From the Grand Stand

An opinion from 64,000 feet


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Testing Word Press

I'm considering a permanent switch to WordPress because of the Google nonsense with China. If WordPress is a disaster, I'll find something else.

Please update your link to:

http://grandstand.wordpress.com/

Comments are closed here, because everything was imported over there.


What is the Goal?

During the last several hundred years the world has been at some sort of stand-off or all out war.  This is not unusual for the human experience.  War is as much a part of the human condition as the tides are to the ocean.  In the general sense then, the big issue has always been about survival, but medical and technological advances have made basic needs so much easier to acquire that we've been able to spend a great deal of our time and energies on loftier subjects.

We're always aware, however, that some people are living without basic needs.  Since we are unable to feed and house everyone, especially those living under dictatorships and oppression, the thought that it could happen to us if we're not careful is always on our minds.  It provides a kind of awareness balancing act.  

Liberating a people from a brute and preventing brute invasions seems to be how we've been passing the time, but we've also talked a great deal about things like freedom and the more difficult to define liberty.

We've been busy.  We had a new nation to develop.  We had laws and the lawless to deal with.  We've had industries to build and technologies to invent.  And every now and again we've had wars to fight, with plenty of time before and after to discuss the merits of the action, or whether we should have been involved at all.

It is important, every now and again, to pause to consider what it is exactly that we're trying to achieve.  In other words, what is the goal?

If we imagine that there would be a time when we have resolved it, that we have achieved the objective of freeing all people living in dictatorships, what will we do then?  More importantly, we need to focus on what that might look like and how we'd behave without the drama in our lives distracting our attention.

Freedom is an interesting concept.  If we look back a few hundred years, to the time when people took great risk to make the journey to the United States, or cross the plains to a frontier, what is it that a person wanted once they got where they were headed?  Why did they do that?

In the simplest terms, they wanted a way to survive.  The idea of owning a piece of land that you could work to support your family was a way of providing the basic needs to survival:  shelter, food, and safety.

People built their own homes, from the timber and materials on the land they purchased.  They grew their own food and traded or bartered for what they could not provide themselves.  They were prepared and were often called upon to defend themselves, either from wild animals or thieves.  This took a lot of their time.

And they got that.  Millions of people in America got exactly what it was they came here to get.  Their basic needs were met and they were then able to focus on something else.  They lived and died achieving their desires.  What next?

I won't go on with the boring details, but suffice it to say that the original goal of basic survival having been achieved, people created new goals, much more difficult to achieve and define, and set about to acquire that something else.

In most cases, however, the new goals required that you get your fellows to get on board with the idea.  You needed more than just your own family to take it to the next level.

We've dramatically altered the definition of basic needs.  There was once a goal that every house in America have running water and a toilet that didn't cause disease for the family who used it.  Then it was electricity and all the assorted appliances that you plugged into it, from simple lighting to microwave ovens.  There are some who argue that a child being raised in a poor family is denied the basic tools of survival if he doesn't have a telephone, a computer to access the Internet, and a television with a cable hook up.

No longer required to build a home, work the land, or defend yourself, it is no wonder that people have become bored and without anything else to focus their energies, turn to petty or nuisance crimes or sloth.

Man is a working dog.  And just like working dogs, he becomes destructive if he doesn't have anything productive to do.  Also like dogs, man is a social animal, and is in a constant state of assessing his position in the pack, jockeying for better position and respect.

Billions of working dogs without enough activity to keep them drained of nervous energy can become a problem.  It is no accident that countries that adopt communism find it necessary to keep their populations working at menial jobs, with barely enough food to keep their mind focused on the next meal, rather than revolution.  Are they happy?

But in America, poor people are fat.  There is no reason why a child would go to bed hungry.  There is always enough and always enough charity to feed everyone who lives here.  

So what's left to do in America?  There is enough work for everyone to provide basic needs.  There is an abundance of food in food banks and welfare for those who want it.  

