her support for a pathway to citizenship and her call for compassion for families torn apart by deportation are consistent with her longtime support for human rights. Clinton’s equality vs. Trump’s lack of respect Hillary Clinton has made a career fighting for gender As secretary of state, Clinton made gender equality a priority for U.S. foreign policy. This is an extension of Clinton’s bold “women’s rights are human rights” speech in 1995. It reflects an understanding that America’s commitment to human rights is a critically needed beacon in today’s troubled world. Trump’s long history of objectifying women and his demeaning comments about women during the campaign are not just good-old-boy gaffes. They are evidence of deep character flaws. They are part of a pattern. Trump mocked a reporter’s physical handicap Picked a fight with a Gold Star family Insulted POWs Suggested a Latino judge can’t be fair because of his heritage. Proposed banning Muslim immigration. Each of those comments show a stunning lack of human decency, empathy and respect. Taken together they reveal a candidate who doesn’t grasp our national ideals. A centrist or a wild card? Many Republicans understand this. But they shudder at the thought of Hillary Clinton naming Supreme Court justices. So they stick with Trump. We get that. But we ask them to see Trump for what he is — and what he is not. Trump’s conversion to conservatism is recent and unconvincing. There is no guarantee he will name solid conservatives to the Supreme Court. Hillary Clinton has long been a centrist. Despite her tack left to woo Bernie Sanders supporters, Clinton retains her centrist roots. Her justices might not be in the mold of Antonin Scalia, but they will be accomplished individuals with the experience, education and intelligence to handle the job. They will be competent. Just as she is competent. If a candidate can’t control his words Never in its 126-year history has The Arizona Republic editorial board endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican. Trump’s inability to control himself or be controlled by others represents a real threat to our national security. His recent efforts to stay on script are not reassuring. They are phony. The president commands our nuclear arsenal. Trump can’t command his own rhetoric. Were he to become president, his casual remarks — such as saying he wouldn’t defend NATO partners from invasion — could have devastating consequences. Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin a thug who has made it clear he wants to expand Russia’s international footprint. Trump suggested Russia engage in espionage against Hillary Clinton — an outrageous statement that he later insisted was meant in jest. Trump said President Obama and Hillary Clinton were “co-founders” of ISIS then walked that back by saying it was sarcasm. It was reckless. Being the leader of the free world requires a sense of propriety that Trump lacks. Clinton’s opportunity to heal this nation We understand that Trump’s candidacy tapped a deep discontent among those who feel left behind by a changed economy and shifting demographics. Their concerns deserve to be discussed with respect. Ironically, Trump hasn’t done that. He has merely pandered. Instead of offering solutions, he hangs scapegoats like piñatas and invites people to take a swing. In a nation with an increasingly diverse population, Trump offers a recipe for permanent civil discord. In a global economy, he offers protectionism and a false promise to bring back jobs that no longer exist. America needs to look ahead and build a new era of prosperity for the working class. This is Hillary Clinton’s opportunity. She can reach out to those who feel left behind. She can make it clear that America sees them and will address their concerns. She can move us beyond rancor and incivility. The Arizona Republic endorses Hillary Clinton for president. ================================================= 4. TRUMP’S RISE REFLECTS AMERICA’S DECLINE BY GEORGE WILL, NEWSMAX, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016
Looking on the bright side, perhaps this election can teach conservatives to look on the dark side. They need a talent for pessimism, recognizing the signs that whatever remains of American exceptionalism does not immunize this nation from decay, to which all regimes are susceptible.The world’s oldest political party is an exhausted volcano, the intellectual staleness of its recycled candidate unchallenged because a generation of younger Democratic leaders barely exists. The Republican Party’s candidate evidently disdains his credulous supporters who continue to swallow his mendacities. About 90 percent of presidential votes will be cast for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, refuting the theory that this is a center-right country. At the risk of taking Trump’s words more seriously than he does, on some matters he is to Clinton’s left regarding big government powered by an unbridled presidency. His trade policy is liberalism’s “industrial policy” repackaged for faux conservatives comfortable with presidents dictating what Americans can import and purchase at what prices, and where U.S. corporations can operate. Trump “wouldn’t approve” Ford manufacturing cars in Mexico. He would create a federal police force to deport 450,000 illegal immigrants a month, including 6.4 percent of America’s workforce in two years. Yet the 25 million jobs he promises to create would require more than doubling the current rate of legal immigration to fill them, according to economist Mark Zandi. Of the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision diluting property rights by vastly expanding government’s powers of eminent domain, Trump says, “I happen to agree with it 100 percent.” Even Bernie Sanders rejects Kelo. When Trump says “people are not making it on Social Security,” he implies that people should be able to “make it” on Social Security for a third or more of their lives, and that he, like Clinton, is for enriching this entitlement’s benefits. He will “save” the system by eliminating — wait for it — “waste, fraud and abuse.” Trump is as parsimonious with specifics regarding health care (“Plans you don’t even know about will be devised because we’re going to come up with plans — health care plans — that will be so good”) as regarding foreign policy (“I would get China, and I would say, ‘Get in [North Korea], and straighten it out'”). “Charismatic authority,” wrote Max Weber in 1915, seven years before Mussolini’s march on Rome, causes the governed to submit “because of their belief in the extraordinary quality of the specific person . . . Charismatic rule thus rests upon the belief in magical powers, revelations and hero worship.” A demagogue’s success requires a receptive demos, and Trump’s ascendancy reflects progressivism’s success in changing America’s social norms and national character by de-stigmatizing dependency. Under his presidency, he says, government will have all the answers: “I am your voice . . . I alone can fix it.” The pronoun has unlimited antecedents: “I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.” Urban without a trace of urbanity, Trump has surrounded himself with star-struck acolytes (Mike Pence marvels at Trump’s anatomical — “broad-shouldered” — foreign policy) and hysterics (Rudy Giuliani: “There is no next election! This is it!”). When Ferdinand VII regained Spain’s throne in 1813 he vowed to end “the disastrous mania of thinking.” Trump is America’s Ferdinand. The American project was to construct a constitutional regime whose institutional architecture would guarantee the limited government implied by the Founders’ philosophy: Government is instituted to “secure” (the Declaration of Independence) pre-existing natural rights. Today, however, neither the executive nor legislative branches takes this seriously, the judiciary has forsworn enforcing it, and neither political party represents it because no substantial constituency supports it. The ease with which Trump has erased Republican conservatism matches the speed with which Republican leaders have normalized him. For the formerly conservative party, the Founders’ principles, although platitudes in the party’s catechism, have become, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “a kind of civic religion, avowed but not constraining.” The beginning of conservative wisdom is recognition that there is an end to everything: Nothing lasts. If Trump wins, the GOP ends as a vehicle for conservatism. And a political idea without a political party is an orphan in an indifferent world. Pessimism need not breed fatalism or passivity. It can define an agenda of regeneration, but only by being clear-eyed about the extent of degeneration, which a charlatan’s successful selling of his fabulousness exemplifies. Conservatism’s recovery from his piratical capture of the conservative party will require facing unflattering facts about a country that currently is indifferent to its founding. http://www.newsmax.com/GeorgeWill/trump-policy-conservative-social-security/2016/09/29/id/750859/ ================================================= 5. THIS MONTH’S LINKS: A FLYOVER OF APPLE’S SPACESHIP CAMPUS… KIDS REACT TO CHEERIOS COMMERCIAL… THE WORLD’S MOST CREATVE STATUES & SCUPLTURES… WHITE FRAGILITY WORKPLACE TRAINING VIDEO ================================================= © Copyright 2016, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam. Unsubscribe [Rewards] *|IF:REWARDS|* *|REWARDS|* *|END:IF|* =================================================
Newsletter – August 2016
THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – AUGUST 2016
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. THE ART OF GRACIOUS LEADERSHIP
3. THE COST OF HOLDING ON
4. WHAT DANISH PARENTS KNOW ABOUT TEACHING EMPATHY
5. OLD PEOPLE ARE HAPPIER THAN PEOPLE IN THEIR 20’S
6. WHAT YOU’RE MEANT TO DO…
7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS
QUOTES OF THE MONTH – DAVID BROOKS & BRIAN WIEST“Sooner or later life teaches you that you’re not the center of the universe, nor quite as talented or good as you thought.” “Almost everybody believes they have the talent to succeed at the thing they really love. Needless to say, not everybody is correct.”
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
August Greetings, Dear Friends…
August in the northern hemisphere, especially in Europe, is vacation time, so old FW is vacationing. I hope you enjoy and get as much out of the pieces that follow as I have…
Love, FWwww.FatherWilliam.org ================================================= 2. THE ART OF GRACIOUS LEADERSHIP BY DAVID BROOKS, THE NEW YORK TIMES, AUGUST 26, 2016 Lately I’ve been thinking about experience. Donald Trump lacks political experience, and the ineptitude caused by his inexperience is evident every day. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is nothing if not experienced. Her ship is running smoothly, and yet as her reaction to the email scandal shows once again, there’s often a whiff of inhumanity about her campaign that inspires distrust. So I’ve been thinking that it’s not enough to be experienced. The people in public life we really admire turn experience into graciousness. Those people, I think, see their years as humbling agents. They see that, more often than not, the events in our lives are perfectly designed to lay bare our chronic weaknesses and expose some great whopping new ones. Sooner or later life teaches you that you’re not the center of the universe, nor quite as talented or good as you thought. It teaches you to care less about what others think and, less self-conscious, to get out of your own way. People who are gracious also understand the accuracy of John Keats’s observation that “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” You can learn some truth out of a book or from the mouth of a friend, but somehow wisdom is not lodged inside until its truth has been engraved by some moment of humiliation, delight, disappointment, joy or some other firsthand emotion. The mistakes just have to be made. Gracious people are humble enough to observe that the best things in life are usually undeserved — the way the pennies of love you invest in children get returned in dollars later on; the kindness of strangers; the rebirth that comes after a friend’s unexpected and overawing act of forgiveness. The gracious people one sees in life and reads about in history books — I’m thinking of the all-time greats like Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela and Dorothy Day as well as closer figures ranging from Francis to Havel — turn awareness of their own frailty into sympathy for others’ frailty. As Juan Gabriel Vásquez wrote, “Experience, or what we call experience, is not the inventory of our pains, but rather the learned sympathy towards the pain of others.” They are good at accepting gifts, which is necessary for real friendship, but is hard for a proud person to do. They can be surprisingly tenacious in action. Think of Martin Luther King Jr. The grace that flowed into him from friends and supporters and from all directions made him radically hopeful and gave him confidence and tenacity. His capacity to fight grew out of his capacity to receive. Such people have a gentle strength. They are aggressive and kind, free of sharp elbows, comfortable revealing and being abashed by their transgressions. The U.S. military used to be pretty good at breeding this type of leader. In the years around World War II, generals often got fired. But they were also given second chances. That is, they endured brutal experiences, but they were given a chance to do something with those experiences and come back stronger and more supple. They were also reminded very clearly that as members of an elite, they had the responsibilities that come with that station. Today, everybody is in denial about being part of the establishment, believing the actual elite is someone else. Therefore, no one is raised with a code of stewardship and a sense of personal privilege and duty. Hillary Clinton has experience, but does not seem to have been transformed by it. Amid the email scandal she is repeating the same mistakes she made during the Rose Law Firm scandal two decades ago. Her posture is still brittle, stonewalling and dissembling. Clinton scandals are all the same. There’s an act of unseemly but not felonious behavior, then the futile drawn-out withholding of information, and forever after the unwillingness to ever come clean. Experience distills life into instinct. If you interpret your life as a battlefield, then you will want to maintain control at all times. You will hoard access. You will refuse to have press conferences. You will close yourself off to those who can help. If you treat the world as a friendly and hopeful place, as a web of relationships, you’ll look for the good news in people and not the bad. You’ll be willing to relinquish control, and in surrender you’ll actually gain more strength as people trust in your candor and come alongside. Gracious leaders create a more gracious environment by greeting the world openly and so end up maximizing their influence and effectiveness. It’s tough to surrender control, but like the rest of us, Hillary Clinton gets to decide what sort of leader she wants to be. America is desperate for a little uplift, for a leader who shows that she trusts her fellow citizens. It’s never too late to learn from experience. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/opinion/the-art-of-gracious-leadership.html? action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region®ion=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0 ================================================= 3. THE COST OF HOLDING ON BY CARL RICHARDS, WWW.NYTIMES.COM, AUGUST 23, 2016 Let’s start with a story from Jon Muth’s book “Zen Shorts:” Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle. The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk; she just shoved him out of the way and departed. As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then, she didn’t even thank you!” “I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?” There is an actual cost to holding onto things we should let go of. It can come in the form of anger, frustration, resentment or something even worse. The question is, can you really afford to keep paying the bill? The faster we learn to drop our emotional dead weight, the more room we create for something better. I’m talking about everything from stewing about the guy who cut you off in traffic this morning to still refusing to forgive an old friend for an event 20 years ago. We have only so much bandwidth. We have only so much time. We only have so much energy. Do we really want to invest any of our precious resources – financial or otherwise – into something that will return nothing but misery? My question for you is, “What’s one thing you can set down this week?” Go ahead and pick something. A fight with your spouse, something a politician said, your team losing the big game. Pick it, drop it and then pause. For just a moment, simply pause and savor what it feels like to no longer carry that burden and pay that price. Then, I want you to invest that extra into something more productive. If it’s extra time, go for a walk. If it’s extra peace, take five deep breaths. If it’s extra money be- cause you decided to just pay the stupid traffic ticket instead of letting it sit on your desk accruing late fees, then take that extra money and invest it in something that makes you happy. Play with your kids. Take a nap. Just do something that makes you feel the opposite of how you felt before you let go. I can guarantee you, this is one investment you’ll never regret. And then, after you’re done with all that, send me an email. If you’re willing to share, I’d love to know what you decide to let go. Email me at email@example.com. Last week’s emails were amazing, and I’m looking forward to reading more. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/23/your-money/the-cost-of-holding-on.html? em_pos=large&emc=edit_nn_20160823&nl=morning-brief- ing&nlid=73301161&ref=business&_r=1 © 2016 The New York Times Company ================================================ 4. WHAT DANISH PARENTS KNOW ABOUT TEACHING EMPATHY BY KATIE HINTZ-ZAMBRANO, MOTHERMAG, AUGUST 3, 2015 We all want our kids to be happy. And happiness is something the Danes have supposedly figured out, with research consistently showing that residents of Denmark are among the happiest in the world. So, it’s not a huge surprise that an article we published on Danish parenting tips has proved to be one of our most-read. Due to this popularity, we decided to do a deep-dive into some of the bigger philosophies rooted in Danish culture with The Danish Way of Parenting authors Jessica Alexander and psychotherapist Iben Sandahl leading the way. Last month we discussed the power of play-based parenting, and this time around we’re talking to the authors about the Danes’ belief in the importance of teaching children the concept of empathy. Tell us how you define empathy. “Empathy is the ability to recognize another’s emotions or more simply put—being able to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. America is much more individual based. Being a winner and striving to be the best are very normal goals for us. This equates to success and I don’t think we really question it. It is just part of our culture. Winning means a lot. Perhaps one of the major differences between Denmark and America is that Danes value teamwork much more than striving to be a star. And with that, they actively teach empathy.” How does practicing empathy connect to overall happiness? “All the latest neurological research shows that humans get more happiness from cooperating with others than from winning alone. Scientists have discovered ‘the social brain,’ which lights up to show that we are driven by something beyond self-interest: We are driven towards social connectedness. Caring relationships are one of the big- gest predictors of happiness, well above money. It used to be believed that humans were innately selfish, but that is simply not true. We are all wired for empathy from birth. We just have to learn how to connect the wires to make it work. Being able to better trust and understand others are keys to achieving more happiness. And kids can be taught this.” How do Danish parents teach this? “The Danes teach empathy in schools, which is quite special. Empathy is such a big concept and it is taught in so many different ways for different ages. Three examples would be language choice, letting children self-regulate, and reading a wide range of stories.” Tell us about that first concept: Using language choice to teach empathy. “The first thing that is crucial to remember when teaching empathy is that our children are mirroring us. The kind of language we use is so important. How do you describe others? Are you understanding or judgmental? Tolerant or shaming? These are all things children are copying. Talking badly about others in front of kids and saying things like ‘She is mean,’ ‘He is selfish,’ ‘She is so annoying’ is not empathic language because it isn’t recognizing the emotions behind the action—it’s labeling. In Denmark, you almost never hear parents talking negatively about other children in front of their children. They are always trying to find ways to get their children to understand another child’s behavior without a negative label. If you remember that all children are fundamentally good and there is a reason behind all behaviors, this helps us naturally find the good in others. This makes us feel better because it teaches ‘re-framing’—another Danish Way concept that improves happiness. We can help our children find the reasons behind the labels ‘He is annoying? Do you think maybe he is hungry? Or could he be tired because he missed his nap? You know how it feels be to be hungry and tired, right?’ ‘She is mean? It sounds like she had a bad day at school. The other day you said she was sweet. She is actually sweet, right?’ Helping children understand the feelings behind behaviors and leading them to a kinder conclusion is teaching empathy. It operates on the same neural pathway as forgiveness and it fosters more trust, cooperation, and a much better sibling relationship if you have more than one child. And don’t forget that parents have to have empathy for themselves sometimes, too. Parenting is hard and we don’t always get it right and that’s ok. Being understanding and forgiving of ourselves makes us better at forgiving our children and others.” Explain the concept of self-regulation. “Before we can be good at recognizing the emotions of others, we have to be able to understand our own emotions. Parents sometimes tell children what they think they should or shouldn’t feel. They override them. If they are sad, angry, hungry, cold, or upset, some parents tell them ‘No, you aren’t,’ ‘Don’t be sad,’ ‘You have no reason to be angry,’ ‘You should be hungry, eat!’ Telling children how they should feel is not letting them learn to self-regulate their own feelings. As parents, we have to give our children trust so that they can learn about their own emotional boundaries. This builds a stronger sense of self, which is paramount to self-esteem down the road. When they are older they will be less afraid to say ‘no’ when their boundaries are pushed because they will trust themselves to make the right decision based on what they feel. This is such an important lesson to teach children. We can help them with the language use, but we need to trust them so they can trust themselves. Remember, there are no good or bad emotions. There are just emotions.” What kind of stories can we read our children to help teach empathy? “Read all kinds of stories to children, not only happy ones. Talking about difficult emotions in books can be a fantastic way to build empathy. Many Danish children’s books are shocking by American standards with the topics they cover, but studies have shown that reading about all emotions increases a child’s ability to empathize. The original Little Mermaid, which is a Danish story, doesn’t get the prince in the end, but rather dies of sadness and turns into sea foam. That opens up quite a different kind of discussion! But it is incredible how receptive children are. They want to talk about all kinds of things. It seems to be more difficult for adults sometimes than for children. Remember, they are mirroring our discomfort. If we talk about life’s peaks and valleys in a non-dramatic way, our children will be more resilient in the long run. Books are a great way to teach empathy.” http://www.mothermag.com/teaching-empathy-to-children ================================================= 4. OLD PEOPLE ARE HAPPIER THAN PEOPLE IN THEIR 20’S BY MANDY OAKLAND, TIME.COM, AUGUST 26, 2016 A surprising study suggests that the older you are, the happier. Despite of the physical ravages of age, older people are actually happier than younger adults. So finds a new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, in which researchers analyzed data collected from a random sample of 1,546 people from ages 21 to 99 in San Diego. After a phone interview, the people in the study filled out a long survey asking about their physical, cognitive and mental health. Question topics included how happy and satisfied with life they were, as well as how depressed, anxious or stressed they were. “There’s this idea that old age is bad, it’s all gloom and doom and older people are usually depressed, grumpy and unhappy,” says study author Dr. Dilip Jeste, a geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Center on Healthy Aging at the University of California, San Diego. Happiness and wellbeing are thought to take a U-shaped curve throughout life, dipping down in middle age before inching up again later in old age. But that’s not what the surveys said. Older people were physically more disabled and had more cognitive impairment than younger ones—the natural deterioration of aging—but in mental health, the advantage flipped. People in their 20s and 30s reported having the highest levels of depression, anxiety and stress, plus the lowest levels of happiness, satisfaction and wellbeing. Older people, surprisingly, were the happiest. The study was just a snapshot in time; it didn’t follow people to track how their answers changed throughout their own lives. But taken as a whole, “as they got older, it looks like things started getting better for them,” Jeste says. “It suggests that with age, there’s a progressive improvement in mental health.” What’s so terribly hard about being young? After the turbulence of adolescence, real life begins, with its many financial, educational, romantic and career-oriented demands, Jeste says. “There is constant peer pressure: you’re looking at others and always feeling bad that you’re not succeeding like some of them, and you feel like you have lots of choices but you’re not really making use of them.” Older people are much better able to brush off life’s small stressors and accumulate a valuable thing called wisdom: being emotionally stable and compassionate, knowing yourself and being able to make smart social decisions, Jeste says. Some evidence suggests that life today also really is easier for older folks than it used to be; one study found that depressive symptoms in late life have declined from 1998 to 2008. Other research supports a worsening trend for younger adults, who seem to have more depression and anxiety than youth in recent decades. Though the reasons why aren’t yet clear, “it is conceivable that the changes in societal functioning because of progressive globalization, technology development, increased competition for higher education and for better paying jobs and changing roles of women in the society are likely to impact young women and men more than they might affect older people,” Jeste says. “Any relatively rapid changes tend to bring in stress for the people most affected.” http://time.com/4464811/aging-happiness-stress-anxiety-depression/ ================================================= 6. WHAT YOU’RE MEANT TO DO… BY BRIAN WIEST, PERSONAL GROWTH, MEDIUM.COM, JULY 25, 2016
You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love.
