A Ukrainian genius wants Americans to know how fortunate we are.

In 2012, a boy named Artur Samarin came to the United States from the Ukraine on a J-1 Visa, and overstayed his welcome in a most creative way. Aided and abetted by an America couple who wanted to “help” him, he changed his name, faked a birth certificate showing him to be 5 years younger than he was, and enrolled in a high school in Harrisburg, PA. In 2016, the fake “parents” turned on him, and he went to prison, not so much for impersonating an American citizen, but really for “statutory rape” for sex with a teenager. It would have been okay if he were really 17 at the time, but he was indeed 22. After prison, he was deported back to the Ukraine. I read his story today, and reading it I once again appreciated how fortunate I am to have been born in the United States.

After he was deported back to Ukraine, he had this to say of his home there. “No opportunities, no money, no areas to realize it yourself. Coal doesn’t want to be a coal if he can be a diamond.” He also had this to say about his former temporary home, the United States. “There was so much opportunity, I could have thought about conquering the moon and going to Mars. But losing that, it’s the worst horror, it’s a nightmare.” Even after being deported he couldn’t stop dreaming about the United States. His view wasn’t entirely rosy though. He had very harsh words for the media. He said being under the glare of the media” was worse than being in hell.”

Be that as it may, please note my “fellow Americans” that the proposed fence for our southern border is meant TO KEEP CERTAIN IMMIGRANTS (who try to circumvent our legal processes for admission) OUT, while there’s virtually nothing to prevent U.S. citizens from leaving. I have crossed into Canada and Mexico from the U.S., with merely a cursory checkoff–in fact, a few times that I crossed into Canada, the U.S. side had no one in the booth! Hey, you want to go, bless you. It’s a somewhat harder trying to get back in to the U.S., or for that matter, into Canada. The point is, the proportional difficulty of getting in vs. leaving is directly related to the desirability of living in a country.

Yah, I know about all the problems: racism, Trump, white privilege, microaggressions, Trump, family separation, Trump, wealth disparity, did I mention Trump(?) of Amerika America. But if it’s easy to leave and hard to enter, and millions are clamoring for citizenship or some semblance of it, and only a few Hillary voters and CNN reporters want out, I guess it’s better here.

 

1959 was a great year for race relations…. in my neighborhood.

In 1959, I was 13 years old and I had just started working in my father’s gifts and toy shop. The shop was located in West Philadelphia, a neighborhood that was probably 90 to 95% minorities, mostly black. Virtually all of my father’s customers were black, as were most of his employees. My father and I on the other hand or white. And it was great, we have wonderful relationships with our customers, our employees and people in the neighborhood. Go on, admit it, when you read my title you assumed I was referring to a middle class majority white neighborhood with a few cowed, token minorities widely separated enough so that they couldn’t get together and pool grievances.

Be that as it may, the four white folks–my dad, two other merchants, and me, though I was a part -time–in this neighborhood seemed to like it okay. One incident in particular stands out. A black teenager came in the store, noticed that my dad was busy, then suddenly grabbed something and ran out with it. About half an hour later he was dragged back into the store, by his ear no less, by his next door neighbor who was the Auntie on the block. What I mean by the Auntie is, she was home during the day while a lot of other parents worked, so she was kind of deputized by people in the neighborhood to watch out for the neighborhood kids, and given permission to intervene if they were doing wrong.

How dare you steal from this man“, punctuated by a slap upside the head. “He’s always treated us right”, slap, “you apologize to him“, slap….Back in those days, we were too unwoke to realize that slapping a teenager upside the head will turn him into a violence-crazed drug addict, but not having easy access to either guns or drugs, he meekly apologized and eventually, my father hired him, and he became a reliable employee and very close to our family. We didn’t even recognize the microaggression in her use of the term “us” to denote people of her race, but maybe she’d get a pass today since her use of the word “us” is a microaggression against herself.

But not so for poor Aydene Militello of DeKalb. The 78-year-old Illinois woman is due in court on August 8 to face a hate-crime charge for allegedly telling a black woman during a road-rage argument that “You and your people need to take responsibility for your own actions.” It is punishable by one to three years in prison if she’s convicted. DeKalb County Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert signed a warrant Monday with $3,000 bond attached, and court records show that after Militello was arrested and booked into the jail, she promptly posted $300 bail to be released. “You people” is apparently more than a microaggression, it’s a “hate crime. Wow, no wonder race relations are so much better in 2018 than in 1959!

Where’s Karl?