Each person is left to do what they were always supposed to be doing:  pursue happiness.  If, however, happiness comes at the expense of another, or measured in comparison to how much happiness our neighbors appear to have, we will be unhappy, low pecking order dogs.  Someone will always be better off than us.  Unless we're in the handful of multi-billionaires or idle-rich on the planet, we're bound to be lower on the pecking order.  No matter how rich and idle we become, someone will always be idler and richer.  What then?

There comes a point when we must turn our happiness pursuit inward.  When we recognize that what differentiates us from beasts, if we wish to make the separation, is our ability to channel our primitive instincts to rule the pack, to rule our mind and conquer our base instincts—when the pursuit becomes more meaningful than the undefined happiness and shifts to a kind of contentment and peace with ourselves.

Other than basic needs and the comforts which afford us the time and energy for reflection and thought, external pursuits of happiness lead to unhappiness.  That unhappiness causes us to think that there must be some external force limiting our freedom because, many think, true freedom would lead to happiness and if they're still not happy living in the land of the free, then it must be because they lack freedom.  If we could do whatever we want then we would be happy?

More and more we see that trend.  More freedom, a complete surrendering of any self-imposed limits on expression, seems to be what results.  

We've moved from freedom enough to provide our basic needs, to freedom enough to do whatever we want, without the requisite consequence.  The meaning of freedom, the purpose of liberty, has been redefined.  It is no longer enough that you may exercise rights, defended by the benevolent state.  Now we've moved to a completely different realm of freedom.  One, I might add, was never part of the definition--a kind of exercise of rights that has no downside and no risk.

Freedom no longer means to be allowed to take a risk as long as you were willing to accept the consequences.  No one was going to stop you from choosing to be an idiot, a cad, or a scoundrel, but there would be consequences (some dire) if you chose to be.  Freedom has been twisted to mean something else entirely--that you are free from consequences, risk, results, reaction.  This means that people believe they are "free" to be as immoral, selfish, and reckless as they want and cry oppression! if they are challenged or called upon to deal with the results of their actions.

The cliché of "your right to swing your fist stops at my nose" seems to have been revised to "your right to swing your fist exists without boundary and other folks better move their nose out of the way if you should pass."

The goal was pursuit of happiness.  No one ever guaranteed you'd get it.  The goal still is the pursuit of happiness, but not at the expense of another's happiness or without risks or consequences, and the individual's inability to achieve it.  But if liberty has been proven to be ineffective to the pursuit, with personal responsibility left by the wayside, what then?


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Poke Your Eye Out

I don't have a source to know if Gandhi actually said it, but I always remember the quote from the film in which he said, "An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind."

I was raised (obviously) in a Christian dominated culture so the idea of an "eye for an eye" was outside of my realm.

I mention this because some folks (not all, important qualifier "some") have said that it is perfectly appropriate for the Danish newspaper to publish the cartoons because the Middle East publishes cartoons that are so much worse.

So we all go blind. If Gandhi's more philosophical reproach doesn't work for you, how about this:

"Billy called me bad name so I called him a bad name back."

We're supposed to be the adults and the ones setting an example here.

Other rebuttals include "well, it is good that the folks who hold these views are being fleshed out."

You know, when you orchestrate an event to "flesh out" it's generally a good idea to have your ducks in a row before you do it, so it doesn't turn into a goat rodeo when you do. I am reminded of the police preparedness before the second Rodney King trial announcement was released, and the unprecedented delay in releasing the verdict so that the National Guard could be on the ready and all police were positioned in place. In addition, it was determined that it would not be released during rush hour and timed for release at a time when the fewest people would be on the street.

Perhaps the Danish newspaper could have warned their government so they could have had their embassies on stand-by and their troops on full alert. Otherwise, it would have been irresponsible, if they knew the kind of backlash it would cause.

There are only two ways to interpret the lack of warning:
1. They didn't care.
2. They didn't expect the reaction.

