The Honor System

The Honor System

We rely upon the mass belief of intangibles for the survival of society. That which is not believed in, does not exist. The fragile line between civility and anarchy, between good and evil, between love and fear, depends almost exclusively on the honor system.

We wear clothes in public, because we believe it is the thing to do. We don’t punch our neighbor, because we believe it would be wrong. We try to share a common belief about the meanings of wrong and right. We are on the honor system to maintain those beliefs. For most of us, since early childhood, we were taught the meanings of right and wrong, and those teachings became our beliefs.

Consider the game of checkers, where you move your pieces only forward and diagonally per the rules of the game. Your opponent however moves his horizontally and backwards, and captures your pieces at will. You both may be playing a game, but it is no longer checkers, for it is only a set of intangible rules that made it checkers in the first place. Your opponent did not share your belief.

It is only through the honor system, a mutual agreement to respect intangible rules, that we can survive as a nation; otherwise, our nation will become something else. Like the checker game, it will no longer be America.

Businesses, games, competitions, elections, and democracies survive on the honor system. Play the game fairly, and respect the outcome. The organized and heavily funded obstructionists, rioters and slanderers who have abandoned the honor system and are hell bent on sabotaging a government that serves 324 million Americans are not doing so because they hate our new President. They have devoted years to changing the beliefs of the young and building a different government based on moving the checkers horizontally; a beta site that was poised and ready for implementation upon the election of its chosen candidate. But the election did not go their way, and now the leaders of this “deep state” are in mortal fear of a president who, unlike them, believes in the honor system.

I believe that several powerful people currently dedicated to the obstruction of our government and the destruction of our President have been involved in heinously immoral and criminal activities, and our President knows this. The “deep state” is desperate to shut him down, and hence we are witness to the most elaborate and destructive smear campaign perhaps in the history of politics.  You will of course believe what you will.  I guess time will determine if whether in the future we move our pieces diagonally or horizontally.  With God’s help, may the honor system prevail.  Peace.

An American Conversation

An American Conversation

OLD AMERICAN: “I think I’ll go for a walk.”
New American: “You’re a racist!”

OLD AMERICAN: “Or maybe I’ll eat a piece of apple pie.”
New American: “You’re a xenophobe!”

OLD AMERICAN: “Actually, I’ll just take my dog for a walk.”
New American: “You’re a homophobe!”

OLD AMERICAN to New American: “I’m sorry, but do we know each other?”
New American: “No.”

Communications Breakdown

Do you choose your words with precision, or do you speak well?

Forgive the reference to a pulsating nuke from one of the world’s most significant and influential rock bands. I bought Led Zeppelin’s debut album in 1969 upon the advice of my 8th grade algebra teacher. It was a vinyl, 33 rpm record.

For those who haven’t lived thru the evolution of recorded music from records to CDs to digital, we started out, more or less, with 78 rpm (revolutions per minute) records, that were hard plastic platters that spun VERY FAST, had poor audio quality, and if dropped would break. Next came 45 rpm records or simply “45s”. These spun slower, had better fidelity, but only had capacity for two songs – the “A” side and, when you flipped it over, the “B” side. Along with 45s came the beginning of the “hit records” or “singles” or “A sides”. Finally arrived the wonderful 33 rpm, or vinyl record “album”; great sound and capacity to hold around ten songs, five on side 1 and five on side 2. Plus, albums had their covers; often conveying great photos, art work and narratives that humanized the band and the music, so much so that buying a new album was often cause to gather with friends, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and LISTEN.

This morning at the kitchen table as I ate breakfast with my youngest daughter prior to her leaving for work, a thought occurred to me. I was about to tell her, “You look nice today”, but instead I said, “You look well coutured and well accessorized today.” To which she looked at me suspiciously and carefully and slowly uttered, “ooooo kkkkkk…”  On a side note, yes, it is very bizarre having me as a parent, haha.

My point is… I was trying to be a 33rpm. It seems obvious to me that we as a society have a systemic “failure to communicate”. Topping the many reasons for this is our perceived lack of time and our chronic obsessing with “what comes next” versus what’s happening right now in this very moment.

How often have we started a conversation with a hastily and inaccurately constructed thought only to hear the reply “What do you mean?” At which point, we now have to back-peddle while feeling “put on the spot” to reiterate quickly, because we are anxious that the person we are addressing is a 78rpm and will soon starting tapping their fingers with impatience. In the end, if we are extremely lucky, our original message is finally conveyed, but usually we settle for hopefully getting the essence across. After which, we’re already thinking about what we’re going to say next, so at best we are giving the speaker 50% or our attention as he is replying in his own sloppy, inaccurate manner.

My gosh! Makes we wonder how we as a society did not self-destruct decades ago. Now, let’s exacerbate the situation exponentially. Vague messages, outright lies, inaccuracies are sent out to hundreds, thousands, even millions at the touch of a computer key, leaving a million people asking “What do you mean?” without any hope of receiving a reply.

