Monday, August 29, 2005

Taking the Little OUT of Little League

For the past week or so the Little League World Series has been on prime time TV via ESPN. Professional announcers have been providing the viewing audience with the play-by-play and, in many ways, treating this annual event like big league baseball.

In the final game, one youngster hit a walk-off home run to bring Hawaii its first ever Little League World Championship. Now we can see over and over again two distinct pictures -- the jubilation of the victors and the genuine tears of the losers. Yes, the young pitcher who gave up the winning homer broke down in tears!

What is Little League baseball doing on TV in the first place? These are 11, 12 & 13 year old kids playing a game for the fun of it. They don't need the eyes of the world watching every pitch and at bat. They don't need the glare of television cameras recording their every move and emotion.

For crying out loud, it's JUST a game! A simple game enjoyed by generations of youth.

But now it's not JUST a game -- It's become a commercialized spectacle!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Process Matters

There is no denying it – I am a process person. For me, the process of making decisions is as important, if not MORE important, than any specific decision itself.

I’m one of those people at group meetings that others often characterize as a “stickler for the rules” or more concerned with the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. What most of such people don’t understand is that I’m not married to the rules themselves. The way I look at it, if a group has a rule or procedure that doesn’t work, change it. If the rules or procedures are the way the group wants them, then follow them. It’s a very straightforward approach.

From my observations, this endemic problem with following a group’s bylaws, rules and procedures is a lot more prevalent among leftwing organizations than it is for rightwing groups. It’s really easy to understand why.

Those of us on the left generally reject the authoritarian hierarchy that the right embraces. Rightwing organizations tend to entrust a lot of power in the Chair/President and the Executive Committee. While individual members do have the right to question the decisions made by its leaders, this power is not often used because of the belief in the correctness of the authoritarian model.

Leftwing organizations tend to incorporate a more free-flowing decision-making model. Every member is afforded the opportunity for meaningful input. Leaders are supposed to act at the behest of the will of the members. In other words, the left employs a bottom-top framework, while the right uses the more classic top-bottom model.

While I certainly agree with the bottom-top perspective, I think too many leftwing and progressive groups are guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They too often fuse authoritarianism with structure and jettison both.

Structure, the mechanisms devised to insure just and consistent decision-making, can and should exist, regardless of the decision-making methodology employed. Put another way, structure is not the same thing as authoritarian hierarchy.

For any building to stand, it must have a strong foundation and structure. If these two interrelated elements do not exist, the building will collapse like a house of cards. The same is true for organizations. If a group can’t even learn to walk it’s talk (i.e., follow its own structure), what’s the use? Why should anyone inside or outside of the group care what the group has decided?

How decisions are made is important. The process matters.

Friday, August 26, 2005

In the Eyes of the Beholder

Every aspect of our lives is subjective. Everything we see, hear, touch, smell or feel must be filtered through our experience, knowledge, memory and mysterious preferences before we can say much of anything about it. This goes a long way toward understanding the classic phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

I was thinking about the concept of beauty as I left behind for a day the lush greenness of the Willamette Valley for the dry brownness of East Central Oregon. Actually, brown is not the only color I encountered in Gilliam and Sherman Counties. As I drove on seldom-used secondary highways – I passed 4 cars and 12 homes in an almost 40 mile stretch -- I tried to catalogue the various colors I saw: brown (rocks), gray (rocks and the silt-based soil), pale khaki green (sagebrush), green (a few trees here and there) and yellow (harvested wheat fields).

When comparing this limited array of color with what is found year round in Western Oregon, one could easily refer to it as ugly. Yet, despite the fact the spectrum of color is limited, it holds a quiet and peaceful beauty of its own.

In a manner of speaking, the array of each color scheme offers an apt description of these two different ecosystems. In Western Oregon, there are scads of people and everything seems to be moving at a fast pace.

East Central Oregon is far more subtle. There are few people (in some areas less than 2 persons per square mile!) and life moves at a far slower pace.

Because we Westerners are moving about in a frenzy, we need an environment with colors and hues that jump out at us, a “hey, look at me” approach. As we whiz down I-5 or Highway 101, the vibrant reds, blues, oranges and purples of the local flora are caught in our peripheral vision and enjoyed in an ephemeral instant.

Were it not for the spectacular splash of color, we might miss the pageant altogether!!