Both say a lot about their actions and the lack of responsibility they demonstrated when they decided to exercise their right to freedom of the press.

Depending on the one you choose, it would seem to contradict the idea that "they did this to identify the terrorists so we could strike against them."

The fact that Europe has only a few thousand troops in the region, would seem to indicate that they were perfectly happy (as usual) to allow the U.S. to clean up their messes.

Others have brought up the timing and are suspicious that this event was orchestrated to deflect from other problems needing our attention, such as Iran.

To that: A great big DUH!

Every mistake or mis-step we take is going to be used as ammunition by our enemies. The thing that has been unique about the War on Terror (that begin back in the Vietnam era) is that with all the screeching about the freedom of the press, our government has been unable to properly conduct the most important aspect of winning a war: Control of information. 80% of the success of a war effort is the war of information.

The terrorists know they cannot win a conventional war, which is why they've never attempted to fight one. What they've been trying to create, from the beginning, is a classic grassroots revolutionary element to "spark" an uprising among the Muslim world--they've been poking at us to force us to make a mistake so they can use it to create that "spark."

None of this should come as a surprise as it comes directly from the Anarchists Playbook. Anyone wishing to understand that playbook should read about the Anarchist Movements of the 19th Century. It's all in there and OBL and Al Qa'eda have been running their plays by the book from the beginning. There is nothing unique or strange about the way they've handled it.

Perhaps that is why I find this whole brouhaha so disconcerting (besides the obvious childishness of opting for playground antics and tit-for-tat exchanges of repulsive caricatures). It is so blatantly obvious what the terrorists are trying to do, I find it incredible that folks in The West are playing their part so effectively as to create nice little wrapped packaged victories for the terrorists.

From the beginning, the President has couched this war as "A war for the hearts and minds..." Other than his initial slip of using the word "crusade" (lower case "C"), he has chosen his word very carefully.

But not so the rest of the world.

In 10 to 20 years, after we have a stable Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as others that would have been pushed over the edge toward more democrat rule) we could have had these little tests of free speech tolerance, but while the roots of democracy are still young and weak, it does nothing except weaken the possibility of success.

But, perhaps I've been mistaken all along. Maybe I've been viewing all of this through rose-colored glasses, truly believing that The West meant what they said about tolerance. Maybe most people were encouraged by the President's use of the word "crusade" and hoped he meant it with a capital C. Maybe the sea of glass is what they truly want and are trying to give the terrorists the spark they are seeking so they can see their ambitions of eradicating the Middle East come to fruition.

The evidence and behavior on the part of The West would seem to indicate that is what many desire.

Be careful what you wish for. The nuclear fallout cannot be effectively contained. Israel is a small country and would certainly catch the fallout.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Good?

I'm not feeling particularly proud of us these days--by "us" I mean "The West."

We have the opportunity to demonstrate that we value the good, even though we have the choice not to be--that we can value virtue and freedom without leaving the other in its wake.

But these days, the latest events of people not choosing good, has left me feeling ashamed. Choose in solidarity with those who advocate prejudice or choose to stand with those who would legislate it out of existance? Are these the only choices?

No. I choose a third option.

Dinesh D'Souza has written many times and in many ways that this isn't a war about political ideology. It isn't even a war about religion. What this is really all about is what a society regards as the ideal.

He has argued that America and The West can make the case that we are a virtuous society, and value virtue above all things, because we have the choice not to be evil, even though we have the freedom, the Free Will, to do so.

That argument, however, is predicated on the idea that we do believe those things, and that we can demonstrate that we are a virtuous people.

Today, with all the news of vulgarity and religious intolerance being the fad, I think we lost this stage of the debate.

I hope that tomorrow will bring another chance to score on the side of virtue rather than supporting freedom, no matter how ugly it may be. If we cannot find a way to value freedom and virtue equally, we have lost, and I dare say I'd be glad if we did. There is a way to support freedom, to believe in it fully, while simultaneously standing up for what is good and virtuous.

