Orchids & Democracies

2018-04-08_15-31-46.pngThis being a primary election day here in Indiana, democracies are on my mind. Two of the most beautiful and delicate things in the world are orchids and democracies. They both need constant nurturing to thrive. An orchid needs the right light and temperature. It needs constant watering or it will die on the vine. The same thing is true for democracies.

Too many in this country seem to think that our democracy is as rugged as Rambo.  We can mistreat it and ignore it and it will always come fighting back.  If you want to see the fallacy of that belief just look around the world at various country’s attempts to maintain a democracy. The most obvious example right now is Russia.  When the iron curtain finally fell, Russia claimed that it would be a democracy. But that dream has pretty much been squashed.  One inept leader after another tried to make it so but since a former KGB agent took the helm, the idea of a Russian democracy pretty much has vanished.

Thomas Jefferson stated that an informed electorate is absolutely essential for a democracy to exist. Sadly, an informed electorate seems to have at least temporarily vanished from the American landscape. Too many latched on to one con-man or another with promises they can’t and don’t intend to keep. Too many of us are just too lazy to do the work to weed out the cons from the Patriots. We are currently living with the consequences of that most recent failure.

Being that so many still don’t seem to understand the threat is more evidence that we are not as stable as many believe. All of us need to get involved in caring for our delicate democracy.

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The Church Is Not a Democracy….

We in the U.S. know that one of the primary foundations of our democracy is freedom of speech. That is being able to say something different from our leaders and not suffer serious consequences. In my opinion, this is what has allowed our country to remain so strong over the centuries. Many times criticisms lead to change and though we might not realize it at that time that is good for us. It makes us better; it makes us stronger. Without freedom of speech, I doubt our country would even exist today.

Anyone who has studied church history knows that it is not a democracy but instead has for most of its history a very vertical-oriented top-heavy organization. When the leadership of the church said something everyone was expected to quickly get in line with no questions asked.

Dissension, or some might say freedom of speech, is simply not allowed.   In the past, anyone who even hinted at a disagreement was quickly handled.  In the first few centuries of the church, many were proclaimed to be a heretic, which basically meant they didn’t agree with the leadership in some way or another. It usually followed that all of their writings, if they existed, were burned so their words would not pollute the church.  And some were burned along with their books.

Thank heavens at least in the last few centuries heretics are not so severely handled but that does not mean that they are now ignored. Many think only of the Catholic church when they think of the power structures. No Catholic, especially the cardinals and bishops would go against anything that the Pope proclaims.  But this situation also occurs amongst the Protestant denominations as well. Plainly speaking the leadership is to be obeyed.

If you even hint that you don’t agree with all the various creeds and statements can cause you to be disciplined or even thrown out. I know personally of a Lutheran minister who was brought back from an overseas mission and stripped of his sermon rights because he dared to join in prayer with other Christian groups, and years later I like him was shown the door due because I didn’t tow the line on how old the earth is among other things.

Many just can’t accept any questioning of their proclaimed doctrine. They claim that it would stain their institutional purity. About the only denomination that I am aware of that doesn’t do this are the Quakers. But since they are adamantly opposed to creeds, in general, that seems natural to them.

Sadly, there is simply no such thing as freedom of speech inside most church doors…

Latching On To False Beliefs..

It’s become quite clear that really bad people get more attention than decent people. Liars get more attention than truth-tellers. Conspiracy theories get more likes than reasoned arguments. It’s clear that short tweets are more convincing with some people than logical and balanced discussions.

It’s also clear that people are getting lazy and think that a democracy is a never-ending state.  That could be a tragic rationale to have.  As Thomas Jefferson said, maintaining a democracy is hard work. In order to make thoughtful choices at the ballot box means studying the issues to determine the best path to take.  Are we, for the most part, losing that ability today?

I don’t know if we are beyond the tipping point in our democracy or not, but we are getting closer to that sorry state and I propose that the reason is laziness. We latch on to a very flawed person or belief and disregard everything else. It is just easier, and lazier, to make a snap judgment instead of making the effort to come to an informed decision.

It is easier to latch onto a conspiracy theory instead of debunking it. Like the phrase “Make America Great Again”, that sounds good at first thought but if you study the facts you know that this phrase really means turning back the clock to a time that we deem better than today.  Two things are wrong with this idea.

  1. The world, like it or not, is in a constant state of change and it always has been and always will be.  You simply can’t change that fact.
  2. Many seem to forget that the past contained many or maybe, even more, problems than the present, but different ones.

2017-12-11_11-08-05.pngI grew up in the 1960s and was of a draft age during the Vietnam war. Almost 60,000 of my generation lost their lives in that totally needless war. Compared to the about 6,000 in the ten years of war in the Middle East today. How can those be the good old days?

Double-digit inflation took a serious toll on wages. Compared to the low 2% or less today those were troubling times.  I can remember one year during the 1970s the annual inflation rate exceeded 15 %. That is many times what it is today. It decimated many senior citizen’s nest egg and caused some pretty severe times for them. How could those be the good old days?

2017-12-11_11-12-04.pngAnd then there was the Civil Rights movement that finally broke the Jim Crow. That was the racial caste system which operated primarily in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life.   Of course breaking Jim Crow also meant a mass migration in the south from the Democratic party to the Republican party.  I remember the political unrest at the 1968 political conventions dwarfed anything around today.

