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Obamacare?

10 Nov

Everybody seems to be up in arms about it, either defending it or trying to destroy it.

Ideally, it would have provided something called universal health care. A basic level of health care for everyone, regardless of income. It doesn’t do that. But, that’s what conservatives were afraid it was going to deliver, since that smacks of “socialism” and they drag up old Cold War phobias to make us fear the concept.

So, what we really got was federally mandated health insurance.

Sort of.

From what I can find out, it isn’t universal. If you are low income, you are likely to still not have any health care coverage, so you are still regarded as one of the “leeches” on the system and the reason that health care costs keep rising.

From where I’m sitting, in Mississippi, it looks like business as usual, but great for insurance companies.

Okay, I went through the enrollment process.  The website everyone makes fun of worked just fine for me, and this was a couple of weeks ago when it was all new.  We were offered very limited choices to start off.  One company, that’s it, folks.  Reminds me of the electric company, we’ve got another monopoly going on.  Maybe we’d have had more options if we lived on the coast or in Jackson, but even so, we’re only 30 minutes from Hattiesburg now, and that’s one of the larger cities in Mississippi.  So it’s one company with two plans, and they don’t include the highest coverage, the platinum level.  (Not that it mattered, we couldn’t afford either one we were offered anyhow.)

The two lowest plans did not offer very good coverage, and it included a large deductible.  To add to the injury, the crappy plans cost roughly $850-950 per month for a couple.

The state of Mississippi, like a number of other states that have vocalized their dislike of the “Obamacare” Affordable Health Care Act, has refused to consider expanding their Medicaid program.  Likely it’s due to the impoverished state of the Mississippi economy to begin with.  After all, where would the money come from?

They are being generous.  They will not fine those below the income threshold, which I assume is the poverty line.  Whatever that line is, we’re below it.  So, it is status quo.  No fine, no health care, and nothing has changed at all for us.

But let’s do some math.  Let’s assume that a couple who is working 40 hours a week at minimum wage ($7.25 per hour).  That would mean that they got an annual gross income of $30,160.  They are paying an average of 26% of their income to taxes, Social Security, etc.  That’s $7841.60 leaving them with $22,318.40.   Let’s say that they select the lowest cost plan at $850 per month.  Their annual costs will be $10,200.  That leaves them with $12,118.40.

That sounds reasonable, right?  Surely they can live on that, right?

Well, let’s experiment.  The average rent is about $600 per month, totaling $7200.  Their annual income is now down to just $4918.40.

But, they have to get to work, and most of Mississippi doesn’t have mass transportation of any kind.  They don’t live close to work, but they are careful with managing their lone vehicle so they are both able to get to and from work.  Even so, they average 25 miles round trip each day, their vehicle is older so the annual cost of license and tags, combined with the inspection, totals to just $45 per year.  They carry the minimum insurance, but it still costs $90 per month.  Being an older  vehicle, it also does not get good gas mileage, coming in at only 20 mpg, at an average cost of $3.15 per gallon.  It also requires two annual oil changes, which cost $35 each, for another $70 per year.  On average, they have to buy tires every fourth year, which cost $400, adding another $100 to their annual expenses.  They pray it does not break down, as they are already spending a lot on their transportation, a grand total of $2732.19.  That leaves them with $2186.21.

But, remember, they are still left with bills to pay for utilities, clothing expenses, and their grocery bill.  The real problem is that after getting their affordable insurance, paying their rent, and getting to and from work, they are left to figure out how to survive on $182.18 per month.

That won’t even cover their utilities, let alone let them cover their deductible, pay a co-pay, or buy a prescription.  They won’t be able to eat either.

But, a couple earning minimum wage, in the eyes of many, is not below poverty level.

I’m not seeing anything affordable in this.  I’m not seeing anything resembling universal health care either.  I damn sure don’t see anything resembling socialism in it. The only ones who are actually going to have health insurance are the same ones that have it now, barring the ones who can afford it but are too cheap to pay their portion of the premium for their families through the plan offered by their employer.

I can remember those people well.  Back in the “good old days” when I had an employer that offered health insurance and treated their employees as though they were a company asset (like good companies do), we had a giant hike in our health insurance premiums.  They had a meeting with all of us, explained what was happening and why, as well as what their options were in terms of offering us health insurance plans.  They listened to us, then came back with an option.  The costs of extending insurance coverage to our families was going to have to be deducted from our paychecks, and we could elect to have coverage if we so desired.  I desired–I had a kid with a chronic health problem (she was a type 1 diabetic who was often in the hospital).  My co-workers, knowing that I paid about half of my paycheck to health insurance, asked me how I could afford it.  For me it was simple.  I could not afford to NOT have it.  There is a vast difference in the kind of health care one receives with health insurance versus without it, and I had witnessed it first hand.

I also had pretty good insurance.  I didn’t have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.  Sure, I had a co-pay at the doctor’s office, as well as for prescriptions, but it was reasonable and affordable.  I didn’t have big bills for the hospital stays, and I had both dental and vision coverage as well.

Even if I could afford the insurance plans offered via the so-called Obamacare plan, neither of them included dental or vision insurance.  The co-pays were reasonable, but the deductible was a serious issue.  So was the percentage of coverage on procedures and hospitalization.  With only 60% coverage on these things, how is someone with $182.18 per month to pay utilities and groceries out of, going to pay even a $1000 procedure (far less than a single emergency room visit) which is going to cost $400 out-of-pocket.

The Affordable Health Care Act may have had some great intentions, but some how, along the way, it got left with loopholes and giant black holes that once again put insurance corporations into the drivers’ seat leaving the rest of us clinging to the bumper and terrified.  The worst part is, it hasn’t even gone into effect yet.  We have sticker shock, as well as discovering that we’re ordered to choose from models X, Y and maybe model Z for health insurance, but we’re standing here realizing that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet.  What kind of problems are waiting to appear?

