R U Offended? Do I care? (Hint: two letters, beginning with N).

I wrote my first blog post in September 2017, and have “published” 183 more since then. That’s more than enough material to offend……well, everyone who reads them. The kind of person who feels virtuous by taking up offenses for others–for instance, the prototypical white liberal who laments their white privilege by tithing 10% of their Facebook paycheck to Black Lives Matter– might even be offended by the title of my post. (Uh oh, with that sentence I probably offended some black people, Facebook employees, and white liberals). Perhaps I should quit while I’m not ahead…..or perhaps we should admit, it’s just too damn easy to get offended these days. That’s what happens when getting offended feels virtuous.

Giving offense is not my purpose though. I write my blog to show my children what’s going on in my head, to provoke debates with readers, and to make the time pass more quickly, leisure time being something I have entirely too much of. Let’s first understand the nature of offense itself. Coming from me, an attempt to explain offense is like a person with anorexia nervosa giving a lecture on how to avoid obesity. I have never said or thought to myself (or to anyone else) “I am offended” or “that offends me.” I must have been behind the proverbial door when the gene for being offended was given out. What, you say “there’s no gene for that?” There must be, it’s 2018, there’s a gene for everything! We just haven’t found it yet. But I digress.

Now for some ancient history. Back in 2014 Seb Pearce, a Melbourne-based web developer, created the New Age Bullshit Generator. You can find it here bs generator

Dedicated to the principle “Ridicule can be more persuasive than reason when it’s done right”, the lead-in for the generator goes like this:  “Namaste. Do you want to sell a New Age product and/or service? Tired of coming up with meaningless copy for your starry-eyed customers? Want to join the ranks of bestselling self-help authors? We can help. Just click and the truth will manifest. Click the Reionize electrons button at the top of the page to generate a full page of New Age poppycock.”

I included this topic because it is addressed to a group of people who, like me, claim to be beyond offense. I mean the ones who float rather than walk, hands tented in front of them in a gesture of universal peace, radiating perfect serenity…until jostled by some redneck lout in a wife-beater tshirt, who just came from a county fair, remnants of funnel cake still in his beard…well, you get the idea. Apparently, a lot of New Age types WERE offended at his generator, because they don’t like being mocked. Seb addresses their offense: “Lastly, to the people it offended: don’t worry. This is just a digital manifestation of the infinite being mocking itself through quantum pulses of energy. And who is the “I” who is offended, anyway?

Getting more rational, let’s delve into the nature of this thing called offense. Is offense an actual emotion, or is it an interpretation of a feeling such as anger? Neuroscientist Lisa Barrett wrote a book called How Emotions Are Made. (For you millennials, a book is like a video that isn’t animated–unless it’s been made into a movie–and is mostly words, rather than pictures–unless it’s graphic novel–the words are written rather than played–unless it’s been made into an audio book. Wow, that’s a lot of words trying to offend millennials). She was interviewed on TheVerge.com. This excerpt, in italics, teaches a crucial truth about offense: 

“I’m fascinated by the link between language and emotion. Are you saying that if we don’t have a word for an emotion, we can’t feel it? Here’s an example: you probably had experienced schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune) without knowing the word, but your brain would have to work really hard to construct those concepts and make those emotions. You would take a long time to describe it. But if you know the word, if you hear the word often, then it becomes much more automatic, just like driving a car. It gets triggered more easily and you can feel it more easily.  Does understanding that emotions are constructed help us control them? It’s never going to be the case that it’s effortless and never the case that you can snap your fingers and just change how you feel. But learning new emotion words is good because you can learn to feel more subtle emotions, and that makes you better at regulating your emotions. For example, you can learn to distinguish between distress and discomfort. This is partly why mindfulness meditation is so useful to people who have chronic pain — it lets you separate out the physical discomfort from the distress.

I have, for a long time now, viewed the state of being offended as a choice, and a way that other people interpreted their emotion of anger. If someone intends to insult or offend, they can be critical of us personally or our behavior, critical of a group we are part of (white, male, citizen of USA, Christians for me) or critical of what we believe in. For my part, it doesn’t matter–none of it triggers anger. What is triggered is either curiosity (“Why would he think I would care about his opinion of me?”) if it’s a personal criticism, or humor (“He sure is plumbing the depths of his vocabulary to try to provoke a reaction.”) if he’s trying really hard. In fact, my non reaction often evokes anger in the other–bullies hate it when they don’t get a rise out of you. But the main thing is that I can learn about myself through criticism, so even before curiosity or humor, my initial reaction is “what about that is true?” Then, “should I change my behavior or attitude?”