I am a dedicated marxist, and my big conundrum is, which is funnier, Go West or Night at the Opera? Oops, I forgot to include Das Kapital. In it’s own way it might be the funniest Marx comedy…..no, on second thought, it doesn’t have Margaret Dumont, so it’s out. It does take a wrecking ball to Western civilization, but how can that compete for laughs with tearing apart the wooden train and feeding the boards to the engine to win a race? Yeah, I think Go West is the funniest!

Not to slight Das Kapital though, it actually was an important and carefully thought out book. Since it was written before the “Industrial Revolution”, most references to “labor” mean manual labor, but the economics “lessons” and theories are secondary to his political theories. For Marx, Karl that is, the abolition of ownership of private property is one of the central aspects to his theories as expressed in “The Communist Manifesto”. This is not simply meant in terms of owning a home or a piece of land, but more importantly it refers to the means of production. This is true in the case of a factory owner just as it is true for a large landholder who owns several acres that need worked.

To Marx, this was a timeless imbalance that harkens back to the feudal days and doing away with the whole notion could happen through revolution. Without an uprising the issue of private property and the associated inequities would only continue unchecked. In many ways it can be suggested that to Marx, private property was at the center of almost all problems he saw in human society since it contributed to and signaled unequal distribution of wealth.

Rather than dive into the intricacies of his theory–I would lose all my readers–I propose testing the idea that private property is the, or even a, problem. Take a trip with me to the year 1620, as 101 weary, sickly passengers of the Mayflower went ashore at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Plymouth Company investors initially invested about £1200 to £1600 in the colony before the Mayflower even sailed. The colonists had to pay this money back over seven years by harvesting supplies and shipping them back to the investors in England to be sold.

Each investor in the Plymouth Company was issued shares worth £10 and each adult colonist received one share and were given options to purchase more shares later on. For the first seven years, everything was to remain in the “common stock” which was owned by all the shareholders. The common stock helped supply the colonists with things like food, tools and clothing. At the end of the seven years, the shareholders would divide the profits and capital (which included houses, land and goods) equally.

Yet, in 1623, the common-stock plan was abandoned and the land and houses were divided so that each colonist could reap the rewards of their own labor. The colony had been barely producing enough food to survive and the Governor of the colony, William Bradford, felt that the communal aspect of the colony was discouraging many of the colonists from working hard because they felt they were working for others rather than themselves. When the common-stock plan was abandoned and the new plan put into place, the colony suddenly began to flourish and they soon had an abundance of food. Corn production dramatically increased and famine was averted.

So in this simplest of all examples, private ownership of the land with the incentive of earning the fruits of your own labor was the only consistent difference between famine or plenty. Sure, weather and Indian relations were factors, but those were more or less similar during the first 3 years of want and the subsequent years of plenty. The central problem with Marxism and it’s children, Communism and Socialism, is ignoring human nature and it’s desire for personal gain.

How do you implement a system that contravenes human nature? With force! Ultimately, Das Kapital and Marxism are funnier than Marx Brothers comedies because everywhere Marxism has been applied–with the goal always to reduce inequities–the gap between the wealthiest classes and the poorest classes has been greater than in capitalist societies. Why? Because the force required to implement Marxism necessarily leads to plunder, and the removal of the incentive of personal gain results in lowered production. What a yuck.

Talking about racism doesn’t go well.

Recently, I read an article from the LA Times, in which woman talked about having been invited to a dinner specifically for the idea of discussing racism. Her summary is, “it didn’t go well.” Why was that? It seems that everyone had a narrative depending upon the color of their skin or their country of origin and had difficulty seeing the validity of anyone else’s narrative. Well, that’s the thing about narratives. They represent our justifications or explanations or our excuses for our lives being the way they are. Is there any hope for improving race relations by discussing race relations?

No, I don’t think so, but there are models of decent race relations we can consider. But first, we need to define what good race relations look like. Is it the so called color-blindness? No, we see someone’s color and automatically and often subconsciously make judgments. I do, and I immediately question and challenge my judgment. That is a key–challenging our own judgments! Here are some excerpts from the writer of the article:

The other black woman in the room spoke next. She looked to be in her 20s, like me, with a similar dark complexion. I presumed we would have comparable stories, but she told the group she had never experienced any overt forms of racism. I almost choked on my food. I spoke last, touching on the overt and covert racism that I experience every day in this city: the looks and stares I get walking down the street in my predominantly white neighborhood; how I wake up self-aware that the color of my skin is going to make my daily tasks that much harder; how appearing too black can be dangerous. There is a difference between tolerating blackness and accepting it. As we went further around the table, I found myself growing annoyed. Not to discredit anyone’s experiences, but I was surprised that not one person at the table had used the word privilege; the privilege of being a white man, or the privilege of being a black woman who can racially pass. Instead of being open about the ways in which they benefit from systemic injustice, everyone took a turn playing the victim.”

