Whose Bowl?

 

As Memorial Day approaches in the United States, I would like to add my gratitude to all of the men and women who sacrificed their all to defend and protect the life and liberty of all Americans.

***

Now, I’d like to consider a fundamental concept related to our freedom: fairness and equality.10259337_772472292812809_2899869289236059315_n

Equality?

Many times, we see fair as everyone having all of the same things. It’s especially evident in recent legislation regarding American education and the idea of the common core. The idea is that, in order for all of us to be equal, we need to have exactly the same things. We need to be taught exactly the same things in school. We need to reach a certain point of learning by a certain age. We should all have the same amount of money at our disposal. We should all have the same cars, the same prestigious jobs, and so on ad nauseum.

Is this really equality? Does everyone need to know exactly the same information? Is it really fair to try to create a world where everyone gets the same necessities and luxuries regardless of what they do (or don’t do)?

Communism failed in the U.S.S.R. because the motivation to work was stripped from the citizens of the country through this idea of equality.

Equal Opportunity?

In theory, this is the kind of equality that is not only doable, but it encourages what is naturally good inside human beings — the idea that, if I really try, I have the same chance to succeed as the next person.

Sadly, this isn’t a perfect world, and we can’t ensure that everyone will have perfectly equal opportunities. There will always be bias. There will always be disabilities. There will always be those who cannot or will not make use of the opportunities they have.

The Wisdom of the Meme

So, what’s the solution? For each person who understands to do the best they can. Work hard to improve ourselves. Learn how to use our gifts and talents to make life better for ourselves and the people around us. Learn to manage our resources so that we cannot only get by but we can actually accumulate wealth.

Then, we can look “into the bowls” of others to see what they lack and how we can meet that need.

Bowl Fillers

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The “Free Range” Solution

This is the third part of my posts about a “free-range humans” meme. The previous posts are

Today, I’m going to have the audacity to suggest a possible solution.

solutions

Part of the problem is a hyper-focus on self.

As we have moved into a more modern world, we have become more focused on personal comfort and safety. While this is a sign of progress, it is also an Achilles heel. We have the luxury of becoming very self-focused and very irritated when someone trespasses our comfort zone. This has even extended into our parenting to a large degree.

Also, a focus on personal comfort makes it easier to stop thinking about the well-being of others. We isolate ourselves into our own little world, worry about our own problems, and miss opportunities to reach out to others. We let “somebody else” do that. Sometimes, we even expect everyone else to think about us, too.

Ok,  I admit that this is an overly simplified view. Reality is much more complex, but I feel confident enough that it applies enough that I’m going to move forward.

We can be part of the solution if we are willing to work and change.

I don’t believe in changing the government to change our culture. I think we will be more successful if we change our culture first because the government is a reflection of our culture.

So, I’d like to propose a four-part solution to the Free-Range Human problem:

  1. Return to personal integrity. As long as we are looking for ways to “get away” with something, willing to shortchange someone else for our own benefit, or retaliate because we believe that we have been wronged, we will continue to add to an environment that looks to bring in the government with its regulations as the “big guns” to protect themselves.
  2. Respond when you have the ability. In “Response-ability” I shared a video that challenges the viewer to consider that that if you have the ability, you need to respond. Waiting for someone else, whatever our excuse, allows people to fall through the cracks and creates more of the hopelessness and despair that has lead to so much tragedy in recent years.
  3. Stop and think before trying to ask the government to step in. Can the government really make a positive difference? Would this problem be better handled closer to home in a grass-roots initiative? Is it worth having a bigger government with more regulation and more taxes? The government doesn’t always make things all better. It might actually be better to live with some risk!
  4. Encourage others to step up with integrity and compassion. One person can’t stop a flood, and sometimes, all of our combined powers can’t stop the flood, either. But, together we can limit the damage and rebuild.

Have you been following this short series? What are your thoughts about being free-range humans on a tax farm? What ideas do you have for solving the tough problems that are facing our society today?

 

Free-Range Paranoia

Last week, I posted part of my reaction to a meme which calls Americans “Free-range humans” on a tax farm. In that post, I suggested that part of the problem is that we have to decide how much government we want.

We live on a spectrum of personal responsibility and government involvement. The less responsibility we wish to take, the more government oversight we need. Of course, more government means more taxes. Personally, I question taking this path to “safety” because our politicians and government employees are part of the same culture that we fear and from which we are seeking protection.

paranoia

Paranoia

(Or at Least Fear and Distrust)

Let’s take a look at things that have been going on in the news over the past six months:

  • government officials, bosses, and even some of our favorite entertainers being accused (and even convicted) of sexual misconduct and abuse, especially when it comes to treating women like objects and inferior humans,
  • the opioid epidemic, with related drug violence, crime, and deaths,
  • continuing conflict between religious adherents and those who support expanding the rights of same-gender couples
  • mass killings, with continuing rhetoric over gun rights,
  • hate crimes and stereotyping people based on race and other innate, genetic characteristics
  • etc., etc., etc.

