Curing Depression, Anxiety and Fear

Depression, anxiety, and fear are symptoms not causes. So when I read today that recently compiled statistics show that “one in 10 distressed Americans in 2014 did not have health insurance that would give them access to a psychiatrist or mental health counselor” I understood the point… but think it overshot the mark.

We have a tendency to treat symptoms not causes. I think its because as awful as symptoms can be they usually arise from causes we’d rather not confront. Whether it’s a lesion on our body or our psyche, we instinctively know that it will take less effort, and require less honesty and introspection, to treat the symptom rather than the cause.

The article went on to say each of these stress related conditions has escalated since the 2008 financial crisis. That the economic hit people took, the careers that were eviscerated overnight, the enduring personal debts that accrued due to loss of income have all been contributing factors. Well, yes.  And so it’s why I understand the concern for inadequate health insurance to address the symptoms, because psychiatrists and mental health counselors treat symptoms.

Only the individual can treat causes, and treating causes requires courage and honesty rather than government assistance or health insurance.

Of course the financial crisis of 2008 was hard on everyone (well, nearly everyone except those on the inside who are still profiting from their foreknowledge and connections) but even the near collapse was a symptom of a deeper cause. It was a symptom of a culture where values and principles have been discarded in favor of materialism and technology.

If you want to treat the cause of depression, anxiety and fear you have to look at the quality of your life, the choices you make, the things to which you aspire, the love in your heart for yourself and others. You have to put those you love before the things you want. You have to find gratitude in everything you have…not mourn or resent that which eludes you.

We went way off track decades ago. It began in the 1960’s in an innocent enough way. It began with the rising phoenix of individualism, no better exemplified that by four, hot-looking musicians from Britain with outrageously long hair and lyrics that dared speak truth about life as they saw it.  It was an exhilarating time when anything went and love, or at least sex, was a free-for-all.

Much could have come from that innocence but what, in fact, followed were decades of ever increasing self-absorption, self-indulgence and separation. We became a culture that wanted everything bigger, better, faster.

The millennials, who think they have their priorities on straight and are opting out of the “bigger” are still enslaved to the better and the faster. That is because they were raised by technology not human hands and hearts. In the world of technology, newer and faster are the “un-status” status symbols. Every generation has them…the seductions of the material world. It’s just that in each generation they are cloaked somewhat differently.

An appreciation for the material is not a sin. We live in physical world with things of beauty all around. Some are creations of God and some are creations on mankind. Both are here for our enjoyment not our enslavement.

I know firsthand about materialism and depression, anxiety and fear. I was raised with money. My parents had lots and, therefore, I had lots of things that were the status symbols of my generation. Three corvettes before the age of 20 paints an accurate picture. I was also riddled with depression, anxiety and fear. So, between the ages of 20 and 30, I saw a psychiatrist and a couple of mental health counselors. Its why I feel the authority to write about symptoms and causes.

I had stomach problems (symptom) that led to intestinal surgery at age 16.  At age 23, I was very depressed (symptom) so Triavil was prescribed. I used those to try to commit suicide (symptom). I was married and divorced in 11 months (symptom) followed by a series of unsuccessful relationships (symptom). I developed fibromyalgia (symptom) in my 30’s and struggled with it for almost two decades until I had enough of symptoms, their treatments and their cures.

I decided to address the cause, which turns out to be a full time job of being honest with myself and others, holding myself accountable for my actions, finding a connection to God, birthing my creativity and generally living life as an adult with principles and values that I live by not just espouse.

I have come to believe that most physical and psychological illnesses are the result of a spiritual imbalance. A soul at odds with higher laws. So, looking to government or the medical community often turns out to be an excuse for not looking within and up. I think we could cure a lot of our nation’s ailments by a willingness to look into the causes of our individual discontent and righting those aspects of ourselves that have gone belly up.              Carole

The Death of Compassion

Twenty years ago I saw a play called An Inspector Calls.

