Winning by Cheating is Losing. It is not Winning.

[This is a temporary departure from The Myths of the Veritas which will continue soon].

Newsflash: Winning by Cheating is Losing; it is not Winning.

I would have hoped that this blog entry would be completely unnecessary to write in 2019, but apparently that is not the case. 

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In 2015, I published The Winning Weekend Warrior. This book focuses on strategy, tactics, and the ‘mental game’ for all sports. It says nothing about technique or form. But for many people, continued focus on technique will not help nearly so much as it will for them to rethink strategy and tactics and to improve their self-control. The Winning Weekend Warrior says to never give in and never give up. I like to see a fighting spirit in an athlete and so do most people. But the book also discusses sportsmanship. Winning by cheating is not winning. Most sports have very clear and distinct rules about what is cheating and what is not. 

If you win by cheating, it disrespects the sport. It disrespects the audience. It disrespects your opponent. Most of all, if you win by cheating, you disrespect yourself. 

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America, I am sure you are not surprised to hear, is a very competitive nation. We are competitive in every conceivable place where it makes sense to compete. In fact, we’re so competitive that we even compete in things that are historically and quintessentially cooperative rather than competitive. We have contests about singing, dancing, cooking and dating! We even compete on social media on sociality! 

It is natural for folks to root for their favorite athlete or favorite team. It is not particularly “natural” for people to riot after their team wins! It is not particularly “natural” for people to rejoice when their team “wins” even when they do so through cheating. (See paragraph three above). 

There is no doubt that political “contests” bear some resemblance to athletic contests. They both involve strategy, tactics, performance, metrics, etc. There is one huge difference though. The outcomes of political contests have real consequences in people’s lives. The politicians sometimes try to make you believe that there are consequences that will not actually come to pass. For example, they may tell you that they will greatly lower your tax bill and then actually increase it. Or, they may tell you that they will make your world safer and actually make it more dangerous. Or, they may tell you that they will lower your healthcare costs or “stand up to” giant pharma companies and then do just the opposite. Teams may also make promises to their fans — and then sometimes they break these promises. But the primary purpose of a team is to play the sport, not arrange things for the benefit of various constituents. 

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By contrast, the primary purpose of politicians is to weigh the needs and wants of various constituents and then work to balance various interests, work compromises, help constituents find common ground and so on. The main point of a politician is not to campaign. Yet, today, we find ourselves in the odd position that a politician has “won” and rather than then do any of their duties and exercise their skill for finding common ground, weighing competing interests and proposing compromises, instead, they continue to campaign full time. 

Ordinarily, one might expect that citizens would be up in arms about a politician who fails to do their actual job and instead continues to campaign (and protect their personal interests). Astoundingly, however, the “fans” of the “winning team” continue to root for “their team” even though “their team” continues to campaign on the basis of the same lies that produced the initial “win.” 

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In this case, the framing of politics as a sports contest is really counterproductive. The supporters of the winning “team” continue to support that “team” even though the winning “team” has zero loyalty to its supporters. (It also has zero loyalty to the citizenry in general, by the way. After an election, the “winning party” is supposed to govern the country in the interests of all its citizens, not only the ones who voted them in). 

So, here we have a seeming paradox. The “team” in power is using all its resources for their own benefit. They seem unconcerned with the nation as a whole. They seem unconcerned with continuing to lie and make false promises to their “base” because the “base” is loyal and supports their “team” no matter what. This loyalty has consequences. It means, essentially, that the party in power is not constrained in their exercise of power. They can do things that are against the interests of their “sports fans” precisely because their “sports fans” are not demanding anything in return. It only matters to the “sports fans” that they are on the “winning side” regardless of how horrible the consequences may be for the nation as a whole, for the vast majority of people on that “winning team” and even for their kids and grandkids. 

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In some cases, it seems that those who view themselves as being on the “winning team” are even aware that they are behaving against their own interests but are willing to do so simply because those on the “losing team” will feel even worse! This is a perversion of winning. 

