Stupider and stupider or is it something else?

Some recent British study concluded that most of us feel overwhelmed, sad and confused these days but it was not – so much – the evil times in which we live but rather it was the disruption to our way of cogitating. We no longer think in the same manner as our species has for centuries. We now ‘process’ differently and that difference is resulting in a fragmented collective mindset in the larger society.

Put more succinctly, we are having a harder and harder time thinking, concentrating, focusing. No one, it seems, really truly multi-tasks more than two thought processes at a time and even two is uncommon. When we claim we are multi-tasking, we are really focussing on one thing for a short time and then focusing on the next thing for a short time before going back to the first thing to see how it is doing. A chef might look like he/she is multi-tasking but, really, they are tasking only and focussing on one thing while the other dishes simmer on the stove. In other words, we are not multi-tasking so much as quick-shifting-focus. And, while that, in itself will not make a short-order cook or a juggler depressed and confused, it will do that to them if they then spend every other waking moment on their phone accessing FaceBook, Twitter and such.

Our brains are not getting enough downtime.

It seems we are being subjected to too much stimuli and just can’t get away. Some people seem to handle it but the researchers say they are anxious and unhappy. It seems some people know that is a problem in their life and attempt to reduce the stimuli but that seems to just result in a bit more ‘down-time’ gained and how do we tend to use that downtime? By accessing our phone, of course.

The ‘study’ laid it all on a bit thick, to be fair. They then bunched in all the other attention grabbers in society from street and store signage to phones, from TV and radio to living on top of one another. You are a limited human-being utilizing 20% of your brain trying to juggle so many balls all at once (some of the stimuli you are aware of but others are playing in the background like MUZAK, lights, sounds) and the result is a lessening ability to focus. Seems people cannot concentrate on any one thing for long anymore….or, better put, not for as long as those people did fifty years ago.

I recall very distinctly – about ten years ago – when I was lying in bed after waking and I just lay there thinking. Sal said, “Want tea?” I said, “No, thanks. I am just gonna lie here for awhile and think. I cannot believe I have not really had a minute these past 40 years to just stop and think…you know? Think freely. Think whatever my brain suggests. Just free-wheelin’ thinkin’. This is an incredible luxury. I am not used to it. I am just gonna lie here and think. I can hardly believe how I was thinking all the time but never for fun, never freely, always with duties, responsibilities and chores. Finally, I can just think.”

Get this: According to research, our attention span has markedly decreased in just 15 years. In 2000, it was 12 seconds. Now, 15 years later, it’s shrunk significantly to 8.25 seconds. In fact, scientists reckon we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish, who are able to focus on a task or object for 9 seconds.Jan 24, 2022

And another source: “COVID led to many people experiencing cognitive overload, whereby our brains become short-circuited due to being inundated with information our brains are trying to process,” says Crystal Burwell, director of outpatient services for Newport Healthcare Atlanta.Dec 22, 2021.

None of this really news-news but, when I stopped to think (that first time while lying in bed and ‘free-wheelin’) I was stunned at how liberating, freeing and pleasant it was. And do not confuse this kind of free-thinking with sitting in your car in traffic waiting for the light to change. That AIN’T IT. I am talking about something more profound, quieter and contemplative. I am talking laid-back, nothing-pressing thinking. I do not do it quite so much anymore (I guess I rested up enough) but I still do it once every two weeks. I really think it helps keep one sane.

For those of you who struggled with the length of this blog, the 8.5 second attention span website is for you: https://www.wyzowl.com/human-attention-span/

So, imagine, if you will…..

…..that these really are the END TIMES. I do not think they are, myself, but I do think TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) may, in fact, be nigh. Not imminent so much as near-on-to-nigh…this is what tipped me off a bit…..

Question tangent: If these are the End Times, or maybe if they are just a trifling TEOTWAWKI, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do, bad boy, bad boy?

I have a couple of male friends in their fifties. One is single, the other with a family. One poor and the other rich. Both intelligent. Both good eggs. No major flaws (well, they ARE male, so there is that). Both balanced and healthy. And both NOT media/trend/future watchers. They do not even follow the news. Whenever I mention something current, they inevitably say, “Oh, I didn’t know that. Who are we talking about again?” They are hip in business and smart and observant in their sphere but not ‘au courant’ or even aware of most current affairs. They do not travel internationally.

One of them even likes country music!

But are they, perhaps, canaries in this global coal mine? Both have recently made moves to fix their current points of view on all things which were, up until-now, ignored. To me, that is telling. One is up here looking for property (but he lives in a city) and the other is planning on ‘getting out’ of the city, too, but is maybe a step behind. Regardless, they are both looking outside the urban box. Don’t forget the salient fact: they are just barely in their 50’s.

Neither of these two guys have been subjected to my constant harangue (Get Out! GET OUT NOW!!) — you know, the one that you guys suffer every blog or two (I reserve the badgering for those already so inclined to hear it). Neither think in terms of ‘End of Days’ but they are now thinking of having an ‘alternative place’ whatever that means.

Neither of them reads the blog. They got there on their own.