I am going to give my friend Robert Andrews the final word on how to deal rightly when you have offended others (it is a waste of time to deal with those who are offending you): “It would appear to me that repentance and forgiveness are both for personal individual sins committed against personal individual persons, not national policies or decisions. Repentance, from breaking only real, live biblical injunctions, always comes first. If forgiveness is first without recognizing my sin in the conflict (even if it is simply “taking into account a wrong suffered” which true love does not do – 1 Corinthians 13:5) I get to be on the white horse – I am magnanimously forgiving your wicked sin. If I am truly repentant I am seeing the issue as “my fault,” I do not even “take into account a wrong suffered,”  because I am too busy rejoicing that my own sin is totally forgiven! Repentance is the cause, forgiveness is the naturally, spontaneously occurring result.” I say Amen.

 

 

Two nations founded on the idea of worship without persecution.

(Author’s note: This post, beginning with the featured image, is guaranteed to offend and anger many. Ask me if I care.) There are many nations on this earth in 2018. 193 are members of the U.N. The U stands for United. Talk about euphemisms…but I digress. Only 2 of those 193 were founded on an idea, the desire to worship without being persecuted. The rest of the nations are the result of conquest, wars, partition of other countries, revolutions and so forth. To say they were founded on an idea is not to say these people found uninhabited land somewhere, laid claim, settled on it and grew from there. Such would not be true of ANY modern nation. All nations displaced or absorbed indigenous peoples.

It is no surprise that these two nations are staunch allies, since their religions have the same origins. Bat-Ami Zucker wrote, in the Jewisharchives.org: The uniqueness of America’s relationship with Israel has drawn much attention. Even though their relationship has not been formalized, the two countries are bound together by a bond that in practice has been as strong as any alliance, written or unwritten. Fascinated by the tie between Israel and the United States, especially in view of the immense disparity “in size, power, and international role between the two countries,” many scholars have sought to examine its motivations. Similarities in the origins and history of the two countries stimulated American understanding, sympathy, and nostalgia. Its pioneering spirit was often compared with that of the American pioneers. For Americans, dedicated to the idea of achievement and progress, Israel’s accomplishments were seen as “little short of a miracle. Moreover, Israel’s economic success was seen as an example of what could be attained “through determination, hard work and application of modern technology.” 

As of April, 2018, the two countries have something else in common: Thousands of poor, unarmed people attempting to invade their borders “without bloodshed.” This is indeed a noble idea, and destined to fail. The “caravan” of 3,000-5,000 Hondurans (and probably assorted others from Central America) is heading for the U.S. and far more than that number of Gazans is trying to breach their border with Israel. Some things differ: The Gazans are claiming a “right of return” to lands that they and their ancestors left 70 years ago; the Hondurans say they want a safe place to live, which doesn’t give them any choice of direction other than north. The Gazans share their border with Israel; the Hondurans have to pass through Guatemala (as violent a mess as Honduras) and Mexico (also hardly a haven of peace) to even reach the border of the U.S. 

These things are similar: Neither group is getting over the border; while the majority of each group are peaceful and essentially are seeking a better life, it is all but certain that there are terrorists in their midst; neither group has expressed a desire to assimilate into the nation they are attempting to invade, nor are they likely to adopt the language and culture thereof. But the most glaring similarity between these groups is this: They have been victimized by their own people/government!

About 4 million Palestinian refugees live in Gaza, and the West Bank. Their ruling authorities have received billions in foreign aid, with what result? From Medialine, 2017: After the establishment in the mid-90s of autonomous Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza, many governments began providing the Palestinians with huge sums of foreign aid. The United States is the biggest of some 20-odd donors, followed by European bodies and states. Since 2008, the Palestinian economy has grown by a remarkable 64 percent, but the population still struggles with both high unemployment rates and is harmed by Israeli restrictions on trade in the West Bank and the blockade on the Gaza Strip. (author note: See below reasons for Israeli actions). “Today, the Palestinian Gross Domestic Product is some $8 billion annually, but living standards remain low as many lack the resources to create jobs and the skillsets to fill them.”

Where has most of the money gone? Rockets for Hamas to attack Israel, paying families of suicide bombers, rebuilding homes torn down by Israel in response to terrorism, and Swiss bank accounts for their “leadership”. (“The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has just discovered what every Palestinian child knows — that hundreds of millions of dollars had been embezzled during the era of Yasser Arafat.” The Gatestone Institute.)

The Hondurans were also victimized by corruption on the part of their “leadership”, which allowed the extreme violence of narco cartels to flourish. We all, including the U.S.A., get the government we deserve. However, despite all that, I would like to see my country have an effective vetting process for deserving refugees. The USA is large enough to accommodate AND assimilate large numbers of refugees who want to live better lives, learn our language, embrace our history and founding principles…E PLURIBUS UNUM after all (Remember Algore saying that was latin for diversity, i.e. from the one, many? Hey Al, it is latin, but translates to “from the many, one.”) We used to call it the “melting pot.”

