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”

2016-02-06_10-50-13

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.

 

About Those Greeks…

I see where the Greeks elected a new government this week to help them reduce austerity that was forced upon them by the European Union bailout.  This reminded me of a book I read a few years ago entitled “Boomerang” by Michael Lewis. One chapter in the book was about Greece. The book is very enlightening and well written. Here are some selected snippets about Greece.

The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year…. The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland’s. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something.  The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as fifty-five for men and fifty for women . As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than six hundred Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on…. The Greek people never learned to pay their taxes. And they never did because no one is punished. No one has ever been punished. It’s a cavalier offense— like a gentleman not opening a door for a lady.” The scale of Greek tax cheating was at least as incredible as its scope: an estimated two-thirds of Greek doctors reported incomes under 12,000 euros a year— which meant, because incomes below that amount weren’t taxable, that even plastic surgeons making millions a year paid no tax at all…. The problem wasn’t the law there was a law on the books that made it a jailable offense to cheat the government out of more than 150,000 euros but its enforcement. “If the law was enforced,” the tax collector said, “every doctor in Greece would be in jail.” I laughed, and he gave me a stare. “I am completely serious.” One reason no one is ever prosecuted— apart from the fact that prosecution would seem arbitrary, as everyone is doing it and that the Greek courts take up to fifteen years to resolve tax cases.  Lewis, Michael (2011-09-28). Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World – Norton. Kindle Edition.

The quotes above give you an idea as to why Greece might be in the troubles it is. As the book implies actions have consequences and Greece apparently needs to learn that lesson.

Greece is the birthplace of democracy so let’s end this post with a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Isocrates:

“Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.”

Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it?

We Have The Best Congress Ever…..

Congress“Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, that don’t hurt anybody. It’s when they do something is when they become dangerous.” – Will Rogers, 22 November 1929

Maybe I am looking at the politics thing all wrong Will? As you say if our congress is doing nothing maybe that is a good thing. Maybe when they do things is when they get in trouble?  I know this is one of  your more popular quotes, but I kind of think you get it wrong in at least a couple of areas.

  • When one small portion of the population lords it over all the rest of us we have to depend on our government to give us the muscle we need to correct the situation.
  • When our citizens are dying unnecessarily because of lack of adequate healthcare someone has to come in and do the Christian thing and help our brothers out.
  • When someone comes along and threatens the very foundation of our democracy by trying to squelch the vote some with some power needs to stamp that out.

I am primarily a “power to the people” type person.  I believe that government should stay out of my way as much as possible and let me make my own mistakes and successes. But when the problem is much bigger than I am I need help and that is where government “should” come in. The problem with this idea is to elect people who know the difference.

You didn’t have a lot of confidence in the people in government in your days and I guess I don’t either. Especially the last dozen years or so when the clowns and wing-nuts took over. I’m just not sure that it is the “legislative body” as you say is the problem but instead it is the yahoos who we elect to fill those seats. Currently all the seats seem to be filled with people who are more concerned about themselves and their particular political leanings. There just doesn’t seem to be anyone looking out for good of the country anymore. There are just too many wing-nuts who are clinging to the most extreme views of the world today.

Like you Will, I try to be an optimist.  I think it is possible to push the current ones out and put in more centrist minded folks to take care of our basic needs. It might take a while but I still think it can happen. But one of the necessary prerequisites is that people turn off their favorite cable news channel and look at what is going on with their own eyes and brains.

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know.

Thank Heavens The U.S. Is Not a Democracy….

Source: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_form_of_government_does_the_US_have#ixzz24fhg3VC9

Thomas Jefferson said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”  Thomas Jefferson, March 11, 1790: “The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.”  f Alexander Hamilton, in debate, said: “Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate government.” 

Alexander Hamilton, in Senate: “It has been observed that a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny: their figure deformity.” 

It is a common mistake to think that the United States is a democracy.  To hear our founding fathers come out so clearly as above against that form of government is very disconcerting to many. Thank heavens for their wisdom in setting up our government as a republic and not a true democracy. It is only because of them that we still exist as a country today.

