Monday, August 27, 2012

Todd Akin’s ridiculous “Legitimate Rape” comment reveals how our Beliefs impact our Thinking and vise-a-versa

So, according to Todd Akin, women’s bodies have their own anti-pregnancy defense-mechanism in cases of real rape, i.e., ‘legitimate rape,’ or something to that effect.  Uh, but wait, he’s apologized for that statement.  Says he misspoke.  But the damage is done and now his own party wants him to stand down and resign.

Akin’s comment was ridiculous.  Did he really mean what he said?  At the time he said those infamous words about ‘legitimate rape,’ he seemed to truly believe that he was speaking truth.  And, apology or not, something was revealed in his thinking.  Ergo, what we think, what we believe to be true, what we assume is right, what we take as real and factual, all has a direct impact on our actions, choices, attitudes, and  behavior, and thereby impacts others as well; for we are all interconnected.

This creates a huge challenge for a diverse, democratic, and pluralistic society such as ours.  How do we make good laws, if we can’t even agree on the moral foundations or principles upon which these laws should be based?

What is right and good, the best way to live?  What is wrong and bad, the worst way to live?  And how does one distinguish between the two?  What is the measure of good and right action?  Why, for example, does everyone agree in our society that rape is a very bad thing, while we are not at all in agreement that abortion is a very bad thing?

Is morality only culturally relative, simply a matter of personal choice, tied to a particular person, place, and time?  Or is morality absolute and universal, to be applied in the same way, in the same manner, to everyone, everywhere, regardless of place, time, and person?  Or is it a mixture of both: universal truths applied relatively, tailored to specific time periods and particular cases, places, and people?

Deciding whether one’s action is moral and just, is not always as easy as we’d like to think.  When it comes to questions of morality and justice, as in so many other areas of life, simplistic—one size fits all—answers, seldom do justice.  This is why we need law courts and judges, is it not?  What we need is sound wisdom, insightful discernment, and good judgment—the capacity to discern and make right decisions in the face of conflicting choices or opposing sides.  (Which begs the question, for what do we accept as the basis of sound, wise, and insightful discernment these days?)

This is why perhaps the tendency on both the far left and the far right is to seek authoritative power to become master over their opponents by legislative rule.  That is, rather than seeking good sound-judgment and wise insightful-discernment on many conflicting issues, our present political approach is to polarize and vote for black-and-white authoritarian laws that strike down the individual and particular freedoms of all opposing perspectives and alternative viewpoints—e.g., ban all abortions of any kind, for whatever reason, whatever the cause, outcome, or means.  Or, ban all handheld guns, everywhere, anywhere, for whomever, whatever the need or reason one wanted such a gun.

Opposing sides take godlike positions.  The atheist, rationalist, agnostic unbeliever wants unyielding authoritative laws to protect his/her godlike status in being able to command his/her own life as he/she sees fit.  Meanwhile, the devout religious believer, asserts his/her particular faith, his or her particular understanding and interpretation of God, as THE quintessential True Faith, and speaks as one who speaks for God, with Godlike authority—to whom all are expected to obey and submit.  (I know, for I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Lord and Savior of all humanity, and believe that you also should receive Him and submit to His Lordship in your life as well.  However, I also believe that it must be a free choice.  That is, you must not ever be forced to become a Christian against your will, nor should you be forced to submit to the dictates of Christian teachings against your will.)

Still, we all believe in morality.  We wouldn’t have laws against rape, robbery, and murder, if we didn’t.  But where then do we draw the line between our differences?  Why do some believe that abortion is not murder, while others of us do believe very much that it is the taking of precious life?  We are not going to get anywhere by simply trying to outmaneuver one another at the voting booth.  A 51% vote in our favor is not going to end the argument, battle, or disagreement as to who is right and who is wrong.  We need to have a serious discussion about our rationale, our beliefs, and about the basis of our moral understandings.  And then we have to find some way to respect our differences, live with our disagreements, while still maintaining integrity with our own convictions—and still remain a united nation.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Heart and Soul of Business is actually NOT Profit

Buyer beware!
     Business is business.
          It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.
               Bull markets, bear markets, loan sharks, sell high, buy low.
                       And money don't grow on trees!

Henry Ford once said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”  So, what is business supposed to be about if not to make money?  That is, what is the heart and soul of business?  Believe it or not, it is NOT making money!

A real business is in business to offer a service, to fill a need, to support and enhance the lives of people.  The profit that comes from providing such service is the reward, so long as it is proportionally reasonable.  Has the American business community lost sight of this basic economic truth?

