Sunday, August 15, 2010

God's Flawed Gift

The human capacity is limited, eh? Our minds are unable to grasp the scale of the universe or come up with a unified picture of God, animals like pigs can smell better (where smell is a verb, not adjective), lions can hear better, and dogs have inbred GPS that allows them to find their way home if they get dumped in the middle of nowhere; we humans, on the other hand, sit down and cry.

Like striking the wall in front of our noses, solid, we bump into complete vacuity, a very dead nothing, at the end of our understanding. Yet we don't miss what we don't know. We don't run around feeling empty or substandard or shortchanged or guilty at the overwhelming ignorance we cart around in our heads. No, just the opposite.

We are proud of our overwhelming grasp of things. We are confident of our correctness in debate, pleased with our ability to explain to Junior why he cannot run with a pencil, happy to tell our stories, our life's lessons, gleaned by clambering down the bumpy path of life and somehow, after the fact, taking pride in the bumps. Life's a big motocross, eh? There for the telling. We know what we know, and that is plenty.

That it is virtually nothing, or even wrong, does not phase us.

My current fascination is with the deceits that make up the patterns of our understandings. These deceits can be blatant, like “my God is better than your God”, or Head and Shoulders is a better shampoo than Palmolive, or the Lakers are God's gift to ball players, or Wiki is honorable, or the FBI is honorable, or a Filipino is inherently corrupt. They can be subtle, like name-calling to avoid take a loss when discussing an issue. Or logical fallacies in debate. Or seeing the absence of light as a fearful dark even though there are more threats in the daytime than at night. And the night critters grasp that, even if we do not.

This confidence in what little we know keeps us from shrinking into curled up little balls of inadequacy. If we were to grasp with clear understanding how little we know, we'd shrink with embarrassment, zoom right pass humility and go into a catatonic horror, frozen at the impossibility of making it through the day being so outright stupid.

So like the first fish that grew feet and ambled up on the banks to find a worm, we evolved a state of blindness about what we don't know. It is necessary to our survival to block a certain kind of knowledge about our prized human cranial capacity. We block out the understanding that we really don't know much of anything, and we most certainly know nothing about other people's lives or motives or being.

But we act – and feel inside - as if we were God's gift to others with our glorious awareness and knowledge. Yes, yes, I demonstrate this trait with about every blog I write.

I wonder what would happen if opposing parties stepped back a pace from the edge of this blind arrogance and started serious debate with the fundamental premise,

“I wonder in how many ways my thinking is wrong.”

Maybe we'd do a better job of finding harmony. Israel and Hamas would find ways to agree. Mindanao and Luzon would become respectful neighbors. Democrats and republicans would put the people's interests first. Oligarchs and farmers would walk arm in arm through the rice fields, singing “Up with People”.

In groups of animals, a hierarchy arises, most dominant to least dominant. It is done without thought, an inborn need to find the proper place to exist in harmony.

What if our minds were applied to find real equality instead of dominance?

What if we actually thought about what we are really doing rather than operated from the premise that only we know best, and anyone who thinks otherwise ought to be made to be subservient?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Earth is Melting

Color me Chicken Little . . .

The following pro-forma has been added to The Society of Honor's permanent pages so that it will not get lost in stale blog archives.

Climate Change Response Program”

There is nothing that prevents any city or municipality from taking up its own defense, nothing that prevents them from making each day safer and more prepared.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fictions, Frictions and Economic Predictions

I am always surprised when a Filipino accuses me of being an “idealist” or an “intellectual”, as if my writings were somehow detached from practicality. And I am equally surprised when I opine about things that I consider to be foundational about the Filipino social structure, and the economy it generates, and it shoots right past people as irrelevant.

Take the hiring of cousins and classmates, a part of the “trade of favors” that is a major currency, in addition to money, in the Philippines. Look at the US economy. What energizes it is the daily pounding away of people trying, and incented by the boss, to do more in a better way. People compete for raises and for skills and for recognition. It is high octane gasoline.

In the Philippines, people largely just subsist. “Productivity” is absent from the economic lingo, just as “appointment” is a dirty word. The Philippines use wood chips from the dirty kitchen to power the economy.

Why is this dynamic – the collective AMBITION of a people driving for self-improvement – simply shrugged off by Filipinos.

Many, I suppose, because they got their own job by a favor.

It's our way,” they say. But then they look for scapegoats as to why the economy is doing so poorly, why there are so few jobs and so many mouths to feed, and why corruption is so rampant. Last May, it was Arroyo's fault. Now it is Aquino's.


That is idealistic? I think not.

That is the way it is. Down and dirty, applied, functional, pragmatic. As real as it gets.

I even scream “PASS A FAIR EMPLOYMENT LAW” that makes capability the only lawful basis for hiring and promoting people, and that is considered just one of JoeAm's intellectual ramblings. Not practical. No one will take that up. Detached from reality, that old Joe.

Christ almighty. How do I get more “applied” than that?

What part of “IMPROVEMENT” do you not see connected with “AMBITION” that channels “SKILL” into the management of “PRODUCTIVITY”?


Idealistic intellectual fictions, eh? Your MIND is a fiction*.

[*Standard caveat; this insult does not apply to all Filipinos; only those who got their job by favor and/or feel that favor is a better way to power an economy than ambition that leverages skill.**]

[** Please excuse my temporary relapse; it is like the need for alcohol or bananas; comes and goes.]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What a Jerk

Sometimes, upon re-reading what slid out of my brain and onto my typewriter, I agree that I really am a piece of work, insensitive and arrogant and too willing to let anger run my keyboard. Sigh. I will not remove the bits that offend me, and undoubtedly others. They stand as a stamp across my concrete cranium that I really need to try harder next time.

I moved to the Philippines for the adventure of it; the exploration, the beauty of the land and the enjoyment of a lifestyle that is incredibly rich, though not always easy to adjust to. Like fireworks on Christmas. But that is MY problem, decidedly . . . not yours.