Tuesday, May 24, 2011


                      ON BEING RIGHT; 
           OR, “I’D RATHER BE WRONG!”

                          “Who is right?”
Too many friends, couples, families, and neighbors
find themselves emotionally entangled in this
contentious, age-old question on a regular and almost
predictable basis.
Look, for example, at the conflicts in a marriage. In
these conflicts, both parties fight over being right like
two starving dogs snarling over a choice steak bone.
Or one party will silently suffer from what are
perceived as the other party’s wrong attitude and
behavior, waiting like a wounded lion in ambush for
the hunter who has shot at it, waiting for the opportune
moment to savagely counterattack and be revenged.
This kind of situation cannot usually be remedied
by changing friends, lovers, partners, becoming part of
a new family, or moving to a new neighborhood. As
long as everyone insists on being right about
practically everything, every couple will be an “odd
couple,” and every possible combination or
permutation of family and neighbors “odd bedfellows,”
because everyone will be at odds with everyone else
most of the time.
For instance, escalating the “conflict” to the
neighborhood level, I could offer my own, small, rural
subdivision, whose residents have recreated an
excruciatingly perfect parody of the animosities and
mutual aggressions of Europe in the first half of the 
20th Century, although the resultant bloodshed and
destruction are more figurative than literal, 
and the sporadic outbreaks of open hostilities 
more comedic than tragic. I have found very little 
evidence to convince me that other neighborhoods 
are much different, whether at the local or 
international level.
Homeowners’ meetings, in particular, demonstrate
the problem. These meetings are always extremely
entertaining and lively, but rarely productive, because
now the couples who have been contending at home
can join a larger “free-for-all” in which every
individual is right and all the others partially or totally
And so it goes—at every level of human interaction.
And although this kind of controversy does more to
deprive us than it does to help us thrive, we are
obsessed by it. Some of the more belligerent among us
have even come to consider conversation and
controversy as one and the same transaction. This is
particularly evident in the case of conversations about
politics, religion, and sex.
For generations, people have been warned of the
dangers of discussing these highly controversial issues.
They have been warned because all participants in
such discussions have made “serious,” personal
“investments” in their beliefs on these complex
subjects and have convinced themselves that, whereas
everyone else is benighted, they are enlightened. And
when all participants in a discussion are convinced
they are right, none can tolerate the awkwardness of
this “impossibility.” After all, how can more than one
position be “right?” Benjamin Franklin found a perfect
image for this phenomenon, likening all of us to people
wandering through a dense fog, each wanderer
thinking, “Where I am, one can see clearly, but all the
others, poor souls, are terribly lost in the mist that
envelops them and clouds their vision.”
Therefore, all the participants, believing they alone
are enlightened, or that only they see things clearly,
fight to avoid the embarrassment of being proven
wrong about even the smallest detail. They fight to
avoid making the unthinkable admission that what they
perceive as right is something they have never thought
through thoroughly and/or have never been able to
fully comprehend, BUT SIMPLY—out of laziness,
conformity, convenience; as a result of physical
constitution, physiological influences, psychological
makeup; due to social position, economic standing,
racial background, generation membership; and/or
because of nationality, indoctrination, parental
pressure, lack of adequate information, and so on down
They fight to avoid the embarrassment of
appearing to be fools!!!
But there is a holiday from all of this. Once a year,
on April 1st, we’re all allowed to demonstrate what
fools we all are by getting others to believe that which
isn’t so. And then we laugh at them. And unless they
are hopeless, they laugh too. And, of course, they have
the liberty to return the favor. But that’s just once a
year. Just as once a year, on December 25th, we allow
ourselves to give to others; once a year we allow
ourselves to realize the foolishness of believing we are
right—about anything and everything.
Both days should be multiplied by three-hundred-and-
sixty-five every year. For some people they are.
But, at present, for most of us they are just quaint, odd
customs that are irritating nuisances disturbing our
typical “bah-humbug” and “it’s-my-opinion-and-it’s 
very-correct” routine.
Like so many children quarreling over whose
parents are best, we shout and hit out at each other
with tears of wanting-to-believe-what-we-say-is-true in
