Optimism and Hope

Someone I know recently posted a question about the correlation between optimism and hope, which is a subject that I have spent a great deal of time thinking about. Between my years in the military and in corporate America, I have endured both good times and bad times, periods of prosperity and adversity, and seasons of rejoicing and mourning. All of these experiences have given me pause to reflect on what I cling to by way of personal philosophy. I posted a fairly lengthy response to the original question, which I would like to paraphrase here.

I firmly believe that there are differences between optimism and hope, although they are intertwined. For example, I believe that hope is often the source of optimism. At the risk of too much information (TMI), I realize that much of the following discussion will be semantics, but to expand on the original question a little bit, here is my take on several related concepts: optimism, pessimism, hope, faith, joy, depression, happiness, and unhappiness.

For me, optimism is the "glass is half full" approach to an immediate situation, whereas hope is the over-arching belief that everything in general will work out for the best; both in your immediate situation and for the future. Sometimes your immediate situation is terrible, and hope is what enables you to look forward with anticipation that things will improve. As I said earlier, I believe therefore that hope often leads to an optimistic viewpoint. In a like manner, optimism may produce happiness, but there have been plenty of times where I have been unhappy and yet still had an optimistic viewpoint; and this was usually caused by having hope.

On a related note, pessimism is often found when all hope is lost, but that is not always the case. I have known pessimists who have a miserable outlook in a given circumstance, and yet they are able to have hope for something better eventually. In a like manner, I have seen some people who are happy, yet still have a pessimistic viewpoint. (e.g. "Life is pretty good in general, but my current situation sucks.") I think a loss of hope can lead to both unhappiness and pessimism.

In my interpretation, faith and joy are somewhat interchangeable and both are related to hope; they are based on a worldview that there is a greater purpose for everything, or that God is in control, etc. So faith and joy are the underlying certainties that produce hope, which can lead to optimism. Conversely, a lack of faith or joy can cause you to lose hope, which may lead to pessimism.

I am generally a pretty optimistic guy; and at times my sense of optimism has been much to the chagrin of those around me when we are collectively suffering through a miserable situation. I possess a strong faith, and usually have both hope and joy to spare, which leads to both a sense of optimism and happiness. However, as I mentioned before, I have occasionally had what might seem to be mutually exclusive attitudes: I have been unhappy yet optimistic, or I have been pessimistic yet happy, etc. Once again, having a strong foundation of faith, hope, and joy are what enables me to keep a greater perspective during some pretty heinous circumstances.

All of this leads to a discussion of depression, which is not the same thing as unhappiness. However, there are scores of people - especially optimists - who believe that depression and unhappiness are the same thing, so they say encouraging things to people who are depressed like, "Why so glum? Buck up! Tomorrow's another day! Greet the day with a smile!" etc., etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Those statements are pouring salt on a wound. That advice may work for someone who is unhappy, but depression is very different.

On the one hand, depression can be caused by clinical conditions. For example, I am a workaholic with really, really bad work/life boundaries. (Working from home for years has made that worse, for understandable reasons.) I have on more than one occasion overworked myself right into burnout, which can cause chemical imbalances. As a doctor explained to me after a recent struggle, I had burned the candle at both ends for so long that I was running day to day on pure adrenaline, which changes the brain chemistry in some weird ways, and eventually that can lead to clinical depression. This situation may need to be fixed by prescription medicine and a forced schedule to restore body and the brain to their correct chemical balances. (I've had to go through that on more than one occasion. Which reminds me - I've averaged about two hours of sleep per day for the past week. You'd think that I'd learned my lesson by now, but apparently I'm a slow learner.)

On the other hand, another type of depression hearkens back to several of the subjects I was discussing earlier: I have been depressed when I felt abandoned by God. In those situations, I may have been experiencing any mixture of happiness or unhappiness or optimism or pessimism at any given moment, but my overarching feeling was an emotionless state of numbness. I had no faith, no hope, no joy - therefore I had no foundation upon which to base my outlook of the world. Once again, no amount of "positivity" was going to fix that situation; I simply drifted from day to day in that continued state of numbness until my faith was restored, after which I was able to slowly rebuild the rest of my life.

In summary, all of this was a far greater answer than the original question had sought. And to be clear, everything that I have said here is just my opinion, which is based on my personal observations and experiences.

