Category Archives: Society

A Book Review . . .

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

Disclaimer:  The views expressed below are entirely my own.  Other people reading this work of non-fiction may have a completely different take on it and find my conclusions to be erroneous.  But they can write their own blogs, this one relays my experience and my interpretations.  Also, the book is 484 pages long, so in my attempt to condense and summarize, I may have to leave out specific details out of necessity.  This does not mean that I did not read this book thoroughly, I did. I felt compelled to write this review . . .

The book is: “Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West,” written by Stephen E. Ambrose.

I give Ambrose credit for his research and thoroughness with telling this story, however, at first blush, I must point out the obvious bias the author demonstrates towards Meriwether Lewis.  All throughout the book, the author describes Lewis’s effort to get William Clark recognized and share equal stature with himself.  For example, the War Department turned down the request to give Clark an equal rank with Lewis and only approved a Lieutenant’s rank for Clark as opposed to a Captain’s rank.  Yet Lewis and Clark decided not to tell their men this and addressed each other equally as Captains.  They served as co-equal partners commanding the expedition.  This was emphasized over and over again.

Yet despite the constant dialog throughout of Clark’s equal status, the author noticeably leaves Clark’s name out of the title of the book.  It is, however, the author’s book and he is obviously free to choose the title, I just picked up on this smack-you-the-face contradiction between the title and what’s conveyed in the text between the covers.  Hard to miss that one.

But before I venture too far with my criticisms, I do want to point out what I consider to be remarkable about the book and the personalities described therein.

There is no doubt that the trek across the American West by these individuals is remarkable.  Round trip, it was some 8000 miles.  These guys were tough.  Lewis frequently walked the banks of the Missouri River while his men navigated via keelboat, canoes, and pirogues, using paddle, pole and wind, and the expedition averaged some 20 miles per day going up-river.  Lewis kept pace with the vessels by simply walking, and I remember at least one mention of hiking some 35 miles in a day. 

That’s tough by my standards.

The men endured various illnesses and treatments with the completely wrong medicines, and all survived except one man.  They also endured times of food shortages and serve weather.  Lewis even survived being shot in the ass by one of his own men with a .54 caliber Army issue bullet.  Whether this was accidental or on purpose no one knows as the shooter denied having shot his Captain.

Sacagawea, a Shoshone, joins the group as the 15-year-old wife of a French-Canadian named Toussaint Charbonneau, who had won her in a bet from the Hidatsa, who had, in turn, captured her in a raid on Shoshone encampment. She was six months pregnant at the time and would give birth to her son during the expedition.  She would also provide her knowledge on food sources and serve as a translator to the Shoshones and assist the bargaining for Shoshone horses to cross the Continental Divide and the Bitterroot Mountains.  Clearly, she endured more than the men, yet little credit is given to her, and the author notes that she received no payment for her services as did the men.  (The party procured horses from the Nez Perce on their return trip as well as collecting some of their previous ones).

Back to the successes of the adventure. 

While no continuous water route was found to the Pacific coast as was sought, the party encountered many First Nations Peoples, promoted peace between the tribes (albeit arrogantly and with no understanding of the cultures and customs), and they did “find” the overland route to connect the Missouri breaks with the Columbia River and mapped out the territory.  I’ll get back to that word “find” in a little bit.

Lewis is credited as being a planter, soldier, ethnographer, botanist, zoologist, geographer, astronomer, cartographer (that was really Clark), linguist, woodsman, and explorer.  Basically, he is portrayed as a God-like figure who most probably carved out the entire basin for the Pacific Ocean with his bare hands after swallowing a dozen buffalo in one bite for lunch.  Oh, please excuse my sarcasm.  On page 482, the author finally backpedals and states: “His talents and skills ran wider than they did deep.” And he points out that his best quality was actually leadership. (Footnote 1) .

In a footnote on page 404, the author credits Lewis by stating: “He had discovered and described 178 new plants, more than two-thirds of them from west of the Continental Divide, and 122 species and subspecies of animals.”  I take strong issue with the word “discovered.”

And now for my real criticismsWhat I said above was just a warm-up. 😊

Ok, so let’s go back to the beginning.  On the very first page of text, in the introduction on page 13, the author states that Lewis was the “first” American to cross the Continental Divide.  Ok, this is a joke right?  The author totally ignores some 14,800 years of history that has been extensively documented of the First Nations Peoples’ occupation and travel across the Americas.  In fact, the expedition had to rely on Indian guides to take them through the mountains on established Native trails.  Had the guides not crossed these mountains first, they obviously could not have served as guides. (Footnote 2).

I will have to say, that I have never read the words “first” and “discovered” so many times in a single book attributing credit to a single individual, while completely ignoring the actual people who encountered these plants and animals and made the journey through these mountains and up and down these rivers for centuries prior to the colonists’ arrival on the East Coast. 

The proper term for Lewis, in these contexts, should be the “first white, European, colonist,” or perhaps “imperialist,” of English descent, who did whatever it was Lewis did after so many others had before him – including, perhaps, French trappers and Spanish explorers. 

Lewis and Clark’s travels were also probably preceded by the British traders based up in Canada that were frequently mentioned because of the desire to shut the North West Company out of business.  But I get it, first “American.” Right. There are only three times that I remember the author saying the “first white man” to have done or experienced something.

