Friday, July 11, 2008

“Where Are We Headed?"

If there is one inescapable fact of life it is that the life process begins at birth and ends at death. There isn’t much we can do about that. To be sure, we can shorten or lengthen that continuum based upon the extent to which we choose to live a healthy or not-so-healthy lifestyle. We do have some control over that, and sanity suggests that we pay some reasonable degree of attention to that variable.

Like so many aspects of what we are all about, Americans tend to take this issue to extremes, as well. This has led us to a pre-occupation with remaining forever young, and obsessive about how we are going to hold on to the Fountain of Youth. If it weren’t so pathetic, it would be humorous in a morbid sort of way. Ponce de Leon tried to no avail and we haven’t the God-given sense to realize that it is forever beyond our grasp. Despite the extent to which we go in order to engage in the grand self-deception that it is somehow within our power to halt the aging process, it continues to elude us.

All one has to do is watch advertising and entertainment images on television, plus an occasional walk through a local shopping mall to realize just how far a field our obsessions have become.

The risks of bulimia and anorexia not withstanding, the ideal woman must still be little more than a skeleton covered by a tightly stretched covering of human flesh. Add to that a humongous set of boobs and you have the personification of the perfect female. Women with a well-rounded figure are a thing of the past; a relic from the days of old movies and glamour queens. Frankly, I’ll take the figure of a Marilyn Monroe to these human sticks any day.

Modern day mothers seem incapable of permitting their daughters to have a normal childhood. That is passé these days. No matter how young, the sooner they can get them into hip huggers, a bra and a plunging neckline, so much the better. I can only attribute that perversity to some warped notion of the mother’s sense of self-worth. Children deserve to be children, with all the innocence and wonder that goes with it. Instead, they are the objects of doting mothers who want the world to see what a perfect little living doll they have made her into. Conformity comes at a price. Individuality requires courage and a sense of proportion.

Men don’t get a free pass on this one either. Women are not only what they think men want them to be, but too many men, as well, want to be the perfect physical specimen for adoring women, as defined by entertainment figures and advertising executives. In order to do their part, you find them doing all they can to become the perfect male physique; big biceps, washboard abs, etc. This, of course, is the prelude to maintaining their sexual prowess and the envy of others, both women and men. Good luck, guys, because it won’t last forever and when you fall, you will fall big time. Father Time will stare you down and bring you back to reality.

I object to the advertising of prescription drugs, but don’t count out the limitless greed of the drug companies to do their part in this grand deception. Our households are bombarded with advertisements for no less than three different drugs for the purpose of addressing the problem of erectile dysfunction. They have no business being advertised in the media, and children have no business being subjected to that crap either. We don’t need to make a public spectacle of any man’s inability to get it up when “the need arises.” If that isn’t a private matter, I don’t know what is. The health of the prostate is yet another example of a potential male imperfection, and one more case of an industry-induced obsession with the pelvic region of the male anatomy. What is wrong with going to a physician when you have a problem, get a proper remedy and keep it a private matter? Do we really need to subject mixed company to this trash as an interlude in our entertainment bill of fare?

As if the foregoing isn’t enough, we are subjected to advertising of all sorts that shows the male and female of the species just short of total nudity. You would have to be from another planet not to realize that it is all pointing to the success of a sexual conquest. They are laying together in a bed on the beach, sharing a bathtub as the female appears to dutifully begin her decent to the lower reaches of the male sharing the experience, or speeding towards the nearest motel for the culmination of the Viagra experience. I can’t help but wonder how long it will take before we are all treated to the joy of witnessing full penetration as part of our daily entertainment. Sick though it may seem, I don’t discount that possibility one bit. I fail to realize what all the fuss is over a physical act that has been the basis of human procreation since we first set foot on the planet. Common decency dictates that it be a private matter between two consenting adults.

The one ad that I find the most repulsive is for a certain diet program based on a panoply of prepared meals that are guaranteed to produce the female equivalent of Aphrodite and the male equivalent of Adonis. I am convinced that the casting call for the human players in these vignettes go something like this: “Only slutty airheads with big breasts, bone-headed male caricatures with subnormal IQ’s, and has-been actors need apply.” What most strikes me about all this is what more is to be emulated by modern mankind, given his total preoccupation with the physical aspects of what he is all about. Somehow that seems a bit out of balance to me.