The Sin of Omission

Yesterday, the US and the Taliban signed a deal to bring an end the 18-year war in Afghanistan. That news was on the home page of the Associated Press (AP) website (https://bit.ly/2x0hg2n), the United Press International (UPI) website (https://bit.ly/2uKQXMU), and multiple links were on the home page of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) website (https://on.wsj.com/3ciD0qk, https://on.wsj.com/2I9wk00, https://on.wsj.com/2VxSKjj).

apnews-headline

But what about the websites for MSNBC? CNN? BBC? There was nothing on the home page for any of those websites. They all seemed content to prattle on about Joe Biden in dozens of largely redundant articles in the wake of the South Carolina primary. That's right, you read that correctly: instead of highlighting the cessation of hostilities in the longest war in US history, most of the "mainstream" news outlets would rather gush adoringly over the career of a compulsive liar, serial groper, and reigning champion of political plagiarism. Because giving Uncle Joe hundreds of hours of free political advertising is far more important than saving the lives of US servicemen.

Make no mistake: the omission of this incredibly important news story was intentional, and the omission of this incredibly important news story was morally wrong.

I posted something to that effect on Social Media yesterday, and several of the Drumpf-Haters that I know quickly came to the defense of these news outlets. These kind folks sent me links to articles that were buried a few links deep on each of the respective news websites. However, my assertion wasn't that those news outlets didn't have any articles at all. My point was to question what is most important, and why some news agencies are intentionally burying news stories that do not fit into their biased narrative.

Politics

As of now, CNN's home page still has nothing on Afghanistan, BBC's home page still has nothing on Afghanistan, and MSNBC's home page still has nothing on Afghanistan. Yet there's still wall-to-wall coverage of Uncle Joe, and that was the point that several people seemed to miss. Don't get me wrong, I was glad to learn that if someone was willing to search long enough, they would eventually find something about what's going on in the world on those websites. Of course, people would already have to know that there's something going on in the world, and then manually look for articles about it themselves... but that completely negates the need for using those news outlets to keep up with current events, doesn't it?

To be as blunt as possible, I'm sorry for those of you who cannot stand the Drumpf. But I promise you, his day will eventually come. In the meantime, the results of the South Carolina primary are not more important than the end of an 18-year war. I mean, seriously - it's South Carolina. Who honestly cares about South Carolina? Most Americans can't even point to South Carolina on a map.

Look, I get it - all of the "Never Trumpers" that I know cannot stand the Drumpf. And even though I have made it pretty clear time and again that I do not like him, either, I recognize the fact that Drumpf-Haters feel as though their lives have been in bondage to the Great Orange Combover for the past few years, and therefore any news that might give them hope of his imminent demise should (pardon the pun) trump anything else that is going on in the world. But the rest of country - and the rest of the world - does not see things that way. Regardless of its importance to the Drumpf-Haters, Biden's win in South Carolina is simply not more important - nor is it more time sensitive - than an end to nearly two decades of war.

Someone I know attempted to defend the indefensible by stating that peace in Afghanistan "was not breaking news anywhere anymore." That idea is - of course - ludicrous. Most of the non-left-leaning news agencies have prominent links to that story from their home page, while the left-leaning news agencies do not have any links.

And. That. Was. My. Whole. Point.

Let's take a look at the home page of the UPI website; they have information about Biden, and the Coronavirus, and yet they still have links about the peace deal.

upi-home-page

Now let's look at the WSJ website; they also have information about Biden, and the Coronavirus, and yet they still have links about the peace deal.

wsj-home-page

As I just illustrated, when you look at the websites for the AP, UPI, and WSJ, those news outlets are more concerned with reporting everything that's going in the world, rather than reinforcing a biased narrative to their political base like the CNN, MSNBC, and BBC websites are doing. Make no mistake, as a former journalism student, I get the fact that news moves quickly. And with that in mind, news stories will come and go from the home pages of websites rather quickly. However, I don't think that peace in Afghanistan was highlighted on any of the home pages for CNN, MSNBC, and BBC - because that story unimportant to them. And because they want that story to be unimportant for their readers, too. Yes, they have articles somewhere on their websites that readers can discover if they go looking for them; that way they're covered from a plausible deniability point of view.

But here's the thing, the reason why the Drumpf won the 2016 election was not because of the electoral college versus the popular vote, nor was it the fact that Hillary Clinton was the worst possible candidate to run on the Democratic ticket, nor was it because of Russian collusion, etc. The main reason why Clinton lost the last election was because many of these same news agencies who are currently hiding the real news from the world were telling the American public only what they wanted everyone to hear, and omitting everything else. That is dishonest. That is immoral. And that is bad journalism.

propagandademotivator

Based on their behaviors, I would label news agencies like CNN, MSNBC, and BBC as part of the Drumpf-Hating crowd. In the months leading up to the 2016 election, these news agencies produced a never-ending stream of biased drivel about Hillary's numbers in the polls, and how great Hillary was going to be as President, and how the planets were going to align, and how peace and prosperity would magically fall like fairy dust from the heavens, etc. But that's all it was - a fairy tale. Because if you don't report the actual news, then you're sitting in an echo chamber listening to others parrot back to you what you're saying and only what you want to hear.

