A Capital Idea Part 120: More is not Better, except for Love

On Monday, I ran into Michael, my student from last year who has Asperger's Syndrome. It turned out that he needed to interview some professors for a class assignment, so I volunteered to let him interview me. During the interview, he asked why the school had never made me a full-time professor, to which I replied that I had never asked to be full-time. I told him that in fact, with all of my activities, I had never really wanted to be full-time even if my pay was restricted. Michael seemed surprised, but only for a moment, then seemed to think that made sense.

Sadly, we in the U.S. have been sold a sort of "more is better" mentality -- more work, more money, more toys, faster cars, bigger houses and yards; all of these things are draining us and draining our resources as they pollute our environment and imbalance our lives. That probably has something to do with why so many Americans seem to be opting for alternative lifestyles in which work is not so central to them, even if it means less income. The "more is better" mentality also probably has something to do with the fact that psychology researchers estimate that depression rates worldwide have doubled in the past few decades. Economists inform us that more people have given up looking for work over these past few years, which is seen by them as a really bad thing; however, this is not neccessarily a bad thing. As long as people can get by financially, even if it means scrimping and being very thrifty, perhaps they are better off than being wage slaves. Perhaps their unpaid activities are actually doing more good, even, than they would be doing with a paid job.

I have seen this coming for a long time, although in the past I have generally framed it in terms of my own life situation. After all, I have had to justify my unusual and idiosyncratic life decisions to a large host of more conventionally minded people. This has helped make me somewhat immune to the opinions of others, if I wasn't that way already. I told people, quite honestly, that I didn't wish to move far away to take a university job elsewhere, due to family ties and especially, my wife. I also confessed, quite honestly, that I wasn't sure how I would handle the time demands and pressures of a full-time academic job, since I wasn't built metabolically for long hours and little sleep. Furthermore, I told some people quite honestly that when I compared my personality and lifestyle to that of the professors I knew, I felt like a poor fit in their culture -- not worse, in fact perhaps superior in some ways -- but certainly, I wasn't the status-driven, hypercompetitive type I was encountering among most of my professors.

However, the most important influence on my lifestyle choices is probably a sense of balance -- a sense which seems lacking in the lifestyles forced upon employees by the typical employer here in the U.S. After all, a healthy personality has many interests and productive pursuits. An all-consuming interest in work, money and material possessions is not only psychologically unhealthy, but is destructive. Yet this is what essentially an economic system of financial capitalism tells us is best for us. As a result, we have overworked, overstressed (usually both husband and wife) adults who are locked into a system and lifestyle which serves both them and our world poorly. It requires massive exploitation of natural resources and labor with little foresight or oversight; the system is clearly unsustainable.

It is well documented that the more "industrialized" a society is, the more resources it requires and the more it contributes to environmental destruction and global warming. Our general justification, as consumers who depend on industrial products to maintain our lifestyle, is that since technology created all these amazing products which enhance our lives, all we need to do is invest in more technology to provide us with solutions to the problems which technology has created. In a sense, this is another example of the "more is better" syndrome. The thinking seems to be that all we need is more technology to fix the flawed technologies of the past, and therefore, we must rely on those with the money to do the investing, to develop these technologies. I don't doubt that technological solutions are possible for many of the problems modern human culture has created, but this is only part of the long-term solution. Clearly, many useful technologies such as cleaner forms of energy, are being developed, but to this point, we have really done little to abate the destruction of our world's environment or climate change. I suspect that we will not until humanity's priorities, lifestyles and more to the point, economic system is changed. As long as the profit motive prevails, people will tend to continue down the greed-greased path of exploitation and hoarding of resources regardless of the consequences. Having technological solutions available, and actually utilizing them, are two different things. If they are too expensive for the average consumer to implement, we will never make much progress through this route. It may take catastrophic events in order to convince the public and to create government policy which neutralizes the effects of financial capitalism, but if we are smart enough to create and utilize all these wonderful technologies, we should be more than smart enough to figure out how to change the way we live.

After all, living better does not always mean having more for oneself. Nature creates a balance, and so should we in our lives -- individually and collectively -- as we nurture a well-balanced environment. If there is anything there can never be too much of, it's not money, land, power, or material things. It is love. I can think of nothing better one can say of a person than that said person did it all for love -- expansive, all-encompassing love. Let us love our world and nurture it rather than abuse it.


Robindell's picture
Robindell 7 years 40 weeks ago

I don't think Mitt Romney agrees with you as he seems to have many houses and many antique cars, but then, he is a greedy idiot.

Today, it seems to me that much of the materialism that you discuss centers around hand-held electronic devices. If someone is not constantly fiddling with a tiny keypad or screen, or talking into a small "black box" of a cell phone, the person must be some kind of luddite. Rather than working too much, some people, such as employees at Hewlett-Packard, will not be working at all. The company claims that the hand-held devices have eaten into the demand for HP personal computers, so they have to downsize their workforce. That some people are with the "in crowd" and others are left out in the cold is sort of a central configuration of our social structure. The case of Morgan Stanley not disclosing possibly adverse information about Facebook's future finances except to those big investors who occupy a privileged position does not seem to me like a big surprise, given the elitist nature of Wall St. and of so-called crony capitalism.

There is an English professor from Emory University who wrote a book in which he claims that text messaging, emailing, Web pages, and hand-held devices have harmed students' reading comprehension and ability to write with any degree proficiency. I heard a discussion on the Diane Rehm Show in which she had on some people who had written books or articles on how the Internet is harming face-to-face social encounters, and how people are becoming more isolated because of computer technology, even though they are often linked to hundreds of strangers merely with a few clicks and keystrokes, and may get to know some of these people better than they ever knew anyone else in person through computerized social networking. One caller to the show identified herself as a social worker, and said that the technology excludes people who cannot afford a computer hooked up to the Internet, or to physiclally disabled people who cannot type on a keyboard.

I have heard that the birthrate in Eurpe as well as in the U.S. as well as the marriage rates have been decreasing. That may suggest less consumption. It also suggests more isolation and less relationships.

After my parents left Chicago, I lived within the boundaries of a national park. I could climb dunes and walk to the lakefront from home. The music of the great composers was and still is a Godsend for me.

Although there are many fine people in higher education as well as in secondary education, and although the cost-of-living has gone up over the years, there is something about the careerism that is emphasized so much on the part of corporate authority figures, some politicians, and educators that has placed greater rather than less empahsis on making more and more money and on keeping ahead of the Joneses. The fact that houses, cars, and even a lousy box of cereal have become so expensive and beyond the reach of many while others wallow in luxury is something that people dismiss. In my view, schoolteachers in the social studies curriulum have failed to teach much of anything about the sociological and social economic concept of social stratification and inequality. Many Americans, despite the Christian majority among those who are followers of any religion, don't seem to acknowledge that poverty, layoffs, or difficulty in finding a job or in making ends meet exist as real problems. In education, the priority seems to be on passing tests, on being competitive, and on completing requirements. To what ends, other than making a living? To get married, you have to impress a potential spouse with a good resume, a nice, shiny car, a fancy-looking or at least a decent house, and it wouldn't hurt to have some social connections to bolster the enticement.

Years ago, someone told me that employers were expecting more time from employees for less compensation in return. Certainly, most employers who offer health insurance have raised the premiums and the co-payments and deductibles and may have excluded more services or medications.

The story of former Democratic politician Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who took over as CEO and Chairman of a commodities futures brokerage firm that was not doing too well, called MF Global, shows the problem with much of our present-day value system. Corzine sunk about $6.3 billion dollars into risky investments, along the same lines as J.P.Morgan Chase, and lost it all. At the same time, $1.2 billion that was in customers' accounts simply disappeared at the company. Corzine thought that it would be o.k. take a huge risk like that and to co-mingle the firm's capital with the customers' funds. I saw on a report on T.V. that Corzine had gone to the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission and pursuaded them not to implement a new rule that would limit how these commodities firms could take their own money out of one area and switch it to large, potentially risky investments. The company I read is down to 500 employees from several thousand and they are there just to wind things down, as they are bankrupt. Of course, the regulators are investigating, but it is too late to save the company from what I can gather, and Corzine's reputation as a big-shot investment executive has been permanently ruined, I believe.

Other than individual contemplation or ideas presenting in classrooms, or maybe in a religious setting, there aren't many places in America or in many other countries that emphasize taking time for oneself and in not being concerned with acquistion of material possessions. Some people do get in over their heads financially with credit cards because they can't afford to buy the necessities, but others are too materialistic and keep on buying unncessary things, thinking that these possessions will make them happy.

So many people in America think they are experts on someone else, when they are both dishonest and ignorant of the lives of others. There are some professors who have talked about how different social organizations that once existed no longer exist, and this has led to isolation and a lack of knowledge about the lives of others. I sometimes think that the answer may lie in that old Garry Cooper movie, Met John Doe, in which people started up John Doe clubs after Cooper agreed to pretend that he had tried to commit suicide. "Stick with your clubs," Cooper implores the people, "they are your best hope."

Because educators and others are not especially following your suggested course of becoming somewhat more intrinsic rather than always looking for some kind of concrete, external acquisition, it is difficult to see how values will change in accordance with the environmental, economic, and demographic realities.

Like you, I work limited hours, and at work, someone told us of a tragic incident that had been unfolding in this county, in the nearby city of Valpariso. A gunman had taken a number of hostages inside of a real estate office. A local newspaper that comes out in the afternoon confirmed the story. I heard on the radio that when police came, one or more shots had been fired, and that eventually some but not all of the hostages were released, and that there were still 10 people being held inside. Also, it was believed that the gunman thought that someone in the office owed him money, and that is why he did what he did. I checked back with news sources and have learned that all of the hostages were released by the man, who then shot himself twice. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition. I hear about incidents like this quite often, including in California, on the network news. To have it happen close to home in this relatively quiet area is unusual, but is in keeping with the trend toward nihilism among Americans.

Maybe you should start out your future blogs like Joe Friday (Jack Webb) did on Dragnet: "this is the city, Riverside" (instead of Los Angeles). In a way, it seems as if much of what there is to write about is like a criminal investigation by a detective, given the unfortunate nature of our society and many of the people in it.

Zenzoe 7 years 39 weeks ago
Quote Robindell:

Maybe you should start out your future blogs like Joe Friday (Jack Webb) did on Dragnet: "this is the city, Riverside" (instead of Los Angeles).

I think he should start it like Law and Order, to wit: "In the Blog Section at Thomhartmann.com this blogger is represented by two separate, yet equally important entities. Natural Lefty who investigates all manner of topics from a Social Science perspective, and Mucky the Mudskipper who slips and slides with goggly eyes and a giggle in the gullet. These are their stories."

Why do you suppose it is that budgies yawn at the sight of other budgies yawning? It's that even their little brains have the wherewithal for empathy. It's where it all begins...


("In the Criminal Justice System the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.")

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 39 weeks ago

Zenzoe, I am not sure whether to think you are complimenting me or referring to my multifaceted ego with its various alters, or both. I guess Mucky didn't fool you with his attempt to attribute his nonsense to some other B.S. spewing friend of his (inside joke). Given the humor and the bump word, I think it's a compliment though. I haven't had a lot of time for following other threads lately between teaching work and other activities. By the way, I got an email in my personal account today, from some person at KTLK radio station in Los Angeles, inviting me to contact specific people at the station to advocate for Thom's show to be put back on that station. I guess they got the info. on me from this site. There was an ulterior motive, though; they were hoping to find more advertisers. Sadly, I am not in a position to advertise anything, but I think I will contact the station manager.

Something that happened with my father is making us even more worried. On Thursday at 6 a.m., we received a call from the hospital. However, they were looking for my father's health care worker, Mia. When I called Mia, she said it seemed like a wrong number. Later, she called back to say that the hospital said my father was ready to come home after his prostate surgery. Yet yesterday, Mia called again to say that my father was being transferred to a rehab place for "at least 10 days" on doctor's orders. He was weaker than ever on his left side, and had apparently suffered a stroke (presumably on the right side of his brain). What Mia told me Thursday did not seem to fit at all with what she told me on Friday. Mia and Maribel both said it appeared to be a minor setback for my dad, but I remain skeptical and worried about his continuing slide. My wife thinks he has lost the will to live so he eats very little, but he doesn't seem that way to me at all. I am not sure why he has been eating so little lately. I am here alone this weekend, since Isabella (Eunice's daughter) wanted to go to Las Vegas for Memorial Weekend, and I am too busy to go, along with the fact that Vegas is high on the barf scale for me.

Robindell, I agree that a lot of what we do here is kind of like a criminal investigation, and Riverside, CA is the happening place in this region (the so-called "inland empire") although I am sure most people in the United States are at most only vaguely aware of this city.

Perhaps you should make some of your replies into blog posts, Robindell. Many of them are very long and full of good "reflective thinking" (a term from developmental psychology).

Your comments remind me of the sad case of my sister-in-law who is now getting divorced from my eldest brother. Hoepfully without revealing too much, she seemed to have the best of everything work-wise -- a highly paid job as a pediatrician, widely recognized as both a doctor and instructor. She and my brother, who is a geneticist, got perks like free, fancy high-speed computers as part of their work, something I never had, except maybe for a few years at U.C. Riverside when I could use the school computers, but only at school. My brother and his wife had ones that were given to them to take home, as I recall. Anyway, despite both of them being well-paid, far better than my wife or I, they have basically gone bankrupt. A lot of it has to do with my sister-in-law's mental condition, which seems to compel her to spend exhorbitantly, but my brother was into the "upscale" lifestyle also until these past few years when he saw what it was doing to them, and he saw the light so to speak and wised up. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, which to me seems like a misdiagnosis, and was given psychotropic medications which my brother says affected her brain in adverse ways. Both my brother and sister-in-law are very ambitious, high-achieving type firstborns. Whether that has anything to do with it or not, they did pretty much fit the mold of the "more is better" mindset and putting the endless pursuit of career to the point of overwork and exhaustion, ahead of other concerns, but I think that has now changed for both of them.

Birthrates and marriage rates have been going down, but the reasons for that are numerous and complex, including the increased use of contraceptives, the empowerment of women (who usually don't want big families), and decline of the middle class, and people being scared of marriage due to the high divorce rate. I may have not thought of a few other reasons in the short time it took me to write that, but loneliness and emotional isolation do play a role, too. Unmarried people are pretty much left to fend for themselves in finding a mate now, in nations such as the U.S. There used to be more cultural mechanisms available to get couples together.

I think the reason that social science teachers have not been teaching their students adequately about wealth disparities, is that when they do that, they are negatively labelled as "commies" or at least, "socialists," words which have effectively been poisoned by conservative propaganda. In fact, I am not a fan of communism as practiced, but I think it is anyone who is not a socialist who deserves our derision.

I have an anecdote or two from my wife's home nation, Taiwan, which might be relevant. Many upwardly mobile people there work so hard and travel so much, that they leave their children for long periods of time in order to perform their work. They are called "space people" in fact, in Chinese, because they are always flying off to other places. My wife mentioned a sad case yesterday in which a mom in Taiwan put a bunch of food on her child's bib where the child could reach it, then went off to work for a week or something like that, leaving the child alone. The child was supposed to survive on the food conveniently provided on the bib. However, when the mother returned, not surprisingly, the child was already dead. An awful lot of us around the world need to change our priorities, both personally and collectively.

Zenzoe 7 years 39 weeks ago

Well, NL, it wasn't either a compliment or a reference to your multifaceted nature. It was simply play, my bouncing off of Robindell's comment, and my having fun translating the Law and Order intro to fit one for your blog. To translate, I needed to think of "two." Mucky had to be the other choice, by default.

And I did want to bump you to the top too.

I know that surgery takes a lot out of a person, and also it risks other complications. If I were you, I'd think it's better for your father to be at rehab too. I'd feel far better about the whole situation. Anyway, I hope he feels better soon.

I also think you might make parts of your blog posts into replies at "Women's Issues are "Side Issues." For me, it has been a truly validating, fruitful thread overall, despite a few kinks along the way. But, I know— you're busy. I was thinking that story about the mother who put food on her baby's bib and left her baby there to die would be one I might use over there. That's so contrary to maternal instinct. It also interests me, because my Thai daughter-in-law's parents left their three children when J. was four years old, to go get education in the U.S. They sent for them later, when J. reached 10, buy by then the damage had been done. I think those cultures are far more extended-family-oriented, and so these things become possible. Just the same, it's hard for me to imagine leaving my children when they're young for any length of time.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 39 weeks ago

I think we discussed the leaving children with grandma and grandpa in Asia thing before, but it is relevant here. Eunice left Isabella with grandma for a couple of years while she went to England for education, and also, by the time she returned, the damage had been done. I think this leaving of children with others for extended periods, is for the most part a relatively new phenomenon in Asia, and may not last since the kids end up hating it generally. Such behavior is contrary to maternal feelings, but so are abortion and infanticide. Things are often very complex where having kids are concerned, and parents don't want to have unwanted kids or kids they cannot well take care of. Yet, we have far too many of those as it is.

That side issues thread really has staying power. I am approaching final exams, so it's difficult for me to pay much attention to other threads. You have my permission to cut and paste relevant sections of my posts into the side issues thread, if I don't get around to it.

The way the Mucky T. Mudskipper and Natural Lefty introduction was highlighted with such pomp and circumstance, I thought it seemed like a compliment. Well, I can see that what you were doing was simply to come up with a Thom Hartmann site analogy to the Dragnet introduction.

By the way, I saw an episode of Gunsmoke the other day. It starred Sergeant Gannon (Harry Morgan) as some country hick with 3 grown, unmarried sons. He wanted them to get themselves all hitched up and start producing grandkids, so they went to town, headed for the nearest saloon, and got themselves rebuffed by the saloon girls. Nonetheless, they picked themselves out a perty one for each brother, and then they went and kidnapped them thar gals and took 'em back to their place, whereupon they romanced 'em by tellin' 'em how perty they were and they could ride their horsies if she gave the guy a kiss, and how they had a farm and a house all picked out fer them to live in, etc. Naturally, after a couple of days, all them gals wanted to do was marry their big handsome kidnapping lugs, except for the one they had brought back for dad.

I thought this show was a horrible example of sexism and male domination. Maybe that example could have a place in your "side issues" thread. I don't know when that show was made, but it was quite a while ago. I think the messages have moderated since then, but I still tend to see the same story line where the leading man picks out a beautiful woman, who hates him at first, and the next thing you know, she is having sex with him, willingly, and she is in love with him.

Zenzoe 7 years 39 weeks ago

It's not a "side issues" thread; it's a women's issues thread, Mucky. ;-) And, yes, you could have put that bit about Gunsmoke there, though, honestly, it doesn't really matter to me. That thread has had a long life, and, while I think it could go forever considering all that concerns women's issues (which are, as Drc2 has pointed out, really men's issues too), it could end and I'd be okay with that. (I just wish Tayl44 would start putting a space after his commas and periods. If I can get him to do that, I'll think the thread entirely vindicated and well worth the effort. I just don't know how to mention it without being obnoxious about it.) The only thing is, most of the message board and blog section posts bore me to death —not yours— if you want the truth. I need a bit more spirit and spice to be interested. And, I'm like you in that I have to limit myself to what I can handle within the time I feel I can spend here, without becoming addicted. I do have a life.

I'm wondering if the Gunsmoke episode was not a joke on dumb-ass ranchers. I mean, that's so blatantly knuckle-dragging! I never watched it much, so I don't know. However, you could be right. That decade was particularly deaf and blind to sexism.

This decade isn't much better in some ways. I recently saw a brief scene from the TV show, "The Closer," where Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson and her lover/FBI agent have an interaction with a difficult police officer. The officer treats Johnson with condescension and disdain, refusing to hand over a report; as soon as her FBI partner speaks up, man to man with the officer, the officer immediately hands over the report. Johnson gives her partner an eye-rolling look of disgust, so her partner says something to the effect of "Do you want the report, or do you want to hold out for a victory for women's liberation?" And we're supposed to go Yuk Yuk Yuk, happy to see her humiliated like that. Nasty!

Anyway, that's beside the point of your blog post. I could tie it in, however, by referring to your comment here: "If there is anything there can never be too much of, it's not money, land, power, or material things. It is love." In the case of women and our liberation, you could say all we need is love, that is, the kind of love that includes respect, and those other Fromm Four ingredients we've talked about before. It's not enough to love, if, in loving, the respect is left out. Lots of people think they love, when they neither know, nor allow for the growth of, their loved ones.

I'm sure the oil barons think they love the natural environment, at least the natural environment that surrounds their mansions and provides beautiful views from their expansive balconies. But they don't respect the environment as a whole. They don't know it; they don't take responsibility for it; they don't care for it or about it. Taking pleasure in the way they do simply adds to the list of greedy behaviors they exhibit. Are they aware? Only in as much as they can use their awarness in their greenwashing ads.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 39 weeks ago

I stand corrected; it is a women's issues thread. I guess the reason that the term "side issues" comes to my mind is that is the relevant connection you make to women's issues -- that they are treated as side issues when they should be core issues.

I just found out yesterday that my mom tried to drive to the nursery on Saturday. She got there okay, but her car hit another in the parking lot. Mia is saying that her driving isn't safe anymore so she took away her keys. My mom isn't doing well at all in my father's absence. To make matters worse -- here I go into denial mode again -- but Mia informed me that my mom's primary physician plans to inform her that she has Alzheimer Disease next week. I don't think she has Alheimer symptoms, except possibly mildly, and nobody in her family had Alheimer's although most of them lived to be quite old. I think that there is something else going on with my mom, although clearly, whatever is going on is not good. Needless to say, I am thoroughly distressed.

Maybe that Gunsmoke episode was ajoke about dumbass ranchers. However, I do find it interesting how an announcer loudly said the names of all the stars of the show at the beginning, as though they expected its audience to consist of illiterate old people with poor hearing. My wife likes to watch Gunsmoke since she discovered it a couple of months ago, so it's mostly because of her that I have been seeing it, but watching television is kind of a study in sociology and social psychology for me, whatever the show, actually. I often watch Chinese shows for the same reason, or to practice my Chinese.

I love your point about respect, Zenzoe, speaking of love. I think that is where I was going in the last part of this post. I am glad you brought up Fromm again, although I forget what his four ingredients are. I do remember about how he talked about love as validation and necessary for psychological health. To make the connection to humanistic psychology, loving is meant to allow for the growth of the person who is being loved. It is a nurturing thing, much as Fromm suggests.

Beautiful views from expansive balconies -- sounds like nature as seen by a socialite. Never mind what goes on where they can't see it. If they screw it up all they want so long as it helps them make more profit, which profit they can use to make greenwashing (as now coined by Zenzoe) ads.

Mucky is feeling rather amphibious today (or is that ambifinstrous?) -- brainwashing or greenwashing, either way works for him.

Zenzoe 7 years 39 weeks ago

Let's get you away from the "Fun and Exciting Lingerie Babydolls" post.

Gosh, thanks, but I don't think the term "greenwashing" is new, NL. At least, I don't see a citation for Zenzoe here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing  ;-)

Fromm Four: Love ='s care, respect, responsibility and knowledge. That really works for me.

I doubt you're in denial about your mother. Maybe her PCP has Excessive Diagnostic Labeling Disorder, EDLD, instead. The doctors sometimes have it, you know. Anyway, don't they have to do an MRI, or something, before coming to that conclusion? It's not enough that she forgets a few things every now and then. Sheesh, if that's the criteria... But really, being told something like that could depress a person badly and exacerbate whatever symptoms she's having, but maybe that's why you're "distressed?" Don't listen to me, though, I don't tend to trust doctors, so I'm probably alarmist on the subject.

I think it's great you're so concerned about your parents. It's interesting how our roles reverse as parents get old and the young become the caretakers. Last Friday I spent the night over at my son's place. During the middle of the night, I had a nightmare (a rare thing for me) and had a sleep-talking incident, more like sleep-yelling. My dream was fairly mundane— took place in the kitchen/den area of my son's home, where I was actually sleeping; in my dream, J., my daughter-in-law was in the kitchen preparing food; I was on the couch, and a sinister-looking intruder was opening the sliding glass door, getting ready to attack us, or so I imagined. I couldn't move, so I started calling out for my son, by name, trying to get him to come downstairs and rescue us. As it was, I woke the entire household, well, except for my grandson who slept through the whole thing. First, my granddaughter woke and was frightened; she went in to S. & J's room, woke them, telling them a zombie or something was yelling. Soon my dream was interrupted by my name being called by J. The next morning we all had a good laugh over it. The point, of course, is that somehow I've come to know my son as my protector on some level, the way children feel about their parents. Exactly when our roles reversed, I don't know. But it seems true now.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 39 weeks ago

No, that wasn't a yelling zombie; it was a yelling Zenzoe. My wife occasionally makes frightened noises during nightmares, and so do I apparently. That is a pretty normal phenomenon, at least until somebody decides to label it "Traumatic Dream Disorder" or some such, and sell a pill that stops people from dreaming, thus negating any chance of having a nightmare, and of course, ignoring the fact that dreams are generally good for people.

I think you would be the same way as your son if one of your younger relatives had a nightmare that woke everybody up, but your point is well-taken that the roles of caretaker and caregiver seem to subtly and unofficially reverse over time. My eldest brother told me the same thing recently.

I must admit that my mother forgetting to take her thyroid medication for 2 months was startling. However, this was exactly when my father was in a rehab center from mid February to mid April, so I think it was psychological. Some of the other things my mom does not remember can be alarming, like when she was driving and forgot where she was going, or when she doesn't fill out checks properly, but the stuff she does remember and her talkativeness indicates pretty good cognitive function to me, despite the signs of increased forgetfulness. She has always been forgetful, a fact which her doctor surely doesn't know, and clearly, the situation with my dad is bothering her.

I don't really trust the medical profession either, which is sad coming from a doctor's son. I do think my mom's PCP has Excessive Diagnostic Labelling Syndrome. So does my dad's PCP and other doctors who deal with him.

I thought you made up the term "greenwashing." I stand corrected once again, but we Giant Mudskippers are amphibious so it doesn't really bother me one way or the other.

Now to the really important stuff:

"Fromm Four: Love ='s care, respect, responsibility and knowledge. That really works for me."

Those are the things that there cannot be too much of.

Speaking of too much of something, I think that may be my equivalent of your "boredom" with a lot of the stuff that goes on in this site. I see somebody post something -- either stupid or smart -- about any of the myriad of surefire topics, then a plethora of replies from each particular individual's own perspective, and I get the feeling that it's sort of like trying to beat a Porcupine to death by flogging it with a bunch of wet noodles. They go around in circles and never seem to get anywhere -- not all threads, but many of them. You have the inevitable conservatives with their talking points endlessly babbling and hoping to convince the rest of the world and most importantly, themselves, that they are correct, then you have various progressives with their own pet peeves and personal agendas adding their perspectives. It all adds up to an unsavory stew in which the ingredients never seem to mix, kind of like oil and water. People end up talking at each other rather than to each other, and to join in the conversation after a bunch of posts have already been made seems rather difficult and pointless to me. Which ones of the many topics brought up or points made should one address?

Then there are the blog posts with titles such as: "The Reason Why to Keep the Postal Service," or "What is the Differences Between the Political Parties?" Apparently these people weren't paying attention during their grammar school grammar lessons.

Well, I have griped enough for now. There are a lot of good threads on this site, too, threads that really go "bumping" along.

Now it's time for me to get back to those Fun and Exciting Lingerie Babydolls. That was a joke, in case anybody on this site has Joke Miscomprehension Syndrome.

Zenzoe 7 years 39 weeks ago

Here ya go, just the blog post we've been waiting for: Learn how to get Reduce Hemorrhoids Fast and simply. One can't tell if the author meant "how to get" hemorrhoids, or "how to reduce" hemorrhoids. I guess that's the beauty of clueless editing.

I laughed throughout your last post at #10, so don't think I have Miscomprehension Syndrome. (I also wonder why the spell checker thinks miscomprehension is spelled wrong.)

When you wrote this blog post, did you consider calling it, "Less is More, Except for Love?" "Less is More" was the artsy ideal as I was going through school; then it became a cliché. So, maybe that's why you came up with "more is not better..." And anyway, it fits your idea, without making an unintended reference to the artsy ideal.

I like the wet-noodle vs. porcupine metaphor, and I agree about the futility of engaging on some of these threads. However, I have to say I've found the Women's Issues thread to be highly productive. For one thing, I've learned a lot, not only about others and their views, but also about myself. I don't know if I can claim to be an eco-feminist, but I do find eco-feminism to be simpatico with my leanings and plan on learning more about it. Also, it's been a growth experience for me, if you'll pardon the pop-psychology expression. (...but enough about me— what do YOU think about me...?)

But yeah, the grammar atrocities committed on this site! Well, if a blog title is too illiterate, I won't bother opening it. That saves some time. Sometimes I know the author from the title too, so, even if it has typos, I might still open it.

I've been reading The Spirit Level today. I think it's going to help me grasp some concepts I don't quite get yet.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 7 years 39 weeks ago

When I go on the Internet and possibly write something at Thom's site, it is often after work. I only have limited time because I use computers at the library. I don't have the Internet at home as I don't want to subsidize some greedy computer company by buying a new computer or some Internet connection service. It wouldn't pay for me to have a connection at home as I wouldn't use it that much. Since I usually only have so much time until the library closes, it is easier for me to put all of my eggs in one basket and for th sake of efficiency pull all of my thoughts together and respond to some of your posts. I have been told that I have some analytical ability, but I don't get to use that ability at work, and you posts stimulate me to think and to recall things I have read or thought of recently, or in the past. That is what a teacher is supposed to do, after all, so it is only natural, no pun intended, given your profession. It serves as a kind of outlet for me. I hope that these comments not only give you feedback on what you wrote, but possibly suggest a few topics for either a future blog or for further research.

I am not too comfortable using the message boards. Even though it is public, there seem to be a whole lot of concentrated conservations. My comments usually go unmentioned and are mostly ignored, so I choose not to participate, for the most part. I may make a few comments infrequently in Thom's blog comment section. Why some threads go on for many pages and others get no replies or only a few, and why some just fade away all of a sudden, I don't understand.

Teachers, in my opinion, should be able to present facts without fear of public misunderstanding. Providing facts on wealth and poverty should not be allowed to be blocked or censored by members of the public. Even many conservatives will concede that we have poverty in the U.S.; they just tend to disagree on the solutions. Students in improverished neighborhoods should be able to have an opportunity to observe some of the social problems they see around them or have experienced themselves. Part of it is simply the need to explain why something is worthwhile spending the time and effort to learn about, including the economic advantages to individuals of developing knowledge and skills.

How do you best reach children, particularly male children, who don't have fathers?

In my job, even simply driving to work as well as observing and interacting with the public, I see the signs of aggression, selfishness, anomie, or normless, and social superiority toward others, and a lack of common sense regularly. I don't know where these people went to school, in-state or out-of-state, to public school, private school, or maybe in a few cases, even home-schooled. But I wonder why if people are even in a basic level "educated," why they don't act in a more logical, respectful, thoughtful, etc. way in so many instances. So my question to you as a social scientist and educator is, iis there a way to research education other than giving people standardized academic tests or observing a classroom teacher, but instead to observe public behavior and then maybe interview teachers about some of the problems and questionable actions that were noted, or to see if instruction in social interaction, communication, tolerance, and also, discussions with students about what it is like to spending some time doing library research, and how that activity might relate to other areas, like patience while driving a car or in listening to someone else, in short, creative approaches to understanding educational outcomes, is that something that would be scientifically feasible, and if I wrote to some universities and suggested the need for this, would I possbily be taken seriously and get a serious reply?

I will end this, but I just thought I would do so by mentioning that I have had a slightly frustrating situation I had to deal with today regarding an anethesiologist's billing office. They never credited my account with a payment I sent them, and I had to pay this guy over $400 just for an outpatient session that lasted only a few hours. They wanted me to send them a copy of the processed check, which meant that I had to look up the specifics and then go down to the bank and get a copy of it, and then mail it to the office. Also, my surgeon wanted me to come back one more time for a final exam, but for the second time since I have been dealing with him, he cancelled my appointment. I had to arrange time off for the appointment that was cancelled and had to take off another day for the new one, an inconvenience, to be sure.

On a radio talk show earlier today, I heard a discussion about long-term care insurance. The consensus was that it is expensive, and that some companies have stopped offering it. The guests strongly recommended that the federal government start a long-term care program for all Americans that would be similar to Social Security in that it would be universal. The host asked the guests if they had this type of insurance themselves, and either all or most said that they did not even have long-term care insurance themselves. This is a topic that people in this site should be talking about to some extent, but you are the only person I can recall who has talked about caring for the elderly, in your case, your parents.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 39 weeks ago

Here are the highlights of my just completed post which disappeard due to my computer spontaneously going offline.

Zenzoe, I think the author of the hemorrhoid post was talking about a type of hemorrhoid called "Reduce Hemorrhoids" which apparently reduces the person to a shell of his/her former self. Perhaps this is what happened to the author of this post.

I had originally named this post something different, like "Why Halving the Hemorroid is Bad on People if Love" but I renamed it after I finished writing it. Seriously, I did have a different name for it originally, although I forget what it was. I think I had considered using "Less is More," but I have ambivalent feelings about that saying. I think it is more accurate to state that more is not necessarily better.

I have always appreciated that you generally "get" my humor, Zenzoe. You definitely don't have Joke Miscomprehension Syndrome, although I am sure that some people think I have a strange sense of humor, so perhaps you could be accused of having an equally strange sense of humor. But the great thing about friendships is that people can share their idiosyncracies.

We psycholoogists often use psychological words such as "miscomprehension" which make perfect sense to us, but are not found in any dictionary, at least not yet.

I started my journey to becoming a psychologist by taking "personal growth" classes in high school, so I like the concept of personal growth even if it is pop psychology. I would like you to tell me what "The Spirit Level" is about, since I also like that pop spirituality stuff.

I hope to check out your Women's Issues thread again when I have the time to.

Now I need to go pet my Porcupine (and by the way, "petting my Porcupine" as far as I know isn't some new sort of hip lingo for anything sexual).

Robindell, your most recent post just showed up. I read it briefly, and found it most informative, but I will need to reply in more detail later. Our good friend Nimblecivet uses library computers also.

Zenzoe 7 years 39 weeks ago
Quote Robindell:

When I go on the Internet and possibly write something at Thom's site, it is often after work. I only have limited time because I use computers at the library. I don't have the Internet at home as I don't want to subsidize some greedy computer company by buying a new computer or some Internet connection service...

I have a computer at home, Robindell, but it's not a new one (a Powermac G-4 OS X 10.4 that works just fine still). However, I have used the computers at our local library too, so I know how that goes. My reasons for not upgrading or buying electronics often coincide with yours, that is, aside from cost considerations, I "don't want to subsidize some greedy" company, so I just make do with what I have. I don't have a cell phone, for example.

Keeping things simple works for me too.

Speaking of greedy companies, I object to the way the computer industry makes it nearly impossible to keep from having to upgrade to a new computer or more advanced computer system. For example, recently I went to the Colbert Nation website to watch one of Colbert's TV segments. However, they use Flash Player, and, because I don't have the newest Flash Player on my computer, I saw a message telling me I would have to download and install the newest version, before I could watch the segment. So I did that. Problem was, it turns out the newest version of Flash Player wasn't designed to be compatible with my old computer; I downloaded it and installed it, but then got the message. The main message is, however, GO BUY A NEW COMPUTER, or upgrade mine, I suppose, but that's a big hassle. So, I called Adobe and complained, then went to Colbert Nation and complained there too. I mean, I can use YouTube just fine, so why does Adobe insist on doing that to customers? Hm-m-m? Well, could this be where Care, Respect, Responsibility, and Knowledge, that is, love, has been left out of the business equation?

Quote Natural Lefty:

Zenzoe, I think the author of the hemorrhoid post was talking about a type of hemorrhoid called "Reduce Hemorrhoids" which apparently reduces the person to a shell of his/her former self. Perhaps this is what happened to the author of this post.

Hilarious. When I first read that, I had this picture in my head of a brittle little shell attached to a big, red hemorrhoid. Ha!

Yes, we share a strange sense of humor, for sure. I call it goofy, though. I like goofy.

You said, "I would like you to tell me what 'The Spirit Level' is about, since I also like that pop spirituality stuff." But NL, the book has nothing to do with pop spirituality! It's by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, and the subtitle is, "Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger." I'm sure you must have heard of it. It's right up your alley. It's all about the social effects of inequality, with all sorts of evidence, charts, research showing how people are affected in real terms by low social status, and so forth. http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resource/the-spirit-level  Actually, I don't know why they titled it as they did. I haven't read far enough into it to determine the reason for "spirit level," but it does seem misleading. And the subtitle could have been "How Inequality Makes People Sick," a title change I suggested elsewhere here. I guess they wanted a positive-sounding title.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 39 weeks ago

In the case of health care, it always seems to come down to: Do we want to stick together and tax those who can afford it, enough to build a public health care program for all, or would we rather stick it to the individual. Almost every nation has taken the togetherness route, except for the U.S., which has taken the stick it to the consumer approach.

We called my father yesterday. It turns out that nobody knew to give him his medications since he went for surgery. Antianxiety medications work just like alcohol, and are just as addictive. You know what happens to alcoholics when they stop drinking alcohol. That's what happened to my dad. He actually became very delusional, something which often happens to alcoholics too when the booze wears off, I think. He told me that he was expecting a hospital bill for over a million dollars and wanted my help in paying it. After a call to Mia to confirm that there was no such bill in the works, I called back my father and told him so, but I don't know if he believed me.

And so the sun sets on another traumatic day at Mucky's Mudskipper Palace.

I have some of the same observations about the message boards, Robindell. Sometimes I make very sensible comments, or what I think are astute ones, but they are often ignored, probably because they are too sensible, or too astute in fact. Saying something stupid is a much more likely way to attract replies. For awhile, I was wondering if I was a conversation stopper there. After a while, I realized what I just mentioned -- that being too reasonable or astute was a conversation stopper there.

I think it's crucial to the teaching profession, that they be truth seekers and tellers of the truth as they see it. When teachers feel compelled to present something other than the unvarnished truth as they understand it, the system has been corrupted to the extent that the telling of the truth is compromised. Unfortunately, teachers sometimes fear retribution from the public or from political or corporate sponsors for their true stances on the issues, such as wealth inequality.

Now I know that is what "The Spirit Level" is about. Gosh, it sure sounds like pop spirituality to me, but either way is okay with me. The social effects of inequality is something we should be discussing more, if only teachers weren't so afraid to get into that topic.

Interestingly, I have thought about your question of how to measure long-term eduacational outcomes, Robindell. I suspect that a lot of other people have too, but once again, it seems that little has been done about it. One impediment to addressing this question is that effectively researching it would be very difficult. It would require some kind of accurate measure of educational experiences, as well as valid ways of operationalizing educational outcomes. The findings would likely be diluted or obfuscated by the presence of other influences on outcomes, such as family, peers, neighborhood, etc. All of these things make a big difference. But I do agree that we should be looking at things like civility and respect in addition to logic, critical thinking and knowledge. I have never felt that education was really about preparing people for jobs, although that is what the corporate masters want us to believe. In summary, I think you would get a serious response to your question, Robindell, in the form of saying you are on the right track, but I wouldn't expect serious research on the topic in the immediate future. Perhaps when some people put together a really comprehensive study and manage to get it funded, this will happen.

Yes, I probably do get blog ideas from you or Zenzoe. Actually, I had a strange one the other night after realizing that perhaps both of my ex-sister-in-laws were Republicans. I was thinking of calling it: "I Could Never Marry a Republican." I am not sure what to do with it, though. I am happily married and not looking to change wives, and you know how jealous the my wife gets. Perhaps one of you could do something with that. I was thinking of saying things like: I could marry a martian, a venutian, etc. but I could never marry a Republican, because that would force me to deal with a person who believes crap like the richer the richest among us are, the richer the poorest of us will become, etc. Perhaps we should make a group project out of it. I have a few other Capital Ideas post ideas, plus one inspired by Zenzoe about the blurring of the fantasy world created by the entertainment industry, with reality.

I don't have a cell phone, either, and I am using dial-up, but it's on a home computer. I have already bought another computer, only to discover that they are no longer built for dial-up. I have a converter, but as it turns out, it slows down the new computer even more, so I am waiting for a high-speed connection before I use it. I know I have mentioned this before, but this is another example of fast-cycling planned obsolescence in high technology. It's all a scam.

I don't have a cell phone, either, by the way, but my wife has one that her daughter gave to her.

A brittle little shell with a big red hemorrhoid attached -- that sounds about right, Zenzoe. Actually, that's even funnier than the way I first thought of it. Yes, we are both quite goofy, aren't we?

To get back to the really important stuff, I was thinking that we should add honesty to care, respect, responsibility and knowledge. Honesty has also been left out of the business equation, except where they are required to tell the truth. By the way, I thought of 3 of the 4 -- care, respect and responsibility -- on the way back from school this afternoon; I only forgot knowledge. I am getting better at my Fromm talk thanks to you.

And let's not forget the really, really important question whose answer we all so eagerly await: Which team will win the Stanley Cup, Kings or Devils?

Zenzoe 7 years 39 weeks ago

What's the Stanley Cup?

Honesty's an important one, for sure. But isn't honesty included in respect? If you're cheating your customers, you're not respecting them, or yourself, for that matter. Most crooks don't think of themselves as being either dishonest or disrespectful, though. They think of themselves as being smart, or as tough-minded business people, as survivors.

Tayl's post on the message boards has a discussion going on morality. I thought of you, because MEJ brought up a couple of guys, Kohlberg and Haidt, who had psychological theories about morality. I figured you'd know something about that. I just threw in a couple of lay observations of my own.

Your poor father. It sounds like the doctors and nurses failed big-time to take his medication situation into account. That's terrible. Maybe you should sue them for negligence and substandard care. Get the million dollars your father thinks they want, except that I think there's a cap on medical malpractice awards these days. Anyway, if you want the name of a good lawyer in that field, let me know. I know a great one, one who usually represents doctors in such cases but will take a legitimate malpractice case too once in awhile.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 39 weeks ago

I think the Stanley Cup is the thing that "Stanley" wears to protect his privates when he plays hockey. Apparently these players need more equipment for their "equipment."

Now that you mention it, I do think honesy is included in respect. Maybe that is why Fromm didn't have any separate listing for honesty in his theory. Certainly dishonesty is disrespectful. How is it that so many kids learn to be so dishonest, so early in life? Poor role models, perhaps, a lack of negative consequences or a lack of moral reasoning.

Speaking of Kohlberg, his theory talks about moral reasoning. I have never heard of Haidt; perhaps he/she is not a psychologist, but I have discussed Kohlberg's theory several times in blog posts. I am pretty sure you have seen that, Zenzoe. Kohlberg's theory as well as other theories of moral development are extremely relevant to me. They have a direct bearing on the concept of having a moral basis for the economy.

My father actually had mentioned to me that he expected a big hospital bill, several times over the past couple of months, but he was being more lucid about it on Tuesday, as though in major paranoia mode. I think it was from the antianxiety pill withdrawal. I do think the hospital and/or health care workers failed him, though. He is back on the antianxiety pills now -- Atavan, at least. It's not as though he suffered irreversible injury by not having his medication, so I doubt it would be a very compelling malpractice case, but it is ironic that the a doctor received such substandard health care. My father always feared malpractice lawsuits, and viewed malpractice attorneys as his opponents, although he was never actually sued, so I doubt he would be eager to initiate a malpractice suit.

Zenzoe 7 years 39 weeks ago

LOL at "Stanley Cup." I had no idea...

Well, I can understand why doctors fear malpractice lawsuits. But patients still need a way to be compensated for malpractice. And doctors need to be held responsible, when they're negligent or providing substandard care that leads to dire consequences. Actually, very few phony suits get anywhere; they're thrown out before they even get started, or, if it is a phony complaint, the patient will have a hard time finding an attorney to represent them. The perception out there about an epidemic of frivolous lawsuits is a false one, I do believe.

Lawsuits can ruin a person, though, for sure: My father, after he retired, started a little business selling the potter's wheel he designed. They were doing great, but then some AH decided to sue him over some trivial thing, and, what with having to defend the business in court, he lost everything. After that, he and my mother had to sell their house and move to Oregon where they rented a place. Well, they liked it there, but his rage over the incident never left him.

I wonder what you would say to my comment re Kohlberg, here: http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2012/05/do-republicans-or-1-or-astro-t... Am I way off?

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 7 years 39 weeks ago

Perhaps my father's fear of lawsuits was a sign of things to come, in terms of his anxieties. I agree that there are not that many truly frivolous lawsuits, but look at what happened to your father. There are some frivolous ones, and even excellent doctors are not perfect, and could commit the occasional malpractice.

My mother used to be into potting big time. She had a potter's wheel in our garage, and a kiln outside of the garage.

I will check the comments on Kohlberg. I have been sick again, from all the stress I think. School yesterday was stressful as well as the situation with my parents. I spent most of the afternoon at my parent's house, which was no picnic.

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