Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Self reliance

Over the weekend I watched the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. I read the books decades ago, own the DVDs and still love watching it. It was an amazing work putting it on the screen.

There was a scene when the men of Rohan were riding off that pulled together a thought that had been dwelling in the depths of Moria. Realizing that this story is fiction and not a docu-drama(!) I still couldn't help but think the following:

There was a time when men were self-reliant. Their allegiance to their Lord was not a "job". Their sustenance was the work of their own hands...and the hands of their wives and family. Today, men rely on a paycheck for their sustenance but it is not the same. Their allegiance is/was never offered, never received, never honored.

This is not to disrespect the women of that time. Many were as strong of character as their menfolk. Have we lost something as we have advanced? I can't help but think so. I am comforted by only one hope: that when faced with a situation like Katrina or the tsunami, a noticable percentage of the population will resume their place at the front of the lines. Maybe, that is what is behind the huge numbers of men and women enlisting in the military and serving.

I hope so, because it seems today there are many Grima Wormtongues actively trying to influence us...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The false doctrine of too many choices

Cross posted to Agnostics...

This morning's sermon at church reflected, in part, upon the problem of too many choices. Although not directly related to the subject matter, the Pastor commented on how we in America have such a bounty of, well, everything, that we lack the emptiness necessary for a longing for God.

Ignoring the religious issues she was trying to pinpoint, she noted that Tofler in his Future Shock predicted that our society would reach a point where people would recoil from the excess of choices. Over the years, his point of view has been regurgitated over and over again to promote either an economic or political position usually supporting some kind of restriction on freedom.

What was interesting to me was the echo I heard of Joe Biden this morning on TW. His concern was that people in the Middle East didn't have the same kind of definition about freedom that we did, and we might not like the kind of freedom they want. He feared that President Bush, naively, thought they did.

I want to be clear, if my subject title failed to be, that the very concept of too many choices is false. Let me start with an example:
It is 10:30pm tonight. You can go to bed and get some sleep; stay up and watch TV, stay up and read; stay up and have some intimate time with a spouse/partner; stay up and play a game; stay up and blog; stay up and eat; go out and party; what you say? too many choices?

Nonsense, the choice is to go to bed or stay awake. If you choose to go to bed, sleep is soon to follow. If you choose not to, then you have other choices.

A second example (one used on me many years ago by someone that wanted to impose limits on the number of cereals available (I kid you not...)
Walking down the cereal aisle there are literally a hundred different choices. No one can reasonably make an informed choice on each one. Therefore, we need to limit the number of cereals to one or two in each category.
I have three criteria for a morning cereal: it has to have sugar already on it (I hate having to add my own); it has to have at least 5 servings (and since I average 10oz each morning, that means more than 50oz) and it has to cost around 10 cents an oz. There are three that meet those criteria, Frosted Flakes, Frosted Cheerios and Kellogg's Raisin Bran. It takes me about 10 minutes a year to verify that nothing has changed in the aisle and those three remain viable choices. On sale, Frosted Mini Wheats and Lucky Charms add some variety.

The first thing I listen to when someone tells me there are too many choices, is what choices I have available to me, they want to limit. This morning, my Pastor wanted us to consider spending a little more money on church campaign items rather than presents to friends and family. We have so many competitors for our dollars, shouldn't we limit the ones that make us feel good, and help those more unfortunate than ourselves? (Didn't like the construction of that sentence? Preferred, "less fortunate". Tough, my choice!)

The problem most people have that complain there are too many choices is they don't like the choices other people are making. Rather than complain about their choices (and in doing so question their freedom to make their own choices), they complain there were too many choices to begin with. If we limit the choices to a few, then more people would choose their choice.

What makes people feel overwhelmed by choices? Lack of purpose. I walk into the cereal aisle with a clear idea of what I am looking for. The vast number of choices fail my criteria on more than one issue. Knowing what I am looking for helps me to make my choices easily.

The money I earn has a specific purpose. Demands on me to spend it a particular way fail to sway me at all because I already know where it is going. Bush chose to deal with Iraq, many on the left offered up "other choices" so as to distract from his purpose. When that failed, the next argument was "too many choices" expressed as "We can't be the world's policeman."

Externally, there can never be too many choices. With 6 billion people on the earth, every option will have some that prefer it. The more choices, the more freedom people have. It is only the lack of will, the lack of purpose that create in people a frustration with the choices available to them. And for others, the cornucopia of choices means less people will join them in their choice, and that freedom isn't the same freedom they wish others to have.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Two Points

What to do when you have a small following and two posts....?

Item 1. John Bolton has resigned (before being fired...hey, that is what it is when you are not renewed...fired). Bush should NOT name a replacement. The argument can be the best person for the job already had it....second best is not appropriate for the first among equals.

Item 2. A civil society. I am tired of the vulgarity that passes for dialogue. On Thursday I was picking up Victoria from a function and a regular participant had an IMPEACH BUSH pin. I tapped it and suggested he needed to do something illegal first. She then pointed to the IMPEACH CHENEY FIRST pin next to it and exclaimed "I was kinda hoping someone would, you know, shoot him on this trip." My response was "That is very rude, and very unChristian of you to desire the murder of someone just because you dislike them."

The reality is that she wasn't kinda hoping...she was PRAYING for it. I listen (not by choice) to comics and their routines are packed with vulgar, profane tirades. People walking down the street, standing in line at the store, lace their conversation with profanity and vulgarity as if it were a sprinkling of powered sugar on feces. (Yes, I was thinking sh**, but am trying to make a point.)

It has become unacceptable to be polite. It has become acceptable to be vulgar in virtually any company or setting. And it should stop.

I am not asking for a "Victorian" purge. Can each of us, as individuals, strive to call out vulgarity when it occurs, state profanity is unacceptable in our conversations with others? Can we not be polite to others? I like, and thank when it happens, a door held open for me. No one has held a chair for me in decades so I don't hold out much hope there!

Last week a Judge told opposing counsel that his actions had disrespected the Court and debtor's counsel (Victoria) and put him on warning that it would not be tolerated. He then imposed fees against him, something he seldom does.

Respect for ourselves, each other and strangers we meet is the first step in a civil society. We must begin to strive for it, or the culture rot we all see clearly will destroy all that we have accomplished.