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Wed Apr 16, 2014, 03:58 PM

Now (long)

“But now, our day is come; we have been born out of the eternal silence; and now we live -- live for ourselves -- not as the pallbearers of a funeral, but as the upholders and creators of our age …. A false humility, a complaisance to reigning schools, or to the wisdom of antiquity, must not defraud me of the supreme possession of this hour.”
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson; The American Scholar

Senator Robert Kennedy was influenced by his understanding of Emerson: the above quote, for example, impacted RFK’s vision for liberating the down-trodden in this nation, and fueled his decision to run for the presidency in 1968. It strikes me as worthy of our attention, because it demands that we all become active participants in the world around us.

I am currently sitting out at my pond. The weather has begun to change, and today is sunny and close to 70 degrees. I’ve fed the fish and filled the bird-feeders. Kelly, the very essence of all that makes dogs outstanding companion, had been sitting in the swing beside me. Now, he’s stretched out on the warm cap stones on the retaining wall. He enjoys watching the fish as they consume the food that floats on the pond’s surface.

Most books about Robert Kennedy provide biographical information; Michael Knox Beran’s is more of an analysis, than history. (St. Martin’s Press; 1998) While not as good a work as many of the books by those who worked with Kennedy -- which admittedly do not attempt as objective an analysis of RFK’s life -- it is an important read.

Beran, an attorney by trade, presents both an opening and closing argument that what RFK envisioned was not what republicans insultingly refer to as “the welfare state,” but an American version of liberation theology. This requires what Emerson called “self-trust.”

Beran’s insights have some limitations. True liberation theology, of course, recognizes that a lack of self-trust is part of the human condition. Social factors can increase the levels of a lack of self-confidence in large numbers of people, and trap them in lives of desperation. Beran views it as not having “existed, on a large scale, before the eighteenth century.” (page 109)

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The local family-owned business where I usually purchase bird food was not open. Instead, I got a plastic container of 4.5 lbs of “Premium Cockatiel Food” from a grocery-chain store, to hold me over until I get back to civilization. Within a few minutes of my filling the feeders, numerous chickadees are there. They seem okay with the change, to my utter relief. I had suffered from a three-minute mental image from Hitchcock’s “The Birds” until that point.

The lack of self-trust isn’t limited to our perception of large issues. It builds a foundation from the little things that we question. When things in our lives aren’t going great, we are more prone to being handcuffed by those little issues.

The chickadees grab seeds from the feeders, fly away, and return for more. Within a half-an-hour’s time, lots of other birds are at the feeders, too. They all fly back-and-forth, as the factory-bird food is being returned to nature. I still prefer to buy the black oil sunflower seeds that farmers in this region grow. At least now I have a nice container to carry them out to the pond in.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The lack of self-confidence has created several large industries in American culture. The social Darwinists -- primarily republicans -- incorrectly believe that social programs, or that “welfare state” they despise, is both rooted in and perpetuated by “coddling” poor folks. Paul Ryan recently attempted to feign compassion and insight, by delivering his version of an RFK-style examination impoverished neighborhoods. The difference between an RFK or Malcolm X discussing poverty programs, and Ryan spouting his poison, is the same as between sugar and shit.

In fact, our culture coddles the very wealthy, including industries. The gas industry was given exemptions from some of the federal laws intended to protect the environment. Little children having access to Head Start pose remarkably less threat to our national well-being, than energy industries being given full access to public lands. But Ryan is less likely to address corporate welfare, than Kelly is to stop barking, and begin speaking English.

If we are to become a humane society, which must include social justice, that can only be brought about by citizens. It won’t come by way of a federal law or regulation, for the unjust in Washington, DC, currently are fully confident of their ability to grant themselves exemptions, or to pay tiny fines that do not impact their profit margins in any meaningful ways. The Paul Ryanites are unwilling to deliver serious “jobs programs” for the rapidly disappearing middle class communities and neighborhoods in America; how in the heck could those populating the low-income neighborhoods hope to find employment in 2014?

