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H2O Man

H2O Man's Journal
H2O Man's Journal
May 29, 2014


There are certain topics that never seem to go well on DU. The reality of sexist influences in our culture is one of them. Indeed, the ugliness of the 2008 presidential primaries pales in comparison -- at least to the extent that such debates did not include attributing Senator Obama’s victory over Senator Clinton in a male vs. female context.

The recent tragic mass-murder would seem to provide common ground. The killer was a freak. His primary target for his hatred was women. In reading the shit head’s manifesto, the rage that he aimed towards women is the most outstanding feature. Without that hatred towards all women, his rant would simply be a pathetic example of self-pity. In my opinion, but for that hatred of women, it seems unlikely he would have ever killed anyone.

That he had extremely little contact with girls while growing up, and almost none with women as he reached adulthood, did not keep him from defining females into a “one size fits all” group: the enemy. In particular, his perverse and inadequate ideas about sex made him dangerous to women -- for he convinced himself that women owed him sexual gratification. Thus, he was exactly the type of creep who, had he ever dated, would be at high risk to react violently if a woman told him “no.”

The fact that he had some connection to a “men’s rights” group has been mentioned as evidence that he hated women. Indeed, considering that he was never involved in a relation with a women -- except his mother and step-mother -- raises the obvious question: what “right” did he believe he was being denied? One that never existed. He wanted sex. And he wanted to be seen, on the beach or in a college classroom, holding hands with a beautiful woman. So yes, his hatred of women was his sole reason for relating to any men’s right group.

Yet, this in no way provides proof positive that men’s rights groups are bad. The fact that we are a patriarchal society, where maleness provides many advantages, does not mean that all men’s groups are focused on denying women equal rights. Surely, many such groups are not seeking equality, just as some of the members are flaming assholes. However, men do not have a monopoly on being scoundrels, and the number one focus of men’s rights groups is the area in our society where women, as a group, have long held an unfair advantage.

I live in New York, and hence what I have to say here applies to this state. However, it has been the general case in other states, as well. In the context of Family Court, where issues such as separation, child custody, divorce, support, and dividing assets, fathers have not found a level playing field. I’m friends with a number of the lawyers in my region (and a few judges), both male and female. They all say that women have had an advantage in this context.

Adults who are involved in divorces, especially where children are involved, do funny things. That includes men and women. The process sometimes involves two adults who are able to objectively put the well-being of their children first. But such cases do not end up being fought bitterly in court. Even if one parent is capable of putting their children’s needs first, it can end up in ugly court hearings, which tend to continue until the youngest child reaches maturity. And that still leaves many, many cases where both parents, to some degree, view the court as a competition, in which one side “wins” the children, property, income, and other resources.

The main focus that I had was my two little boys, ages three and six. In court, I got custody, and their mother got visitation. However, she also got the house, two of three automobiles, and support -- even though her income was more than mine. I told my attorney that I did not think this was fair. He said it wasn’t fair, but that I had gotten what was most important to me.

After I moved into an apartment, I found that two other guys living there had similar stories -- although neither had custody of their children. At first, we discussed this informally. Soon, we all began inviting other men to our discussions. Thus began a men’s rights group.

It is important to note that it wasn’t simply an organized meeting to trash women. To be fair, there were times when that took place, per an individual woman. But the primary focus was on father’s rights, how to navigate the family court system, and the responsibilities of fatherhood.

New York had changed some of the rules in family court, to make it fairer for men who wanted to be active participants in their children’s lives, back in the early 1970s. I was aware of this, because Governor Rockefeller had pushed the issue, largely at the request of the man who headed his security detail -- one of my uncles.

Our group approached one lawyer in each of the three surrounding counties. These gentlemen, who did not like to be involved in divorce/custody hearings, for the same reasons that many police do not enjoy being called to “domestic disputes,” were open to providing general information to our group. A couple were also willing to reduce their fees, if I prepared all of the paperwork needed for court. I’ve authored the appropriate paperwork in a couple dozen cases in the quarter century since then, and have “won” every case thus far.

Word spreads quickly. Soon, men who had no interest in being responsible parents came to us, seeking assistance. This included men who despised women. A few of them bragged about being able to intimidate the mothers of their children. One was mighty proud that he had hurt his wife, as if that was something to brag about.

In each and every instance, our group moved to kick that type of thug out of our meetings. We would try, as a group, to confront the guys that they were creating problems for themselves, and their children. Very few were willing to recognize the role they played. Instead, they became angry with the group. And, no surprise, one fellow mistakenly believed he could change our minds by threatening the two group leaders (which included me). That was a serious error on his part: he suffered the consequences.