The premise was that a police detective is called to investigate the death of a young lady who works for a prominent family to discover how she died. The family is horrified, and initially confused, as to why the Inspector is called to interview them. What follows is a tense and uncomfortable investigation. In the end, the family discovers that they were all, in fact, caught up in this poor girl’s death.

Although no one in the family actually killed her each, in their own way, was complicit and responsible for her death. Through neglect or indifference, the combination and culmination of all their actions led to her untimely demise.

The play has stayed with me over the years because it touches on how each of our seemingly separate lives is intertwined. There is no escaping our responsibility to one another. There are always consequences to our actions. I was starkly reminded of this when, a few weeks ago in my home town of Austin, TX, a man shot and killed three people. He fled, was hunted by police and, near capture, killed himself. Although I did not know him, I knew many people who did.

What I do know is that he was behind on his bills as many of his customers had not paid him. Normally, he could cope with financial pressures; but, with his wife diagnosed with cancer and no medical insurance, his needs were more pressing.  Add to that a daughter ready to go to off to college, and I would imagine his lack of receivables and worries put him over the edge.

As a contractor, he had recently done a great deal of work for a local family who refused to pay him. He killed the couple and their neighbor. The couple he killed had a reputation for “stiffing” contractors…getting free work any way they could. Two weeks ago their luck ran out. Perhaps had his other customers paid him timely he might have been able to shrug off that particular insult. Clearly he could not. The result of it all is four dead people. Yes, the contractor is responsible for the deaths of four people. But, as I am reminded of that play many years ago, it seems all the others were quite complicit in this tragedy as well.

Not one of us is disconnected from the whole. None of us fully, or necessarily ever, knows the damage we do to other people through carelessness, insensitive, neglect or maliciousness. In this case, it was not paying bills on time for work received.

In the Catholic faith, we believe not only are there sins committed through our actions but also by our inaction (sins of omission). This theology supports the reality that we are not bystanders in life. We will be held accountable for what we do… and what we fail to do.

The recent story of attacks on Jews in Europe triggered my thoughts on this subject. Recently, in Europe, there has been a sharp uptick in attacks on Jews. This has been well documented and tied to the influx of new, poorly vetted immigrants. Yet, there has been no coordinated effort anywhere, by Jews or non-Jews, to stop this. I am not Jewish; but, I have many friends who are. Most of them carry a fury about what happened during the Holocaust and have vowed “never again. Yet, all of them go on with their lives…work, play, dinner with friends etc. None of them have boarded a plane to France to help defend their brethren. They are all bystanders. For all of their talk, none of have taken action to help their brothers in faith.

Still, I am no different. The ongoing, global attacks on Christians and Catholics have also been on the rise and I’ve not taken up arms to help them. Although I served in the military and fought in a just war, throwing the Iraqi’s out of Kuwait, and did my duty, I have been remiss in my duties to my fellow Catholics who are being slaughtered all over the Middle East. I am a spectator from afar. And yes, it pains me that I am like everyone else. I have my own responsibilities with six kids to feed, clothe and take care of and so I tend to what is in front of me and push to the back of my mind, and my priorities, what is not.

However, we have examples of people who take up the fight. In the Bible we have the story of Moses, who fled his homeland and settled down to start a new life. But the gnawing feeling of the oppression he witnessed in Egypt stayed with him. After nine years, he left his wife and son to return to Egypt to help his People.  In more modern times, there was Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King. When reading their stories, all I can think of is, “Would I be able to make such a sacrifice?”

Even at home, here in the U.S., when give the chance to defend our rights we do not. In the recent United Airlines scandal, not one passenger intervened when a fellow passenger was assaulted and forcibly dragged from the aircraft. They acted like sheep. Maybe instead of watching they could have tried to stop the police from doing something illegal. Or maybe all of the passengers could have disembarked from the plane to protest the egregious act. Yet, they did none of that. They all sat on their rear ends because they had things to do elsewhere and places to go. They were weak because they did not want to complicate their lives.