In a land of an endless sky and peaceful silence, we don’t need to be hit over the head. We have the time to drink in the pale variations and to contemplate the hues of the season.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

W, Iraq & the 10 C's

The man who occupies the White House has often alluded to the fact that he takes much of his marching orders from the “man upstairs”. This got me to wondering – If there IS a man upstairs, what must he be thinking about now? Is he smiling uncontrollably or is he shaking his head in disbelief?

If I were to venture a guess, I would say he’s probably doing the latter. If he used the 10 Commandments as a proof against the war, I don’t think he’d ANY checkmarks.

For starters, I don’t think he’d feel comfortable granting a passing score for “You shall have no other Gods before me.” Money and oil are among the reasons for our current escapade in Iraq. When a person makes decisions based on trying to accumulate more money and power, it would seem that God has been moved from the co-pilot’s seat to the cargo hold.

Because Dubya has invoked the Lord’s name as one of the prime motivations for attacking a sovereign nation which posed no threat to our nation, I think this would count as taking the Lord’s name in vain. So again, no checkmark.

Mr. Bush will soon set a record for the most day’s a US President has been on vacation. The 4th Commandment stipulates that all work should be performed during the first 6 days of the week and that the Sabbath should be your day off. I don’t think it should count IF a person treats all days like the Sabbath! No checkmark here either.

The 1st President Bush decided NOT to commit troops to a long ground war in Iraq because he believed it would lead to a prolonged occupation – history has proved him correct. His son, unfortunately, has chosen NOT to heed the wise example of his father. Therefore, it appears that Dubya has not honored his father and so loses another chance for a checkmark.

I know there are many different interpretations for the 6th Commandment’s prohibition against killing. Still, when a person gives orders and innocent people wind up dead, it would seem readily apparent that such action violates this prohibition. Alas, another potential checkmark bites the dust.

Since one of the reasons we’re occupying Iraq today concerns the fact that several US petroleum companies have long coveted Iraqi oil fields, this would indicate violations of Commandments 8 & 10 (i.e., stealing and coveting). That’s two more checkmarks that will fall to the wayside.

Finally, since every justification for this “war” has turned out to be untrue, the Bush administration certainly is guilty of bearing false witness. This means the last possible opportunity for a checkmark has been swept aside.

In essence, Dubya comes up with a big donut. Nary a checkmark on his ledger. The man upstairs must be scratching his head.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Chamber Union of Commerce

There seem to be a lot of people in this world who dislike labor unions.  They have a laundry list of complaints:
  • unions supporters are all socialists;

  • unions exercise too much political clout;

  • unions force members to spend their money on a political agenda that some members don’t support;

  • yada, yada, yada.

What gets me is that many of the same people, who spend an inordinate amount of time bad-mouthing labor unions, have a holier-than-thou attitude when the focus switches to the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber, in their eyes, is a great example of a representative organization that gets things accomplished for the benefit of their members and the general public.

If you stop and think about it, though, there is not THAT much of an organizational difference between the Chamber and a union.  Often, they come at issues from divergent perspectives, but structurally they tend to mirror each other.

Both of these organizational types generally represent members who are free to join or not join as they choose.  Both charge dues that are used for administrative, educational, community and political activities.  Both generally hire staff people to carry out the organization’s work AND have members who volunteer their time furthering the organization’s objectives.

Both allow their members to have a voice in choosing the political focus for the membership.  Because both operate via the will of the majority, there will be some members in both types of organizations who will not agree with the vote of the majority.

Both the Chamber and unions endorse and oppose political candidates and ballot initiatives.  Both lobby the government for measures that will improve the lot of their members.

So why do conservatives vilify unions since they’re structurally similar to the Chamber of Commerce?  

Friday, August 19, 2005

A Capable WatchDog

I've launched a new blog called Where's Your Bain? Since I've supposedly been banned from making comments at Where's Your Brain?, I will be entering them instead on my new blog.

There are two main reasons for this action. First, I want to move my criticism for JustaDog OFF OF The Rambling Taoist. Second, JustaDog needs some scrutiny. Besides banning opinions that she doesn't like, she's also prone to deleting comments AND changing the text of other people's comments.

A blogger with little scruples needs to have a light shined on their activities much like the alternative press has focused a giant spotlight on the Dubya gang. And that's what Where's Your Bain? aims to do!!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

There's More Than One Way to Skin a

As mentioned in my previous entry, it seems I've been a bad boy. The host of the blog Where's your Brain? has banned my IP address so I can no longer leave rational comments on her irrational blog. Yesterday, however, I left a whole slew of comments. You see, there are several easy ways to get around an IP address ban.