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Emerson’s “self-trust” is similar to the concept of “locus of control,” which is important in terms of the “health psychology” of the individual. An individual with an internal locus of control believes that they are able to make decisions, and take actions, that will have the major influences upon the quality of their lives. Those with an external locus of control believe themselves to be largely the victims of circumstances beyond their control. Of course, most people fall somewhere in between these two poles: none of us have the ability to control any one or any thing beyond ourselves, yet we have the ability to both anticipate and respond to life as it unfolds.

That segment of society un-affectionately known as the “1%” sees a storm brewing on the horizon. Hence, they seek to accumulate massive wealth, and total control of the earth’s resources. To accomplish this, they must nurture a growing sense of life growing out of control among the 99%. This is a massive external locus of control program. This is not to imply the 1% has control over everything: for mankind’s technological advances far exceed their current level of ethical/spiritual being, and we are far out of balance with that force known as Mother Nature. This serves to fuel the greedy attempts of the 1% to possess wealth, and to create the quiet desperation and despair that now defines American culture.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

A thousand minnows move about the pond’s surface as the sun begins to set. They remind me of the large flocks of starlings that soar through the sky in the early fall season. There appear to be numerous small groups swimming in individual patterns and directions; yet somehow, without “leaders” or “rules,” the many groups act as one.

I remember when, two decades ago, a gentleman from the organization “Trout Unlimited” contacted me. He requested that Chief Paul Waterman and I get the Onondaga Council of Chiefs to endorse one of their proposals to protect the Upper Delaware River. When I spoke to Paul about this, he said, “Always remember to serve as ‘Minnows Unlimited.’ If we take care of the tiny, the big will take care of themselves.”

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Parents have five lessons to teach their little ones, by the age of five. The first is “you are loveable.” The infant transitions from the security of the womb, to mother’s arms, which provide the security needed to continue to grow. Second, “you are likeable.” I enjoy spending time with you. Third, “you are worthwhile.” The time I spend with you is not only a pleasure, it is an investment in you as an individual being. Next, “you are capable.” You can do many things. And then comes, “you are responsible.” I trust you as a person.

That child that has these lessons instilled by age five has a good chance of being successful in life. Now, that does not mean he or she will not ever tell a lie, or steal. It doesn’t suggest their teenaged years will bring nothing less than pure joy for mom and pops. Of course not. But it does provide a foundation, upon which they can build that sense of self-trust needed to reach their potential.

On the flip side, not all parents can teach these five simple-sounding lessons. Indeed, one cannot teach what one does not understand. More, this is not dependent on economic status: while the wealthy enjoy a wider range of options for education and employment than either the middle- or lower-economic classes, they have equally high rates of producing adults without a healthy sense of self-trust.

Even that person who was raised in a nourishing environment will have periods of self-doubt. That is certain, due to the organic structure of our brains’ hard-wiring. Millions of years of evolution insure that reality, and no pill from the pharmacy will create a worry-free, yet fully conscious human being. Yet with the right foundation, people can work through those periods of self-doubt. Not only that, but those who did not get all the proper building blocks by the age of five have not been sentenced to an unfulfilled life. As individuals, we can rise above the circumstances that hold us down, and limit our potential.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

A bald eagle is floating low, apparently following the creek. Two other birds -- they look like crows -- are attempting to force it away. It is likely going to the source of the creek, a small lake about four miles north. I’ve also seen eagles near the man-made pond, situated on a small, rural golf course, about a mile away. There is something amazing about watching an eagle.

Years ago, when I did social work in Delaware County, I saw eagles frequently. One evening, as people were heading to the parking lot, one landed on a near-by telephone pole. A casual friend from another agency and I stayed and watched it, well after everyone else had left. At the time, he incorrectly associated me with “new age” theology. So, when he asked me what “power” I associated with that beautiful bird, I said the power of bald eagles. He asked if I felt there was a “message” to its being there? I said yes, definitely: it communicated the fact that the river provided substance for bald eagles. No magic, no hocus-pocus.

