The Beast of Fear

I made mention in a recent blog (“Mottos”) that I sensed that, as Americans, our trust in our systems, politics and institutions has been eroded to the point of being broken. I ended the blog by expressing that I ached for us because there is the temptation now to not want to trust in one another, to no longer make room for our differences and to pull apart rather than to pull together.

This is one of the corrosive effects of fear. Once any one of us puts on the goggles of fear, everything and everyone is distorted, colored and tainted. We will perceive that there are monsters under every bed and around every corner. We will be susceptible to being whipped into a frenzy by persons fanning these flames while claiming to want to put them out. We will be tempted to grab our pitchforks and torches to chase and kill the beasts.

But what if the beast is in us? The beast of FEAR?

Has not human history shown us that time and time again?

After our demonizing, after our scourging and scorching, after all the lives altered, ruined or taken in our fevered efforts to make ourselves feel ‘safe’, every mob, every revolution, every society that blazed down that path has had to look back with regret and remorse at the random and senseless destruction that took place. The madness of fear is always clear in hindsight.

And no one was made safer. But some were made wealthier.

And there were still more beasts to chase….according to the people who chase beasts for a living.

Our challenge, more than ever before, is to not repeat those mistakes. We cannot expect to make true progress towards peace through violence and destruction. That is the lesson. That is the truth. We are all collaterally damaged by violence. We are all diminished by fear based blaming and labeling.

The social inequities and institutional inadequacies that have been exposed, and will continue to be exposed, have been festering for quite some time. Perhaps we were naïve. Perhaps we turned a blind eye. Perhaps we thought it was someone else’s problem in some other part of the country or world. Perhaps we thought we couldn’t make a big difference so why try to make a difference at all?

We’re living in the results of these approaches. They don’t work either.

We must ask ourselves if there are not better choices than only the two that are habitually offered, those being between violence or apathy…destruction or complacency?

Our country was based upon resolve, participation and cooperation. We knew that there were decisions to be made and actions that needed to be taken. We knew we couldn’t pass the responsibility for these things on to someone else or to wait for some better time. We knew, too, that we couldn’t do it unless we united, found our common ground and trusted in what we would try to do together.

For all of us, equally.

That’s what we declared as the purpose for our independence…

Implementing this ideal has been a slow, pain filled, educational experience which we are not done with nor will we ever be done with. Democracy is a work in progress not a finished accomplishment. Solutions change because conditions change.

The ideals, however, OUR PRINCIPLES, are what inform and guide our direction.

Resolve, participation and cooperation are what move us forward united.





We all know what a motto is, right?

And we know what separates a good motto from a not so good motto…namely, that we remember the good one.

Nike’s motto is a good one (Just do it).

Google’s motto not so good (Don’t be evil).

So a motto is a tag line, a slogan, a brief encapsulation of a core principle or purpose. They’re a condensed vision statement that is intended to be unforgettable.

Mottos are typically found on badges, banners, corporate seals, sides of buildings, billboards and T shirts.

The United States of America has a motto.

We didn’t always have one. We weren’t founded with one, nothing formally acknowledged that is. The Latin phrase, E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) was behaving as our motto up until 1956. Then, because of the Red Scare of Communism and the beginning of the Cold War, the phrase was given the cold shoulder. It was in 1956 that Congress passed an act, H.J. Resolution 396, adopting “In God We Trust” as the official motto of America. In the face of the atheistic, non-believing, religious oppressing, private property and wealth denying communist peril, we put our motto where our mouths were.

Our motto is found on our currency…our minted and printed money.

To make note that this motto has been controversial is to put it simply. But it is rather simple.

The use of the word ‘God’ in the motto for a country founded, in part, upon the freedom to not believe, as well as the freedom to believe in whatever you’d like, seems questionable.

Even one of our past Presidents considered this to be a bit of a sacrilege (whether it was a sacrilege towards God or towards money was not clear).

No matter. The motto is the motto.

My concern in bringing this up is that we seem to be a country living and promoting fear and not a country that’s trusting of much of anything at all. (other dimensional or not).

Our chosen motto is sounding and feeling hollow.

It’s like the Ford Motor Company having the motto, “Quality is job one” while producing Pintos.