There have always been loan sharks, robber barons, cheats, liars, and thieves, always will be.  But that is not Main Street America.  Business in Main Street America has always been about providing a service, making a living, not a killing.

A businessperson that says, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” while looking for his/her next victim is not doing real business.  If all a businessperson does is come up with a solution, and then manufactures a need for that solution, no real business is being accomplished.  There are a lot of fraudulent and manufactured schemes in the world of finance, having the sole purpose of taking people’s money away from them.  It’s called scamming, not business.

If the so called bottom line—money, profit, net gain—is all that a businessperson has in mind, his heart is hardened and his soul is dead.  Pity the one who does any business with such a one as he or she.  But a business person who offers a product or service that people truly need and want, and does so with a genuine interest in his/her client’s best interest in mind.  Happy and blessed are provider and buyer; for both have done well and will go home satisfied, knowing that they have served and have been served.

As Charles Dickens said long ago, humanity is our business.  Wake up America!  Let’s go back to the basics regarding the purpose of business.  It’s not about naked profit, winner takes all.  It’s about life.  Remember the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life?  The movie reminds us that the banker should be there to help couples save, invest, and to grow their families and homes.  And in, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s transformation reminds us that money is not for selfish, greedy and miserly hoarding, but for investing in human lives, in their needs as well as in their visions and dreams, to make a better world not only for one’s self, but for one’s community, neighbors and friends.

That’s the ideal America, and that’s the ideal business-mindset.  Profit is secondary.  The primary goal of business, any business, should be to provide a service and fill a genuine need in a context of fair-trade and just exchange, to produce opportunity for better, healthier, and more wholesome living—so that all may grow and prosper in the areas that money cannot buy—family life, relationship building, child rearing, and inner growth—mind, heart, and spiritual development.

If you are a business person, keep in mind the following simple truths.

1. Money is neutral, neither good nor bad.  However, money IS powerful and easily corrupts, and the love of money is truly the root of much evil that is done in this world.  Do not let the love of money corrupt your heart.

2. You can’t take it with you.  He who dies with the most toys… still dies!  Naked you came into the world and naked you shall leave the world.  Jesus said what good is it if you gain the whole world and forfeit your soul?

There is no bribing God.  Having all the money in the world will be no protection against Judgment Day.  (Do you really think there will be no Judgment on your life?)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Should Islamic, Sharia Law, be used in American Law Courts?

There is a growing tension and debate over allowing the dictates of Sharia Law as consideration for determining outcomes in our U.S. law courts, so much so that some states have enacted legislation banning the use of “foreign Laws” in their courts (e.g., the State of Kansas).  Such anti foreign-law legislation is clearly aimed at banning the use of Islamic Sharia Law.

Muslim groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are arguing against such bans.  They want the dictates of Sharia Law to be acceptable and applicable in our American court system, when deemed relevant to a case.

I am skeptical and distrustful.  But let me be clear: I am NOT in favor of a militant attitude against Islam and its followers here in America.  This is a free country.  This country is based upon freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, and freedom of religion.  However, I do have my concerns about the creeping-in of Sharia Islamic Law’s influence, its use and application here, within our American courts of law.  Why?

I’ll give you a ‘for instances.’  Recently a man literally had his hand chopped off, for sheep-stealing (originally it was supposedly a stolen motorcycle).  This astounds me.  This cutting-off of the hand took place earlier this month, Wednesday, August 8th.  It was as a result of the strict application of Islamic Sharia Law; now, today, in the year 2012.  Yes, those who did the hand-cutting were Islamic extremists.  And yes, this happened on the other side of the world, in Mali.  Nevertheless, these Islamic extremists justified their actions on the basis of strict adherence to Sharia Law.  Furthermore, a witness later testified, so I read, that after the Islamists cut-off the young man’s hand, they also put his arm in boiling oil.  Google it, see for yourself.

“That was in Mali, not America.  That kind of thing won’t happen here,” Islamic supporters of Sharia Law will say.  Maybe not, but I have to wonder what will happen here, if acceptance and consideration of Islamic Sharia Law becomes more and more acceptable in our law-courts?

Now, I have to say that I know little about Sharia Law.  I readily admit my ignorance.  Still, I am greatly put-off by what I do see and hear, as to how Sharia Law is used, interpreted and applied by various Islamic adherents around the world.  As I see it, the onus, the burden of proof, is on adherents to Sharia Law—to prove to me, to us U.S. citizens—that the application of Sharia law is not contrary to our own American law system, as to its premises, assumptions, values, and asserted truths—not the other way around.