We began having lunch at the picnic tables behind our office building. My friend and a couple of others knew that rather than talking with “troubled teens” in my office, I preferred to do things like restoring pioneer cemeteries or going “arrowhead hunting.” The youngsters tended to talk more openly while we engaged in such activities. My friend asked if there were any local sites, where he might find an artifact?

I pointed to a high mountain on the opposite side of the river. I said that I thought there might well be a site high up on the mountain. I said that in an era where social norms were breaking down, such as that around the time of the historical figure Hiawatha, people often had camps at high places such as that. For some time, we talked about trying to find it. Then one day, we drove over the closest bridge, circled back, and followed an old dirt road to its dead end.

An elderly farmer was working in his garden. We introduced ourselves, and explained why we were there. He told us that he had uncovered such a site in 1963, while clearing brush to expand a pasture. He showed us where it was, and allowed us to excavate as much of the site as we wanted. I had a friend who teaches archaeology at a local university come and assist us.

Both the kids I worked with, and a handful of social workers, enjoyed that summer. The university did flotation tests on the soil from fire-pits, documenting what the people there around 800 ad were eating. We would bring along food for picnics, and spend weekend days at the site. Whenever a bald eagle flew by, I’d ask my friend what he thought it meant? “That the river supports eagles,” he would say.
So long as we respect it, the land and air and water around here will support human life, too. That’s power. Real power, not the type that Paul Ryan seeks. Yet, if his ilk are allowed to destroy the environment, including by hydro racking, that abuse of power will have harsh consequences.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

I listen to the song of the tiny frogs known as “peepers” before coming indoors. My daughter tells me that a friend had called, and asked that I call back. She is a nurse who lives in a nearby town, who has become active in community affairs since her youngest child graduated. From time to time, she calls me to ask for my opinion on how she and a few others can best deal with the “1%” in her town.

After listening, I tell her that she and her friends are doing things right. To keep moving in the direction they are currently moving in. She says that they still like to run things by me, because I am “the strongest person we know.” I am also the weakest person they know, I said, though I appreciated her compliment.

We are indeed at a strange and dangerous point in history. It’s good to study history, and to speculate on the future. But we have to deal with the realities of now. That demands that, as individuals, we step up our actions to bring about social justice. That requires the developing of a higher level of self-trust.

A few people that I have the pleasure of knowing are being called upon to take on leadership roles. These include the public school teacher that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, and the nurse I spoke of here. Both were somewhat aware of that before; for whatever reason, my pointing it out to them seems to have confirmed it for them. It’s not the past or future that are calling on them. It’s now.

And it’s your time, too.

12 replies, 1005 views

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Now (long) (Original post)
H2O Man Apr 2014 OP
Beringia Apr 2014 #1
H2O Man Apr 2014 #3
Beringia Apr 2014 #5
Beringia Apr 2014 #6
H2O Man Apr 2014 #7
Beringia Apr 2014 #8
Raksha Apr 2014 #2
H2O Man Apr 2014 #4
SunsetDreams Apr 2014 #9
hootinholler Apr 2014 #10
Ohio Joe Apr 2014 #11
Blue_Tires Apr 2014 #12

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 05:14 PM

1. Looks like a wonderful post

Will read later. Thanks.

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Response to Beringia (Reply #1)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 05:56 PM

3. Thank you.

An associate, who frequently volunteers as my editor, frequently suggests that I write shorter bits. But she's on vacation this week. (smile)

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #3)


Response to H2O Man (Reply #3)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 01:37 PM

6. interesting piece



Interesting learning about "locus of control". It reminds me of wolf packs, and how the young wolves are taught so much by the elders. The same with humans, how we need important learning about how to value ourselves, and how we are capable at a very young age. And since many children are not taught this by their parents, how then we can learn it ourselves, self-taught when we are older and find ourselves trying to meet challenges.

I wonder what you told teenagers who you helped in your social work.

