Archive for April, 2008

Personal Identifiers and Common Misunderstandings

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Terms like African-American, Black, Latino, HIspanic, American and the like are commonly used and almost universally misunderstood. The issues actually boil down to several elements that include geographic, country, racial, language and cultural origins. Delineating these separately leads to a greater understanding of personal identifiers. Importantly, personal identifiers that segregate are frequently less nebulous and more accurate than societal designations that tend to aggregate. Using personal identifiers correctly is less likely to insult others and to make one look insensitive or ignorant.

First, geographic origins is used predominately by African-Americans and Asians. African-Americans use this term since they are decedents of freed American slaves and do no know their African countries of origin. Europeans, Asians, etc. are from a country from that continents and are only occasionally used as personal identifiers. Of note, the North American continent contains Canada, the United States and Mexico. Therefore, Canadians and Mexicans are North Americans or “Americans” also.

Next, is the country of origin. When the country of origin is known then it is used such as Kenyan-American, Italian-American, Mexican-American, Cuban-American, Jamaican, etc.

Third, is race. Traditionally, there have been several human races although these designations have come into dispute. These are usually noted as “Black”, “Asian”, “Native”, “White” or Caucasian or mixed.

Finally, there is culture and language of origin. These usually are Latino for someone from the Western Hemisphere whose language is Latin based (Spanish, Portuguese or French) and Hispanics are people from this Hemisphere whose language is Spanish.

Personal identifiers are usually combinations of these items and some have common usage. For example, technically “African-American” would include white South Africans who have recently settled in North American. Instead the are South African-American since their country of origin is known. If it were not other for personal and political gain, Obama would probably identify himself as Kenyan-American. As noted, African-American is reserved for decedents of freed American slaves.

Latinos are from North (i.e., Mexico), Central and South Americas and many Caribbean Islands where the languages spoken are Latin based. As noted, these languages include Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Hispanics are from all Spanish speaking countries in North American (Mexico), Central and South America and Caribbean Islands. It excludes Brazil where Portuguese is spoken and the French speaking Caribbean Islands.

Next is cultural origins. There are to many cultures to note. These include indigenous and identifiable peoples in most countries.

Lets examine some examples. The Chinese-Cuban minority are decedent from Chinese who immigrated to Cuba in the mid-nineteenth century. They are Caribbean, Latino, Hispanic and Asian. Those who immigrated to the US after Fidel Castro’s takeover are Chinese-Cuban-Americans.

There are many Caribbean, Latino, Hispanic Blacks from the Caribbean and South America. Many Jamaicans, Dominican Republican and Brazilians have these identifiers.

Immigrants from Brazil will be South American, Latino (NOT Hispanic), Brazilian-American and then Black, Asian, Native, White or mixed.

An immigrant from Mexico is North American, Latino, Hispanic, Mexican-American and most likely White, Native or mixed. Then there are first, second, and so on generation.

Assimilation of immigrants in the US is the rule but rarely complete. There are always cultural vestiges albeit language is usually not one of them after the first generation. Those who identify themselves usually use accurate terms are noted above.

White Americans frequently misuse terms by calling all Blacks “African-Americans” even if recent immigrants, all immigrants from South of the US border Latino or Hispanic although not totally accurate. Many of them use Hispanic to be synonymous with Mexican-American which mis-identifies those from Central and South American countries. Rather than being “politically correct” they are showing cultural, geographic and racial insensitivity or just plain ignorance.

The best practice is to ask someone what their origins are. They will almost always respond with the terms they like to use for themselves.

The US Needs to Give Muslims and China Respect to Get Respect

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Nothing irks anymore more than being told what to do by someone who believes they are holier than thou and doesn’t do what they are preaching. So it is with the US and its diplomatic advice (“preaching”) to Muslims and China. The US government and its people must give respect to get respect. They must also give them the time and economic help required for the desired changes.

Historically, sovereignty has been an issue for the Muslims and Chinese and their countries. Starting back with the Crusades and recurring again with the recent US support of authoritarian governments in Islamic countries, Muslims believe they have not been respected. In fact, two of the three Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, i.e., Iraq and Iran were Islamic countries. This and the unilateral “preemptive war” doctrine and subsequent debacle in Iraq have solidified the Muslims’ distrust of West intentions. In spite of this Muslims respect the US for its self-determination, democracy, civil rights and voting record among other things. They just don’t understand why the US won’t let the Muslims have the same in their countries. (see)

In the last century, China had imposed foreign concessions in their country. Many countries except for the US had whole areas or even cities in China under foreign rule. It was only recently that Hong Kong transferred from foreign to Chinese control. The Chinese believe they have the same territorial rights over Tibet and the island of Taiwan. Thus, outside interference regarding human rights, Tibet, etc. is seen as foreign intrusion into internal matters. These intrusions bring back the memories of foreign intrusions and concessions. China will NOT ever let this happen again. If China changes it will be by its own choice. And, it is obvious that with economic development China is changing rapidly and for the better. It just requires time before all what the West desires to become addressable.