Being pro-fathers’ rights does not translate to being anti-woman. Earlier tonight, I spoke with a woman from across the country, who leads a group of women who had the misfortune to marry psychopaths. I serve as a volunteer for that group. My tasks include assisting these ladies in how to best present the information they have, first to their lawyer, and then in court. I also spend time talking to individual group members, to help them win back the self-respect and dignity that has been stolen from them by ruthless thugs. The woman that leads this group is in the medical profession; she married a doctor, who turned out to be a snake. She and I have been friends since grade school. She knows that I try to help men going through divorce. But that doesn’t impact her trusting me to help the women in her group. The only thing that I ask in return, is that these people try to be the best parents that they can be.

Being the best parents we can be should be the focus of both men and women who are dealing with the family court system. And that’s not pro- or anti- either sex. If our society could come to terms with that aspect, we might be better equipped to deal with the numerous other problems that are caused by sexism in America.

Today, I am pretty good friends with my ex-wife. She is the mother of our two boys. And neither of us is the same person we were when we split. We enjoy each other’s company at family events. My daughters both are good friends with their brothers’ mom.

Life is a process.

May 27, 2014


“Intolerance betrays a want of faith in one’s cause.” -- Gandhi

Discussions about “-ism” have frequently been acrimonious on this forum. Issues that involve racism and sexism tend to be the most divisive and emotional here. In a very real sense, this is expected: American society has never come to grips with the cultural pathologies that infect most communities across the nation.

No infant is born hateful. It is learned behavior. If you watch itty-bitty children interacting with others, you find that they are aware of differences among people, including a person being male or female, and with different shades of skin color. I remember my older daughter, at age three, rubbing my brother-in-law’s arm, and saying, “Oh, Uncle Keith, you’re black. That’s so pretty!”

At our extended family events/ reunions, she saw people who were black, brown, red, yellow, and white. As a young adult, although she is aware that some people have hang-ups about what is incorrectly referred to as “race,” she knows that the racists own the problem. Obviously, the systematic racism also causes problems for too many people who do not own the problem. For racism in the United States is real, and contaminates the fabric of our society with ignorance, fear, and hatred. An obvious example of this is found in the hatred for President Obama; this is not to say that everyone who disagrees with his actions is racist, of course, but racists -- especially white racists -- continue to refuse to accept that he was twice elected to the highest office in the land.

The other major “-ism” -- sexism -- has more entrenched roots in our society. It is a sibling to racism, so entangled that it can be difficult to separate the two completely. And while like with racism, there have been advances in our cultural attitudes, we are still a long way from the Promised Land. While my daughter’s generation is intellectually and ethically advanced compared to my own, when it comes to issues involving marriage equality and the like, some of the ignorance, fear, and hatred between the sexes remains.

Hence, it seems worthwhile to consider how positive changes are accomplished …..more so, for goodness sakes, than the arguing, accusing, and finger-pointing that too often takes place on this forum. For we must do more than simply define the problem. We have to identify how change is made, and then use this information to decide upon the most meaningful approach that we can take -- as individuals and groups.

Martin Luther King, Jr., noted that it is a myth that it takes “time” to make meaningful change. “Time is neutral,” King said in the last Sunday sermon he was to deliver. “It can be used either constructively or destructively. ….Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through tireless efforts and the persistent work of individuals …. Without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation …”

Thus, when I have the opportunity to talk with my daughter and her friends, I am aware that the changes I see reflected in their view of the world, is largely the result of the environment that they were raised in. Obviously, this starts with the family unit in which they were raised. Yet it also includes the schools they attend, and the communities they inhabit. More, it includes all of the negative aspects of the child’s upbringing, as well.

The second avenue to change is the individual. People can and do change -- often, for the better. In fact, those people who do not change over the years they spend on earth, tend to stand out more than those who do evolve in their thinking. We all know people who channel the social stagnation King spoke of.

It seems to me that one of the greatest stumbling blocks that prevents meaningful discussions on this forum is a failure to recognize -- and respect -- that people change. It would seem unlikely that a person who was raised in a household where females are not valued, is going to be at the same location on the path, as one who was raised respecting both male and females.