You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At.When people learn that I’m a writer, more than half of them will immediately tell me about how they have an idea for a book, or that they need an editor for their autobiography, or that, though it sounds crazy, they are certain they have this one idea that would be a mega bestseller. Like, one of the biggest books in the world. I have not known one of them to have published anything — nor are they working on their (supposedly brilliant) bodies of work. They aren’t asking about how to write 5,000+ words a day. They aren’t strategizing their marketing plans, or researching agencies, or pitching queries to publishing houses. In other cases, writing a few articles a day becomes too much labor, their ideas dry out after a month. They’re frustrated. They’re at odds with themselves. The very thing they love is proving to be a wrong fit. How can this be? We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of. But more importantly, you are not meant to do what you love. You are meant to do what you’re skilled at. Imagine an aspiring doctor with a low IQ but a lot of “passion.” They wouldn’t make it through medical school, and you wouldn’t want them to. If that person didn’t know better, they’d develop an inferiority complex and spend the better part of their life bitter and assuming themselves to be failures. They didn’t get to do what they thought they loved, so they haven’t actualized their lives as they were supposed to. Premeditating what we think we’d love to do without actually being in the thick of it is the beginning of the problem, and having too much ego to scrap it and start over is the end. When we try to anticipate what we’d love, we’re running on a projection, an assumption. Almost everybody believes they have the talent to succeed at the thing they really love. Needless to say, not everybody is correct. If everybody did what they thought they loved, the important things wouldn’t get done. To function as a society, there are labors that are necessary. Someone has to do them. Is that person robbed of a life of passion, because they had to choose a life of skill and purpose? No, of course not. You can choose what you love to do, simply by how you think of it and what you focus on. Everything is work. Everything is work. Everything is work. There are few jobs that are fundamentally “easier” than others, whether by virtue of manual labor or brain-power. There is only finding a job that suits you enough that the work doesn’t feel excruciating. There is only finding what you are skilled at, and then learning to be thankful. The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give. We are not fulfilled by what we can seek to please us, but what we can build and offer. It is not fame, or money, or recognition that makes for a thoroughly meaningful life, it is how we put our gifts to use. It is how we give. Think about the structure of that phrase: “Do what you have to give.” What you have to give. What is already within you. Your gifts are not random, they are a blueprint for your destiny. There’s more to your life than just what you think will make you happy. Your real talents may not stroke your ego as much, but if you apply to them the kind of higher thinking that allows you to find the purpose within them, you will be able to get up every single day and work diligently. Not because you are stoking your senses and stroking your ego, but because you are using what you have. You are doing what you came here to do. https://medium.com/personal-growth/youre-not-meant-to-do-what-you-love-you-re- meant-to-do-what-you-re-good-at-4e8e6b8e929d#.93uvrwme8 ================================================ 7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS: THE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION IN 13 MINUTES… ZHENG CHUNHUI’S 40’ WOOD CARVING… AMANDA AND MARITZA TALK ABOUT DEATH… A GREAT OLDIE: POWERS OF TEN: SEE THE SIZE OF THE UNIVERSE… ================================================= © Copyright 2016, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam. =================================================
Newsletter – July 2016
Newsletter – June 2016
============================================THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP – JUNE 2016 1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS 2. HOW AMERICAN POLITICS WENT INSANE
I. IMMUNITY WHY THE POLITICAL CLASS IS A GOOD THING
II. VULNERABILITY HOW THE WAR ON MIDDLEMEN LEFT AMERICA HELPLESS III. PATHOGENS DONALD TRUMP AND OTHER VIRUSES
IV. SYMPTOMS THE DISORDER THAT EXACERBATES ALL OTHER DISORDERS
V. PROGNOSIS & TREATMENT CHAOS SYNDROME AS A PSYCHIATRIC DISORDER3. THIS MONTH’S LINKS ============================================ QUOTES OF THE MONTH – TONY BLAIR & MATTHEW D’ANCONA “It was already clear before the Brexit vote that modern populist movements could take control of political parties. What wasn’t clear was whether they could take over a country like Britain. Now we know they can…” “In leaving the world’s largest single market, Britain has resigned from the grown-ups’ table and effectively kicked out a prime minister voters had re-elected only 13 months earlier. As tantrums go, this was Olympic-class…” ============================================ 1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS June Greetings, Dear Friends… I know this newsletter can just seem like more about American politics, but it’s much more than that. It’s about what’s happening to all of us everywhere in this time. And it’s narrowly focused and not a fun newsletter. But sometimes we all need a little shaking up. The frightening societal forces that the combination of Brexit, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have exposed—not caused—has shaken me and many others… TONY BLAIR: “The political center has lost its power to persuade and its essential means of connection to the people it seeks to represent. Instead, we are seeing a convergence of the far left and far right. The right attacks immigrants while the left rails at bankers, but the spirit of insurgency, the venting of anger at those in power and the addiction to simple, demagogic answers to complex problems are the same for both extremes. Underlying it all is a shared hostility to globalization.” MATTHEW D’ANCONA: “Beneath these specific imperatives lurked more general sentiments — in particular, a contempt for the political class and a disdain for the self-styled aristocracy of experts… This campaign has been pockmarked by xenophobia and thinly concealed racism: a deeply disturbing development in mainstream politics… MICHAEL PASCOE: “The hope that most Americans are not dangerously ignorant people and that they will bother to vote against Trump should sustain us. Trump being elected President of the United States must remain unlikely – but so were Brexit and Trump winning the Republican nomination.” Jonathan Rauch’s piece contains a penetrating systems analysis of how this happened and what can be done about it. Yes, it is very long—and I hope you will read it to see if it shakes some of your prejudices about politicians as it has mine. Rauch offers profound wisdom that can, with understanding and patience, support elders everywhere to help their communities recognize and avoid the more destructive behaviors of immaturity. A flash of insight led me to substitute “marriage” for “politics” in his paragraph below. Illusions can make us very unrealistic about both politics and partnering! “The problem is not, however, that disruptions happen. The problem is that chaos syndrome wreaks havoc on the system’s (the marriage’s) ability to absorb and channel disruptions. Trying to quash political (marital) disruptions would probably only create more of them. The trick is to be able to govern (negotiate) through them.” As the Brexit, Sanders and Trump campaigns make so clear, infatuation can plunge us into the most simplistic illusions about politics as well as partners. But whether the exhilaration of those illusions will evolve into healthy or abusive behavior is always a huge risk…
Romance & IntimacyIt’s spring again. Everything is bursting with life and hormones are flowing everywhere, most definitely in me. Every year at this time I want to be in love again. Not the mature, comfortable and continuing love I have with my beautiful wife, but that crazy, turn-your-life-upside-down kind of love only the immaturity of adolescence could indulge in. I miss those ridiculously romantic days of my youth. Don’t you? But I don’t want to act them out anymore. As exciting as I know they still could be, these romantic urges are way too destructive to the life I live and love the other eleven months of the year. If I were a researcher, I’d have some statistics about how truly destructive this annual dose of free Viagra is to on-going relationships, but I’m not and I don’t. If you’re alive, I doubt you need any. Spring IS – and it fuels the sensual, sexual, romantic fool in all of us. If this isn’t true for you, I’m sorry you’ve missed it, even though your life has likely been infinitely easier if somewhat less interesting. What I’m talking about here is the paradox of “Romance & Intimacy.” This is one paradox I haven’t figured out how to resolve, and I’ve tried more ways than most people can imagine (not bigamy and incest – I do have my limits!). The stats on that trying (I didn’t have to do research for these since they’re my life) are four marriages, six living-togethers and uncountable liaisons. Please do not dismiss me as some horny and lecherous Neanderthal proud of his conquests. Yes, I had my share of one night stands, but those were not what all these were really about. I loved being in love. I still do. I just don’t know how to put it together with the rest of my life that I also love and want to keep. What do I mean by “being in love”? I mean my whole life revolving around one other person. I mean writing and waiting for love letters every day. I mean spending money I didn’t have on telephone calls. I mean counting the days until Thanksgiving or Christmas or spring vacation came. I mean driving across the country to see that person. I mean Simon & Garfunkel’s “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her”… I mean Joni Mitchell’s lyrics to “Chelsea Morning”…
Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses
Oh, won’t you stay We’ll put on the day And we’ll talk in present tenses When the curtain closes and the rainbow runs away I will bring you incense Owls by night By candlelight By jewel-light If only you will stay…How could the “day-after-day” of one partner ever compete with such exhilaration and ecstasy? How could we not be seduced away from our daily routines of jobs, diapers, PTA meetings and mortgage payments by a “Bridges of Madison County”? Why do we stay in the ordinariness of our small towns and suburbs and apartments? Because, ecstatic as romance can be, the maturity of intimacy offers more.
Enlightenment is just intimacy with all things. Eihei DoganWe are woefully unprepared to resolve the paradox of romance and intimacy, particularly when we embark on serious commitments like marriage. I probably qualify as some sort of expert here having been married four times (a very dubious distinction). Something that helped clarify the complexity involved came to me years ago in the Parade Magazine supplement to our Sunday paper. (Wisdom comes in the most unlikely places – I certainly didn’t expect it in Parade Magazine). There was an article written by a French woman, and it was about how funny we Americans are in the way we try to do our relationships with our significant others. She said there are fundamentally two kinds of relationships between partners, and they’re very, very different. In fact, she suggested they are to some extent mutually exclusive. One form these relationships take is romance. Romance is steeped in mystique which is based on unfamiliarity, newness and all the kinds of unknowing that lets you project your romantic ideal (Doris Day, Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lopez, Leo DiCaprio, whoever…) onto the other person. You haven’t yet got enough experience with your beloved to have your projection smashed on the rocks of reality. That’s romantic infatuation, and it never survives real intimacy. The other form these relationships take is the true intimacy of companionship. Intimacy grows in sharing life together and is rooted in the familiarity of day-to-day closeness (including underwear left on the floor, shaving stubble in the sink and “Oh, I forgot to tell you…”) and all the other kinds of knowing that make maintaining projected ideals impossible. (If you want to be an ideal, stay away from intimacy – this is why our politicians are so careful never to let you see these all-too-human sides of them). Intimacy means knowing our partners on all their dimensions, and this raises hell with the romantic illusions we often start out with. This wise French lady (whose name I wish I could remember) went on to say, “How strange you Americans are! You think you can have both romantic illusion and intimate companionship in the same relationship. In France we understand and honor the differences between these two. We have our marriages for companionship and our affairs for romance.” Now I’m not suggesting we should plan to have affairs, but what her article did for me was raise up this apparent paradox between romantic exhilaration and intimate companionship, for, of course, any alive person wants both. To me this means once I pass the borders of infatuation (where I can project my romantic ideal on the other person), I’m going to have to redefine romance. It can no longer be infatuation based on lack of familiarity; it has to be something else. I do know that companionship and its intimacy has become much more important than romance as I’ve gotten older, whereas romance was much more important when I was younger. Now Donna (my fourth and last wife) would certainly object more than a little to my saying intimacy’s so important to me. She says I rarely tell her anything of significance without her asking, and I admit that’s largely true (I’m convinced it’s a gender thing more than a personal defect). But at sixty-five our being together and around each other has become the heart of our relationship for me. This is true even though I have always been, and still am, a romantic by nature. Romance is conceptually still attractive, but not with anywhere near the power it used to have… The ideal of “political purity” is conceptually still attractive to me, but, after reading Rauch’s article, I know it’s time to mature into supporting the necessity of “political intimacy”… Much love, FW PS: Many thanks to Don Rhoades for getting me to read this long piece! PPS: If you can stand more, there are two articles in THIS MONTH’S LINKS that present very different views… www.FatherWilliam.org ============================================ 2. HOW AMERICAN POLITICS BECAME SO INEFFECTIVE BY JONATHAN RAUCH, THE ATLANTIC.COM, JUNE 23, 2016 FW Note: *There is a medical definition of Congenital High Airway Obstruction Syndrome (C.H.A.O.S.), but Rauch seems to use this term in a more colloquial way. It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse. It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve. On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it. As the presidential primaries unfold, Kanye West is leading a fractured field of Democrats. The Republican front-runner is Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. Elected governor of Louisiana only a few months ago, he is promising to defy the Washington establishment by never trimming his beard. Party elders have given up all pretense of being more than spectators, and most of the candidates have given up all pretense of party loyalty. On the debate stages, and everywhere else, anything goes. I could continue, but you get the gist. Yes, the political future I’ve described is unreal. But it is also a linear extrapolation of several trends on vivid display right now. Astonishingly, the 2016 Republican presidential race has been dominated by a candidate who is not, in any meaningful sense, a Republican. According to registration records, since 1987 Donald Trump has been a Republican, then an independent, then a Democrat, then a Republican, then “I do not wish to enroll in a party,” then a Republican; he has donated to both parties; he has shown loyalty to and affinity for neither. The second-place candidate, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, built his brand by tearing down his party’s: slurring the Senate Republican leader, railing against the Republican establishment, and closing the government as a career move. The Republicans’ noisy breakdown has been echoed eerily, albeit less loudly, on the Democratic side, where, after the early primaries, one of the two remaining contestants for the nomination was not, in any meaningful sense, a Democrat. Senator Bernie Sanders was an independent who switched to nominal Democratic affiliation on the day he filed for the New Hampshire primary, only three months before that election. He surged into second place by winning independents while losing Democrats. If it had been up to Democrats to choose their party’s nominee, Sanders’s bid would have collapsed after Super Tuesday. In their various ways, Trump, Cruz, and Sanders are demonstrating a new principle: The political parties no longer have either intelligible boundaries or enforceable norms, and, as a result, renegade political behavior pays. Political disintegration plagues Congress, too. House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker last year. Congress did agree in the fall on a budget framework intended to keep the government open through the election—a signal accomplishment, by today’s low standards—but by April, hard-line conservatives had revoked the deal, thereby humiliating the new speaker and potentially causing another shutdown crisis this fall. As of this writing, it’s not clear whether the hard-liners will push to the brink, but the bigger point is this: If they do, there is not much that party leaders can do about it. And here is the still bigger point: The very term party leaders has become an anachronism. Although Capitol Hill and the campaign trail are miles apart, the breakdown in order in both places reflects the underlying reality that there no longer is any such thing as a party leader. There are only individual actors, pursuing their own political interests and ideological missions willy-nilly, like excited gas molecules in an overheated balloon. No wonder Paul Ryan, taking the gavel as the new (and reluctant) House speaker in October, complained that the American people “look at Washington, and all they see is chaos. What a relief to them it would be if we finally got our act together.” No one seemed inclined to disagree. Nor was there much argument two months later when Jeb Bush, his presidential campaign sinking, used the c-word in a different but equally apt context. Donald Trump, he said, is “a chaos candidate, and he’d be a chaos president.” Unfortunately for Bush, Trump’s supporters didn’t mind. They liked that about him. Trump, however, didn’t cause the chaos. The chaos caused Trump. What we are seeing is not a temporary spasm of chaos but a chaos syndrome. Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself. Our intricate, informal system of political intermediation, which took many decades to build, did not commit suicide or die of old age; we reformed it to death. For decades, well-meaning political reformers have attacked intermediaries as corrupt, undemocratic, unnecessary, or (usually) all of the above. Americans have been busy demonizing and disempowering political professionals and parties, which is like spending decades abusing and attacking your own immune system. Eventually, you will get sick. The disorder has other causes, too: developments such as ideological polarization, the rise of social media, and the radicalization of the Republican base. But chaos syndrome compounds the effects of those developments, by impeding the task of organizing to counteract them. Insurgencies in presidential races and on Capitol Hill are nothing new, and they are not necessarily bad, as long as the governing process can accommodate them. Years before the Senate had to cope with Ted Cruz, it had to cope with Jesse Helms. The difference is that Cruz shut down the government, which Helms could not have done had he even imagined trying. Like many disorders, chaos syndrome is self-reinforcing. It causes governmental dysfunction, which fuels public anger, which incites political disruption, which causes yet more governmental dysfunction. Reversing the spiral will require understanding it. Consider, then, the etiology of a political disease: the immune system that defended the body politic for two centuries; the gradual dismantling of that immune system; the emergence of pathogens capable of exploiting the new vulnerability; the symptoms of the disorder; and, finally, its prognosis and treatment.
I. Immunity Why the political class is a good thingThe Founders knew all too well about chaos. It was the condition that brought them together in 1787 under the Articles of Confederation. The central government had too few powers and powers of the wrong kinds, so they gave it more powers, and also multiple power centers. The core idea of the Constitution was to restrain ambition and excess by forcing competing powers and factions to bargain and compromise. The Framers worried about demagogic excess and populist caprice, so they created buffers and gatekeepers between voters and the government. Only one chamber, the House of Representatives, would be directly elected. A radical who wanted to get into the Senate would need to get past the state legislature, which selected senators; a usurper who wanted to seize the presidency would need to get past the Electoral College, a convocation of elders who chose the president; and so on. They were visionaries, those men in Philadelphia, but they could not foresee everything, and they made a serious omission. Unlike the British parliamentary system, the Constitution makes no provision for holding politicians accountable to one another. A rogue member of Congress can’t be “fired” by his party leaders, as a member of Parliament can; a renegade president cannot be evicted in a vote of no confidence, as a British prime minister can. By and large, American politicians are independent operators, and they became even more independent when later reforms, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, neutered the Electoral College and established direct election to the Senate. The Constitution makes no mention of many of the essential political structures that we take for granted, such as political parties and congressional committees. If the Constitution were all we had, politicians would be incapable of getting organized to accomplish even routine tasks. Every day, for every bill or compromise, they would have to start from scratch, rounding up hundreds of individual politicians and answering to thousands of squabbling constituencies and millions of voters. By itself, the Constitution is a recipe for chaos. So Americans developed a second, unwritten constitution. Beginning in the 1790s, politicians sorted themselves into parties. In the 1830s, under Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, the parties established patronage machines and grass-roots bases. The machines and parties used rewards and the occasional punishment to encourage politicians to work together. Meanwhile, Congress developed its seniority and committee systems, rewarding reliability and establishing cooperative routines. Parties, leaders, machines, and congressional hierarchies built densely woven incentive structures that bound politicians into coherent teams. Personal alliances, financial contributions, promotions and prestige, political perks, pork-barrel spending, endorsements, and sometimes a trip to the woodshed or the wilderness: All of those incentives and others, including some of dubious respectability, came into play. If the Constitution was the system’s DNA, the parties and machines and political brokers were its RNA, translating the Founders’ bare-bones framework into dynamic organizations and thus converting conflict into action. The informal constitution’s intermediaries have many names and faces: state and national party committees, county party chairs, congressional subcommittees, leadership pacs, convention delegates, bundlers, and countless more. For purposes of this essay, I’ll call them all middlemen, because all of them mediated between disorganized swarms of politicians and disorganized swarms of voters, thereby performing the indispensable task that the great political scientist James Q. Wilson called “assembling power in the formal government.” The middlemen could be undemocratic, high-handed, devious, secretive. But they had one great virtue: They brought order from chaos. They encouraged coordination, interdependency, and mutual accountability. They discouraged solipsistic and antisocial political behavior. A loyal, time-serving member of Congress could expect easy renomination, financial help, promotion through the ranks of committees and leadership jobs, and a new airport or research center for his district. A turncoat or troublemaker, by contrast, could expect to encounter ostracism, marginalization, and difficulties with fund-raising. The system was hierarchical, but it was not authoritarian. Even the lowliest precinct walker or officeholder had a role and a voice and could expect a reward for loyalty; even the highest party boss had to cater to multiple constituencies and fend off periodic challengers. Parties, machines, and hacks may not have been pretty, but at their best they did their job so well that the country forgot why it needed them. Politics seemed almost to organize itself, but only because the middlemen recruited and nurtured political talent, vetted candidates for competence and loyalty, gathered and dispensed money, built bases of donors and supporters, forged coalitions, bought off antagonists, mediated disputes, brokered compromises, and greased the skids to turn those compromises into law. Though sometimes arrogant, middlemen were not generally elitist. They excelled at organizing and representing unsophisticated voters, as Tammany Hall famously did for the working-class Irish of New York, to the horror of many Progressives who viewed the Irish working class as unfit to govern or even to vote. The old machines were inclusive only by the standards of their day, of course. They were bad on race—but then, so were Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson. The more intrinsic hazard with middlemen and machines is the ever-present potential for corruption, which is a real problem. On the other hand, overreacting to the threat of corruption by stamping out influence-peddling (as distinct from bribery and extortion) is just as harmful. Political contributions, for example, look unseemly, but they play a vital role as political bonding agents. When a party raised a soft-money donation from a millionaire and used it to support a candidate’s campaign (a common practice until the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banned it in federal elections), the exchange of favors tied a knot of mutual accountability that linked candidate, party, and donor together and forced each to think about the interests of the others. Such transactions may not have comported with the Platonic ideal of democracy, but in the real world they did much to stabilize the system and discourage selfish behavior. Middlemen have a characteristic that is essential in politics: They stick around. Because careerists and hacks make their living off the system, they have a stake in assembling durable coalitions, in retaining power over time, and in keeping the government in functioning order. Slash-and-burn protests and quixotic ideological crusades are luxuries they can’t afford. Insurgents and renegades have a role, which is to jolt the system with new energy and ideas; but professionals also have a role, which is to safely absorb the energy that insurgents unleash. Think of them as analogous to antibodies and white blood cells, establishing and patrolling the barriers between the body politic and would-be hijackers on the outside. As with biology, so with politics: When the immune system works, it is largely invisible. Only when it breaks down do we become aware of its importance.