United Airlines dragged a passenger off the plane because they knew the other passengers would do nothing. The airline knew they could get away with it. Even our government knows this as they brazenly pass laws and regulations contradictory to our Constitution. They know it when they empower TSA agents to exceed their boundaries and terrorize passengers with what are clearly illegal searches. The architect of Obamacare brazenly said the Administration lied to the public and then bragged to the press about how it passed the Affordable Care Act…because he and they knew Americans were “too stupid” and too lazy to fight, or even challenge, the law. This is our state of affairs.

We are getting close to a tipping point as our public and private institutions continue to treat the general public with revulsion and disdain. It hurts me to say we deserve it. If we, as individuals, are not willing to fight for our rights, why should we expect it from others? There irony is, of course, that in forgetting how connected we all are, and how action and inaction affects us all, our silence as individuals in the face of oppression will be the undoing of us all.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

The Untold Story of United Airlines Brutality

The story of what happened on United Airlines has been about the violence and brutality inflicted upon a passenger. That story is not nearly as troubling as the one no one is writing about. What happened on that flight was how the German government, led by Adolph Hitler, was able to kill twelve million people. What happened on that flight was cowardice in the face of abuse of power.

None of us know what we will do in an emergency or life threatening situation until we are there. So it’s easy to say what we would have done had we been there. Hindsight is not only 20/20…it’s also safe. What can be said is that if you know what you believe in, and you know what is worth facing consequences for, then your action in such unanticipated moments will be motivated not by what is expedient or beneficial to you, but rather by your guiding principle.

Everyone on that flight knew that was happening was wrong. I don’t care what United’s Rule 25 says or what its CEO says in justifying the assault and battery that occurred. Nor do I care a whit about United employees who “needed to get where they had to go.” Everyone knows that what happened was wrong. It was the application of brute force with total disregard and disrespect for another human being. It must have been horrifying to watch right before your very eyes. Yet no one present did anything about it.

Why?

We say gold is a rare commodity and difficult to mine but courage is much harder to find. It was totally lacking on that flight. Three hundred people watched, horrified, and did nothing about it. What could they have done? Well, if they weren’t trying to make certain that they weren’t next, and they had a principle of which they were certain, they could have stood and said, “We’re all leaving this plane. You just bloodied a passenger because he was resisting disembarking. Now you can have the whole aircraft for non-paying United employees because we’re getting off and never flying United again.”

That’s what courage looks and sounds like. But instead, what happened on the flight was precisely what German Lutheran Pastor Martin Neimoller wrote about:

“First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me….and there was no one left to speak for me.”

He was one Asian man, minding his own business, sitting in a seat he had paid for, harming no one. His history and his background are irrelevant. Unless, of course, you are looking for a reason to justify or excuse, in your own mind, why what was done to him was not so bad.

And those people present on that plane? Well, it was happening but not to them. It wasn’t their seat, it wasn’t their problem. Best to not draw attention to one’s self and perhaps be the next victim.

What breeds victims is an unwillingness to stand in the face of evil. Whether it is a bully in a school yard, an abusive spouse, a rogue cop, ISIS, or a corporate policy that justifies violence…the failure to refuse to tolerate what we know is wrong is the slippery slope to enslavement.

It is Passover. It is a holiday that exists to remind us that we are only enslaved to others when we tolerate indignity and deny the laws of God in so doing. Yes, it takes courage to walk into the unknown and risk the safety of what is. But when what is robs you of your humanity then the unknown should be welcomed and the risk worth taking.

On Palm Sunday 50 Coptic Christians were killed in a suicide bombing in Alexandria, Egypt.  First they came for the passenger and we did nothing…                           Carole

 

Why You Matter

It’s so easy to blame the politicians and the media. It’s always easiest to blame someone, or something, other than ourselves. But the dire situations we find ourselves in, politically and socially, are no one’s fault but our own.

For decades we have turned a blind eye to wrong doing. For those same decades we have become dependent upon, even expected, government to take care of us.  We have abdicated personal responsibility in almost every aspect of our lives for the corners we cut, the white lies we tell, the principles we say we believe in yet neglect to be heard in their defense.

Politicians are not our masters. They are simply individuals in public service who reflect the health or sickness of the society they serve. Our leaders have not been forced upon us. We have stood by and allowed the inept, the dishonest and the corrupt to seek and obtain positions of power. We have willingly enslaved ourselves to them and those who keep them in power.

