Who and What is the Happy Warrior

The Happy Warrior is the title of a poem... and yes, I love this poem. I do not wish to be mischaracterized, for the most part poetry is not my bag. I am not an afficionado of literature nor am I a metro-sexual (I despise that term) but a dear friend introduced me to this masterpiece of prose several years ago... it has provided no end of inspiration. The Happy Warrior by William Wordsworth outlines the qualities of a magnificent soul. I aspire to possess even one or two characteristics that "every man in arms should wish to be."

This blog is a representation, in conversational form, of my voyage to wrap my arms around the world in which Mr. Worsdworth's warrior finds happiness.

(Standing disclaimer: Luckily tests of spelling accuracy ended in 4th grade otherwise I would still be in Elementary School. Be forewarned, spelling errors ahead. I subscribe to the wisdom of a great man who said, "I have utmost disdain for a man who can only spell a word one way." -Benjamin Franklin)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To the undecided voter

I offer a few thoughts to those who are torn, not yet settled on their upcoming presidential choice.  I will not mention the name of either candidate because in large matter it doesn't matter who the specific men (or even if they were women) are.  The larger issue is that they represent vastly different political philosophies.  Philosophies translate into reality:  more free or less free.  Ideas matter! 
Let's cut to the chase.  Where you stand on this one statement is the most important factor in deciding who you vote for:  Government is, by its nature, oppressive.  This is undeniable.  Governments make laws.  They limit individual liberties.  They take money from their citizens.  They have power to lock up those they define as deviant.  This is tremendous and terrible power.  There are compelling reasons why individual citizens voluntarily subject themselves to the oppressive power of government.  We must never ignore, forget or be duped into the idea that individuals are endowed with rights founded in man-made government.  Governments take rights away (unless limited and restricted as in the Bill of Rights) and contest the power of individuals to do what they wish.  Power of self-direction, autonomy and agency (the ability to choose for him/herself) rests with the indiviual as an endowment from God.  Individuals volutarily give up some of that soverignty to form collective society.  Governments are formed to channel, control and protect groups of similarly minded citizens.  The balance between the rights of the individual and the power of government  has been historically tense with the advantage almost always swinging to the side of government.   Historically, theoretically and in practice, government is, by definition, oppressive. 

This summary of political theory brings us back to our choice in this current presidential election.  The question is how oppressive will we allow our government to become?  What is the point at which we say, "enough".  No more encroachment into our lives.  We do not want any more intrusion in the name of social gifts or economic protection.  Do not tell me what light bulbs I have to use or how large a drink I can purchase or if a meal contains a child toy.  Stop dictating the details of my life.  If you are comfortable with this level of oppression you must vote in one direction.  If this level of oppression -and the trend it portends- frightens you then you most vote in another direction. 

Once again, the central question is the size, intrusion and power of government.  One philosophy almost deifies government  -it is the solution to the challenges plaguing society.  The other philosophy recognizes government as a necessary but dangerous entity, one that should be controlled, checked and minimized  -the power of the citizen (which is centered in his inalienable rights) is the solution to the challenges plaguing society.  Two very different philosophies that will take us down two very different national paths.  Paths which lead to two different realities.  The choice is ours.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

After the Aurora Massacre: What comes next?

