Friday, February 15, 2008

A Sad State Of Affairs!

Well, today I woke up to heart wrenching news. I guess I should point out right off the top that I stopped reading newspapers years ago. Newspapers are waning. Overall, print newspapers are losing circulation and that is a trend. They are being replaced by . . . on line news services. I also gave up watching TV about seven months ago. I don't have cable TV, I do have a DirectTV satellite dish here at the ranch, but I refuse to hook it up and pay to receive masses of programming I won't watch – mainly because I seldom find anything worth my priceless time. I do receive the local channels the old fashioned way (about 90 miles away in Washington, DC and Baltimore) off the standard broadcast airwaves, but that is going away on February 16, 2009 – just 367 days from tomorrow. I don't listen to commercial radio – it is boring and tiresome and monotonous – and, all too often insulting – both my senses and my intelligence. And, while I have been a public radio junkie for quite some time, frankly, as much as I do enjoy some features and shows (like A Prairie Home Companion), my mind is numbed by so much flap about the candidates, the upcoming elections, the war in Iraq, the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, bombings, terrorist attacks, murders, rapes, mayhem and so on – that now, I generally do not listen to that much any longer, either. I guess I must sound arrogant, but the sound of silence (remember the old Simon & Garfunkel song?) is golden. I can actually hear myself think. I guess that's not much of a statement on the state of our media from a guy with a masters degree (obsolete) in radio & TV from one of the most prestigious schools of public communications in the United States. But, then again, that's me – I just don't conform to a lot of things.

Anyway, that's the preface to my thoughts on things being in a sad state of affairs. This morning I did have NPR's Morning Edition on when I woke up. That's where I heard about the news of yet another mass shooting attack at an American university. Six dead innocent people plus the shooter himself, who took his own life. But, if that's not bad enough – within the time frame of a week, there have been a total of five shooting incidents at schools across the U.S. I'm not sure of the total death toll or the count of the injured, but I believe including the Northern Illinois University incident, the number is over ten people dead and probably well in excess of 20 injured, some critically. My mind is saying, is this Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, East Timor? No! This is the United States of America, the land where we are supposed to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Obviously, there are some people who have given up the value of life, they are usurping the liberty of others and, most obviously, they are NOT HAPPY! What causes someone to take innocent lives without provocation?What has taken them to the point of crossing the line from civility to, perhaps, insanity? Or, is it just rage. It is almost inconceivable to me.

Now, don't get frightened at what I'm about to say. I am sane (or so I've been told by more knowledgeable people then me), but there are times when the fantasy of going “postal” has crossed my mind. Please note, I did say FANTASY! I don't own any guns and. I don't plan to. But, rage can drive some people to cross the line from civility and sanity to losing total control of themselves – and possibly, even for a very short span of time, perhaps, enter the realm of the insane.

A simple example of this would certainly be “road rage.” Men and women, many, who are normally civil, calm, laid back soccer moms and dads, small business owners, sales people, next door neighbors, parents, siblings, offspring, in-laws, friends and so on, can turn into raging monsters with a one to two ton guided weapon – or even an 80,000 pound monster 18 wheel weapon of steel, aluminum and plastic – many with leather seats. Someone cuts them off or takes a parking space or looks at them the wrong way while sitting in a gridlocked parking lot that was designed to be a high-speed interstate highway. Their actions may range from facial expressions to obscene gestures to screaming obscenities at one another to physical assault and battery to shooting each other with guns to using those motorized weapons as battering rams or to cause one or more other drivers to lose control of their weapons and create horrendous accidents. And, IF the monster makes it home unscathed, they usually return to that mild mannered soccer mom or dad or grandpa or grandma, whoever. Now, some of these same people are the people who become violent and tear up, burn and loot their home cities when their favorite professional or college sports team loses a game. For God's sake – it's a game!!!! What happened to sportsmanship. In just about every game I know of, someone wins and someone loses. That's the nature of competition. That's what makes people, whether in competitive sports or games or business or anything else, strive to improve, be better, seek excellence.

Now, like I said earlier in this posting, I've entertained the fantasy. I've felt road rage. I've been so angry at the system at times that I fantasized, but only for a fleeting second, of going postal. But, to this date, as I approach my 63rd birthday, I have never been involved in any kind of fist fight or altercation. I have never entertained carrying any kind of weapon for any reason. I have never laid a hand on any of my significant others (married to them or not) for any reason other then to show affection and tenderness. I have spanked my son a few times, but never in anger and never with rage, or hard enough to be considered painful or damaging to his body or psyche, I just needed to get his attention. That was so seldom I doubt if I could count the times on one hand – and it was definitely before he grew bigger then me and could pound me into the ground like a fence post. But, like his father, he too is gentle.

Now, in an “earlier life” I found that I could get quite angry over many things. Some of the things that could anger me were really insignificant. And, to be very honest, I can get very angry even today. But, mostly my anger is channeled through writing or looking in the mirror and telling off the real cause of the anger – myself! I work hard at realizing that people are human, flawed and prone to often do stupid and insensitive things to other people. Some may do it maliciously, but I believe that most do it without thinking or malice. But, this brings me back to the senseless shootings of this past seven days – and lest we forget, I'm based in Virginia, now noted in the annals of history as the home of the Virginia Tech Massacre. Thirty-two lives including the, I guess we'd have to say, deranged shooter, snuffed out. Why are people so unhappy? Happy people don't kill other innocent people. Is there something in the water? Are we breathing malevolent organisms from our air pollution that are taking over our brains? Sounds like a science fiction plot.

No! I fear that what we are experiencing is the results of entitlement, loss of freedom, the waste of our precious time, unkept, unrealistic and unfounded promises by our society. There is so much emphasis on owning, having, getting, controlling people, wealth, money, assets and stuff in general. Why do the offspring of very wealthy people do stupid, illegal, dangerous and destructive (both to self and others) things. Why do professional and collegiate athletes – even Olympic athletes – pump themselves full of steroids. They want MORE! Why do people use illegal drugs – they want a higher high. Why do people drink too much alcohol and then, still too frequently, injure or kill other innocent people in car accidents or while drinking on the job – because they feel like they will feel better with a buzz. Certainly not everyone participates in these behaviors. But, have you ever noticed who promotes these behaviors?

Let's see . . . in many, if not most states, “you have to play to win” the state or Power Ball lottery. Why? So you can strike it rich and have anything your heart desires. Once upon a time you could only legally gamble in Nevada. Now, it's becoming big business in states across the country and you see so many older people pumping their Social Security checks into the “one-armed bandits.” I wonder how slot machines got their name? In many states, where do you buy hard liquor? In state operated stores where they charge hefty fees and levy lots of taxes. The same is true on gambling, lots of income to the government. Illegal drugs! Will we ever win the War on Drugs! I don't think so. It's big business. When I was in the military and, from all accounts, it's no different today, maybe worse, you could drink at the officer's clubs, the NCO clubs and the enlisted clubs very cheaply. And, you can buy packaged hard liquor at the base or post exchange or commissary at a huge discount from what the public pays.

My mind drifts to thinking about “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Huxley wrote it in 1932 describing a society in 2450. Here is what Wikipedia says about the book. This is just part of the summary of the book. “. . .everyone is permanently happy due to government-provided stimulation. The irony is that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating many things that humans consider to be central to their identity — family, culture, art, literature, science, religion, and philosophy. It is also a hedonistic society, deriving pleasure from promiscuous sex and drug use, especially soma, a powerful psychotropic taken to escape pain and bad memories through hallucinatory fantasies. Additionally, stability has been achieved and is maintained via deliberately engineered and rigidly enforced social stratification.” Let's see, we have Prozac, Zoloft, Riddlan, Xanax and how many other drugs, to make us feel HAPPY! Let's not forget “Girls Gone Wild!” Thie list is too long. And it seems, it's all because we can't cope with life and its realities. This hormone or that chemical is not in proper balance in our bodies so we can't function properly in life.

Now, to be fair, sure, there are some people who have some serious issues. I certainly understand, acknowledge and accept that. But, I believe there is a movement in our society, especially in our U.S. society, to believe that it's easer to pop a pill, finish off a 12 pack, take a good solid hit off a bong, snort a little white powder, sniff some glue, mainline some steroids and/or HGH or use any number of other chemically induced forms of soma to make life happy and wonderful. IT DOESN'T WORK! It's all smoke and mirrors and addictions. The only thing that I believe can make anyone happy is to 1. Have REALISTIC Dreams – albeit, BIG Dreams, but something to WORK towards in life – and without consideration of “instant gratification.” An number 2. is to just be real! No one needs everything there is. And, certainly, most of the time we can do without whatever it may be until we've saved and earned it. Happiness cannot be bought! Happiness does not come in bottles or little amber pill containers or in little baggies of shredded weeds or white powder. It does not come from accumulating massive amounts of money. It has nothing to do with hoarding massive amounts of STUFF! Being an out of control hedonist also doesn't work. It comes from within. It comes from healthy relationships with other human beings. It comes from loving yourself, knowing yourself, forgiving yourself for being human and accepting yourself.

Some people are saying TGIF today (since it's Friday). I'm just saying – have another great day.



If you're new to reading this blog, go to the first posting: “Welcome to My World!” which will appear the beginning of each month in the archives and you'll gain some insight about what this blog is all about.

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