II. Vulnerability How the war on middlemen left America defenselessBeginning early in the 20th century, and continuing right up to the present, reformers and the public turned against every aspect of insider politics: professional politicians, closed-door negotiations, personal favors, party bosses, financial ties, all of it. Progressives accused middlemen of subverting the public interest; populists accused them of obstructing the people’s will; conservatives accused them of protecting and expanding big government. To some extent, the reformers were right. They had good intentions and valid complaints. Back in the 1970s, as a teenager in the post-Watergate era, I was on their side. Why allow politicians ever to meet behind closed doors? Sunshine is the best disinfectant! Why allow private money to buy favors and distort policy making? Ban it and use Treasury funds to finance elections! It was easy, in those days, to see that there was dirty water in the tub. What was not so evident was the reason the water was dirty, which was the baby. So we started reforming. We reformed the nominating process. The use of primary elections instead of conventions, caucuses, and other insider-dominated processes dates to the era of Theodore Roosevelt, but primary elections and party influence coexisted through the 1960s; especially in congressional and state races, party leaders had many ways to influence nominations and vet candidates. According to Jon Meacham, in his biography of George H. W. Bush, here is how Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, got started in politics: “Samuel F. Pryor, a top Pan Am executive and a mover in Connecticut politics, called Prescott to ask whether Bush might like to run for Congress. ‘If you would,’ Pryor said, ‘I think we can assure you that you’ll be the nominee.’ ” Today, party insiders can still jawbone a little bit, but, as the 2016 presidential race has made all too clear, there is startlingly little they can do to influence the nominating process. Primary races now tend to be dominated by highly motivated extremists and interest groups, with the perverse result of leaving moderates and broader, less well-organized constituencies underrepresented. According to the Pew Research Center, in the first 12 presidential-primary contests of 2016, only 17 percent of eligible voters participated in Republican primaries, and only 12 percent in Democratic primaries. In other words, Donald Trump seized the lead in the primary process by winning a mere plurality of a mere fraction of the electorate. In off-year congressional primaries, when turnout is even lower, it’s even easier for the tail to wag the dog. In the 2010 Delaware Senate race, Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell secured the Republican nomination by winning just a sixth of the state’s registered Republicans, thereby handing a competitive seat to the Democrats. Surveying congressional primaries for a 2014 Brookings Institution report, the journalists Jill Lawrence and Walter Shapiro observed: “The universe of those who actually cast primary ballots is small and hyper-partisan, and rewards candidates who hew to ideological orthodoxy.” By contrast, party hacks tend to shop for candidates who exert broad appeal in a general election and who will sustain and build the party’s brand, so they generally lean toward relative moderates and team players.
Parties, machines, and hacks may not have been pretty, but they did their job — so well that the country forgot why it needed them.Moreover, recent research by the political scientists Jamie L. Carson and Jason M. Roberts finds that party leaders of yore did a better job of encouraging qualified mainstream candidates to challenge incumbents. “In congressional districts across the country, party leaders were able to carefully select candidates who would contribute to the collective good of the ticket,” Carson and Roberts write in their 2013 book, Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform: The Politics of Congressional Elections Across Time. “This led to a plentiful supply of quality candidates willing to enter races, since the potential costs of running and losing were largely underwritten by the party organization.” The switch to direct primaries, in which contenders generally self-recruit and succeed or fail on their own account, has produced more oddball and extreme challengers and thereby made general elections less competitive. “A series of reforms that were intended to create more open and less ‘insider’ dominated elections actually produced more entrenched politicians,” Carson and Roberts write. The paradoxical result is that members of Congress today are simultaneously less responsive to mainstream interests and harder to dislodge. Was the switch to direct public nomination a net benefit or drawback? The answer to that question is subjective. But one effect is not in doubt: Institutionalists have less power than ever before to protect loyalists who play well with other politicians, or who take a tough congressional vote for the team, or who dare to cross single-issue voters and interests; and they have little capacity to fend off insurgents who owe nothing to anybody. Walled safely inside their gerrymandered districts, incumbents are insulated from general-election challenges that might pull them toward the political center, but they are perpetually vulnerable to primary challenges from extremists who pull them toward the fringes. Everyone worries about being the next Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader who, in a shocking upset, lost to an unknown Tea Partier in his 2014 primary. Legislators are scared of voting for anything that might increase the odds of a primary challenge, which is one reason it is so hard to raise the debt limit or pass a budget. In March, when Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas told a Rotary Club meeting that he thought President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee deserved a Senate hearing, the Tea Party Patriots immediately responded with what has become activists’ go-to threat: “It’s this kind of outrageous behavior that leads Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund activists and supporters to think seriously about encouraging Dr. Milton Wolf”—a physician and Tea Party activist—“to run against Sen. Moran in the August GOP primary.” (Moran hastened to issue a statement saying that he would oppose Obama’s nominee regardless.) Purist issue groups often have the whip hand now, and unlike the elected bosses of yore, they are accountable only to themselves and are able merely to prevent legislative action, not to organize it. We reformed political money. Starting in the 1970s, large-dollar donations to candidates and parties were subject to a tightening web of regulations. The idea was to reduce corruption (or its appearance) and curtail the power of special interests—certainly laudable goals. Campaign-finance rules did stop some egregious transactions, but at a cost: Instead of eliminating money from politics (which is impossible), the rules diverted much of it to private channels. Whereas the parties themselves were once largely responsible for raising and spending political money, in their place has arisen a burgeoning ecology of deep-pocketed donors, super pacs, 501(c)(4)s, and so-called 527 groups that now spend hundreds of millions of dollars each cycle. The result has been the creation of an array of private political machines across the country: for instance, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads on the right, and Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate on the left. Private groups are much harder to regulate, less transparent, and less accountable than are the parties and candidates, who do, at the end of the day, have to face the voters. Because they thrive on purism, protest, and parochialism, the outside groups are driving politics toward polarization, extremism, and short-term gain. “You may win or lose, but at least you have been intellectually consistent—your principles haven’t been defeated,” an official with Americans for Prosperity told The Economist in October 2014. The parties, despite being called to judgment by voters for their performance, face all kinds of constraints and regulations that the private groups don’t, tilting the playing field against them. “The internal conversation we’ve been having is ‘How do we keep state parties alive?’ ” the director of a mountain-state Democratic Party organization told me and Raymond J. La Raja recently for a Brookings Institution report. Republicans told us the same story. “We believe we are fighting for our lives in the current legal and judicial framework, and the super pacs and (c)(4)s really present a direct threat to the state parties’ existence,” a southern state’s Republican Party director said. The state parties also told us they can’t begin to match the advertising money flowing from outside groups and candidates. Weakened by regulations and resource constraints, they have been reduced to spectators, while candidates and groups form circular firing squads and alienate voters. At the national level, the situation is even more chaotic—and ripe for exploitation by a savvy demagogue who can make himself heard above the din, as Donald Trump has so shrewdly proved. We reformed Congress. For a long time, seniority ruled on Capitol Hill. To exercise power, you had to wait for years, and chairs ran their committees like fiefs. It was an arrangement that hardly seemed either meritocratic or democratic. Starting with a rebellion by the liberal post-Watergate class in the ’70s, and then accelerating with the rise of Newt Gingrich and his conservative revolutionaries in the ’90s, the seniority and committee systems came under attack and withered. Power on the Hill has flowed both up to a few top leaders and down to individual members. Unfortunately, the reformers overlooked something important: Seniority and committee spots rewarded teamwork and loyalty, they ensured that people at the top were experienced, and they harnessed hundreds of middle-ranking members of Congress to the tasks of legislating. Compounding the problem, Gingrich’s Republican revolutionaries, eager to prove their anti-Washington bona fides, cut committee staffs by a third, further diminishing Congress’s institutional horsepower.
Smoke-filled rooms were good for brokering complex compromises in which nothing was settled until everything was settled.Congress’s attempts to replace hierarchies and middlemen with top-down diktat and ad hoc working groups have mostly failed. More than perhaps ever before, Congress today is a collection of individual entrepreneurs and pressure groups. In the House, disintermediation has shifted the balance of power toward a small but cohesive minority of conservative Freedom Caucus members who think nothing of wielding their power against their own leaders. Last year, as House Republicans struggled to agree on a new speaker, the conservatives did not blush at demanding “the right to oppose their leaders and vote down legislation without repercussions,” as Time magazine reported. In the Senate, Ted Cruz made himself a leading presidential contender by engaging in debt-limit brinkmanship and deriding the party’s leadership, going so far as to call Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor. “The rhetoric—and confrontational stance—are classic Cruz,” wrote Burgess Everett in Politico last October: “Stake out a position to the right of where his leaders will end up, criticize them for ignoring him and conservative grass-roots voters, then use the ensuing internecine fight to stoke his presidential bid.” No wonder his colleagues detest him. But Cruz was doing what makes sense in an age of maximal political individualism, and we can safely bet that his success will inspire imitation. We reformed closed-door negotiations. As recently as the early 1970s, congressional committees could easily retreat behind closed doors and members could vote on many bills anonymously, with only the final tallies reported. Federal advisory committees, too, could meet off the record. Understandably, in the wake of Watergate, those practices came to be viewed as suspect. Today, federal law, congressional rules, and public expectations have placed almost all formal deliberations and many informal ones in full public view. One result is greater transparency, which is good. But another result is that finding space for delicate negotiations and candid deliberations can be difficult. Smoke-filled rooms, whatever their disadvantages, were good for brokering complex compromises in which nothing was settled until everything was settled; once gone, they turned out to be difficult to replace. In public, interest groups and grandstanding politicians can tear apart a compromise before it is halfway settled. Despite promising to televise negotiations over health-care reform, President Obama went behind closed doors with interest groups to put the package together; no sane person would have negotiated in full public view. In 2013, Congress succeeded in approving a modest bipartisan budget deal in large measure because the House and Senate Budget Committee chairs were empowered to “figure it out themselves, very, very privately,” as one Democratic aide told Jill Lawrence for a 2015 Brookings report. TV cameras, recorded votes, and public markups do increase transparency, but they come at the cost of complicating candid conversations. “The idea that Washington would work better if there were TV cameras monitoring every conversation gets it exactly wrong,” the Democratic former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle wrote in 2014, in his foreword to the book City of Rivals. “The lack of opportunities for honest dialogue and creative give-and-take lies at the root of today’s dysfunction.” We reformed pork. For most of American history, a principal goal of any member of Congress was to bring home bacon for his district. Pork-barrel spending never really cost very much, and it helped glue Congress together by giving members a kind of currency to trade: You support my pork, and I’ll support yours. Also, because pork was dispensed by powerful appropriations committees with input from senior congressional leaders, it provided a handy way for the leadership to buy votes and reward loyalists. Starting in the ’70s, however, and then snowballing in the ’90s, the regular appropriations process broke down, a casualty of reforms that weakened appropriators’ power, of “sunshine laws” that reduced their autonomy, and of polarization that complicated negotiations. Conservatives and liberals alike attacked pork-barreling as corrupt, culminating in early 2011, when a strange-bedfellows coalition of Tea Partiers and progressives banned earmarking, the practice of dropping goodies into bills as a way to attract votes—including, ironically, votes for politically painful spending reductions. Congress has not passed all its annual appropriations bills in 20 years, and more than $300 billion a year in federal spending goes out the door without proper authorization. Routine business such as passing a farm bill or a surface-transportation bill now takes years instead of weeks or months to complete. Today two-thirds of federal-program spending (excluding interest on the national debt) runs on formula-driven autopilot. This automatic spending by so-called entitlement programs eludes the discipline of being regularly voted on, dwarfs old-fashioned pork in magnitude, and is so hard to restrain that it’s often called the “third rail” of politics. The political cost has also been high: Congressional leaders lost one of their last remaining tools to induce followership and team play. “Trying to be a leader where you have no sticks and very few carrots is dang near impossible,” the Republican former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told CNN in 2013, shortly after renegade Republicans pointlessly shut down the government. “Members don’t get anything from you and leaders don’t give anything. They don’t feel like you can reward them or punish them.” Like campaign contributions and smoke-filled rooms, pork is a tool of democratic governance, not a violation of it. It can be used for corrupt purposes but also, very often, for vital ones. As the political scientist Diana Evans wrote in a 2004 book, Greasing the Wheels: Using Pork Barrel Projects to Build Majority Coalitions in Congress, “The irony is this: pork barreling, despite its much maligned status, gets things done.” In 1964, to cite one famous example, Lyndon Johnson could not have passed his landmark civil-rights bill without support from House Republican leader Charles Halleck of Indiana, who named his price: a nasa research grant for his district, which LBJ was glad to provide. Just last year, Republican Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked how his committee managed to pass bipartisan authorization bills year after year, even as the rest of Congress ground to a legislative standstill. In part, McCain explained, it was because “there’s a lot in there for members of the committees.” Party-dominated nominating processes, soft money, congressional seniority, closed-door negotiations, pork-barrel spending—put each practice under a microscope in isolation, and it seems an unsavory way of doing political business. But sweep them all away, and one finds that business is not getting done at all. The political reforms of the past 40 or so years have pushed toward disintermediation—by favoring amateurs and outsiders over professionals and insiders; by privileging populism and self-expression over mediation and mutual restraint; by stripping middlemen of tools they need to organize the political system. All of the reforms promote an individualistic, atomized model of politics in which there are candidates and there are voters, but there is nothing in between. Other, larger trends, to be sure, have also contributed to political disorganization, but the war on middlemen has amplified and accelerated them.
III. Pathogens Donald Trump and other virusesBy the beginning of this decade, the political system’s organic defenses against outsiders and insurgents were visibly crumbling. All that was needed was for the right virus to come along and exploit the opening. As it happened, two came along. In 2009, on the heels of President Obama’s election and the economic-bailout packages, angry fiscal conservatives launched the Tea Party insurgency and watched, somewhat to their own astonishment, as it swept the country. Tea Partiers shared some of the policy predilections of loyal Republican partisans, but their mind-set was angrily anti-establishment. In a 2013 Pew Research poll, more than 70 percent of them disapproved of Republican leaders in Congress. In a 2010 Pew poll, they had rejected compromise by similar margins. They thought nothing of mounting primary challenges against Republican incumbents, and they made a special point of targeting Republicans who compromised with Democrats or even with Republican leaders. In Congress, the Republican House leadership soon found itself facing a GOP caucus whose members were too worried about “getting primaried” to vote for the compromises necessary to govern—or even to keep the government open. Threats from the Tea Party and other purist factions often outweigh any blandishments or protection that leaders can offer. So far the Democrats have been mostly spared the anti-compromise insurrection, but their defenses are not much stronger. Molly Ball recently reported for The Atlantic’s Web site on the Working Families Party, whose purpose is “to make Democratic politicians more accountable to their liberal base through the asymmetric warfare party primaries enable, much as the conservative movement has done to Republicans.” Because African Americans and union members still mostly behave like party loyalists, and because the Democratic base does not want to see President Obama fail, the Tea Party trick hasn’t yet worked on the left. But the Democrats are vulnerable structurally, and the anti-compromise virus is out there. A second virus was initially identified in 2002, by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln political scientists John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, in their book Stealth Democracy: Americans’ Beliefs About How Government Should Work. It’s a shocking book, one whose implications other scholars were understandably reluctant to engage with. The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, however, makes confronting its thesis unavoidable. Using polls and focus groups, Hibbing and Theiss-Morse found that between 25 and 40 percent of Americans (depending on how one measures) have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work. I think of these people as “politiphobes,” because they see the contentious give-and-take of politics as unnecessary and distasteful. Specifically, they believe that obvious, commonsense solutions to the country’s problems are out there for the plucking. The reason these obvious solutions are not enacted is that politicians are corrupt, or self-interested, or addicted to unnecessary partisan feuding. Not surprisingly, politiphobes think the obvious, commonsense solutions are the sorts of solutions that they themselves prefer. But the more important point is that they do not acknowledge that meaningful policy disagreement even exists. From that premise, they conclude that all the arguing and partisanship and horse-trading that go on in American politics are entirely unnecessary. Politicians could easily solve all our problems if they would only set aside their craven personal agendas. If politicians won’t do the job, then who will? Politiphobes, according to Hibbing and Theiss-Morse, believe policy should be made not by messy political conflict and negotiations but by ensids: empathetic, non-self-interested decision makers. These are leaders who will step forward, cast aside cowardly politicians and venal special interests, and implement long-overdue solutions. ensids can be politicians, technocrats, or autocrats—whatever works. Whether the process is democratic is not particularly important. Chances are that politiphobes have been out there since long before Hibbing and Theiss-Morse identified them in 2002. Unlike the Tea Party or the Working Families Party, they aren’t particularly ideological: They have popped up left, right, and center. Ross Perot’s independent presidential candidacies of 1992 and 1996 appealed to the idea that any sensible businessman could knock heads together and fix Washington. In 2008, Barack Obama pandered to a center-left version of the same fantasy, promising to magically transcend partisan politics and implement the best solutions from both parties. No previous outbreak, however, compares with the latest one, which draws unprecedented virulence from two developments. One is a steep rise in antipolitical sentiment, especially on the right. According to polling by Pew, from 2007 to early 2016 the percentage of Americans saying they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who had been an elected official in Washington for many years than for an outsider candidate more than doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. Republican opinion has shifted more sharply still: The percentage of Republicans preferring “new ideas and a different approach” over “experience and a proven record” almost doubled in just the six months from March to September of 2015. The other development, of course, was Donald Trump, the perfect vector to concentrate politiphobic sentiment, intensify it, and inject it into presidential politics. He had too much money and free media to be spent out of the race. He had no political record to defend. He had no political debts or party loyalty. He had no compunctions. There was nothing to restrain him from sounding every note of the politiphobic fantasy with perfect pitch. Democrats have not been immune, either. Like Trump, Bernie Sanders appealed to the antipolitical idea that the mere act of voting for him would prompt a “revolution” that would somehow clear up such knotty problems as health-care coverage, financial reform, and money in politics. Like Trump, he was a self-sufficient outsider without customary political debts or party loyalty. Like Trump, he neither acknowledged nor cared—because his supporters neither acknowledged nor cared—that his plans for governing were delusional. Trump, Sanders, and Ted Cruz have in common that they are political sociopaths—meaning not that they are crazy, but that they don’t care what other politicians think about their behavior and they don’t need to care. That three of the four final presidential contenders in 2016 were political sociopaths is a sign of how far chaos syndrome has gone. The old, mediated system selected such people out. The new, disintermediated system seems to be selecting them in.
