The Values Series | HUMILITY

HUMILITY
Since it has become clear that we are currently facing a serious pandemic, my first inclination was to make this an “I told you so” essay and refer to a previous blog in which I quoted epidemiologists who assured us that future pandemics were inevitable. However, my self-righteousness was dimmed with the realization that I belonged in the high-risk category for serious complications from this bug. It also occurred to me that a time of crisis may be an appropriate time to examine our values as such times put them to the test. Thus, I decided to proceed as planned with a look at humility, which Confucius said was “the foundation of all virtues.”


As I mentioned in the first post of this series, the purpose of values is to allow us to get along with each other and thereby accomplish things. Alone we are relatively helpless, together we can and do move mountains. Those with particular expertise in the management of pandemics emphasize the importance of our helping each other since our best weapon for containing the disease lies in quarantining those who are infected, leaving them dependent on others for life’s necessities.


United We Stand. Divided We Fall.

It seems to me that during those major crises which have occurred during my lifetime, there has been a tendency for us to come together as a nation although; there have always been a few looking to exploit any such situation. Most would agree that the country is now more divided than it has been for the past 150 years, and I was struck by the timeliness of the subject of today’s blog when I ran into a quote from Socrates: “Pride divides the men, humility joins them.” I believe it safe to say that few of those faithful fans of our President would suggest that he oozes humility, and indeed his attempts to reassure have left us even farther apart. I can’t help but wonder if that humility deficit contributes in some way to our widening breach. 


Much of my career was spent dealing with patients who suffered from a poor self-image. In some cases their dislike of themselves had resulted in lives of misery and even self-destructive behaviors. Such problems are often confused with the concept of humility. As a matter of fact, some dictionaries list words such as meek, shy, and submissive as synonyms, but humility has nothing to do with wimpiness or poor self-esteem. It is on the contrary a mark of strength. In that regard, Rick Warren’s quote from C.S. Lewis that appears in Warren’s book (The Purpose Driven Life) is most helpful:

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself…it is thinking of yourself less.” C.S. Lewis

Rick Warren is quoted as saying:

“Humility isn’t denying your strengths, it’s being honest about your weaknesses.”


Humility offers a kind of freedom not accessible to the braggart, for humble people have nothing to prove. One person has anonymously defined humility as synonymous with the word “Truth” and the long-held maxim that a good liar must have a good memory still holds true. But the comfort offered by humility is best expressed by Mother Teresa:

“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”

Humility is after all an expression of concern for one’s fellow man.


Pride: The Opposite of Humility

Pride on the other hand is the opposite of humility, and its symptom is arrogance, which masks insecurity. My Father who was well known for his pithy comments referred to those who he thought were arrogant with the phrase: “He thinks his shit don’t stink.” Ezra Taft Benson, Politician/Mormon leader said “Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right. We read in Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Without humility, one can hardly ever know what others feel, for when empathy is lacking, relationships are apt to be superficial. When we are self-absorbed, the needs of others go largely unnoticed.
It is of course natural to feel pleased with our accomplishments and to be admired for them, but we humans are often prone to toot our own horn too loudly.

There is a Chinese proverb which gives the best advice:

“Be like the bamboo, the higher you grow the deeper you bow”

The Muslim prophet Muhammad said:

“The best of people is the one who humbles himself the more his rank increases”

Although history suggests he did not always follow it, Theodore Roosevelt advised: “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.” When bragging about ourselves, we will often find ourselves treated with disgust rather than the respect which we are seeking. We are more likely to find respect when we let our deeds do the talking.


To prepare for this blog post, I noted a lot in the literature which associated humility with both leadership and wisdom. As you may have noticed, I am particularly fond of those one-liners which say a lot in a few words. For example Socrates, who most people think was a bright fellow, said:

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

A few centuries later, Einstein would echo the same sentiment by saying:

“A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.”

However, some wise quotes also originate from non-genius types such as Mike Tyson who allegedly said: “If you are not humble, life will visit humbleness upon you,” thus seeming to echo the previous mentioned quote from Proverbs. There was also Pauline, part time philosopher and full-time cleaning lady who once informed me: “They ain’t no bird flies so high that he don’t have to come down for a drink.”


The Humility/Wisdom Connection

Initially, I was puzzled by those attempts to link humility with wisdom until it occurred to me that if wisdom is the possession of truth coupled with the ability to interpret it, it follows that pride might get in the way of finding it. Then I discovered that someone had defined humility as “staying teachable, regardless of how much you already know.” So much for those guys/girls who “know it all.”


Leadership

It is in times of crisis that leadership becomes our most valuable asset. Indeed, without it, failure is likely, if not inevitable, and humility has time and again shown itself to be a prerequisite for leadership. Now we are facing a crisis with the potential to create havoc worldwide. Leadership requires the ability to analyze, organize, plan and implement, but of equal importance, is the ability to inspire and empathize. A good leader must adhere to the truth no matter how dire the circumstances. Hollow reassurances or sugar-coating undermine confidence and respect. Our greatest fears are of the unknown, and there is much we don’t know about this pandemic. Unchecked fear without hope leads to panic. A good leader will validate the fear while offering hope.


An oft quoted example in which those criteria were satisfied was in Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech. The country was in the midst of a depression so severe that people were going hungry and the very survival of the country was in question. It began with that most famous line: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It marked a turning point leading the country from the depths of despair to a newfound sense of hopefulness. A second speech heard during my lifetime was Churchill’s never surrender speech in 1940. It also gets high marks by satisfying all the previously mentioned criteria for humility. It succeeded in motivating the entire English citizenry in a time of extreme fear and uncertainty.


In both these addresses you will find few first-person singular pronouns for as is always the case with humility the focus is not on oneself, but concern for others. Its opposite, which we call narcissism, is concern for self only. With that in mind, little wonder that our malignantly narcissistic leader is unlikely to go down in history as the humility President. During the past week, I have spared myself the agony of watching the Donald’s daily briefings on the alleged progress on dealing with the corona virus. In any other context, they would be laughable, but with the seriousness of this pandemic they prompt me with the desire to take my 12 gauge to the TV.


The Poster Child for Failed and Flawed Leadership

Yesterday, I relented and watched one of our dear leader’s ego massages disguised as a news conference. I endured this disgusting production in spite of the nausea produced by watching that pathetic group of ass kissers pay homage to the person who has once again demonstrated his incompetence by doing a Nero impersonation. The group stands shoulder to shoulder, ignoring admonitions from epidemiologists to maintain six feet of separation. The diminutive Dr. Faucci stood with arms folded on his chest, a clear message that he was not receptive to this charade.