We need to be patient with individuals, and equally impatient with “the system.” You can’t curb anger with more anger, or hostility with more hostility, when dealing with individuals. You can’t force a person to see things differently by insulting them. Rather, people are more likely to be open to viewing things differently, when you approach them civilly, and use logic, facts, and rational thinking. Likewise, by creating tension in a larger social setting, one can open minds to different ways of thinking.

The potential good that can come from helping a person to think differently -- to understand and appreciate that there are other, better ways to relate to both male and female human beings, and to put the old, toxic “-isms” in the past -- should not be underestimated. For a person must think differently, before they will act differently. And our culture needs to be transformed, in thoughts and actions, in order that we can confront the other serious issues that confront humanity today.

H2O Man

May 25, 2014

On Human Destructiveness

“The killer awoke before dawn,
He put his boots on.
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hal ….”
-- Jim Morrison; The End

I try not to learn the names of the ever-growing list of shit-heads that, for one reason or another, decide it’s time for them to go murder a group of people, in order to express themselves. That it has happened again, at this time of year, reminds me that no matter who you are, there is a chance -- small, but highly disturbing -- that the lives of you, your family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, can be altered, or ended, by some freak that wants to make a statement of hatred. This type of violence damages the social fabric, at a time when we can least afford it.

The media and internet discussion sites have had a wide range of information on this terrible event. Some of the coverage and attention has been of high quality, educational, and insightful. And, of course, some has been from the gutters of human potential.

Who is to blame? Let’s keep it this simple: the killer was 100% responsible for his actions. Not his parents, the police, social workers, school, or anyone else. He, and he alone, owns all of the blame. That he wanted -- no, demanded -- recognition for what he mistook for “power,” yet was cowardly enough to assign all blame to others, makes him repulsive to even consider. No one failed him, except himself.

I’ve read some interesting thoughts on what specific diagnosis he may carry. This includes here, on DU, by some folks who have the background required to build a foundation for their beliefs. There are also a splattering of uninformed guesses, that have no basis in the reality of mental illnesses. But that’s to be expected, when people attempt to understand and make sense of such a tragic, violent outburst.

Perhaps equally important, I believe, are the attempts to identify this within the context of sociological explanations, rather than the psychology of an individual. For this jackass, who was convinced that he was superior to mere humans, placed himself smack-dab in the middle of a cluster of societies’ worst losers. A few of these have been people suffering from the axis one mental illness most closely associated with violence -- paranoid schizophrenia. But far, far more are people, usually white males, who have personality disorders.

I tend to believe statistics that indicate that, nation-wide, violence crime is on the decrease. But it is evident that more unstable people are acting out in this type of very public hate crime. The fact that they will get their 15 minutes of fame may be one factor, yet for all of its weaknesses, I do not blame the media.

The smug, bratty manifesto this turd left behind separates him, to an extent, from the others who kill to be heard. Although extreme, his whiney rant probably reminds most folks of other toxic people we have met in life. It is semi-well organized, when compared to the few similar records left by his ilk. From early childhood on, he was as innocent as the lamb of Christianity, he needs to assure the audience. But society as a whole began to crucify him by the time he became aware of sexual passions. Indeed, vaginas seem to scare this poor child.

At the same time, his resentment that females did not find him irresistible grew into a rage against all women, especially blond-haired college students. His writings reveal an extreme case of the divide that Erich Fromm discusses in his 1976 classic, “To Have or To Be?” His entire sense of entitlement is rooted in what he has: the financial wealth of his family, along with what he wrongly assumes is a superior intellect -- which again is defined as a possession. His intelligence is a marketing tool, good for determining what employment opportunities and women he is entitled to.

Of greater importance, in the larger sense, would be Fromm’s 1955 classic, “The Sane Society,” which details why certain cultures produce higher numbers of social illnesses, such as mass-murderers. And, of course, Fromm’s 1973 “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,” which addresses the issues involved when people enjoy torturing others. And while this dick-dripping shot his victims, he made sure that their families and friends would be tortured by his actions.

None of us is likely to have the opportunity to step in and stop someone with moral rabies from killing an innocent victim. But the way we live our lives can have an impact. In part, it can be by who we elect to office; this influences the socio-economic policies of our day. And the way we elect to live our lives, and how we interact with others -- family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and “strangers” -- can play a role in defining the society we live in. Even though we can’t prevent every act of hate and violence, we can reduce the frequency of them. And that’s worth our best efforts,

H2O Mam

May 23, 2014

Regarding White Folks

"We have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society." -- LBJ; May 22, 1964

It was fifty years ago today, Rachel Maddow has reminded us, that President Lyndon Johnson spoke of his dream -- of the Great Society. It was a beautiful dream, though US involvment in Vietnam turned it into a nightmare. Ever since, the corporate media has done everything possible to convince the American public -- you and me -- that the very concept of the Great Society is impossible at best, disastrous in practice.