IV. Symptoms The disorder that exacerbates all other disordersThere is nothing new about political insurgencies in the United States—nor anything inherently wrong with them. Just the opposite, in fact: Insurgencies have brought fresh ideas and renewed participation to the political system since at least the time of Andrew Jackson. There is also nothing new about insiders losing control of the presidential nominating process. In 1964 and 1972, to the dismay of party regulars, nominations went to unelectable candidates—Barry Goldwater for the Republicans in 1964 and George McGovern for the Democrats in 1972—who thrilled the parties’ activist bases and went on to predictably epic defeats. So it’s tempting to say, “Democracy is messy. Insurgents have fair gripes. Incumbents should be challenged. Who are you, Mr. Establishment, to say the system is broken merely because you don’t like the people it is pushing forward?” The problem is not, however, that disruptions happen. The problem is that chaos syndrome wreaks havoc on the system’s ability to absorb and channel disruptions. Trying to quash political disruptions would probably only create more of them. The trick is to be able to govern through them. Leave aside the fact that Goldwater and McGovern, although ideologues, were estimable figures within their parties. (McGovern actually co-chaired a Democratic Party commission that rewrote the nominating rules after 1968, opening the way for his own campaign.) Neither of them, either as senator or candidate, wanted to or did disrupt the ordinary workings of government. Jason Grumet, the president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and the author of City of Rivals, likes to point out that within three weeks of Bill Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representatives, the president was signing new laws again. “While they were impeaching him they were negotiating, they were talking, they were having committee hearings,” Grumet said in a recent speech. “And so we have to ask ourselves, what is it that not long ago allowed our government to metabolize the aggression that is inherent in any pluralistic society and still get things done?” I have been covering Washington since the early 1980s, and I’ve seen a lot of gridlock. Sometimes I’ve been grateful for gridlock, which is an appropriate outcome when there is no working majority for a particular policy. For me, however, 2011 brought a wake-up call. The system was failing even when there was a working majority. That year, President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, in intense personal negotiations, tried to clinch a budget agreement that touched both parties’ sacred cows, curtailing growth in the major entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security by hundreds of billions of dollars and increasing revenues by $800 billion or more over 10 years, as well as reducing defense and nondefense discretionary spending by more than $1 trillion. Though it was less grand than previous budgetary “grand bargains,” the package represented the kind of bipartisan accommodation that constitutes the federal government’s best and perhaps only path to long-term fiscal stability. People still debate why the package fell apart, and there is blame enough to go around. My own reading at the time, however, concurred with Matt Bai’s postmortem in The New York Times: Democratic leaders could have found the rank-and-file support they needed to pass the bargain, but Boehner could not get the deal past conservatives in his own caucus. “What’s undeniable, despite all the furious efforts to peddle a different story,” Bai wrote, “is that Obama managed to persuade his closest allies to sign off on what he wanted them to do, and Boehner didn’t, or couldn’t.” We’ll never know, but I believe that the kind of budget compromise Boehner and Obama tried to shake hands on, had it reached a vote, would have passed with solid majorities in both chambers and been signed into law. The problem was not polarization; it was disorganization. A latent majority could not muster and assert itself. As soon became apparent, Boehner’s 2011 debacle was not a glitch but part of an emerging pattern. Two years later, the House’s conservative faction shut down the government with the connivance of Ted Cruz, the very last thing most Republicans wanted to happen. When Boehner was asked by Jay Leno why he had permitted what the speaker himself called a “very predictable disaster,” he replied, rather poignantly: “When I looked up, I saw my colleagues going this way. You learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk.” Boehner was right. Washington doesn’t have a crisis of leadership; it has a crisis of followership. One can argue about particulars, and Congress does better on some occasions than on others. Overall, though, minority factions and veto groups are becoming ever more dominant on Capitol Hill as leaders watch their organizational capacity dribble away. Helpless to do much more than beg for support, and hostage to his own party’s far right, an exhausted Boehner finally gave up and quit last year. Almost immediately, his heir apparent, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was shot to pieces too. No wonder Paul Ryan, in his first act as speaker, remonstrated with his own colleagues against chaos. Nevertheless, by spring the new speaker was bogged down. “Almost six months into the job, Ryan and his top lieutenants face questions about whether the Wisconsin Republican’s tenure atop the House is any more effective than his predecessor,” Politico’s Web site reported in April. The House Republican Conference, an unnamed Republican told Politico, is “unwhippable and unleadable. Ryan is as talented as you can be: There’s nobody better. But even he can’t do anything. Who could?” Of course, Congress’s incompetence makes the electorate even more disgusted, which leads to even greater political volatility. In a Republican presidential debate in March, Ohio Governor John Kasich described the cycle this way: The people, he said, “want change, and they keep putting outsiders in to bring about the change. Then the change doesn’t come … because we’re putting people in that don’t understand compromise.” Disruption in politics and dysfunction in government reinforce each other. Chaos becomes the new normal. Being a disorder of the immune system, chaos syndrome magnifies other problems, turning political head colds into pneumonia. Take polarization. Over the past few decades, the public has become sharply divided across partisan and ideological lines. Chaos syndrome compounds the problem, because even when Republicans and Democrats do find something to work together on, the threat of an extremist primary challenge funded by a flood of outside money makes them think twice—or not at all. Opportunities to make bipartisan legislative advances slip away. Or take the new technologies that are revolutionizing the media. Today, a figure like Trump can reach millions through Twitter without needing to pass network‑TV gatekeepers or spend a dime. A figure like Sanders can use the Internet to reach millions of donors without recourse to traditional fund-raising sources. Outside groups, friendly and unfriendly alike, can drown out political candidates in their own races. (As a frustrated Cruz told a supporter about outside groups ostensibly backing his presidential campaign, “I’m left to just hope that what they say bears some resemblance to what I actually believe.”) Disruptive media technologies are nothing new in American politics; they have arisen periodically since the early 19th century, as the historian Jill Lepore noted in a February article in The New Yorker. What is new is the system’s difficulty in coping with them. Disintermediating technologies bring fresh voices into the fray, but they also bring atomization and cacophony. To organize coherent plays amid swarms of attack ads, middlemen need to be able to coordinate the fund-raising and messaging of candidates and parties and activists—which is what they are increasingly hard-pressed to do. Assembling power to govern a sprawling, diverse, and increasingly divided democracy is inevitably hard. Chaos syndrome makes it all the harder. For Democrats, the disorder is merely chronic; for the Republican Party, it is acute. Finding no precedent for what he called Trump’s hijacking of an entire political party, Jon Meacham went so far as to tell Joe Scarborough in The Washington Post that George W. Bush might prove to be the last Republican president. Nearly everyone panned party regulars for not stopping Trump much earlier, but no one explained just how the party regulars were supposed to have done that. Stopping an insurgency requires organizing a coalition against it, but an incapacity to organize is the whole problem. The reality is that the levers and buttons parties and political professionals might once have pulled and pushed had long since been disconnected.
V. Prognosis and Treatment Chaos syndrome as a psychiatric disorderI don’t have a quick solution to the current mess, but I do think it would be easy, in principle, to start moving in a better direction. Although returning parties and middlemen to anything like their 19th-century glory is not conceivable—or, in today’s America, even desirable—strengthening parties and middlemen is very doable. Restrictions inhibiting the parties from coordinating with their own candidates serve to encourage political wildcatting, so repeal them. Limits on donations to the parties drive money to unaccountable outsiders, so lift them. Restoring the earmarks that help grease legislative success requires nothing more than a change in congressional rules. And there are all kinds of ways the parties could move insiders back to the center of the nomination process. If they wanted to, they could require would-be candidates to get petition signatures from elected officials and county party chairs, or they could send unbound delegates to their conventions (as several state parties are doing this year), or they could enhance the role of middlemen in a host of other ways. Building party machines and political networks is what career politicians naturally do, if they’re allowed to do it. So let them. I’m not talking about rigging the system to exclude challengers or prevent insurgencies. I’m talking about de-rigging the system to reduce its pervasive bias against middlemen. Then they can do their job, thereby making the world safe for challengers and insurgencies. Unfortunately, although the mechanics of de-rigging are fairly straightforward, the politics of it are hard. The public is wedded to an anti-establishment narrative. The political-reform community is invested in direct participation, transparency, fund-raising limits on parties, and other elements of the anti-intermediation worldview. The establishment, to the extent that there still is such a thing, is demoralized and shattered, barely able to muster an argument for its own existence. But there are optimistic signs, too. Liberals in the campaign-finance-reform community are showing new interest in strengthening the parties. Academics and commentators are getting a good look at politics without effective organizers and cohesive organizations, and they are terrified. On Capitol Hill, conservatives and liberals alike are on board with restoring regular order in Congress. In Washington, insiders have had some success at reorganizing and pushing back. No Senate Republican was defeated by a primary challenger in 2014, in part because then–Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a machine politician par excellence, created a network of business allies to counterpunch against the Tea Party. The biggest obstacle, I think, is the general public’s reflexive, unreasoning hostility to politicians and the process of politics. Neurotic hatred of the political class is the country’s last universally acceptable form of bigotry. Because that problem is mental, not mechanical, it really is hard to remedy. In March, a Trump supporter told The New York Times, “I want to see Trump go up there and do damage to the Republican Party.” Another said, “We know who Donald Trump is, and we’re going to use Donald Trump to either take over the G.O.P. or blow it up.” That kind of anti-establishment nihilism deserves no respect or accommodation in American public life. Populism, individualism, and a skeptical attitude toward politics are all healthy up to a point, but America has passed that point. Political professionals and parties have many shortcomings to answer for—including, primarily on the Republican side, their self-mutilating embrace of anti-establishment rhetoric—but relentlessly bashing them is no solution. You haven’t heard anyone say this, but it’s time someone did: Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around. ============================================ 3. THIS MONTH’S LINKS: WHY YOU CAN’T DISMISS THE POPULISM BEHIND THE BREXIT MARINE LE PEN: AFTER BREXIT THE PEOPLE’S SPRING IS INEVITABLE BRITISH LOSE RIGHT TO CLAIM AMERICANS ARE DUMBER WHY GROUP BERNIE WITH BREXIT & TRUMP? ============================================ © Copyright 2015, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam. Please feel free to use excerpts from this blog as long as you give credit with a link to our page: http://fatherwilliam.org/blog/. Thank you! ============================================
Newsletter – May 2016
===================================================THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – MAY 2016 1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS 2. 450,000 CONDOMS FOR RIO OLYMPICS ATHLETE’S VILLAGE 3. WELCOME TO THE EXPONENTIAL AGE – OUR NEAR FUTURE! 4. ABSURDITIES OF THE US ELECTORATE 5. ESSENTIALIZING 6. THIS MONTH’S LINKS
===================================================QUOTES OF THE MONTH – IOC, BUZZ HEIDTKE, RAVI PALAT & XAN HART “The International Olympic Committee says the condoms would encourage 10,500 athletes and staff to practice safe sex.” “Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.” “It is an electorate that continues to believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that its first non-Caucasian president is a Muslim.” “I suspect I am making way for the Mystery.” =================================================== 1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS May Greetings, Dear Friends… I, as many of us, have spent a lifetime judging and discounting others’ beliefs as “absurd.” Again like many of us, I have spent a lifetime seeking to understand what “Reality” is and how it works. At 77 I’ve evolved enough to know I am equipped to do neither. Thinking any human perspective can understand such Infinity now seems to be my greatest “absurdity.” So I’m going to celebrate “absurdities” in this month’s newsletter. I’t’s time to appreciate and enjoy how the Infinite’s mystery can baffle me — and how “absurd” I have been to imagine I can judge what I cannot possibly comprehend! My usual habit is to read one book and go on the another, but right now serendipity has me reading two very different books speaking the same message at the same time, so there may be more on “absurdities” coming in future blogs. The first, The Absurdity of Pride and the Peace of Humility by Michael H. Hall, I find fascinating. He’s opening my eyes to the costs of pride’s absurdities. I wouldn’t have been open to his message when I was younger. I think he presents a fundamental cause of humanity’s disease that is likely to be fatal for many of Earth’s species including ours (but not for the Infinite, of course). We keep focusing on the symptoms of our illness, like war, poverty, climate change, racism, etc., not the root cause. And those symptoms are, of course, what we see as “absurdities”… The second book comes from Salman Rushdie who I should have read long ago but didn’t. My entry point to his comfort with “absurdities” is Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, a later novel. In my new openness to enjoying Infinity’s playfulness, I’m finding his story of jinn and human intermingling an absolute gas! The bonus is I am opened to Islam as I’ve allowed myself to be with Christianity, Judaism, Sufism and Buddhism. The others I still have a way to go with. The message these two books are presenting me with is that what I call “absurdities” are just part and parcel of “Reality,” a phenomenon which this tiny ‘I’ consciousness cannot begin to understand. Can my pride lead me to believe I understand it? Absolutely. What’s the likelihood of that being in any way accurate? Nil. Love, FW PS: Isn’t it interesting that ‘Absolutely’ and ‘Absurdity’ share the same root heritage? www.FatherWilliam.org =================================================== 2. 450,000 CONDOMS FOR RIO OLYMPICS ATHLETES’ VILLAGE BY STEPHEN WADE, WWW.STUFF.CO.NZ, MAY 21, 2016 About 450,000 condoms will be distributed during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, three times more than for the London Games four years ago, the International Olympic Committee says. Part of the reason was because 100,000 female condoms will be available for the first time, along with 350,000 condoms for men. About 175,000 packets of lubricant are also being supplied. The IOC says the condoms would encourage 10,500 athletes and staff to practice safe sex. The condoms will be distributed free from a clinic in the athletes’ village, or from vending machines. The village opens on 24 July, with the Olympics opening on 5 August. Brazilian newspaper Folha de S Paulo said between 100,000 to 150,000 condoms had been supplied at every Olympics since Sydney 2000. FW Note: That’s 42 condoms per head for 10,500 people, so sex is now clearly a major Olympic Sport, and all medals earned should be publicly awarded! =================================================== 3. WELCOME TO THE EXPONENTIAL AGE — OUR NEAR FUTURE! BY BUZZ HEIDTKE, REDCHIP, MIDSOUTH WEEK IN REVIEW, MAY 17, 2016 FW Note: I remember being shocked by Toffler’s book in 1970, and here I am, forty-six years later, being “Future Shocked” all over again – see if you don’t find some of these predictions a bit mind-blowing… In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people don’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again? Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age. Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years. Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties. Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain. Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 time more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans. Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s licence and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year. Most car companies might become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; they are completely terrified of Tesla. Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear. Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood. Electric cars will become mainstream until 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all cars will run on electric. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can only now see the impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that all coal companies will be out of business by 2025. With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost. Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There will be companies who will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breath into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medicine, nearly for free. 3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started 3D printing shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to have in the past. At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they already 3D printed a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed. Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner? If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed in to failure in the 21st century. Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time. Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all days on their fields. Aeroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several startups who will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects). There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell in which mood you are. Until 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed when they are telling the truth and when not. Bitcoin will become mainstream this year and might even become the default reserve currency. Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now it’s 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more that one year increase per year. So we all might live for a long long time, probably way more than 100. Education: The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. Until 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone has the same access to world class education. Every child can use Khan academy for everything a child learns at school in First World countries. We have already released our software in Indonesia and will release it in Arabic, Suaheli and Chinese this Summer, because I see an enormous potential. We will give the English app for free, so that children in Africa can become fluent in English within half a year. Boom! http://www.redchip.com/articles/582/midsouth-week-in-review-may-17-2016 =================================================== 4. ABSURDITIES OF THE US ELECTORATE BY RPALAT.WORDPRESS.COM, OCTOBER 25, 2010 FW Note: When one lives abroad, one often is seen as, and called upon, to be a representative of his original tribe. You can imagine that, as a Yank, this is not exactly a pleasure in 2016…
“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad…”Using this apt Latin metaphor, in a recent post, Ed Darrell notes the absurdity of the current US mid-term election campaign……An electorate that was passive in 2000 when the US Supreme Court stole a presidential election and the ‘winner’ in that election went on to wage war against a country that could not have threatened the US or defended itself is now screaming ‘socialism’ when the government seeks to provide a minimum level of health care to the young and the elderly while careful to preserve the high profits of insurance companies. An electorate seemingly unconcerned with the enormous cost of the illegal wars waged in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the evidence of billions of dollars being distributed in plastic bags, is enraged at a modest stimulus to the US economy. An electorate that does not register the torture of Iraqis by US forces or the ‘rendition’ of alleged ‘terrorists’ for torture by other states sees plans to build a mosque in downtown Manhattan as proof of the Islamicization of the United States. It is an electorate that continues to believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that its first non-Caucasian president is a Muslim. The paradox is heightened by the ‘grassroots’ opposition to the elites when it is the elites funding the ‘grassroots’ Tea Party Movement. George Monbiot has documented how the two Koch brothers–owners of the second largest privately held company in the US and each worth over $21 billion–have financed a bevy of special interest groups to fund and sustain the Tea Party Movement so that they can retain more of their profits, avoid regulation, and pay less taxes. And once the John Roberts Supreme Court ruled restrictions on campaign financing unconstitutional, it has opened the floodgates to corporate financing of elections. Never before in US elections have large corporations and wealthy individuals contributed so much to an election campaign as reported by the New York Times and the Financial Times. Elite sponsorship of essentially white working class protests is all the more striking as the unemployed workers blame the government for the loss of jobs and the high rate of unemployment, when it is the corporate members of the US Chambers of Commerce–funding the Tea Party candidates–that are responsible for outsourcing US jobs overseas! “American Free Enterprise” is creating more jobs overseas than it is at home! In part, this disconnection between perceptions and reality among the electorate is because of the absence of critical voices in the mainstream media. There are hardly any representatives of labor or of working families on news shows in the last two decades. Instead we are fed with a constant stream of well-paid talking heads, representing no opinion but their own. There is, hence no questioning of the functioning of the economic system. John Boehner, the Republican leader poised to become the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has pointedly refused to specify how he would cut the deficit–and in fact, he cannot. It was, after all, under Republican presidents–Reagan, Geoge H W Bush, George W Bush–that the Federal deficit ballooned beyond control. In the absence of critical commentary, the Republican Party and their Tea Party affiliates have been focusing on side issues–on whether President Barack Obama is American-born or whether he is a Muslim–to evade debate on crucial issues. And they have been able to do this because he is not a Caucasian! Such racist, and frankly incoherent, rhetoric has gained ascendancy primarily because serious debate has been eliminated from mainstream media–especially television. Instead of sustained debate on serious issues, we are fed a steady diet of inconsequential issues–debate on the mosque in Manhattan, the pastor of essentially a family congregation in Florida threatening to burn the Koran, the racist rants of Juan Williams and Bill O’Reilly–rather than issues of substance. Ravi Arvind Palat is Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He is the author of Capitalist Restructuring of the Pacific Rim and has published articles in many scholarly and popular journals. His blog is at rpalat.wordpress.com. https://www.binghamton.edu/sociology/docs/faculty-profile-cvs/palat_nov2013.pdf PS: Even though Palat published this in 2010, it’s just gotten more embarrassing in the last six years… =================================================== 5. ESSENTIALIZING BY ALEXANDRA ‘XAN’ HART, THE AGE OF ACTUALIZATION, ISBN 978-1497595156 FW Note: Somehow this piece by Xan just feels right after all the previous “absurdities.’ As I’m doing my own “essentializing” at 77 I’m having to accept that what I’ve called “absurdities” are just as possible as anything else. More significant and non-sensical is believing my tiny human perspective could make value judgments about the workings of infinity. How’s your “essentializing” coming? There comes a time in everyone’s aging process when you find you can no longer keep up your familiar pace (if you’re lucky enough to survive into your older years). For women, if it hasn’t happened previous to menopause, that particular life and body change is sure to start this up. Women are familiar with the big changes in their hormones at various times in life, which brings a certain edge of recognition. Something is happenin’ here, but you don’t quite know what it is. Men, I can only guess, but they tend to wrinkle a little later and don’t have the more dramatic body changes that help women come to terms. In any case, while the timing is individual, aging will cause one to take stock. Necessity causes a process of sifting through one’s use of time and energy. Sometimes a kind of “bucket list” starts to form. In our Elders Salon we began to call the sifting “essentializing” because you simply can’t fit in as much in a day or an hour, and the sands of one’s life are dribbling slowly away. You feel like you better make your choices count. Getting down to essentials: discarding the more frivolous activities, household items that suddenly seem in the way, relationships that don’t seem appropriate or productive, concerns that you find you’ve outgrown – this kind of the essentializing leaves you with more time for activities that you care about, that have more meaning, and that feed you. Eldering toward wisdom can begin to set in. REDUCTION AND NUTRITION It is also inevitable that this surrender of ways one has been in the past can feel like a reduction rather than a boon. The losses become more numerous. Loved ones have died; Life has weathered and scarred us; our bodies ache and we forget names. Yikes! But we are survivors! You don’t get here without challenges and pain. Yet, here we are! We have survived! Some celebration, some gratitude, some awe about the journey can begin to creep in and the connection between and grief and praise can dawn. It is somewhere in this realm that our elders began to see “Reduction” in a new light. Yes, we are reduced. It comes in many ways, both from inside or outside. My husband died, resulting in a loss of my home due to the mortgage crisis a few years ago and a loss of community in that we were living in cohousing. Everything went upside down. I even broke my right arm, followed by surgeries on both hands, which put a big kink in an existing art career I had been imagining I’d follow full time. A good cook knows a reduction in the production of much tasty food as a similar process to this elder phenomenon. There is less of it but it is a richer and more flavorful. It can be quite extraordinary, in fact. After that loss I was freed to more easily become myself and follow my own new inclinations in surprising ways, living more simply with little excess. The reduction made me take more care with all my choices, paring down relationships and pastimes. I soon began work to create the Elders Salon, enlisting Lucky as a cohort. Like the wisdom growing inside, all this richness began to feed me, nourish me, and lead me into new areas of my own growth and understanding of what I could and wanted to contribute. I began to feel a kinship with the folks who came to the salon, reducing the distance and learning from the shared wisdom that we discovered together. The aggregate expression of others in our exploratory discussions was truly feeding me! More meaning was coming my way through the individual experiences that were shared. I am not alone. Many of those who continue to connect in this way, as elders, notice similar effects. Sitting together as we offer deeper observations, personal discoveries and stories to the circle, a palpable buzz or energy often emerges. I would describe my sensation as a receiving of nourishment I had known I needed. I am being filled with some very necessary, unidentifiable kind of energetic food. We are caring about and for one another, becoming more resilient in the process. And many of us have found deeper self acceptance and respect through our experiences and connections. DISPENSABILITY More recently, when Nelson Mandela died, I discovered a new elder capacity that is related but different from the reduction above, though it follows on its heels. In an interview when Mandela was deciding to leave public life, he said that his decision was partly due to knowing that he was dispensable. The reporter demurred, trying to dissuade Mandela from his point. But, no. Nelson knew that it is important to make way for younger people and that to follow one’s path into the farther reaches of elderhood means knowing when to surrender to new energy. It is also likely to coincide with one’s own need to go further within, slowly losing attachment to worldly pursuits. As we journey toward the far end of life we must each grapple in our own way with the knowledge of mortality. I like to think of a metaphor of life processes as akin to sprouting, maturing, blossoming, fruiting, ripening, then finally, making seed. I have reached a stage of engaging with seed making, wondering what ways I and my generation will find to become viable seed. I wonder what such seed may contain for me as I lessen my attachments to experiencing life in familiar ways. I suspect I am making way for the Mystery.