After 2008, ask almost any trader on Wall Street and they will tell you they saw it coming. They saw it coming but did nothing about it. It was too lucrative. Mortgages and private school tuition had to be paid. Vacations were booked. Cocaine was costly.

It’s easier to go with the flow than swim against the current. Isn’t that always the case? But what happens when the current is carrying you to your destruction? Blame the current…or your unwillingness to fight against it?

A group of boys and young men of various ages, raped a 14-year old girl in Chicago this week and they did it on Facebook. Live. At least 40 people watched it and not one called the police.

It seems like a long way from the banking collapse of 2008 to live rape…but not really. The perpetrators in both cases knew what they were doing was wrong and so did those who watched. It’s a slippery slope when you give up conscience and all that is decent about human behavior; when self-satisfaction is the ultimate goal and any means to getting there is acceptable.

Every day we read about the corruption in Washington and fake news by the media. It’s all a distraction. The real news and what we should care about is how each of us in our daily lives lays another brick in the foundation of cultural destruction as we justify the corners we cut, the blind eyes we turn and the irretrievable and precious time we deny friends and family because we are addicted to our iphones.

It’s never about someone else. It’s always about ourselves. While none of us may have any control over what Washington or the New York Times does, each of us has total control over what we do in our own lives. Where we invest out time, what principles we stand for, what we value all define, in a very literal sense, our immediate world.

You comfort and excuse yourself because you are, after all, just one person and so what can you do?

Last year I moved into a condominium in Austin, Texas. I quickly learned that there was corrupt management that had drained the finances of the community and neglected the maintenance of the structures. I also learned that for 12 years, various homeowners had tried, unsuccessfully, to do something about it. So , everyone had given up and acquiesced to the corruption and neglect.

I spent a year investigating and compiling evidence of both the corruption and the neglect. I uncovered a privileged relationship between certain owners, the Board of Directors included, and the corrupt management company. I presented the findings at association meetings. I endured an organized effort by those involved to discredit me, including being sued, individually, for my efforts. But I  knew that what was occurring was wrong and I was determined to, as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In spite of it all I endured.

It took 12 months, several court appearances and all the energy and skill I could muster. But the Board resigned and, as new President of the Board, I fired the corrupt management company. We now have exceptional, new management and a law suit against those who depleted or finances and neglected our physical assets.

Was it hard? About as hard as anything I’ve done in my life. Were there times I thought I could not go on? Absolutely. Was every conceivable effort made to stop me? Yes. So why did I keep at it?

The whole is no more than the sum of our parts. I am a part of my community, my society, my country, my species. If I do no stand for what I know to be right, what hope is there that others will do the same?

It’s never about anyone else. It’s always about ourselves. In humanity, it’s not top down. It’s what we as individuals are willing to put on the line for what we believe in. This is what makes the difference and that is what ultimately defines us.

A Christian Polish woman who fed Jews and kept them alive less than than a mile from a concentration camp was asked, recently, how she came to do the right thing given the behavior of those around her. Her reply was simply, “The righteous didn’t suddenly become righteous. We just refused to go off the cliff with everyone else.”

We are each confronted daily with personal cliffs. Now more so than ever with the rapid pace of technology and the warp speed at which AI is developing. If, in hindsight, you can see why it wasn’t such a long way from 2008 to live rape…wait until you see what’s just around the corner. One voice, one person, one principle upheld can save the world. Remember, the next corner you cut, blind eye you turn, or principle you fail to uphold… could be our last.                Carole

Hacking Trump

Maureen Dowd doesn’t believe in moderation. If she did, she would have written a column about the pitfalls of hubris and the learning curve that is the Presidency. Instead she came after Donald Trump with the literary equivalent of a chainsaw.

Dowd makes certain valid points about the failed process of attempting to “replace” Obamacare this week, for which Trump owns the consequences. But in her haste to take down the President, she is both obvious and unapologetic in her glee to have the opportunity to do so.