Of course, I KNEW my comments wouldn't last long. As soon as dog breath discovered I had returned, it/she/he would go into a tizzy and delete them all. This has indeed occurred. In fact, the canine wonder has gone one step further -- it/she/he has removed all the previous comments logged in on blogger! I'm beginning to wonder if JustaDog might really be George Bush in disguise!!

I think one comment I left yesterday served as the trigger point for the massive deletions. Since you can't read it any longer on Where's Your Brain?, I'll share it with you here on my blog.
[You better read this quick. Our host will delete it soon.] I have NEVER left an anonymous comment on this blog!! In fact, I don't think I've ever left an anonymous comment on ANY blog. I see no reason to. I'm comfortable with my opinions and I believe it's important for people to know who is saying (writing) what.

In a way, this situation is VERY ironic. I use my name. Our host hides behind a nondescript moniker. My blogger profile indicates my age, gender, occupation and city. JustaDog ONLY lists her city, while hiding her age, gender and occupation.

Since you know my name, it's easy to surf the web to find out more about me. You can visit (where I am a regular contributor). If you select my profile, you can see a picture of me and learn a little about my activities for the past decade. If you perform a Google search and type in "Trey Smith Oregon", you can find out even MORE about me.

It's impossible to find out much of ANYTHING about our host because she doesn't use her REAL name. A google search for "JustaDog" won't net you any pertinent information.

For the past several months I have OPENLY posted my opinions here via comments. I've been very specific and direct. Yet, all of a sudden, our [anonymous] host would have you believe that I'm also posting while hiding my identity. If I was so concerned about my identity, why would I have posted here for months using my name?

It doesn't make sense. And that's the key. JustaDog rarely makes sense.

So there you have it. Who is the secretive one? Trey Smith who posts his opinions under his name or a person who lobs vile attacks and calls people names but HIDES HER IDENTITY EVERY SINGLE TIME. You be the judge.
Just one other note. I continue to allow comments from any person. Unlike SOME people, I'm not afraid of robust discussion. You can agree or disagree with anything I write and you can post anonymously without fear of reprisal.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Where's Your Brain?

You know you're doing something right when the host of a blog decides to ban you from commenting. For the past several month's I've been waging an open battle with the host of "Where's Your Brain?". Every time she posts one of her insidious attacks on anything or anyone to the left of Dubya, I make a point of presenting an alternative view.

Obviously, my last comment hit a raw nerve! The blog's host (JustaDog) had been crowing about that fact that so many folks have visited her blog. Here is the comment I posted which she immediately deleted. (Wonder why?)
But oh my, over 14,650 visitors and my little 'ole blog isn't even a year old. Hee hee

Hee Hee is right. The joke's on you!!

Frankly, I'm happy to hear you've had so many visitors. For those visitors who read the comments of each of your postings, they're getting far more than you ever bargained for! I went back and counted the number of comments since July 6. There have been 276. Of this number, 102 have been from me and One Down (I've left 85 and One Down has left 17). That means that AT LEAST 37% of the comments allow people to hear the OTHER side.

If we remove our host's own 97 comments from the equation, then we're left with 179. This means now that over 56% of the comments have been left by two of us who RARELY agree with JustaDog.

Pundit has left 30 comments in this period and only a few have agreed with your stated point.

Consequently, your ultra conservative blog is serving as a billboard for facts and opinions you loathe. Way to go! Keep up the good work!!

I suppose these facts were too much for her to bear!! So, not only did she delete this comment, but left the following comment herself:
I finally got exact verification (via IP address, system, browser data) that "Trey Smith", aka Mr. pacifist, aka Mr. Taoist (love and respect everyone) has also been posting anonymously with the vicious tongue. I will not condone the types of attacks as his, so he will be band. He's nothing more than a cheap liberal - always trying to deceive, always a hypocrite.

The Haloscan comment system allows better control over comments. I don't care if you agree or disagree - your comment stays. If you post attacks on me or are exceedingly vicious to other commenters then your IP will be banned!

There's only one problem with the above statement -- it's a complete fabrication!! I've NEVER left an anoymous comment on her blog! Like our dear [P]resident, when the facts don't match with what you want people to see, you simply makeup a bunch of crap to make things seem the way you want them to seem.