So, to bring this full circle - the problem with CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC is not that they are not reporting the news at all; it's that they are predominantly only reporting what they want people to hear, and omitting everything else. The Drumpf-Haters that I know are not the least concerned by that, of course, because those news agencies are saying what the Drumpf-Haters want to hear, too. The news agencies of CNN, MSNBC, and BBC want the Drumpf to lose in November, and the Drumpf-Haters want the Drumpf to lose in November.

With that in mind, if you're a Drumpf-Hater, then sure - okay - fine - whatever. If you want to bang the drum louder for Biden or Bernie, then so be it. Go ahead and wax poetic about how Uncle Joe or Crazy Cousin Bernie or any of the other Democrats are going to beat the Drumpf. Follow the news on websites that make a habit of omitting what is actually going on the world. Be my guest. But when you do so at the expense of following everything else that is taking place, then don't be surprised if this November bites you on the ass. Again.


PS - On a related note, another debate for another time is the question about what is actually "news" these days, and what is entertainment that is masked as news in order to sell advertising.

Some Thoughts on Bernie and Socialism

I recently posted the following image to social media, knowing full well that it would launch a tirade of complaints. However, with all of the information that has been offered by the prospective Democratic Presidential candidates during their debates, I think that it is an honest observation.

socialism-101-the-welfare-of-humanity-is-the-alibi-of-tryants

My intention was not to start any arguments on social media, and thankfully no arguments took place. However, there was a friendly differing of opinions offered by several people on my friends list, and I thought that I would share a few of the things that I said during our debate.

First of all, one of my friends labeled a veiled accusation that those who agree with that image must feel that providing Americans with access to healthcare is tyrannical. That was, of course, drawing an entirely false conclusion from the quotation. If healthcare was the only thing that "The Bern" was trying to socialize, then we'd have something to debate. But the truth is, Bernie is espousing a completely unrealistic, multi-trillion-dollar seizure of nearly every asset within our borders in order to fund an everything-for-free fantasy world that will fail horribly and permanently devastate our economy. Bernie's plan is so ridiculous because he's not actually a socialist; he's just using socialism as a smokescreen to get into power. Bernie is a card-carrying communist who's never held a job, and he is so far out of touch with the common man in this country that I am astounded on a daily basis that anyone is even bothering to listen to his incoherent ramblings.

The trouble with providing everything for free is that "Free" just means "Someone else is paying for it," and I highly resent the fact that the "someone" in this equation might be me. And this is one of the problems that I have with the "participation trophy" generation; they expect to receive "free stuff" simply because they're here - without having to do anything to earn it. Whereas everyone in the preceding generations worked our butts off for that we have; during my time in the military I spent hundreds of loooong hours separated from my loved ones doing manual labor in crappy conditions. I did all that with little to no thanks, and yet I expected nothing in return - except that which I have earned. So when a delusional communist comes along and says that he wants to take away more than half of what my generation fought for our whole lives and give it to someone who hasn't done a thing, my reaction is - what a load of crap.

Now that being said, there are a few social programs in America: Social Security and Medicare are two such examples. However, those are opt-in/opt-out programs. What people resent and mistrust is a government that raises taxes to obscene levels in order to create programs that will steal from productive people to pay for the lifestyles of lethargic people. Therein lies the whole problem with Socialism, which we have seen played out through history around the world. While it is not necessarily the goal of Socialism per se, the net result of Socialism is to share or redistribute wealth across an entire population. There are many people who will remain content to do nothing so long as someone feeds them, while there are others who will remain productive because they desire to achieve more. However, eventually the productive people will grow tired of supporting the lifestyles of the lethargic people, which will often result in each productive person trying to find a way to cease having to pay the way for one or more unproductive people, and the economy/society will eventually devolve into a situation where the government will have to seize assets in order to make sure that those who want to be less productive are escalated to the level of those who want to be more productive.

Capitalism, despite its many flaws, has done more for the common man than any other system in history; it has elevated more of the poor to middle class, distributed vast swaths of cash around the world through philanthropy, and helped elevate the United States into one of the wealthiest countries in world history. Yes, there is corruption under Capitalism; but here's a big surprise for you Socialists out there: there's LOTS of corruption under Socialism. And as history has played out, there has generally been far more corruption under Socialism. Think about this: look at how awful our government is with managing - well, EVERYTHING. But it's especially awful at managing finances. Do we really want those clowns in charge of the redistribution of wealth? And that is precisely why most governments that enact wide-scale Socialism eventually fail and become state-run monstrosities where the only equality is that everyone suffers together - except for those in charge, who live comfortably in their taxpayer-funded palaces.

