Thursday, December 17, 2009

living in a satirical world

Sometimes I think there is no choice but to have a satirical outlook of the world. After all, there has always been a steady diet of paradox to digest. Of course, a patently ridiculous setting during my early years in elementary school provided some good fodder from the start. In the long walk-in coat room, behind six rows of desks, or in the hallway outside the classroom I was enrolled as a member in a multi-year study regarding the exploitation of common sense. The prerequisites were that I needed to be able to sit on the floor, with legs crossed and curled while keeping my corduroy coat atop my head. The pretense was that this simple skill set would allow me to roll with the shock waves of a nuclear explosion. And, thanks to my jacket, I could do so without getting dust in my eyes.

The religious setting of my parochial education added another layer of incongruity. It was a regular occurrence to observe a child getting lashed across the knuckles with a yardstick length pointer for such things as fidgeting and turning around in his or her seat to borrow pencils, or perhaps distracting other children. Ironically, it was also common that the person who was wielding the stick would be wearing a cross. As a six year old, this kind of contradictory behavior scared me because it was unpredictable-at least at first.

Expecting to survive a nuclear blast with corduroy armament was a culmination of denial and insanity. As for the yardstick, I am confident that many of the children exhibiting behavior problems in the 50’s and 60’s had ADHD. But society was largely in denial about it until the 1980’s. We didn’t just suddenly spawn a generation of agitated children. We gradually and painfully came to a realization about the genuine needs of some children and the learning problems they face. The theory of the 1950’s and 60’s teacher was to lash out strongly at anyone exhibiting behavior problems so that the rest of the class got the message that they had better behave. But, developmentally, most young children want to please people and they do not need intimidation as a means of motivation.

Over the years, I have grown to expect unpredictability because I think it is a byproduct of a favored coping mechanism utilized by mankind. Our default to denial causes us to engage in a considerable amount of insanity. Fast forward to the present and note that the favored method of protection against dirty bombs and chemical warfare is that we seal our windows with duct tape. I have twenty-nine windows in my house. By the time I would near completion and be done with all the measuring, cutting, tucking and untwisting of the gluey cloth I would either have coughed up a lung or be ready to jump off my roof.

Currently, our back and forth power plays over climate change reflect another glaring case of denial. We have a finite amount of fossil fuel to burn in this world. But instead of recognizing this fact, our climate summits, proposals and debates are fundamentally based on trying to figure out how quickly or if the planet is getting warmer. Meanwhile, we are just digging a bigger hole. No person or group will be declared a winner when we hit the dryness of this bottom. The level of denial here is enormous. At some point soon we have to wean ourselves off our addition to fossil fuels and look to alternative energy sources in a serious manner. We cannot drill our way out of this dilemma.

Denial was certainly a leading cause of the wholesale miscalculations Wall Street made regarding how far they could push the envelope as well. The end result of that denial was quite messy. Lehman Brothers went down the tubes, and banking and insurance giants had to be bailed out and propped up with billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars. And what amuses me is that while this bubble was being inflated regulators were busy putting Martha Stewart in jail. Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff was having the time of his life manipulating people and institutions out of almost incomprehensible sums of money.

Just this past week I have been trying to understand yet another interesting peculiarity. Let’s say a world leader addresses a military academy on 12/02/09 in West Point, NY and orders 30,000 troops to war. Would it be possible that on 12/10/09 in Oslo, Norway that the same world leader is bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize? Would it be possible to slip so quickly into denial as to rationalize a good acceptance speech over the fact that within 8 days of getting honored for peace this leader had ordered 30,000 troops to war to try to prop up a corrupt government that is highly unlikely to change? Well, it’s hard to believe, but it happened.

I think this deviation from common sense may be less about denial and more about undiagnosed learning deficits that are coming back to roost. I think a little more focus is required here. Peace is peace. War is war. I don’t care that President Obama talked about scaling down the war in Iraq and paying more attention to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan during the election. This build-up is hardly a must do and the eighteen month pullback statement was silly. If predictions and time lines were so easy to come by regarding Afghanistan, then Obama would not be calling for 30,000 more troops after we have already been there eight years. I voted for President Obama, and I view him mostly as an intelligent, level headed leader. But, to pronounce him a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate at this point in his tenure is a far-reaching stretch indeed.

In the future, it may be worthwhile if the NNC members in Oslo, Norway made a phone call to a town a little to the north of West Point, NY before casting their vote. They could ask to speak with someone associated with the BBWAA in Cooperstown, NY. Hopefully, they could become familiar with a methodology called career numbers. It is the guiding principle that got Ted Williams inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 instead of 1941, when he had a season batting average of .406 from April through September.

Yes, I live in a world where I expect inconsistent, unpredictable and ironic behavior. I then take the events that scare me most and I turn them into humor—that’s how I cope.

(c) 2009 Christopher's Views

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Chris--After all these years, you're still the most thoughtful guy in the room. Hoping the new year proves a bit less incongruous. Merry Christmas to you and that lovely lady with the twinkly blue eyes.--BudB