our eyes.
I’d rather grow up.
I’d rather achieve the maturity to admit that I
could be wrong about anything or everything than add
to the wrongs that we already have created by our
insistence on being right. It is only natural and very
important to consider issues of right and wrong, but I
do not wish to insist that I have, or anyone else has, the
definitive answer to anything. Hubris is just another
name for ignorance. And using “might” to “prove” you
are “right” is the last resort of the playground bully.
I’d rather be wrong than join any group that claims
to have found the one and only right “way” in politics,
religion, or even sex. It’s not impossible to consider
that there are many “ways”—some right for some and
some right for others. And yet most of us are not
willing to accept this idea. For most of us this is blatant
and dangerous “heresy.” But if this is “heresy,” what
name are we to give to the blatant and dangerous
position it challenges? For the terrible, barbaric, anti-humankind result of our nonacceptance has been—
mainly in politics and religion, but also to some degree
in the area of sexual mores—desperate, costly, and
destructive power struggles that have caused some or
all of the following, ourselves-created “plagues”: bitter
hatred, divisive intolerance, mindless fanaticism,
ruthless persecution, wholesale maiming and murder,
generation after generation of war, genocide, and
finally, looming ahead of us in the very near future, the
awful, truly unthinkable possibility of destroying
everybody and everything to prove:
WE ARE RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And the expulsion from Eden will be completed.
And the Babel of disagreement silenced.
And Armageddon fought and finished.
One can only hope that we are witnessing the
Aesopian race of the tortoise and the hare, the hare
being the very advanced and highly sophisticated
technology of mass destruction and mutual slaughter,
and the tortoise being human education; for we have a
lot to learn and not much time to learn it. Right now,
we, in our development of the humility, empathy, and
maturity we are sorely lacking, seem to be far behind
in the race, dragging ourselves along slowly and
reluctantly, encumbered by our past mistakes rather
than having learned from them, and not having made
much progress in moving forward from the Neolithic
cave that was our starting point; while the hare flies
along, guided by computer and radar, towards the
finish line, showing no signs of wanting to take a nap,
and oblivious to the implications of an easy and very
probable victory.
We need to get going. We need to catch up. We
need to get ahead as humans in our race with the
Frankenstein technology of annihilation that we in our
madness have created.
Rather than creating enmities and enemies and
possible “geocide” over politics, religion, and even
sex—and other controversial subjects—it might be
more beneficial to and intelligent for everyone to be
glad for any political, religious, sexual, economic,
philosophical, educational, social, or parental system
which inspires people to be more loving, empathetic,
compassionate, informed, tolerant, decent, dignified,
self-fulfilled, and self-respecting than the majority of
us are at present—no matter how bizarre such a system
may seem to be.
The elephant is an elephant even though the blind
“wise” men in the ancient story who were placed here
and there on its body described it in different ways
depending on what they found—whether it was its
trunk, its leg, its ear, or some other part of its
enormous anatomy. 
Here's one of several animations on YouTube. 
It makes the point quite well:  
So it is with being right on any subject. We might be right to some extent but unable to “see” enough to claim to be totally right. No doubt the blind “wise” men later dismembered each other in a heated argument about whether the elephant was a trunk, a leg, an ear, or whatever. But that predictable folly was left out of the story as not being suitable for children to hear.
Look back at the infamous beliefs people have held
to be “irrefutable”—such as believing that certain
racial groups were meant to be slaves while other
racial groups were meant to be their masters, or that
rulers were semidivine and therefore should be
worshipped and obeyed without question, or that
human sacrifice was necessary for propitiating the
gods. These “irrefutable” beliefs of the not-so-distant
past should teach all of us some much-needed humility
about believing we are right—about anything and
It seems to me that the great irony of thinking we
are absolutely right is that, in most cases, it has led us
to attitudes and behaviors that have been absolutely
The odds are that most people will believe I am
absolutely wrong in thinking they are not absolutely
right. But it may be right to hope that I’m wrong. In
the name of humanity, and in reverence for our unique,
terraqueous planet and all the other life forms on it,

