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Posts tagged ‘fear’

Some Thoughts on Religion

There. I put it right in the title, so if it isn’t your cup of tea, skip it and we’ll get back to fitness and nutrition shortly. I’ve just heard some things lately that bug me and want to air them here, because I do think some of the world is rational.

First, the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls by Boko Haram. The stated purpose is to sell them as wives, aka sex trafficking. This is “an Islamic extremist terrorist organization”. How often do we hear that? Are the non-extremists terrified into silence? If there is a main stream Islam that isn’t extremist, can they do nothing to turn the direction that their faith has gone in? How can any group claim any right to access their higher being in the name of violence and degradation? I don’t know about all religions, but the ones I do know about espouse the same things- seeking for the higher side of our natures, sharing over selfishness, giving rather than taking, cherishing God’s creation. Whatever your definition of God is, I can’t see how it could be a being that glories in harming others. If so, than that being must always be happy, we are so inventive at destroying each other.

Second, banning prayer in public places. I was listening to Albert Mohler talk about the court case in Greece, NY. They made a sincere effort to get many faiths involved, but they didn’t want to end the practice of praying before council meetings. The point was made that such practices have gone on since our founding father’s day, and congress still opens in prayer. I think banning any kind of speech is dangerous. Any time you say there is only one kind of acceptable speech, you are getting into serious government intrusion. I happen to be reading “The Book Thief”, reminding me what  attempts to control others leads to. I also think it is ridiculous to think that prayer, and invoking God, is somehow dangerous. For those who think a secular world is safer and more rational, need I remind you about Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot? They were no friends to religion, and their efforts for a better, secular, rational world led to more blood shed than all the religious wars put together. Rhetoric is far more dangerous than prayer. Well, I guess that depends on if you think anyone on the other end is listening….

In any case, if my praying out loud, in public, makes you so nervous you can’t bear it, then can I ban all music that has misogynous references, glorifies shooting, and uses the f- bomb? While we’re at it, add Two and a Half Men and Two Broke Girls. If I can’t have my prayer, you can’t have your sexually explicit conversations.

There, I’m done. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programing.

Reasonable Cause… and Effect

Some of you may already know that we live in controversial times. The level of mistrust in our government, and the breakdown in common culture has led to a place where people are angry, fearful and suspicious. We don’t trust our public institutions. Whether you are on the health side of things, railing against “Big Ag”, Monsanto, “Big Sugar”, the high fructose conspiracy, or GMO’s, or, if you are on the second amendment side, worrying about a government gun seizure, there is a lot of fear and anger brewing.

My question is how much is justified, and how much is simply rumor and fear mongering? How much is truly conspiracy theory worthy, and how much is just disagreements on what constitutes the public good? For example, lets take GMO’s. We have been genetically modifying our food since agriculture began by selectively breeding, storing seeds, etc. Farmers farmed to feed their families, and traded the surplus for goods and services.  In the 70’s, we had the “green revolution” for an overview, I quote Wikipedia:

Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. It forms a part of the ‘neo-colonial’ system of agriculture wherein agriculture was viewed as more of a commercial sector than a subsistence one.[1]

The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution” credited with saving over a billion people from starvation, involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.

One of the primary sentences in that quote is that agriculture became more of a commercial sector than a subsistence one.  This is vitally important, as cities could not have attained the population densities they have without this. The fact that most of us don’t have to farm is a result of the change in farming practice. There is a backlash against this now, as the logical extension is GMO’s and Monsanto. If you are constantly striving to produce more food, at less cost, the choices you make may not be the best in other respects, like ethics or quality. On the other hand, starvation is far less common in the world than it used to be. Even third world nations are having obesity problems. Not dying of hunger is a good thing in my book. So is “Big Ag” is evil or beneficent? Are they conspiring to take over the world or trying to feed a constantly growing population? Is it possible someone could use the power of these large conglomerates to “enslave” us, and to what end?

The gun right debate is similar. Gun technology has vastly improved since the founding fathers fought it out in the 1700’s. We have far more capacity to hurt each other than they did. However, for the most part, gun violence has gone down. Because of modern media, and sick people’s desire to create a huge scene, it appears to be the opposite, than gun violence is increasing. The media and politicians react to this by  saying we must “do something”. Gun owners see this as the end to liberty. Some go so far as to think that some of these tragedies are instigated by the government, in order to create public support for gun seizures.  It is true, that if only the government has guns, they can rule by force. However, is that what those in power intend?  Or intend or not, could that be what happens?