There’s a serious disconnect here.

Trust is the necessary force and energy that brings a culture together and allows great things to happen. When we each trust in the goodness within us to bring out the goodness in those around us, we become more than a collection of individuals. We become a healthy and caring community, a nation of peoples united in that belief.

This is why the income inequality gap has created such an angst among us. This growing chasm is corroding the trust we once had as a populace that our nation’s abundance would be proportionately shared and that the opportunities for personal advancement would be equally available.

Most of us have serious doubts about both of these now.

We are losing our trust.

I shudder to think what an honest motto for us might be nowadays.

The hypocrisy of our current one, however, nearly unbearable.

I’m not worried about the word ‘God’.

It’s the crumbling of our trust in one another that has me aching.





Passing the Torch

That’s the metaphor we often hear to describe the transmission of a vision or an inspiration or a philosophy (or something) from one generation to the next. We pass the torch. We try to impart what we have gleaned along our way. Some of this may be ego based and self-centered, rooted in the desire to have a legacy or some impact lasting beyond our years. We have all seen how vanity struggles to extend beyond the grave.  We know, though, that enterprises, empires, pyramids and plans all crumble eventually.

So I’m not referring to that type of torch passing….the banner waving, standard bearer corporate mouthpiece or those who make a living by capitalizing on someone else’s glamorized and photo shopped public image (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, etc.)

I’m referring to the torch of the sea faring captain, the house painter, the traveling salesperson, the grocery clerk, the Wal Mart greeter…the everyday sort of us…

What torch have they?

What torch any of us?

Here are the overview numbers: over 151,000 people die each day (world wide), that’s        55 million plus each year.

Did they each have a torch and did they get to pass it?

Closer to home and even more poignant, over 500,000 Americans die of some form of cancer every year. I say more poignant because with a terminal diagnosis comes the real time opportunity, however short or lengthy, to attempt to pass your torch intentionally.

So what is it that we are actually trying to pass along?

I understand that whatever it is will be deeply personal. I gather that it’s a summation of  sorts…the distillation into essences of what we’ve experienced…the truth(s) we may have uncovered…the wisdom we may have earned…

But to what end?

What is the purpose, what is the impulse that stirs in us as the numbers of our days dwindle?

I have come to understand that what we so desperately would like to do is to help someone else avoid the mistakes we ourselves have made and the pain we have experienced as a result.

That’s the torch…we’d like to do our small part towards the easing of human suffering…for family, friends and strangers alike. “Learn from my missteps”, we want to say…don’t eat that type of mushroom…don’t stay too long at the office…don’t smoke…don’t take tomorrow for granted…and on and on…the things we wish we could just pass on so that no one else need suffer from them again…

It’s an act of love really.

It’s a torch that’s worth passing.

Which brings us, the living, to the question: Do we have to wait until the end before we try to pass this along?

Trickle Down

“We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness – embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.”  Howard Zinn, 2005

Income inequality, the gap between the 99 percenters and the 1 percent, has reached historic proportions in this country and in others. I was around when Ronald Reagan and his band of merry Republicans popularized and promoted “trickle-down economics” as a sure fired way to help the middle class and the poor. They’re aim was to pour gasoline on the fire of economic inequality while convincing us that their intention was to put it out.

I, for one, didn’t know that the phrase, ‘trickle down’, was coined by the American wit Will Rogers who, when satirizing President Herbert Hoover’s economic recovery plan, made the remark that the “money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes it would trickle down to the needy.” His remark was intended as a joke and everyone understood that. It was an insightful and obvious poke.

It took a Hollywood actor to sell it to the American public as a sound economic policy. At the heart of that snake oil pitch was the idea that any economic benefit targeted for the wealthy–investors, entrepreneurs, big business and banks–would inevitably and necessarily ‘trickle down’ to the less wealthy members of society in the form of creating jobs. The theory was that the tax revenues and spending that would be generated by those jobs would drive the general economy’s growth and more than make up for the tax breaks that the wealthy had received. It was a two part plan, however. First, the 1 percent needed to get their relief up front. Then, the theory proposed, there would be an outburst of new businesses that would benefit the 99 percenters.

