Monday, November 30, 2009

Defending Yourself Against a self righteous environmental zealots

---- caution ------ sarcasm ----- attempt at humor ------ proceed with caution


The Hitchhikers Guide to Defending Yourself

Against a self righteous environmental zealots

- Abridged addition-

Foreword

The world is full of dangerous people and in this particular day and age we have environmentalist greeny types who want to convert us all to bicycle driving, solar powered, composting folks who leave no trace. I hear their message and present to you my strategy for you to deal with them. Good Luck.


Chapter 1 – Understand Them

Understand that they mean you know harm (note play on words, your choice how you want to take this). The green folks actually have an inner belief that the world is in deep, deep trouble and because they have seen our people sacrifice trees, plants, animals and species all in the name of progress they have assumed we support an all-out destruction in exchange for a good time. If you have ever heard the song lyrics, “we’re here for a good time, not a long time” by Trooper you have a glimmer of their understanding of us. They wrongly assume that the litter continually scattered about, excessive driving and constant purchase-waste cycle is a symptom of a sick society and we simply need to help them and ease their pain. Show them a listening ear that understands their concerns.


If at this first stage of dialogue they see right through your attempt and begin to use words that you don’t understand, that might be insults to your intelligence, then ask them what their role in the world would have been during middle ages? If they say anything other than kitchen labourer or stable boy lambaste them for the oppression of the lesser kinds and slowly slip away while they ponder whether your comment has any value.


If on the other hand the conversation is going well and the greenery is feeling comfortable with you go on to chapter 2.


Chapter 2 – Ease Their Pain


In the Art of War (Today’s English Translation: http://suntzusaid.com/) Sun Tzu spoke very wisely of our need to be strategic with the enemy:

Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.

There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.

There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.

In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack: the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers. ” Sun Tzu – The Art of War


You just have to love that ancient chinese battle cry, don't you. Makes me want to go out and buy a tank, but I digress.

First, do not start thinking that you can merely tell the green folk that they are wrong but rather take a multi-prong approach (see Sun Tzu above). Whilst explaining to them that scientists often get confused help them ease their pain and explain that the governments have their best interests well in hand. Help them relax and feel permitted to consume meat regularly, eat/drink/etc various dairy products in various forms for various meals/ailments/armaments. They need to understand that the pain they are feeling is from taking on too many of the worlds woes and they need to trust bureaucrats who love red tape and pondering research and direction. Then, once they are agreeing with you about their burdensome lonely journey on the road to save the planet, slowly undermine their belief in the unknowns. Remind them of how low the road is on the tiresome process of defending a future and wisdom that is well beyond their abilities and comprehension. You will find them entering a state of confidence in your leadership.


Chapter 3 – Entice, Entertain and Envy [EEE]


After you have whipped the green people into a state of submission to your wisdom, shock and awe then you must dazzle them with your best TVs, music, electronics, toys, gadgets, cars, sailboats, skooters, jetskis and all other manners of personal entertainment that serves no other purpose but to make you happy for a moment at a time. When they are smiling, laughing and on top of the world, remind them that this is all yours and they too could have the same possessions. However, they do not, and will not, unless they too digest the world and leave its wastes elsewhere never to be remembered, otherwise known as earn and conquer.

Chapter 3 – Follow-up.

It is important that after your first EEE intervention that you follow up with repeated bursts of EEE with the latest gadgets, upgrades and stories of heroic entertainment that give your greeny more reasons to turn away from the green side and continue on the path of fun.


Chapter 4 – Caution


It should be noted that throughout this process there is a risk that your former greeny out does you. If you have been reading along the way converting a greeny please don’t try to thwart the effort. They will simply end up trying to convert you, and you will get a headache. If you are truly successful you will end up in the envy of their non-green lifestyle.


We ask you to not look at any books titled “Simple Living” or books written by Henry David Thoreau during this time but rather that you simply put your head down, work hard and keep making payments until you get a promotion, win the lottery or gain an inheritance and then you are back in the game again.Go team.


Chapter 5 – Befriending Old People to Increase your chances of Multiple Inheritance


As stated in chapter 4 you will need more money . . . . . .

Riding Shotgun on the Christian Coach

Once we move beyond survival, the purpose of life seems to be the ultimate elusive question competing against a desire to consume.