Trump began with one of his classic truthful but not wholly truthful statements. He proudly announced that the U.S. had now done more tests for the virus than had South Korea, failing to mention that our population is 5 times larger, which means our per capita rate is much lower. This was followed by a series of self-congratulatory remarks about how he had now brought the situation under control in spite of having inherited a totally dysfunctional CDC, failing to mention that he had recently proposed draconian cuts to their budget. There was the usual litany of blaming for any of the pandemic associated problems. (NOTE: Trump’s budget proposals called for 17% cut to the CDC for Fiscal 2018; a 19.6% cut in Fiscal 2019; $750.6 million cut in Fiscal 2020; and $693.3 million (9%) cut for 2021, which Trump sent to Congress o Feb. 10, after the COVID-19 outbreak began and the first U.S. case was confirmed on Jan. 20. However, these were the President’s proposals to cut the budget. We are fortunate our founders understood the balance of power. Check your Civics lessons. The Congress is in charge of the country’s budget. Fortunately, they rejected these drastic cuts. Here is link where the eshrink editor retrieved that information.

His concerns about the pandemic were mostly about its effect on the stock market, but he was most reassuring, saying he expected the worst to be over in a couple of weeks so that people could go back to work and the economy would bounce back bigger and better than ever. This was followed by a parade of his adoring sycophants, who one by one heaped praise on the great one for having saved thousands of lives through his tireless efforts (must have cut into his golf game big time). Then comes scrawny Dr. Faucci who steps up to the mic to heroically speak truth to the power that towers next to him, by contradicting much of what the Donald has just said. The show ended with the President rudely accusing one of the reporters of being rude for asking a seemingly benign question, then continuing on with a rant about the poor guy’s competence, objectivity and other shortcomings, barely stopping short of a commentary about his mother’s lineage.

Link to Trump’s March 29th Rant on Reporter

Link to Compilation Video of Trump’s Recent Attacks on the Media during COVID-10 Press Conferences (MUST WATCH)

Link to Trump’s March 20th Attack on Reporter at Press Conference


Portraits of Successful Leadership

Today I watched the reports by both the New York Governor and my own governor. In both cases, the governors and their staffs were assembled in chairs with the recommended distance between them.  They were both effusive in their accolades for those involved in dealing with the crisis, but thankfully not for themselves. They acknowledged our distress and fearfulness, but were brutally honest about what lay ahead. There were facts galore (actually more than I needed) and a plan of action was laid out along with what was already being done.  We were given assurances that we were not alone. I was still worried, but more hopeful.  I gained a new respect for my governor who I previously labeled as a doofus (he is a republican after all).  He gained not only my vote, but my confidence in his ability to deal with the threat, and left me feeling as if we really were in this thing together.

Yep, humility definitely works better than bluster.


Next topic in the values series will be respect if I can find some examples.

The Values Series | TRUTH

Image result for george washington cutting down cherry tree

When I was a kid, lying was the ultimate sin and truthfulness was a primary virtue. You might get whacked for doing something bad, but if you lied about it, you were in really deep trouble. We were to follow the example of George Washington who confessed to chopping down the cherry tree because he “could not tell a lie.” That fable is probably the only thing I learned about Washington in school, and it was repeated over and over ad nauseum. As I recall, in my earlier days, all behaviors were seen as good or bad, right or wrong, wise or dumb, etc., with nothing in between. There is a certain comfort in such binary thinking for it simplifies life, yet as recent events have shown, truth can be complicated, and thus subject to manipulation and distortion.


Situation Ethics

Early in the last century, a group of existential philosophers including Sartre, Brunner and Heidigger proposed there should be no absolute moral standards, and that one should take into account the context of an act before making an ethical judgement. Later, a group of protestant theologians expanded on that idea and declared that the presence of love is the ultimate determinant of what is ethical. One of these guys, Joseph Fletcher, in his book Situation Ethics stated, “All laws and rules and principles and ideals and norms are only contingent, only valid, if they happen to serve love.” Paul Tillich also declared that “love is the ultimate law.”

Image result for situational ethics

 
Love Conquers All

In the aftermath of the war (WWII), there was a great deal of discussion about ethics and morality, not surprising due to all the atrocities the world had seen. It was also the only war in recent history in which civilian populations were targeted, and state sponsored lying (propaganda) was accepted as the norm. Situation ethics with its emphasis on love appealed to “hormonely” endowed baby boomers since it is not a giant leap from agape to a more intimate type of love. It all came together in the 60s with love-ins, the pill, free love, Woodstock, teen pregnancies, and communes where one could share everything, often including each other. But it was also a time of anti-war protests and civil rights activism leading to the repeal of Jim Crow laws. There were fresh looks at some of our country’s previous foreign and domestic policies in terms of the effects they had on individuals. In other words, all these efforts comport with the ideals expressed in Fletcher’s version of situational ethics since they all arose out of caring about our fellow man.


White Lies

There is also a case to be made that situational ethics has had an effect on our thinking about the value of truth, as in the use of what were called “white lies.” For if truth is hurtful, is it a loving thing? For example, how should you respond when asked by an ugly person if they are ugly? There are many situations in which a one faces a similar dilemma and must decide how much they are willing to lie to avoid hurting someone. But such considerations also provide a mechanism by which one can rationalize lying. Deception has always been socially acceptable in many areas of life, e.g., team sports where faking is often part of the game. Military strategy and propaganda rely heavily on misinformation and now with the availability of digital tools, it is possible to disrupt entire societies without firing a shot, activities at which Russia has proven to be very adept.

 

Truth in Advertising?

Image result for Pure Food and Drug Act

Ever since people had something to sell, lying about their products has been common practice. The first recorded attempt to regulate advertising was the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Currently, the Federal Trade Commission’s “truth in advertising policy” consists of a set of rules that attempt to restrict misleading advertising, and there is also a hodgepodge of state laws that usually refer to specific or local products. In spite of all these efforts, advertisers find ways to make us believe things that are not true.

 

Social Media

Social media has become a godsend for those who want to infect large numbers of people with all kinds of lies including fake news, conspiracy theories, or slander. Fake identities can allow them to remain anonymous while sometimes doing enormous damage. Our government seems to have little interest in fixing responsibility for such content. One study concluded that information transmitted from a friend is also more likely to be accepted as valid than from other sources, which may help explain the rapid spread and wide acceptance of conspiracy theories due to the human need to share secretive information with friends.

 

Truth Be Damned

The fact checking project of the Washington Post alleges 16,241 false or misleading claims in his first 1095 days as President by our “dear leader.” I do find it reassuring to note that apparently the idea that the president could be a pathological, habitual liar is so abhorrent that even an anti-Trump paper prefers to use less personal terms to describe his casual relationship with truth (i.e., the use of the euphemism “false or misleading claims”). Conversely, I was disheartened when recently a person for whom I have a great deal of respect, responded to my comment about Trump’s lies with: “But he has done some good things too, besides all politicians lie.” I found myself questioning if we have become so inured to lying that it is no longer a big deal, and that lying is now accepted as the new norm. This seems to have been confirmed by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz when he testified that Trump’s lies about his ”perfect” phone call were OK since his need to be re-elected was motivated by his love of country. Is that situation ethics on steroids or what?  I feel certain that back in the days when I was learning about Washington and the cherry tree incident, such attitudes towards lying would have been met with a cry of outrage heard round the world!

