On Cyber-Bullying

During a conversation with Camille Sanzone on the nature of absolutes and truth, which I believe seldom walk hand-in-hand, Camille raised the issue of Cyber-Bullying. That conversation inspired this post, you can listen to it at this link into iHeart Radio’s archives if you’d like a little background.

What is Cyber-Bullying? To me it is just another example of grossly bad and inappropriate behavior. Like “real” bullying, cyber bullies target someone and then relentlessly begin to attack them. Like “real” bullies, cyber bullies don’t back off until they are forced to. To me there is no difference between real bullies and cyber bullies. They both exhibit repulsive character traits, foremost of which is a completely unjustified and misguided feeling of superiority.

Nobody is superior to anybody else. Period.

Everyone gets only one life. That is a simple, irrefutable fact. Every life is as vital, unique, and as precious as every other. I believe that is another irrefutable and ultimately inescapable fact.

Tolerance is a variable, sometimes we should have a lot, and sometimes we should not.

Bullying, regardless of whether it occurs in virtual cyber-space or in our real life, is an example of something for which we should have no tolerance. None at all.

So what can we do about Cyber-Bullying?

A number of things, most of which involve modifying our own behaviors. Let us face it, change always begins within.

The internet is forever. What do I mean by that? I mean that regardless how transient you think something in virtual space is, it has been recorded somewhere. Quite possibly by the NSA. Don’t think the NSA are interested in literally everything you say, regardless of where you say it? Okay, then here is a picture-perfect {it literally has pictures} example of something bullies post and then delete in the misguided belief their abhorrent behavior will go unnoticed, and therefore unchecked.

Once we accept the internet never forgets, addressing cyber bullying becomes much easier. Why? Because we all want to do the right thing, and if our stand for justice and right is recorded forever… Well that is a powerful incentive to do right, isn’t it? Hopefully it is equally powerful in stopping cyber bullies from doing wrong. Unfortunately I don’t think so, as cyber bullies don’t think they are doing wrong, at least until someone shows them.

So show them!

Speak out against Cyber-Bullying. When you witness bullying don’t take the moral coward’s way out and ignore it. Speak out. Call the Bully out for being a bully. Stand up for the victim by putting the bully down.

In the past the expression “to put down” referred to what you’d have done to an animal. You’d take them to the Veterinarian, who would inject them with a powerful sedative that put them to sleep and then stopped their heart. Am I suggesting you kill cyber bullies? In virtual a way, I am. Once you have addressed their behavior, put an end to it by blocking them from ever interacting with you again.  In most social media networks with the click of a button they are dead to you, use that button and effectively kill all further interaction with them.

But what if you are the victim of a cyber-bully? That requires an altogether different tactic. Do not respond. Every time you respond to someone who attacks you online, you are advertising for them. Do you want their name to appear in brilliant overhead lights? No, you don’t. You might think you do, but in reality you want their behavior to stop, and shouting their name to the world encourages them to keep on behaving badly. So don’t reward them by responding. Don’t try and explain yourself, they don’t care. Don’t try and rally support to your defense, though it seldom works it does advertise their name.

Remember the adage “Even bad advertising is good advertising.”  Don’t advertise for bullies by interacting with them.

But I have to do something! Yes, you do, and yes, you can. You put them down. You report them to the social media network their behavior occurred on, and then you block them. Forever. And once that is done, you ignore them. Forever.

Don’t waste your time by spending it on your enemies, waste your time by spending it with your friends.

But what about forgiveness? Do you truly think they’ll change? Do you truly think they’ll care? Sadly, I don’t.

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On Stress

We live in a artificial world of our own manufacture which is chronically unsuited to our genetically programmed prerogatives.

In place of choices that give us an immediate return on our decisions, we are forced to make choices which only result in the promise of potential long term rewards.

What do I mean?

Natural: I am hungry, therefore I must find food or starve.
Manufactured: Working now will give me a paycheck in a week, with which I will be able to buy food for the following week.

This is extremely unnatural. Our nature demands we see an immediate reward for our efforts and when we cannot, we become stressed.

Why do you think so-called smartphones are so chronically addictive?  I think it is because they are one of the few things that give us an immediate return on investment.  We touch the screen, and something happens. We text someone, and they text us right back.

Smartphones give us instant feedback in a world we have rendered long-term.

Perhaps I should start using mine?  No, I don’t think so.  Why not?  Because I realize my need for happiness is far deeper than a touch-screen will ever be.

 

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What is a poem?

