This is another post based on the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture: The Paradox”. This one will be about our obsession with winning and competition.

2014-05-01_10-26-21No doubt competition has produced for the United States some of the best professionals, the best products, and the best business practices in the world. Nevertheless, there is a downside to Americans’ emphasis on winning at any cost. The pressure to win can be overwhelming in America, where only winners are cheered and remembered and the winner takes all, including multimillion-dollar advertising contracts. Tonya Harding, the figure skater who arranged to have her Olympic competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, injured, is an extreme example of the pressure to win…

The overemphasis on competition also contributes to a hostile workplace. Employees constantly compete against their peers and lose sleep over who gets credit for a new sales plan or for having the best ideas; this discourages teamwork and strains human relations. At school, cheating has become a serious concern when even the top students do it regularly.

Asians believe that it is neither necessary nor beneficial to be obsessed with winning. Although they set goals for surpassing their previous achievements and emphasize doing their personal best, when it comes to competing with others, Asians choose their battles carefully. They consider the cost of winning, not materially but emotionally and socially. In human relations, many Asians believe that it is better to promote peace and harmony than to win at any cost. It is dangerous to think that if one is not a winner, one must be a loser. Some may look like losers at first, but they may turn out to be winners in the long run. As Lao Tzu said in Tao Te Ching, “In natural law, some lose and yet profit along the way. Some profit and yet lose along their way.”

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 656-668). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This is one of those areas where Yin wins out for me. I think we Americans are just too obsessed with winning. I am a competitive person but it is introverted rather than pointed at defeating others.  I don’t see the point in making everyone else losers so I can be a winner.

Our fanaticism with sports in this country epitomizes our obsession with winning. It is all about defeating the other team. I was never much of a team player in my early years and for the last 25 years or so I have not watched any sporting event other than in passing. Vince Lombardi’s famous quote “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing” turns me off. I just don’t see the point in sports.

I spent the first 25 years of my work life in the Midwest. It was not until I spent the last five years in the East Coast (NY/NJ) that I was really faced with the overemphasis of competition which inevitably creates a hostile work environment. The backstabbing and emphasis for getting the credit, whether deserved or not, totally turned me off! I left that environment as soon as possible after becoming fully pension eligible.

Defeating the other guy has never been very important to me but I do strive to get better at what I do everyday. I sometimes set outrageous goals for myself in order to insure that I keep progressing in both my personal and spiritual life. Helping to promote peace is one of my primary focuses in life. We don’t need to hate or even fear others simply because they are different from us.  To me winning is only winning when others benefit as well as ourselves.  I just don’t buy into the idea that if you are not a winner then you are a loser….

 

Growing Up…

June 26, 2014

HighSchoolAs youth we all want to grow up or at least grow as fast as we can.  We desperately want to get there. We grab as many opportunities as we can.  But growing up means we have to leave some people behind. Sometimes we make the choice not to grow up for that reason. We just don’t want to end up alone.

Some people can’t seem to leave their high school years. They simply don’t want to leave all those cherished friends behind in order to venture out into the vast unknown. For some of us that happens when we graduate from college.  We are expected to use all our learned knowledge to take our place in the world but we can’t seem to leave the college lifestyle behind. I think that is especially true for those who were members of sororities and fraternities.

I have known some friends in both of those states. One was a jock in high school. He did leave to get a college education but then went back to be a coach of the high school team he once belonged to. He spent 30+ years beyond high school in various capacities in the school he graduated from years before.

A couple of other friends, like myself are graduates of Purdue University. They went on to jobs in the private sector but for their entire lives remained loyal booster of the various sports programs. They were season ticket holders for multiple sports and proud alumni members for decades. When they retired they moved back to be close to the college campus.

I for the most part took a different tract in life. When new doors opened in my life I went through them and pretty much left the old life to my memories. I did go to my forty-fifth high school reunion a few years back but really didn’t have much memories or things to talk about with my classmates. Part of the reason for that is due to my deafness. When my old classmates learned that I am now deaf they for the most part avoided any attempt at a conversation. That made the event less than pleasurable for me. I readily admit that a big part of the responsibility for that lack of communications was self-inflicted. I am having serious doubts about attending the fiftieth reunion.