 

 

Research has shown that repetition of lies enhances their believability, and the more frequently they are repeated, the more likely are they to be accepted as true. Propagandists and advertisers have long been well aware of this, which accounts for our being bombarded with the same TV ad every few minutes. Likewise, talented liars make use of this principle by doubling down when caught in a lie. Studies have also demonstrated that lying becomes easier and more believable as one does more of it – practice makes perfect.

 

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

My Webster’s Dictionary defines truth as that which is true, which I don’t find very helpful. Philosophers, of course, have debated its meaning for thousands of years, but I have never been able to understand those guys/girls…which leaves me feeling like a former patient who said he knew his previous psychiatrist was exceptionally intelligent because he couldn’t understand a thing he said. One dictionary listed fact as a synonym for truth, but it seems clear to me that the concept of truth encompasses more than just facts. Truth is an ideal, a way of communicating accurately. Without it, life would be totally chaotic, and its absence would put our very survival at risk. Truth can be easily distorted, thus when in court we promise to tell not only the truth, but the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


Context Rules!

For example, in the little George and the cherry tree incident, it is concluded that George was a truth prodigy. However, supposing he noticed that someone saw him chopping down that tree, he would have been wise to say that he was confessing because he valued truth, and hopefully escape corporal punishment. Thus he would have told the truth – (that he had cut down the tree), but not the whole truth – (that he knew he had been busted) nor nothing but the truth – (for his stated reason for confessing: “I cannot tell a lie” was a lie). In like fashion, truth is made up of facts, and the omission of a fact or addition of even a minor falsehood may distort or totally change its meaning. On the other hand, facts without appropriate modifiers or context may misrepresent the truth. In other words, it is not possible to have truth without facts, but facts without truth is not only possible but may hide the truth.

 

Image result for Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech."
Truth is absolutely essential for the function of a democracy, which our founders recognized early by protecting freedom of speech with the First Amendment. Ben Franklin is quoted saying, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” Of course, this has been known by despots and authoritarian rulers throughout history. Unfortunately, there is a down side to freedom of speech for such a policy does not exclude the propagation of misinformation. In Ben’s day it was much simpler to sort out facts from fiction. We live in the information age where we are deluged with massive amounts of information. Larger segments of the population now rely on the internet for information, and it is often not clear who sent it or where it came from. The Russian election interference debacle provides us with a foretaste of what may be possible in the future, and as artificial intelligence becomes even more proficient at deception, truth could become even more elusive.

 


The First Amendment, although a protector of free speech, does place some limits (for example, physical threats, child pornography, incitement of violence, national security, etc.,), but many other nations of the world have rigid censorship over the internet and in times of political unrest have been known to shut it down. Such tactics are of course designed to hide the truth. There is currently concern about the role of Facebook in knowingly allowing misinformation to be communicated by its members. It has been pointed out by many who know about this stuff that other media are held to certain standards of maintaining a modicum of truth in their messaging while these new guys on the block have run wild. This will undoubtedly involve the familiar debates as to how far government should go in protecting the public interest without violating the right of free speech, and to what extent lying should be allowed should we even have the power to regulate it.
Truth is not easy- as a matter of fact, it is often elusive, and sometimes painful. Although I am without any particular talent in its disciplines, science has always fascinated me, largely because it is in essence simply the search for truth.

 

Oil & Water | Truth & The Belief System

Truth sometimes comes into conflict with strongly held beliefs. Consequently, scientists frequently get a bad rap. And so it was with Galileo, who was convicted of heresy, forced to recant his observation that the earth was not the center of the universe, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life on house arrest for daring to report a truth. To a lessor extent, the anti-science movement persists to this day as there are always those who refuse to accept truths that are not consistent with their beliefs or politics. This is now seen in the case of the climate change deniers who may see scientific data regarding climate change as not only a threat to their financial status, but are unwilling to contemplate the pain certain to accompany such a catastrophes that will result from climate change. The response by many of those naysayers is the time honored one of blaming the messenger and insisting it is all a sham [In my post Mother Earth, I cited an article about the mental health of scientists who have devoted their life to the search of the truth]. There are also the creationists who insist the world is only a few thousand years old in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary because they feel the modern narrative as to how we came to be conflicts with their literal interpretation of Biblical accounts.

 


Our ability to discern what is truthful is also made difficult by our physical limitations. Our large cerebral cortex has allowed us to out-think other animals, and is largely responsible for our becoming the world’s top predator. It has also allowed us to become very curious and that curiosity has led us to attempt to figure out how everything works. In the process, we have created things that were unimaginable only a few generations ago. But when it comes to our primary special senses of sight, smell, and hearing, we are not nearly so proficient as other animals. That, along with our biases and prejudices, may explain why eyewitness accounts are so unreliable, and why it is sometimes difficult for us to perceive the truth.

 


The Cancer of Untruths | No Matter the Motivation

Previously, I noted the malignant nature of untruths, i.e., how they are so readily promulgated by well-meaning souls who mistakenly feel they are spreading truth. Such situations can also have devastating effects at a personal level on families and individuals. One such case comes to mind in which I was professionally involved many years ago. I was asked to see a man who had been accused of sexually molesting his daughter when she was very young. The daughter had filed charges against her father and he was clinically depressed. The accused father was a middle-class factory worker who had been ostracized from friends and co-workers. However, his wife and other children, all older, refused to believe this could have happened. It turned out the daughter had a history of serious emotional problems and while under hypnosis had recalled memories of the molestation. At the time, there was a great deal of interest in the recovery of memories of past traumas as a therapeutic tool, but many now feel the use of such techniques by overzealous therapists have led to a lot of false accusations. This is especially true when hypnosis is involved, for when hypnotized the subject gives up control of his thinking to the hypnotist. In this case, the father was eventually acquitted, but not before sustaining a permanent stain to his reputation and huge legal bills. Perhaps more importantly, his daughter lost a family and my patient and his wife lost a daughter.

 


So Much Information | Not Enough Knowledge

Since the onset of the information age about 50 years ago, truth has been even more difficult to find. Information is now a valuable commodity which is sold to the highest bidder, many of whom are not concerned with truth. Truth is powerful and must be hidden if a people are to be subjugated. It has been said that the truth will set you free, and indeed without truth, government of the people, by the people, and for the people would be impossible. Likewise, without a modicum of truth-telling, relationships of all kinds would suffer.
As fallible human beings we are all guilty of exaggeration on occasion, of allowing our biases to get in the way of objective evaluation of information, and we have learned to treat the average fish story as a rough approximation of the truth. Nevertheless, truth is the foundation for every kind of value we hold dear, such as honesty, integrity, reliability, loyalty, sincerity, candor, and justice, to name a few. In my opinion, mere fact checking is not enough. We need conversations about the importance of truth so that it becomes an ideal to be revered, and we all need to become seekers and speakers of truth. Perhaps we should all reread the story of little George and that famous cherry tree.

 


Next subject as suggested by a reader will be on humility, care to guess why?

