Herbert Sweet

Herbert Sweet

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Out Of Control

There are numerous minor tasks in life that need to be preformed and choices that need to be made that the general public is not handling well or not handling at all.

According to the Washington Post, healthy food choices are available to all, even those in the inner cities, and we each have control over our bodies as to how much and what we put into them, yet two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese.

Most people have fairly simple incomes yet are willing to pay to have someone else prepare their tax returns. Step by step instructions provided by the IRS are just too much of a bother apparently.

Banks are adapting monthly charges for debit cards and over 95% of the people are content to merely grumble. (NY Times) The task of moving scheduled payments to a credit card or checking account is just too bothersome.

Reconcile a checking account? That takes a grammar school education in arithmetic. No can do.

A large percentage of the population never mastered the ability to set their clocks in their VCRs. Manuals remain unread.

Few do basic maintenance on their personal computers never having looked on the web or novice computer magazines for help. Ever heard of Google?

Are we to conclude that Americans, now that they are fat, are both fat and stupid? It would seem so.

I’ll offer a different opinion. It is self discipline that is lacking. Take the easy way out often enough and you will be out of control of your life. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of external pressures on us all today but, even so, part of it is still of our own making.

Some illnesses can be attributed to unnecessary strains that we put o n ourselves. Some accidents can be attributed to unnecessary risk taking. Some house and car repairs can be attributed to inadequate maintenance. Some of it is our own fault.

In short, people are in charge of themselves but dereliction of duty is rampant. People need to grow up and take responsibility for their lives.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The applicability of logic to addressing the question of the existence of a Creator God

The relative universe that has come into existence since the Big Bang consists of four elements - matter, energy, space and time. You could even say there are but two elements -- matter-energy and space-time. The human being, as a part of that creation, has developed an intellect to guide him through it and, consequently, that intellect is limited to addressing what is within the creation. It can not even conceive of anything that is not some combination of matter, energy, space and time. Try it.

It has been speculated that, beyond the universe or the creation, there is a base field of energy. If this was true, then that field would have had to have created a universe that it was but a part of. The same can be said of space and time. That the source of creation is but a component of its own creation is not a logical premise. We can only conclude that the source of creation is something entirely different than what it has created.

When we think about the notion of the source of creation as a deity and then go on to give that deity qualities such as a man-like form or human emotions such as love or hate, we are defining that deity. By defining him, we are placing limits on him. If he looks like this, he doesn't look like that. If he loves, he doesn't hate. But what has limits is some combination of matter and energy space and time and is therefore within the creation. If God was within the creation, he would have had to have created himself. This defies logic. Conversely, a deity God that is outside of the creation could not have characteristics of the creation. Defining the source of creation in terms of the creation is also illogical.

The human intellect is so unaware of its own limit to function only within the creation in which it evolved that the counter argument to this is commonly that either what is outside of the creation can look like what is inside of the creation or that God can chose to look and act as he desires. The first argument reflects the intellect's inability to conceive of anything beyond the creation and therefore fails to distinguish between creation and non-creation. The second argument fails to recognize that action is limited to the creation as, fundamentally, it applies to rearrangements of the constituents of creation -- matter, energy, space and time.

All of this is not to say that there is not a transcendent reality. It is simply a synopsis disproving a personification of that reality.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Income Gap

There has been a lot of chatter lately about the growing gap between the rich and the poor here in the US and, now, that gap is seen as growing in the UK as well and responsible for the current social unrest there.

The gap between rich and poor has also been growing in China yet China, unlike the US and UK has seen great economic and social progress in the past few decades.

So it would seem that the income gap is a conundrum.

The gap in the US and UK is accompanied by a negative economy overall and in China – just the opposite.

What we are seeing in the West is the exportation and automation of labor with the benefits going to the rich leaving the middle and lower classes less well off. But in China, we are seeing the creation of wealth with benefits accruing across the board.

So the answer is that the wealth gap, in itself, is not the source of discontent. Instead, it is how that wealth gap affects the overall population.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Corruption and Nepotism in Afghanistan

The observation connecting corruption to nepotism in Afghanistan illustrates the tribal level of the society. Keep in mind that a tribe is you and about 150 others vs the world. Nepotism makes sense at that level. The problem comes when tribal societies become nations overnight. The behavioral characteristic is simply too ingrained to change that fast.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Treatment of Women in Afghanistan

While engaged in Afghanistan, we have observed the wide mistreatment of women and many are calling for the resolution of this problem. While we are all sympathetic to the individuals that we have learned about through the news media, before taking any policy action, we need to take a broader view.