Last night I sat watching my dog and I have to wonder what is going through his head with him not being in a wild environment. When my dog is laying on the floor just looking out on the world what is he thinking? He spends quite a number of hours alone just resting on his bed looking out on the space around him, and I wonder what is going on inside of his mind. His excitement can be seen when someone comes in the door and his hope that he will be played with or some other needs met and he learns which people are better at providing for those needs. At a stage in our lives when we felt that our dog wasn’t getting enough attention we gave him to another family for a while and when I went to pick him up his emotional outburst towards me was so unbelievable. I still to this day remember a sense of ineffable energy from him that I still cannot put into words. Just to make this clear, yes I was emotional but from the moment my vehicle pulled into their driveway he was jumping in their house like they had never seen and when they opened that door he would have jumped into my arms (if wasn’t a 90lb lab). For the first 30 minutes of that long drive home his body language, noises and looks seemed to be saying a lot to me. I was reminded of this just yesterday evening when after I picked him up from the kennel where he was for 2 nights he went through a mini version of that whereby for 3 minutes he seemed to tell me a story. So here is my question, while I was gone, was he thinking of me? And more importantly, how was he processing the fact that time was passing and his environment remained unchanged and not where he wanted to be?

The reason I share this story is that if a human is waiting for the answer to a question we seem to have a creative imagination that happily helps us pass the time with any number of combination of results. We can end up optimistic, apathetic or depressed on a seemingly limitless number of tracks to pass the time. Sadly today the dominant track that seems to garner our interest and imagination when we are not occupied with survival is consumption. Our imagination can happily guide us on how we might spend a million dollars or onto some fantasy of some cool adventure but it can also help us formulate some very tough questions about the mysteries that remain unanswered. I believe deep thoughts are a good thing, perhaps to not undertake that wonder is to slide back towards the likes of our animal friends who strive to eat and sleep as best they can? I think we can do better and on my journey with my friends and family I am particularly enthused by conversations that allow us to share our moments of deep thought.

As a non-Christian married to a Christian (I believe the term is unequally yoked) I am fascinated by the results of deep thought that are tracked against the bible. Where my mind may wonder a certain way, based on my consumed inputs from various sources and times, the Christian mind can choose to track their imagination against the bible and others’ interpretations of it. I realize that non-Christians may pick up on certain sources as being more dominant in their supporting research as well as any Christian but bear with me here. What make’s it fascinating is a group faith in a belief, a belief that the authors who inscribed the words in the bible were divinely inspired. We can’t actually apply the scientific method to prove or disprove this concept so it has to be a leap of faith to believe.

Christian tradition has passed along various beliefs through the bible and other documentation and being married to a Christian who, on most days, continues to enjoy her study and discovery I am impressed by at least one thing. I am impressed by the personal development that can come with religious studies. It can be said that the study of Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, could be considered a form of entertainment but what is most interesting is the potential that lies within to develop personal ethics and wisdom. Sit down in front of a movie and occasionally it can cause you to reflect on your personal life and direction but more often than not the movies’ conclusion has a dominating factor on the lesson. The same goes for other fiction but consider the impact of non-fiction reading and study. If we read about the struggles fo a people group during the middle ages we can ponder what lessons can be learned from these real people doing real things or we can simply consider the story. Read a story with the express intent to stir up ideas and concepts in your head related to ethics, values and life direction and that is a different thing. Religion is the oldest "self help" documentation on the planet with some unique twists.

So the interesting thing about "riding shotgun" is that you are there to protect the driver of the stage coach who is driving to a particular destination. It may not be your destination but you have a job to do. Along the way you have to watch out for bandits and you get to listen and take it all in. When you are a non-Christian with a Christian spouse you get exposed to elements of society, groups and traditions that may seem odd or uncomfortable but once you get used to the discomfort and realize that comformity is not the only option to be amongst the Christians you can get the opportunity to "Ride Shotgun". I don't know the map, I don't own the stage coach, I just hold a shotgun and look pretty until somebody tries to get in our way.

Yee haw.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

fast food ethic

Fast food can have no taste. No taste is the only taste that appeals to the masses. Fast food can't risk the cinnamon, garlic lamb kabob or the spicy mango chutney. These tastes are too specialized. They won't appeal to the masses. Ditto for movies, books, shopping and every other staple of our mass culture. Ditto for ethic.

