The other day in Philosophy we had a class debate. The class was divided in half. One half had to defend why the continual attainment of  more and more wealth was the best thing someone could do with their life. The other half had to defend why the pursuit of wisdom and virtue was the best thing someone could do with their life. Obviously here when we look at the span of someone’s life we automatically think “Well you need some money to make wisdom and virtue easier to seek.” Okay Let’s disabuse this notion. The wealth we are talking about is above and beyond what people could ever hope to possibly use for themselves. We see this with old money. The Vanderbuilts, Kennedys and so forth. 

Let’s set the stage for the characters for this debate. My college is a private one. Annual tuition runs around 28 thousand per student. The majority of my classmates come from affluent families. I’m not one of those. My military service has earned me my place. The majority of the student body are liberal free thinkers trying to make something good with their lives and give back to those around them. So with this in mind we set off on our debate.

The wealth debate: “Monetary wealth is quintessential for the betterment of the person as a whole and a good life. Wealth buys a better education, a better home, better medicine, etc. With this wealth I’m able to pursue philanthropy and assist those less fortunate. I’ve got the ability to take trips across the world and enrich my mind. I don’t have the normal stress of bill collectors knocking at my door. My children will not have to deal with needless hardships. They can be raised with a piece of mind to pursue what their hearts desire. My wealth invested drives capitalism. It gives everyone a chance to earn their own and become as successful as I am. Yes monetary wealth is the key to life.”

The wisdom and virtue debate: “Virtue and wisdom are the essences of a good life. Living your life with virtue, as in honoring your family and taking care of the less fortunate, will fill you with happiness. The little things in life is what makes it worth while. Money is a distraction. It cannot buy walking the beach with my child’s hand in mine at sunset looking for seashells. Wisdom can enlighten me on the best ways to hunt and forage for food if I’m not living within the city realm of concrete jungles. Wisdom let sme know what plants can help sooth a toothache and I don’t have to pay scraps of useless papers to some doctor. Wasting my time waiting for medication I could be making while telling a story to my children. With regards to virtue, if I’m warm during the winter and come across someone struggling with the cold, why not give them my extra pair of gloves when I have pockets? Should he or she suffer because they weren’t as prosperous as I was. Why not help those around me? Does that not help us in the long run? Yes virtue makes good people and wisdom enriches their lives. That is the only way.”

My questions to my readers is this, what path do you walk and why?

This evening I had an interesting conversation with my mother. She called to talk to me about family events going on in her part of the world and our dialogue turned toward’s my grandfather’s service in the navy. Now I knew my grandfather was a little bit of a hell raiser in the service. What I did not know was he served in the Pacific theater during World War II. What was even more surprising than this was the fact he was “Sectioned 8″ out. Now this was a discharge due to mental instability. I had no clue. I only knew the one tale I had heard growing up. He was quiet and soft spoken. He had my grandmother, two children (including my mom), and two golden retrievers he loved. I never took him, in the 12 years I knew him, to be a veteran who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and possibly other  mental conditions. My mother said she woke up one night and my grandfather was hallucinating and choking my grandmother with his bare hands. He thought she was an enemy soldier. The old guy apparently was never able to fully cope with what he was going through.

I wish I had known this earlier when I came back from Iraq. 

My ex wife and I went through a period in which I was physical in my sleep. I was told I threw a couple punches but never connected. She worked nights. A couple times she honestly made me flip a switch. When she came home sometimes she would crawl into bed and try to curl up behind me. When she wrapped an arm around me and kissed my neck I instantly woke up with the intentions of hurting whoever was trying to choke me. Surprise! Just the wife being lovey. Talk about feeling ashamed. Luckily for us that was as far as my physical reactions went. Years later I have heard a multitude of stories from various friends, colleagues, acquaintances, coworkers, etc of similar symptoms. 

Currently there is a campaign by various veterans and supporting organizations to get the VA to be able to help those who’ve served over the last decade and a half. This includes physical and mental rehabilitative services. Unfortunately this is only a small portion of the American population. There have been for the last 40 years a movement by the Vietnam Veterans to also be included for treatment. This has been helped by my generation’s suffering but only on a small scale. In World War I through Desert Storm the popular statement was “shell shocked”. Only in the past decade has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) been explored and researched on a wide spread basis.

