Uncommon Sense

August 18, 2022

The Fear of Death

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:01 pm
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Many talks about religion and existential philosophy harken to the fear of death. As someone who is much nearer his own death than might be comfortable I find this puzzling.

Recently I saw a video clip shown on a cable TV show, of a mountain lion walking up a trail toward the camera. The lion saw whoever was holding the camera and lowered its head as it moved forward. Then it raised up on its hind legs stretched out his front legs with claws exposed and rushed the camera running on its hind legs. The clip ended at that point. Possibly the video was recovered from the bloody remains of photographer, I don’t know. What I do know is I had a very, very, (Very!) visceral sense of fear even though I wasn’t anywhere near the actual lion. My heart palpitated, my breathing became shallow, etc. That is what I call a “fear of death.” Imagine being nose-to-nose with a vicious predator about to rip you to shreds. That is fear of death. Hanging from a rope off of the edge of a tall building and you are losing your grip. What you feel is the fear of death.

What these theologians and philosophers are talking about is some intellectual, vague, diluted fear associated with not knowing what will happen when they die. There is uncertainty about whether there will be pain, unlike the scenarios above when pain is guaranteed.

I was a tad shocked when my favorite Medium.com author posted an article with this:

The fear of death isn’t just an emotion or a willed preference to avoid something. Instead, the thought of being dead is impossible to grasp.  (Benjamin Cain)

Gosh, really? I have grasped it quite well and am preparing my affairs for the event. Being dead is identical to what it felt like before you were born. Remember that? Being dead is like dreamless sleep. There is absolutely nothing to worry about because you will lose the capacity to worry or think anything.

To confuse this rather natural state (we all die) we had to invent religion. I suggest that people who have trepidations about death that their trepidations are mostly caused by religion. (Create a problem, then offer yourself as the solution. Sounds like religion to me.)

Realize I am talking about comfortable Western people, not people whose lives are precarious on a daily basis. Not people who are massively oppressed on a daily basis. I am talking about ordinary Americans, here.

We have to stop demonizing dying. We not only demonize it but we have made ridiculous laws about it. I was envisioning dying at home, and then my partner would call up the pre-paid crematorium specialists who would come collect my body and voilà. But in this state, if you die at home, the state requires there be an autopsy, apparently to rule out nefarious causes of death. Gee, I wonder who gets to pay for the autopsy?

At one time, most children were born in their homes. But apparently there was too much money to be made by doctors delivering kids, that it has become almost a requirement that such deliveries be made in hospitals. The campaign to get this instituted was fueled by fear: what if something were to go wrong? I repeat, not that long ago, most children were born at home. In fact, do you know the first year that your life expectancy went up from going to the hospital rather than down? It was 1932 in this country. And in 1932, as a general practice, children were not admitted to hospitals.

We have to stop demonizing dying. We need to frame it as a completion process. A wrap on a life, so to speak. Celebrate the life of that person, if you knew them and honored them, ignore it other wise. I have always envisioned having a wake after my death. All of my friends and relatives would be invited to come eat my food, drink my booze, and tell lies about me. I don’t think that will happen now as it would be a tremendous imposition on my surviving partner, and well, I don’t have many friends and relatives left. (Many have already died.)

So, I will, instead, just enjoy the peace and quiet of being dead. The only trepidation I have about the event is leaving my partner in a stable financial situation. Elsewise, I have no fear of being judged, being sent to a fiery afterlife, etc. Just fade to black, and “That’s all folks!” <fade to Looney Tunes theme song>.

Wyoming Says Insurrections are Okay . . .

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:39 am
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Insurrections are okay, as long as they are done by their team, say Wyoming Republicans. In a recent GOP primary election Liz Cheney (R, Wyoming) was soundly defeated by a Trump supported nut job. This was Cheney’s cost of participating in the Jan 6 House Committee Investigating the Jan 6 Insurrection. As Cheney made clear, then President Trump called the Jan. 6th mob into being, raised their ire, urged them to come armed, and sent them to attack the nation’s Capitol, during which people died and the Capitol was defaced (and as Trump watched on).. If not stopped by the Secret Service Trump was going to join them. The objective of the mob was to prevent the finalization of the Electoral College vote count that showed Mr. Trump to be the loser we all know he was.

Ms. Cheney, who voted 97% of the time in line with Mr. Trump was considered “disloyal” and had to go. Wyoming’s GOP voters consider loyalty to an insurrectionist to be a very serious matter and voted accordingly.

O . . . M . . . G!

Addendum I originally stated that Liz Cheney was Montana’s rep, but a thoughtful reader corrected me. She is from Wyoming. My apologies to Montanans.

Do Pseudo Nazi Flags Identify Pseudo Nazis?

Filed under: Culture,History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:35 am
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Consider the photo above. Ignore for the moment that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is having a rally attended by neo-Nazis. Just look at the flags.

My first reaction was to ask “Why are they flying a Nazi flag with the swastikas upside down?” Is this an act of humility, like the story of how Peter wanted to be crucified upside down out of respect for his master. (A stupid story. The Romans weren’t idiots. Anyone who was crucified upside down would die very, very quickly with was not one of the objectives of a crucifixion execution.)