I will give credit to the fact that Lewis drafted lengthy descriptions of the animals and plants encountered and putting that into writing in the English language may have been a first.   The First Nations’ Peoples largely relied on storytelling and hieroglyphics but were probably more insightful as to the beneficial relationships and usefulness of the natural resources.  The Native populations also practiced conservation, while the Europeans preferred mass slaughter and harvested resources into extinction, but I suppose that’s another story for another day. (Footnote 3).

Included with Ambrose’s litany of Lewis’s “firsts,” is claiming that he is the first American to kill a Grizzly Bear (p. 247).  Lewis, with his superiority complex, pays no attention to the warnings from the First Nations Peoples about showing this Spirit some respect and how difficult it is to kill one.  Instead, Lewis assumes that if these individuals had trouble killing a grizzly, it must be because of their primitive and inferior skills and weapons.  He soon learns just how wrong he is about engaging in such combat as the Bears show no fear and go on the offensive even when shot multiple times.  His men are seen running away from the Grizzly on more than one occasion.  (Footnote 4).

There is nothing short of continuous denigration of the First Nations Peoples by Lewis with the constant over-lording references to their new “Father” or “White Father” referring to Jefferson (a prominent slaveholder).  Lewis is plagued with an extreme inflation of his own self-importance as he talks down to the tribes and believes he can command them with his pronouncements.  He also never misses a chance, as “ethnographer” to insult the Native populations, even those Nations who provided him with food and assistance.  Never. Even if he has extended a compliment, it is followed by an insult.

On page 357, after describing an instance where Lewis nearly let his anger override his judgment regarding the “Chinookans,” where Lewis may have torched a village if a few goods that had been pilfered had not been recovered, Ambrose states:

To modern eyes, this looks suspiciously like racism, just as Lewis’s resolve to burn down the village raises images of the U.S. Army in the Indian wars and in Vietnam. But if one means by racism a blind prejudice toward native Americans, based upon false but fully believed stereotypes, Lewis was no racist. When he talked about Indian ‘nations’ he meant the word just as he applied it to European peoples. He was keenly aware of the differences between tribes, a subject he wrote about at length and with insight. He liked some Indians, admired others extravagantly, pitied some, despised a few.

His response to native Americans was based on what he saw and was completely different from his response to African Americans.  With regard to blacks, he made no distinctions between them, made no study of them, had no thought that they could be of benefit to America in any capacity other than slave labor.

But, despite his cold-blooded words and resolutions, and his hatred of the Chinooks, what stands out about his journey up the lower Columbia in the spring of 1806 is that he got through it without ever once ordering a man to put a torch to an Indian home, and no man ever fired a rifle at a native. “

I could easily point out the poor choice of words Ambrose uses in this last sentence distinguishing “man” from “native,” but I’ll laugh that one off.  Despite Ambrose’s attempt to paint this white European arrogance as anything but racist, on pages 370-372, for a second time, Ambrose refers to Lewis’s statement made at Lemhi Pass in 1805, “that anything the Indians could do, he and his men could do.”  “Even after seeing the Clastsops and Chinooks in their canoes, after seeing the Nez Perce ride their horses, he retained the notion of white superiority.”  (Both tribes demonstrated vast superiority with their skills over the white imperialists.)

To further cement this notion, if there were any doubt, when Lewis is describing his Indian plan regarding improving the American fur trade, Lewis states that it was “a scheme . . . the most expedient that I can devise for the successful consummation of [our] philanthropic views towards those wretched people of America.” (p.442) Lewis’s scheme was to run the British out and create trade-dependence with the Indians – subjugating them through capitalism in modernity’s tongue. (Footnote 5).

He even thought that to boycott the Sioux, the least susceptible to his pronouncements, would bring them begging to the great “white father.”  Of course, this simple mindedness completely ignores the First Nations Peoples’ ability to survive the harshest of circumstances – those which the white Europeans on this very expedition would not have survived, except for the help of the native populations.

But before I stray too far from my original point, Ambrose’s attempt to paint Lewis’s racism as nothing more than white supremacy is what I believe is facepalm worthy.  Seriously, Ambrose has such a man-crush on Meriwether Lewis that he tries to gloss over what he has painstakingly proven throughout his book. Lewis may have seen and written about differences between tribes, but he believed blindly that whites were superior to them all – that, my friend, is racist.

In perhaps another wave of ironies, Lewis’s and Jefferson’s Indian plan required a full-scale change of all First Nations Peoples’ cultures and lifestyles.  It was predicated on “inducing the Missouri River and Rocky Mountain Indians to become trappers and traders” and to abandon a nomadic hunting and sustenance culture that included inter-tribal raids and conflict.  In fact, a Hidatsa warrior drove this point home when asking Lewis what their nations would do for chiefs should peace be attained, because chiefs were selected based upon their heroic acts in battle.  Bravery was the prime virtue in the structure of Indian politics.

Ambrose continues: “They would have to be conquered and cowed before they could be made to abandon war. Jefferson’s dream of establishing through persuasion and trade a peaceable kingdom among the western Indians was as much an illusion as his dream of an all-water route to the Pacific.” (p. 288)

Ambrose calls this a “great disappointment” that the “men of the Enlightenment” would accept because these men accepted facts, and Lewis, the great ethnographer, through his documentation helped to establish these facts. 