Homies, we can’t control the receiver of our communications, but whether we are a 78rpm or a 45 or a 33, that’s on us. Feeling like we are so time-starved that we can only speak in overly-generalized sound-bites, that’s on us too. In the end, miss-communicating will cost us MORE time than if we slowed down a bit, became mindful of the moment and our audience, and chose our words with precision. We don’t have to use big words; in fact it’s better that we don’t. We don’t have to fear coming across as nerd-like; in fact if we did, it would probably relax the receiver of our message and help him or her to digest it in the way we intended. We don’t have to presume our listener is close-minded or open-minded; that’s on them, not us.

Politicians today by choice, design, or necessity, are 45rpms. This is very concerning. I will guess that over 50% of the eligible voters in America do not fully understand what a caucus is or what socialism is or what each of our current presidential candidates really represents because none of them (the candidates) are communicating precisely!!!

I’ve racked my brain black-and-blue repeatedly attempting to apply my problem-solving skills to what’s wrong in our existence today, and in the end, all I have to show for it is a bruised brain and a simple conclusion. We CAN change the world, but it starts with us. In my case, it starts with me. I see several behaviors, beliefs and cultural biases of which, if each of us individually became more conscious and self-correcting, we would like a cultural contagion “rub off” on others and actually begin to change our society and our world. It’s called leading by example, and it begins with you.

For me, I’ve already begun with simple self-reminders. In this case, “choose words precisely”. Rather than speaking well, I’ll take the time to try to communicate better. I choose to be a 33rpm, and that is my contribution for today toward changing the world. Peace, love, dove homies.

DAY ONE chapter two

Rocko decided to take me to a coffee shop around the corner. He thought it best that I be sitting down when he starts filling my head with tales of the apocalypse. As we walked, I was struck by the small shabby houses and their bland weathered yards. Reading my gaze, Rocko intervened, “Those homes may not look pretty, but they are all clean, functionally stable and sealed against the elements. People today are free to paint and adorn their houses and grounds in any way or color they choose. Most don’t bother. The fallacy of “keeping up with the Jones” died along with the Federal Reserve and the big banks. Priorities today are seldom motivated by vanity, and living life’s precious moments in a meaningful way has become Priority-One.”

Rounding the corner, I was taken aback, physically, by the panorama before me. Rocko grabbed my arm fearing I might fall. At eye-level, I was met by a picturesque Victorian main street, ripped right out of a Hallmark Channel movie. People diversely dressed in jeans, flannel shirts, saris, scarves, dresses, hijabs, sweat suits, leather, cotton and silk were bustling about, smiling, chatting, window shopping, and patronizing what I assumed to be good ole “Mom and Pop” stores and cafés. Hair styles and skin colors were sufficiently eclectic to represent nearly every style-trend throughout history and every color in the Crayola crayon box, respectively.

The women, all of them, were somehow different and more beautiful than I remembered. At first I thought it was because I hadn’t regaled in the sight of the opposite sex in over thirty years, but then I realized that no one was wearing make-up. Whereas back in my day when so many women and girls cosmetically homogenized themselves into anonymous look-alikes, the fairer sex strolling past me today projected an individual, one-of-a-kind beauty and strength; the authenticity of which stirred me into a catharsis where suddenly I no longer saw women and men; I just saw people.

Despite the volume of pedestrians on the sidewalks, not a single person was staring into a cell phone, although some were talking into what looked like old-style flip-phones. There was something weird about the phones though; some colorful buttons, I don’t know, I couldn’t put my finger on it. Strangers who passed me smiled hello instead of staring down to avoid eye contact. I was quickly beginning to feel safe and included in this new world.

But it was not this futuristic rendering of a Norman Rockwell painting that overwhelmed me into breathlessness. It was the “structures” that loomed ubiquitously overhead extending into the horizons. Hovering just above eye-level was a scene that only HG Wells or Gene Roddenberry might recognize. “Rocko, are we getting closer to that coffee shop? I need caffeine, and… I definitely need it now.”

End of chapter two

DAY ONE chapter one

The first thing they said when I opened my eyes was that I’d been in a coma for thirty years, and a lot has changed since the late twenty-tens. I had closed my eyes as a 23-year-old and reopened them on my fifty-third birthday, but for me, it was day-one.

Today Rocko, my twenty-something-year-old social caretaker is taking me for a stroll outside the hospital and my first glimpse at the new world. Long hair, scraggly stubble on his face, Rocko is a jazz musician by choice and a social-worker specializing in cultural reentry by necessity. He’s been assigned to my “case” and is getting ready to tell me the story of where I am and how I got here.

After months of physical and occupational therapy, Rocko’s arm in mine, I take my first shaky steps into the sunlight. “Welcome to Freeland 40N 95W” announces Rocko.