Poems are more about sensation and emotion than they are about rhythm and rhyme.

Poems says much more than the sum of their words.  They’re like a message in a bottle, thrown into a hostile sea, to be found and interpreted by someone whose attention we may only hold for the time taken to read our desperate plea. If we don’t grasp and hold their heart, how likely are they to set up a search and rescue operation on our behalf?

Perhaps the essence of a poem might be that it is a plea for understanding?

With that in mind, here are a couple of mine. Others are scattered throughout the blog, under the category, “Poetry“.

~ Carbon Copy ~
~
Were I to dust you down with soot,
then lay you on a sheet,
that is a sheet I’d surely,
forever,
keep.
~

~ A plea ~
~
With you,
I’d like to walk barefoot in the sand,
the only touch,
our hands.
I’d be tempted to run you into the sea,
and there,
upon one knee,
an eternal pledge,
I’d plea.
We’d let the waves be our witness,
the only tears shed,
the rain,
as a loving sky enfolds us,
our souls unite
to once more
become
one,
again.
~

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On Control

My thanks to Debbie Englemann for inspiring this post, which is about the control we exert over our feelings.

I agree with Debbie that we all need something of an emotional pressure release system, unfortunately I think the pendulum of directed public opinion has swung too far into the camp of “let it all out”.

When we lived in Athens, our only neighbor, who lived directly across the road from us, did exactly that.  She claimed “venting” allowed her to release her pent-up frustrations and helped her feel rejuvenated.  How did she vent?  By making animalistic screams, many of which seemed to be directed straight toward our house.  Her behavior did not improve over the years, which makes me question whether venting helped her.  Indeed, I recently learnt the people who purchased our house have taken out a restraining order against her, so her behavior may well have deteriorated.

This neighbor once informed me our house had “broken the spirit of the land” when it was built.  While you may think saying something like that seems borderline crazy and goes far toward explaining her aberrant behavior, you should also know I believe certain places have powerful auras. {Of course my last statement may well have set the last nail in the coffin of crazy, I am okay with that. :)}

Can you imagine the cacophony if everyone screamed whenever they felt frustrated?  Society does not tolerate that type of behavior for very good reasons, one of which is that when someone screams at you, you have a powerful urge to scream right back at them. Does the vented expression of negative emotion actually help us shed those emotions, or does it exacerbate them?  I think the latter is more true.

To me, control seems better than chaos.  Yes, we need some way to release our frustrations, but that “some way” should not be by dumping them on the people we love the most.  I am as guilty of that behavior as any, and for that I apologize.

I don’t agree with Debbie that our innermost thoughts are electrical discharges. Not even for an instant. In fact I believe humans are almost incapable of random thought. Everything we think is prompted by something we feel. Some of those feelings are physical, but at least as many are emotional. Surely if we examine our feelings we’ll gain a deeper understanding into what makes us tick, and why we behave the way we do?  Perhaps such understanding will allow us to better control ourselves?  While I adamantly resist others attempting to control me, I long for the day I can finally control myself.  I doubt that day will ever come.

Before we think, we feel. We think thought separate from feeling, yet we can feel without thinking, but we can’t think without feeling.
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On Coffee

Coffee is amazing.

It has an aroma so effective it deceives us into thinking it is a flavor. A sip seeps down the throat, and then gently washes into the front part of our brain.

It is said the brain has no nerve endings, to which I say this. What need has it of such, when it is the seat of all sensation?

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On Exhaustion.

So many people are tired, it isn’t just us.

I think that when we’re tired our normal defenses go down.  Some of those defenses are against ourself, and serve to keep our emotions under control. I am yet to decide if the emotional control we constantly exert on our feelings is a good thing. Prevailing common wisdom seems to be that it isn’t, but I don’t think I agree. Those checks to our feelings are there for a reason, and that reason is probably to protect us, which is why we instinctively think of them as our defenses.

Our instincts are our inner voice of truth.   We should listen to that quiet little voice, perhaps especially when it urges us to bite our tongue.

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On Unnecessary Truth

Truth is complicated. Truth is personal. And truth is important.

However, there are definitely white lies, and truths we feel, yet shouldn’t tell.

For truth to be valuable, it needs to be necessary. What is an unnecessary truth? Unnecessary truth, is truth that doesn’t serve for good, but for ill. An example of such a truth might be how we think a baby is downright ugly. What good would come of telling the baby’s mother? None. We’d injure her with our words, and yes, words cause the worst injuries.

So, no, I won’t always tell the whole truth as I see it, unless I believe the whole truth is necessary. Often, it isn’t.