Indeed, one need only look at American society today to see that it is divided even more between the masses, or the 99%, and the economic elite, or 1%.

It is, in my opinion, a situation that can only be confronted at the grass roots up. All politics are local, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said. A foundation for a true constitutional democracy -- capable of bringing about social justice -- needs the grass roots foundation to be built upon.

Yesterday, an old friend running for a seat in Congress and I had an interesting conversation. Although he lives in another state, today's technology easily allows me to assist him from a distance. I'm volunteering as a speech writer.

The night before, I won re-election on the local school board. Today, I spoke with some leading democrats in our region, about my running for state office this fall. I also spoke with leaders from the Democratic Left, so that I can run on more than one slate this fall. While computers will play a role, a lot of this can only be accomplished by an investment in shoe leather.

I also met with a teacher from a NYC art college. He is publishing a book on the need to protect the environment. I added a list of quotes by Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman, specifically about the power of clean water.

There has been so much going on, that I wasn't able to travel to Cooperstown today. President Obama was scheduled to vist the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was supposed to talk about tourism -- which was ironic, as the Hall of Fame was closed to the public today. Groups from across the state were prepared to show up, to rally against hydrofracking.

I believe that these public demonstrations are important. It;s an activity that is protected by Amendment 1. But, if we are to move towards becoming that Great Society, we have to do more than demonstrate. We need to begin to Occupy Public Office.

H2O Man
May 19, 2014

Malcolm X Day

“I’m the man you think you are. ….If you want to know what I’ll do, figure out what you’ll do. I’ll do the same thing -- only more of it.” -- Malcolm X

Malcolm X was born on this day, in 1925. His life had a significant impact on our country in the 1960s, and it should provide lessons for those of us who want America to live up to its promise and potential.

Hopefully, most DU members have read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” Carl Sagan said that he believed it was the most important work of American literature. There are numerous other solid books on his life, and books of transcripts of his speeches. Spike Lee produced a powerful movie about Malcolm’s life, which is definitely worth watching.

I first learned of Malcolm some fifty years ago, in the days following Muhammad Ali’s winning the heavyweight championship in a huge upset, when he TKOed Sonny Liston. In 1965, my oldest brother left a TIME magazine open to the page reporting Malcolm’s death; somewhere, I still have that magazine, and the brief note my brother left with it.

I didn’t think much about Malcolm over the next few years, until one day when a high school English teacher recommended that I read his autobiography. I was a “homeless” teen at the time, heading straight for the troubles that homeless teenaged males frequently find. Besides bringing some much appreciated bags of food to class for me, this wonderful teacher wanted to expand my mind.

A few years back, I posted an essay on this forum, using Joseph Campbell’s studies of “the hero’s journey” to describe Malcolm’s life. I believe that he was one of our nation’s most important prophets. I remember back in the late 1970s, when Americans were being held hostage in Iran, when Dick Gregory said that America couldn’t understand Islam, because it had failed to understand Malcolm X.

Later today, I’ll get out my collection of old records of some of Malcolm’s speeches. I have six albums of his speeches; while they make powerful reading, one gets a clearer picture of what a gifted communicator he was by listening to him speak.

Happy birthday, Malcolm X. And thank you for your contribution to the struggle for social justice.

May 19, 2014

Order vs Disorder

“.I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” -- John Burroughs

One of the nice things about spring-time in the northeast is going for walks. At my extreme age, I don’t get around as well in the snow and ice, and so I’ve been making up for being inside too much during the long winter months. My favorite places to walk tend to be around my own property, and along three trails in particular: one is a long-abandoned turnpike; the second is the bed of a railroad that closed in 1957; and, third, a beautiful creek that crossed each of the first two.

This week, I’ve left the “comfort zone” of my own neck of the woods a couple of times. A bank, a doctor’s office, a drug store, a library, a garage, the Post Office, a grocery store, and then, last, to a school to give a presentation. Add to that a trip to the Canadian border, to pick up my daughter from college.

Although I am prone to enjoying solitude, I do enjoy people. In the bank, a pleasant woman approached me and said that, with my long hair and beard, I reminded her of the Founding Fathers. I thanked her, though I can’t recall any of those fellows having long hair nor beards. Another woman, who I went to school with, saw me and said, “Ah, our eccentric hermit; what brings you to civilization?” I explained that I had actually left civilization to come to a community of human beings.