We, as a population, has little faith in the government in general and even less in the federal government.  It’s notorious for favoring those with mega-money and tromping on the little guy without regard for the welfare of the masses.  It’s all about special interest groups, with an ample seasoning of mismanagement and bureaucratic red tape.

It seems that there is only one escape from the tyranny of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Get elected to Congress.

Yep, they were smart.  They made sure none of them would ever have to deal with this monstrosity that is neither affordable nor healthy.

America’s Religions

16 Sep

I think of myself as a typical American.  I’m nothing exceptional at all.  I’m a bit older than some, and  younger than others.

So moving away from the age debate, let’s get onto another hot topic.

Religion.

We’ve seen religion made a huge issue lately.  It’s likely been one before in American history, but I’m not a historical expert.  I’m also not a religious expert.  Or a political one.  Since I’m an average American, I really don’t see myself as an “expert” in anything.

But I do have opinions and I can be annoyed anyhow.

I have a very eclectic collection of friends and acquaintances.  They have very diverse backgrounds and cultures, even though the majority are Americans by nationality.  For the sake of this post, I’m only talking about the American ones, since I’m also referring to American society and culture.

With such a diverse collection of people, I see and hear a lot of comments about religion.  Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me one way or another.  It certainly does not influence me in terms of my religious beliefs or practices.  I’m quite comfortable with mine, and while they will continue to evolve, they are not going to go through any radical conversion to some new religion at this point in my life.  I think that usually happens when we are younger and still formulating our world view and the concept of our own mortality.

So when does it bother me?

I don’t like to have other people’s religious views crammed down my throat, especially when accompanied by the “I’ll kill you and that will change your mind” ideology.  I’m also not someone who feels a need to convert anyone else, nor do I wave my religious views around like a banner on a summer’s day.  My opinion is that the whole issue boils down to “all roads lead to Rome.”  I can agreeably accept any religious views that don’t include hurting other humans as part of their practice or ritual.

Notice that hurting other humans bit.

Now we have all encountered those who are “witnessing” from various fundamentalist Christian groups.  I understand that this is part of their responsibilities according to the religious doctrines they follow.  Most will accept the “thanks, that’s nice, but I already have mine” very courteously, especially when their answer is given in a courteous manner.  There are a few sects that practice rather aggressive methods of proselytizing to strangers at their homes.  I’m less enthusiastic about that practice.

I have never had a non-Christian religious practitioner come knocking at my door or hand me a tract.  Have you?

I really do not like the Christian groups that picket funerals–I don’t care what religion they are or practice, it is not an appropriate time to picket anything.  They seem to enjoy causing emotional distress to the grieving because of the publicity it draws.  It’s one case of negative publicity that seems to benefit someone.

But we’ll let them go for now.

I’ve read religious conservative statements that advocate returning prayer to school as a method of teaching morality to youth.  I have a  news flash for them.  A single 5 minute prayer at school each day is not going to make anyone more moral nor is it going to make them religious.  Morality and religion happen at home and in life.  Besides, who decides what prayer will be said?  What if the chosen prayer is not one from YOUR religion?

And then, there are the “other” religions.  We all hear about the Big Three: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.  We hear plenty about the various sects of those three too.  There are the Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Pagans, etc. too.  Even those get more attention with a label attached than the most rabid and often nastiest toned ones I have encountered lately.

Those happen to be Atheists and the even larger, “Church of” Science.  The two have often been allies lately, as they seem to have a single goal in mind.

The removal of religion from America entirely.

They do have some good points.  Religions tend to divide, not unify, a population with diverse cultures and a broad spectrum of religions.  Practitioners do get caught up in the little “My God is better than your God” little turf wars.  Historically, they have often escalated into actual armed conflicts.  It seems to be one of the core causes of the continual conflicts in the Middle East too.  More people are killed in its name than die from any other cause.  It is quite obvious that religion has some problems.

But these rabid proselytizing anti-religion groups aren’t exactly being endearing either.  They seem to have twisted the “my God is better than your God” bit into a whole new cry: “Your God is dead and I know it, so I’m better than all of you!”

I watch all the flaming going on, and it seems that the only thing that would make them happy is to do away with all public examples of religion.  Churches and cathedrals, mosques and synagogues…they’d all be plain cinderblock buildings with a sign over the door with letters less than 3″ tall, as though you were visiting a VD clinic.  Priests wouldn’t wear the collars that make everyone stand up straight and stop swearing, and nuns wouldn’t be allowed to wear any part of a habit in public either.

Christmas would become “Generic Winter Holiday.”  Easter would be “Spring Break.” Thanksgiving? Just “Harvest Festival”.  Memorial Day? It too has some religious overtones, along with military ones, so obviously that would be re-designated “Beginning of Summer Holiday.”  Labor Day, with no religion attached, might retain its current name.  Halloween would be subject to suspicion, but without recent religion attached to it by the majority of citizens, its consumerist ideology might let it stand.

There would be re-writing of history too, to sanitize it of religious overtones.  Nevermind that many historical events did have strong religious overtones, as the entire war was focused on the idea of “My God is better than your God.”

All of that for political correctness?

To me, anti-religion is just as rabid as religions are when they are at their worst.

It was wrong to kidnap Native American children and send them to boarding schools where they were robbed of their culture, language, and religion and given the “gift of Christianity”.  It’s just as wrong to do that to anyone else, even in the name of anti-religion as the new religion.  It was wrong for the federal government to deny tribes the right to have ceremonies and practice their religions for most of the 20th century.  It’s just as wrong to do that to the rest of American society.

I grew up in a multi-cultural family.  We didn’t practice the same religion as our classmates and neighbors did.  I enjoyed learning about Judaism and their holidays.  I was curious about all of the Christian denominations and their religious practices too.   I’m not Catholic, yet I too was terrified by nuns in their spooky long black habits and that head dress they wore.  I still stand straight and clean up my conversation when conversing with  or even nearby a preacher, priest, or nun.  I’m also respectful of shamans and medicine men/women.  I enjoy learning about rituals and beliefs.  I like hearing the stories too.