Ok, so I found myself laughing at the concept of these men being “enlightened” in any fashion, and I backtracked to refresh my memory of what defined the so-called “Age of Enlightenment.”  This “age” was defined as a European intellectual moment during the 17th and 18th centuries in which the use of “reason” was the predominant focus for humans understanding their universe to improve their condition; the goals of which included gaining knowledge, freedom, and happiness.  

Another summation, pulled from the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica stated: “The great geniuses of the 17th century confirmed and amplified the concept of a world of calculable regularity, but, more importantly, they seemingly proved that rigorous mathematical reasoning offered the means, independent of God’s revelation, of establishing truth.” (Footnote 6).

So there you have it, these “men of Enlightenment” supposedly fully comprehended the social, cultural, and political structures of the First Nations Peoples and decided the inferior race needed to be conquered to promote commerce. And conquering meant destroying. “While Lewis and Clark had a great interest in documenting Indian cultures, they represented a government whose policies can now be seen to have fostered dispossession and cultural genocide.” (Footnote 7).

To sum up:

The expedition lasted from May 14, 1804, through September 23, 1806.  Jefferson requested $2500 to fund the expedition but he granted Lewis authority to write unlimited “draws” so the total cost ended up being $38,722.25.  That would represent a tremendous sum in today’s dollars.

For inexplicable reasons, Lewis hung onto his journals preventing their publication, and it wasn’t until 1814, five years after his death in 1809, that his journals were published having lost most of their relevancy as the frontier was no longer new and unexplored.

Lewis died on October 10, 1809, at the age of 35 from a horrendous suicide involving him shooting himself twice and cutting himself “from head to foot” with a razor. (p. 475).  At the time of his death, he was suffering from alcoholism, opium and morphine addiction, syphilis, malaria, and quite apparently depression.  

Now there are some facts that were never conveyed in any history class I have ever sat in.

In Metta

Feature Photo: It seemed appropriate to include a pic of the Pacific Coastline in light of the subject matter, an expedition to the Ocean and back. And even more appropriate to include one of Cape Disappointment – right around the bend from where the Columbia River greets the Ocean – the ultimate objective of the expedition. I had a hard time deciding which pic to post because this area is so beautiful. Wish I could have seen it in 1806.

Footnote 1: Indeed, Lewis had received training in these fields through President Jefferson and Jefferson’s associates, but his weaknesses are revealed when he must hire experts to prepare his journal for publication.  Something he delays and that doesn’t occur until after his death.  BTW, he never hired an editor, which would have been the wisest thing he could have done given his and Clark’s own limited proper grammar, usage, and spelling of the English language.

Footnote 2: In fact, there is other evidence of ancient tools being found in Meadowcroft Rockshelter Pennsylvania dating back to 19,000 years old, which could support a theory of early European migration.

Footnote 3: I will use, for the most part, the terms “First Nations People” in place of “American Indians” when describing those living in the Americas prior to the mass European invasion, because there are those who like to contest the terms “indigenous” and “native” because the first people here migrated from Asia on the West Coast, and possibly, although not confirmed, from Europe on the East Coast.  DNA evidence confirms the migration from Asia all the way down through North America to Argentina in South America.  And the well-preserved remains found in Monte Verde, Chili date back to 14,800 years. 

Footnote 4: To put some of my remarks in context, Ambrose is frequently quoting from Lewis’s or Clark’s journals, so they are speaking in the first person.  So when I refer to certain remarks, it is not from an inference by Ambrose, it is because Lewis and/or Clark are directly speaking through their writings.

Footnote 5: We see how well this political plan worked between the US and China., where the US thought the introduction of capitalism to China would destroy Chinese Communism and make China dependent on the US.

Footnote 6: Enlightenment: European History: Age of Reason Aufklärung, siècle de Lumières

Footnote 7: Lewis and Clark Expedition: Pacific Ocean and Return

Rabbit Hole1:

I point out a basic defect with “American History” as taught in this country, which is plagued with bias and inaccuracy. I use for example the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War. Do you think most people in this country actually know the history of this war? When did it start and when did it end? (April 19, 1775 through September 3, 1783.) Most people I talked to seem to think the war either started or was over when the Declaration of Independence was issued on July 4, 1776, and they know absolutely nothing, correctly, about the events leading up to the war.

They also don’t know the history behind who became the country’s first president. George Washington was the first president under the US Constitution, which was adopted on June 21, 1788 and which created the executive branch of government. Washington was elected February 4, 1789. Technically, the first “President” following the Revolution was John Hanson. He was the first President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation and he served from November 5, 1781 until November 3, 1782. He’s even the guy who established Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November, although we know the history behind that has been blurred considerably. Hanson was one of eight men appointed to serve one-year terms under the Articles of Confederation before the Constitution was ratified. See The John Hanson Story.

While some might believe such details are unimportant or irrelevant, I believe knowing the true history, and the surrounding circumstances is essential to understanding how this county’s government functions. Or if it’s in a state of dysfunction. Just like it’s important to know this country was born out of slavery and genocide. It’s convenient to ignore those facts, like the men of the “Enlightenment.”

