Happy Birthday, Eric! Hope you are enjoying your working vacation and can find time to do a little celebrating, having completed another turn around the sun.

The Best and the Worst, Part 2

It seems rather incredible that after posting about the Best and Worst of humanity a couple of days ago, a personal example of such happened yesterday.

As I was unloading a couple of sacks of goodies into my car at Wal-Mart, a young African-American male appeared out of no where and tried to grab my purse from my cart. At first it seemed incredulous that on a beautiful, bright winter's day in the middle of the afternoon, that this was going down. I made a grab for the purse, but as the thief was also pulling, all I grabbed was the cart. The purse was snagged on the cart and the assailant was dragging the purse with the cart around the back of the car next to me and between that one and another. I'm yelling and holding on to the cart, but he just kept going. Somehow the cart became wedged between the two cars. I kept thinking that he would just abandon the idea and run, when the purse came loose. He took off running down the roadway between the next rows of cars. I was blocked by the cart from getting through and had to take an alternate route. At this point I saw several other shoppers yelling and running.

By the time I got there, a young man (25-30) had my cell phone, which probably had fallen out of my purse, and was already calling the police on his blue tooth. The thief had jumped into a get-away car with two other individuals and sped off. My hero had completely taken charge, checking to see if I was hurt, and giving the police a complete description of the car with the license plate. He had found a drug scale that had fallen out of the thief's car as he had jumped in. He and two or three other shoppers all remained until the police arrived to give descriptions of the people in the car and offer what ever information they had. They all were so supportive.

I immediately called my daughter to tell her what had happened and have her cancel my debit card. She was leaving for an interview so I assured her I was alright and to go ahead.
She called me back shortly to say someone had called to say that my wallet had been turned in to a nearby inn.

By now there were 4 police officers assisting me. One of them went to the inn and was told that an elderly gentleman had been walking in the area and had brought it in to them. The wallet was returned to me with everything but my debit card and the $100 I had just taken out on it in Wal-Mart. I was so relieved to have all my cards and ID intact.

Within 30-40 minutes, the officer dealing directly with me received a call that the car and occupants had been found. The officer took me down to the car wash where they were apprehended and asked me to identify my assailant. I could identify his clothing and physical build and haircut, but I could not certify his facial features as I was focused on my purse and he was turning away during the incident. I see why eye witness testimony can be so inaccurate.

On the way back to my car, I asked the police officer how often are purse snatchers caught. He said almost never, particularly withing 30 minutes. Then he added that sometimes after much more investigation and time arrests are made.

While the theft and the loss of my purse, money, and debit card was upsetting, the generosity of the private citizens (particularly my hero) at Wal-Mart and the elderly gentleman that turned in the wallet was absolutely inspiring. The Wichita Police Officers were exemplary in how they conducted the interviews and for going the extra mile to apprehend my thief. One officer even went along the parking lot edges and beat the bushes trying to find my purse. This was definitely one of humanity's finer moments.

When I wrote the original post on "The Best and the Worst", I never dreamed the concept would strike so close to home. Weird, huh!

The Best and the Worst

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine in California sent me the video "Arigato from Japan".  The video showed the devastation from the tsunami in March 2011and the outpouring of help from the international community.  This video showcased the Japanese saying arigato or thank you.  After watching, I sat at my computer and cried.  Humanity can be so caring and compassionate in times of disaster.  This is the best of our humanness.

Since viewing the best of humanity, I've continually reflected on how homo sapiens can be so beautiful, and yet, be so monstrous.  I look at the news each morning with reports of war and eminent wars, terrorist bombings, mass murderers, hatred spewing forth from the mouths of politicians, religious leaders, and comments from other viewers spouting racism, homophobia, denigrating ignorance, and a basic "us and them" philosophy.

I tell myself, "This is the way it has always been, get used to it."  A popular song recorded in 1959 often comes to mind, "The Merry Minuet" by the Kingston Trio. But it is still an enigma to me why mankind has these polar opposites.