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Real Men, and Razors

As a young man just out of the Army I used to shave with a cutthroat razor. Not the wimp variety, which are nothing more than a flip open holder for razor blades, but the genuine McCoy. I had a collection of four cutthroats, three made in Spain of Toledo steel, and one made in Germany of Solingen steel.

Now you might think a cutthroat razor is impractical in the extreme, however they are not. Sharpening one takes a few strokes on a leather strop. They are easy to clean and resultantly hygienic. Once you get the hang of shaving with one you seldom cut yourself. Very little gives a closer shave than a cutthroat. And best of all, cutthroats are exceptionally economical. You never need to buy razor blades. Ever. Along with my cutthroats, I used a tub of Old Spice shaving cream and a pig’s bristle brush. In case you’ve never seen one, those shaving tubs look like an extremely heavy duty, low profile, white glass cup in which shaving soap is stored. Shaving soap is also very economical, with a single tub lasting for months of daily shaves.  And when the soap is gone, you get to keep the cup!

Shaving with a cutthroat is simple. You wet your face from a basin of hot water in order to soften your stubble, dip the brush in the water, brush the soap into a lather, which takes a few twirls around the shaving mug, apply the resultant foam to your face with the brush, and then you simply remove the foam with the razor. That is the trick of it, you don’t try and “shave”, you simply use the razor to remove the foam. A side benefit is that, almost magically, your beard stubble comes away with the foam. You then swirl the razor in the basin of hot water to clean it, and stroke off another swath of foam. When you’re done shaving you rinse off the remaining lather from your face, of which there should be virtually none. You squeeze the excess soap off the brush with a circled forefinger and thumb, this makes a neat little point from the bristles. There is no need to wash the brush as all it holds is soap, which you’ll use the next day. Besides, who ever heard of washing soap? And presto, you’re done.

So, am I alleging that shaving with a cutthroat razor is something real men do? No, I am not. You see, I haven’t shaved with a cutthroat in over thirty years. So, am I alleging that I’m a real man? Not really, but let me put it this way… Now, I have four children with my lovely wife, versus none when I shaved with a cutthroat. You be the judge.

Back to the post… Nowadays I use an electric razor. Why did I switch to an electric razor? Because of my stubborn, questioning nature. A friend of ours, Nigel, once saw me shaving with my favorite cutthroat and said something to the effect of, “Real men don’t use electric razors, they use a blade.” I thought about this for what must have amounted to about one hundredth of a second. On the spot, I decided to switch to an electric razor. Why? Because my Godfather used an electric razor, and he was not only a real man, he was a true Gentleman.

The next time I went into town I bought an electric razor. As for my cutthroats… I’m pretty sure my older brother, Jan, appropriated them. I don’t begrudge him, after all I never used them again, and it would be a pity to see such fine tools wasted.

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On Honesty.

I think most people have forgotten how to be honest.

Sharing thoughts demands that we share the thoughts we actually have, not the thoughts we think will cause others to think more of us.

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Why, a dog?

Bacon

Why, a dog over any other pet?

Look in the eyes,
they’ll tell you,
why…

In other places on my blog you’ll find my sentiments of the special relationship we miserable humans have with our wonderful dogs.  The picture above, taken by my favorite youngest daughter Julia, is of our dog Bacon.  Perhaps you are as lucky as us to have such unconditional, pure love within your home.  Perhaps you are not…

 

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On Alzheimer’s Disease

Of all the illnesses that can beset people, I think Alzheimer‘s Disease must be one of the worst.

It is devastating for all parties.

The family members cannot help but feel despair at seeing the soul of their family member eroded away, for what are we if not our memories? What is left when those memories leak away?

However the caregivers’ anguish must be as naught when compared to the circumstances of the disease’s victim.

Can you even begin to imagine the terror you would feel on waking up in an unfamiliar  place, surrounded by strangers who seem bound and determined to control your every move?  And for this to happen, every time you wake up?  It is not surprising some Alzheimer’s patients become violent.  Indeed, for me it is surprising that all of them do not.

I have read research, which I’m not going to attempt to find and cite, which indicates that a lifelong habit of partaking of at least two cups of caffeinated coffee per day dramatically reduces the likelihood of this disease afflicting you.  Yes, caffeine is addictive, however to me the addiction is benign, and if there is a chance it is a preventative of one of the most terrifying  diseases I can imagine. Well then I will savor my morning cups of coffee {plural} all the more.