Rabbit Hole 2:

I have a couple of pet peeves regarding The Declaration of Independence that are appropriate to address in this rabbit hole.  In the list of grievances the colonists delineated begins with the statement:

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

It then lists 27 grievances, the last of which reads:

“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

Chew on that uninformed bias for a while.  Why would the First Nations Peoples feel their independence was declared in this document? And who perpetrated genocide on who?

My next peeve is that people simply do not actually study their own county’s history or read and understand the country’s significant documents.  I don’t know how many times I hear people saying that the United States Constitution guarantees us the rights to pursue “life, liberty and happiness.”  In fact, the Constitution says no such thing.  The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution state that governments cannot deprive any person of “life, liberty, or property” without due process of law.  This is by no means a guarantee, and “happiness” is no where to be found in the document that sets out the supreme law of the land.

“Happiness” is included in the Declaration of Independence in the sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  The Declaration does not set out enforceable law.  Sorry folks.  You’re responsible for your own happiness.  It is not law and is not the government’s responsibility.  😊

COVID the Career Buster – Thoughts?

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

So, I’ve kept my articles that might be classified as political to a minimum, because, let’s face it, people are pretty wound up now days about politics and not speaking very objectively. COVID, however should have never become politicized as it is a public health issue. Nevertheless, people have become polarized over this disease, while many many, many, many bodies pile up.

I was on LinkedIn the other day and a fellow RN had posted that she was seriously considering changing her career because of the stress of yet another wave of full ICUs, all COVID patients, and most beds filled with the unvaccinated. Beside patient census and acuity, she’s dealing with short staffing, and with just plain witnessing too much death.

Most of the replies were very supportive, but a few went off the rails in my view and actually started attacking her. The attacks accused her of abandoning her chosen profession and with providing inferior care to patients that were unvaccinated. Now nowhere in her post did she say she was delivering different or an inferior quality of care to any class of patients so those comments came from nowhere other than bizarrioland.

As for abandoning her career, I mean anyone can change a career or job at any point in time. Who’s business is that? Only the person who is changing their source of livelihood.

One gentleman tried to make a comparison to his military career, saying he fought for his country and would never abandon his fellow soldiers. Ok, so? That’s not apples to apples at all. That’s strawberries to hand-grenades.

So what do you think? Should we be trying to dictate people’s career choices? Should we deny there is such a thing as burn out and force people who have RN degrees back into service? I hope not because I’m an RN and I’m happily retired. I’m also an attorney so don’t start talking about rights unless you’ve consulted one or actually know something about Constitutional Law 🙂

Thoughts? Perspectives? Fire away. I can dodge bullets pretty well.

In Metta

Feature Photo: I chose one of my wildflower pics for this post. A field of Red Poppies lines this road in Washington State. I enameled them to make them look more like an oil painting.

Flowers are always soothing and the poppy has been symbolically associated with military veterans – specifically the sacrifice made by those who served and died in all of our wars. It does seem like we’re at war right now. With a disease and with each other.

I wish everyone peace.

And here are a few articles for fun:

Where are Hospitals Overwhelmed by COVID-19 Patients? Look Up Your State

Nurse Workforce Decline During COVID ‘Unprecedented’: Study

Almost All U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Now in the Unvaccinated

Covid-19: US surpasses 800,000 pandemic deaths

Published15 December 2021 BBC News

A man in a mask walks among flags representing those that died from Covid
Image caption, White flags represent each life lost in the US to Covid

More than 800,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, the highest recorded national death toll from the global pandemic.

It comes as the US reached 50 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Monday.

Most deaths have been recorded among the unvaccinated and the elderly, and more Americans died in 2021 than in 2020.

The US is again seeing deaths rising at an alarming rate.

The last 100,000 deaths came in just the past 11 weeks, a quicker pace than any at other point aside from last winter’s surge.

“The waves of illness that we’re seeing will continue until the population-level immunity is high enough to prevent them. Quite simply, we’re not there yet,” said Dr Keri Althoff, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

It has been more than 650 days since the first American patient dying from Covid-19 was reported in Seattle, Washington (public health officials have since attributed earlier deaths to the virus).

Since the Pfizer vaccine – the first jab to be approved in the US – was rolled out last winter, nearly 300,000 more fatalities have been recorded.

Graphic

In April 2021, two more vaccines – Moderna and single-dose Johnson & Johnson – were approved, and all three vaccines were made available to adults of all ages.

The 800,000 total exceeds the populations of cities such as Boston or Washington DC. The milestone means nearly twice as many Americans have died during the pandemic as in World War 2.

The US death toll far exceeds the official tally of any other country, but experts believe many recorded death counts are under-reporting the true scale of the tragedy.

The next highest are Brazil, with more than 616,000 deaths, and India, which has had over 475,000 deaths.

In terms of deaths per capita, the US currently ranks 20th in the world, trailing several South American and European countries, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Each country in the chart below – except the UK – was initially slower to roll out vaccines than the US. Vaccinations levels in all have since surpassed the US where 61.6% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Reported deaths in selected countries

Deaths from Covid-19 have come in three main waves.

