Midterms

As we (in the US) inch closer to the Midterms, it is our responsibility as citizens to disallow the politicians of their seemingly incurable appetite to ignore those issues that truly make a difference in our quality of life.

Those issues are different for each of us. Don’t be afraid, don’t blow it off, don’t forget, Vote!

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It’s a fake!

I have concluded that “trust” is an illusion. A comforting story that we tell ourselves in order to cope with the actual state of being – complete and total uncertainty. Perhaps it is overly pessimistic to think in these terms, but you truly cannot even rely on the ground beneath your feet, given earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, etc. Yes, these things are quite appropriately called “disasters” and are infrequent, nevertheless, they do happen.

More to the point, “trust” between people is the most glaring of illusions. Unless science develops a way to read each and every electrical signal in someone’s brain, knowing, for a fact, that individual’s true thoughts and intentions is never going to be possible.

This is complicated even more by the tendency people have to operate by desire, or whim, rather than careful consideration of consequences and repercussions. Now, there are sets of consequences, and unique consequences. A unique consequence might be stubbing a toe due to a lack of attentiveness while on the way to the bathroom at 5am. A set of consequences might be additionally falling over, hitting your head, then being late to work, or even worse, in the emergency room and unable to pay the bill.

Regardless of what someone tells you, or what they might indicate, until the act is completed, you can never truly be sure what they will do, or how they will behave.

Pain, in contrast to “trust”…that is a certainty. At some point, in every person’s life, there will be pain, perhaps minor, maybe gargantuan. The true measure of the soul, though, seems to be how one reacts to this pain. Do you turn it into suffering, or do you strive to make things as good as they can be, or at the very least, as bearable as they need to be in order to live with some modicum of sanity.

Whatever the case, betrayal causes needless pain, pain that can be easily avoided by making intentions fully clear and explicit. But without those explicit intentions, there is never really anything that deserves the word “trust”.

Puerto Rico

There have barely been whispers about PR since the news of the hurricane covered the papers, web, and cable. However, anyone who pays attention knows that there was recently a studied published by Harvard that suggests over 4500 people died as a result of the Maria, and the aftermath. Even if this number is double the accurate figures, it’s still astronomical when compared to the official numbers.

The lack of coverage in favor of more petty and inconsequential drivel is not a symptom of the culture at large, if anything, it is the cause. Giving people a steady diet of crap that ignores people in need, serious, severe, actual suffering is the literal recipe to create apathetic and increasingly narcissistic individuals.

This is not a claim of moral superiority, this is a cry for help. Not help for me, but help for those in need…the homeless, the veterans, the victims of natural disasters, abused children and spouses. Let the social and political fools beg and plead for your attention, do not give it to them willingly, do not surrender your will, or your conscience

Careful, careful

When discussing ideas, one must be sure not to discuss ideas that find their roots in superstition and faith with the hope or expectation of a rational or logical conclusion.

There is no reason to expect some that refers to themselves as a “believer” to want to have that belief questioned, or at the very least examined by an “outsider”, a “non-believer”. I try to be very careful with this word “believe”, as it seems to assume acceptance without verification…only slightly different than “faith”. Perhaps the distinction is something only I find important, or bother to distinguish. At any rate, I will elaborate below.

I was discussing a myriad of things with a colleague last week. Topics from sports, to chess, to career goals….the topic of belief tiptoed its way into the conversation. I, having enjoyed only a few adult beverages, made a statement that I now regret; “Lilith was Adam’s first wife.” This seemingly innocuous aside lead to a two hour discussion about religious texts which ended in me attempting to explain why I do not have a “belief system”…I failed. Perhaps it was the beers, perhaps it was my exhaustion from the week, or perhaps it was the intractable nature of my colleague’s belief that seems grounded in a personal experience that he says shaped his entire world view. During the discussion I tried to elicit an explanation from him as to why his accepted religious texts were more correct, or the only correct ones, given the sheer volume of religious texts that exist in the world. His statement was fairly predictable “because it’s true.”

Not only do I regret that at times the discussion was contentious, I regret that I involved myself in a discussion where the outcome was not only so painfully predictable, but one that was at its core, completely pointless.

Travel Map

I travel for work. I recently tried to figure out everywhere I’ve been and thought I’d post a little map. I might make updates whenever I happen to remember.

Key: Blue = a week or more; Gold = months or years (lived there)

I know it’s a fairly low-rent map, but hey, it works. Also, it doesn’t include overseas locations, which I might add at some point.

amendment #2

with a firm grasp on the dogma’s tail
you continue to trip and flail

withering on the vine
your temperament is anything but fine

keep losing another day after week
your horrid morals are so painfully bleak

The recent immigration debate

I tend to steer clear of the more divisive political debates, because, who needs the aggravation of it. Right? Well, I was listening to a program on NPR recently and they played a clip of someone saying something like ‘there is a cultural shift in this country, we used to speak English, and we’re becoming bilingual…’ This irked me. As someone who loves linguistics and languages in general, it struck me as odd that language would be such a motivating factor for anti-immigration. I quickly realized that the language issue was likely just a huge fig leaf for what amounts to racism and bigotry. I was right. I decided to investigate. How language dominance has changed in the US over the years. If all we compare is German and Spanish speakers, we get a clearer picture of the debate as being racist fodder that ignores facts.

1910 German Speakers 3,962,624 > 1970 German Speakers 1,201,535
1910 Spanish Speakers 258,131 > 1970 Spanish Speakers 1,696,240

from: census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0029/tab06.html

What this very basic comparison shows us is that German immigration fell by well more than half, and that Spanish speakers have increased by almost 7 times. What these numbers gloss over is that much of the nineteenth century was spent bringing in new states to the Union which had previously belonged to Spain, and, you guessed it, were predominantly Spanish-speaking. As late as 1850 California had an official government translator for translating all state laws, decrees, documents, or orders into Spanish.1

This image, from WWII era, is warning against speaking German, Japanese, and Italian. Nothing on there about the horrors of Spanish speakers, or how the country is experiencing a cultural shift. In fact, until WWI, German was the second most widely spoken language in the United States. Its decline is directly related to the War, and a backlash against immigrants. 2 So, those numbers above were not the result of fewer Germans wanting to immigrate, or more Spanish speakers wanting to, they were the result of geopolitical shifts that were happening at a macro level and are consistent with trends throughout history.

I’m not concerned with people who want to have a healthy debate about what immigration policy should be, or how it should be enforced, in fact, the debate is good for democracy, and can strengthen our institutions, but when the debate is had, let it be on facts, not some clearly misinformed nonsense that seems to hint that the US was hatched on July 4th 1776 as some fully-formed White, Christian nation of 50 gun-toting, god-fearing, fried turkey-eating states, because it simply wasn’t so.

Of course, all of this quietly ignores the uncomfortable truth that indigenous languages which once were spoken from coast-to-coast are now either dead, dying, or relegated to a few small communities that live in poverty and/or cultural obscurity. The debate will continue, with or without my contribution, but clarity is key if we are to accept that the changes we are seeing as inevitable and simply another chapter of our collective history.

1) Martin, Daniel W. (2006). Henke’s California Law Guide (8th ed.). Newark: Matthew Bender & Co. pp. 45–46. ISBN 08205-7595-X

2) “The War on German Language and Culture, 1917-1925 by Paul Finkelman