At the end of the day, whether we are discussing Socialism or Capitalism, the root cause of failures in either system is the same: they have people, and people have different needs, desires, ethics, etc. There is an old adage that says something to the effect of, "Only a fool would say that the only reason why Socialism has never worked is that the right people have never been in charge;" and therein lies the rub - it takes a special kind of hubris to look at a failure after failure after failure and think, "If only I was in charge, I'd get this right." And that's how dictatorships are formed. What we need is to reform some of our shortcomings, condense our bloated government, while ensuring that we have the appropriate level of oversight for areas that are prone to misuse (like the healthcare industry).

As I mentioned before, healthcare is a serious issue, and warrants a much greater conversation that I can fit into a blog post. But that being said, that is just one issue; the idea of abandoning a flawed but successful economic model (Capitalism) in favor of a economic system with a proven track record of catastrophic failure (Socialism) is ludicrous. And I reiterate, if Bernie was ONLY talking about socialized healthcare, then he'd have some serious debate fodder. But he's not; he is espousing a complete shift of economic models, despite the fact that Socialism has not - and will not - ever work. Yes, some individual programs are socialized overseas in tiny countries with small GDPs and much smaller populations. Conversely, the USA is a huge country with 50 states that each want to self-govern as much as possible. If one state, let's say Ohio, decided to socialize their healthcare, that's up to them. But what about Pennsylvania? West Virginia? Indiana? They might not want to socialize their healthcare. Now can you imagine trying to organize that at the Federal level? With our politicians? People in Congress like AOC can't do basic math; should we allow someone like that to decide who gets healthcare? I think every state would eventually take the Federal government to court over one point of implementation or another.

Having said all of that, let's tale a quick look at Bernie; here is a man who has consistently praised Communists like Castro for his social policies, while completely ignoring the hundreds of thousands who that same leader and those same policies put to death. This is why many people believe that it is by no coincidence that Bernie is such a strong advocate for gun control, because in every failed Socialist society, one of the first steps to domination has been to disarm the public. I am no conspiracy theorist, so I do not subscribe to alarmist conjecture. However, I am not blind to history, either. Bernie's proclamations - and those of his devotees - follow a very dangerous pattern, which is summarized in the initial meme that launched this discussion, which I will restate here with a little more context since I think Camus' second point is also apropos to this discussion: "The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience."

Circling back to the initial meme - that quote sums up Bernie's sales pitch perfectly; Bernie is acting like he has the best interests of Americans in mind, but his plan is impossible to implement, so it's just a power grab. We have seen this political behavior manifest itself in the past, and we will undoubtedly see it again.

Classic Rock versus Contemporary Rock

One of my kids recently asked me why I preferred "classic rock" over much of today's music, and I replied that "back in the day," artists had to actually have talent - not just look pretty for their photo shoots.

Today's biggest "artists" have the majority (if not all) of their songs written by teams of songwriters, and if these "artists" actually sing their own material, then their voices are auto-tuned and quantized into something that barely represents their original voices, and then they lip-synch their vocals when they perform so that they can nail their dance steps while their label pays every possible outlet to promote their over-produced "music..."

At the end of the day, today's "musicians" are little more than performing monkeys. See the following video for what I mean...

Whereas in the past, musicians had to have amazing talent to make a dent in the club scene where they cut their teeth; slogging away through club after club, hoping that one day they would be "discovered" by a record label's A&R department, then hopefully they might land a recording contract and perform the heck out of their material in order to gain a fan base...

Whether that meant nailing three and four part harmonies and complex rock arrangements like Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son..."

...or pulling off similarly complex multi-part pop arrangements like Journey's "Feeling That Way & Anytime."

The reason why I love classic rock is because that's the last time that music was genuine...


UPDATE:

I love videos from Rick Beato, and I noticed after I posted this blog that he had created a video a year ago, wherein he described an additional example of what is wrong with music these days: quantization. In the following two videos, Rick shows how modern-day producers and engineers ruin performances by forcing a drummer's groove into a fixed tempo, thereby destroying everything that makes a drummer great.

How Computers Ruined Rock Music
How Would John Bonham Sound Today? (Quantized)

I'll sign off with those thoughts for you to ponder.