Dinish D'Souza writes:

This is the argument that Americans should make to people in the Islamic world. It is a mistake to presume that Muslims would be totally unreceptive to it. Islam, which has common roots with Judaism and Christianity, respects the autonomy of the individual soul. Salvation for Muslims, no less than for Jews and Christians, is based on the soul choosing freely to follow God. We can make the case to Muslims that freedom is not a secular invention; rather, freedom is a gift from God. Moreover, it is not the case that Islamic fundamentalists care about virtue while we in the West care only about freedom. We, too, care about virtue; like them, we seek the good society; but we disagree with the Islamic fundamentalists about the best means to achieve this goal. In the Western view, freedom is the necessary precondition for virtue. Without freedom, there is no virtue. I believe this is an argument that well-meaning Muslims would have to consider.

The arguments on behalf of freedom, and of America, are not only for the benefit of Muslims in the Arab world; they are also for the benefit of people in America and the West. To help counter the anti-Americanism that we see from Europeans and sometimes even from Americans, we can confidently show our allies, our citizens, and our idealistic young people that America is not simply richer, more varied, and more tolerant, it is also morally superior to the fundamentalists' version of Islamic society. It was Edmund Burke a long time ago who wrote, "To love our country, our country ought to be lovely." Burke's point is that the highest form of patriotism is not based on the dogmatic assertion, "My country, right or wrong." Nor is the highest form of patriotism based on loving your country simply because it is yours. Rather, the highest form of patriotism is based on loving your country because it is good.

In my view America, for all its flaws and weaknesses, can meet Burke's test. America merits a rational patriotism that can confront, and answer, the strongest criticisms of this country. Ultimately America is worthy of our love and sacrifice because, more than any other society, it makes possible for its citizens the good life, and equally important, the life that is good.

I cannot make that argument today. I have hope to see reason to make the argument again, but today I feel ashamed that we choose to rally to support ugly, in the name of "freedom."


The World Has Gone Stark Raving Mad

In a Denmark newspaper there was a call for offensive cartoons to challenge the murderers of van Gogh. It was an intentionally offensive gesture. The cartoons were published and the world has basically divided into two sides: those that think that the sacrilegious depictions of their religious leader need to be punished, and those who think that free speech has no consequences.

I've been wondering about the actions of the Danish newspaper: What did they think was going to happen? Certainly they did it for a reason. They wanted a reaction or they wouldn't have done it. Those who picked up the torch thought so, too.

I wonder if they're happy now. They got exactly what they wanted. They got to be as rude, crude, and as offensive as they like and no one prevented it from happening. No government official in Denmark stopped the presses. Other folks, in solidarity with being offensive and spitting on the religions of others, have added their voice in support.

Is this really what people want?

Do you really want to show solidarity, in the name of "Free Speech," to support the actions of those who show intolerance to those of another faiths? Do you want your protest banners to say, "Free Speech for Bigots! Disrespectful and proud of it!"

Personally? I've had it. It has been a line in the sand for me as well.

The government isn't going to stop people from being rude. They're not going to stop Daily Kos or any other lefty journo from printing lies and slandering those in public offices or in the trenches. People like Cindy Sheehan can get all the airtime she wants, no matter how ridiculous her claims and no matter how offensive her statements. Billboards advertising strip clubs are going to go up where children can see them. Department stores in New York can display dildos in their shop windows, right where children can see them.

And this is what has come of Free Speech? This is the conclusion of the great experiment--that we are willing to fight for the right to draw cartoons? This is how people want to cherish the right to express an opinion and demonstrate to the world how wonderful democracy and Free Will really are?

By showing to the world that they don't give a damn about anyone or anything?

Is NOTHING sacred?

Free Will is an interesting thing. So is the concept of Rights.

There was a time when the utterance of a remark that others found offensive required the offender to step outside or leave town. It was clear to everyone that the government wasn't going to get involved, but civil society certainly was.