Each of these problems is big, complex, and scary. Even so, they are problems, and they are begging for solutions. Without solutions, there is a possibility that the safety and security of our society will continue to unravel and disappear.

When the brain goes into crisis mode, one of the first human instincts is to find someone or something bigger or scarier than the problem we are facing. We want to fight off the bully with the bigger bully.

So, we have created a political climate in which we expect our government to find and execute the answers, forgetting that these men and women are just as human as we are. There is no exceptional collection of intelligence residing in our nation’s capitol. There aren’t any superheroes on the other end of a secret presidential telephone line. It’s possible that our government is at just as much of a loss over what to do as we are.

But, having been asked to step in and “do something about it,” we get more regulations to try to keep the bad guys from being bad, the mentally unstable from doing crazy things, and so on. We also get higher taxes to fund the extra employees needed to enforce these regulations.

Reality

(Or at Least One Perspective)

When humans live in fear, we forget that each one of us naturally has quite a bit of innate power. We can make a difference for good if we really want to. Of course, that means we have to put in our own effort and stop blaming others for the failings of the world around us.

  • We have to educate ourselves well before we jump to conclusions about issues. Highlights from the 10 o’clock news aren’t enough.
  • We need to be willing to see slow progress, perhaps even just one person at a time.
  • We have to be able to collaborate with other good people, discuss differences in opinion reasonably and appropriately, and work together to create more powerful solutions.
  • We have to (at least figuratively) get our hands dirty and get to know the people around us.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, we have to hold ourselves to the standards we want others to live by. No one wants to hear the talk of someone who isn’t walking the walk.

 

Share your thoughts: what do you think has caused our government to become so big? Would a smaller government be better, or is a bigger and more involved government better? Should we look to the government for social solutions? What responsibility should each person feel? Comment below.

Free-Range Humans?

I’m drawn to memes. I like to look at them, see the perspective the creator intended, and then try to follow that logic as far as I can. That’s what I did with this one:

free range humans

For a people who rally to the phrase “Land of the free and home of the brave,” we really do seem to have a lot of government regulation in our lives.

How did we get here? How much government regulation is necessary? Is it really all about taxes?

Hmm.

Some laws and regulations are necessary. Without accepted laws, homeownership would be impossible, because anything could be taken from us by force, coercion, etc. Driving would be one of the most deadly things we could do — kind of along the lines of sleeping with rattlesnakes. Of course, we also want some oversight on the items we buy. There are already enough questionable substances in the boxes and cans on the shelves now. Without some government oversight, shopping could literally become a gruesome game of “choose your poison.” Imagine how dangerous buildings could be or how little use we would get out of a riding lawnmower.

However, it seems that we may have gotten a little carried away. Sometimes, it’s like we’re collectively a group of toddlers running to the government every time another kid sticks their tongue out at us!

Someone gives us a bad haircut? Make the regulations for graduating from hair school and getting a beautician’s license harder!

Another country’s kids look like their smarter than the kids are in the U.S.? Make some more laws to regulate the schools!

We don’t like the way our neighbor cuts his lawn? Get the city to enact a new ordinance!

The bottom line is this: if we don’t want to do some of the hard work of thinking for ourselves, working for ourselves, and disciplining ourselves, we’re going to have to have a government that tells us to do it or else.

But is it all about taxes? It’s possible, but I doubt it. The more regulation we have, the more government employees we need to make sure those regulations are followed. This means more government paychecks, which are funded by taxes. Sure, we have greedy, undisciplined people who make it into office and either find ways to steal the money outright or divert it to their friends and comrades, but they may be a symptom of our cultural problems rather than the cause.

What do you think? Are we free-range humans on a tax farm? How much government do we really need?

Next week, I’ll take a look at how I think we got here.

“Response-ability”

I was floored by a video I saw on social media this week. (I’ve embedded it below.) I think this gentleman sums up exactly what I have been trying to communicate in most of my posts.

We all have abilities. The only choice is how are we going to respond. This man could have grown up to be a bitter child who was embroiled by the negative perceptions of the people around him. Instead, he rose to the greatness of his grandmother’s beliefs about him.

What are your response-abilities? Comment below!

The Trap of Cynicism

I’ve heard cynicism is a form of mental laziness, and I suppose that it is easier to tear down the efforts of others than it is to design and build something worthwhile. However, cynicism often hides behind a mask of wit that at least appears to be insight.

thecycliceffectofcynicism

Unfortunately, cynicism costs us dearly:

  • We use it to rationalize our decisions to be less than our best,
  • We use it to justify our own poor behavior,
  • We use it to build walls of feigned superiority,
  • We use it to hide our ineptitude or our unwillingness to try,
  • Etc.

Personally, I have found that it is easy to be a cynic, especially in a society that is awash with cynicism. I find that, if I wish to be something else, I have to pay attention to my habits.

I have to look for the goodness of others without being blind to those who are truly seeking to harm me.

I have to put forth my own efforts to make life better while ignoring naysayers, finger pointers, and faultfinders.

 

I encourage you to join me.