Whenever I wrote about then candidate Trump, or now President Trump, I always feel the need to set the stage: I neither supported his candidacy nor voted for him. I restate this all the time because, when finding anything remotely good about him, #nevertrump’ers immediately draw certain conclusions about my political affiliation and agenda. Its a mistake to do so since the assumptions are almost always wrong. I am now a 15 year recovering Democrat and blossoming Libertarian.

Dowd’s scathing column is indicative of a larger problem.

We no longer seem capable of seeing any good what-so-ever in people who have differing opinions from our own. Even more disturbing is the “waiting to pounce” viciousness that erupts at the slightest opportunity to condemn one another for our differences.

Diversity, like “Hope and Change” is nothing more than a bumper sticker unless we find common ground in defining it. Diversity is more than just having a person from each race perfectly positioned, in full camera view, behind a politician’s podium. Its more than making sure that a certain number of minorities are admitted to a university.

Diversity of thought is the cornerstone of a free society and the free expression of ideas is the foundation of a tolerant society. When we find it necessary to destroy, verbally or otherwise, those whose ideas or actions differ from our own, we undermine that foundation.

I am not saying that Donald Trump is a good or bad President. It would be premature to draw a conclusion either way. But while we are busy picking over the carcass, following the withdrawn Congressional vote this past week, like vultures on roadkill…where were the voices, to be quick and on the record, in praise of President Trump for a brilliant and ethical Supreme Court nominee? Those same voices, now front and center like Dowd’s, who wish to seize the moment and “take down” the President were nowhere to be found when credit was, and is, due.

If we, as a nation, were in our right mind (which as of late is dubious at best) we would dismiss the hawkers of polarization and give little consideration to those who are quick to throw the baby out with the bath water. Trump is not perfect. But he is not always wrong, either. I prefer patience and tolerance to the alternatives.

Maureen Dowd and I differ on this. Yet, I can and will say she has written many good and thoughtful columns. This was just not one of them. Such is my ability and willingness to give credit where it is due… and withhold it when it is not. Perhaps we all need to take a refresher course in diversity.                   Carole

In Support of Lone Wolves

Britain has now experienced what Israelis have been living with for years…a radicalized individual who, consciously and with mal-intent, sets out to murder as many people as possible with a vehicle and a few kitchen knives. One of the murdered was Kurt Cochran, an American and member of the Church of Latter Day Saints who was on the last day of the trip of a lifetime with his wife, Melissa, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

We call these radical terrorists “lone wolves.” I simply cannot understand why.

I understand the radicalization. What I cannot comprehend is why we liken them to wolves, lone or otherwise. Wolves are pack animals that contribute significantly to the ecosystem in which they live by having a positive, ripple effect upon other animal populations as well as plant life.  The remainder of their prey’s carcass provides vital nutrients for the soil upon which it lays.

Wolves kill for survival not indiscriminately, wantonly, or for the sheer joy of it, unlike radicalized Islamic terrorists.

More specifically, the lone wolf who is driven from the pack has been sent away, usually by a breeding  male, or for territorial reasons.  To the contrary, the radicalized Islamic terrorist is very much a part of the pack. He or she is philosophically bonded to the murderous and hate-filled mind set of all radicalized Islamic terrorists.  And they kill not for individual survival.  In fact, their barbaric sprees almost always end in their own annihilation.

Unlike even the lone wolf, they have no sense of survival.

So it always bothers me when we reference animals to describe behavior that is barbaric, inhuman and totally lacking in an inherent sense of survival of their particular species. In fact, it’s an insult to wolves specifically, and animals generally, to call Islamic terrorists lone wolves.

They are simply humans who have so ingested and embraced hate as a form of perverse nourishment, and who so willingly believe the promise of a manipulative fantasy about reward for their barbaric and self-destructive behavior, that they have disconnected themselves from rational human thought as well as the natural instinctive behavior of animals.

Let’s give the actual lone wolves back the respect they are due.  Then, let’s call radical Islamists what they are due. Barbarians.