Jordan Peterson versus Cathy Newman

A good friend of mine shared the following video on Facebook, wherein Cathy Newman, who is a journalist for Britain’s Channel 4 News, hosted a debate with Jordan Peterson, who is a liberal clinical psychologist from Toronto. But you can’t really call it a debate, because Newman was clearly out of her league. She obviously entered the studio that day in possession of several pre-conceived beliefs, and she held steadfastly to those beliefs despite the fact that all of her arguments disintegrated into a flaming pile of excrement as the ‘debate’ progressed. (Or digressed, as the case may be.)

Peterson easily defeated all of Newman’s false assumptions with a never-ending stream of well-researched and articulate facts. Nevertheless, Newman repeatedly assaulted her studio guest as though she were a pit bull from hell, to which Peterson continuously responded with a polite demeanor and a gracious disposition, which was an incredible accomplishment seeing as how Newman’s arguments had no basis in reality.

Here is the video of the debate in question:

All joking aside, this ‘debate’ should become required watching for all journalism students in the future, because it is the best example of how not to conduct an interview or debate. Not only did Newman arrive at this interview ill-prepared and bursting with incorrect, pre-conceived notions about what her guest believed, but she also failed to accurately listen to her guest. Throughout the debate, Newman maintained a constant state of combatant and accusatory maliciousness despite all of the well-researched evidence that was presented as contrary to her personal feelings. Newman continuously interrupted her guest, and she constantly misquoted Peterson by twisting his responses into almost the opposite opinion of what he actually said or believed, and all the while she prefaced her misquotations with a condescending introduction such as, “So, what you’re saying is…,” or “So, you think that…,” etc.

With all of that in mind, here is my recap of the general flow of information during the debate:

  • Cathy Newman: I have this pre-existing and baseless opinion about what you believe, and I disagree with everything that you have ever said in your life.
  • Jordan Peterson: Your pre-existing opinion of my beliefs has no basis in fact.
  • Newman: So what you're saying is, my pre-existing, baseless opinion is correct.
  • Peterson: No, I never said that. Your pre-existing opinion is easily defeated by these concrete facts.
  • Newman: I will completely ignore your facts, and I will restate my baseless opinion as your belief.
  • Peterson: No, I don't believe that. Here are some more facts, examples, and things that I have said in the past which disagree with your pre-existing opinion.
  • Newman: I will ignore everything that we have said so far, and I will restate my original pre-existing and baseless opinion as though we hadn't said anything.
  • Peterson: No, you are deliberately distorting reality; what I believe is this, which is backed up by years of empirical evidence.
  • Newman: In a futile attempt to reinforce my baseless opinion, I am going to quote an unresearched statistic and hurl it at you in an accusatory manner.
  • Peterson: I am going to easily refute your false statistic with an example that...
  • Newman: I would rather interrupt you in a rude an insulting manner than listen to your facts, and ask what gives you the right to believe that my baseless opinion is somehow incorrect?
  • Peterson: I am an expert in my field, and here is a bunch of reinforcing data that I have collected from first-hand experience throughout my vast career within this field, which is backed up by years of academic studies conducted by other experts in this field.
  • Newman: So what you're saying is, you believe that my original pre-existing, baseless opinion is correct.
  • Peterson: No, I don't believe that. You're doing very badly here, so I will attempt an offhanded compliment to spare you the embarrassment of looking like an intellectual buffoon on a public broadcast.
  • Newman: I will resoundingly deflect your unnecessary compliment, and I will suddenly steer this conversation into a nonsensical, unrelated direction and use this change of topic to state another pre-existing and baseless opinion.
  • Peterson: I have no idea why we are discussing this unrelated topic, but your other pre-existing opinion is also incorrect, and I can back this up with centuries of evolutionary evidence and study.
  • Newman: So let me get this straight, you also agree with my other pre-existing opinion.
  • Peterson: No, I never said that; I don't agree with either of your baseless opinions.
  • Newman: I am clearly out of my league here, so I'm just going to call you a big meanie like I am some sort of kindergartener.
  • Peterson: I'm not a big meanie.
  • Newman: Well, you're mean to people who disagree with you.
  • Peterson: I vehemently defend my beliefs with other academics, although I also have letters from thousands of people over the past few months who have thanked me for making their lives better.
  • Newman: This interview has gone down in flames, so I'm going to thank you curtly and basically throw you out of my studio.
  • Peterson: I will respond politely, as I have done for this entire debacle, which has been an amazing feat of patience for me since you clearly lack the intelligence to tie your own shoelaces.

I think that accurately sums up their discussion.


UPDATE: The same friend later posted the following image, which nicely sums up the overall accuracy of Ms. Newman’s responses to Peterson’s statements.

jordan-versus-newman

Abolishing the Electoral College is Not a Good Idea

Many years ago, I used to think that abolishing the electoral college was a good idea. To be honest, I felt that way for the majority of my life. But that was until I studied more about the history and purpose of the electoral college, and then I slowly came to realize that even though situations like 2016's election debacle are a distinct possibility, our existing electoral system actually makes a lot of sense.

