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There are social norms that while not necessarily good for society are never-the-less socially acceptable.  By socially acceptable I mean, these social norms are considered by many as being actions or behaviors that are not radical or out side the bounds of reasonableness.  These social norms are not necessarily ones that have always been acceptable — times change, society changes, people’s attitudes change.  One of the questions is the direction of the change?  Are things getting better or are they getting worse?  It is not surprising that this OPINION is not universally agreed upon even when such policy or standards are widely accepted.

Slavery is a good example.  In most of the world today, the idea that one person can own another person is outside the bounds of social norms. That is not to ignore the active trade in human trafficking. There are people who believe it is ok to buy and sell people.  But, this is not an acceptable standard in the societies of the world today.  It is an idea that used to be a social norm in the United States as recently as 160 years ago by a segment of religiously grounded citizens of this nation.  I would suggest that these people suffered from a kind of mental illness, one that held that their ability to exercise power over others used to force others to work as commanded, to punish by whipping and beating, to use as sex objects, even to execute others was “normal” behavior.  That’s insane!  What was at one time considered within the social norms is today considered way, way outside the bounds of acceptability.

What would happen today if you wanted to own property that someone else had a documented, historical right of ownership and you did this by physically driving them off their property.  What if they resisted and you just killed them, their family including their children.  And what if there were children who survived and you conspired to have them imprisoned in the desert?  Obviously, you would be hauled into court.  I bet you would be found criminally insane.  How is that different than what our forefathers did to the native Americans of this nation?  These Westerners were not judged to be insane because what they did, at the time it was done, it was considered socially acceptable by everyone except the indigenous people who were treated in this way.

I am confident I could come up with other examples if I had more time and allowed my comments to extend to thousands of words.  Hopefully these two examples are sufficient to illustrate that behaviors we consider out of bounds today, bordering on insane behavior, were at one time acceptable behaviors to many.  I bring up these examples to put in contrast conflict over social norms today, ones that in the future might well be considered insane.  I will start with capital punishment.  Much of the world has recognized that the old view “an eye for an eye” is no longer acceptable.  Revenge is never justified no matter how angry we become; it only leads to more violence.  Just because we have a law does not make it sane to kill a person because they have committed the heinous act of killing another person.  It may feel good.  It may make some economic sense.  It may appeal to some sense of justice.  But it is insane to kill a person in the name of justice.

What about the sanctity of life.  Today’s standard of acceptable behaviors are not generally agreed upon, to say the least.  Can one form of life own another form of life by virtue of cunning intelligence?  Is it acceptable for a person to end their own life?  Generally, society agrees that it is not acceptable.  Yet, there are exceptions and in some places, it is permissible for a person to end their life as a result of severe pain or infirmity that reduces life to nothing more than biological survival.  What about the life of an animal?  Do we all agree that intentionally killing an animal for food is OK?  What if the animal is a dog or a horse?  Obviously, the concept of intentional killing of animals is conditional in today’s society.  Are there not some who would extend the termination of life for an entire forest to be out of bounds, a threat to the survival of many animal species, a threat perhaps to human life on the planet?  Indigenous people have understood a relationship to earth that those of us children of “the enlightenment” have lost.  And, we have through our technology, most of which requires some rape of mother earth to exist; we have provided resources to over populate, to exceed the carrying capacity of the earth.  What happens when our systems collapse because we have exhausted the non-renewable resources.  Oh, the misery of it all.

Insanity contains an element of self-absorption, a preoccupation – occupation with one’s self, an ignoring of the way an action might have a negative impact one one or more others.  That is exactly the way people who ignore their impact on the environment act, ignoring the fact that their choices today may adversely affect their children or mine.  Life is about overcoming our collective insanity. It just may be the case that collectively, with exceptions, that we are insane in our actions about life itself for anyone but ourselves, now, during our short lifetime.


As I grow older, it occurs to me that I have been a drain on the world. I have consumed its resources. The food I have eaten might have been available to others who hunger had I not be around to consume them. The way I spent the money I had might have gone to some other purpose or possibly not have been needed at all because I did not need to be a consumer of things. I never worried about that before, but now in my waning years, I think about it. Was I a Sink or a Source.

A Sink is something that consumes. A Source is something that creates. At least that is the way I mean to use these words. By living, we are all sinks of a sort. The question is whether or not we are any sort of source. More specifically, what is our net value; Sink or Source.