It’s hard to be Above The Fray on this one. I keep thinking about Melissa Cochran who survived the attack. I guess my usually higher ground perspective, in this post, is on behalf of the wolves.

Carole

 

 

“Get Out” – Movie Review

Some horror films have been great in adding a spice of social commentary to the genre. The Stepford Wives was a poignant film about the feminist movement and its male backlash. District 9, which centers around the living conditions of Aliens living on earth really addressed the plight of living conditions for many blacks in South Africa. The latest in this line of cinematic social commentary is Get Out.  It lifts the veil of “post-racial” America to reveal its underlying ugliness. The dialogue is sharp and pointed…culminating in a daring portrait of American society

The story centers around Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, who are going home to meet Rose’s parents for the first time. In any budding romance the trip would be a rite of passage; but, Get Out has an added dimension: Chris is black and Rose is white. While she thinks nothing of the trip but Chris is clearly worried about what her family’s reaction might be.

Upon meeting Chris, her father seems a bit too hip, immediately addressing Chris as “my man” and making sure to point out that he “loved Obama” and “would have voted for Obama for a third term.” The father’s continued efforts to appear “not racist” makes him seem foolish. The mother, a hypnotist, seems unaffected by race but is eager to get her hands on Chris in order to hypnotize him.

The family has two housekeepers, both black. This clearly makes Chris even more uncomfortable. Both of them seem quite out of place, They are extremely subdued in their expressions and attitudes, which seem completely out of place.

Chris’s growing concern throughout the weekend becomes more heightened when a slew of people descend the second day for the family’s annual party. For the most part, the party goers are all white, successful and the take quite a liking to Chris. He is prodded and poked by the guests about typical black stereotypes such as his prowess in bed and his enhanced physical prowess to the point of absurdity.

While the director could have taken the easier and more oft-taken Hollywood route of exposing the racism of rednecks, Christians and Conservatives, he decided to target the underlying bigotry of rich, white liberals. In doing so he has made a bold and original movie. The guests don’t consider themselves racists; but, their incessant comments about how much they like Tiger Woods, Jesse Owens and Barack Obama expose how they view the world along racial lines.

As all of these incidents begin to add up, Chris decides to leave the party. In some ways , Chris’s  experience becomes a sampling of what many Black people experience in their daily lives. But the director isn’t interested in purely making a point, he’s out to make a horror film and he doesn’t disappoint. Chris, by his nature and disposition, calmly and glumly accepts the rampant racism around him before letting his anger take over. NO SPOILER here. But, the film’s combination of racism and control of others is at the heart of this horror movie.

Get Out mentions the presidency of Barack Obama repeatedly and so I want to address the director’s vision of it. Obama was elected, in some ways, as a symbolic gesture to show how far America had come…that we could elect a Black president in a post-racial society. The dialogue in the movie pokes fun at this idea through by the many comments people make about how they voted for Obama and, therefore, can’t be racist.

Some might chuckle and view the comments and message of Get Out as simplistic and far-fetched. In reality they are all too common. A few years ago when I accompanied a rich, white liberal from Boston to meet an Indian client, the head of the financial desk where we worked had to tell the salesman, “For God’s sake Billy don’t tell the client you can relate to him because you saw Slum Dog Millionaire.

Here is the irony: thinking and voting for a candidate because of his color as a testimony to your lack of concern about it. If they (we) were truly color blind, Obama’s policies would have been the deciding factor, not his race. Here is where liberal America fell short while at the other end of the political spectrum even his detractors were afraid of being called racist if  they opposed him on substantive matters.

We were so busy denying racism we made fools of ourselves committing it.

Get Out is a clever movie that speaks to all the subtle forms of racism to which we remain blind and that we dare not mention. In the end, the horror of this horror film is the real, unaddressed discomfort between races and the twisted lengths to which we go to prove it doesn’t exist.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

The Pope and Polarization

Polarization is not a political problem.  It is a human one.

As this nation turns into something just short of “armed camps” against one another… black vs. white; rich vs poor; left vs. right; Republican vs. Democrat; Trump vs. #NeverTrump; straight vs. LGBT etc., there is its global counterpart. Russia vs. the U.S.; Democracy vs Socialism; Muslim vs. Christian and now, the old canard and ultimate absurdity…the New Testament vs the Old Testament (the Torah).