Now that I have been retired for fourteen plus years my work life is also somewhat of just a memory to me. The hurts and accomplishments are things of the past. I try to live my life in the here and now instead of spending much time looking backwards.  Just another aspect of my personality I guess. I don’t burn bridges but I don’t often travel back on ones I have already crossed. Those times are better left to memories as far as I am concerned….

 

Despite a wide coalition of business, labor, religious groups, farmers and others pushing for an immigration overhaul, many individual Republican House members who represent largely white districts have been unmoved.

SOURCE: Republican leaders to block US immigration measure – Yahoo News.

After so many years of a stalemated government there are so many things that need changes. We are stuck in the 20th century practices due to a small number of our congressional representative being frozen with the fear of change? There are just too many of us old white folks who are trying to hold back the tide of change when in comes to the demographics of our country. There are too many arthritic fingers stuck in the holes of the dam trying to turn back the inevitable.

I for one believe that our increased diversity as a nation is a good thing. Our country has always been defined as a nation of immigrants. That is what makes us unique in the world.

Another topic that needs some severe change is our tax system. It needs a complete overhaul in order to address the ever-increasing inequity of opportunity in this country. Until that is done the 1% will continue to gobble up what once went to others as their rightful portion of economic gains they help generate. Since the Reagan years too much of the tax code has been targeted at allowing the most wealthy among us to pay less and less taxes. The faulty idea was that if we gave the ultra-rich more money they would invest it and create new jobs.  In reality what has happened is that they park that extra wealth in off-shore accounts and then get into a bragging contest with others as to how much they have accumulated. One aspect of change that needs to be addressed immediately is how we fund our government.

Surprisingly I just might sound like some of my conservative friends with the remainder of this post.  It is just a matter of degree I suppose. Many of them see things in black/white where I see shades of grey.

Change is also needed at the other end of the economic spectrum. There are too many among us who don’t contribute at all to paying for our country’s expenses. Everyone should have some degree of ownership of our country.  I believe that everyone who earns a wage, or for that matter any income, should contribute to the tax base that keeps our country running.  And yes, there are too many who are gaming the system at both ends of the spectrum and they should be brought to task.

It does my heart good to see our government go after the Swiss banks who are helping the rich avoid paying their fair share. As the bible says to whom much is given much is expected. To shirk that responsibility is loathsome. Our government needs to go after these tax dodgers with an increased sense of seriousness.

There are too many people who are living off government doles who could easily join the rest of us as tax paying citizens. They fake back injuries to get on social security disability. They don’t really look for a job but instead collect unemployment. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not labeling everyone in these programs as gamers anymore than I am saying that all affluent people hide money from taxes.  We need to take a serious look at how these programs are administered in order to make sure that those who are truly in need get what they need but not those who are freeloading.

Those who are holding up these necessary changes due to their stiffing fear need to step aside and let us get that work done… The sooner the better…

Requirements….

June 24, 2014

2014-06-06_09-54-41I wonder how many people know the requirements to be a member of the U.S. congress? I must admit that I didn’t until I looked them up for this post.  As usual here is what Wikipedia says about this topic.

U.S. House

Qualifications: Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for representatives. Each representative must:

(1) be at least twenty-five years old

2) have been a citizen of the United States for the past seven years

(3) be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state they represent.

Members are not required to live in the district they represent, but they traditionally do.

U.S. Senate

Qualifications: Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for senators:

1) they must be at least 30 years old

2) they must have been citizens of the United States for at least the past nine years

3) they must be inhabitants of the states they seek to represent at the time of their election

There only seems to be one thing that disqualifies a person from office and that is spelled out in the fourteenth Amendment and says a federal or state officer who takes the requisite oath to support the Constitution, but later engages in rebellion or aids the enemies of the United States, is disqualified from becoming a representative. This post–Civil War provision was intended to prevent those who sided with the Confederacy from serving…

There are more requirements to get your driver’s license than there is to be in congress.. So it seems that almost anyone beyond their teen years can be chosen as a representative. That in itself might explain why that institution is so dysfunctional.  I wonder how that body would change if we set up a few more qualifications?