One called the other day. The other has called almost every week for the last few months! I listened while one of them ranted about the world going to hell in a handbasket. “How long has this been going on!!??” “Well, I said, I have been ‘seeing’ what you are now talking about since the first few years of this century. I got a boost in that point of view when the 2007/08 financial debacle happened in the States. Then there is climate change, Trump, China and the rise of extremism. Then you got your Covid, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and now Monkeypox. Lots of crap goin’ on, man. Very little has happened to dissuade me from my main survival concerns but a lot of crap and chaffe have piled on to muddy my perspective. To be honest, I think it is steadily getting worse. Don’t you? You might be a bit late to the party but better late than never.”

“What do I do?” “I have no real idea. I preach getting out of the city but, to be honest, the impact of climate change will affect us all. A third world war will affect us all. Hell, inflation is already affecting us all. And Covid altered the world quite a bit already. I do not see a real cover-all-the-bases solution. Still, I do not think the city is where you want to be.”

“But, if I sell now, I might take a hit financially….and my wife loves her neighbourhood, my kids go to the school…..what about my business…?” “Good questions. Most people would have to make some hard decisions. But, you are wealthy enough. You can implement a Plan B and ride the current wave you are on for as long as civilization holds together. Plan B may be expensive but you can do it.”

“What’s Plan B again?”

And therein lies my point. Once we build an edifice of any kind, invest heavily in the game-of-the-day, buy into the mainstream, carry deeply our faith in the system, we are not only committing most if not all of our energies that way, we are blind to seeing other things. Ya hafta keep asking yourself: am I all in for this? Am I all in for THIS!?

I am not suggesting one approach is wrong and one is so much more right….who knows? But one thing is clear, these guys have had a comfort blanket around them for the last couple of decades and it is currently making them now somehow uncomfortable. That is a ‘canary’ to me. They are even wondering about a Plan B.

They are where I was back in the early 2000’s.

Interesting, don’t you think?

Bok Choy

She was short, Asian and almost my age. We were in our sixties. And we were side by side at Save-On both looking intently at the Bok Choy. I like Bok Choy but my appreciation of it was limited to ordering Chinese food to go. We didn’t cook it at home. I was thinking of going produce rogue on Sal and adding Bok Choy to the grocery cart. “Excuse me, but I am guessing you know more about Bok Choi than I do.” That intro was delivered with a smile and a non-threatening posture.

She smiled and said in perfectly unaccented English, “Yes. I probably do. How can I help you?”

And so we got to talking vegetables (domestic and foreign) and shopping, the weather and such, you know, in the manner of a ‘pick up line’?

Ang was from Edmonton. She and her husband were on vacation. Seems he had never seen the ocean and this was a dream vacation for him. But, as she told me of their trip (they were only a day or so into it) she seemed a smidge down, melancholy. Her voice seemed a bit weak.

They were staying on Quadra, the island just down the coast from us. Their idea of ‘seeing the ocean’ was to go to the beach at Heriot Bay. He wanted to wade in the shallows of Drew Harbour. And it is a lovely place…..

But, for some reason I said, “Here’s my number. If you and your husband want to experience a bit more ‘closeness’ to the ocean, I’ll pick you up in my boat.” She was speechless. I thought I may have come across like a weirdo. Sal says that happens a lot. But I persisted, “You have to travel up to the end of the road and that is where I get you.” I kinda regretted the last few words in that invitation but I let ’em sit. She didn’t answer. I said, “Gotta go. Call me if you want. You’ll need to set aside a few hours. Takes forty minutes just to get to the dock. If you call, I’ll give better instructions.” And, again, she just kind of looked at me. No answer.

I left her and the remaining Bok Choy and joined Sal at the fruit section. I confessed my impulsiveness. “What!? She’s gonna call the manager. They’re gonna call the police. Let’s get out of here!” I was gonna argue but, some day, that scenario may, in fact, play out. So we hustled out.

Sheesh.

Two days later Ang called. She and her husband would like to accept my offer. They drove out and I picked them up. Peter seemed like a nice guy. I drove them around a bit in the boat and, after twenty minutes, we were in front of our house and I pointed it out. Peter seemed to come alive. He was noticeably intrigued. And so, that is how they came to be invited to our house and Sal served a fabulous impromptu lunch. We talked and then it came out…..

“Peter has Cancer. Terminal. They give him days, maybe weeks. As soon as we get back to Edmonton, he goes into hospice. It has always been his dream to see the Pacific and maybe retire near it like you have. He’s dreamed of a cabin like yours.”

We spent a few hours with them. Peter was remarkably sanguine about his fate but, at the same time, he was clearly tasting a bit of his dream. He was happy. He seemed to love every aspect of what he was seeing and what he was hearing. ‘Course, Sal’s lunch was pretty damn good, too. Despite his genuine excitement and pleasure, he did begin to noticeably tire and I took them back to their car when Ang and I shared the right glance. All in all, they had been away from their B&B about four or five hours.

Ang wrote to us a month or so later to inform us of Peter’s passing. She also sent Xmas cards for a few years afterwards as well. We exchanged a few polite e-mails. She said Peter talked about his visit with us and with everyone who would listen. She said we made his dream come true.

A chance meeting of a stranger over Bok Choy. A small gesture offered and accepted. A heartbreaking story. Is that an example of what I just wrote about these past few days? Yes and no. Mostly yes. ‘No’ because Ang and Peter hadn’t asked for any help. Help didn’t seem needed. Still, something human prompted a spontaneous gesture and acceptance. And that led to a ‘moment’ and a very close relationship – at least for that time and for a few years – and, in such small ways, community is built. We and Ang don’t even live within a thousand miles of one another but I am pretty sure we would consider each other as members of our community.