Honor and self-respect (“face”) are critical to Muslims and Chinese and its maintenance should be crucial to the US if it is to influence them. Without respect for them they will not come to the table and, if forced to come to the table, they will no listen nor heed. So, what is the US and Western countries to do? Just stand by?

The answer is relatively simple. Encourage and support the economic development of these countries. As history has shown, economic development leads to the time and luxury of dealing with issues not related to daily existence, i.e., enlightenment. Enlightened citizens start to question the status quo. The US civil rights and women’s movements coincided with the consolidation of the middle classes almost two hundred years after the US Independence. The same will occur in Islamic Republics and China once they are comfortable with their independence and economic development. In fact, China is well on its way to economic development with it associated increasing freedoms, personal property, etc. but it needs time to work out on its own its human rights and other internal issues.

The US needs to remember that lynchings were still occurring up until the recent pass. The West must be patient and be ready to work behind the scenes and respect this peoples and countries sovereignty. Public chastisement of Muslims or China does not advance the West’s causes and in fact, it may impede progress by giving credence to extremist views.

The US and Western Countries can do worlds of good by noting displeasure with the human rights and other issues in these countries and still attend to business as usual with as much economic support as possible. Finally, the last thing the West should do is boycott the Beijing Olympics opening. This is disrespectful and would in the long run be a setback to the West’s efforts. Beijing knows the West displeasure. A boycott would just add insult to injury. The West’s presence even while expressing displeasure would go a long way to show respect while maintaining differences.

Is it Un-American Not to be Enlightened?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] “Have courage to use your own understanding!”–that is the motto of enlightenment.”
What is Enlightenment?
Immanuel Kant 1784

Every person is unique and the totalities of all their interactions, i.e., their own politics, are also unique (see). Therefore, it is injudicious to routinely follow someone else’s guidance where that other is not present to give guidance in the current unique situation. Our sociopolitical diversity requires that we have the resolve and courage to understand our own unique politics, i.e., become enlightened. Not to do so is not to respect the world’s diversity and thus may be un-American and unpatriotic. The complexities of American sociopolitical systems demand that we mature and do the work to become enlightened.

You may ask: Why shouldn’t I not just let someone else give guidance? Understanding takes a lot of resolve and courage, why not let those who do the work to have an understanding give guidance? Is there any impetus for becoming enlightened when many are capable of giving guidance? The simple answer is: Avoiding evil-doing is the impetus for enlightenment. God created everyone Good. Therefore, evil exists only because people are ignorant of Good or too lazy or weak to do Good. No choosing enlightenment because of lack of resolve or courage is to risk evil-doing or, at a minimum, to passively assent to evil-doing by following guidance from those who propose evil-doing. Enlightenment means not being ignorant of Good or being too lazy or weak to do Good and shun evil-doing.

One could argue that the America’s Iraq debacle is a result of Bush Regime’s faulty guidance. They kept many ignorant of facts (or there lack thereof) that would have increased understanding and they produced unfounded information that lead to misunderstandings. Bush’s Regime also weakened those who opposed the Regime’s faulty understandings. The lazy just went along.

Following Bush’s Regime guidance regarding Iraq has caused massive evil-doings for both the US and Iraq. Enlightened leaders should have avoided this evil-doings. Yet, fighting the concerted efforts of the entire Executive Branch of the US. Government that was using duplicity and National Security secrecy and threats requires a yet unheard of resolve and courage. In the end, even General Colin Powell then Sec. of State was fooled! History will record the evil-doings by the Bush Regime. Ironically, if he had had illicit sex and lied about it he would have impeached. But lying that leads to an unnecessary war is apparently an impeachable offense.

Genetically, we are probably predisposed to be unenlightened and follow a pack leader of some kind. Wolves subordinate themselves to the alpha and only breeding pair. The rest of the pack stays immature. Other animals including primates have identifiable group leaders that carries privileges of leadership. These privileges are usually breeding and territorial hegemony.