There are 230 lawyers out of the total of 535 representatives in congress. They make up 43% of the total office holders. That kind of explains much of the mentality of this institution. It explains why they want to constantly litigate everything and why winning is the only thing important.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what would happen if we made being a lawyer a disqualification for membership. Maybe people there would start talking to each other instead of filing briefs to argue over. Wouldn’t it be interesting to try this noble experiment???

OK, now don’t start flaming me too quickly as this post is mostly in jest. But isn’t there an ounce of truth to it??

 

 

 

2014-06-05_08-34-22“These three gangs were not sophisticated drug-trafficking organizations,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in announcing the two indictments. “Far from it, they were young people protecting their territories from imaginary threats and avenging the murders of fellow gang members and loved ones.”

Investigators from Vance’s office worked with gang squad detectives and Department of Correction officials to review more than 1 million Facebook pages, tens of thousands of phone calls from the Rikers Island jail complex and hundreds of hours of video footage in preparing the case, Vance said.

Surveillance video, taken from cameras in the buildings’ elevators, hallways and grounds, were a major benefit to investigators, Bratton said. But not all public housing developments have video. Nearly 60 percent of the city’s public housing buildings don’t have a single camera installed — including one in Brooklyn where two small children were stabbed Sunday, one fatally.

“We embrace it, we need it,” Bratton said of crime-fighting technology such as camera systems. “There’s not a case I get briefed on in my crime briefings or my counterterrorism briefings each morning that doesn’t have some significant technology component to it.”

SOURCE:  103 suspected gang members charged in NYC case – Yahoo News.

Being from a small rural town I can’t understand how this type of gang violence can be tolerated in our major cities. I know it was on months ago but just watched part of the series from CNN entitled “Chicagoland”. It was about downsizing the Chicago’s school districts to align with the current population. The biggest argument against closing schools was that students would then have to cross other gang neighborhoods to get to schools. They say if the kids have to travel more than two blocks that they will likely be beaten or killed by rival gangs!

One of the TV shows I watch on a regular basis is “Person of Interest”. It is a show about the “machine” which supposedly links all cameras in our country together and looks for potential terrorists. I doubt that such a machine exists yet but I’m sure some are dreaming of that ultimate incorporation of our technology.

It looks like Chicago could learn a few lessons from NYC. Chicago has been in the news the last few years as being the murder capital of the country and the primary cause of that is gang violence. Gangs are nothing more that thugs who want to be big fish in little ponds. Because much of inner-city life is one of desperation they want to have control over at least a small segment of it. Chicago needs a “mini-machine” to record all the violence that occurs in its neighborhoods and then take those who cause it to court. Get rid of the thugs and maybe the neighborhoods would become peaceful once again.

But I am just a simple guy so what do I know…..

 

This is part 3 of my series based on a post by Stephen Mattson on the seven misconceptions of Christianity.

 It’s Always Fun and Happy

Christianity can be full of joy, but it can also be really hard.

Following Christ demands sacrifice. It involves giving, helping, volunteering and participating in difficult work. The main tenant of loving others is hardly ever easy, and the Christian life is often filled with trials, pain, suffering, heartbreak and struggles—often requiring large amounts of grace, forgiveness, patience and energy.

It’s not easy, comfortable or effortless—it’s incredibly demanding. But in the end, it’s worth it.

I think the biggest damage done to Christ’s church are those who make it a “something for nothing” religion.  They say  the only reason for Jesus to come to earth was to die for our sins so that if we say we believe the “right” things we will get to heaven after we die.  To many, I pray most, of us Christians that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus left us a wealth of knowledge as to how he expects us to act as is followers.  If only his death was what it was all about then why didn’t he simply jump from his birth to his crucifixion? Why all the words/instructions in between?