In for a penny, here come the pounds….but it is easier that way (part 3)….start small.

It is hard to start this part three but, here goes: for everything to get fixed, we all have to fix what we can.

What that means for most people is starting to emphasize non-judgmental acceptance of others in your sphere of existence. You see same or different coloured folks, same or different languages, same or different presentations, same or different situations and you address them all with respect and help. It is that simple. And never ignore a person in need. Don’t drive by pretending you don’t see. Help everyone you encounter who needs assistance. Every single one. Every time.

A lot of people will read that as ‘Damn, I gotta send more money to starving African babies again? I gotta be nice to drug addicts hitting me up on the street? I gotta bake a cake for the local church charity?’ Absolutely NOT. That level of giving is totally optional and I can assure you that doing it (especially reluctantly) will just burn you out and drain your wallet. Helping in this context means ‘being there and doing something when you are called’. It does not cost anything but real time, personal, hands on time. Money is not required. And the rewards are way disproportionate to any costs.

As Sal has said for years, “You only get out of life what you put in.”

“But I am way, way too busy. I can’t afford to go looking for needy people to help. There are too many of them.” No one said ‘go looking’. Life will naturally bring a number of people in need right to your face. No need to go looking. In fact, as the old saying goes, charity begins at home. Be kind and respectful, helpful and empathic with family and friends first. That’ll keep a lot of people busy enough. Be kind and respectful to neighbours and not just ‘go-through-the-motions’.

“Do you do that?” Of course not. Too busy. Too selfish and too self-absorbed most of the time. But I can honestly say that if anyone seeks my help, I give it. I do not always give what they ask for but I give what I can and I give what I think is ‘the right thing’. I have given away thousands of dollars but, over time, I noticed that giving personal time had better results.

“How will that help build community? How will that build morality?” Good questions.

Not sure of my answer on that either but, again, here it is: If you build it, they will come. If you help your friends and neighbours, they will, in turn, help others. They may not help you and some may just take but, being a good neighbour seems to create a similar energy in others – even those you didn’t help. Community building is infectious. But it is not lineal, not direct. It is more organic and human than that. You do not need grants, assistants, projects or organization. You do not need to wear the right hat. You only need to walk the walk (silently). It will get noticed and it will be be repeated. And you may not even see it……..

There are dozens of definitions of community but most of them are academic, pseudo-science, stereotypes. They seem to extol virtuous goals or approved behaviours. I do not believe that is the way. Those models seem to require that you join something. Give something. Dress a certain way. Do the same activities. Same, same, uniformity…”Find like-minded people”, blah, blah. Kumbaya but with a grant and an office. And I think quite the opposite is true. Trying to make everyone ‘homogenized’ just creates separation. I think we just assume that we are all part of the species (and the planet) and thus we all belong in some way. And, if we/they all belong, then us/we welcome them. We accept them. And, surprisingly, that seems to be enough to build community.

“Really? You see a bunch o’ Crips and Bloods and you accept them?” Yes and No. Accept the sinner. Reject the sin. I have ‘accepted’ Hells Angels, drug addicts, criminals, bullies and thugs and most of the time, it was all just fine. I cannot think of an exception. Those people were in my neighbourhood. Those people were in my clinic. Those people were mediation clients. Some, you just bump into. But any of those people, if in need, I would also assist. Some, but not many, may just take. But most and definitely the vast majority, appreciated it and gave back in some way. That is a mind-blowing phenomena when it shows up in Skid Row.

It is also mind blowing when it shows up buying Bok Choy in a supermarket (but that is another story).

I have a bazillion stories more like this one following: the clinic in Skid Row had hundreds of clients per day. Most of them were deplorable. They were NOT the Trump Deplorables (political). They were just Skid Row denizens deplorable in their own way. Many were violent and crazy. (I really need to tell the story of Conrad someday). I treated them all with respect and politeness at first.

But life is weird and I also punched more than few. But I like to think a well placed punch helped them in some way.

Anyway, forty years later I was in a small town doing a favour for an ex-client at the local Catholic church. I had to give testimony as a witness to their annulment. As I sat in the waiting room and after having introduced myself to the older receptionist, she asked if I used to run a clinic in Skid Row decades earlier. When I said yes, she was all over me with hugs and tears and love. Long story made short: she was a mess back then. We treated her properly and with respect. She recovered and made a good life for herself. Since my name was on the clinic office door, I got all the love. In a weird, indirect way, she was ‘building community’ by way of her church and other selfless acts. Like I said; it is not lineal. It is not direct. But we were part of that, no question. It is real.

My friend, the late John R, did that sort of thing all the time. So do many of my current friends like KB, SD, DG and SH (it seems identifying folks is bad form on the internet but they all deserve acknowledgment). To this day, John’s name resonates with hundreds of people in his town. And those folks have all gone on to do something similar in nature if not in scale. John built community by being a front end mechanic who always helped others. Go figure.

But the key for this was not money-being-spent. The key was not words. There was no ‘key’, no recipe, no goal. John just got in and got his hands dirty. John did the real community work. No grants. John just quietly walked the walk.