The next time you hear of someone afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease, I encourage you to offer as much of your pity to the victim as to the family members left to care for them.

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On Self

Why is it so difficult to comprehend the murmurs of our heart?

If our heart is belief, our mind is the skeptic.

It becomes so confusing when we are battered with contradictory thoughts and feelings. As if our wordless emotions aren’t complex enough, we analyze them in such depth that we begin to question them, never realizing that what we’re doing is questioning ourself.

Since self-doubt throws our very nature into question, it is the worst doubt of them all.

Once we begin doubting who we are inside, how can we ever find our truth?

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On Abortion.

Words matter to me. A lot.

Especially when I discover that words are being used to manipulate me.

I don’t like being manipulated. At all.

And thus to the topic of this post. A topic that rears its ugly head every time an election is coming up, then buries that head in the proverbial sand once election time is over. That topic is the question of Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice. Since there aren’t any imminent elections this seems like a very good time to address the issue. Why? Because the waters haven’t been muddied by manipulative politicians.

Let me tell you right now – I think abortion is wrong. I don’t believe a single person in the world is pro-abortion. Not a single person. However my beliefs aren’t the issue. The issue is whether a woman has the right to make the choice to terminate her pregnancy.

Please make special note of my words. I’m not twisting them in order to manipulate your emotions and thereby reduce your capacity for clear thinking. I’m choosing my words carefully to try and convey the essential issues. And one of those essential issues is that the person pregnancy affects is the woman. It is “her pregnancy”.

Convention in the United States holds that the politically correct way for a couple to describe pregnancy is with the words, “We are pregnant.” Before you nod agreement with how that phrasing asserts the man’s involvement and commitment to his partner, stop and think. {Notice I did not use the words, “his wife”.} A man cannot be pregnant. It is not physically possible. Yes, a male’s semen is required for fertilization of a female’s ova – but a male cannot be pregnant. For the male to claim, “We are pregnant”, is not only ridiculous it is offensive in that it diminishes something which is the sole prerogative of females. It also implicitly claims ownership of the female’s pregnancy. Pregnancy is not owned, and it most definitely is not “ours”. It is “her pregnancy”.

Do you think the last paragraph is making a big deal out of something innocent and cute? It isn’t. Words really matter. They hold immense power to twist our perception. I wonder who originated the expression, “We are pregnant”? I wonder if it might be the same clever people who came up with the slogan, “Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice”?

Manipulative words…

I am not only pro-life, I am pro-choice. There is no “versus” in that statement. I believe life is a remarkable, generous, incomprehensible, and utterly inexplicable gift from the divine. I also believe I have no right to compel any female to see an unwanted pregnancy to term.

No one has a right to make choices for other people. No one. Not in religion, not in belief, not in sexual preference, and not in pregnancy.

The only competition between those who want every child to have a chance and those who want every woman to have a choice is a manufactured and manipulative one.

Words really matter.

Allow me to share some of the thoughts that come to my mind every time the emotive matter of abortion raises its ugly head.

Why did the woman fall pregnant, was it due to a lack of sex education, or a lack of adequate access to birth control? Surely prevention is better than its terrible alternative?

What in the female’s situation compels her to consider abortion? Is she young and ashamed? Is she a victim of abuse? Does pregnancy place her at risk? Can she afford to raise a child? Is she alone, or with a committed partner? Does she feel she has a choice?

Raising a child is a lifelong, incredibly expensive commitment. Yet I NEVER see the financial considerations raised. Are those who are so committed to eliminating a woman’s right to self-determination offering to pay to raise the child? No, they are not. They don’t even offer to pay for the delivery, let alone the lifelong costs. They allude to help being available, but they don’t actually say, “Come to this address. We’ll pay for your travel costs. We’ll pay for your accommodation and medical expenses during your pregnancy. We’ll pay for the birth. We’ll guarantee the child is adopted by a loving family. We’ll take care of everything, so long as you don’t choose abortion.” They don’t make any such commitments, yet they are willing to force the pregnant female to make them.

Who is carrying a child inside their body? Is it me, or is it her? Since it is her, what right do I have to make the choice for her?

No matter what I believe, or how strongly I feel, I simply cannot reconcile myself with eliminating any other person’s right to self-determination. Can you?

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Nothing ever changes.

But it should.

I have come to the inescapable conclusion there is no longer anything supreme about the US Supreme Court. To me they are a bunch of bought and paid-for moral cowards who are more interested in the letter of flawed laws than they are in justice.