But just because I read the Koran or the Book of Mormon or even participate in a ritual does not mean that I have become a convert of that religion.  Just because I am respectful of someone else’s belief system does not mean that I advocate it as a lifestyle.

Respect and courtesy are important traits of a civilized society.  This respect and courtesy means that many people, from many cultures and many religions, can live and work together harmoniously.  That’s what we need.  We don’t need another doctrine to separate groups of people from one another, to divide them and put them in conflict with each other.

I may think it is extremely foolish for a couple to spend a vast amount of money that could be put to better use in purchasing a home and getting established in life (at least in MY opinion, right?) on their wedding and reception.  That does NOT give me the right to go to their wedding and reception, standing around and being nasty or waving a sign pointing out their foolishness.  It does not give the government the right to forbid them from doing so either.

Heck, I might even think that marriage is a ridiculously antiquated monogamous ceremony that is in opposition to our biological and natural sexual and social needs and object to a couple’s marriage on those grounds alone.  Does that give me the right to cause a scene at the wedding? To forbid it?

Wake up, America.  We don’t need more rabid and inflammatory religious or anti-religious sects.  We need the concept of courtesy to lead us towards harmonious respect and co-existence.

Oh, and for the fundamentalists that I have undoubtedly offended…if you are a Christian, see A.  If you are an Atheist, see B.

A) What would Jesus do?  Jesus did not advocate violence of any kind, nor was he ever cruel or rude to others.  His original doctrine was one of kindness and teaching, of giving and not taking.  He had no church, no fancy car, and financial success didn’t happen either.  He never built a church building and never took up the sword either.  He sure never cut someone’s hair,  jailed anyone or took away their personal property because they didn’t agree with him on religion.

B)  If religions are all based on the concept of an imaginary friend, then why are you so adamant about the whole thing?  Do you spend that much time and effort in the eradication of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  Do you even THINK about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  How about Rainbow Brite?  Strawberry Shortcake? The Gingerbread Man?  Star Wars? Star Trek?  Heck, all of Hollywood is based on imaginary friends, so I guess it’s also the equivalent of Vatican City!

People Watching

7 Sep

I am a people watcher.  I notice a lot of things about people, and some of them are very subtle cues about their psyche given away by their body language.  When I worked in fields such as corrections and law enforcement, it was very useful.  When I was younger and lacked knowledge about the frequency of people having less than honorable intentions, it was what saved my silly butt when my brain failed to use what is called “common sense”.  People watching is a lifelong habit.

As time as moved forward, the internet was not only born, but grew up and out, swallowing our world.  It has given us access to the thoughts and comments from people from all over the world.  In many cases, it has removed the economic barriers that had previously isolated certain sectors of society from each other.

So what does that mean?

It means that I have the ability to regularly observe the public behavior and comments of those people born into a life of privilege.  You know the sort–their vacations cost more than my house’s total purchase price.  They have never experienced actual hunger, been homeless, or been worried about whether their utilities were going to be shut off before they could scrape together the money to pay the bill.  They have no idea what robbing Peter to pay Paul even means in terms of daily life.  They can have personal trainers, multiple cars, multiple vacations each year, etc.  They also have the ability to go “find” themselves and put their principles ahead of survival.  

When they were graduating (or their children) from high school, their biggest worry was not trying to find a way to pay for college, but rather whether they would be accepted into their first choice college.

But that’s okay.  It is nice that some people can enjoy a life of privilege, and if they inherited it from their grandparents or great-grandparents, well, lucky for them.  It’s hard to not envy that financial state when you are struggling, but I really don’t bear them animosity.  What does torque my psyche is that these people with  a life of privilege feel that they not only have the right, but the obligation, to pass judgement on the rest of the world.

People usually do not choose to be poor or financially struggling.  No one enjoys being hungry, homeless, sick, etc.  Our natures encourage us to try to avoid those states.  They, which in this case, includes me, may have made some poor choices or been the recipient of an unfortunate series of events that lead them to that state.  From there, circumstances can snowball to other issues, with a wide range of observable results.  These things can happen to people who are intelligent, moral, hard-working, and considerate of others.  They may even have a very good education to go with it.

It’s sad but true, money talks in this country.  Without money, if you are sick, you will die, the same as anyone who is poor and sick in a third world country.  Some areas have better indigent health care than others.  In Mississippi, if you do not have children at home, you are unlikely to receive any assistance with any medical needs, from medication to hospitalizations. The state does not consider keeping their population healthy to be financially feasible or a good investment, apparently. It means lower costs for the elderly too–Mississippians tend to die younger than most Americans, reducing the number of years that the elderly receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, etc.  Sounds great on paper, if you are one of the privileged category that can afford good housing, good nutrition,  lifelong insurance and private elderly care.  Poor people tend to believe that they are “lucky” to have minimal health care for their children.  The new national health care plan is painted to be the tool of the devil himself, an affront to the very fabric of American society.

Why do these people of privilege believe that they are responsible for passing judgement on every overweight person they see, everyone who is struggling to make a life for themselves, everyone who asks for help, and everyone else that they may observe in the course of a day?  Who gave them that right?

Somewhere along the way, the capitalism that we all treasure became a corporate based economy that has little to do with the concept of “free enterprise” and a whole lot to do with monopoly and control.  It’s not really capitalism anymore, more like corporatism.  Now we are told that corporations even enjoy many of the rights of a person.

Wonderful, right?

Not until a corporation dies on the battlefield or in a hospital bed of a curable disease.

In most cases, those with a life of privilege have acquired it via the corporatism society we live in today, not due to extraordinary efforts or great inventions. The sad thing is that with the rise of corporatism, we’ve lost compassion.  We illustrated it with the reality show industry featuring Donald Trump pointing his finger and stating “You are fired!”

There is no compassion from corporations.  It’s nothing more than the cogs of a wheel that bring the downsizing from the board of directors to the employee being laid off, all pre-planned like a paint by number painting and never seasoned by compassion, to give the dreaded pink slip to someone who is going home to his or her family with the worst news imaginable.