In the relatively enlightened United States, women have had the right to vote for less than a century and a mere 50 years ago, the only professional opportunities open to women were nursing and teaching. Even then, these were low paying jobs.

In the isolated Third World countries, not exposed to the dramatic changes that have occurred in the West, where ignorance, illiteracy and superstition have been the norm for centuries or more, it is a safe bet that most of the men abuse most of the women.

Third World abuse of women is a major cultural problem and, to fix it, we will need to take on most of the males in most of the Third World. The Third World easily has two-thirds of the world’s population and the United States has only about four percent. If this ratio is not challenging enough, consider that, at this time, the country is entirely inwardly focused on its economy.

The obvious conclusion is that this is not a problem that can be fixed in any conceivable timeframe. At best, only a few small steps can be taken in a few places.

In my next entry, I will examine the ‘cultural problem’ and what would need to be done to change it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Can Money Buy Happiness?

The question of whether money can buy happiness has been bantered around for longer than most of us can imagine. The general consensus seems to be that most think that they would be happier if they had more money than they have.

Yet we all know people who have nothing or at least very little and are enormously happy. And, conversely, we know people that are quite well off and are just plain miserable.

So our experience is at odds with our beliefs. So what’s wrong? The problem fundamentally lies with the materialistic philosophy of western culture. And that is the material, as obtained through the medium of exchange money, provides happiness.

It is certainly true that we exist in a material world. So money can buy sustenance and even enjoyment. The tradeoff is material for material.

The failure of materialism to secure happiness lies in the fact that happiness is not material. It is not a thing that can be bought.

In order to obtain happiness we need to understand what it is and what produces it.

As adolescents, we all strived to understand how we fit in. Somehow, we all understood something very fundamental without consciously knowing just what we were after. We knew that we wanted acceptance and recognition. But we didn’t know why. The answer is that securing acceptance and recognition is the establishment of a positive relationship between ourselves and others. It is that positive relationship that produces happiness.

We can understand this by observing how it works out for common behaviors.

If a close look is made of criminals, even those who have had some success, you will not find a single happy criminal. These folks perceive others as opposing them so they oppose them. There’s no room for happiness in a relationship where the modus operandi is opposition.

The bulk of us are not criminals but focus on our own desires even if they are at the expense of the desires of others. We see ourselves as separate from them and so rationally move to fulfill only our own desires. This separation isolates us from those around us. Isolation does not produce a decent relationship let alone a happy one.

The happy few, intuitively, grasp a different reality. They see themselves as entwined with their environment. They neither oppose it nor do they feel separated from it. So they quite naturally support the people around them. And, interestingly enough, they receive spontaneous support in return. Is it any wonder that they are the happy ones?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Ecomic Dilemma in Historical Context

We are now, as everyone knows, in the midst of the ‘great recession’. Liberals see the solution as Keynesian stimulus and entitlements. Conservatives see the solution as debt reduction and even regulation reduction so as to stimulate the engines of the economy. In addition to this we have the new Tea Party folks who are just mad at the government and view it as some kind of oppressor. As irrational and uncivil as they may seem, the understanding of our plight lies in the understanding of this phenomenon rather than focusing on the Liberal Conservative debate.

What we are hearing from many people today, is that they have played by the rules and if they haven’t already lost their jobs, savings and homes, they are worried that they will. They see no future for them or their children. Yet CEOs and other Wall Streeters are making millions if not billions.

Two hundred and twenty one years ago in France the populace was also in dire straits. The people had also done what was expected of them but were unable to make a living which, at the time, meant no more than putting bread on the table. And as CEOs today are living the high life without contributing to the general welfare, the elite of their times, the aristocracy, were just as guilty.

What is lost to the general discussion is an appreciation of the implicit contract between any government and its citizenry. Regardless of the form of government, the level of the economy and the degree of civility of the times, there are three fundamentals that any government must deliver. A government must provide protection from invasion, it must maintain internal stability, and it must provide economic sustainability for the populace. Today, economic viability is issue number one.

Therefore we should view the Tea Party noise just as the French aristocracy should have viewed the peasants with their outstretched pitchforks. A government that fails to provide for the economic survivability of its populace will be replaced -- one way or another.

In my next entry, I will examine what kind of leadership is needed for our times.