Tuesday’s Quotes – September 19, 2017 – Peace

“Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

— Ronald Reagan

It is not often that you will find me quoting our 40th President, but everyone makes sense sometimes. As we approach the International Day of Peace on the 21st of September, it’s important to remind ourselves that the world has never been conflict free – or even war free – but when we have choices, when our leader have choices, the first choice should be diplomatic, not militarized.

The idealist in me still wants to believe that it is possible for the majority of people to find the means to achieve peaceful, compassionate solutions because the desire to avoid the painful alternatives is universal. And the pragmatist in me knows that survival of the species is actually dependent on it. And we are hard-wired for survival.

But achieving that requires education, and it requires patience. And it requires leadership that sees peaceful conflict resolution as a clear path. Sadly, that seems to not apply to may of our modern politicians, particularly on the extremes. The voting public needs to understand the folly of that war-mongering rhetoric. And in the face of the posturing by North Korea that may be an impossible task.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela


A portion of this post initially appeared on February 5, 2016.


Learning new things every day…

As I browsed around for possible topics for today’s blog, I discovered that today is National Consitution and Citizenship Day.  And yes, that really is an official federal observance. Amazing, there really is a day for everything – and I cannot believe I was completely unaware that we actually had a day dedicated to the anniversary of the signing of the US Consitution in 1787 by the delegates to the Consitutional Convention. So yes, 230 years ago, the delegates to the Consitutional Covention signed off on their handiwork.

According to the Library of Congress, the day was based on I Am An American Day, which had been authorized by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. The day was originally established as the 3rd Sunday in May as a celebration for new citizens. In 1952, Congress repealed that proclamation, and replaced it with Citizenship Day, and moved it to September 17th in honor of the signing of constitution. In 2004, Congress changed the name to recognize the Consitution as well as Citizenship, and also added a pair of requirements to the observation – one being that each federal agency head provide employees with educational material regarding the Consitution (I wonder how many actually read it and understand it? – the agency heads, I mean), and the other that schools receiving federal funds must hold a program for their students on (or near) September 17th.

So Happy Consitution and Citizenship Day! The United States Constitution is a very short, easy to read document. I’m neither an agency head, nor an educator, but, for those that are interested, a copy can be found here, and the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments) here, and the subsequent amendments (11 to 27) here.

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”  — Thomas Jefferson



Repost from October 9, 2015. 

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

–Eric Hoffer

Ah yes, variations on the first rule of evolution – we adapt or we die.

Eric Hoffer passed away at 80 in 1983, and was the source of many, beautifully simple, quotes. He was a philosopher, and a working man, who wrote what he intuited based on the world he lived in. His most famous work, “True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements” (1951), was an attempt to address the whys & hows of totalitarian governments, particularly Hitler and Stalin. I think he was onto something when laying out his argument for the psychology of how they take root and grow. Part of that mass psychology, in his view, is that people who are disaffected and feel threatened by their world, are those that more readily accept the hand of the dictator, because they like the promise of ‘better’ times, the promise of future more like the one they’d envisioned. The more threatened they feel by the status quo, the more likely they are to embrace a radical change. Unfortunately, I fear that we may be witnessing that type of disaffection among some segments of the populace now. Be very careful what you wish for.

I’d not thought about this particular quote in a while. But I think there are many people these days who would do well to heed the words, so maybe they should be dusted off. The majority of my saved quotes are meant to be inspirational in some form or other, but this one is more of an affirmation for me. I do believe that all humans have a remarkable capacity for adaptation – when they choose to engage it. Change & growth run together – stagnation is not a natural human state.

For me, the message in this particular quote is clear – we have to keep learning, and growing, in order to cope with a constantly changing world. Given much of his writing, he likely meant it a bit more literally, but even at its most literal, the meaning is still essentially the same.When confronted with a change in circumstance, it is we that have to change to adapt to it. It doesn’t matter how well you understand how things were, you have to develop an understanding of how they are. To those who are continually fighting to bring back some imaginary ‘good old days’, there is undeniably a lesson in this. Unfortunately, they are the ones least likely to heed the advice.

In a similar spirit, I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes, and rules for living, from Heraclitus:

“There is nothing permanent except change”

Photo of Bridal Veil Falls and Water Wheel – Idaho Springs, Colorado, Judy 2017

Tuesday’s Quotes – September 5, 2017 – reminders

“I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another, for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.”

— Thomas Jefferson, 1799

Just something to keep in mind.

