Christmas Rant

In The News Comments Off on Christmas Rant
Dec 162012

It's just nine days 'ti; Christmas. It's coming fast. For far too many this will not be a happy season. All those families in Connecticut whose holiday was so cruelly disrupted will never see Christmas in the same way again. Their pain is felt around the world. 

I wonder though, have we finally learned our lesson? Will that tragic event finally be the wake-up call we've been missing as each new tragic even sullies our civilized lives? I pray that it will, and fear that it won't make much more than a temporary dent in the madness that faces us every day.

Living in Chicago too many have become anesthetized to the horrors around us. Every day we read news of yet others who are mowed down by senseless violence in their homes and in our streets. Each day we immerse our thoughts and conversations in the whys and wherefores, we shake our collective heads and turn away albeit in disgust…only to go on as if all is well with the world because the tragedy didn't hit us directly.

Something has happened to us. We've become a whole lot less sensitive to the preciousness of life and the people around us. Too many see others as faceless distractions in the quest for self-validation.

I personally think that in large part to the dehumanizing effect of the internet and the graphic enactment of violence in movies and video games. The murder of innocents is the graphic manifestation of the death of our humanity and our increasing inability to connect with others. Until death hits home we are forced to recognize that when life ends it's final. The dead don't just get up to live another day.

Our current obsession with guns has, I'm sure, a lot to do with it. We don't need semi-automatics and high powered machine guns. Those are tools of war. Weapons only make sense if they're used to hunt for food. Even hunters understand that guns must be treated with the greatest of respect.

And it's time for us to grow up and learn that lashing out against another human being with any level of violence for any reason is just not acceptable behavior. Because, after all, violence breeds nothing but more violence.

But there's more. Have you noticed how rarely people talk – really talk to each other? How many conversations are one-sided with one or the other obsessed with their own experiences and thoughts so much that they don't even hear – much less care about – what their counterpart has to say? Have you noticed how much of our interaction with each other is mired in one-sided comments on Facebook and twitter? How many throw out statements (some good and some downright hurtful) to the universe on the internet with nary an attempt to understand differences of opinion?

And, let me ask you. Have you noticed the decline of face to face conversations and efforts to pick up the phone and talk with a friend…at the same time that Facebook and Twitter has overtaken our attention?

There's still time to change the momentum, though it might take some effort. This Christmas, in the light of the latest tragedy in Connecticut, is a perfect time to  resolve to spend quality time with family and those we call "friends".  Pick up the phone and ask how others are doing. Invite another to enjoy a spot of tea, a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and make sure to have a two-way conversation with them. Hug a loved one a little bit tighter this holiday season and throughout the coming year. This is a gift we can give ourselves and each other that will have a cathartic effect on how we view life. It may even remind us that people, as a rule. are just as good and as loveable and worthy of respect as we are. And those who aren't may just be crying out for someone to recognize that they, too, hurt.  

Oak Park Nixes Gardens In Front Of Homes?

Business - Not As Usual, In The News Comments Off on Oak Park Nixes Gardens In Front Of Homes?
Jul 082011

Do our leaders check their brains at the door when they get into office?

I just read an article here that has my blood boiling. I attempted to voice my opinion but the comments were closed on the discussion. So I'm going to re-open the discussion right here. First go to http://www.theagitator.com/2011/07/07/does-michelle-obama-know-about-this/

In short the Oak Park, Michigan, has pitted itself against a family that dared to plant vegetables in their front yard. This wasn't in the thoroughfare mind you, which the local municipality typically controls, it was in their own front yard.

I'm outraged! First I frequently walk past another residence just a block away from me that has a vegetable garden in the front yard – has as long as I've lived here. I see vegetable gardens in the front yards of other residences in Chicago – lots of them.

This is pure and simple harassment to my way of thinking. Now understand, I know I'm an outsider here. But I'm appalled that any municipality should go to such lengths to control people when there are a lot more serious concerns facing us – like jobs.

What the Bass family did was replace grass with food on their own property. And, they did it openly without attempt to disguise their efforts.

Grass serves no useful purpose other than covering dirt and leaving room for dandelions and other weeds. And, frankly a weed infested front yard (you'll see lots of them in around town) is ugly – even if it's mowed.

I find all those funky plastic and concrete storks and statues that people put in their front yards a whole lot more obnoxious and cheap looking. Frankly, pink flamingos and elfs and other toys in front of houses are disgusting and cheap looking. But they're allowed to stay – I may not like them but the owners have every right to do what they want with the property they own.