Even the safety net of the extended family is gone, also courtesy of corporatism and its demise rushed by the corporatism that fuels Hollywood’s representation of society in films and television.  We are now like a nation of three year olds grabbing everything they can reach and shouting “MINE!” at the top of their lungs.

Corporatism has convinced us that we need those “toys” and that he who dies with the most toys wins.  Too many people are working too many hours to buy toys so that they look as though they are living the life of privilege, when instead they could be enjoying the luxury of a real life with enough.  It’s made us a nation of people who trample over other people just to grab one more toy too.

Did you think Hunger Games was a depressing book?  It’s not that much different than the corporate career many face.  Most “die” early on, doomed to a life in the mail room, secretarial pool, or being fired.  A few climb to the next level, if they are greedy enough and willing to stomp on enough other people to do so.  At each level, more die and fewer rise to the next level.  Then, finally, there is a handful of “winners” who get the prize.

I think we need a whole lot more compassion, respect, and consideration for others and to stop entertaining those in positions of privilege with our envy and efforts to rise to their positions.  We need to learn what enough really means.  We need to remove the concept of false shortages and monopoly from our economy and create an air of plenty and competence.  We need to reward excellence and despise greed.

I can dream, right?

Sometimes, I wonder how Gene Roddenberry’s world came into being, what kinds of growing pains it experienced before money went away.  What measure did they use to bargain with others then?

Writing to the White House, Representatives, or Senators

27 Aug

Do you need some highly delayed aggravation in your life?

I’ve discovered one in the  past year.  On two separate occasions, I wrote to the White House.  Months later, I believe about six of the them, I would receive a response.  Once I wrote to the President, and once to the First Lady.

Now I’m not naive enough to think that either one of them read either letter.  I know that they were read by a junior staff member who probably despises the chore.  It certainly takes long enough to get around to the task of responding.

The length of time makes you feel as though what you had to say fell on deaf ears and was essentially a wasted effort.  I can vent in a blog with more satisfaction and probably with equal ability of creating awareness with those who represent us in our government.  I’ll certainly feel as though I’ve done something.

Unlike the letter to the White House, or the ones I’ve written to our representative or Senators.  The senators never responded.  The representative responded slightly quicker than the White House, but committed the same grave error.

None of them apparently actually read & comprehended the letters.  A computer algorithm could have come up with a better response than the semi-human operated bot did.  It was as though the response looked for a few key words and then spat out a form letter that was supposed to address what you had said.

Wrong.

This morning, I received a letter from the First Lady (or rather her automated staff/email response team).  It went on about the Let’s Move campaign and childhood obesity.  Was that what I wrote about?

No.

I had written to her asking her to support gardening as a way to fight obesity, and specifically urban gardening’s need for her support.

I merely got a form letter thanking me for supporting Let’s Move and the usual propaganda about how wonderful it is.

I’m disgusted.  I wasted my time, and then…I wasted more time with reading the response. The White House also wasted time sending it.  I got the same sort of nonsense from my representative and senator, the same nonsense from the President.

I guess my complaint is that it is worse than a waste of time, it’s insulting.

Common decency?

29 Jun

When did things like kindness, courtesy, being polite, patience, and virtues in general go out of style?

I’m sort of lost here…in case you hadn’t noticed.  I’m also curious.

When did cruelty, viciousness, rudeness, foul language, selfishness, greed, and avarice become desirable traits?

Seriously.  I still see posts where women brag about being bitches.  Yes, I know a bitch is a female dog, but there is a reason why the word bitch is used to describe a woman.  It’s because she is selfish, rude, vicious, cruel, and/or greedy.  While I own three bitches myself, and I love those dogs to death…it is the attitude of a bitch in heat, if you had sexual promiscuity to the list of characteristics of a bitch.

It’s sure not something you’d want your daughter to grow up to exemplify.

Ok, I’ll admit it…I have, on numerous occasions, responded with “Thank you, that’s the nicest thing anybody has said today” when I was called a bitch by a man.  That’s because I was working as a guard in a men’s prison and it likely WAS the nicest thing I’d been called that day.  You will never get anywhere if you think a prison guard has popularity on their mind–they don’t.  They tend to be oriented on policies, procedures, and getting the job done.  Being called a bitch kind of went with the general lack of popularity thing I had going on then anyhow.

But that was just a job, and that was a very long time ago now.  I don’t like being called a bitch.  I don’t call people bitches either, unless provoked greatly.  When I do, it is NEVER a compliment, in case you were wondering.  I’ve never had respect for someone that chose to act in that manner either.  I certainly don’t envy them.  In general, I feel sorry for them, for surely something terrible has happened to make them so miserable.

I still try to be kind, considerate, and polite with others.  Even bad customer service reps don’t get sworn at by me–the worst I say is to ask to speak to a supervisor.  Bad customer service happens to be something that makes me very irate too.  Rude clerks make an impression on me in stores as well.  I tend to not want to shop there again.  Rudeness is bad for business, it does not attract future customers.  It drives away previously loyal customers too.

So why are all of these companies, from your local hospital to the utility company to the corner coffeeshop, still employing rude and unpleasant people?  Why are we beginning to accept rudeness and worse as our lot in life?  Why aren’t people more considerate of their co-workers, neighbors, customers, employees, friends, and even family?  How did society become so “me, it’s all mine, I deserve this” about everything?

Paula Deen is being crucified for decades old comments, and yet we forgive people like Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.  We hear the same words in music from a variety of artists, and that’s okay too.  We’re devoting hours and hours of debate to whether or not gay people should marry.  We send money overseas to promote “freedom” and “democracy” while our own freedoms are being eroded away and our democracy becomes a corporate lapdog.  We scream about human rights, and right here in the USA, they are violated continually, without even minimal access to health care for the millions of working poor families.  That’s okay, we’re sending rice and vaccines to Africa.  Never mind that the seeds we export are GMOs and “Terminator” seed…leaving farmers starving and unable to grow anything.

