Friday, May 9, 2008

The Conspiracy of Love

Love is a conspiracy.

A man made construct perpetuated by the mass media: song, TV, movies, religion, books, and any other venue that reaches our minds.

There is no biological foundation for love. It is not necessary to continue any species. In fact, the reasons to obliterate love from our consciousness and the culture that creates this mindset never end. Pain, loneliness, rape, murder. Love is used to commercialize our psyches, to bring war, to objectify gender.

The projection of love plagues us still after thousands of years. We project it onto
our pets, cars; animate and inanimate objects fail to respond or respond in a way
that fails acceptance.

We remove hope, children, ethnicities; ruin companies, reputations, families. "That is mine." "I love it." "I sacrificed my life for that."

It is not simply a matter of definition as some people would rationalize. Of course, you don't love a ham sandwich the same way you love your mother. Yet, do we really "love" the work we do? People love the rain or Frank Sinatra or last year's Super Bowl.

What we call love might better be termed self-satisfaction, self-indulgence, self-actualization from knowing that that THING, living or not, somehow fulfills a need
manufactured by the culture that surrounds us. A shot glass printed with the logo of our alma mater can no more offer love than a laptop computer, yet individuals willingly suspend honesty to pronounce a feeling of shot glass love.

If love failed to exist, would we survive? What would people sing about? What would countrymen die for? You could no longer love the Land and sacrifice whole families for the sake of one square mile. Does love then stop being an excuse for not respecting another's religion? Judaism or Christianity or Islam loses its potential for deadliness. I don't have to destroy any religion because I love mine more.

All you need is ... ?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Power of the Crossing Guard

For too long now, the lady in front of my daughter's school has wielded her arms as if the Luftwaffe returned to the democratically open spaces of North American skies. Her facade of power includes a whistle, a coat the color of exotic Amazonian endangered birds, and white gloves magically transforming mundane hands into holy artifacts. "Can't you see my hands say 'Stop'," her voice needles with Nazi intentness.

My capability for sight is questioned almost every day.

Lord Acton's aphorism never goes out of style. But what has caused this seemingly regular person to metamorphose into a mad donkey? It simply can't be the retina burning outfit. The sworn charge of safety? Safety above all else? I believe it is more insidious and more prevalent than anyone has yet to imagine.

We have begun to create what I call the Cult of Life Implosion. It's more than the 15 minutes of fame. It's the idea that whatever I do deserves recognition and reverence. Important I am; therefore I exist. Few of us hold contentment as a qualifier for a happy life.

The implosion is directly related to the service rendered by each individual whether that service exists in a physically imminent form or a physically removed form. Let me provide two examples.

I called my bank the other day to change my address. This request seemed to fall into the realm of a) simple and b) simple. I wasn't asking for any personal or private information; I was going to give them information! Hah!

After meandering through the labyrinth of hell called the Telephone Tree, a woman's voice arrived on the phone:

-- I need to change my address.
-- What is your account number?

Account number was given, name and SS# verified, all is well. Not a chance.

-- I can't help you.
-- Sorry?
-- I can't change your address over the phone.
-- Why not?
-- Security reasons.
-- But I'm not asking for any information. I just want to get my bank statements.
-- You can email me your address.
-- That makes no sense. I could create a fake address in three seconds. I want to give YOU an address because YOU have my information which I've verified.
-- We can verify your email because we already have it on file.
-- I'll just tell you my email now and then you'll know it's me.
-- I can't do that. Why don't you fax it to us?
-- How do you know it's me from a fax?
-- That's what we can do; otherwise you have to come in to one of the branches.
-- That's stupid.

It pretty much disintegrated into the chaotic world of yelling. (Actually, I yelled, and she hung up.)

I, the customer of the bank, held no power. I could have closed all my accounts and still been left with a hollow feeling of impotence. If she gave in, what would have been the consequences? Planets colliding? Dogs and cats speaking in tongues? No.
The only problem would have been her usefulness; she could no longer justify the power she held behind the desk of her office holding a phone. Her name plate removed; her hairstyle obliterated.

My second example directly correlates with another public service mammoth -- the restaurant. Is it too much to ask the power crazed staff of the food industry NOT to add glass shards to my food?

Accidents occur. That is a given. If you cannot conceive of this standard of life's rituals, then head immediately for the exit. But, when the accident is over, can someone take responsibility? Not if your power is at risk.

So after I discovered glass in my omelette's cheesy center and after the apologies and after not volcanically burning the remaining hairs on my head, I wanted to know what management intended to do. The manager had the power to make amends. I only had the power to request another breakfast which I considered to be a slight risk.

The manager refused to do anything. No compensation. It was explained to me as if I had just entered Ellis Island after an arduous boat trip originating from Boneheadavalkia. Nothing could be done. We don't refund. We will gladly make you another broken Tiffany egg surprise. Power, where art thou?