Did these flag wavers consider themselves inferior Nazis?

Or were they just stupid and attached the flags upside down on the poles. Or they bought their flags  heavily discounted because they were being sold off by the printer who finally recognized he had the Nazi swastika upside down.

Regarding DeSantis. He needs to grow one of those very short mustaches, and get his arm outstretched and his fist unclenched. Then he will be striking the proper pose.

FYI The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being.” It may also have been a symbol representing sexual well-being. It is still a symbol widely used in various Eastern religions today and has been around for up to ten thousand years.

When the Nazis adopted the swastika as a symbol, they standardized it with the vertical bar being in an S shape, not a Z shape. (Its mirror image looks different because of this. See the photo above.)

A Real Nazi Flag

August 17, 2022

Teaching is Easy, Anyone Can Do It

Filed under: Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:12 am
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I need to tell you a story to refute the nonsense of this title. I was for almost 40 years a college professor teaching chemistry to undergrads. I had BS and MS degrees from accredited universities, a teaching credential, etc.

My niece was a primary school teacher, then teaching a combined Grade 1-2 class of middle class California kids. In conversation one day, she invited me to come to her classroom and do a “special presentation” about what chemistry was all about for her class. I agreed wholeheartedly. So, since I had a 20 minute time slot of class time to fill, I prepared carefully, loading up on visual aides, demonstrations, etc. Then, knowing that things don’t always go as planned, I prepared another 20 minutes worth, and upon further thought, a third 20 minutes worth. That should be enough, I thought.

So, I dressed in a white lab coat, goggles, the entire chemical uniform, and carried my box of demonstrations into my niece’s classroom. The children were very responsive to her directions and were soon “gathered round” a table and I was introduced. Then, and this could have been a cartoon, whoosh, I went through the first 20 minutes worth of material, then the second, and the third, and even answered questions and, a grand total of 16 minutes had elapsed.

And I was exhausted.

From that point onward I have advocated for turning the teacher’s salary pyramid upside down. Instead of primary school teachers being paid the least and college professors the most, I argued that primary school teachers should get paid the most and college professors the least.

This was based upon the difficulty of the job.

Grade school teachers have to teach every student they are sent. College professors teach adults and, if a student doesn’t like the course or the teacher, they can withdraw from the course. If a student was disruptive, we could withdraw them from our classes. We could send adults away to learn. and failure was an option. If anyone thinks failure is an option in primary school, I suspect they have never endured a parent-teacher conference in which the parent was really pissed off.

Teaching is not easy. Not just anyone can do it, and especially not with either no training or a five week training course. Anyone who advocates otherwise is trying to tear apart the public school system for reasons that, I believe, have nothing to do with the quality of the education the kids are receiving, but definitely something to do with either politics or profit.

I still have not gotten a coherent question from the “let’s use business methods folks” as to how extracting profits from a school budget improves the quality of the product?

I would love to hear anyone answer this question.

August 16, 2022

We Need to Be Better Organized—A Way Forward

Most of you have heard of the infamous Powell Memo of 1971. In that memo, Powell, then a lawyer representing tobacco companies, argued that businesses need to be better organized and stop shying away from participating in national politics. (Prior to that time, CEOs expressed a profound distaste for politics.)

The Powell Memo was the tip of the conservative’s spear as they surged forward. Ronald Regan passed out copies to all members of his cabinet, for instance. (By then Powell was on the SCOTUS, thanks to Richard Nixon.) One of the immediate outcomes of that memo was the creation of think tanks, like the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, etc. Cato was originally funded by Charles Koch and Heritage by the ultraconservative Joseph Coors, yes that Coors. The game plan was to get these things funded and conservative billionaires were more than obliging. These were added to with the American Enterprise Institute, and others to be a mighty organizing factor for conservatives.

Jack Vance, on Medium.com, suggested that we would benefit mightily from secular think tanks.

Bloody Hell, yes! The ranks of seculars are like the ranks of Democrats, numerous but very poorly organized.

Let’s take a page out of the conservative’s playbook, why don’t we? I mean they have been kicking our asses for decades, so why not?

Anybody know a Democrat leaning billionaire? There seem to be at least a half dozen of them. Putting a bee in one of their bonnets may pay big dividends.

August 15, 2022

Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 10:16 am
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Congressman Paul Gosar, D.D.S. of Arizona is one of those nut jobs we have in office somehow. It seems that Arizona is contesting Florida for the title of The State Having The Most Nut Jobs In Office.

What brought this . . . person . . . to mind was a “tweet” he made which stated “The FBI raid on Trump’s home tells us one thing. Failure is not an option. We must destroy the FBI. We must save America. I stand with Donald J. Trump.

Clearly, describing the execution of a legal search warrant as a raid begins the rhetoric, and it only gets crazier from there.

But this is not my point. My point is the guy who refers to himself in the tweet as “Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS.” He is a member of the federal House of Representatives and a doctor of dental surgery. But what part of a dental education applies to his role as a political representative? Really? Is it the “open wide, now swallow” part?