I’ve also had a virtual flood of phone calls and e-mails this week. Extended family and friends, several with news about people I know who are ill; a couple of invitations to speak here and there this summer; a few asking advice on political matters; and a close friend who is feeling detached and burned out. She has stopped by the house a couple of times this week to see my daughter, who is back from college. They are in an acoustic group together.

The library where this friend works part-time -- she’s a full-time teacher -- has asked me to do a display of artifacts that document local Native American history there. I’ll be presenting a program to the public there in June, then in another city in July. In coming up with a mental outline, I found it worthwhile to take a walk along the banks of the Susquehanna and Unadilla Rivers, visiting ancient occupation sites, as well as an expansive camp where Mohawk leader Joseph Brant had warriors during the Revolutionary War. Letters to General George Washington from that time tell of a significant number of “rascally escaped slaves” who had joined the Indians there.

This is the land where I spent my childhood. Across the river is the old house where the grandson of Seneca historian David Cusick lived; we remained friends over the decades, after we had both moved away from that rural neighborhood. I end up stopping to see my childhood “best friend,” who recently bought his grandfather’s farm. We talk about the various people who lived on this rural road, and influenced our childhood. They are all long gone now. My buddy says, “How did we end up as Elders so quickly?”

When I get home, I decide to cook the evening meal out at the fire pit out at my pond. As always, I start by feeding the fish, and refilling the bird-feeders. My daughter and friend come out, and we enjoy watching the birds, and listening to their songs. One of my favorite things is when these two play guitars and sing. I know that human beings have sat around a fire, and sang, for thousands and thousands of years. It’s as much a part of “nature” as the birds’ singing their songs.

We all get a turn here on Earth. People tend to measure their turn in terms of how many times this living planet goes around the sun. For some, it’s quite a few circles around that life-giving sun; for others, it’s a shorter ride.

Before I know it, I’m alone at the pond. The sun has gone down, and the fire is giving off the only light. Most of the birds have called it a day, and now it’s the frogs’ turn to sing their songs. As it grows dark, I can see the reflection of the fire on the pond’s surface. In time, the fire burns out, and I begin my walk back to my house.

It’s a busy time in our society. The combination of a larger population and technological advances has created a new speed of daily life for most people. While the planet continues to move at its own pace, the world is spinning faster and faster. Everyone should be taking time to “turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream,” as John Lennon sang. Especially those who are feeling frazzled by all the pressures of everyday life.

Spending time in nature is what I do. How about you? What helps put your senses in order?

H2O Man

May 9, 2014

Boxing (5-10)

May 10
At Los Angeles (ESPN): Bermane Stiverne vs. Chris Arreola, rematch, 12 rounds, for vacant WBC heavyweight title.

ESPN boxing continues to provide fans with bouts that are often as interesting as those on HBO or Showtime, including most PPVs. Saturday night's bout, for the heavyweight title vacated by Vitali Klitschko, is certainly one of them.

In April of 2013, Steverne beat Arreola by decision in twelve rounds. He broke Chris's nose in the third round, and won almost every round on all three judges' cards. This earned him at shot at Klitschko, but Vitali postponed the bout once, then retired. Thus, Steverne has been out of action for a full year, although not by choice.

Steverne, 34, is 6' 2" tall, has an 80" reach, and packs knockout power in his right hand. Most people would have difficulty recognizing many of his opponent's names -- other than Arreola, and perhaps a faded Ray Austin -- but he is the #1 ranked contender in a division long dominated by the Klitschko brothers. Although he did not have the luxury of solid backing early in his career, he has a record of 23-1-1 (20 KO wins; 1 KO lose). His lone defeat came early in his career.

Arreola is the more familiar of the two, as his fights have frequently been televised. At age 33, he is an inch taller than Steverne, but has 4" less in reach. His record is 36-3 (30 KO wins; 1 KO loss). In 2009, Vitali Klitschko stopped Arreola in 10 rounds. Since that first defeat, Arreola has been inconsistent in the ring; when he trains, he has impressed, but too often, he does not show the self-discipline needed to compete at the highest level.

About a month ago, Chris spoke with Teddy Atlas from ringside at an ESPN Friday Night Fights. Chris is a very likable, outgoing young man, who rarely seems serious. Teddy put the good humor in check quickly, and pointed out Chris's lack of discipline. (For example, Chris was proud he was doing 2 miles of roadwork.) I know that since then, Teddy has been visiting Chris's training camp -- and Teddy is not a funny guy in the gym!