 

Editor’s Note: While searching for images for this post, I found it ironic to discover that the story of George Washington and the cherry tree is a myth (another nice word for a lie). How this fable was created and gained such credibility that it was taught in school for decades is an interesting story from Brain Food. Score 1 for technology and truth detecting 🙂  However, I guess the bigger question for situational ethicists would be whether the story of little George and the cherry tree was motivated by love (love of the truth and a way to provide little kids with a story they would remember about how important it is to tell the truth). Oh…Washington didn’t have wooden teeth either (that’s another thing I was taught in school about Washington)! Brain Food dispelled that myth, too! Until next time…comment, share, and post. Eshrink ROCKS!

WHAT ABOUT VALUES?

I recall reading a quote from Madeleine Albright several years ago in which she expressed concern regarding what she thought was a deterioration of our values, which she saw as the most serious of all the threats facing our nation. With that in mind, I decided to have a go at looking at what values are important to us and why. The first ones that came to mind were courage and truthfulness since they were the ones most often alleged deficient during the impeachment trial.

 

It never occurred to me that I might see two presidents impeached in my lifetime. As a matter of fact, I am not sure I fully understood the meaning of that word until Nixon was threatened with one.

The outcome of this latest effort was entirely predictable since the person directing the show guaranteed that Mr. Trump would not be removed from office, and proudly announced that he would be working on the defendant’s behalf (it really does help to have the right people on your side).

 

Is Anybody Watching?

As you might expect, an old retired dude like myself with nothing better to do, other than write stupid blogs, spent a fair amount of time watching the impeachment trial. There were lots of redundancies which allowed me to walk away for long periods of time knowing that whatever I missed would be repeated several times.

 

Unfortunately, the camera angles were fixed therefore; not conducive to monitoring the proceedings, and essentially shielded the senators, other than the presenters, from being observed. It would have been interesting to have a camera panning the senate jurors’ faces to see if there was any sign of interest or emotional response to the proceedings. We were told that many of the senators appeared to be attentive and that some were even taking notes. I was surprised to hear of such signs of interest since the verdict had been determined long before the trial began, and that the only audience who might be interested would be people like me who sat watching the spectacle on TV.

Stay Calm and Be Senatorial

It is apparent that the guys on opposite sides of the aisle don’t like each other very much. Consequently, McConnell had spared no effort to minimize the possibility of violence, and to project an aura of proper senatorial decorum. Jail time was promised for any raucous behavior, attendance was mandatory, and spontaneous commentary was forbidden, as were any efforts to leave the chambers during proceedings, regardless of the status of senatorial prostates.

 

Such precautions did turn out to be wise for it did not take long for the presentations to become personal with each side accusing the other of dishonesty. The Republicans accused the Democrats of engaging in a witch hunt and a sham motivated by their anger over their defeat in the 2016 election, while the democrats characterized the democratic defense of the President as a cover-up, and even worse, that republican senators lacked the courage to risk becoming the target of Trump’s anger. And of course, each side accused the other of being untruthful. It occurred to me that there was a time when such values were so important to one’s self image that to suggest one was a coward or a liar would likely provoke an assault, at times even resulting in a duel.

 

 

As I listened to the exchange of insults, I wondered if we have become more civil than we were during other times of divisiveness in our country, or is it that our values have changed? There have been a few episodes of serious brawls in Congress proving that debate has not always been genteel.

Image result for mitt romney speech

As I was writing this, Mitt Romney in a senatorial address, explained his vote to convict the President. He acknowledged that as a result, he expected to be subject to ridicule and worse by many of his fellow Republicans, but insisted that the president’s behavior, which he considered “an assault on our fundamental values” left him no choice. As expected, he is now hailed as a hero by Democrats and vilified as a traitor by the Trumpsters, i.e., heroic for the courage to follow his conscience and a traitor by being disloyal to the President. Click here to watch Romney’s Speech

 

Therein lies a problem when establishing a set of preferred values. While loyalty is generally an admired value, unfettered loyalty can lead to undesirable or even evil results depending on the recipient.

History and Misplaced Loyalty

History is replete with examples of the disastrous effects of misplaced loyalty. We ordinary citizens “pledge allegiance to the flag and to the Republic for which it stands………” The military, civil servants, and those elected to public office pledge: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same………”.Click here to read the Senate’s Oath of Office and its history.

Note the emphasis is not on loyalty to a person or office, but loyalty to the Constitution. Such is not always the case as in North Korea where loyalty is to “our dear Leader.

Same with Hitler:  “I swear to God this sacred oath that I shall render unconditional obedience to the Leader of the German Reich and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.”

Those are just two examples, but pick any authoritarian leader in history and you will most likely find a demand for personal loyalty rather than loyalty to an ideal. Former FBI director Comey accused Trump of demanding his personal loyalty, which if true, is indeed frightening.
Courage on the other hand is defined in the Oxford dictionary as:

COURAGE: the ability to do something which frightens one

Since fear is a universally human feeling, we generally admire those who have been able to overcome it with exceptions for those whose fear is of their own doing or whose fear results from doing harm to others. For example, I imagine a bank robber must overcome his fear in order to do his thing. However, I don’t ever recall hearing Willie Sutton referred to as courageous, nor were the Kamikaze pilots of World War II.

Bill Maher was fired by ABC for objecting to Bush’s comment that the 911 attackers were cowards. Thus, it would appear that society’s definition of courage should include a qualifier indicating that the means one uses to overcome their fear is socially acceptable. Or, is it that courage, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.
Fear has evolved to become the most powerful of the emotions because it is necessary for our survival. Without fear, our earliest ancestors would have become meals for critters who were stronger and faster than they were.

Fear and Anxiety

However, we all know  that fearfulness is also stressful. Phobias are fears on steroids, so exaggerated as to be irrational and often debilitating. Most anxiety disorders have at their root some type of fear, even though we may not be able to identify its source. Those afflicted with psychoses may in some cases experience delusions and hallucinations so intense as to produce abject terror.

 

The severity of the pain I witnessed such patients experience often left me in awe of the courage required for them to face each day. They also suffered fears of alienation by friends and discrimination in the workplace due to the stigma of mental illness, which often leading to a reluctance to get help. It was not unusual for my patients to ask if they could come in through the back door. Imagine the courage it must take to endure mental illness, which is only trumped by the courage to seek help despite discouragement and disdain from family, friends, and work associates.
In his speech Romney described the torment he felt in coming to his vote to convict, not only due to his religious beliefs, but also the effect it would have on his relationships. Events over the last couple of days indicate that his fears in that regard were warranted. In the days that followed the moment he strayed from the party line he has been vilified by many “friends” and colleagues. Even more disturbing is the news that he has been uninvited from a major Republican meeting due to “fears for his safety.”

Courageous Patriotism

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman testified before a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Nov. 19, 2019, as part of the impeachment inquiry. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Meanwhile, Lt. Col Vintman, who testified at Trump’s impeachment, has been fired from his job at the White House and walked off the grounds. This is the same guy who in his opening remarks commented on his pride to have become a citizen of a country where he would not be jailed or executed for speaking truth to power as would be the case if he was still in Russia. Click here to read a transcript of his opening statement.