A contrast is often made between a republican and a democratic form of government. A democracy is based on being a direct wielding of power by the people with unrestricted majority rule.  A republic being a government by representatives elected by the people with restrictions on the power of the majority (that is the very important difference). John Adams in 1788 was probably the first to use the term “tyranny of the majority” but that term actually goes back to ancient Greece.  In many cases throughout history and into the present day a disliked ethnic, religious, non-religious or racial group is deliberately penalized by the majority element acting through the democratic process.

Up until recently the filibuster was part of the restrictions on the power of the majority. It allowed the minority to shut down the legislative action in very extreme cases. Unfortunately the Republicans in the current congress have grossly abused that sacred principle.  That very fact is yet another reason that even our republican form of government is currently being threatened.

It should be noted that the requirement of restrictions on the power of the majority are not contained in our original constitution but are, instead, contained in the Bill of Rights which Madison introduced in the first United States congress in 1789. Thus, whichever definition one adopts, the United Stated has a republican form of government and thank heavens for the wisdom of our founder in relation to that.

Daring ’em to Make Good…

We elect our Presidents, be they Republican or Democrat, then go home and start daring ’em to make good. – April 1, 1935  Will Rogers

Sometimes I can really get down to that deep thinking. I mean the pure foundational stuff.  I think what Will said above is foundational stuff for a democracy. We elect our presidents and all the other people’s representative and then go home and dare them to get it right!  This worked pretty well for the first two centuries of our existence. There were a few duds during that period but generally the people we elected  at least tried to “make good”.

But something in the process seems to have broken as we entered the 21st century.

  • Maybe  it got broken because we have done something that prevents the really good guys/gals to come forward to “live up to the dare”?  —  Being a guy that has done some pretty serious studying of history I can see that the political processes we have now is pretty raunchy.  It has been bad in the past but never to the extreme as now. I can’t see where anyone would want to put themselves through the process of becoming one of our political leaders.  Have we just ground out the civility in seeking elected office so that only the “pretenders” with hyper-inflated egos will even attempt to endure our election process?
  • Maybe it is got broken  because the people doing the choosing got lazy?  —  Being a representative democracy is tough stuff. It takes work to choose the right leaders. Maybe we have just become too lazy in choosing our leaders. We don’t do our homework any more to try to wean the pretenders and wannabes from the crowd. We fall victims to 30 second sound bites instead of studying the issues. Maybe we are just too lazy to maintain a democracy anymore?
  • Maybe it got broken because of all the money that corrupts the process?  —  When the Supreme Court decided that corporations are people and they should have free exercise in buying the candidates and elected officials we started down a road with no return. When we as individuals must compete with $trillion corporations it is pretty easy to figure out who is going to come out ahead.  Maybe we have sold our democracy to corporate and elitist greed?
  • Maybe it go broken because we have outlived the positive aspects of a capitalist society?   —  This one gets really deep! I don’t want to blow a gasket in my brain so will only touch the surface.  Our capitalistic society is based on greed. That is not a bad when there are checks and balances to add in a moralistic factor. Pure capitalism just doesn’t have any compassion for anything but profits. Everything else is a very distant second if it is even considered. This type of greed was also pretty dominant about 100 years ago but it was stomped down by hard-fought unions and a Republican President named Roosevelt. But, even compared to that time the moralist factor seems to have died out in the 21st century. Our society seem to have devolved down into the survival of the fittest mentality.  Another way of saying that is “I got mine so screw you!!” We just seem to have lost the compassion for our fellow-man any more and no one seems to be able to rescue it.  Are we  finally succumbing to the dark side of capitalism?

To wrap this up it is probably a combination of all of the above. I just hope that we can come back from the edge of the cliff once again but I have my doubts this time around.

But what do I know…..

Forming a New Government….

Greek Leaders Reach Deal to Form a New Government – NYTimes.com.

This post is not so much about Greece’s problems than it is about forming a new government. Greece, like so many countries before it, is in the process of forming a new government as they lost confidence in the current one. Forming a new government is a more peaceful resolution of a bad situation than an all out revolution that also seems common place today.