In Italy, there is growing concern with the Pope’s use of verbiage and catch phrases that harken back to a time that preceded the progress made in closing the gap between Christianity and its predecessor, Judaism.

Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, the former chief rabbi of Milan, has written an open letter to the Pope expressing what he and many others have been feeling about statements by the Pope.

“The biblical dichotomy between Old and New Testaments, Laras argues, signals “the resumption of the old polarization between the morality and theology of the Hebrew Bible and of Pharisaism, and Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospels.”

The rabbi also underscored the Church’s “embracing of Islam, which is all the stronger as the Christian side is more critical toward Judaism, now including even the Bible and biblical theology.” He also identified an undercurrent “of resentment, intolerance, and annoyance on the Christian side toward Judaism.”

How absurd it is that religious belief and the institutions it has spawned, should become the disseminators of the disease of polarization. Polarization spawns fear of the “other” and it is this fear which allows the few to remain in control by pledging to dominate, control or eradicate the opposing force.

Power by the few over the many is as old as recorded human history. And for all that time there has been a yearning by individuals to throw off the yoke of such control and live as we were created to live: sovereign and autonomous.

Yet, when so many aspects of our global persona are at figurative and literal war with one another, we have lost our inherent sense of oneness and succumbed to the manipulators of fear. Our misperception is what enables them to continue their control.

Only with the realization that whether it be by governmental or religious institutions, no human being was ever created to be held captive by or subservient to another…will we be set free. Only by refusing to be manipulated into intolerance of others to the point that their mere existence becomes the basis for our fears and the justification for our hatreds…will our eyes be opened to truth of oneness.

I respect the right of anyone to choose a path to God other than the one I choose. What I do not respect are religious leaders who use their bully pulpits to spread a political or biased agenda that moves people in the direction of slavery to antiquated thinking.

There are no secrets to power. There is only each individual’s awakening to the truth of free will, which is much more than a religious precept. It is the right of every human being to think for themselves and, by so doing, create a world where creativity trumps control and where polarization is an extinct concept replaced with tolerance.

There is but one unifying principle and one testament:  Love.

Carole

How Informed Are You?

If you are a news junkie like me, you tend to think you know the issues. But I know this is not true. Because for many of the news stories I read, I know I am only getting a sliver of the truth.To really understand any issue takes time.

In college I read hundreds of books on military history, politics and government policy and I thought I had a basic understanding of how U.S government policy worked but I quickly realized I did not know much when I entered the Marine Corps. It was there that my true formal education began on how international affairs functioned.

I spent four years on active duty as a Marine Corps Officer and most of that time was spent in the middle east. It was there working hand and  hand with our allies did I truly begin to understand how things operated. I noticed a  huge disconnect between what I saw and read in the media an what actually took place on the ground. What I discovered to be true was that the media had a story line, a narrative to write- and looked for things to fit that story wether it was true or not.

In one particular instance, our units were in Kuwait and a reporter wanted access to one of the units in the battalion. The reporter tried to bully the Marines to get what she wanted but was stopped by one of the company commanders. He called her a lying and deceitful journalist and she slinked away not to get her story. I later found out that the company commander was well aware of her news reports and her many fabrications and he would not allow her access as he felt she would just lie about what she saw.

Later when I worked in finance, again the things I saw and lived were quite different than the way things were reported. This was most apparent during the banking crisis in 2008 when the banks were taken to task for the risks they took and the abhorrent mismanagement of their institutions. Yet the media also failed to tell the other side of the story that the root of the housing crisis was the Community Reinvestment Act which forced banks to make loans to the poorest of communities lest they lose their banking license. Most of these loans went bad and then the government sued these banks for making these predatory loans.