As the purge continues, Gordon Sondland finds that a million bucks donated to the Trump cause does not give one job security, for he has been fired from his ambassadorship, presumably for testifying. Click here to read Sondland’s opening statement. All those who defied orders to refuse to testify are now paying the price for their courage.
If any of you have read my previous blogs you may recall mention of my favorite quote from Lao Tzu

To be loved deeply gives us strength. To love deeply gives us courage

Patriotism

Patriotism is defined as love of one’s country. Every person involved in this investigation and impeachment procedure has taken the same oath, yet opinions regarding the outcome are almost entirely dependent upon one’s political party affiliation. Those with nothing to gain, but much to lose, who chose to answer the call and tell their story under oath, are the heroes. They are the ones demonstrated courage.

 

What Values do You Value?

While writing this, I found myself wondering if our values have changed and if so why. I would be interested in your feedback as to what you think, and especially what values you feel are most important.  In my next blog I plan to explore the concept of truth, since it has become so elusive, and at times difficult to define.

Please let me know what values are most important to you.

Thanks for reading!

Editor’s Note: While doing research for links and pictures on the internet as the proud editor of eshrink’s blog, a tagline I had never noticed before, jumped out of me. I thought I would share:

“Democracy dies in darkness”

Keep shining the light ESHRINK!!!

SLOW LEARNERS?

ARE WE SLOW LEARNERS?

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. – Edmund Burke

Winston Churchill paraphrased Burke thereby reminding us that a much less painful education can be gained by learning about the mistakes of others rather than: “learning the hard way.”

 

The Repetition Compulsion
When it comes to governing, it seems clear that we continue to replicate the same stupid mistakes of the past. Freud described this as an inherently human characteristic which he named the Repetition Compulsion, arising from “the desire to return to an earlier state of things.” It seems more likely to me that our government often makes poor decisions as a result of a lack of historical perspective, which brings up the question as to whether they choose to ignore lessons of the past or simply “do not know history.”

 

Who Needs History?

According to the American History Association, there has been a recent and significant decline in the number of college students who opt for a major in history. This is not surprising when one considers the soaring student loan debt in this country. These kids (anyone under the age of 40 is a kid to me) are primarily interested in finding a way to make a quick buck, and there aren’t many companies recruiting historians.
There is also the massive technological change which has occurred in the space of one generation, apparently leaving many to feel the old rules are no longer appropriate and that we old folks are “stuck in the past” and one should strive to live in “the here and now.” Further evidence of the lack of interest in what has gone before, is seen in the near collapse of the antique market. Nearly all the shops in my area that used to hawk old stuff are gone. The PBS TV program Antique’s Roadshow frequently mentions the decline in value of items treasured by many of my generation. Many of us who have collected and admired such things often find little interest on the part of our inheritors. Even family heirlooms sometimes take a hit and no tears are shed as so called “time honored” traditions are discarded. There is a bright spot however, as there seems to be renewed interest in genealogy largely due to interests in DNA, the more ready availability of records due to digitization, and companies like Ancestry.com. Hopefully, this interest in genealogy may provoke more curiosity about what has gone before, and help us avoid repeating some of our ancestor’s screw ups.

One thing that history can teach us is that democracy is fragile. In my generation alone, we saw Germany, Italy, Spain, and multiple south American and African countries become dictatorships. And now we see that truth is played out again as democratic governments throughout the world become more authoritarian: witness Turkey, Poland, and Venezuela. Yet, we Americans naively think it could never happen to us. As students of history, the dangers were evident to our country’s founders, exemplified by Franklin who responded to a question as to what kind of government had been formulated by saying: “a republic if you can keep it” (popular usage has caused us to use the word democracy as synonymous with republic).

Beyond Rationale Debate to Divisiveness and Polarization
We live in a time when Americans are more divided than at any time in the past 200 years. Many believe this divisiveness presents a grave threat to the republic, for divide and conquer has long been the mantra of those who desire to subjugate others. Gone are the days of rational debate, conciliation, and the search for truth among our lawmakers and the public at large. Respectful dissent by our politicians is frequently replaced by character assassination and name calling. Allegiance to one’s political party is paramount consequently; independent thinking is frowned upon. As a matter of fact, members of each party are given “talking points” to regurgitate whenever questioned about issues.

john_adams.jpgBut the desire to be re-elected is the most powerful motivator of adherence to the party line. Oh yes, group think is alive and well in the halls of congress and the deliberations of elective officials throughout the nation. Perhaps John Adams had a point when he described the two-party system as: “…the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

 

Too much information. Not enough knowledge.
There are obviously many other factors that contribute to our divisiveness, such as social media which allows false accusations and conspiracy theories to be promulgated without consequence (hence, the term “keyboard courage”). Our President’s friend, Mr. Putin, has made good use of the internet with his targeted bots designed to sow confusion and fear in the electorate. Of course, we will never know to what extent those activities affected the outcome of the past presidential election. Meanwhile, we seem to have learned little from that experience for there appears to be little effort being put forth to interfere with future election tampering.

 

News vs Propaganda
There are also problems with those in the media who behave more like propaganda machines than honest brokers of the news. They no longer even pretend to lack bias, and routinely extol the virtues of one party while trashing the other. This results in their gaining a loyal audience of people, who as a result of this confirmation bias, will rarely hear the other side of any story, i.e., they are only told that which is consistent with what they already believe. Those in the news business know conflict sells, and no one is better at promoting conflict than our President. This was noted early in the Trump campaign by the former president of CBS, who said of Trump: “He is damn good for CBS.” Little wonder that he seems to have had unlimited access from the beginning of his campaign. As a candidate, Trump must have been very aware of this, for his approach was to exploit divisiveness rather than to promote unity.

 

Image result for trump with his maga hat

The essentials of good stagecraft are followed carefully by Mr. Trump. He utilizes such tactics as always keeping audiences waiting for enough time to make grander entrances, with carefully choreographed “spontaneous” news conferences that occur on the walk to the helicopter where there just happens to be a cadre of reporters waiting to pay homage to the great one. Everyone knows that costuming is important in any show and Trump’s genius came into full flower with the Make America Great Again trucker’s cap. The ball cap has become a nearly essential part of the working-class uniform of people who had become disaffected and felt left behind. The message printed on them harkened back to a time when living wages were the norm and labor unions were powerful. When Trump donned his cap, he became as one with them. Quickly forgotten was his history of paying starvation wages to immigrant laborers, stiffing tradesmen who worked on his projects, and his privileged “silver spoon” childhood that allowed him to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War and only “get a small loan of $1 million” from his dad to start his business.

Editors Note: Just a few articles to support eshrink’s statements above regarding Trump’s history of hiring and exploiting immigrant works, stiffing contractors, and using his privilege to avoid military service.