Speech has consequences. Without consequences, without reaction, you might as well be shouting the alphabet from the mount.

No, no one is going to stop the presses. It also seems that no one is going to attempt to exercise civility and decency anymore.

I don't care what you think of Islam or any other religion, but it is not a big deal, it truly isn't, to demonstrate religious tolerance by being respectful of another's icons. No, you don't have to. That's what makes it a test--that no one is going to make you do it. The government isn't going to shut you down.

A person of decency and character would never intentionally offend another person. Offending others isn't cool, daring, or even funny. It's simply the actions of a pig. Since civil society either no longer exists or no longer cares to police itself, what is the appropriate response to demonstrations of "support for being intolerant and offensive"?

Frankly, I have no idea what the appropriate response is. What I do know, is that I no longer want to play. The feminization of the culture is complete. There are no gentlemen left in this world. There doesn't appear to be anyone left who even knows what it means.

You have The Right to say whatever you want. No one is going to try to stop you and you'll get thousands and thousands of people ready to support you, no matter how vulgar, offensive, or intolerant you are.

And this is what people want to go to war over? THIS is worth it? We are willing to go to war over our Right to be idiots and cads? This is a "Far, far better thing"?

The minds of some of our statesmen, like the pupil of the human eye, contract themselves the more, the stronger light there is shed upon them. --Sir Thomas More


Monday, January 30, 2006

On Saving the World

If I had a dollar…

If I had a dollar for each time someone says, "but there is no point in doing that unless we can get everyone to participate" (or the like), I'd be a millionaire.  Ditto for every solution that begins with "let's fix…" or "how to reform…"

No matter where you go on the Internet you are going to run into people who will tell you that certain problems cannot be solved.  You will also find people who will suggest "we just need to do…" as the cure all solution for whatever problem is being discussed.

Neither is right and they're both right.

The problem is the noun.  It is always the noun.

If "other people" would do...

If "they" would do…

If "the President" would...

If "Congress" would…

If "the people" in that country would…

If criminals would stop committing crime we wouldn't have a crime problem.

If women would stop having abortions we could stop discussing Roe v Wade or the pros and cons of illegal or legal abortion.

If parents would stop abusing their children we wouldn't have a child abuse problem and wouldn't need to reform or monitor the actions of child welfare departments.

If people would stop drinking to excess we wouldn't have a drunk-driving problem.

If all people were of equal intelligence and talent, we wouldn't have an education problem.

If all people were of like minds, we wouldn't have anything to talk about.

In every example you can list, the issue is not that we don't all recognize that crime, abortion, education, abuse, or destructive behaviors aren't a problem or an issue needing some correction.

The problem, as I said, is the noun.

You can't fix "the world."  Not being able to fix "the world" doesn't mean you can't do anything or that you don't participate in being part of the solution.

Stop looking to other people to come up with a solution. BE the solution.  

Repair yourself and don't do any of the things you think are bad or broken.

If you think the education system needs repair, divest from it, and find a solution for you that works.

If you think abortion is the issue of the century, help one girl to either not need to consider an abortion or adopt the child she carries to term.

If you think crime is a problem, don't commit crime, don't associate with anyone who does, and try to stop any crime in progress.

If you think there are children who can be helped, help them.

Don't measure success by "the world."  Measure it by what you do.  Are you perfect?  Have you done everything YOU can to the best of your ability?

That's the only measurement of success there is.  

If your world view is that other people aren't doing their share, or that we can only measure success if everything is solved tomorrow, you won't ever leave the starting gate.

It begins and ends with you.  Fix that and "the world" will be a better place.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Why the subject?

Someone emailed to ask why the sudden posts about Identity and garb.  Disclosing the details could give away my secret identity (so I won't disclose it), but it was based on a trip to a small, liberal-leaning city.  The Group Think was palpable and the experience left me feeling dirty.  