So, Chris should be in good shape. And I know Teddy focused a lot on his jab. Everything behind the jab. At the same time, Steverne -- a quiet, thoughtful man -- has put himself through hell in his training camp. So it should be what people want to see: a tough, hard fight between two highly-trained warriors. May the better man win!

May 2, 2014

Well, well, well

I took my loved one out to dinner,
So we could get a bite to eat ….
We sat and talked of revolution,
Just like two liberals in the sun …..
I took my loved one to a big field,
So we could watch the English sky ….
-- John Lennon; Well, Well, Well

Three events from recent days stand out in my mind. The other day, while taking a walk with a friend, I found a projectile point from the Adena cultural phase. Those that come from the Ohio River Valley region tend to be larger, made of material not found in upstate New York, and are older; those made here are smaller, made of local flint, and are newer. This particular one likely dates to about 450-550 ad. It is as sharp and crisp as the day it was made, without so much as a chip missing.

Last night, I attended the local school board meeting. An audience of about 30 came for the open meeting. There were teachers, students, and interested community members, there to express a variety of interests and concerns. Although our district was just ranked rather high among small schools (in the state and nationally), none of the audience was there to either thank us, or give us a pat on our backs.

Today, on the drive home from a grocery store, and while passing a small lake at the outskirts of our town, I saw an eagle. After checking in my rearview mirror, I pulled over to the side of the highway. It’s not uncommon to see eagles in these parts, but I still find myself in awe of their beauty and power.

I did purchase, among other things, 40 lbs of bird food today. Soon, I’ll go out to my pond and fill the numerous bird-feeders. Later this evening, after dinner, my best buddy and I plan to sit out by the pond, build a small fire, and discuss our plans for upcoming social-political events. I am hoping that we see some fire-flies, as we listen to the peeper-frogs sing.

One of the things that I was focused on last night was how various people “do” tension. I know, I know: it’s difficult verging upon impossible to believe that there could be tension at a school board meeting. Yet, it happens. And there is a wide span of ways people behave in a public setting where there is tension.

Public speaking creates discomfort for many people. Even if it involves a relative small group of friendly, good-natured folks, some of us get nervous. If it is a moderate-sized group of angry people, it can be difficult for many people to speak their mind. Obviously, that increases if one is addressing workplace concerns where supervision is there. Likewise, there is the potential for board members, who serve voluntarily, without pay, to feel like they are on the old “hot seat” when the public questions their insight, their values, and/or their integrity. That potential seems to increase, when the person attacking them has their facts way wrong. (On the other hand, if that person knows exactly what they are addressing, that can create tension, too!)

Other factors can include money, be it in the context of taxes or salaries. Another is how parents view the quality of the education their children get, and even issues involving school sports. It happens.

What I noticed -- and surely not for the first time -- is that certain individuals, on both sides, follow a fairly predictable path: they become defensive; they have a compulsive need to speak (often mistaking volume and quantity for quality); they accuse the target of their anger of things that simply have not been said; and they close their minds, making it impossible to hear, much less process, “new” incoming information.

One of the most shallow things President George W. Bush ever said was the “you’re either with us, or against us” bit of nonsense. That obviously tends to limit one’s perception. And, at times, that’s not really a huge deal, in and of itself. We can all be “wrong” sometimes, and even in situations where issues cannot be simply “right vs. wrong,” we are all human, and suffer from errors in thinking from time to time.

It certainly can be a very real problem in some circumstances, though. For example, there is a certain tipping point, where if enough people become angry, a group discussion loses the ability to be productive. That handcuffs efforts to engage in conflict resolution. It reduces the art of negotiation, into something that crudely resembles a sporting competition, where some participants will do anything to “win.”

Somehow, some way, human beings need to rise above the “us versus them” dynamic. It’s a luxury that we cannot afford. That doesn’t mean that we are all going to hold hands, and be best buds. Or even friends. It does mean that we have reached a point in the life cycle of our species, where we have a common interest -- one that not everyone recognizes -- in taking steps that increase our ability to maintain human life on Earth, on a meaningful scale. We are already in a growing environmental crisis. There are consequences that are to be paid for the ignorance and greed that has damaged the air, land, and water.

In order to be able to deal with those larger and more complex issues, people need to be able to deal with the smaller things that arise in our daily lives.

H2O Man

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