In primeval times, humans had similar group (“tribal”} leaders. This Primeval Tribal Leaders (PTLs) ruled with the assent of the tribe and had almost absolute power over the group. This power usually lead to the PTLs increased personal wealth. These PTLs also kept the tribes “immature”, i.e., requiring their guidance since maturity would lead to leadership challenges. Human history is replete with PTLs States and records the vast personal wealth these leaders have accumulated. The PTLs try to keep control by keeping the tribal members immature and ostracizing maturing or enlightened members who they know will eventually challenge their guidance. Some enlightened members developed their own unenlightened following. Over and over again, conflict and migrations by tribes following different enlightened PTLs occurred. This lead to colonizations of new lands and even new continents.

Humankind’s transition from hunter/gathering to agriculture groups lead to stable territorially located tribes and the development of cities. These cities were part of the PTLs domain but increasing wealth by many and inter-tribal travel and migrations lead increasing numbers of tribal members who had the resolve and courage to become enlightened, i.e, no longer needing the guidance of the PTLs.
During Greeks times, the increased number of enlightened tribal members lead to the establishment of democracy which was governance by enlightened citizens, i.e., Modern Tribes. This lead to a consensus leadership by Modern Tribal Leaders (MTLs) and fellow enlightened citizens. The Romans in their Republic allowed enlightened representatives govern. Nevertheless, enlightenment was only in the elite leadership and not in the general populous. This lead to the establishment of Nobility and Regal States. Eventually, the enlightened Priesthood participate in governance. This continued until the last millennium when the middle classes of merchants, tradesmen and others also became enlightened and demanded representation. The English House of Commons evolved sometime in the 14th Century.

Today, countries consist of varying proportions of Primeval Tribes and Modern Tribes each with their leaders. The PTLs are essentially unchanged and as noted by President W. Bush’s “I am the decider” statement, the PTLs try to remain the sole source of guidance even though they may have been selected by the smallest of margins or even a plurality. In contrast, MTLs seek consensus from their enlightened followers. These days it means using surveys and polls to get a sense of prevailing understandings. The PTLs disdain polls and surveys because they have no role in their hierarchical structure. Thus, today’s PTLs still try to keep their followers unenlightened to prevent challenges to their guidance. In contrast, MTLs require enlightened followers to give them guidance as to where to lead.
America’s and the World’s sociopolitical complexities demand that citizens have the resolve and courage to become enlightened and to participate in the guidance of their tribes and country. Otherwise, the risk of evil-doings like that in Nazi Germany or Bush Regime’s Iraq debacle will be recurrent events.

Finally, America’s leaders need to be MTLs. They represent too diverse a populous to be the sole source of guidance. Unlike MTLs, PTLs seek leadership based on faith from the unenlightened populous. They are inspirational, charismatic and/or charmingly goofy and use terms like “Compassionate Conservation” or “Change You Can Trust.” Yet their records and experiences rarely address details about what they would do in the complex situations facing MTLs. PTLs cannot have on-the-job training to gain experience needed for their positions. Their mistakes are too costly.

In contrast, seasoned MTLs have many scares and people know where they stand. They have the courage to ask what needs to be the guidance and this incurs the anger of PTLs. Finally and paradoxically, MTLs are inclusive and represent all tribes thus try to involve all including PTLs. In contrast, PTLs are exclusive and only represent themselves and their tribes and purposely exclude all others. The recent Congressional stalemates are largely due to PTLs vs. MTLs disputes. This is got to change by keeping PTLs in the minority at all times.

Understanding Devout Muslims & Islamic Republics

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

It is obvious that Muslims are very religious and hold their Islamic beliefs strongly. These traits lead Muslims to vigorously and sometimes violently react too any real or perceived blasphemy, sacrilege or profanity against Islam. This well grounded personal affront is understandable as long as it does not try to restrict beliefs held strongly by others such as freedom of speech. It is this intolerance to the point of attempted values hegemony that leads many Westerners to believe Muslims are extremists when in reality they are just devout and want their governments to support their devoutness. Yet, it is Western values hegemony that alienates Muslims, esp. Muslim women, in return. The problems of values and processes must be delineated and understood in order for the Western and Islamic world interact productively. (For comprehensive survey of Muslims see)

These values conflicts do not in the least negate the Muslims’ desires for Western institutions. A solid majority desire democracy, voting rights for women, economic development and technological advancements among others Western processes. Yet, they desire them without the attached content. For example, media resources and devices are desired by Muslims but the Western content that is in their view is morally bankrupt and comes with them is not. Thus, it is the context of whose values are use while these institutions are adopted that is the problem.