Suppose you can have one of two outcomes: A or B. In A, you get $5000 free and clear but I get $10,000. In choice B, you lose get $5000, but I will lose $10,000. Which one would you pick? A or B?  Astoundingly, some people are filled with so much fear and loathing that they will pick B! It’s $10,000 worse for them, but that’s okay because it’s $20,000 worse for me! You don’t know me. I’ve never hurt you. Yet, you choose to hurt me anyway even if it means hurting yourself too. This is not winning!

In the case of contemporary American politics, it appears that so-called “identity” politics may interact with this tendency to think of yourself as a winner even if you’re actually a loser. If the “me” you are trying to hurt with your self-defeating choices supports gays, or women, or people of color, then you may feel that losing $5,000 dollars will be worth it because gays or women or people of color make you feel “uncomfortable.” Naturally, the “discomfort” is within. What you really object to is something within yourself that you don’t want to acknowledge. 

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To be fair, this is not an issue that applies only those on the political “right” or the political “left.”  When a foreign adversary is out to gain hegemony over other nations, the very best way is to sow political discord in the nation that they want to weaken. Putin, for instance, has certainly succeeded in doing that in the UK as well as the USA. People in America who are socially conservative may hate the left, but Putin is also doing whatever he can to make the left hate the right as well. Unfortunately, since the society itself is so hyper-competitive, both sides tend to focus on “winning.” 

Contests to the death make much more interesting stories than ones where the parties come to a compromise or find a solution that makes more sense than the solution that either the left or the right began with. So, since media are largely incentivized to provide more “engaging” stories, in a hyper-competitive society, this means they prefer a story of winning and losing more than a story of compromise. 

In the realm of sports, no-one I know, myself included, would enjoy a contest where those racing a mile would get together before the opening gun and “agree” to walk the mile together at a leisurely pace! That’s boring! And it doesn’t show us the “edges” of human capability either. I certainly recommend nothing of the kind in The Winning Weekend Warrior. 

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But politics is not sports. 

In politics, the best outcome is precisely that various parties agree. The best process is one that follows the rules; one where people put their actual interests out there on the table and then people work together to find an emergent solution using the best ideas on both sides. Such a process, however, is in the best interests of the politicians only if the “fans” on both sides demand it. If either side, or both sides, instead insist it’s just fine to break the rules provided their side “wins” then only the politicians benefit — not the people. The media also benefits, at least in the short term. When carried to its logical conclusion, “winning at all costs” is a loss. 

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Winning by cheating is a loss for the country. It’s a loss for the world. It’s a loss for future generations. We seem to have forgotten this.

Hopefully, next time, we will at last — at long last — remember.   


 

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Many Paths becomes Clear

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As Many Paths heard the words of She Who Saves Many Lives and took them into her heart, she felt her shoulders relax. She slowed her breathing and took inventory of what she was grateful for as well as what was missing. But the elder leader was right. She needed to keep a cool head. She put out the word that she wanted to dialogue with the elders at sundown. On impulse, she ran over to Shadow Walker and interrupted for a moment his progress in preparing. She held his hand for a moment, kissed him tenderly on the cheek for a moment. She tasted a salty tear. She sighed and turned once again. She could see that her people busied themselves walking competently from one task to the next. Only the little wolf pups seemed to be at a loss for what to do. They sniffed around the camp as though…

Suddenly, Many Paths turned and called back, “Shadow Walker! Take the pups!” 

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Shadow Walker’s frowned. “Many Paths…? Why would we…?” Shadow Walker glanced at the pups. “Of course!” he said, understanding and smiling back at Many Paths. They were not fully trained, but they were strong enough to keep up and they could help in the tracking when human eyes failed with the setting sun and human ears heard only silence. They were already searching for Tu-Swift and could catch his scent far better than any one of the Veritas. 

Once inside the cabin of She Who Saves Many Lives, Many Paths saw that a small fire had already been set and could smell that a tea had been brewing. She sat cross-legged next to She Who Saves Many Lives and sighed a deeper sigh of relief. Her hand drifted to the necklace of rings and she smiled. “I thought I was done with the seven trials. But perhaps they have just begun. I wish they actually held magic as some of the people whisper.”