Jefferson image borrowed from history.com

Labor Day – what we shouldn’t forget

“In regards to the price of commodities, the rise of wages operates as simple interest does, the rise of profit operates like compound interest. Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”  — Adam Smith

Today marks the start of the Labor Day weekend here in the US. This coming Monday is the first Monday in September, a day officially designated in the United States as Labor Day since 1894, although the day had been celebrated in several states since the mid-1880’s. Similar to the holiday celebrated in much of the rest of the world on May 1, the United States Department of Labor website defined the day as “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

With the annual end of the summer school holidays, it, like many other holidays, has become an excuse for Back to School sales (& yes, I will help my daughter shop for school supplies this weekend), end-of-summer parties, and similar activities and events that we enjoy whenever a national holiday gives us time off from work – and a three-day weekend to boot. Which is all good – we should be able to take advantage of our own breaks from work. But, perhaps those of us fortunate enough to have steady full-time jobs – blue or white collar – should also pause to think a bit about how we got where we are – with five day work weeks, paid vacation and sick time, corporate health plans, workplace safety requirements, etc. We are here now, able to enjoy a day dedicated to the contributions of labor because of the contributions of labor. And of the collective bargaining power formed when labor organized into unions. Yes, some unions were corrupted, some unions abused their bargaining power (and may have contributed to the downfall of their employers).

But those really were the exceptions, not the rule, most unions did, and still do, want what is best for their members – and sometimes that includes giving things up to keep jobs. Yet, throughout organized labor’s history, there has been much vilification of unions – businesses, like manufacturing and construction, which rely heavily on union labor, will argue that they can’t afford to employ union workers, or that they can only afford them with drastic cuts to what the workers need to live and support their families. Corporations have cheerfully blamed unions, all or in part, for their own failures (see Hostess and the US auto industry for example) – because then the public buys into the notion that unions are inherently bad. And then they, in turn, support politicians (who generally have a vested interest in keeping their business sponsors happy) who will push through “right to work” laws, and will actually move, as Tennessee did with Volkwagen, to stop an auto manufaturer from opening a plant unless they agree to keep the unions at bay.

“Right to Work”, now a law in 26 states, is a particularly disturbing form of union busting because it sounds, on the surface, so sensible. Very simply, under right to work laws, no one can be compelled to join a union or to pay union dues. In many cases, unions had, in fact, reached agreements with companies that required the collection of union dues, even from non-union workers, for the expenses involved in union negotiations. This was done because, under federal law, unions must provide protections to all employees covered under a contract even when those employees are not union members. The right to work laws effectively reduce the ability of the unions to gain ground in negotiations over time, and several recent studies have confirmed that workers in right to work states tend to have lower wages and fewer benefits than similar workers in neighboring non-right to work states.

More and more manufacturing has moved to other, less expensive, less well regulated, countries; and the service sector has also seen more ‘help desk’ type of jobs move in a similar fashion. Under the umbrella of building a global workforce, many other jobs – such as technology and financial services – are also seeing their US workforce shrink, as the foreign workforce continues to grow. Corporate greed, not the intransigence of unions, is the reason. The need to deliver increasing amount of profits to shareholders, has put profit over people. It is another sign of capitalism run amok.

We should all remember, as we enjoy our holiday this weekend that the memes are right – we should thank a union. Even those of us that have never worked a union job have benefitted from what they accomplished for all workers.

Have a peaceful weekend.


On willows and life, and weathering the storms

“The willow which bends to the tempest, often escapes better than the oak which resists it; and so in great calamities, it sometimes happens that light and frivolous spirits recover their elasticity and presence of mind sooner than those of a loftier character.”

Not entirely sure how I feel about this particular line from Albert Schweitzer (but he’s right), but when we think of willows, we naturally think of resilience. Although I once had a discussion with a tree surgeon about willows, and it seems that reality may not quite equal the lofty view we hold of them. But still, they are beautiful trees – and much like humans both stronger and more fragile than we think. My willow lost its crown a few years ago following a freak early-October heavy snow, and somehow it managed to survive. It has, in fact, survived years of outright neglect – I’m not much of a gardener, and trees, in particular, are left to fend for themselves once they’ve been planted. In fact, it lost another section this past winter, but already seems to have filled itself in. It has always fascinated me how the willow, with its bent and twisted limbs, continues to grow around its own difficulties.  And it seems that we humans lose much every day, and, like the willow, somehow we also manage to keep going.

There has been much tragedy, again, in the world recently, which makes it hard, sometimes, to find the motivation to write. And of course, the US government is not making things any easier this year – with science denial, a white supremacy resurgence, and a narcissist – it’s hard to comment on the absurdities when everything seems absurd.

But this weekend, the state of Texas, particularly the southeastern portion of the state (home to many in-law relatives, and a few friends), is truly suffering the effects of a category 4 hurricane, which brought unprecedented flooding, and rainfall measured in feet, and while the media, and most of the country, was focused on the hurricane bearing down on Texas, our president seized the moment to officially ban transgender military enlistments, and to pardon a former Arizona sheriff who repeatedly flouted the law and used county funds as if it was his own piggy bank, from a contempt conviction for which he hadn’t yet been sentenced. And doesn’t seems to be spending much time thinking about Texas at all.

But, just as New Orleans eventually recovered from Katrina, and upstate NY recovered from Irene, and New Jersey from Sandy, and Florida from too many storms to name, Houston, and the rest of the state, will eventually recover, and rebound, from Harvey. We clean up, rebuild, and move on. In that respect, humans are very much like the willow – we are generally resilient enough to survive the tragedies in our lives, and our losses, but we are also changed forever. In ways both seen and unseen.

Photo taken up through the canopy of my lone willow, June 16, 2016