“So, what are you saying? And pulleeez make it succinct!” By accepting and respecting everyone and helping those truly in need to the best of your ability, you will generate community. That community will eventually grow to share the same values. Shared values are what morals are all about. And that is how we restore morality – we act moral ourselves.

“Sorry, Dave. A bit flaccid, ya know? Got something else?” Sure. Easy-peasy. Join something good and already established and help them and leave the hard start-up part to others. No problem with that…..well….I have small, tiny problem with that and it has to do with the nature of institutions. It seems really good, moral leader-types start the institutions but eventually they die off and the institution is then run by people who just needed a job. So, being a bit of an independent, I choose to start-from-scratch rather than inherit a lot of institutional baggage. However, if we are measuring morality and community building both paths work if you are committed to the mission.

In way over my head (part two)

If basic values are all much the same universally and different challenges bring about different morals and laws needed to address those challenges, then where are we today? Have we messed up big-time or are we just in transition? Are we more evil these days or more good?

Let’s first check on what those basic universal values are. I alluded to survival in the last blog as a basic ‘value’ or instinct. But there are more. In fact, S.H. Schwartz’s study concluded there are ten. His list is: power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security. If you read a bit more on the subject, more ‘definitions’ and words are added depending on the author. But the point is that however they are listed, they are all much the same…..doing the right (and human) thing is a universal value. And that suggests inherent.

Mind you, if you talk in terms of universality, evil seems to manifest that way, as well. Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. They are everywhere. Are they inherent, too? I do not think so. They are learned from experiences gone wrong.

I think that is why the US Declaration of Independence is so magnificent. It addressed the human condition, albeit from just a noble point of view. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

My own list is NOT the same as Schwartz or even the Declaration but that difference is really semantics. My noble-values-only list would likely read: 1. a sense of justice (includes: truth, honesty, peace, conformity, respect and empathy). 2. personal freedom/survival (includes: power, self-direction, life, liberty, achievement, pursuit of happiness) 3. belonging to community (includes: respect, hard work, courage, duty, security, cooperation, conformity, responsibility, loyalty, sharing and empathy) 4. love (includes: universalism, acceptance, respect, compassion, benevolence, kindness, gratitude and more empathy).

Note that ’empathy’ keeps showing up. Empathy – the ability/tendency/feeling/understanding and accepting of other’s experiences. (Oxford: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.) Empathy is likely the next key to building morals – along with building community.

“Unh, Dave, aren’t you off on a bit of a tangent?”

Yes. Sorry. I’ll get to the point…….. The greatest ‘disruptor’ in our moral fabric – the ‘fabric’ being based on the above VALUES – in recent years has been the advent of social media. To be fair, all modern media has rattled the status quo in our everyday morality but social media is the latest and one of the most influential change agents. So, what has it done to us, morally speaking?

(Quick aside: the biggest and still most relevant influence on common morality is/was the church(s) and then it shifted to secular Economics/Capitalism. But the latest big one presenting now is Social Media.)

Social Media has allowed and accelerated the proliferation of lies and truths. It has provided community and succor to disparate/different/deviant elements (i.e. extremism) but it has also built community in the larger one (i.e support for the persecuted, social issues and even Ukraine). It has connected people and divided them. It has taught and it has deceived. Social media is a highway on which good and evil are both traveling (just as before) but they are both going much faster.

Frankly, I am mostly optimistic about it. ‘Truth will out‘, Free speech’, ‘Shine a light‘ and all that sort of thing. But there is no question that the bad guys have a new stage, a microphone and a spotlight now, too. Evil seems to be always front and centre these days. That is a propaganda boost for the bad guys and, as Trump has proven, ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity.’

Regarding the influence on our collective morals from social media? Conclusion: I’d call it a tie for now with, perhaps, the edge going to GOODNESS. Why? Because we/I believe that empathy and community are foundational to goodness. And nothing has done more to promote that than social media.

“So, Dave? That’s it? Your conclusion for a better, moral world is community building and greater empathy?”

When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound like much, does it? But let us summarize that a bit differently. Religion and Economics are still major influences on morality and are in desperate need of updating – they are hoary and rigid and the times they are a changing (as they always do). Social media is a new influence on an old medium and we should skip the hoary and updating step sooner simply because everything is moving faster, especially in that area.

I mean: we should push for more social responsibility in our social media. See values above.

But really, all that structure (religion, media, economics) is a function of community and empathy, (albeit the larger one). Build community and empathy (love one another) and the hoary old institutions will be dragged kicking and screaming along with the improvement.

Suggestion: start small. Big doofuses currently run the larger-now-dysfunctional communities.

“Where does all this nonsense come from?

Well, as stated, I think it is inherent in all of us. I am no exception. But, to stick my neck out like this, I’d suggest that it comes from having been a mediator for twenty years. Mediating is a discipline that not only requires but demands empathy. ABOVE normal empathy! Empathy is the language of love and acceptance. And, as a beautiful by-product of becoming more empathetic, one’s community just naturally builds. And a good community is how we survive and thrive.

OK. But exactly how do I start small?

That’s the easy part. Or, better put: part three.

Manufacturing Morality (part one)

A reader asked that I address the question of society’s slipping morals. More to the point; how can we improve the overall moral climate in the modern world today?