The first – which hit New York City especially hard – peaked in April 2020, before lower rates of infection in the summer and autumn.

A massive spike then occurred last winter after people had travelled and gathered during the holiday season. At its peak in January 2021, more than 3,000 deaths were confirmed a day.

Daily reported Covid-19 deaths in the US

The number of deaths fell significantly last spring as vaccines became widely available, but it soared again by July and through the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant spread.

The elderly have always been the most vulnerable, and despite being the most vaccinated group one in 100 Americans over the age of 65 has died during the pandemic.

Breakthrough cases aside, unvaccinated Americans have made up the vast majority of deaths over the past few months (trends identified in the chart below come from health departments in 24 of 50 US states).

President Joe Biden began calling Covid-19 in the US “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

Weekly Covid-19 death rates per capita, vaccinated vs unvaccinated

Dr Althoff contends that the US had “a lot of barriers” to overcome.

“Trust in science has waned, trust in government has waned, vaccine hesitancy is a powerful force, misinformation is rampant,” she told the BBC.

“We have to do more than just trying to educate; we have to try and understand. That takes conversation and trust-building.

With death rates rising once again in much of the country, she said Delta remained a serious problem,

Public health experts are still figuring out what impact the new Omicron variant may have this winter, but officials are urging Americans to get booster shots to combat waning protection.

Shackled

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

“Yesterday I got a call from the outside world,

but I said no in thunder.

I was a dog on a short chain,

and now there is no chain.”

Jim Harrison, Montana poet

>>>>> <<<<<

Continue reading Shackled

Reconfiguring My Blog . . . And My Reality?

Reconfiguring My Blog . . . And My Reality?

By Harold Stearley at Earthwalking

So, I took a short break from writing after my most recent experience in having my words ripped off.  That sounds funny, almost literal, as though the page I had written upon had been torn from my journal and pasted into another’s.  I suppose that’s as literal a vision as it gets here in this digital world.  One of mysterious computer languages.  Encrypted hieroglyphics.  Translated.  Captured.

And Manipulated.

As of the day of this writing, I had actually begun working on another travel story but my mind was pulled in multiple different directions. 

Continue reading Reconfiguring My Blog . . . And My Reality?

Cyberworld Etiquette And Kleptoparasitism

By Harold Stearley at Earthwalking

Kleptoparasitism. I really love this word. And in the world of the written word, I will equate it with misappropriation and copyright infringement.

I started out writing a long and intricate post about this topic, a problem for my legal mind, and I decided that it was way too much. So I boiled it all down to this:

It is not proper, courteous, or lawful to “borrow” someone else’s work unless you have permission and provide a proper attribution. Without those, the “borrowing” becomes an illegal theft. And even if someone has our permission, if our materials are used in a manner to create a “false light” appearance of ourselves, then that too is prohibited.

Not surprisingly, I have written about this subject before. See my post Lighthouses and Kleptoparasitism .

Below are some links offering suggestions for how to protect your work.

Copyright Infringement – What to Do

How I Dealt With the Theft of My Intellectual Property

What to do When Your Content is Stolen

Prevent Content Theft

Perspectives on Watermarks

This last link, below, appears to be fake. I could be wrong, but it is full of typos, bad grammar, poor usage – highly suspicious – I don’t recommend using it.  It seems to me to be a mimic that looks like a real WP product.

Beware! 

WP Content Copy Protection & No Right Click

And please feel free to share your experiences or insights on this topic.

In Metta

Photo: An Indian Paintbrush (the plant), with a bit of editing fun, and then my giant logo superimposed upon it. Is this what we need to do to protect our work from theft?

Kelptoparasitism, is simply where one animal steals another animal’s food or prey after that animal caught, collected, prepared, or stored that food source in some fashion. It’s a common trait, even exercised by this country’s national symbol – the Eagle.

You can see the analogy here. We writers capture words, collect them, prepare them by arranging them and putting our heart into them, and then store them on paper or digitalize them on electronic media to share with others. And then the scavengers show up.

Toxic Positivity – Really???

By Harold Stearley

I know you’ve seen it.  It is as constant as the Northern Star. 

A continual onslaught. 

It is the branding, renaming, inventing, concocting, devising, fabricating, and excogitating of terminology and buzz words in an attempt to “newly” describe some concept or phenomenon that exists in the minds of the propagators.  It could be something that was non-existent until the label was contrived.  Or it may have existed forever, but someone attempts to claim credit by architecting a word or phrase to rebrand the old as new again.  And the definition of some of these terms can be counter-intuitive as they mean exactly the opposite of what you might think they mean. 

Often, the label comes first. 

Then there is a quest to find evidence to substantiate it. 

Continue reading Toxic Positivity – Really???

Consciousness, Emotions, and EMFs

By Harold Stearley

Yesterday’s post, which briefly touched on the symbolism of the Tower of Babylon, got me to thinking more about how humans seem to like to convey human attributes onto the Gods they believe govern their existence in the physical plain and the afterlife. (This statement, of course, presumes there is both a limited physical and eternal Spiritual existence for us.) And, this train of thought led me down the path of pondering just what are emotions, what are thoughts, and what is consciousness??? 