The 1 percent in America enthusiastically supported any politician at any level of government who would endorse and promote this theory. Purse strings were loosened and campaigns were well funded for those who would hitch their horses to this wagon. We still suffer from that loosening today.

But the general public bought it. The idea was simple enough to understand. In a way, it seemed like it might be a fair way to share.

Long ago, the cartoon character, Wimpy, from the ‘Popeye the Sailor’ series would always declare, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”. What could go wrong with that?


Decades of financial data since the Reagan era have completely debunked the notion of there ever having been a “trickle down”. The 1 percent basically said, “thank you very much” and found ways to keep their windfall for themselves. If crumbs fell off their table of abundance or some manner of profit managed to spill over, it was the result of sloppiness and not a sense of fairness.

To be sure, the 1 percent were quick to find ways to clean all of that up.

And the disparity between them and the 99 percenters continues to grow even faster.

What could go wrong with that?

More Gene Stuff…

The Darwinian approach to business, politics and life is encapsulated in the often heard phrase: “Survival of the fittest”. I don’t fault Darwin. There’s no way he could have foreseen how his theory would be misconstrued and abused in the world of human affairs. The same could be written about Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie, Wall Street, which has its deeply flawed character, Gordon Gekko, pronounce flatly that: “Greed is good”. How was Oliver to know that there were many wealthy people and people in the financial sectors that completely agreed with that statement and celebrated its being spoken aloud for them?

The only people extolling the ‘virtues’ of the aggressor, the go-getter, the ‘winning is the only thing’ individual, the ‘eat or be eaten’ mentality that fabricated its justification from Darwin’s natural order of things, are the people who are frantically practicing those supposed ‘virtues’ in their lives. I say ‘frantically’ because, to be honest, that’s the only sincere way to practice this way of life.

To everyone else living on the outside of that mentality, outside that mosh pit of seething and insatiable wanting for more of everything, that approach to life isn’t very appealing.

So what if we have been getting it backwards? What if the ‘leaders’ of any given organization aren’t necessarily the most capable, intelligent, creative or caring people but only those people who are compelled and obsessed with being ‘in charge’?

To be sure, these individuals are more single-minded than most. Many of them proclaim proudly that they ‘live for’ the good of their particular organization. We’ve heard that claim from them so often and in so many variations that we assume it’s part of what makes up a leader. It never occurred to us that these individuals might be suffering from a genetic deficiency…a color blindness of emotion, an inability to feel their own pain as they sacrifice more and more of the people they should value to their obsession to have more, to be more, to be the ‘leader’.

Most of us simply wouldn’t sacrifice everything and all else for the sake of an enterprise or organization. It doesn’t feel right. We were never told to trust that feeling though. We felt that there was something that was lacking in us, not something that was right in us.

Historically, the rest of us have simply presumed, or been coerced into thinking, that these individuals were supposed to be the ‘leaders’ simply because they were running like crazy to be out in front as they climbed to the top.

At every level, leaders of anything are all vying for a larger portion of something. They are dispositionally greedy. It’s part of their job description: advance and defend the interest of whatever they’re ‘in charge’ of.

As a result, where they have consistently been leading us to is the only place or world they know….a place of constant promotion of themselves and their cause, of regional or national claims of superiority, to places of suspicion, fear, collusion and competition and, eventually, to covert or open conflicts.

At the level of nationhood, every leader seems to adopt the same stance towards every other leader. Namely, they all secretly believe in their hearts that if another nation had half a chance, they would try to take them over, conquer them, steal their resources, enslave them in some form or fashion, destroy/corrupt/ruin their culture and ways of living.

But what if this perspective was not about ‘leadership’ but about their disease, their genetic deficiency? What if we have been mistaken? What if…?

What if the meek were truly supposed to inherit the earth…the meek…the personality types that quietly place their faith in cooperation and not competition…that have and keep an open mind and who don’t take offense at someone else’s idea…that toil collaboratively and shy away from the limelight…that are genuinely humble as they realize that we all were and are still in this lifeboat called earth together…that it is far more important for us to pay attention to how we are treating one another than it is to focus on what we think we are accomplishing….that respecting our differences while recognizing our equality is to truly love our neighbor as ourselves…

The meek…they’re not weak nor timid…they’re simply portrayed that way by those driven with ego based ambition.