We can’t change the world.  We can’t even force change in our own country in anything resembling a speedy change.  We can’t make people learn to think independently and quit worrying about whether or not Britney Spears was wearing underwear when she went to the club last week.  We can’t make them demand their freedom is protected or that Congress actually works to better the lives of the majority of citizens in this country.

So what can we do?

Start in your own little corner of the world.  Demand that corporations deliver what they promise, from the product they sold you to the customer service that ensures it works right.   Smile at your neighbor and ask how they are doing.  Quit surfing on the surface of life, worrying about paying that too-high mortgage or that new car payment so you can replace your four year old car.  Quit caring about who’s name is on the butt of  your jeans and spend more time paying attention to how those jeans makeyou feel.

For crying out loud, quit being a whining bitch and bragging about it.

Grow up.  Participate in life, contribute something along the way.  Make a friend and keep them as a friend, even when its not convenient.  Friendship is about more than mere networking.

Learn the virtues and think about them.

Common decency…ask someone like your grandmother to tell you about that.  It isn’t weakness to be kind and considerate.  It’s a virtue.

Try a few of them on for size.  It’s not about anti-feminism or religion or wanting to go back in time.  It’s about how  you treat people.  It’s about how you treat yourself too.  How can anyone be happy if everyone cringes when they see you coming?  Fear doesn’t come with respect, in case you hadn’t noticed.  It’s more apt to deliver disgust, repulsion, and rejection.

 

Does social media reflect our society?

16 Jun

I’ve been looking through various social media sites today, having a few laughs at the creative ways people solve problems.

And then, I would read the commentary from people that I don’t know. It was interesting but also concerning. Judging by that commentary, our world is made up of a high percentage of very vocal people who feel an obligation to pass their moral judgement on someone else. They can’t see any further than single snapshot of the story, but because of THEIR opinion, that person should be imprisoned, have their kids & pets taken away, and be restricted from interactions with others…at the least.

I’m not talking about photos of blatant cruelty, deviant behavior, etc. either. Some of it revolved around creative punishments for kids after some rule violation, which was never described. Having been a parent with kids who were creative about rule violation myself, I know that I had to be creative with finding appropriate punishments that reflected the rule violation. I wanted them to understand why the rule existed and why it was important to follow the rule too. It wasn’t about retribution usually (sibling wars sometimes do involve that though.)  I was a mother who actually made her daughter wear a sign that stated “I lie to my mother” much to her chagrin.

Sometimes it was about outdoorsy stuff–fun things to do with kids while camping, having a bonfire, etc. Sometimes, ideas don’t work so well in practice as they do in concept. I’ve done a lot of things, ranging from cooking on hot rocks to cooking stuff on a stick. I’ve eaten food that had more sand in it than the average ocean beach too. I’ve tasted things that were rather unpleasant along the way. It’s part of the fun we share with our kids.

After due consideration, I have concluded the following.

Too many people spend too much time worrying about what other people are doing.
Too many people lack fun in their lives, and therefore must stamp out the element of fun in other people’s lives.
We have too many “holier than thou” people in the population.

We have way too many people who object to hearing laughter or seeing smiles.

Too many of those who are “experts” and free to make decisions about what we can or cannot do have no idea what we are doing or why we are doing it.

Too many people actually feel they have not only the RIGHT but the moral and legal obligation to control what other people do in the privacy of their own homes–and I don’t mean what we consider illegal normally, but how they talk, what they think, how they dress, what they eat, their manners, etc., stuff we consider the small individual choices of life.

It’s no wonder that as the mysterious “They” say, the nation (or world for that matter) is going to hell in a handbasket.  Everybody is too busy worrying about everyone else’s thoughts and actions to take care of their own business!  Surely these trolls (yes, they are trolls…people who habitually do this negative commentary are even called trolls, for crying out loud!) cannot be doing much for their own personal economy or relationships if they are devoting this amount of time to tell everyone else that they are doing it all wrong.  Just like those parenting experts that have never had a child of their own, these trolling experts don’t seem to have a life of their own.

Not that the world or the masses are always right either.  I agree…too many people deface historical or archeological artifacts, whether in vandalism or theft.  Too many people do dumb things like chop down living trees to build a bonfire or break glass bottles at a beach.  Other people destroy the environment with the foolish use of a fire or flare.  There are people who do abuse their children, spouse, parents, or strangers for that matter.  We have laws trying to protect society from acts of stupidity and viciousness.  We have an appropriate process to deal with the people who are believed to have violated these rules of society too.

But just because I let my granddaughter pick a wallflower alongside a country road, that doesn’t mean I’m letting her burn down the forest.  Yes, I know it is a wildflower and it won’t produce seed because she picked it.  I also know that it was one of thousands in that area alone, and that the roadside will be mowed in a week or two.  It’s not endangered, and I think she is smart enough to learn (over time, she is still a toddler) to respect and appreciate our natural world.  Meanwhile, the child of the pompous troll who passes judgement on us as being among those who rape the environment will miss learning what beauty and joy is to be found in the natural world as s/he learns instead to judge others with no tempering by mercy or common sense.

If this is the direction society is headed, my apocalyptic prediction friends are apt to see it become a reality.  These people are so focused on finding fault with others around them that they can never see the real threats to their world aren’t the people who laugh and do silly stuff, but rather those who work in secret, trying very hard to stay out of sight as they figure out how to make a few extra dollars.  My conspiracy theorist friends can undoubtedly figure out how these trolls are actually secret government agents, designed to keep people irritated and aggravated, unable to focus on real issues while they deal with the dumb stuff the trolls come up with.

Like education.  Genuine education that actually teaches kids critical thinking skills…now there is an idea that has been long forgotten as we deal with the “No child left behind” concept that ultimately was translated to “thou shalt only teach kids what they need to know to pass the federal tests” because that is going to determine whether or not you keep your job as a teacher.  Critical thinking isn’t necessary, especially if you are raising the next crop of trolls and troll victims, now is it?