As I grow older, I think more about this. I think in the past, I was mainly a sink. If that is how I am to be in the future, it might be better that I not be at all. I think I need, even as my years move toward that ultimate end, I think I need to be more of a source. I need to be more conscious of my net worth. I don’t mean my net worth in money, but my net worth to the world in which I live.

I guess I should not be surprised that aspiring to positive net worth, to being a better source than sink is energizing, inspiring. There is a lot of work to be done.

Humor Me

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I could not resist adding this interesting joke that occurred to me a day or so ago.    CONTEXT:  Our standard fare on Sunday evenings is FYO or Fix Your Own.  So, I was making myself a peanut butter, jelly, mayonnaise, cheese and banana sandwich.  My wife says “YUK” so I know what you are thinking too, but you should not knock what you have not tried.  Anyway, the kind of sandwich is not really relevant to the “joke”, “quip”, or whatever you want to call it.

As I was making my sandwich, my wife said, “I better be making myself something to eat.  You know, I don’t like eating alone.”  to which I replied “I guess that makes you a bank.”

I am not usually that quick, so I had to include it in my blog.

Cecil

PS.  I guess it is not that clever if you don’t get it.  You see, Banks don’t like it when people default on loans called “eating a loan”.


Many people are unaware of the impact of credit card fees on merchants and therefore on us.  When ever you use a credit card, the merchant gets paid, but is also charged a fee for accepting your credit card.  It is not even a fixed fee.  It can vary depending on the size of the perks your card offers you like miles or money back.  The credit card companies promote these benefits, but they don’t have to pay for them;  the merchant does and you do.  Cards are so popular that a merchant has no reasonable alternative.  The rules they must agree to include not offering you a discount for paying with cash.  If they break that rule, their privilege of using credit cards can be withdrawn.  When I learned about some of the details, I was angry.  What could I do?  I had an idea which I currently practice.  If we all followed this practice, we could give some advantage to the small merchants in our community, one of the few they may have competing with multi-national corporations.

It is simple.  When I am ready to pay a merchant, I ask whether or not the merchant is local or part of a national chain.  If they are local, I pay with cash.  If they are part of a national chain, I use my credit card.  I also tell the cashier what I am doing, and I have always been thanked.  On some occasions, I am able to discuss credit card excesses and am usually amazed to learn the local merchant is paying thousands of dollars a month in credit card fees.  In one case, I learned that a local merchant was now being charged to make deposits in her bank which she had to do on a daily basis.

It is a bit of a nuisance to have cash on hand all the time, but it does give me a better feeling for what I am paying for things.  The credit card is just too easy.  But, taking action, however small, like paying cash to local merchants not only gives me satisfaction, but helps the merchant too.  As I have shared this practice with others, I have had feedback that a number of other people too have adopted this practice.  What would happen if we all did?

Cecil Denney

Time Compression (poem)

Posted: January 29, 2012 in Philosophy, Uncategorized
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Life Times
By Cecil Denney

There was a time when a year seemed like a life time.
I think it must have been when I was one.
There was a time when my age reached nine.
That year the year was a much shorter one.

When I was seventy, one year went by like a flash.
I was sixty only one seventh of my life ago.
So it occurs to me that time is a miss-mash,
measured by life-times that seem so slow.

Does it not seem that time speeds up as you grow old?
To wait a year when your only one
Is to wait for a very long time as you are told
It is just a short time till your two my son.

But to wait a year when you are seventy in years
is to wait but a brief spell,
for seventy one arrives amid birthday cheers
so quickly its hard to tell.

And history plays tricks on you as you age as well.
As a teen times past were “like ancient history.”
But at seventy one you can not seem to tell
how close they have become. Its such a mystery.

That war long past now seems so current to me
but to the young, it seems so, so long ago.
I think I measure time in lifetimes you see,
which now seems to measure everything I know.

Its not the clock’s seconds and hours that measure time.
Its not the day or month or year that matters.
Its how long you have lived your life sublime.
Now my thought of time is left in tatters.

As “ancient history” grows closer to me
as measured by life times ago
I marvel at times variability you see
as I older and older I grow.

So think for yourself how time affects your thinking
and see if you don’t agree with me
that time is measured by life experience, linking
us with the past more closely. Don’t you agree?