Three questions get three question marks. 😊

To add to this thought-wave pulsing through my brain, I remembered a response I received to a post I made on another social media platform recently.  The post was this well-known quote:

“Holding onto anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Author Unknown

The response I received was something along this line.  Anger is an emotion given to us by God, and therefore, it is supposed to be experienced and is not detrimental.  That’s my summation of the response anyway, and I may have actually given it more meaning than what the author intended, but that’s the way my brain interpreted it.  I can happily extrapolate further if you like by placing it in the context of current world events.  

Ok, maybe not.  😊

Now, I’ve heard many other claims of things or feelings or “rights” that are supposedly “God-given,” such as for possessing guns, but this comment on anger was a new spin for me. 

BTW, I really don’t think an omnipotent being thought up the idea of a right to gun ownership that then spontaneously worked its way into the American Constitution.   That type of “law” is man-made, as is the weapon itself.  But I digress . . .   

What this is all about, of course, is anthropomorphism. 

We are bestowing human characteristics upon other members of the animal kingdom or upon Gods or even upon other objects – animate or inanimate.  As a literary device, anthropomorphism may make sense because we usually need some descriptive or comparative form in order to carry on a conversion about some things – to visualize them.  It’s also fun.

But utilizing projections and metaphors and analogies is not necessarily the same, nor could it be, as capturing a clear, unfiltered, objective, tangible observation of something in space-time reality. I mean really, why would an all-powerful being be a slave to human infirmities, passions, and prejudices?

I guess that makes four questions. 😊

Now those of us who are not science-deniers, and who have even marginally read about the magnificent machine the human body is, know that a great deal, if not all, of the functions of the body are chemical-electrical in Nature.   If you prefer big words, these functions are neuroanatomical, neurochemical, neuralhormonal, and neurophysiological.

There is no dispute that messages in the brain are tossed about by electrically charged neurons, and as these messages jump from gap to gap between neurons an electromagnetic filed is created around those neurons holding the same information that is being transmitted.  This has been confirmed by electroencephalograms (EEGs) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) and has served as the basis for the theory of “CEMI” – the Conscious Electromagnetic Information Field.

Neuroscientists argue over what this exactly means in terms of consciousness.  And I got to tell you that reading through the scientific journals and news reports, this is some pretty tough shit to conceptualize.  But I’ll try to summarize this in a way we can understand it.

Traditionally, philosophers have argued that there is a mind-body dualism.  This philosophy is a step beyond materialism as it implies consciousness is occurring beyond the physical realm.  Free will is supposed to fit in here somewhere, although there are still debates as whether the mind and spirit are different, or the same, or if the entire “mind” concept should be discarded as being superfluous to a body-spirit duality.

Classic scientists advocate their own monotheism that consciousness is generated by the physical brain itself and its network of billions of neurons.  This is not to say automatically that they disbelieve in the Spirit, but rather that consciousness is distinguished from Spirit.

But the neurobiological dualistic theory being advanced most recently is that we have physical matter, our brain, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that compose our consciousness.  In other words, the difference in the dualistic theories of the philosophers and the neurobiologists is the distinction between matter and spirit versus matter and energy.  

Physically speaking, our brains have some “5 million organically-formed magnetite crystals per gram;” each with a north and south pole, “serving as in/out information channels, the basis for awareness,” forming a complex network to broadcast information at “a fraction of the speed of light, unifying conscious experience.”  Whereas the monistic physical model argues integrated information is physical, the dualistic model argues:

“ . . . that nearly all examples of so-called ‘integrated information’, including neuronal information processing and conventional computing, are only temporally integrated in the sense that outputs are correlated with multiple inputs: the information integration is implemented in time, rather than space, and thereby cannot correspond to physically integrated information. . . .

. . .only energy fields are capable of integrating information in space.”

Ok then, if we can wrap our heads around this so-called measurable scientific standard, we not only have to contend with the concept of consciousness not being integrated in physical structures or physical space, but also with the concepts of sentience, awareness and emotion.  All of which can be considered part and parcel of consciousness. 

Maybe we just have too many words here trying to describe the same thing.  One could simply argue that the EMFs created in, or associated with, our brain are the equivalent of what many refer to as the Spirit. 

Energy fields, like Spirits, flow through space and are not bound to physical structures or to time.  

Now, sentience is defined as “the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively” and is distinguished from thought.  Awareness is having “knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.”  And, emotion is defined as “a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as a strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.”

If the existence of EMFs equals consciousness, and consciousness embodies thoughts, sentience, awareness and emotion, then Mother Earth, with its magnetic field, is indeed a sentient living entity.  As are rocks, plants, and all other forms of life on the planet for that matter.  Maybe we just haven’t learned how to fully measure consciousness in other entities or bridged the communication gap. 

Ponder that for a bit . . .

That’s why I personally find Naturalistically-oriented Spiritual beliefs, such as the ones that First Nations Peoples have adopted, to make so much sense.  Everything is part and parcel of the Source.  “All My Relations” are alive and deserve my recognition and respect.

If we accept that energy fields compose our consciousness, and then add a bit of deductive reasoning, this may very well answer other questions for us and give us a scientific basis for understanding such things as extrasensory perception, telepathic communication, and even how artificial intelligence can transfer to sentience. 