Its problem is that it's bland. It offends (almost) no one. Offers no hope for the future. Carries no satisfaction; no higher calling; no inner solutions; inspires no one.
And worst of all, captures none of what we subliminally recognize as the greatest human endeavour: love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

moral soap

OK.  My last post was a little tongue 'n cheek...

However, there is one word that seems to me to be  within the specific domain of religion yet gets bandied about as if everyone knows what it means: agnostics, atheists, christians and liberals alike.  I'm talking about "moral".

"    of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong"

However, if you don't have preconceived system of "right" and "wrong" how can you use the word "moral"?  It's like wet soap, the tighter your grasp, the more likely it is to evade you.

Muslims know what they mean when they say moral.  So do Christians, Jews, and even Satanists.  But for the word to even be used outside of agreed upon religious contexts seems illogical and even deceiving (that is, in our melting pot culture).

In the general cultural domain, the word we really ought to use is "ethic".

"    the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc."

In our culture, there are only 3 rules:

1. You can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't hurt someone else.

2. Those who are in power over others (i.e. government) must do what achieves the greatest good for the greatest number.

3. Whenever possible, #2 must not have the majority overruling the minority's right to practice #1.

That is our ethic... for better or worse.

anti-semantic

Word ownership is a tricky business. Companies like Kraft, McDonalds and Nike regularly copyright coloquial phrases like "just do it" or "I'm lovin' it", immediately imbuing them with unoriginal connotation. Our language is permanently altered (and the alteration is protected by law). The revealed religions (that is the big 3: Christianity, Judaism and Islam) should do the same.

Words with particular meaning for the Big 3 should be copyrighted to protect their over use and dilution. In fact, if they had done so for "marriage" all the conflict over "gay marriage" could've been avoided. (No one was really using "gay" when the homosexual community grabbed it...)

Other words I propose are:
Faith
Moral
Jesus Christ
Mohammed
Prophet
Christmas
Hannukah
...And many more.

In this fashion, these words can avoid the cultural tainting they are subjected to and their "true" meaning protected by those who care.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

TRUTH - the path forward

What I'm getting at with this "fact" and "belief" blabber is this:

We Post Moderns suffer the constant fallibility of fact; of truth.  On the one hand history has taught us that no fact is secure.  On the other we are assaulted by facts so numerous there's no time to pick and choose which are justifiable, secure, true.

The inevitable result has happened.  We "believe" the "facts" that we "value" and this becomes our "truth".  Stated another way: we accept as true, the knowledge that we find beneficial, useful.  Often, we are not equipped to determine if this knowledge is actually "true" in the full objective, undeniable, linear sense.

This situation erodes the meaning of "true".  However, we will only notice this erosion when we encounter those whose package of truth contains items that contradict those in ours.  

The path forward requires an understanding of the unsubstantiated (but beneficial) portions of our truth package.  Otherwise, we are doomed to cliques and conflict.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The problem of fact

The problem with facts is that they're not really facts.  When we use the word fact, we mean something indisputable, undeniable, objective, concrete.  However, as happens time and time again, facts sometimes prove to be false.  We then demote these facts to "belief".  For example: People used to believe the world was flat.

However, upon analysis, you'll realize that within the time frame supposed in the previous example, the world's flatness was a "fact" not "belief".  It is only our arrogant retrospective that diminishes the fact to belief.  (One wonders: Why is belief less valuable than fact?)  People at that time "knew" the world was flat.  It was obvious.  It was unquestioned.  It was undeniable and indisputable.  To rephrase the example, it would be more accurate to say: People used to know the world was flat.

What do we know now?  What "facts" do we hold so dear that we have built towering institutions of knowledge upon?  What will the future peoples denigrate us for "believing"?

We have to know with caution.  Knowing has to be accompanied by value (Nicholas Maxwell coming through here...).  It is actually our values that shape our knowing; knowing what is important; what is critical. 

