Monday, February 27, 2017

Advantages and Disadvantages

This is the 600th entry in Real American Solutions.  I have posted twice a week for almost 6 years.  Each time I look for an example from the news or from current advertising to point out common behavior in America, usually poor choices or a lack of understanding, within the five key behavioral dimensions.

So far it has been easy to find examples, because though it’s commonly accepted that behavior has consequences, the idea seems to elude so many.  People spend money as they earn it and wonder why they don’t have a comfortable retirement.  People overeat and don’t exercise and wonder why they are overweight.  They look to technology and magic diets and wonder why the purveyors of these miracles get rich while they don’t get any slimmer. People have families before they can afford to support a family and believe that gives them the right to demand higher wages.  Some people look to politicians to fix their problems with money the government doesn’t have.  Others hang around malls or coffee shops complaining about the evils of capitalism, unaware that capitalism is the reason the malls and coffee shops exist.  Parents try to instill good values in their children while setting the opposite example in their personal lives.  These are easy things to spot and they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Behavior has consequences for individuals and families, but the consequences to society as these misconceptions spread across American are even greater.  They become the crises and epidemics we hear about in the news every day.  That is why 600 in less than 6 years has been relatively easy.

From the beginning, though, I outlined a few rules for myself.  First, I would not write about political subjects.  There are too many editorials, blogs and tweets obsessed with politics.  Also, my model is based on the premise that the only real, permanent solution to people’s problems, and by extension America's problems, comes through improved, wiser behavior and not government action.  So I avoid politics as much as possible.  Second, I committed to never resort to the kind of labeling, name-calling and insulting behavior so common across our society.  The model is based on the premise “criticize behavior, not the actor” – just like the excellent advice we hear all the time about pets, children and employees.

It is a definite challenge to avoiding political subjects.  As we move into 2017 it seems everything has become political.  It’s harder to find subjects that don’t have some political angle, or at least won’t be twisted around to try to justify some political rebuttal or angry outburst.

One example from a minor news and opinion website makes the point.  They report that a few people including a Yahoo writer accused quarterback Tom Brady of racism.  (That's name-calling).  They base it on the fact that after winning the Super Bowl he posted on line the poem by Rudyard Kipling, titled “If.”  It is one of the best-known poems of the 19th century written in the form of advice to his son with the message of keeping calm during adverse circumstances (like being down by 25 points at halftime).

Now the detractors said that Kipling was a racist and a white supremacist – a colonialist (in India), who coined the phrase “white man’s burden.”  Quoting him apparently makes Brady the same.  He is also criticized for copying the poem without giving Kipling credit.  Add plagiarism to the charges.

First, if being a colonialist in the late 1800s was a sin, many British and Americans from that era would fall into the same category.  Second, the poem was purported to be inspired by a valiant defeat during the Second Boer War where the British were fighting the (white) descendants of Dutch immigrants in South Africa with, in some cases, the assistance of the native Africans.  It doesn't sound like a basis for calling the British (or the poet) racist.  Also, Kipling is one of the most-cited authors in the Oxford English Dictionary Supplement - do we also label those lexicographers as racist?

And as for plagiarism, since the Boston Red Sox used the same poem at the retirement of David Ortiz late last year, I doubt if Brady was trying to trick anyone into believing he just made it up.  But Brady has a reputation for backing the President and those of the opposite opinion see him as fair game for attacks.  Instead of calmly and rationally working out differences, America is now engaged in a civil cold war, verbally attacking each other wherever they can find any excuse.

That’s how crazy things have become!  But I will continue to look for and publish non-political examples of behavior and their consequences as objectively as possible.

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