Archive for December, 2016

“Christmas is coming”

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Dec. 26, 2016

One of my favorites Christmas carols is:

Christmas is coming
The goose is getting fat
Please to put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny a ha’-penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’-penny then God bless you!

It expresses some of the good and the not-so-good memes we all have inherited willy-nilly from the Agricultural Age—especially, though not exclusively, the Christian one.

If you are not familiar with dividing history into three Ages—Hunting/Gathering, Agricultural, and Modern—see my blogs on Philosophy and Parker and Bill’s Laws. Both are included in my new book, Bill’s Blogs.

As I say in the book (more than once!) this is my main contribution to future generations—using this historical fact to shine light on modern issues. For instance: Radical Islamic terrorism, immigration, the decline of monotheistic religions, charity, social welfare, social security reform, vegetarianism, etc.

Take this Christmas Carol. A good example of Agricultural memes, good and not-so-good, surviving in the 21st century.

The good memes in this carol are obvious enough: compassion for the old and the poor; acceptance of aging, poverty, and injustice; expectation of Christmas cheer; agricultural plenty.

The not-so-good memes are not as obvious and more controversial: acceptance of charity as the answer (the only answer) to aging, injustice and poverty; a monotheistic base for judgment; and eating other animals as an unexamined good. All of these are questionable, are not really compatible with the Modern Age, and may well be on the way to extinction.

Charity for instance is much overrated. Even when apparently successful as in British and Canadian National Health Services or our own VA and ObamaCare. All of these well-meaning charitable services raise costs, encourage corruption and crime, and often lead to debilitating dependency in the recipient. The most flagrant example of charitable services of government is the toxic combination of minimum wage laws and aid to dependent children. “Toxic” because it has led to the effective economic castration of millions of poor men who deprived of the pride that comes with genuine work and family obligations take refuge in violence, drugs and crime and often end up in prison. In 1950 when I graduated from college our prison population was one in a hundred adult males. Today it is one out of ten!

Far better would be cash. If we provided every citizen with the wherewithal for a decent standard thereby cutting the tie between need and giving, citizens themselves could make the decisions instead of faceless bureaucrats. It would still be charity but the old man’s hat would be fuller and the chances of crime and economic castration would be less.

As for monotheism, I know I am in dangerous territory. I realize I am probably going to lose some readers here. So be it.

The men who killed nearly 3000 other men and women on 9/11 in NYC expected eternal reward in the next life for their efforts. The thousands of heretics burned at the stake by our Christian ancestors expected the same for their loyalty and courage. Roughly half the present day world are Muslims. They believe in Allah and they believe their  prayers in the Mosque will help bring them eternal life. The other roughly half are Christian. Christians also pray and believe in an after life. In a strict and exclusively monotheistic world, a quarter of the world’s people are going to be very disappointed when they die.

A relatively few reject this logic and don’t believe in an afterlife. I count myself in this fast-growing group (most of western Europe and increasing portions of North America don’t believe in an afterlife and don’t attend any church at all).

As for eating other animals I do think vegetarians have a good point. Who gives us the right to eat cows, deer, pigs, and chickens? Here I admit to some hypocrisy. I do like a prime cut of beef or chicken as we had to celebrate last night. (Heck I also admit to admiring Christians who d0 believe they are going to heaven when they die. Good luck and safe journey!)

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

Ka-boom!

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Dec.  19, 2016

You are 17 years old looking forward to the beach at Kailua on your day off while doing boring dishwater duty at in the kitchen of a U.S. Navy base in Hawaii and suddenly—Ka-Boom!—you are 90 years old waiting in the rehabilitation center  at the local veteran’s hospital for an orthopedic doctor to  take out the staples in your repaired hip. That’s life!

My life—a child of the Great Depression and WW2 still alive at 90 and still trying to compete with the baby boomers, the generation X, and the multitude of millennial of the 21st century.  Ah well, each generation is different and the same in this great country.

Differences:

We Great Depression folks grew up without television. We did have radio. Fibber McGee and Molly, Grand Central Station, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Joe Louis heavyweight fights, Jack Armstrong Jack Armstrong the All-American boy with his ditty, “Won’t you try Wheaties, the best breakfast food in the land.” And we had Amos and Andy, “Buzz me Miss Blue, buzz me.” (Two white guys making fun of blacks in business).

Which last example reminds me that most of us in the Great Depression lived with a pronounced lack of diversity!  We were all poor but I, for instance, did not know a single black, Jew, homeless person, or Hispanic. Growing up in a middle class Catholic Ghetto (all Catholic parochial schools) I also knew only a very few Protestants (kids next door—we did move often when the house we were renting got sold). As for LGBTs I was totally ignorant.

We also did not have the Internet or smart phones—or computers, supermarkets, big box stores, pizza delivery, credit cards, pin numbers, or any black men or women as models or pop celbrities. If we wanted to communicate with a friend we had to dial a number on an old-fashioned  telephone—early along even on a party line where strangers could eavesdrop.

Likenesses:

We were all still in the business of trying our best to find the best way to get “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In other words, we were and still are American citizens.

I recently met a large number of these modern citizens.

A month ago I fell in our basement trying to juggle groceries, a walker, and Lord knows what. I broke my hip in the fall. Unfortunately it was the same hip that I broke a few years ago on the tennis court. I called for my wife. Jane had to call 911. Three strong, able, and compassionate young men arrived promptly and took me with great care to the local Vet Hospital emergency room.

What with all the bad publicity the VA is getting lately I have to report that the Vet Hospital here in Madison gives superb care. My hip operation was particularly difficult because the surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists had to work with a 90-year old man who had broken that hip before. Glad to tell you they did a fine job and I am home now in recovery mode.

As for the nursing home staff at the same VA hospital I repeat my praise. With only a very few exceptions the nurses, doctors, and nursing assistances were saints. Well-trained saints. Many’s the time I buzzed for help and help came promptly. Whether I needed pain relief, help with the covers, or bathroom assistance help came promptly. Thank you.

Whether the nurses, male and female, came from Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mexico, South America, Chicago, or Madison they were terrific. I do have to reluctantly admit there was an exception—a few African American nurses and assistants were kind of surly. I hesitate to mention this for fear of racism labels but it is what it is. I do understand something of the horrors black people have faced in this country (and around the world) in historical times andeven today. I personally would no doubt have the same surly and lack-of-compassion manners toward all white people but that imperfect understanding doesn’t help much when you are the white person.

There was an exception here too—an African-American nurse, Mandy, I had in the Intensive Care unit. She was very strong and compassionate. She had apparently overcome the past and was on the way to a satisfying career, My wish is that all African-Americans could find the wisdom and courage to follow Mandy’s example instead of blaming whites for all their troubles as the Black Lives Matter group seems to do.

In my humble opinion that may have to wait until we overcome our common belief that need is essential for charity. The truth is we are all handicapped immigrants and we need to turn to a guaranteed national income—social security for all not just the old and disabled.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. See my blogs on Stimmig (guaranteed national income) in my new book, Bill’s Blogs.