The facts are a smörgåsbord.  My eyes can be bigger than my stomach, but my stomach still has limits.  I still must eat what beneficial.

belief precedes rationale

This concept of belief preceding rationale has been weighing on me lately. The real question is: how do I change my mind? Do I really? Can I really argue myself into a different position? I find that no matter what I "think" (that is rationally), my "belief" (aka intuition, "spirit", will, whim) is more powerful; belief is master. If rationale wants to see action it has to win over belief. However, belief can act on its own. Therefore the only rational (hah!) conclusion is that belief is more powerful.

In the first centuries of Christianity, theolgions far and wide attempted to rationalize and systemitize the liturgies and beliefs of various congregations. This was for purposes of both unity within and defense against oponents without. Fundamentally however, their work was post-rationalization; the main themes had already been struck and agreed upon. They had to figure out "why".

This post-rationalization experience has not ended however. In the Age of Persuasion, as Terry O'Reilly paints it, opinions, minds, facts are all up for grabs; going to the highest bidder. Simply stated, belief reigns over the facts. No spin focuses on giving people all the facts; simply the pre-selected ones.
- that's just your opinion
- history is written by the winners
- you have to read it in context
etc.

No one has all the facts. It's impossible; that's a fact.

No wonder our belief is more powerful than our rationale. It is an animal that lives on less, can adapt to every possible habitat and requires no company.

Friday, November 6, 2009

too much - web 2.0

how easily are we flooded with too much?

whether it is too much information, responsibility, stress or any number of issues I seem to have trouble defining when I have enough.

on the other hand, love, fun, respect and other feel good inputs into our lives I think we have no such issue, when they are from natural sources. I think . . . . .

on a personal level we seem to be able to put into words what this means. we don't necessarily have the capacity or incentive to do anything about it though.

What about our community organizations and the people behind them? What do the leaders of these community groups face in terms of public expectations?

Enter the "opportunity" of using the internet to reach out to members of the community in their home and then the potential of the great web 2.0 to create opportunity for interaction. Great promise for real connection, right?

I was recently commenting (may have actually been mild complaining with an attempt to be funny) on a recent announcement by a leader of a community group in my life. He is the pastor of our church and I consider him to be a mentor of many (myself included) and an authentic leader and appreciate the effort that he takes to share his insight. His announcement was that he would be blogging on the internet and I quickly went to check out what he had been posting. I was disappointed to find that being able to provide comments was disabled. My "comment" was to his colleague and obviously I must have been looking for agreement in sharing this with him. Being "right" is far too important to me (I am working on that).

Anyhow, I find myself thinking about this expectation on the bus ride into work the next day. Is it fair for me, or anyone, to expect a local community leader to open themselves up to being a virtual community leader? Web 2.0 is remarkably good at enabling discussion but it hasn't exactly invented the - grammar check - or - clarity check - button to go with the - spell check - button let alone the - quality check - or - relevancy check - button. Is a human life in India or Russia or China worth any less than one in my local community? The answer of course is a resounding "No!", of course, but the nature of the internet and particularly web 2.0 which provided a new level of embedding interaction has meant that we can easily push those people that we look to for direction in to the "red" on "their too" much meter very easily with a global audience at the ready for their time.

So, where do we draw the line?

If we expect someone to offer us their wisdom and outlook on the world, how much time do we expect them to spend dealing with feedback on that information as compared to working on the next piece of information? Which feedback should they ignore, delete and respond to? Do we accept the risk that they can be harmed in some way by the words that someone can provide in their feedback? The freedom of speech, and relative anonymity of the internet, certainly has provided an opportunity for those willing to spread their hate in the world and there is a real risk that it could fall upon our chosen author/leader.

If we could get agreement on which sources of feedback we agree are a good use of this person's time, how much time should be allocated to responding to the feedback? Web 2.0 is great in that there is opportunity for feedback to be included with the content itself but many of the comments require a response from the author to provide closure or clarity and the comments are not always easy to respond to. When feedback includes intellectual challenge the time to respond to the feedback can take as long, or longer, than the time it took to make the original post.

Web 2.0 has indeed enabled discussion within content but can you imagine attending a presentation in real life where after preparing for days to present their topic and upon a successful completion of its delivery to a large group of people the presenter learns that the audience has had his content for days and have prepared extensive feedback, that they expect a response to, that is equally well researched and though out.

So......do I expect this person to turn on comments so others can provide their feedback when the audience potential audience actually exists? No, not any more.