We're supposed to be thinking in terms of the environment. And we're all looking for ways to sustain life in a highly volatile economy. What better way to do that than to grow useful plants. Don't misunderstand me, I love flowers and bushes. And I look for ways to plant them freely. But vegetables and fruits also have very beautiful flowers…they just grow up and give back to their caretakers an abundance of life-sustaining foods. Those foods are, by the way, a whole lot better than what you'll find in the local farmers market or the local grocery store.

When are we and our politicians going to stop looking for ways to control each other and start encouraging each other to innovate.

I welcome your comments on this topic…and I don't plan to close down the comments any time soon.

Vote April 5

Chicago IL, In The News Comments Off on Vote April 5
Mar 262011

If we've learned anything this year in areas of politics – it's that INFORMED voting is our single most important responsibility. Misunderstandings and sloppy selections can cost citizens dearly. Not voting can cost us even more.

April 5 is election day here in Chicago and the surrounding areas. What we're voting for is local politicians and issues. But there has been precious little information shared with us concerning who is running and what we're voting for. If you're not actively involved in your community you probably won't recognize the names on the ballot. The ballots are singularly un-helpful.

Local Politicians

You can vote for multiple selections on most of the positions. If there are four choices, you'll probably have four names for candidates running or you can write in others of your choice. You won't know the political persuasion of any of the named candidates looking at the ballot, and, of course, you won't have any information to evaluate the qualifications of the candidates, so it would be wise to get hold of a ballot ahead of time and do some research. Generally speaking, though, with four names and four names to choose from, we can be assured that the most likely winners will be those names on the ballot.

Makes a voter wonder what we're really voting for.

Referendums

On the other hand, this election includes voter referendums that could be critical. In Oak Park one referendum calls for an increase of taxes and one approves the the Village selecting energy providers for all residents who don't choose to opt out. This is where things can get a little sticky. 

The increase of taxes seems fairly benign – allowing an increase to cover schools.. It estimates an impact of roughly $150 in added taxes per year. But there's a discrepancy and it looks like the end result will actually be an increase of more like $500 per year. Check out http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/03-08-2011/A_balled-up_ballot to understand how this could happen. 

The second would appear to be a good thing, potentially winning some reduction of energy costs…IF you remember to keep apprised of developments and decisions in the future and be very careful to opt out if the changes are not in your best interests. I personally don't like opt out provisions when it comes to money.  It's too easy to get caught off guard. But that's my personal preference.

Nevertheless it's critical that we do our homework and GET OUT AND VOTE!

Decisions Now Will Impact 2012

If this all is a frustrating exercise in futility, let it be a foreshadowing of the 2012 election. And let this be the beginning of your personal effort to get in the habit of speaking up loud and clear when elections come around.

In 2012 we will have a lot more information on the candidates in the media. In fact, we can expect to be bombarded with all kinds of mis-information and in-your-face marketing from now until the big day. In that case, the problem with be too much bad and slanted information – not a lack of information. And the stakes will be very high indeed.

The problem with that election will be, that the electoral college will determine the outcome – and that may, or may not, agree with the popular vote.  In its simplest form we will vote for our state party and they will vote for the president and vice president. It's all based on complicated mathematical equations and juggling of numbers. And, beyond that, with all the money that's going to floating around between now and the big day, we need to be very wary about who our state politician are working for.

And that means Get Out and Vote early and Vote Often…don't let a single election, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, slip through the cracks.

I am not a member of a union, although I have been in the past. I don't necessarily support everything they do. Unions, like any large organization, are subject to flaws in the system.

I also speak as an outsider. I live in Illinois and so I don't have first hand information about the issues involved in the demonstrations that are going on in Wisconsin. What I know is what the media is reporting. And what I hear is truly disturbing.

That said, I stand in full support of the Unions in Wisconsin in their fight to preserve their collective bargaining rights.

A very serious illness is sweeping the country threatening the American people. My personal opinion is that we have never recovered from the first great depression. Americans have a serious insecurity complex that has laid them vulnerable to abuse by any entity that is bigger or richer or more powerful. The fight in Wisconsin is just one of many cases of society and justice run amuck. It's a telling symptom of the disease that's sapping our society. Others:

  • pervasive age discrimination in the work force.
  • the constant discrimination, finger pointing and demonizing of anyone who is in any way "different".
  • the continued elitism practiced in corporate America that is, quite literally, trying to force workers into neat little boxes based on whether they conform to arbitrary pre-defined criteria.
  • competition, taken to extremes, in an all-out struggle for power and – indeed – survival 
  • the closed-minded approach to business, organizations and individuals that says "It's my way or the highway"

These are just some of the pieces of a system of complex practices not easily isolated into individual component but all intertwined to promote a society where survival of the fittest at the expense of human potential and dignity is pervasive.