I normally don't pat myself on the back, but I will in this case. I spoke truth to power and the power blinked!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

More Than Ideas

I used to fancy myself as being a proverbial "idea" person. When an organization had a nebulous idea of some objective, I've always been one of those people who serves as a fount of ideas (some REALLY good and some quite wacky). Organizations need people like this. Were it not for "idea" people -- those who can envision innovative and creative ways of addressing issues -- most organizations would be stuck in the rut of doing things like we've always done 'em before.

As I grew more and more involved in progressive causes and organizations, I came to realize, though, that we needed more than mere "idea" people to take the reigns of leadership and activism. Yes, ideas are great, but if there's no one to implement them, what's the point? A
stupendous idea or vision means nothing if it never gets off the ground!

In a manner of speaking, I came to realize that most of us "idea" people were supreme copout artists.

One of the great things about ideas is that they aren't constrained by reality. In other words, creative thinking is a liberating act. When developing a new idea, you don't have to worry about its cost, the number of people it will take to develop and implement, the amount of time and resources it will take to blossom, and whether or not it will find resonance with anyone else.

No, you find yourself intoxicated by the power of the creative flow. You feel charged by each and every potentiality. You get lost in all the various hues your innovative vision may hold.

After reveling in your newest creation, you present it to your comrades. Often, people will love your idea and it will spur others to join this free flow of creative energy. Sooner or later, some astute member will say, "Okay, this is great! Who's going to bottom line it?" This question
tends to let all the air out of the balloon. People looked perplexed, particularly the creator of the idea.

In days of yore, I tended to not be interested in putting the meat on the bones. I reasoned that it was enough that the GREAT I had envisioned this marvelous vehicle; I would leave it to others to take the idea from its infancy to fruition.

But folks, that is the REAL need in almost every organization -- workers to implement ideas. This is especially important for most progressive advocacy organizations. We don't have staff people. We're all volunteers. WE have to be the ones to put the meat on the bone.

And so, about 15 years ago, I changed from being an "idea" person to an "idea and implementation" person. I realized it wasn't enough to be a fount of ideas; I needed to commit the needed time and worked toward ensuring said ideas became workable plans of action.

This is what we need today, especially during this time when government is abdicating responsibility for our social safety net. We need people to step forward with ideas AND the willingness to be part of the process of implementing those ideas and others.

Will you be one of those people?

I hope so. We need more than ever.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Treading Lightly

As a pacifist, I abhor violence in all its forms. I think war is an abomination on the sanctity of life. I believe that killing innocent people to further a political objective is downright unethical. Whatever a person's ends, I reject the use of violence as a means.

All that said, I can still respect a soldier of any army. While I may vehemently disagree with the machinations of war, I do respect those who believe what they believe so strongly that they are willing to jeopardize their own life to further their objective.

This is why, though I steadfastly reject the Bush administration's rationale for "war" in Afghanistan and Iraq, I am NOT a hater of the individuals who serve in our armed forces. Likewise, while I concurrently reject the killing of innocents, I also respect many of the suicide bombers.

I know this last statement will rile many. They will view such sentiment as "aiding and comforting the enemy", unpatriotic, treasonous, and supporting terrorism. But, my response to such talk is that they are confusing two issues -- the act itself with the personal dedication to a belief that serves as the motivator to the act. I adamantly repudiate the former, while I can begrudgingly respect the latter.

After the horrific carnage of 9/11, I heard many an American refer to the hijackers as devout cowards. Cowards? They willingly flew planes into buildings guaranteeing themselves an instant death. For me, that's NOT the act of a coward. Madmen, yes. Cowards, no.

Think about this for a minute. A person straps a bomb on their body. At a predetermined time and place, they detonate the bomb. They willingly kill themselves in a most horrific way for a cause they believe in.

I'm certain some of these people have been brainwashed. They have been led to do this dastardly deed because of charasmatic leaders who suck them in through false praise and promises. For such people, my reaction is pity, not respect. But I'm certain there are those individuals who have thought deeply about what they're about to do. For those people willing to sacrifice their hopes and dreams to further the aspirations of their people, that says a lot to me about their belief and dedication to their ideals.

I may disagree with those ideals. I may reject the religious underpinnings. I may abhor the means chosen. And I certainly damn the fact that innocent lives randomly are snuffed out. Still, all that said, I can respect the devotion.