Frustrating though it may be, the "small" lives led by those around me are the only ones justifying some type of recognition; some kind of vanity plate existence which validates who we are and how we define ourselves. I have nothing against the crossing guard lady. She does her job well. Bankers fill a niche. And, I enjoy being served instead of frying and boiling on my own.

Just step back one or two feet and separate the right and privilege of a job well done to the unnecessary control power advocates over other people. I can cooperate just as well as the next guy. Just don't kill me in the process.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Case Against Nut Encrusted Fish

Change for the sake of change destroys humanity. There. I said it.

The inevitability of change is a construct of life; the lack of control over this construct neither helps nor hinders the meaning we derive from its consequences. What creates divisiveness is pushing change onto cultural entities that already coexist naturally with people and places. Like fish.

The origins of fish encased in nuts eludes me, but it lacks creativity and corrupts nature's intentions. Some cook/chef simply realized that changing fish into an entity resembling not-fish seemed like a great idea: Let's do something different!

Now, I don't advocate eating only fried fish or ridding ourselves of sushi. If some want nuts on their fish, their freedom cannot be denied. But let's do it for the reasons of taste or nutrition or geographical identity. Let's not change just for the sake of acting, eating, or looking differently.

To continue the nut motif, why have many airlines banned peanuts from in-flight snack time? In the 60s and 70s, I cannot remember one incidence of nut induced trauma or seizures. For whatever reason (environmental, genetic, or nutritional) peanut allergies now cause life threatening results. It's the most common cause of food related deaths. Okay. No peanuts for those people. But do we have to change the entire consumptive role of society? Even peanut butter bears the label that this food product may contain peanuts!

Appealing to common sense in the 21st century may place me in the role of Grand Inquisitor, yet many people believe scrolling through the telephone tree of a major corporation and then waiting 20-25 minutes to speak to a Homo Sapien is normal. Companies rationalized that change as "more economical" and "time saving." (I could laugh but I lost my voice shouting at the phone tree operator.)

If it ain't broke, don't change it. Accommodate the less fortunate and the legumely challenged. But leave the halibut alone.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The False Negative

Many people continue to argue (with venom and with more venom) about race, Wright, and wrong. The entire argument is like a "Hidden Object" puzzle: how many common objects can you find placed amongst the background of a generic setting, such as a backyard. (America's backyard still remains divisive and diverse all at once.) The one argument -- discussion? -- which still lends itself to ostrich like behavior is this: Why don't you leave the country you live in which you despise? Or, to reveal the innate failure of the question, why do you stay?

Miring ourselves and our country in this false negative perpetuates the notion that the absolute wrongness of America defines all achievements past and present and future. And simply to acknowledge our failures and wrongs, dichotomizes every discussion; Look at what we done good, and, oh yeah, we're not that great either.

The truth is that no one really takes the energy to reveal the truth. Our perceptions flail in the winds of cultural influences; media, religion, family. Which again is not a matter of wrong and right.

We grind our mindsets with the worst of who we are and are not. Yesterday, a father in Maryland drowns his three children. Two weeks ago a governor is accused of prostitution. Another mass murder occurs at a college campus.

The Pollyanish
perspective is to only allow "good" news to filter through our newspapers and televisions and computers. The cynical perspective states that we need to know all that goes on -- as long as people buy or watch someone will give it to us. Yet, the repercussions of knowing that people (and therefore our country) positively impact each other every day fail to scratch the consciousness of how we define our lives.

If you raise a child for 10 years and every day of that decade you tell her how stupid she is, the results are obvious. What if you tell her nothing -- neither good nor bad -- about her abilities, her physical self, or any other part that affects who she will become? What if you only provide a skewed version of greatness and wonderfulness? None of these tactics reveal what is necessary to develop a healthy child. A child strong and ready.

This is what happens to our country and countrymen on a daily basis. Without knowing the positive, the value of goodness, the rewards of competence, the culture of success, we set ourselves up for failure. The failure that only recognizes how America cannot rise to the integrity of what makes us admirable.

Each time you hear or read of a person acting "heroic" it is as if only an anomaly such as kindness surprises and shocks us. But that does not catch our attention. We cannot (or refuse to?) recognize the possibility that what we are doing and have done to make life better is worth promotion. Why can't the single parent who graduates college be worthy of our praise and recognition? Why can't we affirm a company that allows employee volunteering as part of its job assessment? Can't we attend to and focus our national energies on those behaviors?

We must inundate our national consciousness with a daily dose of positive reinforcement without neglecting areas of weakness. We must celebrate individuals who do nothing else but work diligently with grace each day without losing sight of those who cannot work because of financial or physical pain. We must develop and maintain a balance between our strengths and our shortcomings.