It’s no wonder we have the FDA pursuing small farmers who sell raw milk while we have organized crime moving drugs throughout the  nation, or that towns across the country are more concerned with whether or not someone is growing vegetables in their front yard than they are with the number of people in town that don’t have access to fresh, healthy produce at all.  Yes, I know that raw milk is a potential carrier of horrible disease and that was the original reasons for pasteurizing milk, but if people were educated to understand what the word pathogen meant, then they could make an intelligent decision about whether or not to use raw milk, couldn’t they?  We’re far more likely to hear about a school teacher having inappropriate sexual relations with a student than we are to hear about all of the teachers who managed to help a child learn and maybe even make something of their lives via education.  We’ll hear every small detail about some celebrity’s life, right down to whether or not she had on underwear when she was at location x than we will hear about that local activist who managed to put together a community farm that ensured that everyone in that town had fresh vegetables in season.

It’s time to quit worrying about what everyone else is doing and go do something.  Have a glass of milk and eat a cookie, made with real butter and sugar, while sitting on an unmowed lawn and letting the sun warm your body.  Wear some goofy outfit and go to Walmart, and while you are there, smile at people and ask them how they are doing and really listen for once.  Go eat a hot dog with mustard and kraut while watching a baseball game and cheer for both sides.  Pick a dandelion flower and hold it under your chin to see if you like butter.  Have a lemonade stand and give the stuff away to people, just for the heck of it.  Put a lawn chair in your front yard one evening and wave at everyone who drives by.

Just don’t be a bland piece of milk toast in a milky, bland world!

Pay it forward?

27 Apr

The past few months have been really tough for Greg and I.  We’ve been struggling, barely keeping things together.  Sometimes, it would be very easy to get very depressed about it all.  But then, I stepped back and thought about what was going on.

It’s not that we have failed, but rather I see it as a lesson we needed to learn.  Maybe me more than Greg, to be honest.  It’s a lesson in humility.  I was arrogant and reluctant to let people help me, even after becoming disabled.  I kept on insisting I could do it on my own, even when it was becoming blatantly obvious that that was not a true statement.  Still, I refused to admit defeat and give in, accepting help.  It was hard to even ask Greg to help me when I couldn’t get dressed or undressed.  To let someone else see that I was struggling was unthinkable.

I thought I was better than that, it seems.  That’s a risky thing to do, because when you don’t learn your lessons, they just get harder.

That’s what the universe did to me, it seems.  I wasn’t getting the lesson with just the physical aspect, so they delivered a secondary version.  It’s like those Ladies of Fate looked down at me and frowned, saying she didn’t get it the first time, let’s hit her in the pocketbook this time!

And then they cackled.

Okay, so I have a wild imagination.  Even so, I am convinced that they did in fact cackle.

So the financial woes hit, and as we navigated those rapids on the river of life, apparently, I wasn’t learning fast enough to suit them.  So then, Greg has his heart attack.  While he could have died, he didn’t, for which we’re both very thankful.  But it scared me and scared me good, as well as put him in the hospital for a week, leaving me to cope on my own.

It was like watching a house of cards when a stiff breeze struck them.  It all began to fall apart for me.  Greg has no idea how fragile my world suddenly became–he missed those melt downs.  I had no idea how I would cope, with anything.  The stress was killing me.  The fear was paralyzing me.  All I had was a fragile thread of hope binding us to manage to get through this somehow.

And people helped me.  Some of it was financial, some of it was emotional, and some of it was very intangible.  Even the rude people who upset me and made me angry actually were helping me, because then I had at least anger to help keep a stiff spine and keep on going.  When Greg got out, we managed to find more help to get over those first weeks as we tried to figure out how on earth we were going to get by.  Family helped too.  It seemed to be strings of minor miracles coming together, creating a ladder that looks like we might actually survive it all after all.

And I learned.  At some point in our lives, we all need help.  This is important because if we fail to accept those times, we’re also depriving someone else of their own lesson.

Because at some point in our lives, we need to help others.  It might be a small thing, it might be a bigger thing, it might even be a huge thing.  It doesn’t matter what the size is, the whole point is that by helping someone else, we’re learning how to be a little less selfish and a little more giving.  Like the Grinch…our hearts can grow a size larger.

And then, at some other point in our lives, it’s time to pay that debt and pay it forward.  I’d already been in that position.  Long ago, on several occasions, total strangers helped me, for no reason at all.  I hadn’t asked for it, even though I really desperately needed help.  I did manage to accept it graciously and thankfully.  Since I don’t even know who they were, there is no possibility of ever paying them back for that help.

Or is there?

To me, it was a case of paying it forward.  Random acts of kindness to others doesn’t hurt.  It doesn’t even cost a lot usually.  It might take a bit of extra time, a bit of extra attention, a dash of true consideration…but that’s a small price to pay really.

Because you never know when you will be suddenly thrust into walking in their shoes for a day or longer.  You never know what life is going to dish out to you, and suddenly leave you in a position of desperation and loss of hope.

I know most people get on the bandwagon for donating time and money around the holidays.  That’s really nice.  The fact is, there are people in desperate situations every single day of the year.  Get up, go and do something.  It’s like making a deposit in  your karmic bank account–and you never know when you’ll need to make a withdrawal.  Finding a cause is great, but it doesn’t have to be something that well defined.  Maybe its giving a ride to a neighbor, buying a package of diapers for a young family, a box of groceries for an elderly person, or a donation to the local food bank.  Even something as simple as carrying in a trash can for an aging neighbor might do more than spare them the effort–it might restore their faith in humanity and make them feel like someone cares.

Make a difference, somehow, to someone.  Make someone’s day a little brighter, not so that they will like you or do something for you, but just to see them smile.  You might be really surprised at the side effects that it will have on  you.

People

24 Apr

We went to Lowe’s today.  Greg needed some supplies, and that was where they were to be found, so off we went.

