The Last Thing I’ll Ever Write

I read a heartbreaking opinion piece in the Washington Post the other day. It was by Jamal Khashoggi, and it was entitled, What the Arab world needs most is free expression.

It was the last thing he ever wrote. We now know he met an outrageous and brutal end in the Saudi Arabian Consulate. We also know that Trump has absolutely no intention of holding the Saudis accountable for it, because whatever type of compass he has, it’s not a moral one. It points directly toward dollar signs. Which is even more outrageous.

But I digress.

Of course, Khashoggi didn’t know it would be his last piece when he was writing it. Very few writers do, I suppose. In fact, very few of us, in general, know what the last thing we’ll say or do will be. That adds extra weight to one’s actions, doesn’t it?

If I die while I’m still writing this blog, whatever my last post happens to be is going to seem more important than I’ll probably have intended it to be. I hope it’s not one of my lazy days when I’m rambling about stuff and nonsense. I also hope it’s not one of those days when I’m predicting the end of civilization as we know it. I hope it’s one of my positive posts where I end with words of encouragement. Because that would be a lovely way to go out.

Khashoggi’s last piece was appropriate, given his demise. In it, he says, “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate.”

Wow. Yeah. What he said.

Rest in peace, Jamal Khashoggi. You wanted the best for your country, but its government had other plans for you. May we never forget.

Last Writing
Poet Fernando Pessoa’s last writing: 29-11-1935 “I know not what tomorrow will bring”.               He died the next day, November 30, 1935.

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Mean World Syndrome

People alive today have access to more news and entertainment than any human being in the history of the planet. If anything major happens in the world, we are all able to find out about it almost instantly. We’ve come a long way from the days when a hurricane could hit Long Island without any advanced warning for its residents. Surely that’s to our benefit, right?

Yes and no. We also have more access to misinformation and exaggeration, and our ability to think critically does not seem to be keeping apace. That means that many of us believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. This is called mean world syndrome, and it’s a serious problem.

If you don’t believe that your attitudes are shaped by the media, then you haven’t been paying attention. Without its influence, there’s no way that someone so deranged and unqualified could be in the White House. Without it, none of us would feel the need to keep up with the Kardashians. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt that need. But then, I don’t have a TV in my house, either.)

If it’s any comfort at all, according to this Public Radio International article, the world is a much safer pace than it used to be. War deaths have dramatically decreased. We just hear about them more often. We all work fewer hours each week. There is less poverty and homicide, and more democracy than ever before.

And this article from Psychology Today also states that violence against women and children has decreased worldwide. We are more likely to die of old age than in a hail of bullets.

And, lest we forget, the average life expectancy for the residents of this planet is now up in the 70’s, as opposed to age 48 back in 1950. That’s pretty remarkable, don’t you think? So stop what you’re doing, look about you, and breathe. It’s going to be okay. Odds are pretty good that you won’t encounter any lions or tigers or bears. Oh, my.

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Being on Their List

I don’t consider myself a journalist. Nor do I consider myself an influencer. My humble blog is small potatoes, so I’m probably safe, for now. Move along. Nothin’ to read, here. But I must admit, this article in Forbes, entitled Department Of Homeland Security Compiling Database Of Journalists And ‘Media Influencers’ has me clutching my pearls.

Rest assured that when your government starts compiling lists, it generally does not end well for the people therein. Just ask the Jews in Nazi Germany, or the Muslims in Trump America. Lists are to identify people you plan to treat differently.

This could be bad for writers in general. Especially when the current administration hates the media so intensely that it openly encourages violence toward them. Not good. No bueno.

One particularly chilling part of this database is that they plan to indicate one’s “sentiment.” That’s kind of arbitrary and subjective, isn’t it? If I criticize the government in any way, do I get a black mark? If anything, I should get a gold star for exercising my right to free speech like any American has the right to do. But I’m not going to be the one compiling the list, and I suspect I won’t see eye to eye with whomever they choose to do so.

It’s not in my nature to censor myself. I’m not even sure I have the capacity. That’s one of the many reasons I’m not a journalist. I can’t just state the facts. My opinions are a big part of my writing. That means some people will agree, and others will not. But it never occurred to me that my government had to agree in order for me to keep blogging. If it truly gets to that point, I don’t suspect I will fare well.

First, they came for the bloggers…

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The New Dark Ages?

Back in 2013 I wrote a post entitled, “When Did ‘Intellectual’ Become a Dirty Word?” Little did I know at the time that that was just the tip of a very ignorant iceberg. I am beginning to look at 2013 as the halcyon days. Imagine that.