How many of us can truly say we'd willingly blow ourselves up to defend the foundational principles we hold dear? Not too many of us, I think.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Other Sides

A common problem in this world is "preaching to the choir". All of us tend to read and discuss things within a clique of those who think as we do. While there's nothing wrong with this -- to a point -- it does cause us to have a more limited view on issues. Think about it. If you only discuss one aspect of any topic, how will you ever learn or even understand a different perspective?

To this end, I'm going to use my blog today to feature some snippets from a few of the conservative blogs I frequent. Needless to say, I generally disagree with a great deal of the posts on these sites and I often voice my disagreement via comments. Still, it's important to listen to other people's perspectives to get a handle on the sentiments of folks who do not consider themselves to be "progressives".

From Where's Your Brain? -- Don't Let The Pillars Crumble
Traitors have been around for hundreds of years. The worse threat is those among our ranks, pretending to do what they do for the good of us. They form groups and coalitions with names intended to hide the evil of their plans. They claim to be for "civil liberties", for "working families", "social justice", etc...

There are enemies among us involved in active sedition under the disguise of legal dissent, and advocating terrorism and terror attacks under the disguise of freedom of speech. Liberals (different from conservative Democrats), the ACLU, the likes of Kennedy, the Clinton Klan, socialists, haters of Christianity, haters of Jews, haters of the core principles that our country was founded on, haters of capitalism, etc.
From Daniel's Political Musings -- Illegal aliens came out on top in Oregon's legislature
Way to go Oregon. You made it so meth cooks have to drive an extra 15 minutes to Vancouver to buy cold pills but you couldn't muster the support to make illegal aliens show proof of citizenship to get a drivers license.

In a few years all our ID's will be worthless because our "representatives" can't stomach the thought of punishing lawbreakers.
From Abercrombie View -- See What I Mean?
Yesterday Robert Knovak walked off of a CNN set and was suspended as a commentator by the network. Not condoning his expletive, his frustration at the common liberal tactic used by James Lavelle was evident. This is another common tactic used by liberals when they know they haven’t got a good argument. Lavelle proceeded to interrupt and talk over Knovak as he was trying to explain his point and even when he politely tried to get Lavelle to let him complete his answer, Lavelle continued to just run over him verbally. This leads me to think that liberals are waging a true war of words, not meaning, words.
From My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy -- Able Danger and 9/11
The blogosphere’s abuzz with news of the report of the (Able Danger) intelligence on the 9/11 terrorists back in 2000 - and as usual, the left side is dismissing it out of hand, because it doesn’t implicate Chimpy Bushitler.

It looks to me so far that this is in no way some bullshit Valerie Plame story, though; and even so, the significance of 9/11 makes the Plame Game look positively LAUGHABLE. No freaking way am I going to go blind looking at their meltdown at the DUh or Kos, though. I saw enough with a quick Technorati search.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Oregon's Child Welfare System Needs Help

According to an article in today's Statesman Journal, Advocates: Child-Welfare System Ailing, the Oregon Department of Human Services continues to be hampered by less than adequate funding. Over the past two years, reports of child abuse and neglect continue to rise, while the number of caseworkers remains stagnant or may even decrease.

The article quotes one caseworker who says,

"It is the tyranny of the urgent: a child is running away, a mother is relapsing on drugs; it's crisis, crisis, crisis," she said. "We do not have time for the kind of support we would like to be able to give."

An apt analogy to this situation would be a doctor who ONLY sees to the needs of those suffering heart attacks or strokes. Instead of providing care and support to each patient in the hopes of preventing the need for emergency medical care, the doctor would wait for this need to arise BEFORE springing into action.

I realize we are in the grips of the "shrink government at all costs crowd", but here's a classic example of spending more on the front end to save hundreds of millions of dollars on the back end.

Child abuse occurs within a cycle of violence. If society doesn't step in at an early juncture, the cycle continues unabated. Inadequate funding today merely passes the buck to future legislatures as today's victims grow into tomorrow's abusers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Tolerating the Tolerant Revisited

Back in February when I began this blog, I penned an entry entitled, "Tolerating the Tolerant". I believe the main premise is very important in today's world. So, I'm reprinting it below.

There’s a program, “Teaching Tolerance”, that’s been around for a quite a few years. While I certainly salute and applaud the motivation behind the development of this educational vehicle, I seem to a have a real problem with the choice of the word tolerance.

From my humble perspective, teaching people to tolerate others sends an unintentionally negative message. The whole point of this program is to motivate each of us to be more accepting of diverse cultures. In my book, there is quite a bit of difference between acceptance and tolerance.