That’s a daunting task and one that even Jesus did not fully succeed at…so much so, they are requesting an encore from HIM, a second coming, if you will. Given my deep and enduring inherent flaws, I should not even make an attempt. I am likely just to get into trouble. Still, it is an interesting question and one of my foremost flaws is hubris. Forgive me.

One first has to accept that the moral environment is bad and needs fixing. And I think every one currently sees a changing moral climate and definitely SOME of that is bad. But, does changing morals always mean bad? Does the moral climate change for both – good and evil – each time it changes? I think it does.

Secondly, the question assumes that we can change ’em. Given the history of morality (and it is considerable) changing morals comes about from changing circumstances and events, experience and culture. It is rarely a one-person task with again, Jesus and maybe a few others being partial exceptions. I mean, did Ghandi really change morals or just remind us of already established ones? Morals change (like laws and rules) but can we change ’em?

Ya hafta go back……way, way back….to the basic concept of good and evil….and then further back than that to basic human values……and then further back again…..to basic human nature….at the primal level. We are animals first…and that counts. Start at the beginning……

I have nothing to base this on but I’ll say it anyway: I am of the opinion that every animal and especially humans (because we raise our young for around 20 years) are born with some basic, inherent values and then they morph into morals. Call step one instincts if you must.

Of course, we want to survive first so survival is a basic value building block. And, if raised properly, we know that we are pack animals, social in nature, and so survival of the pack is another initial value (from which laws and morals are derived). In fact, we learn that survival of the pack helps the individual to survive so self-interest and empathy result from that. We LEARN empathy but we probably started with survival.

And therein may lie the first insight. Most of our values (from which more latter-constructed morals, rules, laws arise) are inherent, basic and founded first on self interest and survival. Almost any question of morals stems from either an acceptance of that premise or the perceived threat to it.

In today’s terms, for example, take the changed social attitude towards Homosexulaity. Homosexuality has been present in human history forever but it was deemed immoral for most of that time. Why? Aside from our social and cultural programming, homosexuality ‘felt’ like a threat to the species. “Ya can’t make babies that way!” But at this stage in human history, we have enough people (maybe too many). At the very least, the existential threat to the species is reduced. We do not need to worry about that so much. And, lo and behold, we altered our values and morals to embrace all those who are here rather than criticize those NOT joining the Breeders Club. We became more tolerant as the perceived threat to existence receded.

So morals change with circumstance and experience but values are rooted in primal needs.

“And how does that pedantic little lecture translate into fixing what currently ails us?” I don’t know but it seems that focusing on the symptoms is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. Mass shooters, aggressive dictators, toxic masculinity, unfair systems, racism, sexism, all the ‘isms’ – wherever they show up…..they are the symptoms. The cause is more basic.

Our immorality, from greed to murder, from drug addiction to pedophilia, from mass shootings to bigotry, likely stems from some perceived and unconscious threat of survival to ourselves or to the pack. In fact, a lot of violent acts of misogyny stem from a group that can’t get laid. How basic is that!!?? These guys are called Incels. We tend to focus on their behaviours and words of hatred and acts of violence but, at the roots of all that is their non-participation in propagating the species. They are lonely first, crazy comes after.

So, if current morality is the ‘fashionable’ expression of basic primal values in differing circumstances, then it stands to reason that we have to first understand what those values are and then make sure more people can participate in achieving them.

Dealing with that from the ‘symptom’ level in misogyny that might ‘look like’ more equality, more acceptance and, presumably, more access to the gene pool.

But, as stated, that solution (simplistic and pathetic as it is) is quite obviously wrong because we are trying to deal with symptoms rather than cause. And we know that because, in the example above, the solution does not work. Access to sex (rubber dolls, movies, porn, prostitution, lax sexual behaviours, perversions and crimes) have all increased and there has been no net benefit to the species as a whole and, in fact, there seems to be more harm being done.

Since forced tolerance and availability has not worked on the sexual side, then maybe forced ‘equality’ and ‘acceptance’ won’t work either. Affirmative action did not work well. In fact, ‘forced’ is the key word in this analysis and, not coincidentally, we have all already learned that when you force others to do something, they just do more of the opposite except passively, underground and behind the scenes.

Damn that Free Will, eh?

Another example: if it seems that survival is paramount, survival of the pack is the means and community and teamwork is just more of the same in more detail, then ‘good’ community building is the way to go. If belonging is important than we should belong!

But so many in modern society are alone, isolated, unsupported and made into ‘others’ they belong to the deplorables! Especially ‘Merican society. And there are so many of those who feel and are rejected that the UK sees that marginalized group so large as to constitute an epidemic! The outlaw gangs, persecuted minorities and even otherwise lonely types who identify with other lonely types (Incels) naturally flock together and, as a result, some alienated communities are built at the expense of others. And the MAGA movement saw those even more numerous rejects, those deplorables, those lonely and isolated and gave them a larger tent in which to find community (of the ugly sort). They even got matching hats! Hell, Trump held rallies for ’em. Hitler held rallies for the then-downtrodden, poor, vilified, post WW1 Germans.

Find a bunch of lonely rejects and ya got yourself a group, gang, church? in the making.