Business Insider: Donald Trump avoided the military draft 5 times, which was common for men from influential families

A Brief History of Trump Swindling Small Business Owners including a cabinet maker from Philly, a paint seller and servers in Florida, a drapery business in Vegas…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Fortune: Trump Got a Tax Break for Stiffing Contractors

USA Today: Hundreds allege Trump doesn’t pay his bills

Reuters: Trumps Art of the Deal: Dispute Your Bills. A review of 50 court cases brought by workers and contractors against Trump

Nothing Unites like a Common Enemy
Trump has made good use of his showmanship skills to appeal to his supporters who nearly all remain loyal no matter what. They obviously like him and want to believe him consequently, when something unfavorable is written, and he tells them the press is “the enemy of the people”, they switch to Fox News to get the straight scoop where they will likely never hear the other side of the story. Mr. Trump has united his “Trumpsters” with the time-honored strategy of inventing an enemy, in this case immigrants, and convincing his followers that they are a menace.

 

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity
Although I continue to believe Trump is significantly impaired as the result of a serious personality disorder, he continues to demonstrate his genius at self-promotion, with adherence to the Public Relations dictum that there is no such thing as bad publicity. With that in mind, he immediately sensed the value of Twitter, an instrument by which one can instantly reach millions with a few key strokes. It is also an effective tool to transmit any message repetitively for it has been proven that when something is repeated often enough, it eventually is believed. If there is any doubt about the success of his strategy, consider this: even though Trump is a serial divorcee who paid hush money to hide his adulterous relationships, used bankruptcies as a business strategy to line his pockets at the expense of others, is known for his casual relationship with the truth, paid $25 million dollars to settle a lawsuit over the Trump University fraud case, and was filmed bragging about his sexual assaults on women, he received 71% of the white evangelical Christian vote!

 

We now live in a shrinking world with enlarging problems, including perhaps the most pressing one of all, namely climate change, while our energies and attention remain focused on fighting with each other. We ignore the wisdom of our ancestors who when faced with monumental problems coined phrases such as “united we stand, divided we fall” and “we must hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.” Our current problems are unlikely to be solved in an atmosphere where we have no respect for each other’s point of view and only react to disagreement with anger. The polarity is so complete that even on a personal level, politics is a taboo subject. Gone are rationale debates, a desire to ensure opinions are based on facts rather than confirmation bias, and a basic interest in seeking the truth.

 

Impeachment
As I write this, we are in the midst of impeachment proceedings against the President. Although I feel he should be removed, I am fearful that regardless of the outcome, the proceedings may further increase the divisiveness and rancor that pervades the country. Senator McConnell has guaranteed the President will be found not guilty regardless of what evidence is brought forth, but no matter the outcome we can be assured that half of the country will be angry. I even wonder if the words of a hack like myself who enjoys writing about this stuff may in some small way simply harden opinions and inhibit discussion.

 

Power: The Wisdom of our Founders
This impeachment is in the final analysis about power. History teaches us that power is for most people like money in that we never have enough. That is especially true for those who aspire to positions of leadership. Those who risked their lives in order to found this republic were students of history and well aware of that trait. They also had first-hand knowledge having suffered the consequences of authoritarian rule. They wanted representative government to chart the course of the ship of state, but needed someone to steer it in the prescribed direction. With people being the way they are, I suppose it was inevitable that the guys at the helm would vie with the Congress for power, and it seems clear that Presidents have been gaining in that quest for a long time.

 

Presidents had been chipping away at the restraints placed upon the power of the executive branch for decades. In my lifetime, Roosevelt defied a predominantly isolationist Congress which was still recovering from World War I to finagle a way to send war materials to England during WW II in spite of their objections. Prior to that, he had been credited with reviving the U.S. economy from the Great Depression. He was elected to four terms and died in office while still immensely popular. Out of concern that others might become “president for life” a Constitutional Amendment was passed by Republicans in 1951 that set the current term limit for the presidency. Ironically, in 1987, Ronald Reagan suggested rescinding the rule.

 

So far, watching this impeachment thing has been a grueling experience. Nevertheless, I have suffered through a few hours of it. I’ve come away convinced that if there is no conviction, certainly the most likely outcome, Trump will have wrestled more power for the presidency than did even FDR. I find this very frightening for tipping the scales too far on which that balance of power rests would send us to a very gloomy place. Ben Franklin’s answer to the question that was posed at the Constitutional Convention “Do we have a republic or a monarchy?” should be a rallying cry for all citizens:  “A republic if we can keep it.”

 

We are the stewards of this republic: the great experiment of democracy. Most of us did nothing to earn the right to grow up under the freedom, opportunity, and liberty this great nation provides, except to be born here. Our founders and our ancestors did the heavy lifting so we could enjoy the privilege that freedom provides. At the very least, we owe it to the country’s founders and our ancestors, to learn about history, to read the Constitution, read the Declaration of Independence, and to refresh our memory of the basic lessons in civics. Get informed. Get involved. Seek the truth.

 

While it is the sworn oath of those serving in Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, to follow the Constitution of the United States of America, it is ultimately up to each of us to own our part of that responsibility.  To quote President Lincoln who led this country through arguably the most divisive period in our history:

“…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 

 

Trump Potus Tweet bullying Greta Thurnberg

DON’T MESS WITH GRETA!

If any of you are regulars on this beat, you may have noticed that in deference to our increasing susceptibility to Trump fatigue, I have suspended my analyses of the Donald’s behaviors. You may rest assured however that they have not gone unnoticed, and that I have watched with great interest the current fruitless attempts to remove him from office.

 

It is appalling that, though judged obnoxious by most, his behaviors have been accepted and even admired by a large segment of the populace. His extreme repetition of lie after lie overwhelms truth. His cozy relationships with authoritarian rulers of the world is worrisome as is his impulsive and inconsistent decision making. He seems to find The Constitution to be inconvenient, and probably feels that without it, those pesky democrats could be forced to shut up and do as they are told. Meanwhile, those who praise him are granted the keys to the castle no matter their political leanings.

Those issues and others were bad enough, but now he has really pissed me off by attacking my heroine Greta Thunberg, a bona fide 21st century Joan of Arc. Although the Nobel Prize committee did not follow my advice by awarding the prize to Greta, she was named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine.

Upon learning of that, Trump the tweet master, posted as follows: “So ridiculous, Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend. Chill Greta, chill.”

Trump Potus Tweet bullying Greta ThurnbergAs one perfectly willing and able to take on the most powerful man in the world, Greta responded by changing her twitter profile to read:

“A teenager working to resolve her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old-fashioned movie with a friend.”

He obviously did not know who he was “messing with.” When asked if she would consider discussing her views on climate change with the president, Greta replied that in his case “It would be a waste of time.”

Mr. Trump was named “Person of the Year” upon his election in 2016, and has complained that he was not similarly rewarded in subsequent years. He does have a valid point as Jim Kelly, managing editor of Time, has defined an honoree as: “the person who most affected events of the year for better or worse.” For example, Hitler and Osama Bin Laden have been named in past years, so perhaps we should consider our dear leader for the dubious honor. I doubt he would care much as to which category he belonged as long as that magnificent head of hair was accurately depicted on the cover.