As I was musing about this dichotomy, I happened on an interview with author and educator John Horgan on NPR.  He had just written a book, "The End of War" 

Horgan argues that if war was really "biological" in the same sense that language is biological, it would be much more consistent in the historical record. But according to Horgan, war is actually very sporadic. There are some societies that become very materialistic, and stop fighting. There are others with long histories of fighting who then become more pacifistic. Horgan is most bothered by what he has observed as a sort of fatalistic point of view that war is inevitable. He believes that humans have much more power than some believe to plot the course of events and resolve conflicts without violence.

A popular theory about reasons for fighting comes down to resource competition. But Horgan said that while some wars are fought over land or resources, there are many in which there is no clear motivation for the conflict. He also believes that the horror of the two World Wars have changed how many think about war - whereas leaders prior to WWI sometimes glorified war, our politicians don't generally present war to the public in those terms any longer.

Excerpts from Wikipedia:

Dutch psychoanalyst Joost Meerloo held that, "War is often...a mass discharge of accumulated internal rage (where)...the inner fears of mankind are discharged in mass destruction. Thus war can sometimes be a means by which man's own frustration at his inability to master his own self is expressed and temporarily relieved via his unleashing of destructive behavior upon others. In this destructive scenario, these others are made to serve as the scapegoat of man's own unspoken and subconscious frustrations and fears.

Other psychoanalysts such as E.F.M. Durban and John Bowlby have argued that human beings are inherently violent. This aggressiveness is fueled by displacement and projection where a person transfers his or her grievances into bias and hatred against other races, religions, nations or belief systems. By this theory, the nation state preserves order in the local society while creating an outlet for aggression through warfare.

There seem to be as many theories about altruism as there are for man's aggressive nature.  One such theory is biological altruism.  It is defined as when an organism's behavior benefits other organisms, at a cost to itself. The costs and benefits are measured in terms of reproductive fitness, or expected number of offspring. So by behaving altruistically, an organism reduces the number of offspring it is likely to produce itself, but boosts the number that other organisms are likely to produce. (Standford  Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Ayn Rand postulates:  The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Developmental psychologists assert that children are intrinsically egotists and that altruism is a result of the child's socialization through growth of emotions such as guilt and empathy.

So I'm left with seeing the two faces of man with no real concrete reasons for this duplicity.  WE ARE GLORIOUS, BEAUTIFUL, AND ALTRUISTIC  and we are small, hateful, vengeful, and aggressive.

Now that is a Rather Knotty Problem.


A Tale of Two Kitties

Once upon a time there lived a princess with long, flowing red-gold hair and possessing beautiful big gold eyes.  She lived well with her family who expected little of her, but pampered her in every way.  Her days were filled with kind words, gourmet food, a warm and comfy bed, and all the stroking and caressing she could handle.  She was a trusting, loving, happy individual.  Her attitude was definitely "What, me worry.  Life is good."

Across the tracks another of her kind lived.  This creature's hair was a mixture of black and gold which she kept short.  She was orphaned and had to fend for herself.  Often there were days with not enough to eat and she was reduced to scrounging in dumpsters or begging for hand-outs.  The streets were so scary.  There were many others like herself in desperate need.  This would often lead to arguments and down right fights for food or a safe place to hang out.  In one of those fights, the little orphan was injured which resulted in a permanently notched ear.

Chance changed everything for these two different beings.  The little princess's family developed health problems and had to send her away as they could no longer care for her.  Likewise, the little orphan's life took a turn, luckily for her, for the better.  Both the princess and the orphan found themselves in a place that penned them up in beautiful glass rooms with trees.  But none the less they were in cages.  No longer free to roam.

One day two grown women came to the place with the glass cages and fell in love with both the princess and the orphan.  They were removed from their captivity and after a harrowing ride in a box were given a new home.  Both could now enjoy being pampered, loved, caressed and well fed.

Now here is the Knotty Problem:  The little princess just wants to play with the little orphan--frolic, play games of tag, and just plain hang out together.  But the little orphan still sees play as being chased and pursued.  Can the little orphan ever find the trust she has never known?  Can she learn to look at life as fun?

And so in this "Tale of Two Kitties"  we shall have to wait for the end.


That Dirty Word

In the last several years, the very word "taxes" has become synonymous with being a dirty word.  While I understand the idea that everyone would like to keep all the money one earns, do people not understand that taxes are a way to pay for services received?