From LIVE THE WORLD YOU WANT, pp. 94-100

Friday, May 20, 2011


Today, May 20th, is "Endangered Species Day."

And we are the endangered species!
The "we" I refer to are all the members of that most inconvenient and always unpopular minority group of intelligent, well-educated, well-informed, outspoken, people who are non-chauvinistic in regard to country, politics, religion, or sex. Those poor benighted folk who are willing to endanger themselves by not being docile, non-thinking "sheep." Those ridiculously idealistic anti-war, sensitive, honest, caring, sharing fools who actually believe in and practice the Golden Rule. Those Don Quixotes who constantly tilt at the religious, political, and corporate windmills of those who are determined to destroy our fragile environment and the "unalienable" rights of all people, both male and female, to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Hitler found our particular species of humans inconvenient and eradicated us along with millions of others he found inconvenient because of race or religion. Stalin had millions of us murdered. Mao Tse-Tung had even more millions of us murdered. Then there were the killing fields of Cambodia, where we were shot down and buried in mass graves simply for wearing glasses -- since that meant we could read, and therefore might think.
The examples of repressive religions and totalitarian political systems persecuting, torturing, and killing us can be found throughout history. The Spanish Inquisition is not just an abomination of the past. It still continues in one form or another today, and we are all potential victims.
Famous individuals, with far more courage than most of us, who paid the ultimate price for having the audacity to think for themselves and criticize the prevailing mores, beliefs, and actions of the majority,
include Socrates, Jesus Christ, and a very long list of other brave souls throughout history, including, more recently, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.
The problem seems to be that thinking beyond the "little box" they were "brain-washed" to think in by their family, friends, schools, neighbors, and local customs, politics, and religion, is anathema to most people, the majority of whom do not have the time, the inclination, or the desire to really THINK. Or it might be more accurate to say: the majority of whom are afraid to think or say anything that would make them unpopular, lose employment, lose customers, be ostracized -- or worse!
Therefore, if you are one who actually is brave enough to think outside your given "little box" and exercise your freedom of speech, you are bound to be unpopular, inconvenient, and are most definitely on the endangered list.
The irony is, of course, without enough people like you speaking up and bringing about much-needed change, all the "little boxes" on the wall will take a great fall, and not only you but the entire human race will be endangered.
Happy Endangered Species Day!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


When ordering an item on the internet

and that long, long list of countries 

appears on the drop-down menu, 

appreciate the fact that there are 

quite a few of them you are lucky 

NOT to live in.

Better yet, stop your cursor on one 

of these and imagine what your life 

would be like if you lived


Monday, May 9, 2011


DEPRESSED BY WORLD PROBLEMS? Make the little world of your daily life better for people you meet. Learn their names. Show interest in them. The dividends are wonderful. This morning I got to know a young fellow at the COOP named Baldo who carried a heavy bag of fertilizer to my car. I could tell that simply because I asked him his name and made some joke about the fact that he wasn't bald cheered him up. At the supermarket, I had a long conversation with Steve, a fellow I've seen there for years, but only talked to to get directions. Today we talked about his 33-year career with the supermarket, most of it as manager, and how he had asked to be demoted after he had gotten his two daughters through college since he wanted to only work 40 hours a week instead of 60 or more. I said that I had the same extra-hours problem as a teacher, but that I had the summers off. I also pointed out that he had made a good decision in re. his health. Again, as in the case of Baldo, it was easy to tell that he enjoyed being treated like a fellow human and not just a "cog" in the supermarket machine. Of course, I've written a book on the subject, but sometimes I forget to apply my own principles. Doing so today has reminded me of how important it is to at least make your own little world better. It may well be the only world you can influence, no matter how you try to influence the bigger one -- not that you should stop trying! -- not that we all should stop trying!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Why, despite all the diatribes by Jonathan Swifts, Voltaires, & Mark Twains, do the same insanities and stupidities of our species continue unabated century after century after century? 
Is it that those who can read get the message; whereas, the majority either can't read or don't care to read anything that might enlighten them about the human predicament to which they are contributing -- and which now includes the environmental predicament caused by lack of foresight and the unwillingness of the majority to take the proper individual and political actions to address?

Thursday, May 5, 2011



Here's an interesting column in re. the possibility of a second

American Revolution. How many people in how many 

countries have said: "IT CAN HAPPEN HERE!" They said it in 

America in the 1770's, in Europe in the 1840's, in Russia in the 

1910's, in Germany in the 1930's, in Cuba in the 1950's, and in 

many other countries throughout the centuries. Let's hope it 

doesn't happen here. Let's hope our representatives in D.C.

don't pass anti-people legislation that brings it about. 

For If it does happen, it might be quickly and brutally put down, 

and our 200+ years of democracy replaced by a military, 

fundamentalist fascism. I hope I'm totally wrong. I don't want my 

children and grandchildren living in a deadly mix of George 

Orwell's "1984" and Margaret Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale." 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


If you agree with a budget "of the people, by the people, [and] for the people," now is the time to contact your representatives in Washington. D.C.
The following article by my wife, Mary, who formerly wrote for Newsweek and Morgan Guaranty, outlines what is at stake. Click on Postindependent.com below to see the article.  

Instead of attacking the poor and middle class, as U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's much publicized budget does, the 75-member Congressional Progressive Caucus (read more)