The title ‘Manufacturing Morality’ then, may be an oxymoron. Morality is inherent in our DNA and cannot be manufactured at will. We may be able to influence, sway and change behaviours over time but we cannot manufacture them. In other words, people with natural values will interpret their situations and act accordingly – usually, generally and healthily in much the same way. Manufactured morals (laws, rules, procedures) won’t do much and, in so many cases, achieve the opposite. To get real change, we must always address survivability and the general climate of existence in good, inclusive communities.

Churches used to do that but, the times changed and, with world connectivity, religion came to be seen as a divider rather than a community. And NOW we enter the age of social media…………(more on that next time).

Let’s address gun control for a second…….

Most thinking people want gun control because well, no one wants to be gunned down at the school, grocery store or place of employment. In fact, no one wants to be gunned down anywhere. We may have a special concern about schools but that is essentially the same thing just writ larger because we have a basic and primal instinct for keeping our children safe first, all children.

So, on the surface, no one wants guns, nitroglycerin, hand grenades and/or lethal poisons all within easy reach of imbeciles and whack-jobs. In other words, we basically just don’t want to die because of a random encounter. We basically just do NOT want to die. So gun control sounds – on the surface – reasonable.

And I agree with the ideal. Mostly. We regulate (control) those poisons and explosives, we control and regulate and even regularly test the greatest killing device in history (the automobile) and we have ‘safety’ rules and procedures to the extent that we even warn about nuts being present in peanut butter. And we have all accepted that the state has a role in promoting safety and safe behavior.

A rebuttal might be: “Well, there are enough maniacs out there that I do not want to be a victim without at least having a chance at defending myself and, if a gun-totin’ fool aims at me, I wanna be able to shoot back!” And I understand that feeling even if it means trying to survive an AR-15 attack with a pea-shooter. You will likely lose but you didn’t die easily. I get that.

But….is that the issue? Is it really? Because, if ‘keeping us all safer’ is the goal, gun control by itself won’t do it. In fact, it just might make matters worse. Here’s why: firstly, there are now 400 million firearms just in the USA, a country with way too many ill-educated, greedy, alienated, toxically masculine, armed-forces-trained, stupid, angry men out there. Even if the US ‘bought back’ guns as New Zealand is proposing, as much as 75% would not be surrendered. And those surrendered would come from the folks least likely to ever use guns (the law-abiding). Nut cases are not going to give up their arsenals. Neither will criminals. Or gangs. The balance of power (such as it is) will shift even MORE right and crazy.

Secondly, most killings are limited to family and coworkers. A real nut can do the average ‘mass’ homicide (which is questionably stated as four) with a knife or something else used as a lethal weapon. There is no doubt fewer would die from bullets, and likely fewer would die overall, but the data (according to experts) suggests the difference would be negligible.

There are some controls that would work: a buyer of a gun must do some ‘basic training’ and that training should have instructors who have the right and obligation to assess a newbie’s attitude and psychological state. That is not a panacea, of course, but it would help. Additionally, no one under 25 (ideally 40) could ever buy or own or use a gun.

Why not? We wait until we can drive, we wait until we can drink alcohol and we have to train to use large machinery. And, maybe we even go so far as to categorize any gun owner with more than six (or whatever) guns as an armourer and that person needs additional vetting and training. Those things might catch a few nut-jobs and may even reduce some accidents but they still will not do the job.

“Why?” Because people who kill others (especially children and strangers) are INSANE (temporary rage-insanity and/or deep-in-the-bones insanity). Insane people do not obey the rules. And, if you watch any YOU-TUBES on stupid ‘Mericans, you’d be astonished and appalled at how stupid so many of them are. It is staggering. So, ya got yer stupid ones and your crazy ones and ya got a toxic culture that glorifies Rambo and MMA and deadly retribution. AND, you market increasingly realistic ‘games’ for kids that make killing ‘the bad guy’ entertainment. The ‘gun’ mentality is complex and riddled throughout society in all sorts of ways.

Bottom line: the AR-15 is, perhaps, amongst the most appealing of the weapons for the crazies and the testosterone-challenged but pistols and single-shot rifles kill more people (just usually one at a time) statistically. And I reiterate: there will be at least 300 million guns in houses and cars around the US even after any attempt at gun control. They will never get that genie back in the bottle again (and it never was in the USA).

They won’t gt the drug problem back in, either. Nor homelessness, mental illness or general crime. Add guns to all that and it’s like trying to stuff a wildcat into a small bag of snakes – and the bag is on fire!

One more point: Sal has a shotgun and a 30.06 rifle. She had one of them for over 40 years. She has never shot them. NOT ONCE. But we live remote. There are bears, cougars, wolves and the odd nut bar around that might, in some way, give us concern. If the police are called, they would take a day to get here and often, when they make the effort, they get lost. Police generally operate on roads. They have not mastered boats, charts, night-time navigation and they really do not like hiking through the forest. We do not have a donut shop or a cop-car on the island either. They do not want to come. Put bluntly, we do not have the time in an emergency for that kind of nonsense.

“So, what is the answer?” The first answer is that there is no answer that will be effective anytime soon. The second answer is that ‘Merican culture overall has to change in a whole lot of ways. The third answer is typical regulatory stuff but none of step three will work until step two has made a seismic shift-change and, even then, people with guns will still kill people in shopping malls…..which brings us back to answer #1.

One dog is good, two dogs are better, three dogs are hell!