Ironically, I started that post by saying, “I really want to try to avoid getting political on this blog.” Snort. Now it seems like that’s all I do. But I can’t stay silent. I had that luxury in 2013. I don’t anymore.

Now we are thrust headlong into a political shit storm in which our own government is trying to dismantle our public education system. While they’re at it, they are destroying every environmental victory we’ve made since the 1970’s. They’re attacking science and medicine. They’re defunding art. They’re demonizing the media and all things that allow for the free flow of information. They’re impeding travel. They are clinging desperately to fossil fuels even though they know it’s destroying our planet. They are gleefully widening the gap between the rich and the rest of us.

This is worse than the Dark Ages, because so many of us know better these days. This is not the road we want to take. It only leads to destruction.

I keep having these dreams where half of us are trying to reason with the other half by using facts and proof and intelligence, and the other half is not listening, and destroying everything in its path with steam rollers. It makes no sense. The inmates control the asylum. Whose idea was it to give them the keys to those damned steam rollers?

I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Word. Perhaps it’s time to buy another one.

Don’t turn out the lights, folks. The darkness is descending. And no doubt we’ll all come away with something much worse than a stubbed toe.

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You Are What You “Eat”

I totally get why this country is so divided. It is really easy to hang out in a news realm that confirms what you want to believe. For every Fox News, there’s a Huffington Post. For every Breitbart there’s a Natural News. If you really want to know what’s going on in the world, you might want to consider avoiding sources with such obvious agendas.

A longtime reader whom I now consider to be a friend (waving at Linda) pointed out to me that the term “You are what you eat” also applies to food of the mind. The information you take in, after all, can change who you are and the way you look at the world. If you are spoon-fed hate speech with your pablum, is it any wonder you grow up to become a skinhead?

This concept is known on a basic level by the majority of us. It’s why cults try to control their follower’s access to information. It’s why fundamentalists of every stripe want their children to only learn what they believe, regardless of whether it’s based on fact. It’s why the present Grand Poobah is trying to get us to distrust the press. Beware of those who try to prevent the spread of facts.

Our current political climate has overtaken us at a time when digital information flow is at its height. That’s a toxic intersection. It means that misinformation from both ends of the spectrum is also running rampant.

Be careful. Question everything. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Most of all, use your common sense.

Below is a handy chart that has been floating around Facebook that gives you an idea of some of the more popular media outlets and their individual biases. I am making a concerted effort to stick to that inner circle and its upper halo whenever I can. From here on out, I’m going to try to only share Facebook fodder from these sources as well. I encourage you to do the same.

That is, unless you enjoy being the human equivalent of a genetically modified organism…

news-quality

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A National Case of Foie Gras Syndrome

Being force fed has to be the most horrible, helpless feeling on earth. I can’t believe Foie Gras isn’t outlawed. I mean, they stick these ducks in cages and then violently stuff corn down their throats to fatten their livers. It’s unimaginable to me that I’d be able to enjoy eating something that comes from such a ghoulish origin.

But force feeding isn’t just for ducks anymore. It seems we humans are getting quite accustomed to it ourselves. This most recent election campaign was the stuff of nightmares, regardless of whether the person you voted for was the one who was elected. It was nasty, brutish and looooooong. I haven’t talked to a single person who wasn’t stressed out by the entire process. And yet we sat there and took it.

We also allow the media to stir us up about crises that don’t really exist, while they fail to report on things that we really need to know. And we’ve become so addicted to our social media that taking away someone’s device can send that person into a panic attack. (When I tell a millennial that I don’t use my cell phone while driving, that I simply wait until I get home, and that in fact I can’t access the internet on my phone, they look at me in horror.) It always amuses me when people think they can’t live without something that humanity has been living without for centuries.

Is this just me getting older and more intolerant? Or is it all becoming a bit too much? Am I alone in this? I’d go live in a cave somewhere, but then I wouldn’t have internet access even at home. We can’t have that, now, can we?

Oh, and if you eat foie gras, shame on you.

mulard_duck_being_force_fed_corn_in_order_to_fatten_its_liver_for_foie_gras_production

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Fascism: The Warning Signs

Very often, I hear people confuse Communism and Socialism and Fascism. They use the terms interchangeably, which makes me realize they really haven’t a clue as to each system’s basic tenets. They have just been taught that they mean “bad” and feel that’s all they need to know. I find this very disheartening, and potentially dangerous. Knowledge is power.

At this moment in history, I am particularly concerned about Fascism. What follows is a basic primer, Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism, by Dr. Lawrence Britt. I will leave it to you to decide if these characteristics seem eerily familiar. Heaven help us all.

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Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each: 

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are wide spread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

From Liberty Forum

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