AMAZING NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE!

According to Harvard researchers, critical thinking and religion are kind of mutually exclusive! As stated in the article “How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith In God”, religious belief has more to do with how much we rely in intuitive thinking vs. analytical thinking. Remember George Bush and that whole thing where he “had a gut feeling” that Putin was a great guy? That he “looked into Putin’s soul” and realized that here, right here, was a sterling example of humanity, despite the number of people Putin probably tortured and put to death while running the KGB? PERFECT example of intuitive thinking. Problem with intuitive thinking is that it is so often DEAD WRONG.

Plus – the human mind can be manipulated into thinking more intuitively, or manipulated into thinking more analytically. So, remember those church meetings where the preacher declares that Jesus is in the building, and everybody starts freaking out and falling on the floor and squirming, or closing their eyes and looking all soulful? These people are thinking intuitively, and it may have more to do with the suggestion of the ringleader – er, I mean religious leader – than any actual Jesus-y materialization. Conversely, those smart Harvard guys found that if you primed people to think analytically, they became less religious. Even something as simple as preparing a questionnaire in a hard-to-read font vs. an easy-to-read font had an effect on how much a believer a person was. The easy font made it easy to just let those minds stride down the same avenues they had traversed a thousand times, like driving to work and recalling not thing one about the trip. A difficult font made people pay more attention to what they were reading, and actually think about their answers to the questions. Uh-oh. You know what THAT means. People started engaging in what the banking industry, the agricultural industry, and Wall Street abso-LUTE-ly  do NOT want them doing – analytical thinking! The researchers found that those who completed the survey printed in a difficult font EXPRESSED LESS BELIEF than those who took the same survey with an easily-read font.

Yow! And here’s the kicker. The study may help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God. BECAUSE IT IS EASIER! Intuitive thinking relies on shortcuts and rules of thumb, what your parents told you to do, and basically believing every blessed thing they spout off at Fox Fake News. Easy-peasy! No thinking required!

However, ANALYTIC thinking is way harder – it requires more effort and is slower. Plus, analytical thinkers have to overcome a great obstacle: putting what they already believe on hold. And that is WORK!

America is the land of the easy fix: throw money at the problem, ignore the problem, deny the problem. Do ANYTHING to avoid facing the problem so we don’t have to THINK about it and DO something about it. Heaven help us if we have to interrupt an evening of TV to realize that we have put more citizens in prison that any other country on earth. Or, that we invade other people’s countries for nobody knows what reason. Or, that a huge majority of American citizenry is hanging out with an invisible buddy named God and making decisions based on this kind of questionable friendship.

So now, both the foregoing and the study by the Harvard guys will be summarily dismissed by many, because they will have a “gut” reaction to it, and instead of using the response  as an opportunity to question, they will use it to consign the argument to the dustbin of history.

You go, America! Yer so awesome you don’t have to think!

 

WHAT I LEARNED IN GREECE

Yes, I am a world traveler. I have expeditioned to two foreign countries in my time, one of which is Canada. But I did go to Greece at a point in my life, not that long ago – oh, six or seven years ago, before they were bankrupt and selling off the Parthenon and whatnot. It was not a pretty country, although there were some places that held a certain desert-ish appeal. At one point we were sailing along the shore of Crete on the blue Mediterranean, and for all intents and purposes, we could have been putting along Lake Roosevelt in a party barge, gazing at the sand-colored cliffs.

One thing that happens in Greece, which a native Greek explained to me, was that when tourist season comes, everything stops but the tourist stuff. Everybody leaves their jobs in construction, repair, and remodel, and goes straight to Santorini or Mykonos to occupy the family tourist-related-stuff sales stall. So, as a result, there are major unfinished works of repair left abandoned all over the landscape of the nation, waiting for all the Westerners to go home and let everybody start back in wherever they hung it up for the season.

We had to take a boat out of Piraeus, which is a port city about 17 miles south of Athens. Piraeus possesses a certain reputation for bad behavior, partly because ports are like that, and partly because there are so many wealthy Americans and West Europeans and Australians carelessly roaming around just begging to be robbed. Plus, since it is tourist season, you can’t afford to buy anything unless you are one of the aforementioned, which we were not. So, we sat on a bench in a public square – not a fancy square, but kind of a seedy one – and waited for our ferry. In this square, across from our bench, was a vast pile of dirt, a huge hole, and a long, unmarked ditch that reached clear across the main pathway and partially down the road. It was a ditch of some significance, too: about 14 inches wide and maybe a foot deep, lightly sprinkled with loose dirt, gravel, and trash. Another relic left for the duration of the Greek tourist season, waiting for the city workers to return from their far-flung pilgrimages.

As we observed this scene, we saw many people traverse the square. People walking, people on bicycles, women pushing baby carriages, good-looking young Greek men on scooters with gorgeous sloe-eyed girlfriends on the back, octogenarian old ladies dressed in black, women shepherding three or four toddlers at a time, and dapper old guys carrying worry beads in one hand and wearing fedoras.