Yeah, the meek, the solid individual who steadfastly does their best and doesn’t look around to see if anyone’s noticing. That kind of meek.

There’s nothing necessarily flashy about being human…but there is a real tenderness, beauty and love available to those who look for it and practice those behaviors that nurture and encourage one another. That kind of meek.

Which, of course, stands in stark contrast with those who practice withholding support from those they don’t like and bowling over anyone they perceive might be standing in their way. That kind of ‘leader’.

Genetically Speaking

The current and continuing research suggests that our individual genetic composition plays a role, not only in our proclivity towards various diseases, but also in our actual behavioral choices. Violence, depression, sexual expression and a person’s sense of geographical direction (or lack thereof) are only a few of the behaviors that have been linked to a person’s genetic makeup. These links are not guarantees but statistical probabilities. There will always the internal and the external factors which blend to produce a unique individual. (The black and white argument between nature vs. nurture  has widely been debunked).

I’ve been wondering lately if there isn’t a genetic deficiency in some people that creates an uncontrollable and irresistible impulse to ‘take charge’ of whatever situation they’re in?

Allow me to explain.

It’s been my experience that most people are naturally inclined to give other people some space, room to breathe, in which to learn from missteps and mistakes. It may seem somewhat passive but it is actually caring at a deeper level…caring about the good of the person more than about the achievement of a given result. There may be inefficiencies and delays along the way but healthy relationships only develop through respect and trust. I suggest that this gene might be called the ’empathy’ gene or the ‘good Samaritan’ gene.

There are some, however, who have little interest in the interests of others and of their well being. They perceive inefficiencies and mistakes as weakness rather than an essential element of the human process. And while most people will be glad to help someone who is struggling or, at least, take a half-step back to allow the person to learn for themselves what’s not working well, those who lack the ’empathy’ gene feel compelled to step in, to ‘take charge’, to admonish and correct, to dismiss and disrespect the less than perfect person in front of them.

This genetic deficiency manifests itself with clear and identifiable ‘symptoms’ in a percentage of the population. There is a predisposition to find fault and lay blame. There is an irresistible impulse to step in and to correct whatever it is that they perceive is going wrong. And then, with certitude, bluster and righteousness, they demand to be heard, to take over and to lead the way.

Most of us, out of decency and respect, will extend some latitude in their direction with the hope that they might self-correct soon enough. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes and most of us do truly want to learn from our missteps how to do better the next time.

This is not true for those who lack the ’empathy’ gene. The patience that they’re extended is perceived as permission. The silence of others is interpreted as agreement.

Most people wait and are silent in the face of the ‘take charge’ person because of a profound belief that another person couldn’t possibly be that misguided and not see it for themselves. Because they have the ’empathy’ gene, there is no point of reference in most of us for that sort of distortion and disregard. Much like the sugar effects in the diabetic who is insulin deficient, or the effects of alcohol in the genetically inclined alcoholic, or the impact of peanut butter upon those with that genetically based allergy, those who do have the ’empathy’ gene find it nearly impossible to understand what life would feel like without it.

Conversely, the people who lack this gene cannot imagine people who aren’t interested in running things. There presumption is that everyone feels the way that they do, that everyone wants to be ‘in charge’ and that they just happen to be better at it than everyone else in the room.

In their own minds, they are, in Darwinian fashion, the ‘winners’, the apex individuals, the leaders of whatever organization to which they belong. (Coathangers of America, anyone?)

No matter what the costs in terms of their health and peace of mind (what’s that you say?), their relationships with family and friends (or lack of), the stress, the loneliness of constantly competing for everything and with everyone, the emptiness of arrogance, the endless battle to ‘stay on top’ and the constant sense of impending doom…they are compelled to be in an arena in which they are eventually faced with only people like themselves.

Consider this for a bit, if you so care to.

There’s more on this to come in my next blog.


I’m not alone in what I’m about to point out. People with far greater audiences, skill sets and insights are publishing articles daily that inform and forewarn. Yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t lend my voice to the chorus of genuine concern.