The following videos came out over a year ago, and they explain not only why the electoral college is essential when trying to prevent a candidate from only focusing on specific states with high populations, but also why the abolition of the electoral college would have drastic outcomes.

Do You Understand the Electoral College?
The Popular Vote vs. the Electoral College

To summarize these two videos - doing away with the electoral college sounds like a good idea when you're upset at the results of an election, but it's really not.

That being said, the word which best describes most Americans after this year's election is "angry." And I get it. You're probably angry. I'm angry. Millions of people are angry. This year's election sucked.

But that being said, impassioned and uninformed responses are not the best way to bring about the changes which our electoral process so desperately needs. If people really want to make a difference, they need to encourage the Democratic Party to abolish their ridiculous system of "Super Delegates," which is what helped HRC to unfairly steal the DNC's nomination from Bernie Sanders, who most-likely could have defeated the Drumpf.

Updating Your Facebook Profile Picture Is Not Activism

I often find it mind-boggling the number of people who seem to think that updating their Facebook profile picture is an effective means of offering support for a worthy cause.

Don't get me wrong, there are certainly times when updating your profile image might "raise awareness" for a lesser-known issue of some sort (like saving sharks from extinction), or to show a sense of solidarity in a time of crisis (like the thousands of updated profile pictures in the wake of the terrorist bombings in France). But for the most part, updating your profile image is a meaningless act.

Here is a perfect example: some people will update their profile image with a pink ribbon in order to "raise awareness" for cancer. But what has this actually accomplished? Perhaps a few people might see the profile picture, but everyone on the planet already knows about cancer. What would be considerably more effective would be to actually do something about cancer. How about volunteering at a hospice? How about organizing a fundraiser for your local hospital? Or at the very least, how about personally donating to the American Cancer Society?

If there is an issue which you are truly passionate about, then you need to do something about it. March in a protest. Write your congressman or congresswoman. Speak out at a town hall. Work with others going door-to-door to promote your position. Organize. Plan. Act. Women's Suffrage and the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s would have gone nowhere if people simply sat at home and updated their Facebook statuses.

No, updating your Facebook profile does not make you an activist; it makes you a lazy non-contributor.

Some Thoughts About Freedom

An acquaintance of mine recently posted the following image to Facebook, which has rapidly become the central repository for all sorts of stupidity:

anarchists-are-idiots

Just for perspective, I have traveled to other countries where its citizens cannot build a house - ever.

Or drive - ever.

Or go fishing - ever.

Or do pretty much anything they want - ever.

These unfortunate souls often have to work 7 days a week for less money per month than our minimum wage workers make in two hours. But most-importantly, these citizens cannot speak their mind about how messed up their country is - ever.

Unlike the dude who created that meme.

The schmuck who created that image has no idea just how many personal freedoms he actually has; so now he takes his over-privileged life for granted and believes that a few inconveniences in a free society are some sort of bondage.

What an ungrateful idiot.

 


UPDATE: See 7 Harsh Realities Of Life Millennials Need To Understand for more information; especially point #4.

Stop the Domino Effect of Overreacting

Like many people last week, I was appalled when I read about the treatment of 14-year-old high school student Ahmed Mohamed in Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested for bringing what several people thought was a "hoax bomb" to school, despite his repeated assertions that it was simply a clock which he had invented. When I was Ahmed's age, I loved tinkering with electronics, and I brought my own creations to school several times, so I was understandably incensed when I read about Ahmed's plight.


CPY-VC-W8AUnJ1w

However, there is a big difference between what Ahmed claims to have done and what he actually did. Ahmed did not - in fact - build a clock from scratch. As multiple websites and YouTube videos have shown, all Ahmed did was remove an existing clock from its plastic case and mount the unmodified electronics inside a pencil box. As someone who actually built things from scratch when I was Ahmed's age, this was insulting to me, because it means that Ahmed is a fraud. While his motives are unclear, the fact is undeniable that Ahmed actually did bring a hoax to school; but he didn't bring a hoax bomb, he brought a hoax invention.

As I looked at photos of the clock which Ahmed was supposed to have built, I couldn't see where he had done anything to merit "inventiveness." The jumble of wires appeared largely intact to me; the only thing which seemed out of place was the 9V battery connector, so I wondered if Ahmed had soldered a battery connector to the main board after the transformer in order to allow the clock to work when it wasn't plugged into the wall. If so, that would have been a cool idea. But my theory proved untrue when it was later revealed that the 9V connector was the built-in battery backup for the clock memory in the event of a power failure. So once again, Ahmed appears to have done nothing to warrant all of his new-found fame and accolades. (By the way, what is truly embarrassing about this situation is that Make Magazine, which is one of my favorites, completely failed to notice that Ahmed did not actually build his own clock. That's a really big fail, guys. You should have known better.)