To accept something is to agree to receive it. When a person agrees to receive something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they must like it or embrace it unto themselves, but it does mean they are affirmatively building a bridge between the person making the offer and themselves.

The concept of acceptance does not necessarily involve any hierarchy. Whether you’re the king/queen or a slave you can choose to accept or not accept something offered.

Tolerance, however, is a completely different animal. In order to be in a position to tolerate something or someone, one must be ABOVE or SUPERIOR to the thing or person to be tolerated. In other words, tolerance is TO ALLOW something or someone to exist and the only way one can allow something is if they exercise some measure of control over the person or situation.

Consequently, I believe the unintended subliminal message of the “Teaching Tolerance” Campaign is to tell people that they should tolerate others because they are better or superior to the people or cultures they should tolerate. And, if you think about it, that’s not a very uplifting nor positive message.

Far worse, if you happen to be a member of the ethnic or cultural group to be tolerated, you are being told that you are inferior to the people who should learn to tolerate YOU! It’s like being hit with a double whammy. The predominating group ALREADY thinks you ARE inferior and now the very campaign that seeks ultimately to lift you up is concurrently reinforcing the idea that you are INDEED inferior.

As the Tao Te Ching teaches that we are all part of one universal cosmic force, no one is superior or inferior to another. With no hierarchy, the concept of toleration doesn’t need to be learned nor promoted.

Recognizing the Common Threads

One aspect of human social interaction which has always troubled me is our penchant for noticing the differentation between individuals and groups and not the commonality we share. We too often forget that ALL homo sapiens share needs, desires and aspirations in common. Not a one of us can survive for long without air, water, food, shelter or meaningful social interaction.

It doesn't matter where we hail from. It doesn't matter where we live now. It doesn't matter what religion, creed or belief system we live by. It doesn't matter if we're male or female, rich or poor, young or old, straight or gay, black or white or red or yellow. Remove any of our basic HUMAN needs and we all will perish.

So, if we all share these things in common, why do we see barriers between us? The answer is not that the needs differ but the expression of these needs are not the same. And people tend to fear things they don't know or understand.

In a manner of speaking, it amounts to a willfull ignorance. Rather than meeting someone new who looks, sounds or acts different than our established norms and desiring to learn the commonality behind their different modes of expression, we tend to demonize theses EXPRESSIVE differences.

We do this by stating that something must be wrong with this other person or group. If things were right with them, then they would see things as WE see them. Because they don't view the world as we do, too many people are all to eager to label the others as outcasts or, worse, enemies.

However, if we instead focused on the common threads of all people, we would soon discover that we have no enemies -- other than ourselves. We would soon discover there was no need for war, in all its many forms.

This is a pertinent concept to think about as our world find itself held hostage by a war between two competing world views: Fundamentalist Christianity versus Fundamentalist Islam.

Both of these competing sides REFUSE to consider the common thread that binds us all. And it's this steadfast refusal that has lead to much death and suffering.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Of Compassion

Compassion seems to be an emotion that's not being extended very frequently these days. Not only is it not being shown to our fellower travelers, but it seems that a lot of people don't even comprehend what compassion is. They hand it out like a party favor to those "special" people who were proffered an invitation to a gala event.

As I've discussed in this space before, one of my favorite conservative blogs is Where's Your Brain? It's NOT one of my favorites because I agree with the blog's author -- quite the opposite! I like it because it provides a keyhole into the mind of a rather uncompassionate person.

Of course, she thinks of herself as being very compassionate with one caveat: "I'm very compassionate - to those that deserve compassion. " She, like so many others, judges a person first and THEN decides if they meet her very subjective criteria enough to have a little sympathy thrown their way.

If we take a look at some of the great humanitarians of human history (Lao Tzu, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, etc.), we find that this methodology would seem foreign to each of them. Compassion is NOT something to be rolled out ONLY for those who think or look like you do, but to anyone and everyone alike.

While hanging on the cross, Jesus showed compassion by praying for his executioners. Gandhi and King urged their followers to show compassion for their tormentors. Day and Mother Teresa traveled to be with the sick and dying on all sides of the line. And Lao Tzu wrote about such things as mercy toward your opponents.

If you only extend compassion to those who are deserving in your eyes, you are no better than your worst enemy.

And a compartmentalized compassion is really not compassion at all; it's more akin to narcissistic self-righteousness!