Think of the future of robots.  

And we should also think of the consequences and effects on our own consciousness that creations of ours that emit EMFs may have.  They could be enhancing or very, very destructive. 

So, perhaps this is a scientific quantification of Spirit of sorts.  Science and Religion have always been compatible, so I’m unsure why some try to differentiate them. 

But, getting back to “anger” for a second.  I still believe this powerful emotion is detrimental to us both physically and mentally.   And if you wish to believe it is God-given, then perhaps the Source gives us this emotion as a challenge to discipline our brains and for controlling our thoughts.  After all, traditional dogma tells us that the Source challenges us in many ways to develop and live a spiritual existence free from judgment and the inferior human emotions.  

And no matter how much some people might wish their God was as racist and bigoted and judgmental as they are, I don’t think Gods work that way. 😊

In Metta

Photo: This is an actual image of my brain from an MRI I had. I darkened it a bit so you could see the contrast better of my blood vessels being lit up by the contrast die. Not to many abnormalities present – LOL! I used this image in a bit of prose of mine titled “Neural Roadmaps Revisited.”

Interesting enough, my very first on my blog was titled, “Consciousness.”

Disclaimer: I do not profess to be an expert in such matters as neurobiology, or theology for that matter. I am, however, reasonably educated and enjoy pondering complex questions about the nature of our existence. :-0 I am also open to any other insights or perspectives anyone else may have.

Remember also: the first law of thermodynamics, energy is neither created or destroyed, it merely changes form – thus, it’s eternal in Nature.

Past Blog Posts of Mine on Brain Stuff:

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Writing to Survive

Wired

Boring

If My Memory Serves Me

Brain Games

Sources and Further Readings:

Could Human Consciousness Just Be Brain’s Own Electro-Magnetic Field?

Neuroscience Researcher Todd Murphy Says: Consciousness is the Subjective Experience of the Brain’s Magnetic Fields

Controversial New Theory Says Human Consciousness Is … Electromagnetic?

The Experience of Emotion

Feeling Our Emotions

Integrating Information in the Brain’s EM Field: The CEMI Field Theory of Consciousness

Researcher Proposes New Theory of Consciousness

The Conscious Electromagnetic Information (CEMI) Field Theory: The Hard Problem Made Easy?

Fact or Fiction?: Energy Can Neither Be Created Nor Destroyed

A Jumble of Ideas

By Harold Stearley

Wow!  Lately things have been a bit crazy for my mind.  Or maybe it’s like this all the time. 😊

All the cylinders are firing at once as I’ve been working on multiple things. 

New residence Ideas.  New ways to combat health issues.  New ideas for travel destinations.  A “Castle of Memories” and sorting through many of those memories in picture form.  Deep Introspection. 

So many things I want to write about.  It’s left me in a state of confusion, and a sort of passive paralysis. 

In the background of all this mental masturbation are the insane politics the US is going through, and the needless, self-generated, social unrest. 

You can empathically feel the tension.  The anger.  And it is all so unnecessary.  

And draining.

It’s just a little hard to concentrate right now.

Continue reading A Jumble of Ideas

Conversations – Selflessness versus Selfishness

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

One of the things I like about Word Press is that our posts can generate some great discussion.  Unlike many other social media pages where, on occasion (ok, all too frequently) I see many hateful exchanges.

A couple of days ago a post of mine generated some great discussion on how governments and local communities attempt to shape social behavior.  The idea behind this is to favor what is usually considered the betterment of the whole community or the country at large.

Of course, this begs the questions, “Who gets to decide what’s best for everybody?”  And “Just because it’s best for everybody (if it really is), why should I be compelled to do it.”

It’s a balancing of interests.

Continue reading Conversations – Selflessness versus Selfishness

Nudges

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

So, I’m back to some of my favorite ramblings – terminology.  Only this time with a little bit of a political twist.

While I do have a political section on my blog, I have elected not to fill it with much.  Just too much divisiveness out there right now.  But I don’t consider this piece to really be the subject of irrational argument.  I’m merely puzzling over societal manipulation in one of its many forms, and how it is branded and sold.

That “form” is called “social policy.”  And you may not really realize just how pervasive this is used to shift behavior or the reasoning behind the social engineering in all cases.  But how does one brand this stuff to make it more socially acceptable?

You call it something like “Libertarian Paternalism.”  And then invent the definition for it.  To make it palatable.

For starters, here’s an example of social policy.  The government places a high tax on cigarettes and tobacco.  This has a two-fold goal.  It is hoped that by making tobacco products expensive that some people will stop smoking and get healthier.  The other side of the coin is that if they don’t stop smoking then revenue has been generated with the tax to help pay for the negative health effects created that the government ultimately has to pay to treat.  And to pay for the other societal costs as well, like lost productivity.

I have no idea what the numbers are now, but last I checked, someone died a smoking-related death in this country every ten seconds.

Well, that tax on tobacco is a very direct social policy means at addressing a problem when it’s understood that people don’t always make rational choices.  Nor do they make choices that are good for society as a whole.  Perhaps because we’ve really emphasized the individual in this country.  And, of course, in this particular case, addiction can certainly override rational choice.