Adjusting to the light, focusing on what lays beyond the hospital grounds, I see a tree-lined street with a diversity of small houses in varying states of disrepair, a few micro cars with solar-paneled spoilers buzzing around in a way that suggests they may be electric, and an armed man patrolling the sidewalk in a red-white-and-blue military uniform giving the uncanny impression of an old-school cop walking his beat.

“Rocko, where am I?”

“I told you; Freeland 40N 95W” he answers politely.

“No, I mean where in the United States am I?” I persisted. “What state is this?”

Calmly, Rocko replies, “There is no United States man. No Canada or Mexico either. Those countries all fell in the early twenty-twenties.

“What???” My eyes fix on his with a look that must have conveyed “OK. Joke’s over. Now tell me where I really am.”

“You’re in a country called Freeland 40N 95W”, Rocko begins. “The forty-north and ninety-five-west are the approximate latitude and longitude of the geographical center of the country’s land mass. Countries are no longer delimited by borderlines drawn on maps; in fact, most of the symbolism and labels of your generation are no longer used. While in some areas technology has advanced in ways that will astound you, we as a society have stepped back to a more physical reality. More hands-on you might say. Less complicated, less imaginary grids, and more of a see-it-believe-it way of life.”

Rocko continues, “Freeland is bordered by an 18-foot-high guarded double-wall. No one gets in or out without due process. It’s kinda like a gigantic gated community. Oh… and before you ask…. No, it wasn’t zombies.”

End of chapter one

Labels

The thing that I hate about people who label themselves or others as Liberals is that they’ve ruined the word liberal.

All my life I have prided myself in liberal thinking, but these grand “label makers” have made me feel impure. From teenager through old man, I have held unwaveringly liberal viewpoints before it became trendy to do so and an act worthy of banishment to not do so.

Most notably, I’ve supported with my soul and my actions the freedom of expression, whether that be speech, love, sex, art, music, clothing (or lack of), writing, alternative thinking or paradigm busting. I’ve embraced friends throughout my life of all races, national origins, religions, and sexual orientations. While I admit I was originally opposed to gay marriage given the definition of the institution as I was raised to believe, it had nothing to do with an aversion to homosexuality, and I’ve since changed my position. I’ve had close friends who were gay and lesbian throughout most of my life including an era when many were compelled remain in the closet. In the 70s, I attended Chuck’s coming out party after his transgender surgery and kissed her to wish her well.

That was then, but now we seem to live in a culture of narrow thinkers who label people to shut them down should they express an idea counter to their own point-of-view. Somehow a massive segment of our society has been convinced that another massive segment has been and continues to be victimized by bullies, racists, big business, xenophobes, sexists, misogynists, war mongers, police and homophobes. Like weeds in a garden of peace, organizations have sprung up not to address these issues but to amplify and institutionalize them. Hilary Clinton plays into this with her campaign slogan “Fighting For Us”, which might just as well be “Us Against Them”.  Who is “us”? Who is “them”? I believe the “us”, or the so-called victims and their self-proclaimed saviors, have been anointed Liberals, while the villains, or the “them”, have been stigmatized as Conservatives.

Labels get under my skin like a monster parasite from an Amazon rain forest. As I’ve tried to reason with you and to prove to you, I am liberal in my thinking and behavior. However, I am also smart, analytical and conservative in that I will defer a conclusion until there is substantial evidence to support it. I am particularly conservative in the areas of security, safety, freedom and survival for myself, my family and society at large. On questions that threaten our safety and for which evidence is still pending, I liberally pursue discussion and fact finding while erring on the side of safety until a fair and just conclusion can be reached.

The victims, the “us”, do not want such liberal freedoms of speech and expression, and choose to shut me down and others like me by applying labels such as racist and xenophobe, etc, etc. Yet, these people call themselves Liberals in the face of their own biased, phobic and sometimes violent behavior.

I’ve appealed to so many deaf ears lately that I feel like I’m calling out from inside a fish tank where my mouth moves but only bubbles emerge. Labels are a tool to keep us divided and distracted and oblivious to the players who manipulate us like pieces on a board game. Each of us is an individual with a unique mind that is more complex and sophisticated than the most powerful computer imaginable. Unfortunately, just as computers are prone to viruses, our minds are susceptible to manipulation and beliefs implanted by fear and by social movements of dubious intent.

In this season of peace, may you be liberal with your love and conservative with your fear. Before negatively labeling someone who seeks your consideration of their alternative viewpoint, think about how your reaction may prompt others to label you. Peace, love, dove homies.

As If It Were Today

Hi Homies. Bob Dylan wrote the words below a half-century ago. I still have the vinyl.  Should you choose to invest a few minutes to read them, consider today’s headlines and today’s society as you do. And to my younger friends… we old farts stood once where you stand now.  Judge not too quickly.  Peace, love, dove to all.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon, there is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all, except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred

Our preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ all the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on all around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it that you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Do what they do just to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize and say, “God bless him”

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole that he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False goals, I scuff at pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say, “Okay, I have had enough, what else can you show me?”

And if my thought dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only