Am I sympathetic to the plight of these refugees? Yes. Will it matter? No. They aren’t getting in. When fleeing the mess in their own countries a non-option, perhaps what is left for them is to clean up the mess within their own borders. That, or a non-future in new refugee camps outside their borders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White privilege and whining your way off the cliff.

(Apologies to Douglas Wilson for stealing his featured image. My lame excuse is that I laugh every time I think of it.) Okay, let’s get this out of the way. I am white–melanin-challenged, Caucasian–privileged to be born in the USA, privileged to have been exposed to and embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ, privileged to have the attitude of making myself indispensable in little ways as an antidote to whining. My heros are Booker T. Washington and, in the Bible, Joseph and Daniel, my anti-heroes are whiners. I have no sympathy for those who live by complaint–no matter their circumstances–as a substitute for finding tiny, incremental ways to better their circumstances and those around them. It really is “all about the attitude.” See Genesis 37:1-36 and Genesis 39:1-23 for a lesson in attitude!

Then there’s Mr. Washington:  Booker and John were sent to work alongside their stepfather packing salt into barrels. Nine-year-old Booker despised the work, but found one benefit of the job: he learned to recognize his numbers by taking note of those written on the sides of the salt barrels.

Like many former slaves during the post-Civil War era, Booker longed to learn how to read and write. He was thrilled when his mother gave him a spelling book and soon taught himself the alphabet. When a black school opened in a nearby community, Booker begged to go, but his stepfather refused, insisting that the family needed the money he brought in from the salt packing. Booker eventually found a way to attend school at night. When Booker was ten years old, his stepfather took him out of school and sent him to work in the nearby coal mines. Booker had been working there for nearly two years when an opportunity came along that would change his life for the better.

In 1868, 12-year-old Booker T. Washington found a job as a houseboy in the home of the wealthiest couple in Malden, General Lewis Ruffner, and his wife, Viola. Mrs. Ruffner was known for her high standards and strict manner. Washington, responsible for cleaning the house and other chores, worked hard to please his new employer. Mrs. Ruffner, a former teacher, recognized in Washington a sense of purpose and a commitment to improving himself. She allowed him to attend school for an hour a day.

Determined to continue his education, 16-year-old Washington left the Ruffner household in 1872 to attend Hampton Institute, a school for blacks in Virginia. After a journey of over 300 miles — traveled by train, stagecoach, and on foot — Washington arrived at Hampton Institute in October 1872. Miss Mackie, the principal at Hampton, was not entirely convinced that the young country boy deserved a place at her school. She asked Washington to clean and sweep a recitation room for her; he did the job so thoroughly that Miss Mackie pronounced him fit for admission. The lines in bold highlight his attitude within his circumstances.

Perhaps the best known example in our modern world of terrible circumstances, where decades of whining and billions in “aid” have only made things worse, is the Palestinians in Gaza. I already wrote a post about that. gaza The bottom line to whiners of the world is this: IF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES STINK AND YOU THINK YOU HAVE NO POWER, YOU STILL HAVE THE POWER TO SERVE WELL AND LIFT YOURSELF AND OTHERS A LITTLE. EVEN A LITTLE LEADS UPWARD; IF YOUR PATH HAS BEEN DOWNWARD, YOU CAN STILL BE A JOSEPH OR A BOOKER…EVEN A LITTLE.

Vote for me, or starve. The ultimate socialist winning strategy.

April 1, 2018 (the following is NOT an April fool’s joke): Venezuela is perhaps the ultimate socialist experiment in our century. According to the Wall St. Journal, inflation is expected to be only 13,000% this year (back in 2016 CNN said that inflation was expected to “catapult” to 700%). Three quarters of the population have lost an average of 19 lbs. since last year. In May, 2018, a new election for the national ruling body will occur, and millions of people who hate dictator president Maduro will still vote for his ruling party because if they don’t they may lose their food subsidies, and therefore will starve. This election is so crooked that more than a dozen Western hemisphere countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico say they won’t even recognize the results of the election. The ruling party is called the Socialist Party. Big surprise isn’t it!

Why is this happening? Madura knows. “It’s a CIA plot.” Un huh. So much has already been written and I have nothing new to add…except to reiterate my boundless contempt for socialist tools–which includes a lot of clueless millennials here in the U.S. You know, the ones who have it better than they deserve, never heard of a thing called gratitude, and when asked to give their opinion on Venezuela–or other socialist hellholes–say “maybe we should give it a chance here….”