Another example of values conflict are equal rights for Muslim women. Many Muslim women consider equal rights a step backward because they have privilege positions based on their faith and equal rights would eliminate these positions. Also, many Muslim women believe Western equal rights is a male ploy to exploit women. In many ways they have a valid point since Western women are held to both male and female standards and responsibilities. Thus, a head scarf may be much more freeing than time spent on hair styles and grooming. Even a burqa may free one from slavery to fashions. And Muslim women see Western women do these activities for the benefit of men. It may be Western women are being exploited by equal rights.

The vast majority of Muslims hold their Islamic beliefs to be central to their personal and social lives. Many want these beliefs manifested in Sharia and Islamic Law to be a basis for governance and some believe they should be the only basis for governance. These Muslims are not unlike the Fundamentalist Christian minority in the USA who want the Bible to be a basis or the only basis for US governance. The fact that their countries are overwhelmingly Muslim and there is universal support for Sharia and Islamic Law makes Islamic Republics obvious outcomes.

Just like Westerners use English common law as their basis for governance and their Constitutions as its codification, Muslims want to use Sharia as their basis for governance and Islamic Law and Republics as its codification. The major difference is that the Western codifications strive to be secular while the Muslim codifications has no secular desires but instead desire to be devoutly Islamic. Still, Muslims do not want Theocracies (rule by Religious Leaders) but instead democracies. These religious states are not unlike the Western heritage of Christian Church and Regal States of Medieval and Renaissance times except for the fact that Muslims want democracy with Sharia and Islamic Law as their religious state.

Using their historical experience, Westerners are trying to get Muslims to skip their religious state stage of governance while the Muslims want to experience it. The American colonies were at least partially established for reasons of religious intolerance in Europe. This lead to the wish to separate religious and civil law to the point that separation of church and sate became part of the U.S. Constitution. The Muslims have similar experiences in their Sunni vs. Shiite conflicts but it not to the point of wanting separation of church and state.

Westerners forget that freedom from oppression for many of their citizens started in the last half of the 20th Century with the civil rights and women’s movements. And many in Western countries are still economically and socially oppressed. So, the imposition of so-called Western democracy on Islamic countries when freedom is still not universal in their own countries seems hypocritical to Muslims.

In summary, the Western world has a lot of institutions that the Muslims want to adopt. But they want these institutions without the attached values content. They have their own content and do not wish to adopt Western values that they view at a minimum as morally suspect. At the same time, they want the time and freedom to determine their future content based on their values. This means Islamic Republics with Sharia and Islamic Laws that are democratic and where women have the unencumbered vote. It also means economic and technologic development would be the bases for these advancements since freedom and poverty are essentially mutually exclusive.

In return, the Western world should advance values-free economic development and technological advancement in the Muslim world. These will lead to increase freedoms as it did in the USA in the first half of the 20th Century and is now doing in China. Patience is a virtue that the West must practice when dealing with Muslims. They are doing their Good and have no use for our imposed Good.

Is Self-Abuse of Body and Mind Normal?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

We are all normal! Since normal is a average, we are each average for who we each are. It is not reasonable or responsible to compare one normal person with another or to get an average of average people since they are not us. We are who we are and that’s it. Instead of normality, the real issue are the statuses of our bodies and minds? It is normal to not be using our bodies and minds optimally. This less-than-optimal use of our bodies and minds is a form of self-abuse. Thus, is self-abuse normal?

Self-abuse of the body is pervasive. Vaccinations are the major medical advancement that prolongs longevity and they are being withheld from children by ill-informed albeit well-meaning parents. Unfounded fear of the unknown has overshadowed what should be well-founded fear of the known, i.e., the risk from the infectious diseases they prevent. Why would parents not want to prevent cancer in their sons and daughters with HPV vaccination? There are plenty of other and worse infectious deterrences to sexual activity and the HPV vaccine does not diminish these bigger risks.

Obesity is a pervasive form of self-abuse. It is self-abuse because we stress our bodies by eating what it does not need and thus become obese. Obesity then stresses other organs and may lead to one or more well known problems. Unfortunately, science, medicine and the government have offered little leadership in preventing obesity. Capitalism on the other hand flourishes while people get obese. To the same extent bulimia and anorexia nervorsa are opposite types of self-abuse, i.e., denying the body of what it does need. We are what and how much we eat! To over- or under-indulge is self-abuse.