I do believe we're not looking at just how pervasive these symptoms really are. In fact, there are just enough exceptions to the rule that intelligent discussion is stymied. But at any level these are attitudes and practices that, left unchecked, could be the undoing of society as we know it.

Examples, for Real

We all know about about age discrimination. It's alive and well. There's a lot of discussion on this point, but very little is really being done to rectify it. The obsession with youth continues to dominate the media and marketing. And senior citizens struggle to reclaim a place in public discourse, jobs and purpose for being.

This country has suffered from discrimination and finger-pointing for years – most prominently since the early 1900s.. Throughout this time there's always been an underdog whether it be the Italians, Irish, Orientals, Blacks, Hispanics, and now Muslims. Each group has had to fight for the privilege of being accepted in "polite" society.

Women went through a stage of refusing to learn how to type, because they didn't want to be boxed into secretarial positions with no opportunity to advancement.. It's the attitude and practice that insists that if you are working as a waitress you're not likely going to be considered a prime candidate for a position in an office.

On job boards' resumes are crammed into pre-defined classifications and those that don't fit simply fall through the cracks. At interviews, people are judged based on their dress, their makeup and hair style as much as they are based on their attitude and skill set…styles change seasonally and those that don't keep up are left out of the mix. Candidates are judged by how many degrees they have and which universities they went to, and how long ago. While those who engage in systematic self-education are rendered suspect. Interviews with candidates fail explore a person's desire to continue learning and growing in favor while focusing on how many dollars the candidate contributed to past employers' bottom line.

Competition is a good thing. But taken to the point where we undercut each other and and refuse to work together for the common good…where we look to demonizing and destroying the competition…that's another thing entirely. This is what appears to be happening in Wisconsin. Get rid of the Unions. Oh, yes. Render anyone who is not of my political or religious or ideological persuasion impotent .. absolutely. The President isn't one of  "our own" therefore he is attacked vehemently and thwarted in every effort to do what he does best, lead the country. Some of our politicians are masters at this game. Corporations are too. Take a look at the the fight between oil and scientists and those companies that would pioneer clean energy, ecology-friendly initiatives. But these aren't the only cases by a long shot.

Have We Forgotten

Competition is a good thing. It feeds the energy that propels us on to bigger and better things. Once competition  is eliminated, lethargy sets in. 

Different is the stuff that allows everyone to shine. More than that, it's the very thing that allows life itself. Once we all become inbred to the point of same-ness…when we no longer are able (or willing) to stretch and explore we've lost the drive to grow. One person's experience and views aren't the whole truth. They can't be. We each see a different aspect of truth and reality through the prisms of our own experiences. We all bring to the table differences that, when incorporated, make us stronger and more vibrant as a people.

No one person or corporation or political party has all the answers. And not one of us exists solely for the benefit and welfare of the other. Corporations, businesses and political entities are supposed to work together to serve the people. These are all structures that are devised by people to make life better for all of us. The people don't exist to serve the corporations or businesses or politics. When people start hurting, as many are in this economic chaos, it's time to look at what ails the system, and fix it.

Rules and laws are a good thing. Absolutely. But they can't be absolute. No man has the insights needed to tell a woman what she can do and can't do. Because foods or plants might be abused by one person that doesn't mean that a law should be enacted to outlaw all use…some may need those very foods or plants for survival. Killing is against human nature. No doubt of it. But there are times when circumstances leave no alternative. Abortion on its face is reprehensible any woman who has had to resort to that will agree. But no man – or woman – has the right to judge another for resorting to it any more than they have the right to kill one person for killing another in self defense.

Human rights are indeed paramount in our struggle for survival and a more sane society. But one man's human rights end where another man's begins. We each are responsible for our own actions. And just as important, we are responsible for building a society that supports the good of each and every member in it. 

The Questions We Face

Where did this concept come from – this attitude that one entity has the power to control at the expense of all others? Are we still fighting the unfinished business of the first great depression? Do we have to still go back to fighting the same old battles of survival of the fittest and be damned with everyone else? Or are we at a turning point where we can emerge into a more civil society based on incorporating the best of all our talents and viewpoints to create a better world where all men have equal value and equal rights? Is America – and indeed all mankind — standing on one of those historic precipices that will significantly change the world as we know it for better or for worse? 

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