I grew up reading about the Red Scare this country went through in the late 1940s until the late 1950s. I know about Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, the blacklists in businesses and films and the hysteria that gripped so many back then. In some very real way, it was like a collective PTSD experience from the horrors of World War II. Not all the threats were imaginary but the general population was jumpy, hypersensitive and over reactive. We were easily manipulated and often misled.

I, like many in the generations that have come since, thought/hoped this period was a lesson learned and would never repeat itself. Now, I’m not so sure.

But I’d like to take us back even further in time. We’ve all seen the documentaries about the rise of the dictators and fascists in different countries during the 1930s. The question we frequently ask out loud concerns the average citizen, the general population: How could so many people believe what these men were saying? Were they complicit or were they simply cowered? Were they followers or fools?

Is there really a difference in the end?

There are a lot of ‘d’ words being used these days: despot, dictator, demagogue and demented. These are but a few. I’ve looked them all up again in a dictionary to refresh my grasp of their meaning and usage.

It’s alarming how closely they apply to the Republican candidate. He’s not in office but he is clearly telling us every day what he would do if he were.

To tell ourselves that he doesn’t mean what he is saying or that he will become responsible when the time comes is to completely ignore the horrors that have come at the hands of men like this before.

Here’s the thing: Donald has thought these things and felt this way about the world and people for as long as he can remember. I have no doubt that he has been espousing them privately to friends, socially at dinner parties and publically at business events. Never before, however, have these thoughts and feeling been encouraged or applauded. They were, most likely, politely received but never seriously challenged due to the nature of the monied elite not to burn bridges needlessly.

Donald’s decision to run for President was a PR move with no downside. If he were soundly thrashed, he could easily claim that he wasn’t in it for real. If he did moderately well, he could ride it for all of the publicity. No serious money of his would be at risk ever. If he ran short of donors, he would just as quickly run out of resolve.

And the unthinkable happened. His loose talk, his half-baked ideas, his impossible to implement promises, his arrogant school yard bullying found an audience!!! Donald is so giddy about this that he is actually starting to believe in his own bullshit…If so many others are buying his nonsense, he is beginning to believe that he might just be on to something. Maybe his time has come. Maybe he can vindicate himself to all of those dinner party guests and society types who gave him nothing but sideways glances.

But make no mistake, his audience does not include many people that he would actually dine with, or socialize with, or care to spend a dime on. He only wants their vote and then they’ll be disposable…”You’re fired” once you’ve served your purpose. His history is crystal clear about this.

It’s a classic demagogue…classic ruthless dictator syndrome…classic mental illness.

deflect-obscure-attack…deflect-obscure-attack…and with each attack, escalate.

Never apologize.

Never admit the validity of any other point of view besides your own and, if you’re cornered somehow, claim that you’ve been misunderstood or misrepresented by the press and say something else…


I realize that many of my fellow citizens long for a simpler time with black and white solutions. But that time never existed!!! Things have always been challenging. Good people have always had to summon up their courage and resist the drumbeats of fear, prejudice and hatred.

It’s time again.



I’m just saying…

There are countries that are currently and seriously considering establishing an economic system that provides a base income for all of its citizens. Sometimes this is referred to as a UBI (universal base income). Its proponents are intelligent, reasonable people willing to consider improving the current methods of implementing the shared social responsibility we all feel towards each other. Wow.

The advocates of this system aren’t wing nuts or radicals. They’ve reviewed the current status quo, discussed possible ways of either improving the system in the future or changing it altogether, looked closely at the numbers and concluded that, at the very least, it was time to propose an entirely new approach to their social contract with one another.

I’m just saying…we here, in America, have nearly come to blows over the idea of universal health care. A UBI? Unthinkable…unimaginable…preposterous…un-American…end of discussion.

Such a system would completely undermine the dysfunctional, bloated bureaucratic labyrinth we’ve pieced together in hodge podge fashion to waste our resources in the direction of those who have missed the gravy train. Of course, there are a great many of us who would like to see this system changed or significantly altered. Some would even like these programs eliminated and with nothing in their place.

Quite expectedly, this presents a bit of a quandary in the US. We have long prided ourselves as a nation of peoples created equal, who pull together and take care of one another. That’s the theory. That’s one of our founding principles.