Our federal taxes are a way of paying for the following services: 
  defense (21%),
  education (2%),
  financial assistance (21% social security and 11% other financial aid),
  health care (20% for Medicare, help for the disabled and those who cannot afford care),
  transportation (2 to 3 percent a year to establish and maintain airports, pipelines (oil, gas, etc.), roadways, railroads, waterways,                 and other similar forms of transportation.)
Now personally, I see nothing here that I would wish to be without. I do not want to live in a country that does not defend itself, educate its people, help the elderly, disabled, and downtrodden, and I surely do not wish live where there are no roads on which to travel.   It is true, like in any large organization, there is bound to be waste.  But why does the American populace think that the government is any worse at it than the private sector. 

We've all heard of the tremendous waste of the private companies that were hired to provide services in Iraq.

School districts that have hired private companies to run their schools have failed miserably.

Medicare runs much cheaper than private health insurance. In a review of studies on the subject, the average administrative and other non-health care charges for Medicare is 4% while the average for the same charges in the private sector is over 14% with BCBS of California running at 20%.

And who hasn't complained about the cost of toll roads.

It is as if the American public has decided we should receive these services for free.  Would we expect services we get from the private sector to be free?  How about expecting that we would receive free haircuts, or no charge from retailers or restauranteers for their service people.

My only answer to this is that with the private sector, one gets to choose what services we pay for.  But in a democracy we must submerge our own personal wants to that of the majority.  There are things that taxes pay for that I do not support or at least in the amount that our taxes go for.  But I am part of the greater good and therefore must cooperate with the whole.  Yes, I can try to sway the way my taxes are spent by my voting for like minded candidates, but to think I shouldn't have to pay taxes is insane.

I find it interesting that the very people who complain the most about taxes often consider themselves Christian.  They wish to cut taxes for programs that aid the poor and downtrodden yet it is their Savior that supposedly taught them to share with the less fortunate through the parable of sharing fishes and loaves of bread.

So the word "taxes" should be rescued from the dirty word pile.  How to fairly and adequately distribute those taxes is the quandry.  Now that is A Rather Knotty Problem.

Open Mindedness Dilemma

Open mindedness has always been a personality trait that I have valued in individuals.  In fact, I have taken pride in considering that I have that trait.  But it occurred to me that maybe I should more fully explore the possibility that my own open mindedness was merely a figment of my imagination due to the fact that I admire open minded persons. 

Therefore I started by looking up the definition of said trait.  Receptive to new and different ideas or the opinions of others.  Okay, I'm still in the water.  I quite enjoy new ideas and opinions. People who think "outside the box" are forever intriguing to me.

Then I ran across a couple of short quizzes to test to see if you are open minded.   After taking one test, the results stated that I was 72% open minded, accompanied by this explanation:

You are a very open minded person, but you're also well grounded.
Tolerant and flexible, you appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.
But you also know where you stand firm, and you can draw that line.
You're open to considering every possibility - but in the end, you stand true to yourself.

(If you want to take the test, here's the website.)

Once again, I can live with that description of myself.  After all there is nothing wrong in not loving everything in the world, but tolerating others' differences is a must.  I am passionate about music, but I don't care for rap or hip-hop.  That's okay, others can listen and I can listen to what I like.  I am an atheist, but that's alright if others need to believe in a religion or other spirituality.  I don't have to.  Relationships can be monogamous, polyamorous, or celibate.  It's what ever gets you off.  I'll do it my way.

But here comes the rub.  With all my professed open-mindedness, I find it difficult to tolerate those individuals or groups that feel they can not abide anyone else having a different opinion from themselves.  This includes religious groups, political parties, or just an individual who thinks "It's my way, or the highway."  It is so difficult for me to abide those groups/individuals that try to justify their views without facts or make them up to fit their belief.  The "That's just the way I feel" type of thinking.  Now, I don't care if they just do this to themselves, but when they try to impact me with their voodoo logic, I often see red. 

So am I truly open-minded?  Now that is a Rather Knotty Problem.

I found this rather intriguing You-Tube discussion on what constitutes open mindedness that is worth a look: