A Larger View

a commentary on how current events reflect— or not—our search for higher values

  • Volume XXII
  • No. 1
  • January/February
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

The pieces are reposted from some of the entries in InnerLifeDirections.com

in this issue:

  • The Fight Against Deportation
  • Antibiotics Immuinity
  • Trump's Victory and Trumps' Ideas
  • White Nationalists--TheChain's Weak Link
  • For Profit Colleges Redux?
  • Fear and Fears
  • To Ponder On

The Fight Against Deportation

There’s already the outline of a movement to fight whatever the Trump administration may do about deportation.  Several Ivy League universities including Harvard, are making plans to protect the students there illegally, some young people in the US since childhood. The Catholic Bishops have asked Trump to rethink his planned deportation policy. Cardinal Jose Gomez, head of the Los Angeles diocese has already expressed his opposition to deportation. There’s also the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Charlie Beck, who declared that deporting people is not the job of the police. The Los Angeles Unified School district has also reaffirmed that its campuses are safe zones, that is places where immigration agents are not welcomed.. Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C. along with several others cities—32 so far in California, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut and several other states—are sanctuary cities, that is cities where people here illegally are not prosecuted just for being here illegally. While it’s not a guarantee and the concept has no legal standing, it nevertheless indicates that these cities are and will be more welcoming to illegal immigrants. There are already several churches readying to help, if not shelter, people who are at risk of deportation. And there are many local and state organization also prepared to fight against a deportation order which would wreck lives, endanger families and in some cases people.

There’s something heartening about knowing difficult problems are not as insoluble as they appear, that solutions are being worked on—for whatever creativity was and is  involved in tackling the problem of antibiotics, lets us know other difficult problems can hopefully also be tackled.

Antibiotics Immunity

Sometimes problems seem insoluble, that does not mean they are. We have been told about a coming apocalypse due to many people no longer responding to antibiotics. At least 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections. Antibiotics have been overused not only with humans but with cattle, because some time back it was thought that giving them to cattle would make them grow faster. The consequence is that as those antibiotics affect the whole animal, and in turn the meat we eat, we end up ingesting more antibiotics than we realized. Now several things have shown that when used together they make a difference. It started with an experiment by a USC psychology professor and because the results were so positive, they are now being applied more generally. They got doctors to prescribe antibiotics more judiciously. They also sent their patients letters informing them of the need to take antibiotics more carefully. The letter was posted on the walls of the doctor’s office. Then they used a ranking system, ranking doctors on how many antibiotics they were prescribing. And too they set up computer alerts for those doctors prescribing too much. When all these things were tried together the number of antibiotics prescribed was greatly reduced. It is a protocol now being used not only in many parts of the US but also in other countries. But the use of antibiotics on animals and how those antibiotics trickle down the food chain is an even bigger problem, partly because not using antibiotics   involves taking care of cattle in a totally different way. But experiments in the Netherlands have been successful. Another part of the solution researchers say will come as they learn more about bacteria.

There’s something heartening about knowing difficult problems are not as insoluble as they appear, that solutions are being worked on—for whatever creativity was and is  involved in tackling the problem of antibiotics, lets us know other difficult problems can hopefully also be tackled.

Trump’s Victory and Trump’s Ideas

In this era of fake news, it’s even more important to think clearly.  That’s why this Los Angeles Times Article on how Hollywood is trying to adjust to a Trump presidency, made me wonder how much we do.  I write this not so much as an example of how to think clearly, but as one to question some of the things we read.  In this case the issue is not being pro or con Mr. Trump, but of more correctly interpreting the meaning of his victory.  The article read, ” –but his defeat of Hillary Clinton was a stinging repudiation of the political correctness, diversity and liberalism celebrated by much of the entertainment business at a time of bitter arguments over the nation’s ideals.”  Placed in context of a few facts, how can that be?   How can his victory be a stinging repudiation of “political correctness, diversity and liberalism”? At my last checking Hillary Clinton received 2.7 million more votes, or about 2% more. Given that Mr. Trump and his associates won an electoral victory (to be clear, a substantial one), not a popular one, it would seem that he and not his ideas won. Of the 200 million registered voters, Mr. Trump received something like 62 million votes, which represents less than a third of registered voters, and certainly a fraction of the 324 million that make up the US today. Several  (not all) commentators, columnists, politicians and journalists seem to assume as the authors of the above quote that Trump’s winning of the presidency means victory for his ideas.  Doesn’t seem we ought to interpret it so dogmatically.  Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that only his supporters voted for both he and his ideas? And when seen in a larger context of the electorate, they are indeed a minority.  In the spirit of fairness, columnists and commentators seem influenced by the fact that the electorate also voted for a Republican Congress. Yet let’s consider the desire for a switch of party, the number of people who were yearning for an alternative to the values of the Democratic Party, loyal Republicans who willingly or not voted for Mr. Trump, and those votes would tend to reinforce my assumption that many voted for Mr. Trump, not necessarily for his ideas. Given the intricacies of how our political system works, Mr. Trump may legitimately be the president, but since more people voted for other candidates (including the 7 or so percent who voted for third parties), he cannot be said to have a mandate for his ideas. Assuming there is validity to this line of reasoning, the majority of voters are leery, doubtful, resistant, or in some way against the ideas he seems to hold.   Mr. Trump, however, who is very much of the view that he won a resounding victory on all fronts, is giving indications that he is governing to please the extreme right.  Thus, he seems to represent the interests of only a fraction of the electorate. If my deduction is correct that though he won, his ideas did not get overwhelming support, some may either take hope, or caution, from the question both his supporters and his detractors might want to ask:  Given the numbers, is he setting himself for a fall?