Without exception, every single Greek looked down, saw the ditch, and made accommodations to get across it. Nobody was surprised to see an unmarked ditch across a highly-traveled local route. Nobody needed orange traffic cones, reels of yellow “Caution” tape, or a flagman to tell them how to cross the ditch. And, most tellingly, not one single person sprawled on his or her face while obliviously marching to their own inner tune, al la a typical American.

I believe this has something to do with liberty. The Greeks seemed to have a sense of personal responsibility for themselves that Americans lack. Americans are so accustomed to having some mommy pick them up and wipe their tears and then steer them to the nearest personal-injury attorney to sue whoever has enough money to make it worthwhile, that they have lost their ability to keep themselves safe. Guaranteed, if this scene was in America, the people tripping into that ditch would have piled up like dolphins in a tuna net. Much legal folderol would have ensued, and everybody but the taxpayers would have profited many times over.

And the lesson I learned in Greece was – you can use your liberty to take care of your own self! There are places in the world where people do exactly that!

And there were other things I learned in Greece as well – how too many Americans are loud, bossy and rude, how it is easy to be taken advantage of if you are too trusting, and that if you know exactly enough Greek to say “I do not speak Greek”, people will assume you are fluent. But I’ll save those for another day. Meanwhile, make it a point to look down, at least occasionally. It might pay off.

THE TIME I ALMOST RAN FOR POLITICAL OFFICE

There is this concept in America that we always run the best and brightest for political office. Wait a minute – maybe it’s just ME who thinks that. And even I am having serious doubts, what with recent experience and growing up and all.

At any rate, one of my greatest frustrations with our local political system is the absolute, inviolable unreachability of Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. I have written her dozens of times – well-thought-out, neatly argued and polite missives, too. And perhaps months later, I’ll receive a form letter from one of her office lackeys thanking me for my interest in some topic completely unrelated to what I actually wrote her about. Kind of a diss, if you ask me.

So – I decided to RUN FOR OFFICE as Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’s opponent! If she was standing across the stage from my face, she’d HAVE to respond to my inquiries, right? And the look on her face would be priceless! She’d have no escape and no minions to cover her hiney! And, in case you didn’t know this, Cathy is not bright. I tried plowing through a thing she wrote for some star-struck right-wing website settled somewhere in the 3rd or 4th tier, and she made no sense at all. Even if she wasn’t an awful writer, she had no idea what she was talking about. This is probably why they stick her around in high-profile positions on TV, except she NEVER says anything, because if she opened her mouth, it would be Keanu Reeves all over again. Keanu is terrific and soulful to look upon, but the minute he starts talking, the illusion is dashed, and your happy dream of actually having a conversation with the guy goes swirling down the drain. So must it be with Cathy, and even the Republican publicity dogs know it. So, shut up, Cathy.

But I digress. After I decided to run for the House against Cathy, I had to go to a meeting. There were three people at this meeting: let’s call them Ed, Mike, and Eloise. They talked me out of running against Cathy right away because I am not the type, I guess. Plus, you need millions of dollars, and it helps if you have run for about 5 other things already because then you have name recognition.

But here’s the thing. Even if they got me to run in the 4th district against that non-entity Krause or Crawley or whatever his name is, I WOULD STILL NEED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS! Well, not millions, but hundreds of thousands! In fact, the first thing I would have to do would be to call all my friends, family, and acquaintances, and ask them for money! Then I would have to dedicate my life to running for the office, spend morning, noon and night walking from door to door and accosting people, with maybe one afternoon off per week to do laundry and maybe catch a nap. Also, Mike cautioned, there must be no untoward behavior from the candidate: no yelling out the car window at stupid drivers or confronting your neighbors when their dog poops on your lawn for the umpteenth time. No, you must be a model of decorum! Then you must beat the bushes for yet more money, all the while dressing properly and applying some kind of TV makeup so you send the correct message to any stray voter who might catch you wheeling your trash to the curb on Wednesday night.

Then there was the talking part. As a politician running for office, you talk a lot. And Mike, Ed, and Eloise all pointed out the fact that whenever people talk, they at least occasionally say really stupid things. It’s true! I have experienced it myself, first-person! So the trick is, never talk about what you REALLY want to talk about, like about how Cathy McMorris Rodgers is as dumb as a turnip. You have to talk about your PLATFORM, and whenever anyone tries to get you off-topic, you have to circle back around like a beagle on a rabbit trail and start talking about your platform again. Like, when someone says, “So, how about that Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and her latest idiotic non-observation?” Of COURSE one would want to LEAP on the topic and SHAKE it!! But no. One must heave a stentorian sigh and say, “Yes, yes, but what about the aquifer? Perhaps we should be more concerned about waste oil entering the water supply and blah blah blah.” See? Get back to your personal talking points ASAP. If you don’t, whatever party is partly funding your run for office is gonna pull their bucks quicker than you can say “Methuselah”.