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“Well, Many Paths, about that…. I told you the truth about the rings, but not the complete truth because I needed you first to focus on the important central truth — that opening your mind and opening your heart is far more important than having the rings. You seem to be doing that quite well now.”  

“What are you saying, Shaman? Is there magic in these rings after all?” Many Paths searched the old woman’s face.

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“Properly conceived, there is magic in all things. By magic, I do not mean that you can rub one of the rings and summon a flying red dragon.” They both chuckled and then She Who Saves Many Lives looked directly into the eyes of Many Paths. “But each plant; each cousin who moves; each stone — each is slightly different from any of the others. These rings are what they are. They are unique. And therefore they have unique properties. Those properties are no more magical than those of anything else. But nor are they less so. Slide the first ring off your laniard and put it in your palm if you would and tell me what you see and what you feel.”

Many Paths was the leader now, but it would be a foolish leader who did not value the wisdom of those with more experience and among the Veritas, She Who Saves Many Paths was the only one yet living who had once been the leader. Many Paths felt a great responsibility as the leader of her people and therefore had no desire whatsoever to be a willful petulant child. Of course, she took off the First Ring of Empathy and put it in her hands.

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“Well, obviously, it is in the shape of a circle. That way, it may slide onto my finger. That reminds me of the circle of Life, I suppose. It’s a circle with me in it. Life encircles me. And the ripples of love or hatred that I send forth will come back round. That is true for everyone, not just me. But I guess … I guess the ring is a reminder of that. A constant reminder. Think what will come back. And that … the moon has phases … but returns always to the same phases. The sun rises and sets. And there is the larger circle of seasons. So… the ring is a reminder? I guess that is magic in a way.”

“Indeed, Many Paths, that is exactly right. What else do you sense? But don’t forget to drink your tea!”

Many Paths lifted the mug and watched the steam cloud upward in a slant of sunlight. She sipped the hot tea carefully. . It tasted of chamomile and linden flower. Her favorite. Of course. She Who Saves Many Lives seemed to know much about every member of the tribe: what they preferred; what they were capable of. She set the mug down carefully and regarded the ring again. This time she picked it up and turned it about. “This stone is pretty. It is clear. It has no color.” Many Paths looked up at She Who Saves Many Lives. “Is that right?”

She Who Saves Many Lives looked back at Many Paths. “You say it has no color. What do you see?” 

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“I see it has no color. Well, it has no color of its own. It reflects what is around it. Right now, I can see twinkles of red and yellow from the fire.” Many Paths reflected on this. “I suppose that a good leader needs also to be clear, to reflect clearly on what really is so that appropriate action may be taken. There is something else odd about this stone though. I noticed it before. When I look through it at something,” she said as she brought the right to her eye, “there are two when really there are only one. Right now, I see two fires, but there is only really one.” Now, Many Paths paused a long time. “I suppose that is a kind of magic, but … I suppose there could be two fires in the future. The nature of fire is such that if you are not careful, it can spread. If I look at a tree…well, that is the nature of life as well. Where there is one of something that is seen, often there comes to be two or even many in the future. Where I see one, there are often more that remain unseen. If these people stole Tu-Swift, perhaps they stole more children. If they stole more children, it will cause hatred against them. That hatred will come back to them, one way or another. But I cannot know that they did that.”

“That is true. You cannot know that. You are correct Many Paths.”

Many Paths sighed. “But perhaps it is more likely than not. It may be natural for me to focus on my own pain at losing Tu-Swift. I have been wondering whether they even stole him on purpose because they know I am the leader. But I suppose…even though we only know of one child stolen…that a people who steal the children of others…will tend to do it again and again.” 

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Many Paths took another sip of the calming tea. Once again, she set down the mug carefully and considered the nature of the ring. “The ring is metal. It is hard. Much harder than my body is. Except perhaps for my teeth. No, it is harder than my teeth.” 

Another long pause transpired before Many Paths spoke again. “I suppose that though my nature is to be open and loving, sometimes, I must protect myself, ring myself, with harder stuff. Then, there is the coldness or hotness of the ring. Although I shiver if it gets cold enough and sweat in the heat of the summer, I stay the same inside. The ring, however… just as it reflects the color of what is around it, it also reflects the temperature. I think metal always does this. If reflects the temperature of what is around it as well as the color. I do not see … yet … how this might help me.” 

Many Paths put the ring on her finger again. As she tried to think of other properties of the ring, she began drumming her fingers on the edge of a nearby log. She noticed that when her ring hit the log, that finger had a quite different feel from the others. Then she picked up a small rock nearby and experimented with drumming her finger on the rock. She not only felt the rock quite differently. It also made a distinctive noise. If she did it quickly, it reminded her of a woodpecker. “So, I see you have given me a very small, very light drum as well! I begin to see your point. This ring is quite magical!” 

She Who Saves Many Lives smiled. “Yes, my daughter, but it is not my point. The point is there for everyone to share.” 

Many Paths laughed. Then, she shook her head wondering how the Shaman could be such a good teacher. She wondered whether she could ever be such a good teacher. Then her mood darkened again as she thought of Tu-Swift and all the things she had tried to teach him. If he were killed, it would all be for naught. 

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She Who Saves Many Lives spoke gently. “And, what troubles you now, daughter and fine leader?” 

Many Paths stared into the fire, took another sip of tea and said, “Perhaps it’s nearly time to start the dialogue. Thank you for the tea.” Many Paths toyed with the First Ring of Empathy which now adorned her left ring finger. She thought to herself, “I must sometimes ring myself with hardness. I cannot always rely on She Who Saves Many Lives. As surely as the sun sets, she will return to the Great Tree of Life as do we all. A circle. And, although I ache for Tu-Swift to safely return, if he does not, my teachings will not be useless. He has already spread his own love and wisdom to others, for despite his impatient eagerness, his is a heart of love. And that already has made ripples and those ripples will have other ripples. Teaching and showing love are never for naught. Many Paths smiled and looked at She Who Saves Many Lives as she spoke. 

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“I am ready for dialogue now, great mother. And, yes, these rings are indeed magical for now my heart is clear. We must dialogue together and see what all the reflections together say to us about what is and what may be and how to get there. For no journey ends without starting another.” 

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Author Page on Amazon.

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The First Ring of Empathy. 

The Start of Book Two of the Myths of the Veritas. 

An Essay on Ripples. 

On Finding Common Ground. 

 

 

Many-Paths Constructs her Way

Many-Paths knew that the Veritas needed to respond swiftly to this attack. A people who stood astride horses though! What else did they not know about these people? What purpose did they have in stealing Tu-Swift? Had they known that Tu-Swift was her closest kin? She quickly gathered about her, her closest friends and advisors, among them, Eagle Eyes, Shadow Walker, and She Who Saves Many Lives. 

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Many-Paths noted that others were listening in from a polite distance including the new friends of Fleet of Foot and Eagle Eyes, Lion Slayer and Hudah Salah, were also close by. She had no reason to distrust these new friends. She looked at their faces and into their hearts and saw only a willingness to help. She spoke quickly and calmly. “I propose Eagle Eyes and Fleet of Foot to choose a number of good trackers to follow the trail of these thieves to their origin. If you see a very safe opportunity to recapture Tu-Swift, make use of it. But your main goal is to bring back information about this enemy and avoid capture yourself. Try to determine, if possible, why they did this and whether they have any allies. Find out what you can about how many horses they have and how they manage to stand astride them.” 

Lion Slayer bit his lip and glanced at Fleet of Foot and then back to Many Paths. He tilted his head at Fleet of Foot and looked questioningly at him. Fleet of Foot had learned to understand these gestures and spoke to Many Paths: “Many-Paths, I believe our friend Lion Slayer has something to say.” 

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Many-Paths could see that this was so. She nodded to him. “Yes, Lion Slayer?”

“I believe, though I cannot be sure, that your attackers are a tribe that call themselves the ROI.” 

“Please continue,” said Many-Paths. 