I try to avoid places like this (as I wish they'd try to avoid my home city) because I do not like being around them (any more than they like being around someone like me), but this trip was unavoidable, and the purpose of the trip and the company not at all unpleasant (the people we visited were terrific).  When in liberal-land, however, I'm on their turf and feel it necessary to stifle myself, including all the usual things that get me into trouble, such as out-and-out laughing at people or getting into unnecessary and futile arguments.  This is not a state of being that I enjoy.

At one restaurant we were waited on by someone who was spending her discretionary money on a full body tattoo.  While she's free to do whatever she wants with her money and to her body, my reaction was cold, disturbing, and probably inappropriate:  I didn't want her to touch my food.  Had I been true to myself I would have said something, caused a scene (embarrassed my family), and left, but I didn't do those things.  This partially explains the "feeling dirty" result.  I couldn't wait to get out of there.

I just won't go there again.  This is probably unjustified, but no less worthy of expression than tattoo circus waitress.

::shudders::

I'll be out for a week.  No blogging.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

When in Rome

In the Identity post below I talked about people who attempt to hide the nothingness within by adding flair to the shell.  Some people got it immediately (Sean and Eric, of course).

There is another aspect of this that may seem contrary on the surface, but if life wasn't so full of contradictions it would be boring and there'd be nothing to think or write about.

Before I go there I want to mention a few things that will only become relevant when I get to the end.

If you dropped me, blindfolded, out of an airplane, in just about any city in the world, or if you lined up 100 people in an unrecognizable conference room, I could tell you where I was.  Well, I could tell you where the people were from.  It would be slightly clouded by race, but if you were careful in your selections of race, I could still do it.  I could determine it by the way the people dressed (their clothing, hair, make up, etc.).  The easiest of all are New Yorkers.  Second are Minneapolitans.  Third are Bostonians.  Seattle is a no-brainer.  If you add mannerisms and gait, I could do Philadelphia.  The South would be a little bit more difficult, but I would get "South" without any problem at all.  Whether it was Atlanta or Memphis, Pine Bluff or Tyler would be difficult, but I could qualify "South" with "rural," "metropolis," or "small city."  Of course there are vast wastelands that would be difficult to differentiate, but I'd again be close by identifying it by region.

You could jerry-rig the experiment so I'd fail it.  The best way to do that would be to pick global cliques (punk bands, Goths, clergy, or Dead Heads).  Sex Pistol fans and copy cats existed all over the place and they dressed the same.  I could not identify them by region, only by clique.

Europeans are even easier—even without racial characteristics.

Of course most of us could do it if you asked the people to speak.  Dialect would be a dead give-away.  However, and this is the interesting part, if you included transplants (people who weren't born in that region and didn't speak with the same dialect) their attire and style would give them away.

Even though the world is becoming more and more homogenized because of global television programming, American films, and global chain stores, the individual selections in a region are specific to the region.  "Valley Girl Speak," because of television, is no longer limited to the suburban areas of Los Angeles.  It is now an intentionally assumed affectation because of television shows like 90210 or other teen directed soap operas.

This is all the more apparent when you are someplace else, such as the crowds outside Harrod's on the day before the sales begin.  You can see the Americans.  Light colored shoes are the dead give-away (sneakers, etc.).  Americans on Holiday dress comfortably, but this is wholly different from the Brits who dress stylishly, but practically (with sensible shoes).  The Parisian women are first given away by their perfume, the permanent fragrant cloud that precedes them, but you can't confirm them as French until you see how they dress and then by how they walk.