My daughter left her pooch with us as she went to a wedding overseas. We have Juno for two weeks. Juno is a good young dog (18months), smart, pretty obedient (directions given are not always obeyed) and full of fun and beans.

JUNO (photo: Emily)

That Juno, eh! She’s a shepherd-cross, also 60-something pounds and fast as blazes. Gus, on the other hand is 65 or more pounds, 6 months old, totally laid back and lumbers around like a water buffalo. Daisy is the little miss-in-between. Compared to Gus, she is a dynamo. Compared to Juno, she’s a slug. Three dogs, 3 different energy levels.

‘Little’ Miss DAISY (photo: Emily)

Then there is us. A whole new energy level again (if, that is, you can find any energy at all in us to measure these days). The last week has been like living in Tornado Alley in an old double-wide as a line of storms are hitting you. We live in a maelstrom. I seem to spend half my day preparing the dogs’ next meals. Sal sits down on the outside couch and within seconds there is well over 180 pounds of dog licking her face. She pulls her hoody down and goes into the fetal position. That is 300 pounds of writhing, shrieking, barking madness with tongues all over the place for at least five solid minutes.

And, so far, this is every day!

Sally asked GUS to get on the bench. This is as far as he got. Then he started to fall asleep.

Basically, they are pretty good, though. But Juno, being older and new-to-here, is pushing every envelope. She is a bit of a handful. But we’re okay with it. Gus, on the other hand is getting a bit fed up. Seems Juno thinks he’s attractive enough to couple with and so she attempts the procedure not realizing that it just doesn’t work that way. In the meantime, Gus is being mounted as he walks around rolling his eyes and looking baleful. Coitus interruptus is usually considered unpleasant for the participants but that statement assumes consenting adults. These are non-consenting puppies. Well, Gus is non-consenting, anyway. I think he is also a bit confused.

One of our quieter moments!

Daisy is just miffed by the whole thing and walks away with, amusingly, her tail down (taking no chances) and her nose in the air. She is disgusted by such behaviour. Juno is a bad influence on our dog’s sense of proper guest behaviour and is making them review the whole moral fabric in other dogs.

Our take is simple enough: ‘one more week………….we can do this!

The boat is coming along but, I am sad to report, rather slowly. A bit of woodwork here, an installation there, planning, measuring, trying to figure out the wiring….the usual things. It has only had one run other than the maiden voyage and that one was short. Boats just eat up time and, in the past, great gobs of money. This boat will not cost as much simply because the ‘yachtie’ standards are not applicable out here and, once everything is operational, that will be the end of it for awhile. Well, maybe I’ll do some painting and such in a few years.

If there is any real news, it is this: the community is mildly depressed. Usually, by the end of May, all sorts of life, activity, visitors and events are underway. Not so, this year. This is still a Covid year, the weather has been very un-Spring like with cold and wind and rain and lately, inflation is also being felt hard (especially fuel). It sorta feels like summer in Britain. Miserable.

Things are still happening, of course. But there is just no sunshine involved and that is needed after a harsh winter. We are really due for some nice weather. I am, anyway.

One less dog, a little more sunshine, extra time for the boat and, of course, a bountiful garden…that’s what we are aiming for. Failing that, we have scotch. It’s all good.

Dogs? Boats? Anarchy?

Happiness (dogs), accomplishments (boat) or, maybe…… chaos, murder, war, inflation, climate change, disease, corruption, lies and the increasing erosion of humanity, society, culture and civilization? What to write about, eh? What to even THINK about? Who knows?

Cognitive dissonance? A variation…..?

My blog is supposed to be about living OTG. Ostensibly, anyway. But there is more to life than one’s own lifestyle regardless of how fascinating you might think you are. A few years of boating, building, community, ravens, whales, skill-development (that one was kinda short-lived) and I, personally, had had enough of writing about it all…..NOT tired of living it, mind you, but I was out of my conversion-cum-preaching state (never quite fully out) and I stopped focusing on that OTG stuff so much. If anything, I kinda got more into Sal and her adventures and, of course, the humour and beauty of having our first two dogs, Megan and Fiddich. My writing focus got more personal after the ‘building years’.

Sally is a story, a book, a rom-com series and a whole movie, if you must know. She never stops ‘doing’ and she is always growing, always participating and is always interesting. Plus we are very, very different people. This blog could easily be titled, My Life With Sally. (She’d kill me, tho. It would be a short-run of blogging followed by my obituary.) I always ‘sneak’ a bit of the Sally element into my writing anyway but there is more to life than just living with the most interesting and beautiful person in the world….even if she also has puppies.

So, what to write about? I am always inclined to politics and economics but, currently, both are in such a state of flux that just about everything from me is speculative at best, guesswork most of the time and totally without substance, really. I am not even at Davos, let alone in meetings at the Kremlin or the White House. What the hell does Dave really know, anyway?

But looking at the ‘big picture’, I would venture a few guesses…..the systems we rely on and expect are generally eroding, our institutions are failing and a lot of people are suffering and angry about it. We seem to be sliding downhill, becoming depressed-in-the-aggregate. We seem to be collectively resisting more and becoming more belligerent about everything. Harmony seems out of reach.

