Sunday, November 2, 2014

Our Great Society

"And with your courage and with your compassion and your desire, we will build a Great Society. It is a Society where no child will go unfed, and no youngster will go unschooled."
- Lyndon B. Johnson,  May 7, 1964

That was just over 50 years ago, and I'd assume that Mr. Johnson had no idea of the so-called technological advancements that would take place over the next 5 decades.  Things like cable television, the Internet, microwave ovens, and digital photography that would contribute to our now Great Society.  yeah.

The mid-sixties was a time when we concerned ourselves with issues like civil rights, gender equality, and free speech. In the mid-(I don't know)-14th year of the third millennium, we have other concerns.  Those of legalizing marijuana, same-sex marriages, and where to build our next casino.  It's very sophisticated - and selfish, in most ways.

We walk around with earphones, heads down, oblivious to the rest of the "great society," and our gaze is fixed on our next text message or Facebook "like."  Have we built a Great Society? It says here that we have not.

What we have built is a society based on personal wants and needs, and not the wants and needs of the society, which isn't Great at all.

The more our technology grows, the less our personal contact grows.  We prefer to text rather than talk - e-mail rather than hand-write a card or note - and our Facebook "friends" are not real friends at all, but merely Internet acquaintances we have met because we know somebody that they know, too.

I don't know anyone's telephone number.  In the 1960s (and into the 1980s) if someone wanted me to call them, I immediately knew their phone number and could recite it.  Now, if I don't have my cell phone handy, I have no clue of your phone number.  You are an icon and a click on my Contacts list.

And, this Internet thing.  Well - maybe you have no idea, but I suspect you have some idea.  There is fornication everywhere.  If I was a teenager growing-up in this society, my head would explode over the vast amount of nudity, sex, and other acts going on that are just a click away. Sure, they are "protected," but all one has to do is click "YES, I ACCEPT" and they're in.  If I was a parent, I would literally lose sleep over what my child was seeing on the Internet. I really can't believe that there is that much intercourse and deviant sexual behavior going on in the world - let alone what is being recorded and broadcast over the Internet.  I am by no means naive, but all one has to do is a simple Google search and see the amount of web sites devoted to it to realize - Jeebus, that's a lot of stuff!

You can go pretty much anywhere and see women (and men) in various stages of undress.  In my day, you had to find a stray copy of Playboy magazine in your uncle's trash to get a glimpse of a breast. Now, you can Google-search Vagina close-up and get a gander - for free.  See how easy that was?  And think - your 12-year-old knows how to do that, too.

And then, there is Facebook and Twitter, where you can log-in and insult people at will. That's a bargain compared to what it used to be, where we had to write letters and sign our names and stuff.  Now, you can be Wonderboy1400 and post a comment.  It's easy to offend from afar.  I bet Johnson never saw that coming, either.

Meanwhile, children are still going unschooled.  If you doubt me, just read their Facebook comments and check the grammar and spelling.  As for unfed, I'm not so sure.  They look like they have plenty of food - and perhaps that's another issue.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The i in Team

One of the benefits of aging is perspective. It isn't always a good thing, though, because it exposes the current time to the past.
In this case, my being a child of the 1960s has given me the perspective of what are called Aging Baby Boomers.  Good for me.

I started to think (dangerous, I know) about the differences in our society between then and now.  We can rule out the obvious ones that even kids could come up with.  The one I focused on is the difference in the way we treat each other.

The 1960s were a time of great social and political turmoil.  There were civil rights issues, protests against the war, and demonstrations demanding women's equality.  Those are all social issues, and to a large extent, have been resolved to the satisfaction of the people involved.

We could say it was a "simpler time," but that is true of any era that we look back on.  Comparatively, the 1930s were simpler, and the decades prior, and so forth.  Society continues to grow in complexity. 

The times in which we live are certainly as complex as any, and not only technologically, although it is the technology that presents the issue I found in my thinking.