Lack of exercise is self-abuse but so are a “six-pack abdomen” and an abnormally muscular bodies. Physically fit people are sinewy, i.e., lean and muscular. Physical fit regarding the heart means walking for at least thirty minutes a day at least five days a week and not eating what is not needed. It doesn’t mean fad diets and gym or exercise for hours a day or marathons.

It should be apparent that self-abuse of our bodies comes from our minds. Our bodies evolved to survive by being physically fit. Our minds override the body’s efforts to be physically fit thus abusing it and this mental self-abuse shows up on our bodies. Obesity, over-developed muscles, tattoos, piercing are just some bodily manifestations of mental self-abuse.

Mental self-abuse is normal. We turn our anger inward rather than just accepting or forgiving ourselves for letting others get to us. We forget what others do is their problem–not ours–and we participate in it when we should just laugh or shrug and ignore it.

Mental self-abuse occurs when we are unable to stand in front of a mirror and look at ourselves and into our eyes and say “I love me the way I am now!” wholeheartedly and mean it. The love of others starts with self-love. It is mental self-abuse (even torture?) to love others without loving one’s self.

If it is normal to self-abuse then it is time to be abnormal and love ones self and stop the self-abuse. A good start to this path is Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements. It gets you more than half-way there.

Where are the Villains of the Wall & Main Street Debacle?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Home owners would not buy homes nor financial institutions buy their mortgages knowing that foreclosure was highly probably in the next few years. How did these Main Street & Wall Street debacle happen?

Someone induced home buyers to buy their homes using sub-prime loans they could not afford. Someone sold these unsustainable loans to financials institutions worldwide. Where are these intermediaries responsible for the debacles in Main Street and Wall Street? Why is there focus only on the victims of this debacle and not the villains, i.e., the so-called capitalists that caused it?

Maybe it’s because white collar evil-doing is given a pass because these capitalists/villains made money. And as noted (see, Americans worship money and the people who make it. This debacle is almost like a democratic robber barons process. Any white collar entrepreneur can sell anything and make money in the name of capitalism and it’s buyer beware. They even seek charitable donations without doing charity, i.e., charity fraud and get away with it.

Capitalism does have a good-doing side but the evil-doing sides (criminal capitalism or personal wealth capitalism) are gaining acolytes since these villainous capitalists get personally wealthy. These capitalists/villains need to be made to pay for their ill gotten gains rather than being idolized. Only then will their ranks be diminished.

So where are the villainous capitalist who created the Wall & Main Street debacle? They need to be found and made to pay!

Our Educational System: A Waste of Time for Many

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

About half of high school graduates (52%) go to college and less than half of them (23% of HS graduates) leave college with a degree. What does our current educational system do for the half that doesn’t go to college? Waste their time.

Many students when in junior high/middle school realize they are not college material or do not have aspirations for college so they drop out soon after. And, why not drop out? Our current educational system is predominately for the college bound. They are wasting their time and the time of their teachers.

Yet, our economy has a large base in and need for skilled workers. These workers are not only highly productive but are also the consumers that keep the economy going. Therefore, we need to change our current educational system to educate the 50% plus that don’t go to college or drop out before graduating from high school.

The lack of suitable education and skills is why 40% of our labor workforce makes less than $18,000 per year. This is not a living wage and these workers are unable to be consumers of other than the basic necessities of life. Even now more and more children are going to bed and to school hungry due to lack of food. Food stamps registrants have reached a record level.

So, what is our educational system to do? Let the students with their families decide whether they are going to college or not by the end of 10th grade. If they are, challenge them to meet the standards for college entrance. But if not, set up alternative educational and training programs for them. Don’t give them a GED that is fairly worthless.

Let’s plan the first half of 10th grade for exploring a students future options like college, careers, etc. Each student’s talents and preferences are delineated. During this exploration ALL students enroll in life skills education such as how to manage money, develop a budget, read credit card applications and understand them, read and sign a lease and mortgage, shop for health, auto and life insurance, apply for utilities, etc. Thus, all student will have the required life skills education regardless of their choices.

Those student who don’t choose to go to college must have training programs choices. School district and local businesses can join to create apprenticeships, on-the-job training and other programs. The Food, Hospitality, Health Care and every other industry are desperately in need of SKILLED workers and they would be more than happy to participate in training future employees. School districts should also concentrate on adult education so that former students can return to update or acquire new skills.

Schools Districts must innovate to have their graduates prepared for their next phases in life at graduation. Whether it be college or a skilled worker. Then and only then will our educational system stop wasting the time of more than half its students.