Sunday, August 7, 2005

What If...

What if there was some kind of strange cosmic force that caused ALL the computers on Planet Earth to go blank? All numbers would revert to zero. All names, addresses, gender demarcations and every other bit of collected information would no longer exist. What would happen to life as we know it?

For starters, [P]resident Bush would go on national television to declare the U.S. had incontrovertible evidence that this was the work of Islamic terrorists. People in the Islamic world would immediately be told that this was the work of the U.S. and England. Everyone would have their pet theories.

But beyond trying to figure who was to blame, the world would be thrown into utter chaos. Wealth would virtually disappear. The various stock markets would all crash. There would be little distinction between the haves and the have nots.

From a individual standpoint, a lot of people would lose their self-identity. Too often people are classified and treated in particular ways based on their perceived wealth. If all this wealth suddenly vanished, a lot of people wouldn't know who they really are.

Communications -- both military and non-military -- would be in shambles. Everything that we know to be true in our civilized western world would be effected.

The one group of people who would be LEAST effected are those who live in the so-called Third World. Most of their lives aren't dependent on computers and microfiche. While we Americans would be dealing with a horrific collective shock, peasants in Central America or rural Vietnam would go on with life as usual.

This latter fact says a lot about current western society.

Forgetting That You is Part of We

There's been a big push in America to strengthen certain INDIVIDUAL rights. Far too many voters seem to favor policies that grant each of us the right to do what we want with our own property, money, children, spouses and lives. If some of these "personal" decisions bring harm to other people or whole communities, their basic reaction is "Tough. That's not my concern."

Yet, for all this drive to accentuate the individual and their rights, too many of the people who want the right to do whatever they want don't necessarily want YOU to have the right to do whatever YOU want. Such people seem to forget that what's good for the goose should also be good for the gander.

It's a very selfish attitude and one that seems to permeate contemporary western society.

A great example of this type of mentality can be seen in land use issues. In Oregon, voters recently gave property owners strong rights to overturn or negate land use laws and zoning ordinances. If these individuals want to build a subdivision in the middle of farm land or a wood chip plant on the edge of a residential neighborhood, local government now has little muscle to stand in their way.

Their neighbors can object loudly, but who the hell cares? This is what they want to do with their property. To deny them their "God-given" right to decide what is best for themselves and their families is now viewed as creating an economic impediment to their livelihood.

But here's the kicker. Many of the same people who worked night and day to pass this anti-community legislation come unglued if YOU want to build a subdivision in the middle of THEIR farm land or YOU want to build a wood chip plant on the edge of THEIR neighborhood.

Then, all of a sudden, they become champions of community standards. They stomp around and gnash their teeth. They moan that YOUR actions will devalue THEIR property. They demand that something must be done to stop YOU from doing what YOU want.

You see, their belief in the individual is very shallow. Individual rights ONLY matter when THEY (or their buddies) are the individuals in question. When YOU become the focal point of the situation, then they don't care one iota about individual rights.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

The Truth About Truth

I know quite a few people who believe there is a thing called ultimate truth. They believe that, if you tear away all the artificiality of life, at the bottom lies the word and the word is what is real.

I don't buy it because PERCEPTION colors everything we see. How we each perceive something colors what we believe to be true. Even if there is some sort of absolute entity, truth is nothing more than THEIR perception of things.

I got to thinking about this topic due to a series of events in my family's life this past week. We had a sewage back-up in our basement which caused us to have to deal with our insurance company, a plumbing contractor and a sewage removal firm. Each of these businesses was suspicious of the other.

The first two thought the latter was overcharging. The latter two thought the insurance company was low-balling everything. Each representative of the 3 companies we spoke to saw truth in different terms.

In the end, we didn't feel that any of them had a corner on truth. They each came to the situation from different angles and this colored what each deemed to be fact. (Of course, WE came at the situation from a different angle too!)

Monday, August 1, 2005

Wave Action

We humans can get so full of ourselves. We like to think that we command the world. We act like our species is the end all, be all of creation.

Yet, if no human ever walked on planet earth, the tides of the mighty oceans would be unaffected. The tide would come in, go out, then repeat the cycle.

What human being or human trait is as consistent as that? I can't think of any.

If you stand in the early light of dawn on an ocean beach and look out at the mystery of the water, you realize that the world doesn't need human intervention to survive. You realize we are each part of something greater than our singular existence.