2017-12-11_11-10-33.pngPlainly speaking, the “Good Ole Days” that many dream about now wasn’t any better, and maybe worse, than today.  We need to find 21st-century solutions to our 21st-century problems instead of looking backward. Will that take work? Of course it will but considering the consequences it is worth the effort.

Tribalism & Democracy..

The article below got me to thinking a little more deeply about our time in the USA and if we can survive them as a democracy. Tribalism is how we as humans survived to become the thinking creatures we are.  It is at the core of our human experience.

2017-12-04_09-18-39.pngTribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life. For the overwhelming majority of our time on this planet, the tribe was the only form of human society. We lived for tens of thousands of years in compact, largely egalitarian groups of around 50 people or more, connected to each other by genetics and language, usually unwritten. Most tribes occupied their own familiar territory, with widespread sharing of food and no private property. A tribe had its own leaders and a myth of its own history. It sorted out what we did every day, what we thought every hour.

Source:  Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism?

Tribalism takes us back to our beginnings but what about democracy? In many ways, democracy and tribalism are exact opposites. Tribalism focuses totally on your small group and democracy is about everyone, despite what group they may be in as being equal in status and character.  That is one of the things that makes the U.S. unique in all the world. Of course, when our constitution was written almost 250 years ago we were struggling with tribalistic tendencies and to some extent we still are today.

Tribalism even today is very dominant in many places in the world.  The Middle East is the biggest example. Every country seems to have one tribe battling another for control of the country. The Sunnis and the Shiites have been battling each other for many centuries. Yugoslavia was once a single country but has since been broken up into  Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. After the fall of the USSR, Russia claimed that they were now a democracy.  Well, that worked out to some degree for a decade or so until Putin consolidated power back to a dictatorship.  

Brexit is also a return to tribalism in one degree. Many Brits just don’t like the idea of being part of a bigger group in the EU. They want more control over their lives, and isn’t that what tribalism is all about? How that is going to work out is undetermined.

Maintaining a democracy is hard work and that is why so many countries seem to fail at it.  I liked the thought in the quote above that the founding fathers assumed that we could overcome tribalism as a country.  We have at least to some degree managed that for a couple hundred years now, but will we continue that trend? As far as I am concerned the jury is still out on that answer.  Will we eventually, maybe sooner rather than later, reverse back to tribalism.  It seems that RedAmerica/BlueAmerica is a step in that direction. When we start thinking almost totally about ourselves tribalism is soon to follow.  I guess time will eventually tell…

 

The Tail Wags The Dog..

It is becoming abundantly clear to me now that when it comes to video media that the tails wags the dog.  Keeping me informed so that I can make wise decisions is not a prominent goal of most telemedia companies, especially those like CNN, MSNBC and FOX.

Unlike much of the rest of the world our news sources depend of advertising to stay in existence. The more views they can get, the more they can charge for advertising. It is as simple as that. For those of us who are at least middle aged, we know of a different time.  The network news organizations were there for a public benefit not a profit center. If the proper regulations had been in place that could have stayed the same today. Like everything else it seems, the Reagan administration was all about deregulation so when the cable news orgs happened on the scene they we untethered to make as much money as they could.

Being a profit center the news is now driven by views. The more people to watch the more profit they claim. Sensationalizing what they cover is now the norm.  If they can find controversy that is what they do.  The more controversy the better. It is no longer profitable to cover mundane things like the details of annual budget reports. Things that help us make better decisions went out the window years ago.

canstockphoto46913608.jpgThe easy, or should I say lazy, way to stay informed now is to lock onto one worldview and disregard everything else. That is what drives FOX and MSNBC totally and CNN most often. It now takes hard work to glean through multiple news sources to find the “truth” of almost any matter.

Like Thomas Jefferson said a democracy depends on an informed electorate and that creature is quickly disappearing from the landscape now.  Does that mean that our democracy is doomed it failure or simply that we will fall to become an “also ran” country. If the latter is the case it looks like China is getting well positioned to take our place.

The tail wags the dog in too much of our world now. Being a democracy it is up to us to change that fact if we are not too lazy to do it now.  That is the question of the day….

 

 

Texas GOP Declares: “No More Teaching of ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ in Texas Public Schools”

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2016-01-18_09-18-02.pngIs our country about “obedience training” or critical thinking? That seems to be the question at hand at least for the Texas GOP. Should we have a subservient society or one that is educated to ask questions? Many of the leaders in Texas seems to think the former and like so many other things are trying to force that opinion on the rest of us!

If you haven’t figured it out by now I don’t hold Texas politics in much regard. There are just too many nuts that have come from their in recent years. Some became president and some want to get there now.  There is just too much swagger in Texas politics, and even Texas in general, for my liking.

Being a critical thinker I can’t even imagine a country whose citizens are discouraged from asking  questions. Critical thinking is what has made our country great and the lack of it will surely be our downfall. When we fall in line with whatever our leaders tell us we are on our way to becoming something other than the great democracy we have been. Stifling critical thinking is what allowed Hitler such a strangle hold on Germany for so many years. I regrettable think that it is possible for us to turn that way if the Texas GOP has there way! When critical thinking ceases then propaganda becomes “fact” and that is a scary thing!!!

In the near future I will be showing you more details about the critical thinking process in order to illustrate just how insane Texas politics is in this, and in fact most other areas of life.