I frequently travel on business and this became even more apparent when attending a seminar with attendees from all over Europe.  When groups would walk in you would immediately know "The Italians are here," or "The Germans have arrived."  Had I not been there and done that, I might not have realized just how stereotypical most of this actually is.  The Italians were always late, but they looked good.  The Germans were always on time (never early), unlike the Dutch who were early and extremely well prepared and therefore bored, as were the Swiss, but they didn't dress as trendy and always seemed to be worried that they were doing something wrong (constantly asking for validation that they were doing things correctly).  The Belgians were identifiable by not being so.  They always seemed a bit confused and slightly out of step, as if they'd been locked in some sort of alternate reality and thrust into a world they no longer recognized.  The French arrived with flair unique to the French.  They were there (late, but not as late as the Italians), weren't you glad they'd arrived, but they didn't care.  The Brits, well, the Brits were stylish but frumpy and they were so glad you'd invited them, but were always distracted and losing their place.  We could never find the Greeks.  Someone from Greece came, always the wrong person, but he never stayed very long, popping in and out to give the appearance of attending, but quick to disappear in case they were asked a question.

There were us Americans, all mixed up race- and clothing-wise, but you could see us from a mile away.  We smile (and laugh) with bold, drag-queen like gestures.  We are loud.

In other Continents the same types of things give the people away.

When you're out in public then, what is the goal—the ideal?  If we don't care what people think of us, how do we respond in situations like these?  What respect or deference do we show to the areas we visit?

When Shirley Temple Black was appointed as Ambassador to Ghana, 60 Minutes attempted to do an episode that put her through a shredder.  They even admitted it at the end of the program.  But she won them over.  She, out of respect and deference, donned the local garb and it was clear that she did so not to artificially assert herself, but because she wanted to be part of them, and get to know them in an intimate way.  The people loved her.

The late Katherine Hepburn said that her costume was her greatest asset when developing a character.  She would research her roles and attempt to manufacture the undergarments of the period because it changed the way she held herself, and gave her insight into the period that she couldn't get any other way.

I believe the goal is not to stick out like a sore thumb.  Refusing to groom or wash is the height of arrogance.  We don’t want to be false, but somehow respectful, finding a balance in there somewhere.  If you stick out you will be treated differently, not able to do many of the things the locals do.  If you desire to stick out, well, that says a lot about you.  If you are able to blend in it also says something else about you—that you are a chameleon, able to adapt to any situation and circumstance and your exterior is fluid.  It is something you use and understand but aren't ruled by it.  If donning another's garb will give you insight or the ability to walk the streets without calling attention to yourself, then you're demonstrating that you care more about what is inside of yourself, and aren't flustered by a change in the exterior.  It's all about not wanting to call attention to your exterior so you're not acting like a posterior.

When in Rome… do as the Romans do.  



Saturday, December 31, 2005

Identity

Identity:  The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.

It's really all about symbolism in a form of modern tribalism.  Where the old Scots used to wear Tartan patterns to declare their tribe, today we have tattoos, advertising on our T-shirts, bumper stickers, and haircuts.

But there has to be more to life than showing an allegiance to a clique.  

There's a great slogan that gets my point across:

WE are Individuals.

It makes me laugh (out loud) every time I hear it.  The definition of irony all rolled up into what is wrong with the world.

Identity, in the grand sense, isn't about packaging.  Someone with a strong identity doesn't find it necessary to express it outwardly.  The kind of confidence a strong identity garners means that they can wear anything, and not be in allegiance with any group, and be individuals. In the I sense, not the We sense.  True individuals don't wear the latest fashions or hairstyles as that is Group Think, not individual expression.  They're beyond Group Think.  They don't care what other people think of them.

One of the great memes of science has been "no two snowflakes are alike."  I think most of us have heard that so many times we forget when we first heard it.  What folks may not have discovered, however, it is that is wrong.

Within the small space that is a snowflake, there are a limited (although a huge) number of possible combinations.  Many snowflakes are alike.  Add up the number of snowflakes that have fallen, through all the millions of years they've fallen, and you can determine (within the limited scope of their size and complexity) just how many snowflakes have fallen that are alike.  Because of their small size, there are only so many permutations available.

With all the millions of people on the earth at one time, it is logical to conclude (also) that two people may be very much alike.  That two individuals who may not look alike, may actually think alike, with much the same preferences in clothing, art, music, literature, and politics.  Even with thinking then, within the limited confines of what is knowable; people can share ideas and not be intentionally group like.