Justice isn’t about technical details, justice is about what is right and what is wrong. And what is right, is equal protection under the law.

Consider how the supreme court have ruled that the police do not have a constitutional duty to protect the people. According to their understanding, the duty of the police is the enforcement of laws.

The enforcement of laws…

That sounds entirely reasonable, doesn’t it? Only on its surface. Only if the laws are reasonable. Only if the laws are fair. Only if the laws are just. Too many “onlys”. What about when laws aren’t reasonable, fair, or just? Far too many laws are not reasonable, fair, or just. How can they be when they are designed to maintain the status-quo, and the status-quo is anything but reasonable, fair, and just?

What prompted this post? A shocking statistic I heard this morning…

The approval rating of Congress, that far from illustrious body of people we entrust with writing our laws, is currently at 15%.

Think about 15%, then think about how reasonable our laws are likely to be, then think about the duty of the police being the enforcement of those unreasonable laws, and then think about how nothing ever changes.

I believe things can change, but people must be willing to stand up and be counted. These posts are my way of standing up. What is yours?

Nothing ever changes…

Almost two years ago I reflected on the subject of same-sex marriage. The supreme court played a role in that post as well. I find it rather sad that my predictions on their ruling proved accurate. Instead of addressing, and then righting a social wrong, they chose to side-step the issue. What is the social wrong to which I refer? Equal access to marriage for all consenting adults, regardless of gender. Back in 1967 a different, far more courageous Supreme Court addressed the matter of equal access to marriage, regardless of color.

Yes, for all of you who just shook your heads in disbelief, it was once illegal to marry a person of a different race. Miscegenation was a crime. The moral crime is that such a word even exists.

Nothing ever changes, until we make it.

What exactly did I find shocking about the statistic stating how a mere 15% of people approve of Congress? That the number is as high as fifteen. That 15% of the population are gullible enough to believe Congress actually works for them is just sad.

Earlier in this post I said that what is right, is equal protection under the law. Who am I kidding? Laws should be written with the best interests of the people at heart. Instead they are written to suit amoral, wealthy corporations such as Monsanto and big oil.  When that happens equal protection becomes a meaningless concept.

Fact. The vast majority of laws are not about justice, they are about property.

There is an adage which states, “Possession is nine tenths of the law”.  Unlike the linked WikiPedia article, I understand that adage to mean over ninety percent of laws are about who owns what and how they get to keep it.

It seems to me that property has very little to do with justice.  We should all be working to improve the lot of humanity, yet instead we’re working to maintain the status-quo. It is time for us to stop working.

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A brother’s poem

In that it contains things that are personal to me, my blog is sort of like a diary. Today I’m tearing a page out of another person’s diary, that of my brother Jan. He sent me this email a few days ago, from Africa, where he still lives, to America, where I now reside.

No big deal, right? I mean, an email happens virtually instantly, so all that’s happened is the world has been made a whole lot smaller. Wrong. Nothing makes the world smaller, nothing eliminates distance, and nothing replaces a touch.

Read my brother’s missive, and weep with me for what the entire world is losing. And what is it that the world is losing? Family.

Jan’s email message.

In dim memory sometime, years back, I penned these words…
To what avail? Time has passed.
The deed is done.
Yet I love you all still.
Jan.

~ Worlds Apart ~

We live with our children in separate cities
Apart from one another
In separate countries
On separate continents
In separate hemispheres
Our hot wet summers are your icy snowbound winters
Your hot humid summers are our cool winter days

Our children grow up not knowing one another
Yet we are family, one family spread far apart
How long do we endure our self-imposed separation?
And what becomes of the love we have for each other
From desolate days to lonely years spent in intercontinental isolation
The vastness of distance refuses to be overcome by brief sojourns
We cannot catch up with each other while we do not walk the same paths
Our children learn otherworldly pastimes and play games
But not with each other, and then not even the same games

I yearn for the times we shared
Together in the wild places of Africa
For the memories of childhood and youth
Of times on farms with brothers
On rivers with family and friends
Of boats and trucks and tents and tiger fish
Kudu and cotton and bushpigs and mealies
Where has it gone?
Will our children ever be together?
Do we just grow old and leave it too late?

Will we really be together then?
Wish I could look forward to that time, only I don’t know when
And where will our mother be then?
Will our babies know their granny then?
Wish it could be when, at least we were together
Did Africa really tear us apart?
Or did we only imagine it happened that way
While we do it by ourselves?
Hope it’s not too late now

Let’s turn back the clock to our future together

Will we come home then, when we need to be in Africa now?

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