And we do. In an emergency, in a crises, in this country, strangers rally to help strangers all the time. It’s not just neighbors helping neighbors.

But it’s the day in and day out needs of the troubled, the less fortunate or the economic nonconformist that we sometimes harden our hearts towards.

Still, anyone with a degree of humanity intact will continue to genuinely want to help the hungry, the sick and the less fortunately born. It’s heart warming. It’s reaffirming. Yet, most would prefer to do it in a fair and respectful way. Most would like to level the economic and social playing field by eliminating the poor’s need to choose between shelterless starving or the ‘loser’ stigma of living on governmental handouts.

If you’ve ever had to stand in those lines and go through that process and live like that for a while, you’ll understand how it feels. It’s unintentionally but inescapably demeaning. It creates a second class of citizen who is ripe for exploitation and abuse.

I’m just saying…most of us have had enough of our experiences with the DMV or the Post Office to be able to imagine how it might feel like to stand in such a line for food, rent or medical care. It’s demoralizing. It’s depersonalizing. It’s nearly dehumanizing. We become a case number. We become a case. We become a number. We become a…”Next”.

It’s natural to feel a sense of shame, of self-loathing and some general, unspecific anger in and at the situation. But these are only the initial feelings. After a while, these feelings morph into much more destructive impulses.

So I’m saying…if you treat a person as ‘less than’ long enough, they either start to believe it and act accordingly with a sense of entitlement or they decide to find ways to behave that ‘prove’ or ‘demonstrate’ otherwise. Not all those ways are constructive. That’s as mildly as I can put it.

The first referendum on a UBI was recently put to a vote. It was defeated soundly. Its proponents expected the proposal to lose but they have begun a discussion that is far from finished.

I encourage all of us to join in this discussion. Our collective path forward requires bold new approaches that enhance equality rather than diminish it.

Billions & Trillions plus One

I’ve come across the number, Seven Trillion, in several unrelated areas recently. It’s been used to guestimate the number of stars in the universe, the number of cells in the human body and the number of species that might eventually and conceivably be ‘discovered’ on this planet.  Seven Trillion. What a curious number to land on…in the land of infinite numbers, I mean.

I’m not suggesting that anything conspiratorial or sinister or coincidental is afoot with the use of the same number. It’s just funny in a “makes you wanna go ‘uumm'” sort of way.

It’s a big number. It’s bigger than I can imagine or wrap my head around. It’s big in the same manner that a billion times a second is fast. Only bigger.

My mind is humbled and quieted when faced with the true scale of such numbers. There are lots of other numbers to gawk at…grains of sand in the world, snowflakes in a blizzard, water molecules in a single drop of water…but, there is a particular number that seems to mesmerize and stick to us the most.


We totally get hung up on the number One.

Like it’s not enough. Like it doesn’t matter. Like if we aren’t THE one, then we’re NO one.

Before I get further along, though, imagine a star being a star and complaining that it was only one of seven trillion, so that being a star couldn’t really be that special. And imagine further that it was our sun, (that same source of light, warmth and energy that has fueled our very existence) feeling useless and insignificant…one in seven trillion, and wondering, what’s the point? A despondent star waiting to implode.

We have no scale for such imaginings. For us to try picture the whole of the planet earth as a living organism is like a single red blood cell imagining a person. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. It’s simply that we can’t imagine it.

And for us, as individuals, to be simply a part of, one amongst other ones, rather than the head of, the most important aspect of, the indispensable element of…is too deflating to our sense of self to accept. And so we suffer.

When I say, ‘to simply be a part of’, I am not saying to blend in, to go along or to be homogenous. I am saying that as we discover, develop and grow into ourselves, we do so most effectively and beneficially through seeking to connect genuinely with others and not by separating ourselves from them.

Our need to be ourselves isn’t what causes our misery. Our need to stand above, to be more special, to be more of anything rather than to be honestly the One who we are is what causes suffering.

Being honest and true to ourselves is joyful. Doing our best is not about comparing ourselves. It is about honoring ourselves. My best today has nothing to do with what I may have been able to do in the past…or even yesterday.

And it certainly has nothing to do with what anyone else is doing.