Now this is where we take a unexpected turn. Some veterans from all ages are unable to receive medical care. Why? It’s all due to their discharge. Its also due to the backlog with the VA. In a May 2013 article of the LA Times online, author Alan Zarembo quotes their are over 856,000 claims currently at the VA. Now with the first condition, their type of discharge, it seems to be a relatively easy thing to take care of. There is a review process to be followed to upgrade your discharge if you did not receive a Honorable Discharge. Unfortunately with the backlog on claims, this makes the entire system slow down. Veterans who have severe medical problems or have families to support are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Now the backlog is due to inefficient bureaucracy.

I am a disabled veteran. When I relocated to Nevada, I took several labor jobs to make sure I had enough money to eat and keep a roof over my head. During this time I ran into veterans of my generation who had this problem. One was an Army veteran, married, three kids, and living with his wife’s parents. He and his wife made roughly 1600 a month between the two of them. He had some physical ailments which he didn’t have the medical insurance to deal with. He told me he was denied coverage at the VA due to his discharge. Sounded strange to me. Well until I heard about Vietnam Veterans going through the same thing. 

It made me wonder, between my grandfather and those who are in a similar position, how can we as a Nation expect to heal if we only treat those who have a high enough discharge to qualify for medical assistance. Now I don’t know the statistics, all the regulations and policies, but I do see an alarming amount of fellow veterans suffering because of this. Being a disabled veteran frustrated with inadequate mental health care, I sympathize. What can we do for them? Will the stories be a driving force for us to stand up and do what we can to help each other? Will they turn into background noise and we fall by the wayside? What can we do as veterans to help each other?

I’m not sure but l won’t stop listening. I won’t stop lending a shoulder to lean on. I will never leave a brother or sister behind. 

 

There’s nothing more distressing to a veteran than realizing he’s been serving a government which supports no cause and cares not for what he sacrifices. Why would a veteran think that? Why would he feel so deeply unsettled about his sacrificed time? What does his life mean now?
If you’ve ever served your country wearing a military uniform, you know the feeling of belonging you get by wearing something distinctive not everyone can wear. You also know the sense of entitlement or feeling special. Why did you join? Does it matter? You did something good by swearing an oath, going to work every day, and getting out to continue other pursuits. Or did you? Have you deployed in defense of your nation?
Think about that last question. Have you deployed in defense of your nation? The military went to war in Afghanistan as a preemptive measure to kill or capture those who would do us harm. A pretty broad directive. Then we went into Iraq (theater I served in 2004-2005) for……actually I believe it was over falsified intelligence reports and a war mongering White House. Of course I could be wrong but no one has presented me any information to the contrary. This raises serious questions about the usefulness and use of today’s military. Don’t get your panties in a bunch yet.
Now if you’ve served you know your branch was created by a congressional decree, blah blah blah. Think about the history, tradition and lineage of your service branch. Think you know the truth? I won’t go into detail but offer you this link