I realize that everyone who pursues a career in electronics has to start somewhere, and the disassembly of an existing electronic product is the perfect place for Ahmed (or anyone else) to start. When I was a teenager, I was an avid electric guitar player, so I started out with electronics by taking apart existing guitar effects to see how they worked. When I didn't understand something, I went to the library to check out books about electronic theory, and I dutifully studied the subjects which were foreign to me. Eventually I moved on to repairing other people's broken guitar effects, and finally I moved on to building guitar effects from scratch. (Craig Anderton was my hero.) So when I brought a creation to school, it was something which I had actually created. But even more than that, when I was a little older than Ahmed I actually created a digital clock from scratch by wiring together all of the parts by hand. That is a far cry from what Ahmed did; Ahmed took someone else's work, slapped his name on it, and asked to be recognized as its creator. What Ahmed has done constitutes fraud. Period.

Nevertheless, even though Ahmed is a phony as an inventor, at least in this situation, he probably did not deserve to have been arrested for bringing his hoax invention to school. I will admit that the jumble of wires and the large LED screen certainly resembles a bomb which you might see on a low-budget television show, so I should at least acknowledge the good intentions of the safety-minded school officials who thought the situation was worth investigating. (Note: Can you imagine the uproar if a student had actually brought a bomb to school and the school officials did nothing about it?)

However, once the facts of the matter were made clear and everyone knew that Ahmed had not actually brought a bomb to school, the academic and police officials overreacted, and Ahmed was humiliated as he was handcuffed and paraded before his peers as he was led away by the police.

But the overreactions didn't stop there, because everyone in the community - myself included - quickly overreacted to show our support for Ahmed. Many people were angry at the close-mindedness of the investigating officials; we all wanted to take this young David's side as he took on the Goliath of insensitivity. "@IStandWithAhmed" and "#IStandWithAhmed" became instant Twitter sensations. Mark Zuckerberg invited Ahmed to drop by Facebook for a meeting. Microsoft sent Ahmed a treasure trove of goodies to encourage his inventiveness. The Google Science Fair invited Ahmed to drop by and bring his clock. And President Obama asked Ahmed to bring his clock to the White House.

I have come to realize that these overreactions are equally as wrong as the original overreactions by the school officials; perhaps even more so - because Ahmed is being heavily rewarded for being a charlatan. Everyone needs to step back and think about this for a second: if Ahmed brought his clock to Facebook or the Microsoft Garage or the Google Science Fair, he would be a laughingstock, because his "invention" is a fake. When Ahmed is done being praised by the press and exalted by social media for being the underdog in this story, sooner or later he will have to stand in a room surrounded by people his age (or older) who are actually creating cool things from scratch. When that happens, Ahmed desperately needs have something better to show than an off-the-shelf digital clock that he stuffed into a pencil box, because real teenage inventors will immediately identify him as an imposter.

So I have changed my opinion in this matter from being upset over Ahmed's treatment by the authorities to being upset over Ahmed's treatment by the community, because we are rewarding his dishonesty. If Ahmed had copied the answers for an exam from one of his classmates, everyone would immediately recognize him as a cheater. Yet that is essentially what Ahmed is doing with his clock; he is taking someone else's creation and claiming to have created it, and therefore he is being deliberately deceitful. And through our collective overreactions our country is sending a terrible message to the youth of Ahmed's generation: "If you lie to America, not only will you get away with it, but you'll win big prizes and get an invitation to meet the President."

How Hippies Destroyed America

Someone recently posted the following image on Facebook, and even though I know they were simply trying to be amusing, I found it highly offensive... (for reasons which I will explain in a moment).

hippies-are-vermin

Unfortunately, posting an image such as this reveals how little someone actually knows about how much damage "Flower Power" and the so-called "Love Movement" did to America. While hippies may have been right about some things, (like environmental responsibility and ecological activism), they were dead wrong about most others. Here is a brief summary of a few of the lasting effects that the single generation of 1960s-era youth had on society: an out-of-control drug culture, the unchecked rise in numerous sexually-transmitted diseases, hundreds of thousands of PTSD cases of veterans traumatized by counter-culture attacks, and the embarrassment of our nation in the eyes of the rest of the world.