Of course, there would also be the insurmountable obstacle of coming from a completely Republican district and running as a Dem, although Ed pointed out there had been some redistricting changes, so it was conceivable – perhaps not likely, but conceivable – that someone who doesn’t hate Obama with the power of a thousand white-hot suns might actually get elected in the 4th district. Let’s say Ed wasn’t a fountain gushing positive thoughts, but at least the possibility was there, lying like a sleeping Labrador retriever in the driveway, just before .. well, you know. The irony is, I am not even a Democrat, so I’d be telling a big fat lie about myself right out of the chute. And then I would call you and ask for some more money.

Okay, in brief: Beat people up for money every waking moment from March through November. Be completely not oneself (let me tell you, decorous behavior and proper appearance at all times are not my strong suits). Sacrifice one’s family and family life to this Baal-like construct called American politics, where every word uttered can be spun and every little thing done is grist for somebody’s mill. Don’t ever talk about what is important to you or to anybody else – talk only about what is going to get you elected. And ALWAYS be prepared to ask for more money. Money, money, money, that’s what makes it POLITICS!

This may surprise you, but I declined to run. And all over America, there are hundreds of thousands of people who got just as fed up as me with politics-as-usual, thought about running for a political office to remedy some issues, and then decided it just wasn’t worth it. So actually, it’s the best and brightest citizens of our nation who THINK about running, and then decide not to, not for all the tea in China. It is only people with a preternaturally high tolerance for BS that actually run for political office. OR – and this is scary for any patriotic American – the only people to run for political office are those to whom that tiny crumb of power is worth all the dehumanizing hassle involved . And that attitude has already prepared them to become tools for slightly greater powers, and so on up the line, right to our national corporate masters and House/Senate meat puppets.

As a famous denizen of Oz once put it, “Oh, what a world, what a world!” Indeed. What a world.

 

LIBERTY VS. FREEDOM

If there is anything I hate, it is hearing somebody say the stupidest, most ridiculous, most asinine, most thoughtless thing ever, because somebody else said it somewhere and they think it makes sense. That thing they say is: “They hate us for our freedom”. My brain does a slow burn EVERY TIME I hear this.

First of all, NOBODY IN AMERICA IS FREE. We are being carefully managed and manipulated to fulfill somebody else’s agenda, whether that “somebody else” is a politician, a corporation, or a rich guy with lots of investments. So what if we can vote, if all that is offered are pols who are indebted to the wealthy, bought and sold like cattle, and who are slaves to their own sociopathic whims anyway? Voting? Big effing deal.

Second: FREEDOM IS NOT AN ABSOLUTE. Your freedom might be my imprisonment. Sure, you are free to run your stupid-ass cigar boat all over Lake Couer d’Alene, but where’s MY freedom to not have jet-aircraft decibels rammed into my ears during a nice day at the beach? I have noticed that the people who bitch loudest about their “freedom” are also those whose indulgence of this “freedom” often comprises of abusing other people. This runs the gauntlet from homophobes through racists through right-wing paranoid nut jobs through survivalist loonie birds who would gladly shoot you through the heart to protect their cache of white flour. They all want their “freedom” at somebody else’s expense.

Third: FREEDOM AND RELIGION ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. If you need some book or padre dude or a list of rules or a purple dragon telling you what to do and how to behave, this is not freedom. Duh.

Now let’s talk about liberty. Unlike “freedom”, liberty is a complex concept. It is the idea that people may make decisions according to their own needs and desires, with an element of respect for the rights of others and the comprehension that liberty applies to everyone and not just them. It is also recognized as something that certain powers would like to get rid of because it doesn’t tend to make thoughtful people compliant enough to be satisfactorily controlled. The prediction that America is gonna come take your gun and put you in prison is particularly unlikely (unless you are black, in which case you could well be already in prison), because that would be exactly the thing that would wake up the sleeping giant that is American citizen outrage, which means you’d have a bunch of gays and rednecks and black folks and Hispanics and lesbians and guys who want to marry their dogs and Civil War re-enactors and drag queens and cracker hillbillies all equally infuriated and ready to go fight the guvmint. That would be really messy, and really expensive, and the mighty powers that rule this earth cannot tolerate that. So they are doing it quietly, behind the scenes, slowly whittling away liberty while WE AREN’T PAYING ATTENTION. If you don’t read, if you don’t check, if you don’t do anything but cheer for your favorite hockey team and sit on your ass a lot, you can kiss liberty goodbye, you big dumb American.

That’s the basic difference between liberty and freedom. Liberty takes work, and attention, and analysis and synthesis. Freedom is nothing but somebody putting a “Power of Pride” sticker on his gigantic diesel truck and watching Fox Fake News.

Come on America. You can do better that THAT.