Age of Actualization: A Handbook for Growing Elder Culture ©️2014 by ===================================================7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS: REMEMBERING THE GADGETS THAT CHANGED US… AN UNCOMMONLY TENDER MEDITATION ON THE CYCLE OF LIFE… SOME MIND-BLOWING PLACES ON THE EARTH =================================================== © Copyright 2016, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam. ===================================================
Newsletter – April 2016
Reluctance = ResistanceI’ve been going through something lately. Something big. Its beating me up, and teaching me a great deal. I’m not really going to describe the details, but I am going to dwell on the process. I’ve found that as I get older that the process of integration, that is happening, brings me up against some of my life-long patterns. When that happens I usually don’t respond very well. I am reluctant to let myself feel the conflict, disappointment, and grief within. I guess it is only natural. I’m human, and much of what confronts me, are patterns of belief and behavior that have clearly defined me in the past. Life doesn’t seem to care. At least in no way that I have considered caring. What I’m finding is that Life is impeccably ruthless. It rubs my face in the messes I have indulged in making. There is some kind of impersonal and highly idiosyncratic love at work. I’m being shaped up despite myself. The process is reliable, painful, and grace-filled. Life seems to know how to evolve a better me, and very slowly I’m learning how to trust that process and cooperate with it. I think it was the developmentalist Robert Kegan that first impressed me with the realization that resisting Life is painful. I do it all of the time. And, I am paying for it. But, as I get older, I’m more prone to notice what is at stake, and to suffer more honestly. That means I am more likely to admit to myself, and others, that I have succeeded again in getting in my own way, and making it hard to change. I would rather fight anything than fight myself. Despite my resolve, Life keeps finding the blemishes in my character that need attention, and calling my attention to them. Right now, I’m being faced with my own well-designed falseness. I’ve lived out a kind of arrogant stance that I know has hurt me, and especially those I professed to care for. That’s a hard awareness to be confronted by. And I’m really grateful that I’m being confronted by it right now, when I can still do something about it, rather than in my last moments of life. Life seems to have a bucket list for me, that if I handle some of these items, I’m going to rest easier when I die. That seems like a kind of compassionate justice I could never imagine. The problem of the moment is that I have such a reluctance to face the music. It is humiliating, admitting one’s shortcomings; facing how unloving, and self-protective, one is (I’m not past anything yet). I’m not collapsing into shame, although I can feel the temptation. I am standing forlornly in front of my own humanity. I can see that my own reluctance to see what a schlemiel I am capable of being has been a form of resistance. I didn’t want to know myself that well. This kind of self-knowing is a painful gift. Life cares about me enough to make me really uncomfortable with what I am capable of. And, it’s giving me a chance to find out where integrity lays in my life. In some kind of strange twist of fate, my gratitude grows as I open up to the hurt I have participated in perpetuating. With all of that kind of awareness cascading into my life like an avalanche of wakefulness, I am enlivened and chagrined. My reluctance before awareness is clearly putting off the inevitability of the gift. Am I resisting, or merely crouching in anticipation of the loving blow? I really can’t say. I know that I have resisted, and that my reluctance has abetted my resistance. I am that human, stubbornly determined to have things my way. But, lately, aging has softened me up, and provided more perspective. I now walk towards what diminishes me, in an effort to cooperate more with the wholing process I now perceive. Reluctance is turning out to be a faithful scout, a little scraggly, deceptively anxious, but unerring in noticing that something is coming. And, I’m finding that even a broken life is an incredible gift. At 77, Old FW couldn’t agree more. So if you, like millions of US voters, are feeling some ‘reluctance’ this political season, see if you don’t find some peace in ‘the wholing process’ Lucky and many other elders can now perceive… Love, FW PS: If you’d like to see how ‘The Growth Curve” has evolved into “The Wave of Transformation,” click here. www.FatherWilliam.org ================================================= 2. THE DONALD, SACHA BARON COHEN, DYLAN, FREUD, OPRAH AND THE GROWTH CURVE… BY THE YOUNG MAN, APRIL 12, 2016 Like so many, I’ve been trying to make sense of the Donald Trump phenomenon. My first stab, over two months ago, in response to an article a friend of mine sent to me, and a bunch of his lawyer friends, most of whom I’ve met, appears below in Section A. A few days later, I stumbled across an article written about a Poly Sci prof. who has a computer algorithm that has proven highly accurate in predicting presidential races. That appears below, also in Section A. Although some things have changed since writing Section A, I will leave it as is. But on March 14th, things looked the same, but with a new, much darker, element. I was on the phone with a friend, who said he attended a wedding in Cleveland, over the preceding weekend, and many people there were following what happened here in Chicago at the Trump rally at UIC and started to wonder whether there was going to be violence at the Republican Convention this summer in Cleveland. I had similar thoughts over the weekend as well. Then, on March 20th, a new perspective appeared in a series of e-mails with the friend who was at the wedding; this appears in Section B. After Section B, there will be Section C. Section C will provide an alternative, arguably more illuminating, and possibly prospective, view of what Trump is/may be doing. After Section C, there will be a Section D, which is about the importance of leadership, ideas and history. This is followed by a short Section E, an addendum, and Section F, an acknowledgment and a tribute. But before you dive in, I want to write a note of cautionary self-preservation: What I am writing in Section C, at least as it pertains to what Trump might be able to achieve, is one possible scenario that can come out of the Growth Curve. There are a multitude of others that make no sense in covering in this essay. Please read carefully, endnotes included (this is where I place a great deal of historical perspective and analysis), and please, once you get there, digest Bill Idol’s explanation(s) of the Growth Curve before you precede any further. 2-1: A SOMEWHAT CONVENTIONAL LOOK AT TRUMP I don’t share the beliefs, at least the ones I can make some sense of, that Trump is espousing. But, especially this year, this is not going to be an issue-driven campaign which, unless things change, will be between Donald and Hillary. I have three points to make, two of which are demonstrated by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (SBC), from his Da Ali G Show, and the third comes from Bob Dylan. First, Trump is very smart and intuitive. One of the conceits of SBC, whether he was in the character of Ali G or Borat, was to put famous people on the screen and see how they would react to the nonsense that would come out of the mouths of either Ali G or Borat. The amazing thing is how many really famous, smart people sat there and, many times, were made a fool by a fool. The sole exception, at least as broadcast during the entire series, was The Donald. It took Trump just over a minute to figure-out he was being punked, after which he walked. And note, he was very respectful throughout Trump And Ali G. My point is: That which allowed Donald to intuit, in the moment, what SBC was doing to him, is an extremely valuable skill-set in politics. This is why, at least in terms of voter polls, Donald has been right to take some of these outrageous positions that all of us here, at the time, thought might damage Donald’s candidacy. He has been nearly flawless at this. There is no reason to suspect his success ratio will somehow change as we move on with this election and new issues come up. Second, and I know we’re all Jewish here, but so is Sacha Baron Cohen, and, in fact, he is a very observant Jew. That said, perhaps the most famous (infamous) scene from Da Ali G Show was when SBC’s character, Borat, went into a country and western bar in Tucson AZ to Perform a song he wrote. While the song starts out innocuously enough (but note, the innocuous first verse sets the theme and the theme is important here), in the second verse, and thereafter, Borat starts piling on one ugly cliche after another about the Jews. The story here, of course, is the reaction of the crowd. The disaffection Borat brings out in the crowd in Tucson, in this instance toward the Jews, and this was some twelve years ago, is something Trump is bringing out presently, even if he isn’t taking on the Jews (thank God for illegal immigrants and Muslims!). Here’s the song: Throw The Jew Down The Well. Third, when we get to the general election between Donald and Hillary, what I think we are going to find is that they will be speaking largely different languages on the campaign trail. One of my favorite Bob Dylan passages is this: An’ I say, “Aw come on now You must know about my debutante” An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need But I know what you want.” (Emphasis added) It is Hillary’s nature, and frankly our nature as lawyers, to talk about issues in a rational way. We form arguments and try to persuade. In the political realm, this comes out as what the country needs. We need more investment in infrastructure. We need for the FED to remain autonomous. We need to help the poor. We need to improve our health care system. We need to keep Social Security. This, what this country, and its voters, needs will be what Hillary emphasizes and will be the language she will be trying to speak to the voters’ rational brains. Donald, with all his nonsense, will, many times, be talking the language of “I know what you want.” It will continue to be largely oblique and nonsensical, but that’s OK when you are trying to reach emotional wants (A side note: Bill Clinton could speak both of these languages at the same time, I don’t think Hillary can.). The girl in Dylan’s song knows what Donald knows, and Bubba knew: Quite often the things people want trump (no pun intended) the things people need. Quite frankly, I think this may be a very simple frame for this election: Will people vote based on their needs or their wants, however absurd or farfetched these wants may be. My sense, right now, is this will be a far closer election than many of us (in mid-February) presently envision (See Poly Sci article: Trump Beats Clinton By A Fairly Wide Margin. I think the debates will be fascinating to watch and we are kidding ourselves if we think Donald can’t win in November. 2-2: E-MAIL EXCHANGE “Me: There’s another thing likely on the table now, besides civil disobedience, an assassination attempt. My hunch is he’s wearing a bulletproof vest, but we’ve seen this movie before. He is now a genuine target, the first we’ve seen in some time.” “Friend: I certainly hope that this does not go to that level. The country would really be a mess if that happened.” “Me: Obviously, I share your views but, since writing you this morning, I’ve come to see what is, I think, the central “thing” about Donald: He is the first intuitive charismatic leader this country has seen since Reagan and the first “dangerous” charismatic leader, to the status quo, this country has seen since the 60’s [There were a lot in the 60’s, as you know, and a lot got shot (as did Reagan) or killed.]. In Moses and Monotheism, among other points, Freud makes the case for the human mind needing a single “entity” to organize its beliefs around. Hence, the eventual, near total, prevalence of monotheism over polytheism. We see this reflected in other places as well, presidents, dictators, there were many Founding Fathers but only George Washington is referred to as the “Father Of Our Country”. Janet Yellen is the FED. Jamie Dimon is Chase.” We have reached the point that, whatever we want to call the belief system Trump is leading, he is this belief system’s intuitive charismatic leader. This makes him vastly more effective (no judgment on good or bad) and the singular lightening rod/focus for, not only the believers, but also the opposition. Put another way, the focus/ beliefs of the “Red States” and the focus/beliefs of the “Blue States” now rest on the shoulders of just one man, Donald J. Trump. History informs us of some of the things that are likely to follow.We have reached the point that, whatever we want to call the belief system Trump is leading, he is this belief system’s intuitive charismatic leader. This makes him vastly more effective (no judgment on good or bad) and the singular lightening rod/focus for, not only the believers, but also the opposition. Put another way, the focus/ beliefs of the “Red States” and the focus/beliefs of the “Blue States” now rest on the shoulders of just one man, Donald J. Trump. History informs us of some of the things that are likely to follow. If I am right about this, or most of it, and I am pretty sure I am, it really is of little value for people to call The Donald a demagogue, or a snake-oil salesman, or a charlatan, etc., because this is not about The Donald. There are always demagogues, snake-oil salesmen and charlatans floating around in the sea of humanity and, generally, they are paid little notice or have little, to no, effect. It is only when there is both a sizable audience, with a certain belief system or disaffection, Borat suggests to us this has been present for at least twelve years and a smart, intuitive charismatic leader that the flame ignites. It has now. So, let’s look to history to see how we should be dealing with this situation, both in terms of what will, and what won’t, work. And, here’s a hint: stop calling The Donald names, including a liar, a demagogue, a snake-oil salesman or a charlatan, because it’s water off a duck’s back (no pun intended) both for The Donald and his supporters. 2-3: A GROWTH CURVE ANALYSIS There exists another framework to use that provides a different perspective on what is presently going on with the Trump phenomenon. This framework was introduced to me, in 1985, by my ninth grade (1966-1967) English teacher Bill Idol. The tool is called the Growth Curve. It comes from work done by biologist George T. Lock Land in his book Grow or Die. If you really wish to understand the Growth Curve best, first read Bill Idol’s summary of the Growth Curve here: Written Summary, then watch Bill flesh it out a lot more in this 20 minute video: Video Presentation. If you don’t want to watch the video, you pretty much have to read his six page Written Summary. (It’s shorter than that because there are pictures and large print.). There is no point in me trying to rephrase, or shorten, what Bill writes because what is written is the bare minimum needed to start to understand the Growth Curve and it is written by a master communicator. The premise behind the Growth Curve is all living systems will repetitively go through phases of growth or the living system will die. In Bill Idol’s adaptation of Land’s work, there exist four phases in the Growth Curve and they are represented by this diagram: As Bill explains in either the video and/or the written summary, all kinds of things are living systems. Our bodies, of course, the cells in our bodies, other animals, plants, etc. But some things, we might not initially think as falling under the definition of a living system are, in fact, living systems. All of our interpersonal relationships are living systems. Our work places likely have layers of living systems. For our purpose here, 1) our country is a living system (Bill talks/writes about this when he discusses Sputnik) and 2) our political parties are living systems. If we first look at our political parties, we see the Democratic Party is presently, for better or worse, still a stable living system. It is still in the Performing Phase. On the other hand, whether one believed this to be the case before Trump arrived on the scene this year, the Republican Party is now in the Unforming Phase of the Growth Curve. It must either successfully go through the Growth Curve or it will die, hence the title of Land’s book, Grow or Die.(1) Both parallel, and most likely by virtue of causation, the Unforming in the Republican Party began the process of the Unforming in the country as well. If the political process in the United States relies on both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party functioning in a dialectic process, which it does, and if one of the parties ceases, or becomes incapable of, participating in the dialectic process required for governing, then, eventually, this will lead to an Unforming. We’ve been in this phase for quite some time, but, what The Donald’s campaign has done, is it has brought out more of the pent-up pain, anger, anxiety and a sense of chaos that was brimming somewhat above the surface among the disaffected. As contradictory as this may seem, this could be a good thing because we are now pretty much in the portion of the Unforming Phase, especially with the Republican Party, where there are BOTH a) a great deal of pain, anxiety, anger, chaos, etc., AND b) the option of going back to the way it was before is not possible. Because going back is not possible,(2) what remains possible is: 1) moving from the Unforming Phase into the Transforming Phase; 2) staying in the Unforming Phase longer (where we will encounter even more pain, anxiety, chaos, etc., than presently); or 3) death of the system(s). As death is not a viable option here, we are left with the first two options for both the Republican Party and the country. With this in mind, where logic seems to take me now is not at all pleasant, which is kind of the point of the Growth Curve. At the first level, Trump wins the Republican nomination. If he does, we may be able to go forward with the Growth Curve, both for the Republican Party and the country. If he doesn’t win, while there are a number of variations, the end result will very likely be Hillary Clinton winning the presidential election. In normal times, Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for president in our lifetime. But, because she is not a charismatic leader, and the Republican Party will quite likely remain in the Unformed stage without Trump, or anybody else to act as charismatic leader (therefore still beholden to the present forces that keeps the Party from truly participating in political discourse and movement), it is doubtful Hillary will be able to lead the country out of the Unforming stage. This represents option number two above where this country will, quite likely, have a repeat of the past four/eight years, but with more pain, more anxiety, more failure, and overall a greater decline in our body politic. However, it can become very much a paradox if Trump wins the nomination, and then the general election, because Trump is a charismatic leader which gives him the potential to bring the country out of the Unforming, which is option number one above. To understand how, and why, this is the case, I want to quote directly from what Bill Idol writes in a section of his explanation of the Growth Curve:
FLEXIBLE PERSISTENCE“But there is a special skill to great performance, and that is, as Kenny Rogers sings, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em/ Know when to fold ’em/ Know when to walk away/ And know when to run.” The outstanding performer knows when to hold to course, when to change course and when to quit the race. “In his study of peak performers in business, Charles Garfield found one of their traits to be the ability to change course when appropriate. More importantly, he found that peak performers know things never stay perfectly on course; they expect changes (course deviations) and can enjoy making the corrections and using them for gain.” Quite simply, what this means is if The Donald is going to succeed as a Charismatic/Transformational Leader, he will have to adjust, along the way, to allow for more people to become comfortable with both his ability to lead and the message of his leadership. In this instance, it is also quite likely those who are already on board with Trump will have to adjust their visions of the future, largely because of their faith, and psychological investment, in their leader. As a possible “for instance”, for the longest times, people, on the left, have been perplexed by the fact many people, who identify with the right, are actually some of the very same people who would benefit greatly by the policy proposals offered by the left. This is exactly the sort of paradox one would expect to encounter in the Unforming Phase of the Growth Curve. A Charismatic/Transformational Leader can quite possibly make inroads with this cohort of people, where other leaders have been unsuccessful. While this bears some resemblance to Nixon going to China, or the Reykjavík Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev, which culminated in the INF treaty between the two nations roughly a year later, it is much more like Johnson getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then Medicare in 1966, passed on the heels of the death of President Kennedy.(3) If we don’t get it accomplished this time around, at least at the national level, as I’ve stated before, we will likely continue on into a version of the societal Unforming President Roosevelt confronted when he was elected in 1932, even if it is not an outright economic depression. And please, let’s put aside the question of whether Roosevelt went to war to start the “correction.” For our purposes, this is virtually irrelevant. What’s more important to note, however, is how long the United States can remain in a state of Unforming, or Transforming, and still come out the other end and move into the Transforming or Reforming Phases. Right now, it is impossible to predict what will happen next. For those who already support Trump the answers are much easier, although they will be confronted with The Donald modifying his message as we move into the general election. For those on the left, what I would say is this, in the language of my former profession: There exists a rebuttable presumption Trump is not the Charismatic/Transformational Leader this country needs at this stage in its history. In order for Trump to overcome this rebuttable presumption there must be clear and convincing evidence he will be able to successfully navigate the pivots and harness the energy of chaos created in the Unforming Phase, and, thereafter, provide the leadership and vision to bring about Transformational change, thereby creating a new, more inclusive vision for our country. And, yes, Trump will build the wall between Mexico and The United States. That’s the Growth Curve symbol he owes the people who joined with him at the beginning. However, he will need more symbols if he is going to succeed. May I suggest he consider doing right by Flint, Michigan, former manufacturing dynamo of GM, but now a city with literally a corroded infrastructure, massive poverty, massive unemployment and children who have been harmed by the insensitivities of state and local governments. This would be a symbol for the left and includes many of those policies of the left with which those in the disaffected right should be aligned. What I believed has happened to date is remarkable. In a relatively short period of time, Donald Trump has unleashed the somewhat above the surface disaffection within many in the Republican Party and a majority of the voters who have voted so far in the Republican primaries or caucuses. This unleashing is reflected in the increased anger, anxiety and chaos we are presently seeing in the supporters around Trump and at his rallies. For change to occur, under the model of the Growth Curve, all of this is necessary. What is starting to happen now is Trump is causing a similar anger, anxiety and chaos within the Democratic Party. Without going into detail, this too is probably necessary. Furthermore, Trump has made the point of singularity of the anger, anxiety, chaos within both the Democratic and the Republican Parties one person – Donald J. Trump.(4) This is hugely dangerous, particularly to Trump, but this danger, this chaos, can possibly be the necessary fuel for exiting the Unforming Phase into the Transforming Phase. This may be a complete fool’s errand (I am not at all suggesting this is being done on a conscious level inside of Trump’s brain) on behalf of Trump, or it may be an act of extraordinary, largely unconscious/intuitive, genius. In any event, if one accepts the truth of the Growth Curve, there seem to be four keys to success, not only for Trump, but more importantly for this country: 1) Whether Trump can hold his disaffected Republicans; 2) Whether Trump can ward off the Republican Elders’ attempt to torpedo his candidacy, particularly if it happens at the Republic Convention(5); 3) Whether Trump can, somehow, convince liberals, who recognize their knowledge of Trump is provisional and subject to change (see endnote 1), that he is a Charismatic/Transformational Leader who can lead the country, and its citizens, out of the Unforming Phase into the Transforming Phase and; 4) that the Transforming Phase will largely include those things the liberals have been promoting for years (most of which are found in the total disaster, which is Flint Michigan, and many other cities and locales around our country.). This is a tall order. It is clearly beyond Hillary Clinton’s ken, if for no other reason than she will be unable to capture what remains of the Republican Party, after Trump, as the Republican Party will, unfortunately, remain in a highly volatile Unforming Phase and, therefore, unable to truly participate in the democratic process. Only time will tell if all of this is beyond the ken of Donald J. Trump. But those of liberal disposition should be open to this possibility as it could be the path out of our current darkness and because what we are now witnessing is a full peacock-colored real estate mogul nailing, on the fly, how to become a candidate for President of the United States and vanquishing all his opposition. Take it Mr. Morganfield! Of course, as there is only a rebuttable presumption The Donald is the Charismatic/Transformational Leader, which appears to be a greater burden to Trump in early April than in Mid-March, where is this country if he is not? Enter stage right, Ms. Oprah Winfrey. 2-4: THE LEADER OF THE PACK In the written and video presentations of the Growth Curve Bill Idol provides some examples: The story about his son Matthew, the story about Sputnik, the story about Lee Iacocca/Chrysler and the Unforming in the 1960s. Each of these examples of Unforming, Transforming, Reforming, Performing, while sharing the same overlay of the Growth Curve, were different in many respects: Size, difficulty, nature, etc. But, as Bill explains, as long as you understand the Growth Curve Model, you can come to understand what’s going on. After Bill talked about the Growth Curve, and a few other useful tools, he went on to try to teach his version of brainstorming to the Office Of the Public Defender. The reason for this is quite simple, if you are in the middle of an Unforming, among other things, the system needs new ideas, and brainstorming is a great tool for developing ideas. The need for new ideas becomes very evident once you look at a second image about The Growth Curve: Although this image was tailored for Corporate America (primarily where Reform and Perform intersects with Results), it is quite easy to see how, once the Transforming commences, the system needs new ideas and, when done right, brainstorming develops a lot of new ideas, rather rapidly, which are then weeded-out, refined and then, hopefully, the system can move on to the next set of issues and stages. The Unforming in the sixties shows us how this works. During the sixties, once the Unforming began, we had two interlocking things going for us in a positive way: 1) dynamic, charismatic leaders who 2) brought their ideas to the national stage. Political leaders like the Kennedys, Gene McCarthy, Lyndon Johnson, George Wallace, Lester Maddox (no judging here, just statements of objective facts). Then we had leaders in the clergy, Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali. Then we had the antiwar movement and civil rights movements joining and bringing many of the aforementioned leaders into play, along with a breathtaking number of young charismatic leaders from college campuses, from political movements outside the normal frame, even from street gangs (men like Jeff Fort, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale) and, of course, our clown princes, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Finally, the country had songwriters, both here and abroad, who provided anthems that identified paradoxes, served as symbols for purpose and expressed the shared goals. Good stuff to be happening during Unforming and Transforming Phases. All of these people and “movements” presented their ideas to the nation. Quite often, all of this produced sheer madness, extreme danger and complete chaos. But the clash, the dialectic, of all of these individuals, and their ideas, somehow produced an end result where the war was over, Black America was closer to freedom and parity, women were beginning to make inroads in places they had never been in great numbers, cultural norms had been changed, and liberalized, as were laws. By the middle of 1975, the way America looked was completely different from the way it looked in November 1963, as movingly depicted by Greg Brown in this song: Brand New ‘64 Dodge. From the ashes of the assassination of our beautiful prince, and the attendant major Unforming, came a new America and a new age.(6) Now let’s look at today, hello Oprah! Twice now, Oprah has openly criticized both the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Black Lives Matter movement for a lack of true leaders. She was widely chastised for this, but she was right. Quite simply there are no leaders on the national scene, rising up from college campuses, or alternate movements, in all areas of the country and in all areas of our country’s life, that comes close to the massive bouillabaisse of leaders present in the sixties. Furthermore, I would argue, linked to the lack of leaders, there is also a lack of new ideas and, without new leaders and new ideas clashing, transformational change cannot be forged. Additionally, I feel it is illuminating, in a dark sort of way, to look at our present “leaders” during this presidential cycle: Hillary Clinton, age 68 (product of the 60’s), Bernie Sanders, age 74 (product of the early part of 60’s), Donald Trump, age 69 (product of the 60’s), Ted Cruz, age 45, born in December 1970. It’s bad enough we are not generating any true new leaders but, if we look closely at the past seven years, what we see is we’ve actually been losing them in Washington, largely because they’ve just had it. While there have been a number of departures, the one that shows us the most, the one that should have led this country to a John Lennon: “You better see right through that mother’s eyes” moment, is the resignation of the man who was second in line to become president, John Boehner, the Speaker Of House. He wasn’t about to be indicted. There were no scandals, sexual, financial, whatever, brewing. His power as Speaker was not so much more diminished, or tenuous, than it had been for some time. Instead, on September 25, 2015, the day after the Pope spoke to Congress, Boehner woke-up that morning and decided to bag it: He was going to announced he was resigning, not only as Speaker, but from Congress as well, and he was resigning like now. Not when his term as a Congressman was up in January 2017, but as soon as the Republican Caucus could select a new Speaker, which, of course, took a bit over a month to accomplish. This was a Johnny Paycheck/David Allen Coe (he wrote the song), Take This Job And Shove It moment. Breathtaking in its abruptness and, I believe, unprecedented in this nation’s history. Since his resignation, as near as I can tell, he’s not on the circuit raking in the cash. He’s not a lobbyist. Rather, he seems to be leading a fairly bucolic life back in Ohio mowing the lawn. And who can blame him? Still, this is a telling episode in our nation’s recent history. Instead of moving on to the next news cycle, we, as a nation, should have given some very deep thought about what Speaker Boehner was really telling us about ourselves and our country.
Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA * npr.com / CC BY 2.0If we go back to other eras, we see how the birth of our country, with the Founding Fathers, and their clashing personalities and ideas, all with the same goal of freedom, makes perfect sense in terms of the Growth Curve. So do the changes in the Renaissance and during the Golden Age of Greece. So does Moses, the Charismatic/Father Figure/Transformational Leader, really starting to make something happen from the idea of monotheism promoted by the less successful Egyptian King Akhenaten. That said, it was Joshua, not Moses, who led the Jews into Canaan (AKA The Promised Land). Even the clash between democracy and Marxism, during the 20th Century, can be evaluated, and understood, within the framework of the Growth Curve. Suddenly, labor unions, Social Security, Medicare, the regulation of Corporate America and large parts of both The Great Depression and the 60’s fall into place. All of this, eventually, produced virtuous growth, at least in our country. When I look at our country now, with the Unforming of the Republican Party and the connected Unforming of the nation, what I see is the Chicago Cubs throughout most of its history: Not enough great players on the field, no bench, not enough minor league prospects, and a terrible front office. This is what has gone horribly awry in our country and, in every possible respect, The Donald is only the symptom. He is filling, not creating, a huge void, unless he doesn’t turn out to be the salvation. Psychologically, it’s a whole lot easier to blame “the demagogue” rather than to understand the underlying meaning of why segments of “We The People” are feeding “the demagogue” into prominence and sometimes controlling power. This is why attacking a symptom of the disease in the system seldom cures the disease in a system. However, if we go back to the Chicago Cubs analogy for a moment, and take it seriously within the context of the Growth Curve, what we presently see is a team that was in the Unforming Phase at the end of the 2011 season, but has now gone completely through the Unforming Phase, the Transforming Phase, the Reforming Phase and into the Performing Phase of the Growth Curve to the point where they are the odds-on favorite to win the World Series this season. Who made this happen? In large measure it was a young man, Theo Epstein, with the right ideas, and a child of the 60’s, Joe Maddon, who came to the Cubs, last season, to be its Charismatic/Transformational on-field leader. This is no accident. This is how change is implemented. So, from the perspective of what is needed for the Growth Curve to work, this country’s present the lack of new leaders and new ideas, creates a very, very bleak picture and it shows us the United States is presently in a phase of historical purgatory: We must either find a way to grow, or we will die. As death has happened before to cultures, nation-states and political parties, we know it can happen again. Sorry David Brooks, kind of close, but no cigar. Finally, although it is tremendously important, in terms of the bigger big, I haven’t, and won’t, address what happens when Growth Curve analyses are performed on our economy, as well as the rest of the world, in terms of politics, social structure and economics. For those who haven’t done it in a while, this is called homework. 2-5: ADDENDUM The aforementioned Moses/Joshua pairing brings up an important point I missed initially with this essay and that Bill Idol helped me see, or more to the point, re-see. Most of the time, our leaders don’t have the complete package. Instead, there exist different types of leaders and they server different needs at different times in history and/or during the Growth Curve. Bill covers this subject matter in his essay Complementary Wholeness in the section where he writes about the different personality types, which can also be used as a frame of reference for types of leaders. Overlaying these different types of leaders, on the current political situation, and the Growth Curve, could lead to something I didn’t see initially when I wrote this essay: What might happen if Trump, who has moved this country’s Unforming into the anger stage, doesn’t win the election and Hillary Clinton does. While Hillary may not initially have what is needed, which is what I wrote in Section C of this essay, over time, if other things do happen sometime during the course of her Presidency, Hillary’s strengths as a leader, development and implementation, may be what the country will need at that particular time. One of the things that would seem to be necessary, to bridge the gap between Trump and Hillary Clinton, is a leader who is what Bill Idol calls an “Imager” in his Complementary Wholeness essay. And, guess what?: That sounds an awful like the man who may become this country’s First Husband. But what I just wrote is one of the quick-fix resolution our brains try really hard to make, particularly when we are in distress. It is more likely than not, that what I just wrote will not be the way this plays out. It is more likely than not, things will be more protracted that this. At times like these, our internal desires to quickly tie things up in neat little bows is something we should be monitoring internally very closely. Bill Idol has a tool for this too, it’s called Direction Of Error.(7) In any event, even if the Trump to Bubba to Hillary double-play works, it does nothing to truly address the absence of a next generation of leaders. In this regard, the double-play would only buy time and restabilize the system. As there will be other Growth Curves to come, Oprah Winfrey’s observation about the paucity of new leadership, and new ideas, becomes the real 800 pound gorilla in the room and that which truly puts our nation in peril, not Donald J. Trump. 2-6: THANKS, CHUCK The video of Bill Idol discussing the Growth Curve was shot by Chuck Olin and his team from Chuck Olin and Associates. Chuck was a wonderful man, simply wonderful (I can hear his voice in my head now as I type these lines.). And he was many other things as well: Father, husband, business owner, mensch, witness to some of the horrors in the 60’s. But, most of all, I think, quite often, Chuck was about shared experiences, an important component of the Growth Curve when we are discussing something like a nation-state. So I would like to ask all of you to take a few minutes and root around in the hyperlinks that follow about Chuck’s life and his work. What I hope you will see is a man devoted to sharing experiences, and the process of shared experience, whether it be The Jewish Brigade in World War II, Marc Chagall’s The Four Seasons and The America Windows, or a small, forgotten film of a young boy running around the bases at a major league baseball park, or, my favorite image of Chuck: Standing on the south-east corner of the Francis Parker School’s roof, a solitary, yet dashing, figure, with a tripod and a camera, filming a meaningless high school football game for the coaching staff. So, thanks Chuck for giving us some of your time when you filmed The Cook County Public Defender Seminar led by Bill Idol, a shared experience, and all the other fabrics you wove with your films: 1) Olin Films, 2) Chicago Films Archives, 3) Chicago Tribune Obituary. 2-7: ENDNOTES (1) One may ask: Why is the Democratic Party currently still in a Performing Phase while the Republican Party is in an Unforming Phase? My answer comes, in part, from an article I read, just over five years ago, in Slate Magazine, called The First Liberal. In this article, the author suggests the French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne, was the first liberal and the author defines liberalism from two principles he finds in Montaigne’s essays: “Liberalism, at its core, is not so much a doctrine as a disposition, a habit of mind, and it’s compounded of two principal elements: An abhorrence of cruelty and a sense of the provisional nature of human knowledge.” For our purpose, the second part of the definition is more important, the belief in the provisional nature of human knowledge. This allows the Democratic Party much greater flexibility in its platform or belief system. Hence, when the winds of change occurred about something, like welfare, the Democratic Party followed Bill Clinton in dismantling many parts of the welfare state (no judgment here as to whether this was right or wrong.) On the other hand, we have the Republican Party that, while it succeeds at such things like eroding abortion rights, or bringing back the death penalty, the Party struggles mightily with things like global warming. Once the difficulties the Republican Party, as a whole, possesses in accepting the provisional, and changing, nature of human knowledge deviates so far from reality it can hit a critical mass and, thereafter, drift into an Unforming Phase. Writing that the Democratic party seems, by nature, to be more adaptable to going through the Growth Curve doesn’t mean it won’t again, in fact, it will. The question is when? Well, kids, it may be now. Clinton is having a hard time putting away Bernie Sanders, a marginal political figure during his entire public life. Bernie is appealing to an unsatisfied faction of the Democratic Party and promising pie-in-the-sky solutions. He’s also very much the father figure to many of his supporters. Furthermore, there exists another question about the Democratic Party: Who’s on its bench nationally? Who’s on the list, short or otherwise, for vice-president? So, things are not completely copacetic with the Democratic Party right now either. (2) Writing that going back is not possible is not the same as saying the Republican Party “Elders” won’t try. And, as of this writing, some of them are trying to go back. But as Bill Idol explains, in some detail in the video, attempting to go back to what worked before, at this point in the Unforming Phase of the Growth Curve, can get very weird, even culminating in a catastrophic result, as in the death of the system. For a country, that relies on the existence of a healthy dialectic, created by two “performing” parties, the death of one of the parties should, at all costs, be avoided, even if it means that a political party remains in the Unforming Phase for a while longer. In other words, at this stage of the Unforming, there may be a greater possibility of the Party Elders destroying the Party, by opposing Trump, than by letting this play out more naturally, even if this means losing the election this November. (3) However, there were consequences to the Democratic Party as a result of President Johnson’s moves on civil rights (mostly) and Medicare. This led to the Democratic Party going through its own Growth Curve, as reflected by the movement started in 1968 by George Wallace’s third party candidacy, see fn. 5, and culminating in the Democratic Party reforming with the south mostly lost to the Democrats from this point forward. It is important to note that, at least on the surface, this loss was of only a region. (4) Trump is now also the target of a large segment of the Fourth Estate, like this from the Boston Globe, who believes it was soft on Trump at the beginning of the campaign and is trying to correct their perceived, self-judgmental error. Bill Idol has a graphic description of the phases in an Unforming. As you can see, Trump has brought us from denial into anger: Stages In An Unforming. Bill’s graphic suggests what we should be looking for as benchmarks as the country, hopefully, makes its way through the Unforming Phase of the Growth Curve. When Bill refers to anger as the second stage, particularly as it pertains to a large system like a nation-state, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same anger. What is more important is a fair segment of the country has exited the denial phase and moved into the anger phase. There will be opportunities, down the road, to reconcile the different versions of anger – for instance in the next phase: bargaining. When it comes to the “depression” phase, and I quote Bill: “A sign of ‘depression’ would be those who were previously angry withdrawing from participation, perhaps after ‘bargaining’ with their peers to make their going AWOL look like the only reasonable thing to do – or perhaps looking for an even more radical group to belong to…” Students of, and participants in, the 60’s sound familiar? (5) The issue of the Republican Party Elders trying to stop Trump, which may ultimately mean a third party candidate, brings-up the subject matter of third party candidacies in presidential elections in general. Of course, there have been third party candidates in modern times, hello Lyndon LaRouche. In 1968, George Wallace, after surviving an assassination attempt, actually won five states and amassed 45 Electoral College delegates. However, this did not truly affect the results in the Electoral College in terms of Nixon winning the election and there was no real third party candidate in 1972. The potential danger of a third party candidate by the Republican Party Elders, in this election, in the middle of a Growth Curve Unforming, is that it could so fracture the Party, it might permanently leave the country with three parties (even as early as this presidential election). Modern times relies on there being two parties, with presidential elections never getting to a contest in the Electoral College, or worse into Congress or The House Of Representatives. Should this occur, the resultant chaos, and stress on the country, would be enormous, dwarfing that which we experienced in the 2000 presidential election. Consequently, what appears to be happening now to the Republican Party is different from what happened to the Democratic Party in the 60’s, see fn. 3, because what happened to the Democratic Party was largely regional, the loss of the south. What’s happening to the Republican Party now is not regional. In fact, studies have shown that it can be defined as finely as county to county across the nation. A fair argument exists for this being the reason the Republican Party’s Unforming has dragged the entire nation into an Unforming Phase. This makes it a problem for the nation, as a whole, and means the best possible result for both the Republican Party, and the country, would be for both entities successfully exit from their intertwined Unforming Phases, and into Transforming Phases of the Growth Curve, somehow changed but still intact. Finally, please note, without going into detail, the tolerance for third party candidates in Congressional elections is much higher and does not pose the same dangers as in presidential elections. (6) Somehow, it became the accepted view, in many circles, the Baby-Boom Generation (BBG), which was at the heart of this change, failed at its stated goals during the 60’s and was a Me Generation. The achievements just mentioned disprove both of these theses. What did happen, however, is a large segment of the BBG bought into these theses of failure. This is unfortunate as it is objectively true the new age, that commenced in the early 70’s, was a better age, at least socially and culturally, with more “better” to come as a result. That’s what happens in a Performing Phase. But, by the late 1990’s, this New Age had started to run its course. (7) In fact, while I had a glimmering of doubt about my tidy little bow, it was Bill Idol’s wife, Donna, who pushed back on this when she read a late draft of this essay. This is how Direction of Error is supposed to work. © Copyright The Young Man. 2016 All rights reserved. © Graphic Images Copyrighted by Creators/Owners. ================================================= 3. THIS MONTH’S LINKS: LISTEN TO RADIO IN ANY DECADE & ANY PLACE DAVID LETTERMAN ON AGING STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE! SIMON & GARFUNKEL 40+ YEARS LATER (May not work in US) ================================================= © Copyright 2015, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam. =================================================
Newsletter – March 2016
BY MONA CHAREN, FROM THE RIGHT/POLITICS, MARCH 22, 2016
I first became aware of Donald Trump when he chose to make cheating on his first wife front-page news. It was the early ’90s. Donald and Ivana Trump broke up over the course of months. Not that divorce is shocking, mind you; among the glitterati marriage seems more unusual. Nor is infidelity exactly novel. But it requires a particular breed of lowlife to advertise the sexual superiority of one’s mistress over the mother of one’s children. That was Trump’s style. He leaked stories to the New York tabloids about Ivana’s breast implants — they didn’t feel right. Marla Maples, by contrast, suited him better. She, proving her suitability for the man she was eager to steal from his family, told the papers that her encounters with the mogul were “the best sex I’ve ever had.”It wasn’t just Donald Trump’s betrayal that caught my eye, nor just the tawdriness: It was the cruelty. That’s the part of the Trump rise that is quite shocking. Most politicians, for as long as I can remember, have been at considerable pains to present themselves as nicer, nobler and more empathetic than they really are. Since many of them (not all) are selfish egotists, this requires some skill. Now comes Trump unblushingly parading his viciousness — by, for example, mocking a handicapped man, toying with white supremacy or encouraging political violence — and still gaining the loyalty of a plurality of Republicans. One can imagine why voters might tolerate a little nastiness in certain situations. It’s possible that the threat of ISIS-style war crimes makes a would-be leader who vows to commit war crimes of his own seem palatable, or even “strong.” It’s not a total surprise that a regime of stifling political correctness would evoke a reaction. But voters are venturing way out on a plank with Trump — and I’m not speaking here of the fact that he is overwhelmingly likely to lose to Hillary Clinton if he’s the Republican nominee. No, I’m referring to the copious evidence that if he won, he could cause catastrophic damage to the country. Donald Trump is not emotionally healthy. No normal man sits up late at night tweeting dozens of insults about Megyn Kelly, or skips a key debate because he’s nursing a grudge against her for asking perfectly ordinary questions, or continues to obsess about her weeks and months after the fact. A normal, well-adjusted man does not go to great lengths to prove to a random journalist that he has normal-sized fingers. Some may think it was Rubio who introduced the “small hands” business, but it actually dates back to an encounter Trump had 25 years ago with journalist Graydon Carter. Carter had referred to Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in Spy magazine. Trump could not let it go. Carter told Vanity Fair in 2015: “To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him — generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. … The most recent offering arrived earlier this year, before his decision to go after the Republican presidential nomination. Like the other packages, this one included a circled hand and the words, also written in gold Sharpie: ‘See, not so short!'” Notice he didn’t contest the “vulgarian” part of the insult. And remember that at a presidential debate, for God’s sake, Trump brought it up himself and assured the world that “there is no problem. I guarantee.” I don’t believe that guarantee, and I’m not talking about his genitals. There is an enormous problem. Trump seems to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, an insecurity so consuming and crippling that he has devoted his life to self-aggrandizement. This is far beyond the puffery that most salesmen indulge to some degree. It strays well into the bizarre. Asked whom he consults on foreign policy Trump said, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.” What grown man says things like that and continues to be taken seriously? How can he be leading the race for the Republican nomination? People with severe ego weakness are to be pitied — but also feared. Everything Trump says and does is a form of self-medication for a damaged soul. His need to disparage others, to glorify himself and to be the “strongman” could lead to disastrous judgments by the man in charge of the nuclear codes. Mona Charen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. Copyright 2016 Creators Syndicate Inc. http://www.arcamax.com/politics/fromtheright/monacharen/s-1811213 ================================================= 5. TRUMP: A FRIGHTENING WINDOW INTO THE AMERICAN PRESENT BY JELANI COBB, WWW.NEWYORKER.COM, MARCH 15, 2016 Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty US POPULISM IS DRIVEN NOT SOLELY BY DISTRESS AT ECONOMIC MALAISE BUT ALSO BY FEARS INSPIRED BY RACIAL PROGRESS The old adage holds that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but the candidacy of Donald Trump suggests an alternate possibility—that sometimes we repeat history precisely because we understood it the first time. Trump’s ascent to the top of the Republican field was initially amusing, then confounding, and has now reached its full flourish as a frightening window into the American present. Trump has not simply emerged suddenly as a representative of populist white anger—the G.O.P. has been tilling those fields for decades—he has stripped the old structure down to the studs and, in its place, offered a garish new architecture, a populism unrestrained by convention or code words. It is honest, or at least frank, in its intent. As Jill Lepore pointed out in The New Yorker, the lines between the crowds drawn to Bernie Sanders and those drawn to Donald Trump tend to blur, each defining themselves against establishment candidates whose positions were cemented by their familial ties to Presidencies past. Those lines became a bit more distinct last week after a multiracial group of protesters disrupted a scheduled Trump rally in Chicago. Believing the unrest was the work of the Sanders’s campaign, Trump tweeted, “Bernie is lying when he says disruptors aren’t told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!” But, in a real sense, we are seeing in the Trump and Sanders phenomena not only the expression of frustrations in which the electorate has been steeped during the Obama years but also the clearest statement of the problems of populism since its inception. The default presumption about populism holds that its appeal peaks in times of economic crisis, and this is partly true, as suggested by the populist upsurge of the eighteen-nineties, when disgruntled farmers transformed their anger at banks seizing their land into the populist People’s Party, and the insurgent campaign of Ross Perot, a century later. But, in America, populism is driven not solely by distress at economic malaise but also by fears inspired by racial progress—and the belief that these two things are synonymous. This is the reason the Tea Party took hold not amid the economic collapse that occurred during George W. Bush’s tenure but in the midst of Barack Obama’s Presidency, its anger siphoned into conspiracy theories about the President’s Kenyan origins rather than Wall Street cronyism. The populism of the eighteen-nineties flirted with racial liberalism, organizing impoverished black farmers as well as white ones before being consumed by such Negrophobic zeal that Tom Watson, its chief proponent, was implicated in the mass lynching of African-Americans during the 1906 Atlanta race riot. Bigotry has generally been part of the lingua franca of American populism, if in varying degrees, since that point. Sixty-eight years ago, the public watched a dynamic similar to the Trump-Sanders moment play out as Harry Truman sought the Presidency, an office he had held since Franklin Roosevelt’s death, in 1945. Truman was pitted against the Republican Thomas Dewey but faced additional challenges from Henry Wallace, whom he had replaced as F.D.R.’s Vice-President, in 1941, and Strom Thurmond, the populist segregationist and South Carolina governor. Both Wallace and Thurmond purported to speak for the common man whose interests had been compromised by the Democratic Party, yet this presumption led them to strikingly different places. Wallace’s Progressive Party campaign denounced big banks, countenanced the support of socialists and communists, and, notably, advocated equal rights for African-Americans and an end to segregation. When the Democratic Party—motivated in part by Wallace’s left-flank candidacy and partly by the Great Migration, which had delivered millions of Republican-leaning African-Americans to Democratic strongholds in the North—adopted a strong civil-rights plank at its convention, Southern segregationists bolted and formed the States’ Rights (Dixiecrat) Party. In his speech protesting the civil-rights plank, Thurmond stated, “We do not intend that our constitutional rights shall be sacrificed for the selfish and sordid purpose of gaining minority votes.” It’s worth noting that the 1948 Dixiecrat platform called for two things: segregation of the races and “social and economic justice.” This was not accidental—in the logic of Southern populism, the former was a prerequisite for the latter. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s frequent conflicts with the Southern wing of his party hinged not on the creation of a welfare state but on segregationist demands that only one race be the beneficiary of it. Faced with the reality of its limited geographic appeal, the Dixiecrat Party sought to leverage its authority by denying both Truman and Dewey a majority in the electoral college, thereby throwing the election in the House of Representatives, where the Dixiecrats could broker a tie-breaking alliance in return for the abandonment of civil-rights enforcement. Instead, Truman won three hundred and three electoral votes, far more than the hundred and eighty-nine captured by the Republican, Thomas Dewey. Still, Wallace and Thurmond each won about a 1.2 million votes, and while Wallace did not win any single state Thurmond won Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina—all states, coincidentally, that Donald Trump has won in this year’s primaries. Trump is not drawing upon an entirely hallucinatory anxiety—many of the concerns of his voters are real. The difference between Bernie Sanders’s version of populism and Trump’s is simply where you lay the blame for this state of affairs. Bill Clinton once said of Ross Perot that you “can’t be a billionaire populist,” and that objection would seem equally applicable to Trump, a man who made his millions building housing for the monied classes, and casinos and golf courses where they could gamble that money away and then cut deals to make more. But Clinton was relying on an outmoded idea of populism. Here is a billionaire validating the fears of economically vulnerable white people. Who better than a symbol of wealth to explain how the pathway to similar attainment has been blocked, and who is responsible for it? Trump’s is not a populism of economics or even religion, as his success with Christian voters, despite his scriptural ineptitude, demonstrates. It is, rather, a populism of identity. In this regard, his wealth doesn’t contradict his ability to function as a populist symbol; it’s exactly the point. Here is a billionaire validating the fears of economically vulnerable white people. Who better than a symbol of wealth to explain how the pathway to similar attainment has been blocked, and who is responsible for it? Trump is not religious, but that has not disqualified him from being an evangelist of his own sort… George Wallace—no relation to Henry—another other Southern populist to whom Trump draws frequent comparisons, blamed his own (relative) racial leniency for his loss in Alabama’s 1958 Democratic gubernatorial primary and reportedly told an aide that he would “never be outniggered again.” He was elected four years later, on a platform of segregation. This is not the United States of 1948 or 1958. The country is both larger and more diverse. It has been transformed by successive movements for a more inclusive society, even if, a black Presidency notwithstanding, political power remains overwhelmingly in the hands of whites. This diversity is commonly heralded as a sign of progress, but it’s also the reason a New York-born one-per-center can appeal to Southern whites in such tremendous numbers. Trump’s brand of populism is cemented in the ideal that he will not be out-Muslimed, out-Latinoed, or out-baited regarding any other signpost of American change. And it’s selling. They are all Dixiecrats now. http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/donald-trump-a-frightening-window-into-the-american-present ================================================= 7. AMERICA CAN’T BE GREAT AGAIN NO MATTER WHO’S ELECTED… BY DAMIAN DUNN, WWW.STUFF.CO.NZ , MARCH 17, 2016 “American can’t be great again, no matter who’s in charge, as it’s never been great.” This is a letter written by an American living in New Zealand, and it echoes my personal feelings. There are links to two more at the end… As I read over Ed Mendez’s story on why Donald Trump would be a great president, and his reasoning behind it, I was a bit shocked at the frame of mind the article was written around. I, too, am an American living in New Zealand. No real backstory necessary, I don’t think. When you hear my accent I’m sure you’ll draw your own conclusions. My partner is a Kiwi and my son is a Kiwi. I came here several years ago not because I thought “Gee, New Zealand would be a great place to live”, or because of some annoying fascination with Lord of the Rings scenery, but because the woman I fell in love with lived here. But there’s also another reason. I didn’t want my partner to have to suffer America. I didn’t want her to be forced into a US$7.50 an hour Walmart job just because she isn’t in the correct demographic, or there simply isn’t anything else available. I didn’t want her to be injured and have no recourse for treatment, other than life-crushing debt. I’m not sure what Ed Mendez is talking about when he calls illegal immigrants a “drain” on Americas social services. What social services is he talking about? We’re talking about a country where born citizens have to choose between getting an infection treated or going into potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. A country where if your insurance isn’t accepted at the nearest hospital, you’d better hope you’ll make it to the next. If you have insurance at all, that is. Year after year the United States government, whether it’s led by Republicans or Democrats, does a study on the economic effects of illegal immigrants on the American economy, and year after year, they show time and time again that, well… there is none. To quote current professor and former Harvard researcher, Aviva Chomsky (daughter of famed philosopher Noam Chomsky): “Early studies in California and in the Southwest and in the Southeast … have come to the same conclusions. Immigrants, legal and illegal, are more likely to pay taxes than they are to use public services. Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible for most public services and live in fear of revealing themselves to government authorities. Households headed by illegal immigrants use less than half the amount of federal services that households headed by documented immigrants or citizens make use of.” But I digress, she’s probably being paid by the “liberal media” to contort her economic data to fit some shady narrative. Maybe she’s part of a conspiracy theory? It’s hard to tell. Sensing my sarcasm here? So what made America so great in the first place? Well… nothing actually. I won’t go into elaborate detail, but America was built on the back of slave labour, thievery, and cut-throat capitalism. For a short time it was good for the common man. Lots of jobs, a big middle class and plenty of room to move. Now that America is an actor on the global stage forced into global competition it’s average at best. It’ll continue to be average. No one can change that, not even Donald Trump. American exceptionalism is on its way out the door. Good riddance. So catching up… When I got to New Zealand, I suffered culture shock. It’s a real thing, as it turns out. For an American, it takes coming to a place like New Zealand to understand what freedom actually is. Not the kind that sells American flag bumper stickers, or makes you decorate your house with awesome eagle statues and assault rifles. For me it was relief. It’s a place where cops are typically friendly and don’t carry a pistol on their hip. It’s a place where if you don’t have, someone will make sure you do, whether it’s your mates or the government. Most of all, it’s a place where I actually feel at home. It’s a place where I want to raise a son. It’s a place where my contribution helps everyone, not just a few. I’ve left behind my American life. Maybe I’ll take my son to Disney World one day. Maybe I’ll take him to meet his grandparents. But I will say this: He won’t grow up thinking that America is the same America that’s portrayed on a movie set in Hollywood, and he certainly won’t grow up thinking it’s an exceptional place full of exceptional people. Instead he’ll grow up to be an exceptional Kiwi, and hopefully his immigrant dad will be given the opportunity to follow suit. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/share-your-news-and-views/14215254/America-can-t-be-great-again-no-matter-whos-elected You can read letters to the editor from two other Americans living in NZ below: DONALD TRUMP CAN MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN DEAR KIWIS, PLEASE STOP ASKING ME ABOUT DONALD TRUMP ================================================= 7. TRUMP OVERWHELMED WITH PRESTIGIOUS ENDORSEMENTS BY ANDY BOROWITZ, WWW.NEWYORKER.COM, FEBRUARY 26, 2016 FORT WORTH, TX (The Borowitz Report)—Aides to the G.O.P. front-runner, Donald Trump, expressed concern on Friday that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s endorsement of their candidate might overshadow equally impressive words of praise that Trump received yesterday from the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The scheduling of Christie’s endorsement just one day after the K.K.K. luminary’s boost was “obviously far from ideal,” the Trump aide Harland Dorrinson said. “In a perfect world, you’d like some daylight between Christie’s endorsement and Duke’s statement of support, so they’d each have maximum impact,” he said. “As major as the Christie news is, we wouldn’t want the Duke thing to get lost in the shuffle.” The aide said that the events of the past twenty-four hours have been “dizzying.” “When the Christie thing happened, we were still celebrating the David Duke thing,” he said. “It’s been crazy.” Dorrinson said that the Trump campaign expects an avalanche of endorsements from G.O.P. leaders, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis in the days and weeks ahead. “Sure, that’s going to cause scheduling problems,” he said. “But those are the kinds of problems every campaign would love to have.” ================================================= 8. THIS MONTH’S LINKS: OZ: “THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL MAGAZINE OF THE 60’S…” http://www.openculture.com/2016/03/download-the-complete-archive-of-oz.html GROCERY STORE ITEMS THAT ARE ALMOST NEVER RECYCLABLE… http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/11/these-15-grocery-store-items-are-not-recyclable SOMEONE FINALLY MADE A BETTER PAIR OF SCISSORS… https://getpocket.com/a/read/1203533551 ================================================= © Copyright 2015, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam
Newsletter – February 2016
==================================================THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – FEBRUARY 2016 1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS 2. INTEGRATION: A REPORT FROM THE SLOW LANE 3. WHAT IS PSYCHOSYNTHESIS? 4. THIS MONTH’S LINKS ================================================== QUOTE OF THE MONTH – DAVID ‘LUCKY’ GOFF “Soft enough to be permeable, Solid enough to maintain integrity.” ================================================== 1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS February Greetings, Dear Friends… This is a photo of my companion of twenty-five years, Merlin, and of my newest grandchild, three year old Xavier. I’ve had them paired like this since shortly after Xavi’s birth , and the quote above has helped me understand why. Xavi is the softness that is “enough to be permeable,” and Merlin is the solidity that is “enough to maintain integrity.” Lucky has helped me see I’ve held one of elderhood’s most meaningful paradoxes in front of me until I could understand it. I’ve also had help from Abraham Maslow and Roberto Assagioli; this newsletter combines the thinking of all three and has given me a new understanding of Nature and Evolution. The merging of Lucky’s ‘Evolving Elder,’ Maslow’s ‘Self-Actualized Being’ and Assagioli’s ‘Higher Self’ offers a vision of new possibility — that Evolution is not “a-moving-on-and-leaving-behind,” but “a-continually-including-all-that-has-come-before.” Here is where the illusion of time, or perhaps the necessity of time as illusion, makes sense; it allows us to mature into our experience of selves and Self. I’m drawn back to that last set of images in 2001 where time collapses into BOTH babe AND elder, into BOTH variety AND unity, into BOTH point and infinity… I saw this incredible movie in 1969 and was mystified by the ending then. Watching it now, the ending means just what Xavi and Merlin have come to mean to me, namely, that we humans are truly BOTH/AND and not EITHER/OR. I highly recommend watching this 2:29 minute video as a reminder before proceeding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXS8P0HksQo Here’s what its director, Stanley Kubrick, said in a 1970 interview with Joseph Gelmis… GELMIS: The final scenes of the film seemed more metaphorical than realistic. Will you discuss them — or would that be part of the “road map” you’re trying to avoid? KUBRICK: No, I don’t mind discussing it, on the lowest level, that is, straightforward explanation of the plot. You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man’s first baby steps into the universe — a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there’s a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system. When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny. That is what happens on the film’s simplest level. Since an encounter with an advanced interstellar intelligence would be incomprehensible within our present earthbound frames of reference, reactions to it will have elements of philosophy and metaphysics that have nothing to do with the bare plot outline itself. GELMIS: What are those areas of meaning? KUBRICK: They are the areas I prefer not to discuss because they are highly subjective and will differ from viewer to viewer. In this sense, the film becomes anything the viewer sees in it. If the film stirs the emotions and penetrates the subconscious of the viewer, if it stimulates, however inchoately, his mythological and religious yearnings and impulses, then it has succeeded. (Gelmis, The Film Director as Superstar, © 1970, p. 304.) But between my cultural conditioning and my immaturity, I still have spent most of four decades since in EITHER/OR perceiving and thinking. One must be EITHER young OR old, EITHER right OR wrong, EITHER higher OR lower. And this stage of being kept me consistently imprisoned in the metaphor of “The Journey” — the belief that there was always some place better to be (more grown up, beautiful, intelligent, powerful, spiritual, ad infinitum) and getting to the new place was the point of life.In the 60’s and 70’s many of us sought and found intellectual and psychological reinforcement for this EITHER/OR belief system, even when the teachers’ intentions were to free us from polarizing perspectives. I personally misused Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ in this way for forty years. It didn’t take much of a stretch to find “Better/Worse” judgments in a framework called a ‘Hierarchy’. Clearly the ‘Deficiency-Motivated Needs’ (D-Needs) were greatly inferior to the ‘Being-Motivated Needs’ (B-Needs), and, if you were still bothered by them, you were obviously an inferior person. So of course I and most other ego-driven psychology students were quick to deny them and pretend we were solely about ‘Self-Actualization.’ I don’t think this was what Maslow meant or intended, but that’s what many of us took from his work back then. If you’d like a refresher on Maslow’s Hierarchy, check this link. It’s captures the essence of his work that impacted me in the 1960’s. In more recent years, I, like Lucky, have come to believe that being human only comes with all our human needs for survival, security, belonging, status and self-actualization. And, while Maslow stayed away from highlighting sex, Nature’s need for our species to propagate and evolve certainly made that a biggie for many. Fortunately for us, the 60’s opened new possibilities for liberation that our more repressed ancestors were denied, and we reaped both their benefits and costs. So while I believe Maslow was correct in describing the D-Needs as more powerful than the B-Needs for most humans, this changes as we mature and accept our human wholeness. Repression and hedonism are both forms of immaturity (dependence and counter-dependence) that delay our integration and maturity. At 77 it now seems nonsensical to have viewed Maslow’s Hierarchy as a ladder to climb so I could leave each level of needs behind. It may be such divine incarnations have occurred, but mine is not one. I continue to experience survival, security, belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs; what intrigues me is to notice how the balance of the five has shifted over the decades — and can still shift from moment to moment. My belonging and status needs are greatly reduced now, and, while my physical needs are greater, my maturity allows me to manage them so they rarely take up much of my attention. In other words, I spend most of my time at home in an environment that is safe and comfortable. This is not a sacrifice; I love staying home. The self-actualization level is where I mostly live now, but it is not the ‘Merlin/Jedi Knight’ realm I imagined earlier. Mostly it is a mix of finding my earlier selves necessary for their times and a bit unsuited for my present. Flashbacks come regularly awake and sleeping, some delightful, some cringeworthy. What’s different now is accepting them all as legitimately me. I would not repeat many, and I would expand others. But this self wasn’t those selves, and, as far as I can tell, I was always doing the best those selves could at the time. And that’s a gift Maslow’s Hierarchy has given me, now that I’m less trapped in EITHER/OR thinking. When I feel a D-Need is threatened, meaning I can behave very stupidly and hurtfully toward others, my best self manages my life so such times are as infrequent as possible. When it doesn’t, the best I can do is to make amends after the fear has passed. And there’s another framework I’ve found even more useful… While Roberto Assagioli’s Egg Diagram can look like a vertical model, I suggest you think of it as a circular orchestra with the conductor as the conscious self at the center channeling the Higher Self. Then the different fields of consciousness can become sections of the orchestra, ready, willing and able to be guided by the wisdom of your Higher Self, whatever that means to you… This metaphor of a conductor with an ongoing orchestra works well for me. Psychosynthesis presents the continuing existence of all our selves — and emphasizes they need to be conducted buy the Higher Self if our personal orchestra is to make music instead of noise. Vertical EITHER/OR thinking leads us to believe we have to become someone we’re not to become a self-actualized Higher Self — and that we must leave many parts of our old selves behind. But nature presents wholeness as complete with all of its parts; the parts may change form, but nothing is left behind. It is managing the relationships among the parts that is the key. Lucky’s ‘Slow Lane’ (#2) and more on Assagioli (#3) follow in this newsletter and and you’ll find excellent summary of Maslow’s work here… Love, FW www.fatherwilliam.org ================================================== 2. INTEGRATION: A REPORT FROM THE SLOW LANE BY DAVID ‘LUCKY’ GOFF, WWW.ELDERCULTURE.COM “The seat of the soul is where the inner and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of overlap.” -Novalis – I don’t know why I dread writing this piece so much. It seems like the assertion of a naturally occurring kind of integrative process would be good news. The overlap, as Novalis says in his brief aphorism, is the “seat of the soul.” For me, the amazing thing is that Nature seems to be guiding us (by that I mean we humans) towards greater integration as we age, and an increased likelihood of achieving the overlap. That realization thrills me, but something else bothers me. I don’t know what it is. First, I’ll start with the good news. Aging has an unexpected effect. My guess is that the integrative process, which I have come to see as the principle developmental and instinctual thrust of later life, has languished out of sight, because of the blindness of ageism, and the inability to break wisdom down. Nature, never-the-less, seems intent upon ripening human beings into a fuller expressions of themselves. The instinct of integration kicks in during later life in some unexpected ways. The productiveness of commercial and economic activity gives way to the productiveness of increasing uniqueness and becoming more fully oneself. The outside moves in. Creation seems to matter more, in the long run, than the economy. Devaluing the old, devalues our own future. The human potential movement reveals just how ageist our culture is. The most experienced, most mature, and ripest of us (humans) have been ignored, and worse yet, mistreated. The present is dominated with either/or thinking of the worst sort, and doesn’t acknowledge the benefit of any form of integration. The overlap is not even a possibility in this kind of polarized world, at least not in our human-made world. Fortunately, Life has a larger agenda. Some people escape the gravitational pull of mass assumptions and become more. They are the true elders. Their lives reflect a kind of wisdom that comes from a higher order of integration. I can fairly easily grasp the warm pleasure that permeates my body when I consider, and notice within, the compelling attraction of freedom and integrity. These by-products of integration have a gravitational pull of their own. But I notice I still feel some trepidation, an unnamed anxiety starts flooding my being, I feel like I’m walking more deeply into a minefield. There is something dangerous here. What could it be? I’m not sure. It does occur to me, as I dwell on this uncertainty, that pointing out the natural flow towards integration might be construed as an attack upon the other, earlier in development, positions. Am I doing another version of what is so prevalent in this world? Am I saying that polarization is bad? No. I realize that one has to live fully through each stage, to ever even hope to get to anything like the big picture and actual integration. Aging is fraught with lots of difficulty. Not the least of these difficulties has to do with the question about how to hold the past? It is so hard to talk about the full-range of human development without giving full and essential recognition to every stage in the process. Being human is all of it. There isn’t a point where one is more or less human. All stages are essential to becoming a full human. What does this mean? I don’t know, I’ve only recently begun to grapple with this picture. I thank God, I have lived long enough to actually see this much of the picture. It’s a marvelous vista I get to behold. But it’s a demanding one too. For instance, I can see that we (humans) are complex. It obviously takes a while for us to unfold fully. And at each step in the process the world looks different and we become capable of different things. None of these developments is all of who we are capable of being. And all of those stages are favored by some, as the way it should be. Human history is full of conflict. Much of it has had to do with asserting the preeminence of one stage of human development (as embodied by a particular culture or individual) over another. I don’t want to add to that misdirected hostility. I’m not asserting that the aged perception is better, only that is different, and that it adds to the larger picture. I think a big part of what it adds is the perspective gained from integration. Later life is about the coming together of seeming opposites. Inner and outer, as the poet Novalis points out, and also action and stillness, anger and peace, solitude and relationship confinement and freedom. These are seen as opposites, but can also be seen as single points, spaces on the spectrum that overlap. I think our ultimate ripeness is like that, the places were opposites overlap, places of integration. And, each stage in the ripening process adds to that integration. This is delicate terrain. I can feel the Great Mystery at work. What I think I know, which comprises the discoveries I am uttering here, are my best attempts to give voice to what I couldn’t possibly know. Integration seems to include not knowing. I wonder if it includes the audacity of expressing what one doesn’t know? http://www.thslowlane.blogspot.co.nz/ Doesn’t that last paragraph capture another delightful paradox of elderhood? Now we BOTH know that we “couldn’t possibly know” AND feel the audacious responsibility “of expressing what we don’t know”! ================================================== 3. WHAT IS PSYCHOSYNTHESIS? BY THE SYNTHESIS CENTER In its most basic sense, Psychosynthesis is simply a name for the process of personal growth: the natural tendency in each of us to harmonize or synthesize our various aspects at ever more inclusive levels of organization. In its more specific sense, Psychosynthesis is a name for the conscious attempt to cooperate with the natural process of personal development. All living things contain within them a drive to evolve, to become the fullest realization of themselves. This process can be supported consciously, and Psychosynthesis is one means to do this. Cooperating effectively with this process can be assisted by a conceptual understanding of the nature of this evolution, and by practical techniques. Psychosynthesis provides these and integrates them into an inclusive and ever-growing framework designed to support the individual, groups, and the planet in their process of unfolding. As an inclusive approach to human growth, Psychosynthesis dates from 1911 and the early work of Roberto Assagioli, an Italian Psychiatrist. Though one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis in Italy, Assagioli maintained that Freud had not given sufficient weight to the “higher” aspects of the human personality, and recognized a need for a more inclusive concept of humanity. From this beginning Assagioli and an increasing number of psychotherapists, educators, physicians, social