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Response to Beringia (Reply #6)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 02:53 PM

7. Those were times

that I can look back on and believe I made a difference in people's lives. For example, I was assigned a case of a teen who was the county's "most expensive" JD. A couple of days before I got this case, the then-14 year old had been assaulted by his frustrated probation officer. This man beat the kid up.

Today, he lives in a mid-Atlantic state, and we connected on FaceBook a couple years back. He's about 40 now, married with two daughters, works full-time, and has not had a single legal incident since we worked together.

Early on, I attended a meeting at the boy's school. At the end of it, the school psychologist called me aside. He said, "I used to be like you. I didn't think rules applied to me." I asked him what he was talking about? He noted that I was wearing what he called a "blended suit" -- I had on jeans and sneakers, along with a white shirt, tie, and sports jacket. This apparently bothered him at some level. I remain unclear what "rule" I was breaking.

The kid ended up in foster care (luckily, in a very good home, with solid foster parents). A few weeks later, around 11 pm, I was called to the village's police department. I drove through a heck of a snow storm to get there.

The following day, the kid was complaining about most all the adults in his life: his prostitute mother, his brutal, anti-social father, his teachers, the psychologist, the police, etc. His foster mother apologized for calling me the previous night. I explained that was okay; heck, I got paid for it. Then I asked the boy why, if he really had nothing but contempt for all those adults, he gave them so much power over his day-to-day life? I pointed out that it wasn't just one, or even two, but a good dozen adults. If they were his enemies, why was he behaving in a manner that made certain they controlled him?

Now, that alone didn't "cure" him -- far from it. But he remembers that conversation to this day. In fact, he has told me that he has used a version of it with kids he knows. I said that's cool, as it was something that Rubin asked me when I was a teen.

Within a few months, I realized I needed to try something different with this kid, as his behaviors were pretty entrenched for a 14 y.o. So I talked with my brother-in-law, who worked at an area state prison for young men. Then he and I talked to a dozen inmates, who were happy to assist us. I brought the boy to the facility, and we did a version of "Scared Straight." Now, that Rahway State Prison program had been started by the Hurricane; in fact, it originated as Rubin's attempt to reach a tough, teen-aged amateur boxer he knew! (grin)

You have to change the way a person thinks, before you can really hope that they will change their behaviors. And this boy had changed the way he thought. When I told him that although he didn't have to be the person that others wanted him to be, that didn't mean he needed to be the complete opposite. He had unlimited options. He understood that, and he has gone on to live a meaningful life.

One of the things that I really like is when he sends me photos of the artifacts he finds. We spoke last week, and he hopes to come and visit his sister this summer. When he does, he and I will go out artifact-hunting.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #7)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 03:33 PM

8. It was good


that you offered this boy something he could use, his unlimited options, how he gave control to people he did not trust. I think there is a strong force in our culture that tells us we should always be submissive or listen to our parents, maybe also coming from the bible, to honor our parents. But there is a difference between honoring I suppose and letting a parent psychologically harm us, (everyone easily sees how physical harm is wrong) or realize the parent is incapable of really transmitting good values about our own self worth.

Even as an adult, I find myself "blaming" my parents, but in fact you are right, it is really me giving them control. I have a relative who died of a heroin overdose. Both of his biological parents were no good for him. I sometimes think how in the world I would have overcome his obstacles. I wish I were wise enough to have imparted some knowledge like you did about "locus of control", but I really don't understand it completely myself. Something to nurture though, that idea of control.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 05:38 PM

2. K & R, and bookmarked. This one is a keeper.

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Response to Raksha (Reply #2)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 05:58 PM

4. Thanks!

I'm hoping that the points that seem clear to me -- and that I'm trying to communicate -- come through on this essay. I think it is important, but am admittedly subjective.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 03:49 PM

9. K&R

A pleasure to read. I enjoy reading your OP's.

I love this line:
“Always remember to serve as ‘Minnows Unlimited.’ If we take care of the tiny, the big will take care of themselves.”


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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 03:55 PM

10. Kick to find when I'm home. n/t

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 04:09 PM

11. K&R - nt

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 04:42 PM

12. bookmarked

cheers...

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