Stay off my lawn

I probably won't retire (even if, by some odd chance I have an opportunity to do so).  So I can't really imagine myself living in a retirement community.  It's the kind of self-imposed segregation what would have me seeing only the faces of those as old as me, or older.  The kids I see on a daily basis are often a reminder of who I was, and the motivation for the best things I've ever done with my life (admittedly, there are precious few).

That's why I find it particularly irritating when I hear the retired complain about paying taxes for things like schools, parks, or pretty much anything that benefits the young.  Their rationale is that they've raised their children, and shouldn't have to spend money on everyone else's.  The flaws in that argument are self-evident.

The irony is that these are the same people that wax nostalgic about the good old days when we all cared for each other, and enjoyed a sense of community.  (I have a feeling this was only true if you were white, Christian, and well-off).  The definition of a community, whether it's a neighborhood, or a nation, is a group of people working together for the common good -- to achieve together what we cannot alone.  Sometimes this means doing things that don't benefit us directly.  Most understand that it's a small price to pay in the scheme of things.

The "I've got mine, you get yours" type of social darwinism has always been around. But, until recently, has usually been associated with the ignoble, petty, cruel parts of our nature.  It's a sentiment that those like Ayn Rand and the far christian right have attempted to legitimize using pseudo-philosophical twaddle, perverse interpretations of scripture, and junk science.

It's a darkness that, unfortunately, lies within all of us. It shouldn't become more pronounced as we get older.  As much as I am able, I choose to be a part of everything until it's time to go.


I think the greatest damage done to humanity by religion, is the concept of original sin.  To be sure, we are all flawed.  Nothing is perfect, nor should it be.  But that is not the same as the idea that we are all born unworthy, requiring of forgiveness by some divine being.

This concept isn't exclusive to Judeo-Christian beliefs.  Almost all religions contain some facet of this idea.  The folly of basing one's life on the fear of eternal damnation became obvious to me early on.  It's a scam.  Not even a good one.  We were told that we had a disease, and that God was the only cure.  Later on, as the lie gained more power, we were told that we had a disease, and if we didn't take their cure and tell everyone how great it is, we'd be tortured and killed.  Why wait for damnation?

Even today, there are politicians in this country that would have no problem bringing back the Inquisition.  We are so saturated by batshit crazy, that it's now become the new norm.

Consider, a newborn has no capacity for good or evil.  Both are things that are learned.  A brand new human being is almost pure potential -- and a learning machine.  The first year or two is spent establishing neural pathways, and beta testing the ol' pattern recognition software.  In short, we observe.

If what we witness is hatefulness and stupidity, especially if actively reinforced later, then we tend to turn out hateful and stupid.  Luckily, the opposite is also true.  Of course there are exceptions.  Randomness makes the universe interesting.

Original Sin is a get-out-of-jail-free card that absolves us of responsibility, and reinforces the scam.  Kahlil Gibran once said that we are not completely blameless for the crimes done against us.  This world is a collective reality that we are all responsible for.  If there is too much evil, and not enough good in it, then it is not God's will, but our own.

Survival of the Kindest

At work, someone had left some flyers encouraging those who could, to host foreign exchange students. This morning I overheard a couple of customers commenting on it. I won't repeat those comments here. Just imagine every tired, ignorant, racist, hateful cliché you've ever heard, and multiply it by ten.

It made me angry. Very angry. But, as I was on the clock, I was obliged to remain professional, so I said nothing. Instead, I gave them a look one might describe as reproachful. Actually, when I was a guest of the state, we referred to it as the "stinkeye". It was used sparingly, as it sometimes resulted in bloodletting. I was that angry.

So, the gauntlet thrown, I prepared for a confrontation. Nothing. Instead, they cast their eyes downward. They knew what they had said was wrong, and felt what I assume was shame. What would cause otherwise normal, intelligent men to act this way? Simply labeling them as evil or malicious doesn't answer it for me. The normal culprits are fear and ignorance. But even that answer is simplistic. Peer pressure perhaps? Maybe my own naiveté obscures the answer. I hope that's all it is.

Here's the other side. Later in the day, a lady bought $74.00 worth of groceries. I mis-keyed her credit card for $7.40. I didn't realize my mistake until she called me and told me. She gave me her credit card number, and I charged her the remaining amount. After thanking her profusely, I asked her about her honesty. Her only response was, "I didn't really think about it."

And so my faith in humanity continues for another day.

It's my hope that people like the lady who called me inherit the earth, because if it turns out to be people like those two men, I don't think we will survive as a people, a nation, or perhaps even a species.