P.S.  If my view isn’t sufficiently clear, feel free to amend it.

White Nationalists—The Chain’s Weak Link

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It’s a saying that seems to have relevance  to Donald Trump’s election. Much is being said about those who form part of his base, if not the majority of it, the white nationalists, the alt-right, by whatever name those who have a belief system that to most of us represents intolerance. Given the trend of the US electorate, the trends of US society, these are people who seem anachronistic, with values that run counter to the movement of inclusivity and pluralism. Their values appear to feed racism, sexism, homophobia , xenophobia and many of the categories which as a whole our society has been in travails to overcome. To many reading this it may be that implying or calling them the weakest link is judgmental. And yet no judgment is meant, rather an assessment, an observation even. Their values do not work toward eliminating divisions. If one believes, as I do, that that is what we ought to continue doing, then their values, are hurtful to what we see as a goal, a goal which to many means the well being of the whole society. They have felt left out ,now they feel they can prevail and we want to know what we can do about it.  Ignoring them is not an answer. Condemning them out right even though we may decry or hate their beliefs will get us no where, exacerbate their sense of alienation and perhaps strengthen what makes them the weakest link. Besides in many cases it may be unfair, they have after all the right to their own beliefs.  What to do is complex, and beyond the scope of this piece, but how to begin is not. We begin by acknowledging them, by understanding them, by familiarizing ourselves with why they believe what they believe (note not just what) and  by realizing that they’ve been hidden  and now they’re  in the forefront, out of the shadows, that  now we know where the weak link of the chain is—the first step to eventually heal  the breach that link speaks to.  Just like a weed that needs to grow to be more visible and provide the incentive for us to pull it out, their new visibility provides us with the incentive to  make sure white nationalists and the alt-right do not interfere with our march to inclusiveness.

 For Profit Colleges Redux?

The headlines caught my attention “ For Profit U.S. Colleges Attract Investor Interest”. After the debacle of Corinthians schools, ITT and De Vries, where thousands of students were left hanging owing money or holding useless degrees, the mere indication that for profit schools are having another round sends a red flag. It was a short article in the business section of Reuters News Service talking about two  for pro profit schools companies, Strayer Education Inc and Capella Education Co, having made better than expected gains on their returns and how their shares had gained  even more after reporting their quarterly results  a few days before. It’s enough, for me at least, to feel alarmed, particularly given the tenor of the times where public education is not, as it was not long ago, considered  a must as part of our society and culture. The stock market exists to increase investors’ capital. I grant that premise.  Still increasing capital in ways that are not productive for the society of which it is a part is something that ought to give all of us pause.  I doubt socially conscious funds would include them in their portfolio. And that’s precisely the idea we need to think about. How many of us want to make money either out of the misery of others of causing misery to some? And if this were not enough, then there’s another idea worth pondering, that education and profits are not a good mix.

Fear and Fears

An article about why some of us crave fear tickled my concern. It cited the research of Dr. Katherine Brownlowe, a behavioral  neuropsychiatrist at Ohio State Medical Center. I googled her to see if I could get more information on her research. I wasn’t able to which of course does not mean it is not important. And too newspaper articles’ renditions of scientific research has been known not to provide full contexts and end up misleading. All that acknowledged, my concern is not lessened. The article was trying to give some idea of what it is that makes people seek what’s scary at times such as Halloween. Besides Halloween, which to my mind is in some children’ minds  more associated with candy and fun than with scary things, there are haunted houses, and thrill rides at amusement parks.  I  admit that I can’t help asking whether this is the kind of research which could  help to understand what fear really is, and wonder how the research project was designed. That was actually  one reason I went googling and searching because as it stands it all seems like such a First World idea of fear, leaving out  the experiences of billions who have no choice  as to how they  undergo situations fraught with fear. I keep thinking of people in Syria exposed to bombs, and other fear inducing realities. Is there no difference between someone deriving pleasure from seeing a zombie amble towards them and someone in a war zone exposed to torture, deprivation, ordeals? And what about the fears of being abused, persecuted? There are people being trafficked, raped, whose dignity is being robbed, people who fear for their life, their children’s next meal, people who die for lack of proper medical care. Wouldn’t  there be something absurd, superficial, naïve, perhaps callous, about lumping the kind of fear behind pleasure seeking, and the kind of fear millions, if not billions, of people are forced to experience?  I do not feel compassion for the fears of someone who willingly goes into a haunted house in order to have fun. But I do feel much compassion for those who  by necessity are  placed in fearsome situations. As a young girl I witnessed a riot, where besides other frightful things, many bullets flew, one landing less than a centimeter from my head. To me real fear has nothing to do with pleasure seeking. I’m sure both the journalist and Dr Brownlowe meant well, yet  I am  still troubled by what appears to be  equating  one kind of fear with the other. For if it is, it would reflect an insensitivity to a problem facing an increasing number of our fellow humans, an insensitivity which may contribute, if not create,  obstacles to needed compassion.

To Ponder On

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

   Anne Frank



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