The climate change phenomena is slowly hitting home and, more specifically, HOMES and communities, if not nations. Half the US is in a life-ending drought, the other half is in the grip of insane people and the whole world is looking over their shoulder at war, famine, plague and (probably) pestilence. We are definitely on a slippery slope to trauma first, anarchy second and a halt in the evolution of a better civilization. Fascism and force, murder and incarceration, totalitarian regimes being cruel and corrupt looks like the agenda of the future.

I suppose the world “going to hell in a handbasket” is not news. I mean; we have spent time in hell and man-made handbaskets throughout history but it does look like we are headed that way again. Even 91 year-old George Soros is warning of World War 3 and even that pales into the ether compared to full-on climate change.

So, back to the question: what to write about?

Maybe the question should be answered thusly: Why bother writing at all? I mean; what will be, will be. It will become what it becomes. May as well play with the dogs. None of us can do much, if anything, to change the direction of those issues. I used to recommend getting out (still do) but, honestly, there is no getting off the planet and we are now talking global issues. I am better prepared for some things but not immune in the least to climate change, WW3, plague or even famine. There is nothing anyone can do or write to resolve those issues.

News today (one day after writing this blog)it seems this mood, this attitude, this resignation coupled with anger and resistance is a veritable epidemic in China, no less! Social climbing, get rich, work-hard China! It seems that youth in China are giving up, losing ambition, becoming ‘slackers’. According to the Guardian, President Xi has even addressed this rather new (to him) phenomena of youth quitting the social ladder climbing (because it is too hard and it doesn’t work!) by urging loyalty to their motherland. Youth, themselves, refer to their bad attitude as ‘Bai Lan’ or sometimes, ‘Tang Ping’. Bai Lan refers to the sentiment, ‘Let it rot’ and Tan Ping suggests ‘Lying flat’. Both mean (in Chinese context) ‘giving up’.

Maybe it is the war in Ukraine, maybe it was the latest black guy gunned down by the police, maybe it is Monkeypox and avian flu…. or maybe it is the just the haplessness and hopelessness of our (so-called) leaders….definitely I’m reeling from the killing of 19 elementary-age school kids by a gun-toting, 18 year old in Texas. But whatever it is, there is a bit less hope in the air right now.

The only thing I can suggest is maybe consider getting a puppy or two…..

2022/05/19 Maiden Voyage!

” I christen thee, the Motor Vessel John R.”

And, with that and the smashing of a bottle of alcohol-free beer (John’s drink) over the bow, we gently put the Ninigret 22 into the water at the boat ramp on the neighbouring island Thursday. Sal did the smashing (she has a natural talent in that way) and I climbed aboard just as the trailer wheels went under water. Our good friend, SD, was there doing and worrying some of the procedural details – which is good. Without him, we may have screwed up (we’re naturals at that, too). The John R floated precisely at the water line it was designed for. Mike did good.

The trip to the boat ramp

But maybe not so much on the steering installation. As mentioned previously, the steering operates opposite to intention; steer to port and you go to starboard. Counter intuitive steering is quite mentally challenging to a 74 year-old naturally inclined to screwing up – and this was the maiden voyage, no less! So, I just went slowly and carefully to get from the launch ramp to the nearest dock. And that was good, too…..except for actually getting near the dock (which usually requires some helmsmanship) and yesterday it was blowing briskly from the west – OFF the dock. I could get no closer than about six feet…….but a couple of dock lines and SD pulled me in. Whew!!

Sal came back down to the dock from rinsing the car free of salt water and passed SD and I a bag with sandwiches and beers and he and I headed up coast at a reduced rpm because the motor needs ‘break-in’ time. Ten hours at fixed speeds. Sal went back to the ‘yard’ and dropped the trailer. The plan was for her to then travel up that same neighbouring island logging road to our other boat and then she would get in that boat (the MV ‘Pumpkin’) and come down to meet/rescue/find us depending on how things went.

The seas were good – a light chop that occasionally gave us a little spray over the bow. Not enough to make the sandwiches wet, tho. We had a 45 minute run. It was good.

The Christening
The Launch

The boat rode well, very stable. We slipped along at 9.0 knots at 2900 rpms so, when the engine is ready to go full-on (5500 plus rpms), I should get 17 knots or more. We were going into a headwind so that slowed us a bit but we had an ebbing tide going in our direction and that helped us…….so, I think I will be able to cruise at 15 knots easily enough and maybe push ‘er to 20 if I use full throttle. That is just fine. Pumpkin does 20+ knots but this new boat can do 15 in a heavy chop. Pumpkin, being a planing hull, has to go slow when the weather is up. It is all good. But not yet done. I still have to get that steering swapped over (already on it today) and that is currently a mystery and will remain so until we put it back together and test it. We still have some required deck fittings to mount and, of course, there are the other bits, pieces and construction finishings to do. This is still a work-in-progress. I will keep you apprised.

The Homecoming

Late breaking news! Steering swapped over this afternoon thanks to daughter getting right in there and just goin’ at it. WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Btw….you may be wondering: “What did you do with the dogs?” Answer: my daughter is visiting and she has a dog. SD came to help bring the boat home and he also has a dog. Four dogs at a boat launching is an invitation for Murphy to have his way and they are an additional irritant-waiting-to-happen. We left my daughter with all the dogs. And they had a great time together and I did not miss them in the least.

The Co-captain and his boat