Back when I was a magazine editor, I had the practice of including someone’s professional or educational status, e.g. M.D., Ph.D., only if that was a qualification for the positions they were presenting in their article. So, if they wrote about something in their field they were Author Name, Ph.D. but if they were writing outside of it, they just were listed as Author Name.

Clearly this “worthy” wants the esteem we give to doctors to help him in his political standing, but does it? Did Ben Carson’s status as neurosurgeon support his claim that the pyramids were built as grain storage buildings?

August 14, 2022

A Response to the Salman Rushdie Attack

Filed under: Art,Culture,Politics,Religion,writing — Steve Ruis @ 1:51 pm
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After seeing the attack on Salman Rushdie, I felt powerless to do anything and then I remember the Barbra Streisand Effect. So, I went online and bought a copy of Satanic Verses and I will read it, thereby spreading the message the religious idiots wanted to suppress. I suggest that you do the same. It puts a few dollars in the author’s pocket and spreads words that the zealots don’t want spread. Let’s drive Satanic Verses to the top of the bestsellers lists . . . again.

Why, Religion, Why?

The current political climate in this country is fueled by an odd combination of Catholics, evangelicals, and fundamentalists. So, why are these strange bedfellows against abortion, contraception, same sex marriage, etc.?

The history of “the Church” tells us. Yes, I know “the Church” is not a monolith, but their differences within are small compared to the differences they have with secular/non-religious folk.

In any case, the history of the various churches is rife with a basic strategy and that is: to out populate their competitors. All of the above practices hold the birth rate down, you see. But the various religions promoted high birth rates by any means whatsoever. Then, after all the myriad babies were born, they promoted indoctrination of the children by various and often sordid means. Jewish boys were mutilated so that they would bear an unerasable physical sign of Judaism. This practice was also adopted by Christianity. Various “guidelines” as to how to dress, whether one’s hair could be exposed, etc. were all adopted to isolate “the flock” in the pen of the Church. You can see all of these in operation today, e.g. Sikh turbans, Christian dress codes, burqas, hijabs, etc. Various indoctrination schemes were implemented to stage the children up to full blown believers. And, these are still in operation today.

And now the Supreme Court of the U.S. is larded with people of this ilk who still believe they are fighting a war of attrition and that numbers matter more than anything else. Despite all of the signs that there are too many people now, the same bankrupt strategy is being employed by jurists who cannot think their way out a wet paper bag or see a future where we are all impoverished on a depleted Earth, but thinking they won because they ended up with more believers.

When believers ask “What harm does religion do?” Here is your answer. When religion is inserted into politics, it actively opposes necessary actions needed for the betterment of all citizens because of ancient practices they do not even understand. Right now we need to do everything in our power to hold down the population of humans on this planet. Religious zealots are currently putting the brakes on that effort.

August 13, 2022

Americans, Want to Know Why Your Life Sucks?

I have written on every topic in this essay, but I have never put it all together so well as has Mitchell Petersen. Well worth the read!

Charles Koch Won; We the People Lost

The Free Market Lie

A prominent feature of modern conservative rhetoric is a plea to allow “free markets” to run freely in businesses. This is a lie. Some of the purveyors of this lie know it is a lie, others have been indoctrinated to believe it is true, but it is still a lie.

The argument for free markets was made most prominently by Adam Smith, but he addressed a market that was entirely local. All of the businesses and customers were locals and shenanigans had repercussions. If the only baker in town raised his prices dramatically, blithely asking “Where else will you get your bread?” People would start baking at home and one of those amateurs might turn professional and offer better bread at better prices and “Down goes the greedy baker!”

And when you extend such market concepts to even somewhat larger regions, things immediately fall apart. People were not neighbors of all of the producers of the goods they wanted to buy. And where did the marketeers look to fix the problems with their systems? They looked to government (first from the royals and later the pols).

An analogy could be made to allowing every small village to create their own justice system, with their own rules and processes and laws. Of course, you can see the chaos that would ensue. In one village you could call witnesses, in another you couldn’t, in one you had a right to a trial, in another you wouldn’t, and so on.

The current state of American business shows the lie of “free market ideology” for what it is. Currently, every large corporation is working to have laws instituted that advantage their businesses over businesses owned by others. (The bulk of the codes in our current tax code are of this kind.) The result in the end game is a de facto monopoly. Monopolies have no competition and the monopolists can manipulate the markets any which way they want to. (Consider the biggest source of today’s inflation—corporations raising prices because they can, not because they need to.) With no competition, the advantages claimed for “free markets” evaporate.

So, why is the drum still being beat for “free markets” when so many corporations dominate their “market segment” to the point there is no market at all? Is it not clear? The plutocrats running those corporations want no resistance to their earning money any which way they can. Environmental laws? Please. Labor laws? Oh, please, no. Fair practice laws? No, thank you. Market manipulation prevention laws? If course not! Taxes? We’d rather not, thank you!

Capitalism’s greatest flaw, as currently constructed, is there is no cap upon greed. And despite what you may have heard, greed is not good.

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