When we talk of being individuals then, very often we're confusing it with the concept of uniqueness, of being different (wholly different) than another human being.  Much of what appears as individualism is nothing like it in the slightest.  It manifests in cliques and collectivism.  It manifests thusly:

WE are unique because we dress like anarchists.  But what we really are is group-think anarchists.

WE are unique because we don't like popular music.  Because we refuse to accept another's right to individual choices as being valid, good or bad.  

WE are unique because we dress like Goths not Preppies (or whatever the modern equivalent is today).  But we band together like seals, attempting to dress outrageously (in expensive designer Goth fashions that our preppie parents pay for) because we don't want to give the appearance of fitting in with the majority, but fitting in with the minority is cool.

This has always been an issue for young people.  Feeling included, yet wanting to leave a unique mark on the world.  My Footprint Is Here is idealistic.  Without taking away or disparaging idealism because it is a great motivator to success and maintains optimism, it isn't very practical or realistic and it isn't even important when you get older and acquire a little wisdom.  Optimism is eventually replaced by wisdom.

I've often wanted to conduct a social experiment.  I want to take a group of about 100 socialist-leaning, tattooed, hemp-shirt-wearing young people through an experiment.

Here's how it would be done:

We find 100 people that are about the same size of men and women.  They have about the same color of skin and all have the same eye color.  It wouldn't be difficult as there is a huge pool from which to select people.

Their hair would all be shaved (or styled and colored alike).  They'd all be given the exact same clothing and the exact same soap, deodorant, and shampoo to use.  The clothing would be of the generic type (something off the shelves at JC Penny, such as plaid shirts and polyester, elastic waist slacks).  They'd live in the exact same type of apartments, in a kind of ward environment, with the exact same functional, but not stylish furnishings.  In other words, everything outward would be the same as would be generically devoid of style.  

It may sound strange, but that is exactly what they are advocating.  That's where socialism leads, making all people "the same."  Letting them live in it for a while seems appropriate.  Who am I to deny people want they want?

Then I'd give them all a simple goal:

Be unique (express your individualism).

I can't remember who said it, but there was a woman who once remarked that she loved going to formal occasions where all the men are wearing tuxedos.  With all the normal unique attire (colors of shirts, suit styles, etc.) removed from the equation, when all men were dressed identically, what you were really able to see was the person.  In the sameness you could see the man.  Truly remarkable men (not in appearance terms) stood out from the crowd.

I would imagine, or my hypothesis of the social experiment, is that very few would be able to accomplish being unique or could find anyway to express themselves.  Because once you remove all the external cosmetics, the adornments and affectations, what you're left with is what's inside—what they think, what the know, how they express themselves, and how they persuade.  Most of these folks are empty vessels, soulless individuals finding camaraderie in being ostentatious, with really bizarre and outrageous packaging.

I think most of them would go mad and never recover from it, finding that their ideas of expressions and uniqueness were actually a fad, a façade and a farce.  They're nothing more than clowns and were it not for the group-think acceptance of others in their soulless cliques, they'd never get a date.

One of the reasons that societies have dressed children in school uniforms and strictly controlled their behavior is the recognition that children will be resistant to developing their intellect and abilities if they are allowed to develop them outwardly, instead of inwardly.  They become shells of human beings.  It's so much easier to tattoo your body than it is to expand your mind.  When children are forced to become interesting internally because there is no other option available to them to express themselves, they will do so.  So, too, with behavior.  If there is conformity in acceptable behavior then expressions must become mental hurdles.  

Tearing down social conformity just enables outward conformity of a different variety.  Western civilization left tribalism behind in the 16th century.  Unfortunately, some people didn't get the memo or were incapable of reading it.

What they fail to realize today, however, is that we already know all this about them.  Even without the experiment of similar attire and style.  There is nothing unique about them at all.  They are nothing more than drones (although colorful), trying to feel significant through the acceptance of others, rather than acceptance and development of themselves and their minds.