Forming a new government sounds like the perfect solution to our present problems here in the U.S.  I wonder how that would work with our form of democracy? With the partisan divide that currently stifled our bringing some level of prosperity to the other 99% of us we it seems we need a new government, the old one seems totally unrepairable!

Let’s investigate just how forming a new government works. Greece is the epitome of democracy so it must have some democratic (with a small “d” for all my Republican friends) principles behind it?

I know we formed a new government the first time by calling a continental congress in Philadelphia. That definitely wouldn’t work this time around for very obvious reasons.  Here is what the folks as WikiAnswers have to say about this topic.  Some of you, heck maybe most of you, will want to just skip this part 🙂

When can the governed form a new government?

Short answer: Whenever.

Longer answer: There are several ways a government can be overthrown, some legal within the particular governments framework, some not. First let us look at the republican democracy in the United States.The US constitution provides a few clues. First, the entire House of Representatives comes up for election every two years, it is possible though unlikely that all of the incumbent members fail to get reelected and a new House is formed. What happens more often is some members do not seek reelection, some fail and some succeed, and the composition of the House changes. In the Senate, one third of the members are elected every two years (remember Senators serve a six year term). This causes a more gradual shift in the composition. Dramatic examples of what can happen can be seen the the 2006 elections where the Democrats took control of both houses and thus all committee seats and in the 1994(?) campaign where the opposite occured. The US executive (President and Vice President) are elected every four years and this change can arguably have more impact than the legislative elections. The constitution also provides for impeachment proceedings, which allows the populace to remove the executive, albeit by proxy through the House and Senate.

Many of the democratic nations use the Westminster system of government, wherin the sovereign (if one exists) or other head of state calls for a parliament to convene. The members of parliament are elected by the populace, the party in the majority then get to form the government. If no majority exists a coalition must be formed. This system can see a much higher rate of change as elections are not on a fixed schedule. Then we have the non-democratic nations. Dictatorships, monarchies, and single-party rule. Peaceful change in these nations is much less likely as the rulers often do not rule with the consent of the governed…. When does it become appropriate for a populace to forcibly change their government? There is no clear cut answer for this, no real benchmark where a person can say “Yep, those are freedomn fighters, not terrorists (or whatever).” … Start out with the Federalist Papers. Ask yourself why did some in the colonial US feel it was appropriate to use arms and violence to establish their own gevernment. Why did others feel that was wrong? Also, read up on the Jeffersonian idea of how the US should be governed, compare that with what Hamilton had to say. and compare both to how it actually turned out. 

Getting those yahoos in Washington to give up some of their power and start acting in a more cooperative seems impossible. Power is mainly what drives Washington these days so letting loose of some of it will take a GIANT  GIANT effort. So short of a wholesale removal of all representatives there is not a lot we can do with our republican (little “r” for all my Democrat friends) form of democracy. Maybe its time to shift to a Westminister system? 🙂

It is obvious from all the polls taking place today that a vast majority of our citizens have  no confidence in our current representative. Why can’t we have a “no confidence” vote in our government like so many others seems to have.  We certainly need it, especially now.

But what do I know….

Democracy, The Old Fashioned Way

Can you imagine a democracy that was the result of the people living the country rising up and not from an invasion by the U.S.? What happened to the Bush Doctrine? I thought we were the democracy builders for the world? What are those Egyptians trying to do put our military out of business?  Glenn Beck and his crowd were right up front cheering the invasion of Iraq to “free” the people but it seems when its done the old fashioned way he is against it.  Unfortunately when you let people form their own democracy it sometimes doesn’t come out as you might have wanted.

I’m just a simple guy but it seems to be that the world would be a pretty boring place if governments were all cookie cutters from ours.  Not to mention there wouldn’t be anyone for us to borrow money from.  First it is  China teaching us about  capitalism and now Egypt showing us what a democracy is all about. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually learned a lesson out of all this. But I kind of doubt it.

But what do I know?

http://mediagallery.usatoday.com/Editorial-Cartoons/G373