And that particular tax (social policy) doesn’t require a fancy label to disguise it in any way.  Nor does a tax on gasoline.  We all know what these taxes are for.  Although people will probably scream if a tax is placed on cheeseburgers tomorrow.

Which brings us back to the label at the heart of today’s discussion, what the hell is Libertarian Paternalism?

In a sense, all social policies are a form of paternalism with the government, either local or national, or even with private interests, trying to elicit certain behavior.  Paternalism, however, runs completely counter to the idea of being libertarian, a philosophy embracing total freedom of choice, the right to live one’s life anyway one sees fit, with only one exception. That exception is that any given persons’ choice or action cannot impede on the equal right of another. “In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have themselves used force – actions like murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.”

Libertarian Paternalism is the idea (or fiction, depending on how you view it) “that it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice, . . .”

So, what’s an example of a social policy hiding behind the label of libertarian paternalism?  Retirement.

Yes, it seems people do not put enough money away for retirement.  And society, or at least a portion of our society, is concerned with this for a couple of reasons. First society (or government and private interest groups) wants to minimize the number of people it has to help support through government action, and secondly, businesses need people to have buying power.  It does no good for a business to produce goods, if a large sector of society (retirees) has no money to buy them.

It’s about them dollars.

Under libertarian paternalism, people are given a “nudge” to shape their behavioral economics.

So in this case, an employer would automatically enroll it’s employees in a 401K plan like a good parent would.  But in order to claim that a libertarian freedom of choice of action is still present, the employer provides an “opt out” provision.  Of course, the employee is strongly discouraged from exercising that provision, or may not be told about it.

The so-called “nudge” is supposed to push people towards choices they would make had they not been afflicted with “cognitive and volitional frailties.”  In other not so pleasant terms, this form of paternalism, as most all are, operates under the assumption that we individuals are too stupid to do what is best for us.

So what do you think?  Are we really too stupid to make rational economic decisions? Should government and private employers step in to make them for us?  Are such types of societal manipulation truly maintaining a libertarian view of independent choice?  Or should the government and private entities simply bug off and let the chips fall where they may?

In Metta

Postscript: I bring up the topic of social policy (or manipulation) at this juncture in time because of the current crisis facing us with the global pandemic.  You might find it interesting to observe what policies and actions are put in place by the government and by the private sector to influence behavior, and think about what the motives are for shaping particular changes in behavior.   There may be things going on that are much deeper than just the appearance of an interest in promoting public health.

Photo:  The US Capitol with a bit of photo fun.  I took this pic back in 1995 when I joined a protest march for safe nursing staffing.

 

The Conman

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

I had finished a couple of beers and an appetizer with a friend at a local pub.  Nice neighborhood.  Quiet part of town.

While he had to leave, the night was still young, and I decided to mosey on over to the bar and have another round before I hit the trail.

I generally like meeting new people at the bar, and I’ve met some fine ones and had wonderful conversations.  Trading stories.  Slices of life.  Different paths in different timelines converge for a bit.

A smiling between souls.

Continue reading The Conman

So Many Buzz Words, So Little Time

By Harold Stearley At Earthwalking

From some of my prior writings, you know how I love buzz words.  Especially in the employee-employer context that I see so often in the management literature.

I’m not really sure what motivates people to “rebrand” and try to stake original claim to concepts that have been around forever, more or less.  And I’m also not seeing any of this “elevated thought” being put into actual practice by all of the “influencers” and so-called “thought leaders.”  In fact, I see the old traditional, industrial-age, top-down, hierarchical, my-way-or-the-highway management structure still thriving.

And regardless of all the hype about worker retention, the words of my past managers still ring in my head that “attrition is our friend.”  In other words, if you were one of the creative ones, the ones that offered innovative thoughts and solutions, that in anyway questioned authority and the old “we’ve always done it that way” mentality, well then, you needed to be driven out of the organization, not retained.  You were a threat to management.

In fact, if you were innovative, you were considered a direct and lethal threat to the management team that was busy (barely) trying to justify their own existence.  They didn’t want any smart folks replacing their glacial-moving, accomplish-as-little-as-is-necessary, paper-pushing to retain their Herman Miller “Cosm chair” complete with “auto-harmonic tilt, intercept suspension, and flexible frame” working “together to give them the feeling of weightlessness.” 🙂 

So, with that slightly cynical and sarcastic, yet realistic, intro, here are today’s buzzwords.  And there was a cluster of them today.  “Unbossing,” “servant leaders,” “knowledge workers,” and “compassionate directness.”

And now that the laughter has subsided . . .

Continue reading So Many Buzz Words, So Little Time

Lighthouses and Kleptoparasitism

By Harold Stearley at https://earthwalkingworld.wordpress.com

I have to tell you,  I’ve not been feeling well.  The living situation is draining me right now so I can’t seem to get very fired up about writing.   So, I thought, why not just add a pic to your photo journal today?  But then I also found a reminder about a word I wanted to write about.

I couldn’t remember why I wanted to write about this word.  I know it wasn’t solely from its basic definition.  I had some application or twist I wanted to highlight.  To play around with.

While staring at the blank screen, I either remembered or thought of a new one. 🙂

Today, you get both, the image and the word.

Continue reading Lighthouses and Kleptoparasitism