http://www.fpri.org/footnotes/1210.200704.maslowski.creationusarmedforces.html

No, FPRI does not endorse this. I stumbled across this doing some research but it brought to mind things I’ve noticed within the military, my own branch of the Marine Corps.
First the MC birthday is odd. There were Continental Marines and then US Marines. I was a US Marine. The official establishment of the USMC was on 10 Nov 1775. The Continental Marines were disbanded in April 1783. The US Marine Corps was established on 11 July 1798. Wait what? You mean for over a decade I was celebrating a lie? Yes and no. Yes the official United States Marine Corps was not established on 10 Nov 1775. No if you look at it as a celebration of the first unit of Marines to establish the traditions the Marine Corps holds today. Now being to a number of Marine Corps Balls, around a half dozen or so, there is no mention of these details. In the Marine Corps initial schooling at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island or San Diego, there is no mention of this. Why? Why would a military service so hell bent on declaring its exclusivity and almost angelic service leave out that important part of its lineage? For the simple reason that the truth is not good enough.
Marines I know have served for 20+ years don’t even know that tidbit of information about the Marine Corps. What they and most past or current Marines believe is there is an unending line of warriors ready to lay down their lives in order to protect this country. Eh, sorry guys, but our warrior line took a little hiatus back in the day.
I realize most veterans who’ve read this far into the post will have a higher interest level to see where I’m going. Most will have signed off before then because I’ve questioned their reason for serving or the reason for their sacrifices. And also for the reason the truth is not good enough.
Why isn’t the truth good enough? Well what is the truth? I don’t have an answer for you. I only know what I think and feel. A) I served a government and not the people of the United States. B) The service (by service I mean those above me in the military) lied or misled me about certain things which could have kept me safer, made my life better, and helped my brothers and sisters in arms with more care. I had very few mentors who actively sat me down and said “Look, this is what the regulations say but this is how we do it here.” C) I don’t feel the military is the establishment we believe it to be anymore. It’s been this way since after the Revolution.
Nothing I can and will write will be full of pomp and cheer and extolling the virtues of those who chose to put on the military uniform. Do I believe this country owes veterans something? No. I think this country is so messed up it doesn’t know what it wants or needs anymore. I do know it is up to us Veterans to take care of ourselves and each other as best as we can. I realize there will always be sense of loss and sense of belonging with those who serve. Unfortunately the questions provoke more questions than answers for what those as veterans would like to hear.
As an old crusty Staff Sergeant friend of mine would say “At the end of the day, no one cares more about you than you. No one gives a damn after you’re gone. You’re just another cog in the wheel. Look out for number one. Oh, and try not to screw over number two, three or four. They might be the ones to make sure you don’t get your ass plugged by some commie. Just make it home so you can make sweet love to momma and have puppies. Outside of that what could you give a damn about that makes sense?”

    The world is racist? Seriously? I’m a white male writing a blog with this as the title. This seems so wrong…or does it? Let’s get past the stereotypes shall we? Or can we? We in America have unique problem. Now I say unique but this applies to other places in the world. I say unique because we like to think we are special. We like to put our society above others. So knowing we are a bunch of self centered narcissistic personalities let’s ask the question again: Is the world racist? 

    I believe it is. Let’s take a look at where we live. Asians in Asia, Middle Easterners in the Middle East, Europeans in Europe, Africans in Africa and Americans in the Americas. This is where our cultures grew up out of the history of the world. I know there are different theories about the spread of man across the globe but wait. We migrated to certain areas long enough for us to get different skin tones and other physical features. The groups had different access to natural resources. We segregated ourselves to start with at the beginning of evolution. The reasons are moot but we did. So does this make the world racist? For geographical reasons yes. For years the groups lived segregated. Anywhere they met after their development there was some sort of conflict. Is this because of how they differ in appearance? Partly yes. More has to do with communication. Wait…communication? Sound familiar? How about this phrase: “Don’t judge someone else unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This means not to judge until you understand. How do we understand someone so different from ourselves? Communications. 

   Now people in the US blame slavery and religion and narrow minded people for racism. True they play a huge part. But are they the root problems? Now racism or xenophobia helped create in the world’s mind stereotypes. Evolution also helped. The Europeans (predominately white or caucasian) colonized most of the world. They had a good mix of natural resources and were able to jump ahead of other societies in their evolution. They became the standard of learning and standard of living to emulate. Always emulate the victor of colonization in some way and you will reach the top. I mean why else did they populate most of the known world? So now we have a standard to hold ourselves too, caucasian persons. So does that make white people bad? Ask someone in the US and you might very well get a yes. Whites were responsible for slavery and this huge religion called Christianity. Actually false. Slavery has always been around and is not endemic to just the Europeans. But here’s a catch. The victory or dominate society seems to write the history books. So Europeans wrote the history books until they came to the US and we had that little revolution. Guess what skin type the founding fathers were? Caucasian. So America’s history has been dominated by white persons. Is this bad? Well no. Okay now you’re thinking, this cracker writing this blog is totally racist. No. I’m not. I’m just putting out thoughts for you to ponder. Keep reading we will get there.