The country awoke to another story of violence and mass murder in one of
our previously unknown neighborhoods.  Now Aurora, Colorado joins company
with lower Manhattan, Leesburg, Jasper and neighboring Columbine in a
growing list of murderous and unimaginable massacres. These communities
frequently become defined as “ground zero” to the social disasters that
unexpectedly and violently erupt.  It is nearly impossible to speak the
word Columbine and avoid the association with “massacre”, “shooting” and
“trench-coat”.   This is not a uniquely American experience as is manifest
by our association with such names as Beslam, Utoya Island (Norway), and
most recently  Toronto, Canada.  Indeed this type of social disaster
appears to be a part of the human experience.   The heinous actions of a
few penetrate our generally civil societies and unexpectedly create chaos
and confusion.  It may be impossible to predict when and where an
individual will engage in such deviance; certainly we cannot control all
the negative actions and the serious consequences which impact our lives.
We can predict, however, a number of pertinent subsequent conditions that
have a bearing on our physical, psychological and social well-being.
Curiously, in many social and natural disasters the secondary events –our
reactions- have the ability to seriously mitigate or exacerbate the impact
of the original event.
Being unable to predict the disastrous and tragic event, what do we know
–what is our predictive ability regarding what happens next?  The great
aim of science is to achieve a level of understanding such that we can
reliably predict and subsequently positively control an otherwise chaotic
reality. The natural sciences which explore, among other things, some
equally destructive phenomenon like earthquakes, tornadoes, fires and
hurricanes have the advantage of natural or geophysical laws that
facilitate our predictive powers.  The social and psychological being,
however, makes it much more difficult to predict and preempt the
destructive behaviors of individuals.
We have, however, gained tremendous insight about the social reaction to
such events.  Therefore the objective of this article is to predict and
postulate some of the psychosocial conditions that we may expect to see in
the next several hours, days and weeks of this tragic experience:
Media rush:  there will be a saturation of media coverage of this event
until another “rival” story emerges.   A literal horde of media will
converge on Aurora and immediately begin to generate stories.
Unfortunately many of the reports will contain speculation and errors
presented as fact.  These errors will have potential to taint a true
conception of the facts generating rumor, confusion and an overly
simplistic analysis of a sophisticated situation.
Vigils and communal cohesion:  the next several days will be filled with
increased solidarity and “ceremonies” of social support.  Most frequently
these take the form of candle-light vigils and religious services.  These
serve a powerful social and psychological healing function.   Tragedies
bring us together and temporarily open doors for change.  This necessary
period of altruism is threatened by politicization and media
Aurora stigmatized:  one of the most reliable responses to these events is
captured in a phrase taking this theme:  I never thought it could happen
here.  This will be followed by, “it could have happened anywhere.”
Ground zero communities are frequently associated with the heinous event
and scrutinized as if something inherent in their community, like tainted
water or too much or too little religiosity, makes them culpable for the
crime.  Aurora will be forced to engage in a formal or informal public
relations campaign with the essential tagline:  we are just like Anycity,
Politicization:  the day following this tragedy will not end without
political parties and various interest groups seizing upon the experience
as an example for their agenda.  Aurora, the Batman movie,  and guns will
become pawns in the larger chess game being waged by interest groups of
every ilk.  The race, religion, socio-economic status, and political
affiliation of the perpetrator will be scrutinized and dissected
ad-nauseum.  The purpose of this is to provide interest groups with
ammunition and evidence of their cause.  We will see an emergence of
“public political figures” who will be drawn to the spotlight of an
engaged media.  The cameras will provide a stage for these figures to
vigorously pursue their agendas.
Law enforcement protocols questioned and changed:  a productive evaluation
of the response will generate a number of broad policy recommendations.
Since the perpetrator seems to have employed tear gas which limited the
speed of the police response, gas masks will now be standard equipment in
every police vehicle.  Such refinements are generally positive but
sometimes run a danger of errant generalization since, like natural
disasters, an effective response in one scenario may not be the best
course of action in another.
Copy-cat crimes:  the shock and gravity of this crime will likely create
an initial response in the form of police presence at theaters across the
country particularly during showings of the Batman movie.  This will be
both a visceral reaction as well as one that anticipates the tendency for
spectacular crimes to illicit copy-cat actions.  Unfortunate as it is
there will be a certain number of observers who gain some morbid
“inspiration” from the events in Aurora.  These will attempt to mimic the
initial behavior in like manner.
Law suits:  The process of litigation will unfold somewhat slower than
other reactions we’ve identified but this response has become a certainty
in our current litigious society.  The company owning the movie theater
will be a primary target but so will any businesses that can logically be
tied to this event.  There will be a legal feeding frenzy in the name of
and on behalf of the victims.  Justice and recompense are currently
measured in dollars.Oversimplification of Perpetrator:  there is a psychological need to establish
the perpetrator as someone fundamentally different from the rest of us.  We
are uncomfortable thinking that he is like us -or that we are like him and there-
fore liable to act in similar manner.  This is a failure to recognize that evil exists
and even worse, potentially exists in all of us.   "Monster" is a word that is
frequently used to dehumanize a person engaging in this type of crime.
On the other hand, some will attempt to explain such grossly deviant behavior
based on politically correct caricatures as:  he was bullied, society created
the monster, he was unerpriveledged, he is mentally unbalanced, he espoused
ultra-conservative beliefs, etc.  Both simplifications are wrong.  The truth is the
perpetrator will turn out to be a complicated person, not entirely or altogether
different than any of us  -except for the fact that (for some reason yet unknown)
he acted against the moral, social and religious constraints that influence the
rest of us.
Academic studies:  Disasters, natural or man-made, are extreme but ever
more frequent occurrences.  The necessity for understanding the causes and
consequences of such phenomenon is imperative.  The direct result is the
potential to save lives and minimize maladies (medical, psychological,
social and financial).  The obvious failures of recent responses to
hurricanes together with the increasing harm caused by natural,
technological and social disasters elevates the importance for
preparedness and effective response.   Sadly we do not even have a tool
that allows us to measure and then prescribe the needed resources or even
the impact of disasters.  We are tragically reactive in our responses  to
the wide range of threats (dangers extend far beyond immediate shelter,
food and medical needs)  posed by disasters .  Until recently disaster
response has focused on a service delivery model administered by distant
state or federal authorities.  The irony is that most disasters wreak
havoc at the local –individual and community- levels.  Furthermore the
resources most immediately marshaled and most effectual  are those we
naturally trust:  family members, religious institutions, networks of
friends, neighbors, local workplaces, area businesses, hospitals and
community service providers… not some distant bureau or agency.    For all
of these reasons researchers will descend upon Aurora and face the
challenge of studying human behavior outside of a laboratory environment
and largely without controls normally essential for scientific study.
Aurora and the larger Denver community will encounter some difficult days
and many decisions.  Sometimes knowing what is ahead provides a measure of
security that these crimes take from us.  The most poignant question,
"why" is not easily answered but knowing the answer to "what comes next"
can help get us through a time that may seem impossible.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The future of the US and the world