When you follow the emergence of the hippie movement, it is one that outwardly preached living in harmony with all of society, and yet inwardly its actualization was one of extreme selfishness and unbridled, destructive power. Timothy Leary's invitation to "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" encouraged a generation of youth to abstain from any semblance of civil and moral responsibility in favor of seeking personal, self-centered desires. In the span of a few short years, the hippies managed to negate nearly all of the hard-won victories of our country's "Greatest Generation," (those who banded together to survive the Great Depression and win the Second World War). Our country descended from an industrious world leader populated by hard-working, family-oriented citizens to a vicious brood of misguided, distrustful, lazy, addicted, self-worshippers.

Like much of the hippie movement, the so-called "Summer of Love" is something of an oxymoron, because it achieved the opposite of its intended goals. When thousands of lost youths descended on the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, they did so with bold proclamations of free love, uninhibited creativity, and peace-for-all. Yet the size of this group collapsed the infrastructure of the local area, which was unprepared to deal with the sudden arrival of thousands of drugged-out, socially irresponsible vagrants. This should have been one of society's first warnings about the pure selfishness of the hippy mindset, but this event was largely ignored by anyone except other teenagers and twenty-somethings who were tired of listening to their parents telling them to grow up, get a job, and contribute something to society other than folk songs and clouds of pot smoke.

One of the rallying cries for the hippie movement was a general objection to the Vietnam War, and while I agree that anyone in their right mind should oppose war as best as possible, the hippies reacted in the worst possible way. Instead of gathering peacefully across the country, hippies engaged in numerous cases of what would now be referred to as "Domestic Terrorism." In their naïveté, thousands of youths openly proclaimed their support for Marxism/Leninism/Communism to overthrow the government of the United States, even though none of these impressionable youths had ever lived under such oppressive regimes, and many of these same degenerates would not have lasted a year if they had emigrated to the USSR.

Please do not misunderstand me – I fully support the right to peaceful assembly and vociferously objecting to war, both then and now, but there are proper ways to do so. For example: hippies used to call my mom in the late 1960s while my dad was stationed in Vietnam, and they would pretend to be the Department of the Air Force calling to inform my mom that my dad had been killed in combat. This happened many, many times - and she would hug my brothers and me as she wept inconsolably for hours; my mom's life was probably shortened by several years due to insufferable grief caused by the heinously evil and unnecessary actions of these particular vermin who called themselves hippies.

There are two things that can be learned from the hippies' response to the Vietnam War:

  1. War is a terrible thing which motivates some people to do terrible things.
  2. The way some people choose to protest war is far worse.

Tragically, my experiences were not isolated incidents; the history of the Vietnam War on the home front is rife with examples of the complete failure on the part of the hippy movement to make their protests known while still treating veterans returning from battle like fellow human beings. (Many of these veterans were draftees instead of volunteers, and therefore they had no say in their years of military service.)

Some of the most-damaging aspects of hippie culture were the concepts of "Open Marriages," "Free Love," etc. In their efforts to rid themselves of any vestige of what they believed were their parents' outdated sensibilities, hippies managed to convince themselves that committed, monogamous relationships were a thing of the past, and they substituted "Do What Feels Good For You" casual relationships in their place. There is an age-old axiom which states, "Why buy the cow when the milk is free," and in keeping with that notion, the men of the hippy generation managed to convince the women of that era to abandon their morality in what was probably the most-condescending deception of women in the history of the United States. To quote Steve Martin, "Free Love … was the single greatest concept a young man has ever heard. This was a time when intercourse, or some version of it, was a way of saying hello. About three years later, women got wise and my frustration returned to normal levels (Martin 2007, 100)." Despite the ill-guided assertions that the hippy movement gave birth to the Women's Liberation movement of the following decade, male hippies treated their female counterparts little better than objects for their own, self-desires. As a direct result, a conflagration of sexually-transmitted diseases spread across the country like a raging inferno, divorce rates skyrocketed, and millions of children were forced to grow up in single-parent homes due to the hippy-based philosophy that marriages need not be permanent.

Ultimately the hippy movement was a complete failure of society on both sides of equation: the hippies failed to behave in any fashion which reflects the better ideals of humanity, and the United States' government failed to effectively respond to the subculture which infested much of the Baby Boomer generation. Our nation still bears numerous scars from societal wounds inflicted by the selfish and amoral youth of the 1960s, and history will eventually reveal that their actions irrevocably damaged the fabric of our culture and hastened the demise of our once-great country.

On a personal note – forty-five years have passed since the time when my family was individually targeted and tormented by faceless cowards who publicly preached love for their fellow man while privately living for their own selfish gains. I have neither forgiven nor forgotten the traumatic pain that these so-called "Peace Loving Hippies" caused my family and our nation to suffer.


Martin, Steve. Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, Inc., 2007.