We parked near the garden center, as I wanted to explore what they had available there, as well as search their prices.  As we walked in, a young man asked us how we were and whether he could help us.  Greg was his usual smart alec self.

He asked if they sold sanity by the box.

I kept walking, but part of me regrets that now.  I should have either stood there or ran away, so I either had no clue about the rest of the conversation, or got to watch these rocket scientists in action.

I will NEVER again ask any Lowe’s employee for any help with making a decision, because I know that they also came from the same hiring process.  Sit down, but go to the bathroom first, before you read another word, if  you are prone to springing a leak when laughing hard.

The young man proceeds to tell Greg where the boxes of sanity were found.  Greg, assuming he had not heard him correctly, says no, boxes of sanity.  (emphasis on sanity)

The guy says he’s not sure what that is, so Greg, with far more patience than I would have, tells him its the opposite of insane.  He nodded sagely, and calls his companion for advice.  His companion comes up with the answer.

“We are all sold out.  It’s been on back order for two weeks.”

Now, for most people, we’d assume they were joking, right?  Just like Greg was joking.  The first guy tells the other guy that there might be some left on aisle six.  I’m starting to get very worried.  This pair might have a box cutter or something on them.

Greg starts to finally understand that they aren’t going to understand, and he tells them nevermind, it was just a joke.

Junior rocket scientist assures him that they’ll surely have it back in stock next week.

About this point, I decided that moving indoors to the seeds was appropriate.  This pair scared me, because if it turned out that they had a third brain cell between the two of them, all sorts of things might occur.

Get a book, read there how to fix things.  Do not depend on a store clerk to have a clue!

The Facebook Bubble

18 Apr

There are rumors flying that the Facebook bubble is about to burst, that it has exceeded its own growth potential, resulting in a speedy demise.

Maybe it has, and maybe it hasn’t.  I’m not an expert, but…I am smart enough to learn from the past.  That’s what history is for, isn’t it?

We have had a lot of bubbles related to the internet.  The dot com bubble burst some time ago.  MySpace, once the king of social networking, is pretty much history.  I have an account, but I have logged into it about twice in the last three years.  Even then, it was just to connect with someone who hadn’t moved on to Facebook, not because I cared about my own account.  I didn’t like it much, and I found it awkward and with an excessively youthful nature.  Facebook suited me better, with a more run of the mill air about it as Every Man and Every Woman took to it like ducks to water.  Now, I actually know some people who think the internet IS Facebook, never leaving its comforting pages to wander unfettered through the digital universe we have collectively created.

At the same time, people aren’t going to magically abandon Facebook unless something better comes along.  Google presented us with Google Plus, then disappointed many users as it adopted more and more features that resembled those of Facebook.  We hadn’t flocked to it for a Facebook replacement, we had flocked there to find something DIFFERENT.  Somehow, I think it may have failed to deliver what we were craving, although it does have some of the features people seek.

So what do people want?

That is the million dollar question really.  In general, among the people I have approached , they want some specific things:

Ability to connect with others with similar ideas/interests.

Ability to control how much information is made public.

Ability to integrate and yet separate their private and public personas.  (Yes, they are different!  We all have our pro side, and then we have the side who gets depressed, eats a quart of ice cream, a whole bag of chips, and vegs on the sofa for an entire weekend in their pajamas…featuring My Little Pony on the bodice.  Do we really want our co-worker and clients s to see our angst?)

The ability to share things, especially cute kittens and political  memes.  Oh, and their opinions, of course.  Often.  Without.  Thinking.

The real kicker is that it is hard to keep public and private separate, and yet it is very important.  More and more companies want to take a look at who you are on Facebook before..and after….hiring you.  There have been cases where they wanted the passwords as well, even before hiring you.  (Not sure how legal that really is, and I would object strongly, but desperation in this job market probably inspired many applicants to just give in.)  Law enforcement is looking harder at this information as well, and many people suspect that the government spies on us all continually through social media.  If so, I hope they enjoy the recipes and cute animal pictures  that litter my posts.  Oh, and MouseHunt, the one game that I keep on playing.

So, that big mysterious agency, which is called Big Undercover Liberty Limiting Special Host of Investigating Technicians (BULLSHIT for short) is watching our every tweet and post, whether its on Google Plus, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or Secret Text Updating Data Inside Technology (aka STUPID) status update in search of covert, illegal, or terrorist activities.  That’s a big job, and it’s an important one.  After all, not even the super snooping capabilities of the latest CARNIVORE government spyware program can detect and analyze the language used inside of a cute kitten meme.  They have even found it necessary to put undercover agents into the dating sites in search of terrorists and anarchists who are using these sites to find women to marry and then obtain legal status to continue their illegal activities in the United States.

Sure they are.

The US is notorious, world wide, for their strong stance against illegal entry compared to other countries.

And I have a couple of bridges for sale, one on each coast of the USA, been in the family for a long time…

Go try sneaking into Mexico, China, North Korea, or heck, even sneak into Iraq while  you are at it.  After you have your “vacation” they’ll send you home, free of charge, right?

Wrong.

But that’s okay, we’re okay with that.  Just like we’re okay with the way Facebook is going.  Never mind that we’re already suspicious of their marketing techniques and desires to use our names and images to promote other goods and services.  We’ll happily go along with it, until the rats all find another ship to jump to.  All we have to do is figure out which ship will be the one they choose, so we’re riding along with our own cheese store, right?

At least  we know what it won’t be.  It won’t be Yahoo, MSN, AOL, MySpace, or G+.  Will it simply fracture apart, as people opt to leave the ultra populated space for smaller, more intimate and more user-responsive versions of social media?

Actually, I think that’s what I would place my bet on.  As shifts occur in how we interact, obtain our information and entertainment, how we shop, and where we work, we’re going to see that continual evolution.  Chat programs, while now usually subscription based, are becoming increasingly popular, and often oriented to topic or demographic data oriented.  We want our information and written entertainment also delivered digitally, and that creates another mode of connection.