Notice her attitude. How much of her narrative is self-fulfilled expectations and how much is objective reality regardless of attitudes? What if the statement of the other woman who looks similar to her is true? What if it’s wishful thinking or a lie for mixed company? The point is, we really don’t know. She doesn’t know. How can anyone separate their interpretation of the “looks and stares” from her expectation that “the color of my skin is going to make my daily tasks that much harder; how appearing too black can be dangerous.” Racism certainly exists, but whose experience is more objective? Whenever a black couple shows up at our church, I and many other  melanin-challenged folks want to welcome them, and often begin that process by trying to adopt a welcoming expression. But who knows what they are thinking about those expressions? Does it have more to do with their expectations than our ability to convey welcome?

As for privilege, well what about it? So I’m privileged to be born in the United States, to be a white man, to be more healthy than not (other than being disabled walking and hearing). So what? If you are a black person in the “racist” United States, aren’t you privileged to be here rather than anywhere in Africa or the Middle East? If you have all your limbs, aren’t you more privileged than an amputee? The whole privilege narrative is really a lack of gratitude for what you have and are. It is whining. Shut it already.

As far as models of race relations, there are some: ministries and private schools where the races work together to better the lives of the disadvantaged and “non-privileged; military units in combat and performing missions together; missionaries and NGO’s which are working side by side to minister to the downtrodden in foreign lands; disabled veterans seasonal sports clinics, during which vets and volunteers of all races serve and love each other (I wrote a blog post about my own experience). These positive examples all have something in common: People with a mission to serve others! They probably don’t have time to discuss race relations, being too busy modeling those relations.

Would Universal Telepathy be a good thing?

In 1970, I read a short story by Robert Silverberg entitled “Passengers”. It was about alien beings who come to Earth and infect the minds of people, using their bodies as playthings. Now in 2018 I am reading another story entitled “Mind’s Eye”, about the successful implantation of electrodes in someone’s brain which allows him to have immediate access to everything on the internet, but with a side-effect, unexpected, of ESP. I immediately thought of a story I had read about a future method of criminal rehabilitation that isolated criminals in habitats with only other criminals, who had been convicted of similar crimes. The idea was to create empathy for their victims by making them experience being victims.

You might wonder what such an idea–that of creating empathy for victims by having the criminal experience being a victim–has to do with universal ESP, or telepathy, which I use interchangeably with ESP.  Empathy–the ability to understand and share the feelings of another–isn’t necessarily a good thing, and therefore, universal empathy could destabilize all relationships. The one guy in the story who has that ability, due to having survived the implant procedure, is on the run from various factions who want to kill him. Why? Universal empathy can be dangerous. As one of the principals after him put it, “his ESP ability is an extinction-level event.” Is it? Would universal telepathy be a good thing? My questions:

1. Are ugly, violent, hateful thoughts more prevalent than kind, compassionate, loving thoughts?
2. If so, why? Is it because that is how people are, or because of the frustrations and betrayals in their lives, or because tearing others down makes us feel better about our own lives?
3. If we knew others could read our thoughts, would that knowledge inhibit negative thoughts? Would it increase positive thoughts? Or would we kill each other?
4. How much control do we, or can we, exert on our thoughts?
5. What are thoughts exactly, beyond neurons and chemical transmitters connecting them? Are all conscious thoughts encoded in language, that is, do we speak them? What is the difference between conscious, spoken thoughts and voluntary muscle movements which we execute continuously without verbalizing? What is the difference between unconscious and conscious thoughts?
6. Could we ever get to the point of forgiving and excusing the negative thoughts of others about us, so as not to destroy our relationships? What if the thoughts of other people about us are actually more truthful than what they verbalize? Could we acknowledge the truth and forgive, rather than hiding behind our facade?
7. If the answers to the last question were yes, wouldn’t our existence be improved?
8. What then is more likely, universal telepathy leads to more open, truthful, healthy relationships or destroys our world when people can’t handle either truth or negativity?
9. What if there were a reliable way to distinguish people who could accept judgment about themselves and still forgive (let’s call them the “forgivers”), from those who would react violently to being judged (let’s call them the “reacters”)?
10. If such a method were ever developed, would it then make sense to separate the “forgivers” from the “reacters” on the basis that the reacters will destroy each other and civilization unless they are somehow reeducated?
11. Since the reacters would doubtless be the super majority, isn’t it more likely under the universal telepathy scenario that they would want to kill the forgivers?

Wish you could read minds? How do you feel about your secrets being exposed? If you think social media violates privacy, you ain’t seen nothing yet.