So, are our worst fears groundless? Or do we live in a world where the people around us have evil designs, wanting to take over and control us? Wether they have any intentions of doing so, does the law of unintended consequences dictate that it will occur?

Do spend our money on bunkers and dried food? Just like the saying “a stopped watch is right twice a day”, really bad things happening could justify all our paranoia. Does that mean we should invest all our money in body armor and heirloom seeds? Where is the line between prudent caution and rampant paranoia? I don’t have the answer, other than to say so far everyone who said the world was going to end has been wrong in general, but he was right for the people of Pompeii. Personally, I don’t believe in massive conspiracies. I’ve seen no evidence that people are that smart, or organized. However to quote the title of Robert Bork’s book, “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”, we could easily be haphazardly sliding towards our own destruction. I’ve seen no evidence in my lifetime that we are capable of foreseeing the results of our actions and I see that as the real danger, rather than thinking that our fellow human beings are out to get us.

If, as some believe, 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing were done by our government to “distract” us, or any other reason, then it is a world of such petty and unthinkable evil that I could not even begin to comprehend it. In that case all one can say is “come now Lord Jesus”, because I certainly don’t want to survive in the bunker with the rats. Two or four legged.

If my Last Post Didn’t Make you Think I was Crazy….

Now I think anyone who reads this blog is probably smarter than I am, so I want one of you to explain the economy and this current downturn to me. Let me lay out what I think of it, and you tell me where I’m wrong, or how nuts I am.

First, what is the economy? Wikipedia says:

An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and landresources; and the the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area. An economy may also be described as a spatially limited and social network where goods and services are exchanged according to demand and supply between participants by barter or a medium of exchange with a credit or debitvalue accepted within the network.

This seems like a fair definition. I looked up Merriam-Webster’s definition, but it added nothing. So we will use this definition/description. I couldn’t sleep the other night, and I’m thinking to myself, “this whole thing started with housing”. Now, your house’s worth is not a set thing. Your house is only worth what someone will pay for it. If you don’t keep it in a desirable condition, it becomes worthless. In this current situation, the houses in question were still desirable, people just couldn’t pay what they promised to pay for them.  This happened in such high numbers, that there became a glut of houses on the market, bringing all  house prices down. On top of this, people who “bought” those loans, who were counting on that money being paid back as part of their income and net worth, suddenly weren’t as wealthy as they thought. So now, you have all the people who lost their houses not spending extra money since they now can’t use their houses as piggy banks, and some are still trying to pay something of what they owe. Those that walk away are still trying to pay for some place to live. All the people who invested money in the loans, through banks, mutual funds or other investment means, now have less income, so they aren’t spending as much. All these people spending less money, means less jobs and hiring. Topping all of this off, trust has been broken. In good times, we trust each other to do as we say. This “mortgage crises” is actually a crises of trust. If I invest my money in something, will the person pay me back?

This is where I get into my own view of things. The economic downturn is a psychological downturn. We have lost trust in our major institutions. What we call “the economy” is the transactions we make with each other. People are scared and suspicious, so they are hoarding what they have, rather than transacting with each other. Those that have, don’t want to lose any more of it than they have, those that have not, don’t have any options.

Remember, our whole economy is mental nowadays. When my boss pays me, no one goes into his account and pulls physical money out, and put it in mine. Everything is trust and record keeping. There is no pot of money somewhere in a bank. While we still use cash for small transactions, all the big stuff- stocks, mutual funds, bonds, are all just numbers in ledgers.

What the government is trying to do when they attempt to “jump start” the economy is to get people in a better mood, more trusting, less suspicious, more sharing. The trouble is, they are looking more at the nuts and bolts, rather than directly at the psychology. It is hard to look directly at the psychology, we don’t want to draw too much attention to how ephemeral our system is. The other problem is, we are not experts in affecting each others moods and emotions. If someone is that good at manipulation, they would be very scary.  It is like turning a herd, since we are talking about changing each other as a group.

My advice- quit worrying. If you’re worried, you’re part of the problem. 😉

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