    The world created stereotypes. Over the years people have defined themselves by being different than another group. I define myself by being different than the rest of my family. How do I define myself? By being different than others. I also define myself by sharing traits with others. I love the academic world, I’m a heavy reader. I love the gym, I’m a gym rat. I love my motorcycle, I’m a biker. I am a military veteran. I define myself by different groups in different arenas of my life. This all makes up the whole of me, what I am and what I am not. I am stereotyped by certain people as a biker. An outlaw on the road. I’m no criminal, but that’s how some people see me. I fall into a stereotype in someone’s mind. I ride with people of all nationalities and ethnic make ups. Why? We share a common interest and I could care less what your ethnic background or color of your skin is. I find joy in enjoying my favorite activities with others. 

   Can we fight stereotypes? Yes and no. When you try to get out of one you ultimately fall into another. Let’s look at the “Black Bruins of UCLA.” I saw their video a few days ago saying how the “African-American” population is only recruited for their physical skills in sports. This may or may not be true. I’m not on their recruiting staff there. I will say they pointed out a few interested statistics supporting their view. Good on them for speaking up. But wait, didn’t they just stereotype themselves? Yes. In this case it is to help raise the level of “equality” of different ethnic makeup across campus. I applaud this and stand by them for this. This country has flaunted it is built on diversity of all ethnicities and a good mix of different “stereotypes” of people helps us be more empathetic to others and work towards a better goal for our collective self. This means everyone has different needs in how they achieve their goals or become better people. This thought or way of thinking has brought up Affirmative Action. Okay this is a dicey subject. Please clear your mind as best you can before you continue reading.

    The idea of Affirmative Action is a good idea, in my opinion. The methods of Affirmative Action irks me to no end. This is where things get blurred, stay with me. Now societies have developed different social classes. This helps enforce stereotypes. If you are rich you have different views on the rest of society and you have different privileges. The material world is a little easier for you. If you are poor you may constantly be trying to catch up materialistically or just to live from day to day. There are different stereotypes within each of these “social classes”. 

Notice I concentrated on the material world and social classes. How do you separate those from race in this country? You can’t. It’s what America thrives on, materialism. Look around you. Tell me it isn’t true? We distract ourselves from the larger problems around us with new cars, jewelry, video games, etc. That’s another topic for a different post.
Seriously though. If you were a black male or female growing up ion a impoverished area think about how people thought about themselves. Did they really care about family and making a better life or did they hide behind excuses about the “Man” holding them down. If you a white male of female growing up in an upper class area did you have the world handed to you? Did you feel like everything was yours and people who were different weren’t as good as you? Yes these are two huge stereotypes which immediately draw strong emotions from people. There’s a reason for this. Most people get emotional and forget logical reasons behind all this tension. Think about it. As soon as we have some sort of race issues we draw back into our self stereotypes and seek splice from those who are similar to us in some regard. If we naturally turn to stereotypes can we ever move past the “race card”?
This post is just to provoke thought. If feel I’ve crossed the line anywhere I could care less. BUT look in the mirror. See how you could help restructure our society to turn a blind eye to race and social class. If you don’t think you can then I have this green pasture for you to join the rest of the sheep. ;)

Yesterday we had a middle school shooting in Sparks, Nevada. Facts I am aware of is a student age kid came to school with a gun. He killed a teacher, wounded at least one other kid and then committed suicide. Today I walked into my Psych 101 class already emotionally charged from listening to the morning radio talk show discussing a man’s right to hit a woman (totally different discussion).  I will not speculate on the school shooter or the rest of that situation. What my Psych class talked about was of fundamental importance about our society as a whole. Every month we have a school shooting. Every month some kid takes out his frustrations the only way he sees he can cope with his life. Yes, a majority of these “child shooters” have some sort of mental disorder or cognitive disability which predisposes them not to judge things in the same way we do. Some of them don’t. Sometimes these mental “problems” are products of their DNA and sometimes from their environment as they were raised. Is there a simple solution to stopping this sudden trend in American society, which is quickly becoming a normal expected behavior? Everyone jumps to gun rights immediately why? Owning a gun doesn’t mean much. Having kids and owning a guns doesn’t mean much. So what’s the real problem?