That makes me wonder.  What if Amazon introduced a social media program, one that allowed people to discuss types of products, literary works by genre, etc.?  Would we see the rise of that type of social media connection, one provided by the seller of goods as a way to encourage people to continue shopping via their website rather than to venture into the “real world” with all of its inconveniences, expenses and dangers?

Or maybe we’ll see the right wing control factor coming into play, and instead of corporations operating the social media, it will become a government sponsored, controlled, and monitored environment.  We’ll all be tagged with our personal data, preventing any more mysterious encounters, as well as encounters of the really dangerous sort that we’ve all heard about.

The ancient Chinese may have regarded “May you live in interesting times” as a curse, but it’s our mantra.  We do live in interesting times, and who knows how they’ll be regarded in the future.  Are we going to be immortalized in unrealistic works of fiction that equate this era to the Wild Wild West that really never was what the movies portray it as?

That could be too.  All I know is that we’re going to see changes, some from evolution, others from reactionary governments.  We’ll see how our data is delivered and censored change, as well as who delivers what will change.  The wild and utterly independent voices of today’s internet radio may be silenced in the coming years, as expenses continue to rise as economies continue to struggle.  We don’t know.

But, it will definitely be interesting to watch and find out, won’t it?

 

The justification for rape

24 Mar

It’s funny, we often hear how women provoke rape because of their attire and behavior.  I find this ludicrous.  That’s no different than a bank robber defending their actions by saying the presence of the money in the bank  caused them to have the uncontrollable urge to get a gun and rob it.  It literally is NO DIFFERENT!

I hear it more and more, how women are provoking these attacks.  Maybe it is time to reconsider.

If men are so unable to control their behavior, perhaps it’s not the women’s attire, but rather that men themselves are incapable of self control.  Of course, by making this sweeping decision, we’d have to make a lot of other changes too.

Someone who can’t restrain themselves from forcing sex with someone obviously shouldn’t be able to vote.  They might see a woman at the polls, because at least in most of the polling places I have been, half or more of the workers are female.  Some of the candidates on the list  might also be female, and their uncontrollable thought patterns might be inspired by the sight of a feminine name.  So, no more men voting.

Then, we have men in political office.  Any one of them might have uncontrollable urges at some point.  They obviously are not competent to hold public office, since sex is their strongest instinct.   We may even have proof to further this point of view with so many male politicians caught up in various sex scandals, with women, other men, and with children too.  Joined with the whole issue of men not being able to restrain themselves if an attractive woman in attractive clothing should come into view.  Then again,  not all victims of rape are attractive women.  Sometimes, they are elderly women, disabled women, disfigured women, handicapped women, or just plain average women.  It might not be the clothing either.  Even nuns wearing habits have been raped.  I’d not call that garb exactly “provacative” in any sense of the word!

Of course, soldiers have historically had a reputation for raping and pillaging, dating way back to biblical times.  We would have to immediately dismiss all males from the various branches of the military too.  Obviously, we cannot expect them to work with women, see women, defend women, or fight women.  Even other men might not be too safe, if all of the old lewd jokes about sailors is true.

Men would not be allowed to roam the streets freely either.   After all, it is a proven fact that most rapes are committed by men who were not restrained.  So, all men would have to be confined behind fences and walls, or shackled for excursions into public areas where women and children might frequent.  That situation will also cause a great deal of problems, because now we’ll have a large number of dependent men who must be guarded and confined, no longer allowed to contribute to society in general except within the confines of their secured homes and the prisons that we’ll undoubtedly need to house the immense number of men who are unclaimed by a responsible female.

Of course, the issue of at what age a boy would no longer be allowed in the company of respectable women due to his increasing risk of uncontrolled urges to rape.  Most boys would probably be deemed “safe” until they neared puberty and started exhibiting signs of their uncontrolled natures.

Just think of all the freedom women would enjoy if they were released from the tyranny of these men with their uncontrollable urges!  What contributions to society women would be able to make if they were free to work, study, and socialize without the fear of this behavior!

Come to think of it, we’d probably do away with wars too, other than as a way for these violent and uncontrolled males to vent some of their aggression in non-raping activities.  With the men confined, the wars would cause far less damage to our planet and our society too, as they would have to war within their own compound area, rather than over entire countries.

While this may seem utterly ridiculous as a response to rape, so are the rapes themselves.  Rapes are a violent assault on a person, and they are also a theft of the vilest sort, as everything the victim has believed in has been shattered permanently.  No rape victim ever goes back to being “normal” again.  They will always have that scar across their psyche, permanently and viciously implanted by the callous act of another.  To let the perpetrators of this crime pour more salt onto the wound by blaming the victim is ridiculous, even if the woman was walking stark  naked down the street, any man should be able to respect her rights as a person to determine her own actions without coercion, regardless of whether there was a law or not.  Rape of men is also the same, they too bear the scars of the crime, and it will affect the rest of their lives just as it does a woman’s life.

I don’t care how many ridiculously and deliberately obtuse politicians stand up at the podium and claim that women don’t get pregnant during rape.  Ask a doctor, it CAN happen.  STDs can also be transmitted, and we all know that some of them are dreadful diseases to try and live with.  That’s just the physical results of the rape, if there is no damage done physically beyond the rape itself.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, the victim is also damaged physically, leaving them in pain, needing reconstructive surgery, and/or permanently disfigured from the assault.  Rape isn’t a joke.  It is a violent act.  It cannot be condoned.  It cannot be ignored or swept under the rug.  The victims should not be put on trial, and I don’t care if they just finished making a porn flick and were wearing the most provocative club clothing ever seen on the streets of the town.  It cannot be justified.

So guys, you can’t have it both ways.  You are either fully capable of being rational and exercising control, or you aren’t, and if you aren’t, you should NOT be put in a position to control anything.  If I can’t trust you with my daughter, how could I possibly trust you with my government, my money, my anything?

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