In fact, the basis of Sharia Law has a very different set of foundational assumptions than do our American laws—especially with respect to religious authority, social justice and its practice, and social values and their implementation.  As it is, we already have a two-way battle going-on between two conflicting world-view assumptions and authorities: the opposing beliefs between secular humanism on the one side and Judeo-Christian beliefs on the other.  Sharia Law introduces a third worldview, a new meta-authority with its own set of foundational premises, assumptions, and propositions.  And at the core, all laws are interpreted and applied on the basis of assumed foundational and universal propositional truths.  For example, I know this much, under Sharia Law, women and men are NOT equal, and women do NOT have the same rights and privileges as do men.  Period!

By writing this, I’m sure to be labeled as Islamophobic.  These days, if you want to discredit a person’s opinion, all you have to do is say that he or she has a phobia about the issue, adding phobic to the end of the subject in question—oh, don’t listen to him, he’s just [in this case] Islam-o-phobic.  To be phobic about something is to have an irrational fear of something.  And that’s the dismissing point, to be irrationally fearful.  And that’s my point.  I don’t think that I am at all being irrational about this.  My fear of Sharia Law makes a lot of sense in the context of today’s world.  At this point, I am not at all convinced that the application of Sharia Law has any rightful place in the law courts of the United States of America.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Two Presidential Mindsets, which do you prefer?

The presidential office is powerful, but not all powerful.  There are always twists and turns, and roadblocks set by the opposing party, two legislative houses that need to agree, etc., and so there are many changes, adaptations, and modifications that happen to a president’s agenda before it’s made real.

Specifics are important.  An economic plan with specific details will tell us a lot about a candidate’s true values, priorities, and preferences.  That’s why candidates seldom, if ever, speak specifics.  All we hear are patriotic platitudes: “If you vote for me, I will create jobs.  I will put America back to work.  I will build America’s future.  Vote for me, because I believe in a strong America!”

Because of this, all incumbents have it easier and harder in an election year—they have a track-record.  The specifics of their governing policies are there, for all to see, either to praise or to condemn—there is no middle-ground.

But then, the problem with looking too hard at the specifics is that the minute details often serve only to confuse and obscure the big picture, the general trend and its consequential direction.  We lose sight of the forest for the trees.  We lose sight of the big picture.  Ever try putting a 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle together without the big picture in front of you?  It is very difficult indeed, if not next to impossible.

Thus, when voting for a candidate, incumbent or not, it helps first to completely ignore their platitudes—after all, what candidate doesn’t love America and isn’t in favor of a strong and prosperous U.S. of A?   As to specifics, well we know that the non-incumbent candidate will divulge as little as possible, for fear of saying/exposing too much.  We also know that a particular spin will be given to the specifics of the policies already implemented by the incumbent, positive or negative, depending on who’s doing the spinning.

So what should we focus on?  Perhaps we should focus on the mindset.  Take our two presidential candidates this election year—Obama, the incumbent, and Romney, the presidential hopeful.  If we look at the mindset that each represents with respect to the economy for example, what do we see?

Here’s what I see.

The Obama mindset is lower-income and middle-class oriented.  The Obama mindset asks, what is best for the typical, hard-working, middleclass American for whom money is tight, jobs are scares, and for whom worries about their children’s education, healthcare, and income security are daily mounting.

The Romney mindset is wealthy and powerful business broker oriented.  The Romney mindset asks, what is best for the wealthy investor, the banker, the company CEO, and top management, to insure their ongoing prosperity and their empowerment to stay on top of things while riding the waves of economic volatility.

The Romney mindset has a “business is business” attitude.  Government is to protect the business interest, especially big business.  There are winners and there are losers.  No pain, no gain.  Meanwhile there will always be the haves and the have-nots.  That’s just the way it is.  So, free-up businesses to invest what they will, how they will—with little regulation and even less accountability—and all will turn out for the good in the long run.

The Obama mindset has a “business is about people” attitude.  Government is to protect the common man from the threat of monopolies; against, for example, the small and wealthy elite that is gaining in economic power and control at the expense of everyone else.  There must be economic justice, equality of opportunity, protection against a few wealthy powerful elites from getting too big, too powerful, and too controlling over resources that should be available to all in a fair and equitable manner.  There must therefore always be accountability and the necessary regulation to go with it.

Which mindset do you prefer to have in the head of your next president?