workers, clergy, and others have worked to develop and refine this inclusive view of human growth. The task is considered to be an open one, one that will never by finished. Each year, new discoveries in psychology, new developments in education, religion, anthropology, physics and other disciplines add to the principles and to the techniques of Psychosynthesis. Psychosynthesis, by its very nature, is always open to new approaches to human development. Over the past sixty years, a number of conceptual points and a number of methods have proven themselves to be fundamental. These provide a working structure for Psychosynthesis. A SYNTHESIS OF MANY TRADITIONS Any comprehensive psychological and educational approach to the development of the whole person must draw from many traditions. While Eastern disciplines often have tended to emphasize the spiritual side of being, Western approaches usually have focused on the personality level. But humanity must be viewed as a whole and each aspect accorded its due importance. Psychosynthesis recognizes that we have a transpersonal essence, and at the same time holds that the individual’s purpose in life is to manifest this essence, or Self, as fully as possible in the world of everyday personal and social existence. STAGES IN PSYCHOSYNTHESIS Every person is an individual, and the psychosynthesis of each person follows a unique path. At the same time, the overall process of psychosynthesis can be divided into two stages: personal and transpersonal. In personal Psychosynthesis, the integration of the personality takes place around the personal self, and the individual attains a high level of functioning in terms of work, relationships, and general living that is meaningful and satisfactory to the individual. In the transpersonal stage the person learns to achieve alignment with and to transmit the energies of the transpersonal Self, manifesting such qualities as responsibility, the spirit of cooperation, global perspective, love and purpose, and having access to inner guidance and wisdom. Often the two stages overlap: there can be a considerable amount of transpersonal activity long before the stage of personal integration is complete. METHODS EMPLOYED IN PSYCHOSYNTHESIS Any method that assists in the personal evolution of a human being is a method useful in psychosynthesis. To be maximally effective, we clearly need to have a broad range of methods and techniques to meet the needs presented by different situations and people. As each person must be treated as an individual, an effort must be made to choose the methods best suited to each person’s existential situation, psychological type, goals, desires and path of development. Some of the methods more commonly used include guided imagery, movement, gestalt techniques, self-identification, creativity, meditation, will development, symbolic art work, journal keeping, ideal models and development of intuition, and many more. The emphasis is on fostering an on-going process of growth that can gain momentum and bring a more joyful and balanced actualization to our lives. As this process goes on, we gain the freedom of choice, the power of decision over our actions, and the ability to regulate and direct many of the personality functions. This entails developing the personal will—the will of the personal self. Through this development we free ourselves from helpless or preprogrammed reaction to inner impulses and external situations and expectations. We become truly “centered” and gradually become able to follow our own path, guided by our inner knowing, or true Self. As we reach toward the transpersonal Self, we can liberate and encourage the synthesizing energies that organize and integrate the personality. We can make ever increasing contact with the Will of our transpersonal Self, which provides clearer and clearer meaning and purpose in our personal lives and our social tasks. We become able to function in the world more serenely and effectively, in a spirit of cooperation and good will. Psychosynthesis is a powerful and effective mode of holistic growth and is rapidly gaining recognition in the psychological and transformational fields. It is also a positive and dynamic framework from which to view the evolution of our planet. Psychosynthesis principles and techniques have been used effectively in education, medicine, politics and business, as well as in all forms of counseling and psychotherapy and personal, business and group coaching. It is rapidly growing in its sphere of application, range of techniques, and depth of understanding. The two most well know diagrams that Dr. Assagioli created to depict the makeup of the Human Psyche and it’s psychological functions, the “Egg” and “Star” diagrams can be seen here. http://www.synthesiscenter.org/ps.htm ================================================== 4. THIS MONTH’S LINKS: DALI & DISNEY CREATE 6 MINUTE FILM http://www.openculture.com/2014/06/salvador-dali-walt-disneys-destino.html POLITICAL COMMENTARY FROM BETTE MIDLER & JOSEPH HELLER… http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/2/8/1473466/-Bette-Midler-tweets-50-year-old-quote-by-Joseph-Heller-that-sums-up-GOP-candidate THE SELF: IS THERE OR ISN’T THERE ONE? https://aeon.co/videos/if-as-shakespeare-suggested-all-the-world-s-a-stage-do-we-have-a-true-self?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b151837f28-Daily_newsletter_Thursday_11th_February_2_9_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-b151837f28-68709313 100 DRONES ACCOMPANY A SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA! https://www.youtube.com/embed/mOBQXuu_5Zw ================================================== © Copyright 2016, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. 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Newsletter – January 2016
=================================================THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 2016 1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS 2. ELDERS COME IN ALL AGES 3. “AMIDST ALL THE NOISE, TO WHOM SHOULD WE LISTEN?” 4. “IT WILL ONLY HAPPEN IF WE FIX OUR POLITICS…” 5. “THERE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH BLAME TO GO AROUND…” 6. “TO CALL ON THE BETTER ANGELS OF PEOPLE’S NATURES…” 7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS ================================================= QUOTES OF THE MONTH – JUSTIN TRUDEAU & ANONYMOUS.
“Once you get elected through dividing people it becomes very hard to govern responsibly for everyone.”
“10% of conflicts are due to differences in opinion. 90% are due to wrong tone of voice.”======================================= 1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS January Greetings, Dear Friends… As you can probably guess from the quotes above, this month’s newsletter is focused on the TONE rather than the CONTENT of communications. I was inspired in this direction by two personal emails, and, as strange as it may sound, three political speeches. You’ll find January’s Musings shared between those five items in Sections 2-6. Enjoy… Love, FW www.FatherWilliam.org ================================================= 2. ELDERS COME IN ALL AGES This came from German friend, Tanja, who’s less than half my age. She rightly took me to task for a flippant remark about the awful situation at the Cologne Railway Station New Year’s Eve. Thinking I was being humorous, the next day I texted, “Hope you weren’t hanging out at the Cologne Station last night.” Her response taught me a lesson in TONE I’ve needed more than once… “I always stay away from places with lots of drunk men. Like the Oktoberfest or German carnival.” Good on you – and I apologize for joking about something so serious and disheartening. I admire Germany and Merkle for being compassionate toward the refugees, and things like Cologne just make it so much more difficult… “It’s ok. “Well, the thing with Cologne is, nobody knows who committed the crimes. Somebody said it was people that looked Arabic. But despite all the surveillance cameras there seems to be no footage. Therefore I won’t believe it was a refugee before anybody can prove it to me. “Apparently the train station in Cologne is well known for pickpockets. And it seems like all this has been a problem before, only now people seem to actually see that women are being harassed. “This is something that happens for weeks during the Carnival in Cologne and the Oktoberfest in Munich. Only then it’s obviously Germans committing the crimes and that seems to be OK. “And what about all the German tourists going to Thailand and treating women like shit there? “They are foreigners there as well. Nothing is being done about that. “Just saying. “And what apparently happened in Cologne led to German nazi idiots attacking foreigners who’ve got nothing to do with it. Just because they look Arabic they’re bad people now. People patrolling the streets to protect German women. Who’s patrolling the streets to keep idiots from trying to burn down refugee shelters? This is all so wrong. “We’ve been one of the few countries in Europe that didn’t shut down the borders, and I hope it’s going to stay like that. Because who’s been selling all the weapons to all the countries that are at war now? It was Germany. But this is stuff that nobody wants to know.” This is inspiring and humbling, Tanja. Thank you. It’s what “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” means. Given the hostility rampant in the world today, we each need to rediscover our best selves and the compassion we are capable of. Yes, clever people can and do make seemingly persuasive arguments for almost anything; I know because, for a while, I got well paid for doing that. But at 77, what’s clear is that I must call on my best self to become the Elder I hope to be. To allow our Elderhood to emerge, we must mature beyond our fearful, competitive, and self-protective egos and their compensating behaviors of superiority, exclusion and hatefulness. If only a lot more of the world, including me, could think and act like you, especially when such awful things happen! This is what Tanja’s response helped me remember so I thought I’d pass it along… ================================================= 3. “AMIDST ALL THE NOISE, TO WHOM SHOULD WE LISTEN?” This email came as part of a on-going dialogue about how to make sense of all the data bombarding us these days. Jimmy, my friend of thirty years, lives in Texas and I live in Vermont/New Zealand; his leanings are conservative and mine liberal. We’ve learned from each other for a long time. He wrote: “I finally got the opportunity to read some of these articles. As I read them, the analogy of completely opposite polarities emerges. And I suppose this is my dilemma …. and why I cultivate people I completely trust to help me find the “Middle Way”, since you two select information from completely different philosophical roots. “This is both the blessing and the curse of the information age. I am finding it increasingly difficult and immensely frustrating to discern the “real truth”. What source of information and reality do I trust and to whom should I listen, since there are so many writings and voices insisting to be heard? “This excerpt from Stockman resonated with my own intuition and what I perceive to be the “pulse” of the citizenry: ‘The people are growing weary of the lies and their restlessness will morph into anger when the economic collapse resumes. You can sense things are not right. Trust in the system has turned to suspicion and cynicism. The growing anger in the nation and the world is palpable.’” And so I responded with the best I’ve got at 77… Jimmy, I strongly agree with your “analogy of completely opposite polarities” not just emerging, but being so polarized as to turn trust into suspicion, cynicism into palpable anger. I’ve experienced this before in the 60’s and 70’s from when JFK, RFK and MLK were assassinated, Bull Connor was hosing demonstrators, we were carpet bombing Viet Nam, priests were burning draft cards, the KKK was murdering Freedom Riders and the Weathermen were doing their version of taking over Wildlife Refuges. Both then and now irrational fears on every extreme see terrifying Evils that must be exterminated in some God’s name. Not much here is new. It’s a repeat of the Inquisition phenomenon. “Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it.” And so we do. Like you, I don’t find information overload, especially in the age of ‘Mad Men,’ much more helpful than information paucity, and most people have neither the time nor the patience to do sift through today’s staggering amount of news. The solution is to find a channel we ‘trust’ to sort and simplify for us. There was a time when we got our news and commentary from we felt were trust-worthy, like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Mr. Rogers and Gracie Allen. But that ended in the 60’s. Now while I may trust and rely on John Stewart, Rachel Maddow and The New York Times, others trust and rely on Rush Limbaugh, Megyn Kelly and Fox News. Too often “trust and rely on” means “limit our news to,” and then such limited versions of reality become THE REALITY. It’s no wonder we’re becoming more and more polarized… So what sources of reality shall we listen to – or not listen to? In my retirement I have more spaciousness than ever before, I love learning and I’m internet savvy. Still, there are not enough hours in the day to fact-check even a minuscule percentage of the relevant CONTENT available to me. So I mainly use TONE. Whatever communication comes toward me has two dimensions: TONE & CONTENT. CONTENT is the rational data communicated, and when there are so many contradictory versions of the same event multiplying ad infinitum, it takes Super PACS, Super-computers, and Super-staffs to keep up. I don’t have or want those in my life. TONE is the package the rational data is communicated in. It includes all kinds of non-verbal and emotional cues that determine how the message will be interpreted and acted on. As a simple example, I’ll tell you a story of an exchange with my son Scott forty years ago when he was seven. We live in Vermont, and hard rock Maple is a common wood. As its name says, it is really hard wood. Scott was playing with a hammer, aluminum nails and a piece of Maple. He was getting frustrated because he couldn’t drive the nails into the wood – they kept bending. Well, nobody is likely to succeed at this because the wood is too hard and the nails too soft. So, using the dimensions of TONE (Positive-Negative) & CONTENT (Accurate-Inaccurate), let’s see how I might have used their four combinations to communicate with him. The most frequent outcomes are in the BOLD TYPE… While I didn’t call Scott ‘stupid,’ I’m pretty sure my advice in 1976 more likely produced resistance than anything else. I do much better with the grandchildren in 2015. But the point of all this is that, in terms of both material and emotional outcome, TONE is by far the most powerful part of any message – and, for me, it’s very easy to detect and classify. I might not know if the CONTENT of a message is accurate or inaccurate, but I always can tell whether the TONE is positive or negative. To me, positive TONE is affirming, loving, supporting, humble, inclusive, etc., and negative TONE is devaluing, hating, berating, righteous, separating, etc. But your values for TONE may be quite different. That’s why I only give them the labels of positive or negative – your personal value system will fill them quite differently, and that will work for you. It has helped me force myself to make conscious what positive and negative TONE means to me in different situations… ================================================= 4. “IT WILL ONLY HAPPEN IF WE FIX OUR POLITICS…”
Photograph © Evan Vucci/dpa/CorbisThis is the final part of Obama’s State of the Union address, and, for me, it is the TONE that matters. Yes, I think the CONTENT is spot on, but even if I couldn’t be sure of its accuracy, the TONE would encourage me to consider what is being said. And the same is true in the piece that follows – Nikki Haley’s “Republican Response’ that immediately followed Obama’s speech… …“We the People.” Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight. The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics. A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, …over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security. But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest. Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office. But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task — or any President’s — alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves. We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do. But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people. What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background. We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world. So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day. It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love. They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing. I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time. I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board. I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease. I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe. I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ’til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on. It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught. I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth. That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/us/politics/obama-2016-sotu-transcript.html ================================================= 5. “THERE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH BLAME TO GO AROUND…” BY GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY, WWW.CBS.COM JANUARY 12, 2016 Photograph CBS
“Good evening.“I’m Nikki Haley, Governor of the great state of South Carolina… “…At the outset, I’ll say this: you’ve paid attention to what has been happening in Washington, and you’re not naive. “Neither am I. I see what you see. And many of your frustrations are my frustrations. “A frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better. A frustration with the same, endless conversations we hear over and over again. A frustration with promises made and never kept. “We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around. “We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken. “And then we need to fix it. “The foundation that has made America that last, best hope on earth hasn’t gone anywhere. It still exists. It is up to us to return to it. “For me, that starts right where it always has: I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country. “Growing up in the rural south, my family didn’t look like our neighbors, and we didn’t have much. There were times that were tough, but we had each other, and we had the opportunity to do anything, to be anything, as long as we were willing to work for it. “My story is really not much different from millions of other Americans. Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America. They wanted better for their children than for themselves. That remains the dream of all of us, and in this country we have seen time and again that that dream is achievable. “Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country. “At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined. “We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries. “I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America’s noblest legacies. “This past summer, South Carolina was dealt a tragic blow. On an otherwise ordinary Wednesday evening in June, at the historic Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, twelve faithful men and women, young and old, went to Bible study. “That night, someone new joined them. He didn’t look like them, didn’t act like them, didn’t sound like them. They didn’t throw him out. They didn’t call the police. Instead, they pulled up a chair and prayed with him. For an hour. “We lost nine incredible souls that night. “What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about. “Our state was struck with shock, pain, and fear. But our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs. “We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world. “We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him. “There’s an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results. “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference. “Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have strong disagreements. We will. And as we usher in this new era, Republicans will stand up for our beliefs… “And rather than just thanking our brave men and women in uniform, we would actually strengthen our military, so both our friends and our enemies would know that America seeks peace, but when we fight wars we win them. “We have big decisions to make. Our country is being tested. “But we’ve been tested in the past, and our people have always risen to the challenge. We have all the guidance we need to be safe and successful. “Our forefathers paved the way for us. “Let’s take their values, and their strengths, and rededicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes to keep America the greatest country in the history of man. And woman. “Thank you, good night, and God bless.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nikki-haley-sotu-response_56959342e4b086bc1cd5cf6e Thank you, Nikky Haley, for the TONE of your response – it is one of an Elder who can lead us and, hopefully, “bring us together.” I’ve been hoping for such leadership since I saw that on a sign held up during one of Nixon’s campaign stops in 1968. Yes, please, Elders, come forward to lead us in TONE so we work together across our marvelous diversity! And there does seem to be a country with leadership that is doing just that… ================================================= 6. “TO CALL ON THE BETTER ANGELS OF PEOPLE’S NATURES…” BY KEVIN J.DELANEY, WWW.QZ.COM, JANUARY 20, 2016
Glass half full. (Reuters/Ruben Sprich)
The mood among world leaders is pretty gloomy. Reasons include the ongoing ISIL threat, the millions of displaced people in the Mideast and Europe, and disappointing economic growth, just to name a few.But Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is amazingly unfazed by the storm clouds all around. “I can’t help but being tremendously optimistic,” the 44-year-old leader told attendees of the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos gathering. His electoral mandate is to “provide a positive and good government for Canadians,” Trudeau says, “rather than focusing on what we’re scared of.” But what about the prospect of terrorism attacks on Canadian soil? “People are open to not choosing to live in constant fear,” Trudeau says. “We have to make a choice about how much we’re going to close and limit and crack down on our society in order to protect it.” What about short-term costs and security risks represented by open immigration? “Diversity isn’t just sound social policy. Diversity is the engine of invention,” says Trudeau. “It generates creativity that helps change the world. We know this in Canada.” How about the impact of low oil prices on Canada’s energy-producing economy? “The low oil prices are a challenge but the Canadian economy is a lot more than natural resources,” says Trudeau. What about the costs of transitioning to a greener economy? “We can fight climate change without sacrificing growth and prosperity,” he says. Trudeau’s optimism is all the more stark against German chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to decline her invitation to Davos in order to stay home to deal with the migrant crisis. And his strategy for getting the Canadian electorate to share in his optimism sounds rather, well, optimistic—especially in light of the fractious situation gripping his neighbor to the south, where US president Barack Obama, in his latest state of the union address, highlighted the US political divisions he regrets that he has failed to erase. “Once you get elected through dividing people it becomes very hard to govern responsibly for everyone,” Trudeau says. “The choice we made was to call on ‘the better angels of people’s natures,’ to use a great Lincoln line.” Will future events make Trudeau’s optimism look foolish? Canada’s new leader has made it clear he’s willing to take that risk. http://qz.com/598678/justin-trudeau-has-to-be-the-most-optimistic-man-on-earth/ I don’t see Justin Trudeau as “the most optimistic man on earth”; to me he is that rare combination of a leader who is psychologically astute, morally courageous and verbally superb. May we all have many more! See you next month, FW ================================================= 7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS: 2015 IN INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING…… http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/us/year-in-interactive-storytelling.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_nn_20151230&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=73301161&_r=0 COLBERT WELCOMES PALIN’S ENDORSEMENT OF TRUMP… http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert/video/D0E33012-1859-9AD3-CDAB-619C2022CD18/the-original-material-girl-is-back/
AND JUST IN CASE U.S. POLITICS DON’T SEEM CRAZY ENOUGH…http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/oregon-considers-wall-to-keep-out-angry-white-men ================================================= © Copyright 2015, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam. =================================================