What is the future of the United States of America?  If I may restate my own question:  What is the future of freedom in the world?  The future of the world -whether we fall into a state of chaos, anarchy or ideological totalitarianism- is intrinsically tied to the future of the United States.  There is now only one country standing as a shield between liberty and freedom and a condition described as a "war of all against all".  The United States has twice refuted despotic efforts toward global domination during the past century.  It is yet to be seen if it can continue to provide a shield for liberty and freedom in this century.  It is not that the new threats are more overwhelming than was Naziism or Communism, it is a question of our own fortitude.  We do not seem to beleive in the virtues of liberty and freedom as we once did.  We do not seem to know what those words mean.  We can't even talk about virtues, morals or self-reliance.  We would rather indulge ourselves in affluence and luxury.  We would rather be wards of the government and discuss the condition of our sexual freedoms or what type of lightbulb to use.  We have self-esteem, chronic obesiety and guaranteed healthcare but we are dangerously close to losing what is fundamental to the United States of America.  What is that you ask?  That is part of the problem.  There are some American's who say we should not base our future on the principles and documents that founded this country.  They say we need to fundamentally change our society, our government and our economy. 
The amazing thing is that this streak, this tendency, this effort (call it what you will) was forseen years ago.  Some saw it twenty years ago, others fifty years ago and it was even forseen by foreign observers (i.e. Toqueville) and the men who established our foundation in the late 1700s.  They foresaw it because they understood human nature.  They have provided warnings and systematic controls but we have largely ignored both.  Take five minutes and watch this amazing clip which is just one simple but frank example of such warnings:

Do I sound like a zealot?  Perhaps, but ask yourself how many of the identified points are accurate? 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day: Birth and Death of a Nation

Nothing short of a miracle culminated on July 4, 1776.  It required hard work and much sacrifice in the years that followed but an unprecedented charter was established that provided the groundwork for the birth of a remarkable nation.   Any people in any part of the world COULD enjoy the same freedoms as do we.  To do so they must adopt and abide the principles that lead to freedom and prosperity:  sufficienly similar values, systems, laws and groundrules for their private and public lives.  Primary amongs these values is a resolute streak of independence:  a committment to being free from the paternalism of their government.  Specifically the colonies rejected and threw off the onerous reach of government into their lives.  The government had grown beyond acceptable bounds to dictate the affairs of the populace.  Aside from intruding on decisions that naturally reside with individuals, its taxes, correspondingly, become oppresive.  In short the prevailing perspective was one in which the goverment exercised control over the people instead of the people exerciseing control of the goverment.  This intrusion was, of course, defended and rationalized as necessary for the safety, unity and growth of the British empire of which the colonialist were citizens and recipients of the associated benefits.  Finally awakening to thier condition the people issued a declaration of their most fundamental values, of truths they held to be self-evident which plainly identified the source of their rights as emanating not from man-made governments but from God.  These people, who we celebrate today and from whom we claim a shared philosophy, issued a statement of independence from the malevalance (however good intentioned it may have been) of their government.  They wanted to be independent of it's onerous reach into their lives.

That is a summarized and accurate history of this day, the 4th of July.  It is well and good but what is infinitely more important is a question that involves us and our day.  Are we still committed to these same principles of independence?  Ask yourself:  within the past four years have you become more independent or more dependent upon your government?  Are you able to make up your own mind about what you or your children eat?  Is the government dictating more or less how to spend your money?  Is government inserting itself more or less in the details of your life:  in matters of healthcare, education, business endeavors, recreation, family life, etc.? 

In individual terms and as a society the trend is undeniable.  There are more people today who are dependent upon government than four years ago (granted this trend began more than 40 years ago but has now accelerated to alarming levels).  Worse still is the fact that this growth and interposition of government is  proselyted as a good thing.  The idea that government should provide for our needs (our health needs, our food needs, our housing needs, etc.) is almost accepted without question.  A great mass of society welcomes it, Congress is legislating it, the President is vigorously promoting it and the courts are upholding it.    We are, by definition, becoming dependent upon government for these basics:  food, shelter, clothing and a job.  We have embraced dependence on government  -the exact opposite of what gave birth to this nation as encapsulated in the declaration of INdependence.  If independence led to unparalelled freedom and prosperity, the prospects of dependence are ominous.

What we celebrated over 200 years ago, a country built on independence from government, is rapidly becoming a country of dependence.  We are capitulating and surrendering the core of what makes this country different, dinstinct and free.  We cannot be both dependent and free.  These conditions can not coexist, one must yield to the other.