To be jealous of a teenage girl must be particularly difficult for a malignant narcissist. However, now that he has rid himself of those who did not always suck up and has surrounded himself with sycophants, he should recover. Meanwhile, in spite of my dismay, there is also some relief in hearing Senator McConnell guarantee that Trump will not be removed from office. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am concerned as to the effect his being cornered could have on his already precarious mental state. The down side is that a not guilty verdict may well reinforce his conviction that Article II of The Constitution gives him the power to: “Do anything I want.”

Since I was a latecomer to the “Greatest Generation,” I confess that I have not always been enthusiastic about turning the keys over to today’s crop of teenagers. However; I am in awe of the activism of Greta’s generation (Click here to read Business Insider’s definition of Gen Z). The movement she started was inspired by the “March for Our Lives” movement to end gun violence, which was organized by survivors of the Parkland Florida High School massacre. Their march on Washington produced a crowd rivaling the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration (I trust he hasn’t heard of that comparison).

Only months after Greta began her protests alone with a hand-made sign in front of the Swedish parliament building, this petite 16 year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome has millions of followers in 150 countries, and is now the most recognizable climate change activist in the world. She has also been recognized in NATURE magazine as one of the 10 most influential people in science.

That millions of kids who chose to protest the inaction of we adults on the issues of gun violence and climate change could hardly be explained as simply an excuse to skip school. I have listened to excerpts from the speeches of several of these kids and have been incredibly impressed by their knowledge and vision. They demand action in place of platitudes. One of those high school kids from Parkland in an address at the D.C. rally made that clear when he stated in his speech: “Stand for us or beware. The voters are coming.”

March for Our Lives Protest in Washington D.C. prompted by Parkland High School Massacre

It all leads me to think the world will soon be in good hands. Go get em’ kids! The Greatest Generation is counting on you!

Uncomfortable Hospital Bed

BED REST? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

 

For a lot of years, I routinely admitted patients to hospitals. Due to a recent brief sojourn in one, I now feel compelled to seek atonement for those sins.

As I am sure you are all aware, to be hospitalized means that during your stay, you will spend almost all of your time in a contraption the medical staff will refer to as a bed. My recent experience has enlightened me, for I naively thought that the word bed when used in medical parlance had the same meaning as it did in ordinary conversation, i.e., a place where one could rest or even sleep. In truth, it turns out that a hospital “bed” has little to do with such a concept, but is simply a workbench designed primarily for the comfort and convenience of the worker.

As such, today’s hospital beds are of course designed to perform all kinds of tasks with minimal effort on the part of the worker. The hand cranked mechanisms of past generations are now powered by electric motors, and with a push of a button, will raise or lower all or parts of the bed. They come equipped with a variety of connecting mechanisms that allow all kinds of accessories to be attached. All in all, as tools, they are marvelously engineered and do amazing things none of which have anything to do with patient comfort.

If you have the misfortune to find yourself in a hospital bed, you will find yourself lying on a thin, usually lumpy, mattress atop a metal slab. Such discomfort does not come cheap however for Modern Healthcare says the average cost for a hospital bed in 1998 was $15,627 while specialized Intensive care beds can cost $25,000 to $35,000.

Since these so-called beds are narrow enough that to roll over could land a patient on the floor resulting in a wrongful death lawsuit, they come equipped with side rails as standard equipment. The practices of shackling patients to their beds, euphemistically referred to as the use of soft restraints, has received a lot of bad press in recent years consequently; our always innovative design engineers have located the side rail lowering mechanisms in a place where they are inaccessible to the patient. The result is that one is virtually immobilized.

Such a strategy does have its limitations however. I recall a conversation from years ago with a patient of mine who sustained some rather serious injuries when he fell while attempting to climb over his bed rails. Following the time-honored tradition of blaming the victim, I asked him why he had done such a thing. He replied that he needed to use the bathroom. When I responded with the equally inane question as to why he didn’t wait for help, his answer was prophetic: “If you ever have a prostate like mine you will understand and not ask such a dumb-ass question.” Now, a few decades later I do understand.

When trapped in one of those cages, the patient’s lifeline is the “call light,” presumably so named from the days when the push of a button turned on a light in the nurse’s station. This would summon a nurse to the patient’s room. Now due to the miracles of modern science, that gadget has morphed into a 2-way radio, and your voice will probably be answered by the ward secretary in a businesslike fashion, but in a tone that suggests “what the hell do you want now?”. In the event you happen to reach a nurse who has been forced to work overtime after completing a 12-hour shift, prayer will be your best option.

Most of you are undoubtedly familiar with the aforementioned gadget which also has buttons to operate the TV and room lights. It is attached to a cable which is the umbilical cord to the outside world. This presents a hazard to a klutzy guy like me who tends to drop everything he touches. Consequently, panic set in when I dropped the thing on the floor in the middle of the night. There was urgent business which needed immediate attention and no way for me to escape containment. The feelings of helplessness engendered, rapidly progressed to an exacerbation of my latent claustrophobia.

Fortunately, I was saved from psychotic decompensation when someone who in other circumstances I would have cursed for awakening me at such an ungodly hour came in the room to check my vital signs. She turned out to be very helpful and I felt like kissing her for saving me. I have no idea who she was for it is difficult to distinguish the nursing staff from the cleaning crew these days for they are all dressed in scrubs. Gone are the days of starched white nurses uniforms with dainty white caps perched on their coiffured heads, which announced the school from which they trained. White oxfords and stockings have been traded in for sneakers. Dress codes long gone demanded that hair must never reach the collar.

It is not that I have ever been intrigued by formality, and I confess that I have not worn a necktie in the past couple of years. Nevertheless, I believe that some uniformity conveys a sense of pride in one’s profession and in medicine inspires confidence in the caregiver, which has been proven to be therapeutic, but that has been given up in the name of casual comfort for the caregiver.

 

Now that we have hospital beds doing most of the heavy lifting, could not engineers now engage all that superior intellect in an all out effort to design a bed with the comfort of the patient in mind?  Back in the dark ages when I was in medical school we were taught that rest was a powerful tool to aid in the healing process, a principle undoubtedly discovered by grandmothers thousands of years ago. Who knows? To be in a real bed might even allow us to catch a few winks in between assaults on our body.

Sign about Greta and the children acting more like leaders than adults Climate change Global warming

Greta and Global Warming

Greta Thurnberg speaks at the U.N. about Climate Change  The recipients of this years Nobel prizes have recently been announced. My candidate, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl, was not among them. She received fleeting notice in the press following an impassioned address before the United Nations in which she shamed we “adults” for our failure to seriously address the issue of climate change. She was sharply critical of those who consider only economic factors in the face of 30 years of science warning of the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, which she says has resulted in the world to be now in the “early stages of a mass extinction.”