As Stephen says following Christ demands sacrifice. We are all to be our brother’s keeper. We are all to love God and to love each other. Jesus demands it by his words and actions.  To disregard those messages is in my mind to disregard Christ himself!

Although I am not an official member of a meeting I am a Quaker at heart because I believe they look at Jesus’ instructions for what they are. They generally shun creeds and such but live their faith and that is  the important to me.  I am faithfully attempting but often failing to live my life as Jesus taught me. I am trying  to do my part in bringing his kingdom to earth as he intends. I know that some of my Quaker brethren will disagree with my statement that the Quaker faith embodies SPICE. That is Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality but in my mind those words do a very good job of stating the basis for their actions . These five things drive me in my life. I try to live them out as much as I am humanly possible.

Getting even a slight resemblance of heaven on earth takes a lot of effort but that is what we have been instructed to do. Christianity is NOT always fun and happy. It is a lot of work but when we manage to accomplish even a small part it is very fun and happy indeed.

Pleasant Hill….

June 21, 2014

One of the most peaceful places I have found on this earth is at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village near Lexington KY. It is a recreated village from the 1800s.  One of the concepts I have adopted from my Quaker friends is the idea of “centering down”. That is to clear your mind of all the clutter of daily activity in order to listen for the messages of our creator.  I find Pleasant Hill an outstanding place to do just that.  I don’t mind the idea of melding the best of two religions together to come closer to God. Pleasant Hill is peaceful beyond description. I have spent several days staying at one of the rooms in the village just taking in the ambiance.

If you are ever in the central Kentucky area stop by for a visit. You will remember your time there for the rest of your life.

(As usual click on any of the images below to get a bigger picture)

 

This is the next segment in my series of yin/yang and how that relates to American culture.  These initial posts are for the most part the positive aspects of our culture. It is appropriate that I start here so that you can understand that later I am not attacking our culture so much as showing were we could improve even more. This post is about our almost unique sense of equality. Here is a quote to get us started:

Puzzle Pieces: Justice Concept.In the American workplace, most people make their own coffee and clean up their own desks. The person who takes the last cup from the pot refills it. This act may seem trivial, but behind it lies a philosophy of equality. In Asia, people who serve and people who are served belong to different classes. Customers treat servers with no respect, as if they belong to a lower class. They often use a commanding tone of voice and even yell at servers if the service is not satisfactory. In the United States, waiters and store clerks regard themselves as equals with their customers; they exchange jokes and pleasantries with customers. Secretaries do not feel that they have to meet the personal needs of their bosses and are not afraid to voice their opinions. In Asia, people are often treated differently based on family background, occupation, the school one attended, and geographic origin. Asians are always interested in their status in relation to others. In Confucian tradition, there are the rulers and the ruled. Confucianism saw all human relations in the light of vertical relationships: upper classes always wielded authority, and lower classes always obeyed authority .

SOURCE: Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox. Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

The concept of equality, even if it is not played out to a full degree, is one of the basic assets that makes America the great society that it is. Our vision of equality is much different from most of Asia and even of the parts of Europe that have monarchical roots. I had never thought of it before but we, for the most part, treat our secretaries and those who work for us as equals. We don’t lord it over them as is common in much of the rest of the world.

A big part of this equality is that we as a nation have never been exposed to a caste system that a monarchy necessitates. When you have a mandated selected few who are to be treated as royalty you must have a population of those who deem it their place to serve those selected few.  They must know their place in society and willingly submit to being a servant. That concept is very foreign to our American mentality. At least for most of us.