I will be the first to acknowledge that we have lost our moral compass traditionally provided by religious institutions. That they have become a means to acquire vast amounts of wealth for those in power, or that they have become gigantic bureaucratic monoliths requiring a battery of ecclesiastical experts in order to interpret the way to salvation goes without saying. But, I raise the question as to whether it is in our best interests, as people and as a civilization, to simply walk away from them and seek to define human conduct and morality strictly on our own terms? It seems to me that is an open invitation to slide into a state of total depravity, given our proclivity to rationalize our own self-indulgences at the expense of the finer aspects of our human nature, and at incalculable cost to our civilized existence. Is it not better to stick with what we have as religious institutions and try to change them from within, rather than abandon the only guiding lights of human decency we have left?

Christ walked with the common man and chose his disciples from the most humble among us. That is good enough for me and seems like a pretty good starting point for insisting that those to whom we have entrusted our salvation address our needs. Duping us into believing only they have the answers we seek, and only for a price, just doesn’t make much sense. In the final analysis, we are their “customers” (to use a chick term). I don’t wish to minimize their knowledge or the purity of their intent, but they need to understand that those who sit in the pews are not a bunch of sheep waiting to be led to slaughter. Rather, a goodly number of them have minds capable of critical thought, and have significant expectations of the clergy to respect that and to deliver the goods. Using the ecclesiastical shroud of mystery as a method of control just doesn’t wash in today’s world.

I don’t see that being glued to a television screen, a computer monitor, or staring blankly at the latest hand-held electronic companion is necessarily good for us. Maybe it is time for us to take some time away from all those electronic toys and reacquaint ourselves with family, friends and the human race. I have no doubt that would produce a wonderful world of re-discovery as to who and what we are, and would enrich our lives immeasurably.

In so many ways, we are a lonely, empty, and impoverished people. We not only need to take care of the earth we share, but we need to share a common purpose and care about each other through every step of this earthly journey. When we come to the end of that spectrum from birth to death, I choose to believe we will be much better off for having done so, and our immortal souls will be ever so much more pleasing to our Creator when we make that final journey. I accept that is beyond empirical proof and is nothing more than a simple act of faith. But what hope do we have without it?

Cowboy Bob
July 11, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"Crime and Punishment"

In the time I have been around on this terra firma, I have witnessed successive generations of spoiled brats evolve into self-absorbed adults, begetting even greater spoiled brats who morph into even greater self-absorbed adults. We now live with what I perceive to be a population of totally selfish humanoids, totally obsessed with materialistic and hedonistic pursuits, and reveling in the bliss of self-imposed ignorance the likes of which I never dreamed possible.

The first discernible leak in the dike seems to have occurred around the time when Dr. Spock made the scene and firmly established the beachhead of permissive parenting. That set the stage for the spawning of all sorts of disciplines subsumed under the title of “behavioral scientists,” that found a reason and an explanation for every conceivable kind of aberrant human behavior. It seems as if everyone is now the victim.

I grew up in a time when it was rather well understood that privilege belonged to adults and, with hard work and maturity, children would eventually earn their place as adults, with all the rights and privileges thereto pertaining. We have now evolved from an adult-centered society to a child-centered society. No longer do we give credence to such notions as character, honor, integrity, discipline and morality. Those are as passé as home-cooked meals, and what a price our society has paid for their indulgences and our folly. Discipline begets self-discipline. Self-discipline begets character, honor, integrity, and the very moral fiber that binds good and decent people together. With the passage of time and this evolution toward more permissive enlightenment, we have little more than social, political and economic chaos.

One of the most glaring consequences of what we have wrought is the naïve belief that we are all governed by the same system of laws. Rather, the application of laws seems to be situational and, more often than not, predicated on economic and social status. If one is a member of the elite Washington Establishment, it is almost certain that the laws of the land simply do not apply, save for a peek in a restroom stall or cavorting with a prostitute. Otherwise, our nation’s Capitol, and indeed the country, are up for grabs. One can lie a nation into war, flaunt the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, consign over 4,000 young men and women to an early death, and bankrupt the country without so much as a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile, impeachment is “off the table,” per Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. After all, they cannot put the nation through all that, but they will dutifully go out, wave the flag, extol the virtues of those having made the “ultimate sacrifice” in order to protect our country, and bankrupt the nation without so much as a whimper. On the other hand, if one is at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum, you can bet your bippy that the strong arm of the law stands poised to randomly strike for the least serious of infractions.