 

Greta was an unlikely person to become a world-famous climate activist. She was socially awkward and extremely shy, which is not unusual in cases of Asperger’s syndrome, especially for Greta who was further afflicted with Selective Mutism. However, Greta has refused to see herself as disabled and regarding her diagnoses says: “It makes me see the world differently. I see through lies more easily. I don’t like compromising. To be different is not a weakness. It’s a strength in many ways, because you stand out from the crowd.” This is a link to Greta’s biography.

 

Indeed, this remarkable young person has stood out in a crowded world. In addition to her U.N. speech her accomplishments include inspiring children’s uprisings throughout the world including the September 20th “School Strike for Climate” involving an estimated 4 million people world-wide which had preceded her address at the U.N.

Greta was born into an apparently supportive and relatively affluent family along with a younger sister. There is little information available as to her early childhood. However, one could assume there were the usual problems associated with the presence of an autistic spectrum child in the family. Her mother is an opera singer, who is famous throughout Europe, and her father is an actor. From what I could ascertain, it appears her parents have been supportive of Greta in her political activities. From the available history, it appears that Greta was not in special classes, but preferred to sit silently in the back of the classroom. At the age of 8, her class was shown a series of documentaries about climate change that would change her life.

 

She became obsessed with the climate issue, or in Greta’s words: “those pictures were stuck in my head,” which is a common problem for those with Asperger’s Syndrome. Three years later, she had become severely depressed, and unable to function. “I kept thinking about it (climate change), and wondered if I am going to have a future.” She was finally able to overcome her Selective Mutism, and confess to her Mother how the obsession had come to dominate her thinking and crowd out every other thought. Should Greta’s mother ever lose her voice and be unable to sing, I suggest she might find a promising career as a psychotherapist as her response was exactly what was needed. She listened attentively, and acknowledged the seriousness of the issue without the hollow reassurances and platitudes we are often tempted to issue in such situations.

 

For Greta, this was an “ah-hah” moment. After listening to her recitation of all the facts that Greta had collected regarding climate change, her mom was converted on the spot to a full-fledged environmentalist. Eventually, she would even stop traveling by air, install solar panels on their home, and join Greta as a vegetarian. Apparently, Greta was inspired by her parents’ response and began to think she might be able to influence others to share her concerns about climate change. “That’s when I kind of realized that I could make a difference.”

 

At age 15, Greta entered a climate writing competition held by the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, and was declared a winner. Her essay titled ‘We know – and we can do something now’ was published which brought her to the attention of an activist who mentioned the strike by the Parkland Florida students who were seeking to change gun laws. She liked the idea of a school strike, and immediately set out to recruit fellow students. She was not deterred when none would join her, but found an old board on which she painted ‘Skolstrejk for Klimatet’ (school strike for climate). Equipped with her sign and some hand written flyers, she initiated her one-person strike by sitting alone outside the Swedish Parliament building.

One of the news people covering parliament paused to interview her and wrote a brief article. The following day Greta was joined by others in her strike and the numbers continued to grow for the next 21 days until the Swedish national elections took place. The story was picked up by other news outlets, and social media. As a result of her rapid rise

to fame, Greta was invited to speak at a climate rally in front of thousands of people. Her parents were reluctant to allow her to do it due to their concerns about her selective mutism. However; Greta was adamant that she must speak out and said of her disorder: “Basically it means I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments.” The speech was delivered in flawless English and declared a rousing success.

 

Since that first debut, her speeches and interviews have gained huge audiences. As with this most recent rendering, she speaks on her subject with authority and nary a slip of the tongue. Her English is impeccable without a trace of an accent. The U.N. speech was a climax to the worldwide school strike, but she was not done yet for the next day she announced on twitter: “I and 15 other children from around the world filed a legal complaint against 5 nations over the climate crisis through the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. These 5 nations (France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey) are the largest emitters that have ratified the convention.” During that U.N. visit, she traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak to the U.S. Congress Committee on Climate Issues. She bluntly told them, I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists and take real action as she explained why she was attaching the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report on Climate Change to her testimony.

 

It appears to me that the world has taken little note of what Greta and her buddies have accomplished, but then I guess it is not considered as newsworthy as a Trump tweet. In like fashion, it seems that the climate gets little notice in spite of all the bad news that seems to confirm the accuracy of climatologists’ frightening predictions. If anything, all that bad stuff they have been talking about for years is taking place more rapidly than predicted. In the U.S., our most recent crisis involved flooding in the northeast and fires in the west, but there is no place in the world left unscathed.

  • Some examples include Venice where the current flooding is the worst ever recorded.
  • There is also the Amazon rain forest still ablaze with nearly 3800 square miles destroyed in the past year compliments of Brazil’s president Bolsonoro, a rightwing climate change denier. This is a triple whammy, for in addition to its role in producing oxygen, it sequestered large amounts of CO2 which is released back into the atmosphere as it burns.
  • We just experienced the warmest July ever recorded while 24 billion tons of ice melted in Greenland.
  • With an ice sheet in some places nearly 2 miles thick, there is enough ice there that when melted will raise sea levels 23 feet.
  • Michael Bevis, lead author of a recent publication by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science states that we are now at a tipping point beyond which there will be no stopping the melt which is now increasing at 4 times the rate which had been predicted. If that trend is not reversed many coastal cities throughout the world will soon be immersed, resulting in mass migrations from our most densely populated areas.
  • It has recently been determined that the arctic permafrost is now melting much faster than had originally been predicted and liberating methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. It has long been known that warming oceans contribute to more violent storms, but recent studies have shown that they are becoming acidic due to absorption of CO2, threatening not only reefs but all manner of marine life on which millions depend for sustenance. It has been said that the major grain producing areas of the world are particularly vulnerable to drought and even becoming deserts.

 

The news is not all bad however. I have heard that some renewable sources of energy are now less expensive than fossil fuels. How ironic it would be if pursuit of the mighty Dollar, which led us down this rabbit hole, would ultimately be our salvation. If we make more money using other energy sources, the fossil stuff will be left in the ground where it belongs. As for me, I put my hopes on Greta and her several million friends although She has said: “I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.” Her wish may be coming true for Time has recently published a story about a world wide epidemic of “eco-anxiety.”

 

Greta Thunberg: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic”

Most would agree that Greta is different. Unfortunately, “different” is often used with a negative connotation. Perhaps, we should use another adjective, such as special, extraordinary, bold, courageous, dedicated, to describe those who are “different” for throughout history we have seen many who were saddled with the label of “different” accomplish amazing things. In some whom we call savants we witness areas of genius in the face of severe limitations.  Greta, realized that she was not ordinary and said: “That’s when I realized I could make a difference”, and she has.  You go Girl!

Editor’s Note: While editing eshrink’s blog, I found this blog post from Scientific American that previews a book written about scientists actually underestimating the rate of climate change and what can be done about it.

 

Sign about Greta and the children acting more like leaders than adults Climate change Global warming

Mother Earth from Space

Global warming and climate change continue to affect our habitat. Mother Earth will survive. Humans may not. ALWAYS LOVE YOUR MOTHER!