China, India, and much of the rest of the world still languishes in a belief of a fixed part of their population are meant to be servants and it is not possible for them to advance beyond that state. As mentioned above much of China and India see all human relationships as vertical with the upper class always wielding the power. I’m sure there are some of you who are thinking “isn’t that what is currently happening with us now?” I certainly agree that  the shadows of a caste system are developing in our society due to our wealth continuing to migrate to only a small minority. But I kind of think that this phenomenon will play out in the not too distant future. We Americans will just refuse to accept a permanent place at the bottom rungs of the ladder.

widescreen lcd monitorA TV-streaming device. All this talk about canceling your cable is great — if you still have a way to watch TV on your TV. Thankfully, there are now several options for streaming devices that bring services like Netflix and Hulu to your living room TV. Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire are all options to check out. Each requires a one-time initial investment, usually between $50 and $100. According to the research company NPD Group, cable bills might reach $123 a month by next year. With prices for Netflix and Hulu Plus hovering around $8 each, getting one of these devices could add up to thousands of dollars in savings in just a few years.

SOURCE: 8 purchases that can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars – Yahoo Finance.

Well over half of us pay sometimes over $100 per month on cable or satellite TV. In the not too distant future, meaning in the next ten years or so, network tv will be no more.  It will be À la carte when it comes to our media viewing. I admit that I am one of those who pays dearly for satellite TV.  It comes with hundreds of channel of which I watch only a literal handful.  My big peeve is that over half of the satellite company’s media expenses comes from buy sports programs. I literally watch zero from that venue.

I am ready to ditch this expense viewing option but get too much resistance from my better half. She insists on having DVR full of the shows she watches. I can’t seem to convince her that Roku, which we have on both our sets will give her what she has now. She is just not a big believer in change and just says “it is fine the way it is”.  So, I guess we will wait until the DVR remote, like the old VHS machine, is wrenched from her hands before we dump it.

The Great Regulator…

June 18, 2014

Who would ever have guess that the title of the “Great Regulator” would be a Republican! That seems totally impossible in today’s world! But that is indeed the case. A hundred years ago Teddy Roosevelt was just that person. He was also called the “Trust Buster” as he took down many of the extremely wealthy of his day. He was also the one who put very high inheritance taxes on those in the 1% of his day.  Here is a little about that from Wikipedia:

Roosevelt responded to public anger over the abuses in the food packing industry by pushing Congress to pass the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and The Pure Food and Drug Act. The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 banned misleading labels and preservatives that contained harmful chemicals. The Pure Food and Drug Act banned food and drugs that are impure or falsely labeled from being made, sold, and shipped. Roosevelt was also served as honorary president of the school health organization American School Hygiene Association from 1907 to 1908, and in 1909 he convened the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.

During the Panic of 1907 nearly all agreed that a more flexible system to ensure liquidity was needed – the Republicans sought a response to the money supply by the bankers whereas the Democrats sought government control; Roosevelt was unsure but leaned towards the Republican view while continuing to denounce corporate corruption. Nonetheless, in 1910, Roosevelt commented on “enormously wealthy and economically powerful men” and suggested “a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes… increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.”

Roosevelt was inclined to extend the regulatory reach of his office. In a moment of frustration, House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon commented on Roosevelt’s desire for executive branch control in domestic policy-making: “That fellow at the other end of the avenue wants everything from the birth of Christ to the death of the devil.” Biographer Brands states that, “Even his friends occasionally wondered whether there wasn’t any custom or practice too minor for him to try to regulate, update or otherwise improve.”  In fact, Roosevelt’s willingness to exercise his power included attempted rule changes in the game of football; at the Naval Academy, he sought to force retention of martial arts classes and to revise disciplinary rules. He even ordered changes made in the minting of a coin whose design he disliked, and ordered the Government Printing Office to adopt simplified spellings for a core list of 300 words according to reformers on the Simplified Spelling Board. He was forced to rescind the latter after substantial ridicule from the press and a resolution of protest from the House.

It seems almost impossible to believe that the great regulator’s party would morph into what is it today. I’m sure if Teddy were around now he would be viciously labeled as a socialist liberal by the Republican establishment.  What happened between then and now to cause this very radical shift in philosophy with the GOP? I kind of believe that it happened because the ultra-rich have pretty much bought that party.  They get the best of the best to keep the spin machine running so they can fool those too lazy to realize just who the owner is now.

We desperately need another person like Teddy to do his thing once again. But this time, unless something very drastically happens, the person will not likely be from the GOP.