Even in the online space, what you are shown is also edited. When I left Wall Street and started to work in the technology space in lead generation, I became quiet adapt at Search Engine Optimization. S.E.O as it is better known is simply optimizing the content on your site so that the search engines can find you. All of the search engines have said that they reward good content as it makes their jobs easier as it lets people find the most relevant sites. But when my sites started getting ranked on the 1st page of  Google, Bing etc, I would notice within weeks my sites would be dropped into the nethers of the net. What happened? Business plain and simple. Since my sites were being found by users, there was no need for me to advertise my sites with the search engines, so they moved me out of the top spot. The point being even in the online world, know that the search engines are not necessarily showing you the most relevant sites but rather the ones that make the most economic sense to them.

But we have entered now has truly become scary.News sites are becoming smarter and smarter at feeding you things for you to click on. And as you click on the articles, the sites learn. So the next time you go that site, they feed you more of the same. Many sites are now so customized that two people might access the same site and see totally different content. This is being done to maximize the time on site and advertising dollars. In the end I might think I am informed on an issue only to realize I am only being shown only a small subset of the content.

Part of the great divide over Trumps presidency is just the sheer unbelief by many that he got elected. For them, all of their friends, news stories and cable shows all said it was impossible for him to win. In their world they were right. They could not believe it because they could not see it. They did not see the other news sites showing how well Trump was doing and the real possibility of him winning.

This is the real danger of the digital age, the continued  segmenting of audiences to maximize revenue. But what is being lost is the truth and a common ground that we can all relate to.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Seinfeld and Shows About Nothing

I have recently started watching Seinfeld again. The show still makes me laugh. Now, having a teenage daughter, I get to enjoy the series this time through her eyes.

All great comedy shows and writers have the ability to see something in culture and make fun of it. Given that the Seinfeld  show is now close to twenty years old, I find it so interesting that she laughs at the same jokes I use to laugh at.

The humor in the show revolves around four main characters who are forever trapped in adolescence. All of them are completely self-absorbed with seemingly no potential for growth. None of them are married, have good jobs and or any inclination to help anyone but themselves. Yet the situations and predicaments they put themselves into precisely because of their self-centered natures are really funny.

The show was a big hit and lasted for ten years. The final episode concludes with the four characters locked in a prison cell over a crime they committed: they were witnesses to a crime and failed to help stop it. As the four of them are locked away, they begin in the usual banter which made the show so famous… to which the character “Elaine” chimes in and says, “Haven’t we already done this before?”

The scene is a reference to the great play by Jean Paul Satre, No Exit, where three people are locked into a room. They  are dead and salvation can be had, but only through growth and the mercy of the others. Alas, they are incapable of such acts and are, therefore, forever trapped in Hell for eternity. Forever there, to torture and inflict pain on one another with salvation possible but never attained because of their flaws.

The root of Seinfeld’s humor is despair. Its made fun of, poked at and eventually succumb to. At the trial ,they are locked away for good as the judge hears a litany of crimes they committed against humanity. Because they are hopeless and indifferent to the plight of others, they are locked away, removing their deficiencies from society.

Oddly enough, during the 1990’s when Seinfeld was originally filmed, economic prospects were better than today. The country was not at war.  The outlook was generally more sanguine.  Yet the message of self-centeredness existed and took root. How else could Seinfeld have been so popular if, at its core, it did not touch upon and reveal some sense of a universal truth?

Since then, we’ve been in two major wars, had a tech bubble burst, a housing crisis and a tripling of our national debt. Add to that an enormous  student debt bubble which has the capacity to enslave an entire generation to indebtedness… and I would argue that times are much more dire now than when the show was written.

A central tenet of Larry David’s vision for Seinfeld was that the show would have “no hugging and no learning.” The characters were written and drawn to get a laugh. But the show is closer to the truth than he realized. The characters in Seinfeld are no longer caricatures. They are us.

If you think I am wrong take a look at this video:

For many who live in the U.S., we have no sense of history, no sense of the laws that govern us or the underlying principles that shape our country. Because so many are so self-centered, we no longer take the time to understand our relationship to the country and the society that we live in.

Maybe Seinfeld’s brilliance was not in its comedy; but, in its ability to see where the country was headed and what type of people we were becoming.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com