Here’s my theory. As American’s we tend to blame others for our own short fallings. Usually it takes something life threatening or changing for us to own up. We have to lose something or someone we love. Me, I’ve lost a few opportunities with loved ones and things I’ve loved or amazing opportunities. Yet my former step kids still talk to me like I’m there dad. As a general rule toward our young ones we aren’t being parents like we should be. It’s not just providing a roof over their head, putting food on the table, and making sure they have tv, internet, etc. It’s the amount of time you spend with them its the quality of time you spend with them. Kids need structure, routine, and someone they can open up to. This doesn’t need they need to open up about everything. They are kids. They can’t properly express their feelings. Sometimes kids just need to feel that no matter what you are their rock. A study showed a baby monkey would rather go to warm fake monkey than the fake monkey with the milk the baby monkey needed. Think about it. What do your kids really need? When was the last time they told you about their latest crush or just sat down and watch the football game with you just to sit next to you? As America we, including me, we need to look out for our youth. We don’t need metal detectors and fences and extra security. We need more family time. That’s all. Just quality family time. Sound simple? Maybe so, maybe not. Chew it over, think about it. I could be wrong but every jerk reaction from the media and government hasn’t helped out youth yet. In fact its made it worse. Eh, what do I know…

So our world is f*!@ed. We have one socio-economic system after another failing or running into some type of crisis. First off, we have an expanding population and dwindling supplies. How do we go about stabilizing this? I have no clue. Second, we have this rock we live on in which we are destroying bit by bit. How do we go about living in symbiosis with it? Again I have no clue. Third, we, as a species, could care less about our survival over the next one thousand years. How do we change our view on that? Well we don’t. We are so small minded and narcissistic we may never again think about our survival as a species. I won’t even pretend to try to have an answer to change that. 

So instead I will pose the question. In fifty years, where would you like to see the human race as a whole? Now think carefully. I would like to open a dialogue so comment on this. Be specific. Geothermal energy use and no cars, raveling the stars, a return to a steampunk era, there is no limit on your imagination! Make your comment as long as need be. Review it, revise it, and then let me have it. Can I change anything? Probably not. Do I want to get you thinking about something more than yourself? Yes. Now tell me where you want to see this world in fifty years!!!

I have a class which is an introduction to World Religions. You might think this is a touchy feely class to get acquainted with each major religion so you are more open to it. Wrong. SO WRONG. It is actually a class of critical thinking about religion, what is religion, why do we have religion, what are the major factors in the world which come about to influence religion or it influences external organizations, movements, politics, social movements. 

 

We started with the question: “What is religion?” It sounds simple right? Go ahead, think about it and try to write me a post on this which is at most four sentences long. And I will bash you for bad spelling, incoherent thoughts and run on sentences so be a smart person and give me something to think about. Give something people who will read this blog will think about. Be original or quote someone and give a logical reason of why you feel this is the best definition of religion. 

For example: Rudolf Otto is quoted with saying “Religion is that which grows out of, and fgives expression to, experience of the holy in its various aspects.” 

Karl Marx has said of religion “Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature…It is the opium of the people…Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.”

So what is religion? Can it be summed up in a universal definition? What is religion to us? What does it do for us? Does it comfort you when you think of the end of life? Does it give you a way to date the pretty girl next door? Do you use it to control those more gullible around you? 

Religion is man made so are the ideals in it anything but man’s manifestation of our own pathetic view of mortality and the quest to find an answer of why we are on this earth?

The answers are neither easy nor comfortable. Since birth the majority of the Earth’s population has had some sort of religious experience, exposure or upbringing. Can you really take yourself out of the equation and look at it objectively? Will our views be constantly skewed by our own spirituality or lack there of?

Looking in contemporary literature like the zombie craze, religion is mocked. It can’t save you from a zombie what good is it? Look at the popular series Warhammer 40000 where Space Marines are religious about wiping out evil from the universe. Or take an older Science Fiction novel, Dune by Frank Herbert. This is the scariest one of all. Religion much like Islam, even toting green banners and suicidal soldiers following their prophet, sweeps the known universe and transforms the landscape of mankind. Keep reading the first six books, three by Frank and three by his son, and you go past the religious craze into what I consider the heart of all religious movements. Don’t have the time to read any of that then don’t comment on this blog you lazy ass hat. 

You have to be able to look at another religions scriptures and materials before you past judgement. Do you do that? No you don’t you irrational judgmental baboon. But if you did would you have a better definition than I for what religion is? Which begs the question if you really did read this bog and pay attention then you’d realize I haven’t put my opinion out there…..

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