I find the biggest difference in society between now and then is the focus on Me.  I know, we've been through the "Me Generation" and all, but this is something different.  What dawned on me is the proliferation of things that have the prefix you, me or i.

YouTube, iPhone, (i-everything), Facebook (a variation of me, concerning your face), Selfies (which, I know were never done with film cameras) and now this Ice Bucket thing, where people challenge other people to pour a bucket of iced water on themselves - all in the name of some charity.  Sure, there is a do-gooder aspect of it, but the bigger angle is me and what I am doing versus what you are doing - which is nothing.

We used to dump our spare change in a bucket, leave "March of Dimes" or fill books of quarters that the local fire house would collect.  Now, we donate a dollar and fill-out a tag with our name on it that gets posted at the Wawa checkout counter; collect money for a charity run or bike-a-thon for illness awareness and wear a t-shirt proclaiming "I DID THIS FOR THAT."  There is no good in anonymity.

Let us not examine the bigger issue of what good the money does for the illness.  Somebody rode a bicycle 75 miles in the name of a deadly disease, and yet, the deadly disease goes on.  It is likely that the disease pays no attention to the amount of money raised to fight it.  In a larger sense, when did throwing money at something ever change it?  The cynic would argue that the corporate end of the disease (the Association or Foundation) that benefits from the money would be ill-served to end the disease, lest its benefactors be out of a job.  The money goes toward propegating the need for the money.  It is a literal death spiral.

You will be sadly disappointed if, at the end of your life, the time and money you have spent and raised for these diseases has been spent and raised in vain - which is the highest probability.  You would be better served - and the victims would be better served - if you gave your time and money directly to them and not to some Association or Foundation who will spend a fraction of your dollars on something that is not closely related to finding a cure or making the victims happier.

You can spread happiness and do good on your own - without Facebook posts, videos, or drawing attention to yourself.

Try it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Birds

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
- Genesis 1:26

Maybe it's that, or maybe it's something else, but I feel a responsibility to the birds.  Dominion, by its definition means sovereignty, and as such, imparts us with a responsibility to the animals the cohabit this Earth with us.

Maybe it's the idea that we are all born to a place, and with some of us, it is impossible to leave that place.  The birds were here first, and as such, they have prominence over those of us who built houses on top of their houses.  We chased them from their place and forced them to live in our place.

Maybe that's too simple.

I have had a bird feeder outside my tiny condo ever since I have lived here, which is now going on its twenty-third year.  The past few winters have been kind to my aviary friends, but this year, not so much.  Snow cover makes it difficult for them to find food, so - to me - and my dominion, I believe that falls on me to find food for them.  It's pretty easy, really.  All I have to do is walk to the grocery store and find bags of food for them. If they had the ability to purchase food, I'm sure they would.  They cannot, so it falls on those of us (me) with dominion.

Whatever the reason, it gives me great pleasure to see the finches, sparrows and the ground-feeding doves feasting on the fruits of my labor.  Maybe I put to fine a point on it, but I think they appreciate it.

Short story:  My previous cat, the late, lamented Kitty, was sick.  I knew he was sick because he didn't move from his spot and didn't touch his food for an entire day.  I wanted to take him to the Veterinarian, but my ex-wife thought that "he'll be fine."  I knew he wasn't "fine,"and told her, "If he could drive himself to the vet, he'd do it. But, he cannot, so it falls on us to do it for him."  I took him, and he was given an antibiotic to cure his problem.  In a couple of days, he was well and I knew that he wouldn't have been any better if we had left him to his own will. It all goes back to the "dominion over animals" part of the thing.  We owe them.

So, here I am, spending good money to feed birds that I do not own nor control.  However, I feel like it makes me a part of the giant circle of life, or whatever thing you want to assign to it.  Suffice it to say, the birds have no control over where they are and are powerless to change it, so it falls on me (or you) to make their lives as pleasant as possible.  It's part of our place here on Earth.

Or, maybe I just like birds.