What Would It Really Take to Make America Great Again?

President Trump ran for office on the slogan. Watercooler conversation often turns to the increasing number of violent acts reported on an almost daily basis. Corruption in politics, business, and every other part of life seems to be the status quo. We long for the “good old days.”

MAGA.svg_-897x494First of all, I have my doubts about how good the old days really were. One of the weaknesses of humanity is the tendency to be self-serving and to cross boundaries if we think we can get away with it. Crime has existed as long as we have a history of mankind.

Even so, things do seem to be getting increasingly bad. The peeks I have taken at the math suggest that, even if reporting standards were different in the past, the amount of violence and lawlessness really does look like it is seriously on the rise.

I found this quote in a speech I was reading recently:

“Gibbons, Toynbee, Durant, and other noted historians have analyzed the reasons for the fall of the mighty civilizations. The repetition is monotonous. In summarizing cause and effect, an American educator lists six common reasons why each civilization fell:

‘1. They lost their religious convictions and flouted basic morality.

‘2. They became obsessed with sex.

‘3. They debased their money of its intrinsic value and let inflation run rampant.

‘4. Honest work ceased to be a virtue.

‘5. Respect for law disintegrated and violence became an accepted method of achieving individual and group desires.

‘6. Finally, citizens were no longer willing to be soldiers and fight for the defense of their nation and their heritage.’ (Dr. Kenneth McFarland speech, “Bicentennial America’s Opportunity,” given at Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, at the National Convention of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.)”

Religious or not, there are points to consider:

  1. Religious and Moral Moorings: I am not about to suggest that Atheists are the downfall of America! In fact, many people who have consciously denied the existence of a higher being have high moral codes. The choice to deny a higher being seems to cause the consideration of the good of others and care of the planet. That is what religion does for the rest of us. We live for a higher purpose and seek to help and serve. I fear the greatest danger are those who believe in God but figure it’s not a big deal to worry about him — it’s very easy to slip into narcissism when there’s no sense of responsibility.
  2. Obsession with Sex: I suppose this follows the focus on self and personal comforts. Unfortunately, obsession with sex twists the mind. We begin to define ourselves and others by their physical appeal and their sexual preference. Personal value is no longer determined by human virtue but on one’s ability to please another. Worse, we begin to believe that things of a sexual nature are so innate and so powerful that they cannot be controlled.
  3.  Debasing the Value of Money and Rampant Inflation: I am not an economist, so I’m not going to say much about our monetary system and our economy. I do see credibility here.
  4. Honest Work Becoming a Dishonor: We have a welfare system that, to some, works to keep those who use it stuck in poverty and dependent upon the government. Search “make millions” on the internet. Look at the number of gambling opportunities that exist on the internet and in real life. Having money is a sign of success. How you got it hardly seems to matter anymore.
  5. Violence Becomes an Acceptable Method of Resolving Conflict: Turn on the news. Watch the stories about preparing schools for gun violence, count the number murders. I see people yelling at each other on my way to and from work all too often. We no longer seek to get along, we seek to enforce our vision of what is right.
  6. Citizens are no Longer Willing to Become Soldiers and Defend Their Country: Military service seems to be viewed more as a way to get a job if you don’t have any other skills. Instead of honoring our fallen dead as heroes, in our most recent military conflicts, we have claimed we are honoring them while using their deaths as political fodder to beg the government to stop all wars.

So, if you are still reading, you can see that the argument can be made that we have fallen into fatal decline. I’m certain others can argue the opposite — perception is a powerful tool of the mind.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that we have fallen into such a decline. The answer would seem to go back to step one and get everyone involved in religion. Honestly, I am a devoutly religious person myself, but I say the answer is no.

  1. Religion cannot be forced. Sure, you can make the penalties stiff for not participating in religious observances, but that doesn’t convince the heart or change the mind.
  2. We would spend an inordinate amount of time arguing about which religion everyone should be forced into. I mean, we are all aware of the wide variety of religious choices available, and not all religions are compatible with each other so it would be best if everyone followed the same set of ideologies.
  3. An irreligious populace of a free will society would not accept this sort of restriction.

However, I don’t think all is lost.

We can agree on a moral code. There are certain truths that are pretty much universal:

  • Life is precious.
  • The way we enter and the way we leave life matters. No one should be allowed to tamper with this without penalty. (Yes, I know we still need to agree on when life begins, etc., but this is already a long post.)
  • Self-service is short-sighted. Therefore, we need to live so as to honor the greater good.
  • We need to respect the personal boundaries of others, and they should respect ours.

This is too general to be a guiding document, but it makes an argument for holding ourselves to living by basic virtues and encouraging others to follow our example — regardless of our religion persuasion:

  • wisdom
  • justice
  • fortitude
  • self-control
  • love
  • positive attitude
  • hard work
  • integrity
  • gratitude
  • humility

The secret is that we have to live these ideals ourselves. We have to hold to them when giving in would be harder. Even when we think we have the right, we cannot demand these out of anyone — we can only encourage their growth.