In those situations such as my blog I think it is safe to leave comments on since all 6 of you reading this will not likely try to make my life difficult on purpose but to someone in the public eye and in a position of leadership there is a risk to be considered.

I apologize for my over use of "quotes" in this post, my quality checker is on the fritz today and I am too lazy to determine the "appropriateness" of each quote. Just imagine me putting my fingers up with each instance, give yourself a good laugh and then place your comments below.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

so, I don't watch TV but I want a new 50" flat screen????

In our house we have two 27" tube TVs. Both TVs work fine. There is one in the living room and one in the rec room. The latest one cost about $150 and is a tank. I watch about 30 minutes of TV a week, on average, and most of that is spent watching TV programs on my laptop. Only occasionally do I remember to put the program onto a memory stick and watch it on the larger screen. I do play video games on the TV, about 2 hours per month, but with the exception of reading text have no complaints for the size of TV for that. We do watch the occasional movie, but me watching is not consistent so no point in an average there.

So, then, why is it that almost everytime I get a flyer for futureshop or best buy do I drool and scheme over one of their huge flat screen TVs? Why do I desire for those TVs? The only thing I can think of is that inside of me I have a desire to impress my children, my wife, my friends and anyone else who will care to look at my TV that I have a big one. Sad.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

after effects

I wonder, in my thoughts and when I am out some where without a specific purpose in mind. The latter doesn't happen all that often given the busy life we have, but when I do get the opportunity it is quiet amazing how the mind leaps with joy at the opportunity to not have structure and to both consume the environment around me in sights, sounds and smells and sometimes get new thoughts and ideas triggered as a result.

I think about my occasional (read one a month at most) walk around the downtown of our city. The occasional person will be found that is not well kept and looks to currently be under the influence. It would appears that years of substance abuse of some kind may have put them on the street in this condition, judging by the wear and tear on their body, but one could never know without talking to them I suppose. I have to wonder though, if we could go back many months or years and find them at a place where they had not yet let a destructive lifestyle take over and witness that first taste of the escape they would find, or the nirvana they would experience and ask them if they forsee this leading to a future filled with hardship, pain, isolation, untimely death or any other number of side effets. I somehow assume that they would feel in control of the moment, or claim to.

Humanity is really good at taking the pleasure or the gain of the day and gambling with the future. Whether it is our use of the environment that we see around the world with a slow/no recovery or our "better living through chemistry" and science that has led to us finding out the limitations to the human body. In my environmental health classes in university I frequently found myself depressed as I thought about the content we were covering. Simple facts such as exposure to something we perceived as minor could lead to cancers years later. Not knowing whether you or your children have a genetic makeup that makes you suceptible to electromagnetic fields (EMF) that can lead to cancers such as lukemia is kind of a frightening thought. Of course we live in a different world as well where we affect those risks and ask our government to watch over them but what about the things we do understand?

We know where our garbage goes. We know the effort required to extract fossil fuels. We know net benefit of spending hours watching TV or playing video games. We know the impact of consumption in goods, drinks and drugs.

Are we living in the now, just a little too much? I struggle with this issue. As I have experienced the great joy, laughter and love from my wife and kids I have come to make compromises to further create opportunities for us to have exciting times together. I take my family on a lot of vacations and feel good about the hard work required to earn the money required to do so. I have expanded our vehicle and other equipment to get places and do things we couldn't do before and I while I am aware that it is causing more impact to the environment than before doing nothing I try to balance the impact with my other actions rather than deny myself those new opportunities. There is no question, I take the bus, avoid driving and make environmental purchases taking into consideration the impacts of driving a truck and a boat each summer. Do I think that if everyone acted like me that the planet would be ok, no, I am smarter than that. Do I think that I deserve this opportunity and some other person should not have the same opportunity?

Sometimes when my thoughts are wondering I think about the awesome life I have. That reflection has resuled in charitable donations, reductions in bad consumptive behaviour and smarter purchases but it has not resulted in my adapting to a way of living simpler that could be considered leading in any way. The other day when I was wandering around on my way back from the public library and witnessed the rough street person my thoughts wandered back to this place in my mind where I consider what I have done and continue to do. Have I considered the after effects of my actions?

What will my legacy be?