I am sufficiently idealistic as to cling to the belief that the law should apply equally to every citizen of this country. That crime is on the rise doesn’t require a battery of polls or social studies to confirm that fact. All one has to do is to watch the evening news with some degree of regularity. However, what we throw some people in the slammer for and let others off for begs logical explanation.

I think we need to re-visit the merits of individual responsibility and accountability. If you did it, you pay the consequences. On the other hand, I think the whole issue of what we incarcerate people for needs to be re-examined. Our system is all over the board and simply makes no sense whatsoever. There are just too many people in prison for crimes that don’t warrant incarceration. There are, also, too many people walking the streets who should be cooling their heels behind bars.

Individual and collective responsibility need to be re-introduced as essential to life in a civilized society. “Doing your own thing” is a credo for excesses that even the most primitive of cultures abhor. That particular philosophy has been around for a sufficient period of time to clearly establish that it has not and does not accrue to our collective benefit.

Parents should be held responsible for the actions of their offspring up to age 18. If one of their little dimpled darlings destroys or vandalizes property or does bodily harm to another, well Mom and Dad should be on the spot for paying recompense for such behavior, even at the expense of re-financing the home, car, etc. The taxpayers should not have to bear any part of the burden. We have enough on our plate with myriad other more pressing needs.

I just don’t buy into all that is peddled by the various organized groups of bleeding hearts that salvation is there for everyone, if only we will give him or her another chance. Some people are just bad from the “get-go” and no amount of resources beamed at restoring them will ever produce positive results. It shouldn’t take a brain buster to objectively determine who falls into this category, so they can be duly put away in order to spare society the cost of their criminal behavior Violent career criminals and sex offenders readily come to mind.

I am one who just doesn’t happen to believe that violent sex offenders and pedophiles ever change. As far as I am concerned, there is no cure. Violent sex offenders should go directly to the big house with no possibility of parole. Following the outcome of their appeal, if the charge still stands, castration and a guaranteed lifetime cell should follow. As for non-violent pedophiles, the minimum sentence should be lifetime parole, with the clear understanding that the first time he falls off the wagon, off with the plumbing and directly to the slammer without passing “GO” and collecting $200. If you abuse it, you lose it. That should be easily understood.

As for the rest of those wayward souls who run afoul of the law, I don’t lump them all together. We need to seriously look at a two-tiered prison system.

For first-time offenders, minus sociopaths and violent criminals, the prison system to which they are consigned should be based on a model designed to provide maximum opportunity for rehabilitation and their return to society. Life and accommodations there could be modeled after that provided for basic training to our armed forces. Education and a therapeutic milieu should provide for the opportunity to acquire an education and learn how to master the skills necessary to be functioning members of society. Entertainment and literature should be devoid of violence and sexually explicit materials. Access to the Internet should be restricted if not prohibited altogether. College courses could be taught for credits toward a degree. As the foundation for a sound liberal arts education, a course should be available on the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written. Given that the population is there because of criminal conduct, there would need to be a structured regimen and a disciplined lifestyle.

Part of the sentence should be a field trip to the second of a two-tiered prison system, the one for career and violent criminals, augmented by classes on what it means to be a member of that population. The message and admonition should clearly convey that if you don’t make it after the first tier, the next time you offend you will be on the fast-tract to the real deal, where rehabilitation is not the order of the day; punishment is.

Because we seem to have lost sight of the value of discipline and punishment in favor of what are euphemistically referred to as “country club prisons, life in the second-tier prison system should be hard time characterized by an austere lifestyle and hard work. Entertainment should be limited to educational television channels and public broadcasting. No videos or access to the Internet. No violent or sexually explicit materials of any kind, including reading material. College courses could be made available, but not in Law or Criminal Justice. Time devoted on how to beat the system should have no place here.

Workdays should be 10 - 12 hours, six days per week, Labor would be devoted to manual arts such as making license plates, and building furniture and pre-fabricated homes for indigent populations, victims of disasters, military bases, prison populations, etc. Proceeds from disaster relief and welfare organizations could be used to defray the cost to the taxpayers for operation of the prison systems.

The option of parole should be applied within strict guidelines and not be subject to liberal interpretation where society is likely to get the short end of the stick. John Q. Public has had quite enough, thank you.

Cowboy Bob
July 2, 2008