“According to legend, ROI were once a tribe we met with. The many tribes in our region got together. Each year for a celebration, trade, and mate-finding. One portion of land, the many tribes fought over. We decided end fighting. Instead we all agreed to a race to determine who would inhabit that highly desirable place. All tribes chose their fastest runner to compete. But when they returned for the contest, ROI did not have human runner. They used man on horseback. Of course, they won the “race” and won the prize though none of the other tribes thought this completely fair. The matter might have ended there, but the ROI did other things to annoy and challenge all the other tribes. At last, we drove them from their lands. Before doing so, we observed how badly they treated their horses. They tethered them and beat them until their spirits were broken. I cannot say for certain that these were ROI, but that is the one tribe that our wisdom said rides on horses. I had not seen this in person, but my grandfather’s grandfather did.” 

Many-Paths swallowed hard and bit her lip. “So, if they are indeed ROI, as you call them, we know two things. They are a cruel people and may also try to break the spirit of Tu-Swift. And, we know that they have had at least six generations to learn to control horses. Do you have any idea how numerous they are?” 

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“No, Many-Paths. I have no idea how they have fared since leaving our region. The only other thing I know about them from our stories is that they particularly held high value on doing things quickly. They cared far less for making things beautiful or taking pleasure in life. But again – that was long ago and I cannot be certain the attack was from them.”

“You have been very helpful. Thank you. I am sorry to cut your feast short and steal away your new friends for this mission.” 

“I understand, Many-Paths. I meet only small time Tu-Swift, but I like. We value much our friendship with Veritas. If you permit, we will go to aid. To find Tu-Swift. To understand ROI. This will be valuable to know for our tribe as well.” 

Many-Paths appreciated the offer, but she already felt overwhelmed. To trust strangers on such an important mission? This complicated a complicated situation. She glanced at Eagle Eyes who nodded in assent as did Fleet of Foot. 

“We have not heard from you, Hudah Salah. Do you wish to accompany as well?” 

Silence fell. Glances flitted about like mating butterflies. 

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At last, Hudah Salah spoke, “My husband knows my heart, Many-Paths. I will go too if it you allow it.” 

Many-Paths considered reminding Hudah Salah of the dangers but decided this might be insulting. Danger was obvious and she had already said she wanted to go. 

“So be it then; gather provisions as you must and be off. Take two small drums so that you can communicate if need be. This may give away your position but you may also help give away theirs and let us know whether you need more help.” 

Eagle Eyes now added, I may also send back hawks with small maps attached. I believe that they will again come back to me after you find these maps and release them. We discovered that the Nomads of the South have already learned much about training birds and we have all improved our skills. 

“Make it so.” 

As the tracking band quickly prepared, Many-Paths next asked Trunk of Tree to set up double guard posts in case the ROI, if that’s who they indeed were, mounted another attack. She asked Shadow Walker to try to determine how the archers had slipped through their guards and to find the inward path to their center place should that prove different from their exit. 

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At last all the people were preparing in one way or another. Many-Paths realized she was tired, thirsty, and famished as well as deeply troubled in her heart. Would these ROI also use whips and ropes to try to break her brother’s spirit? But she would push all that aside for she had one more task. She needed to dialog with She Who Saves Many Lives and other tribal elders. Their world had been turned inside out and a joyous feast had been instead a time of great fear and disruption. What did it mean that tribes were using other animals in human wars? The Veritas too had done exactly that with hawks and wolves. It had seemed the right thing to do in defeating the Cupiditas, but now it seemed horses were being used as well. Beaten? Tethered? All to gain control over horses. But what might they do to Tu-Swift? How was the world changing? That is why she wanted the memories of those who had seen many more winters. That is why her own needs for sleep and food and thirst must be postponed. 

She turned once again to walk toward the cabin of She Who Saves Many Lives. And there she was! Once again, She Who Saves Many Lives stood only a few feet. Despite everything, or perhaps because of everything, Many-Paths laughed aloud. “How do you do that? Every time I need you, there you are! You are remarkable. I can never be what you are.” 

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“I should hope not! I am me. You are you, Many-Paths. You are not meant to be, nor can you be me.” 

“I just mean…can I be as good a leader as you are? You seem to be able to read minds.” 

“No more so than you, daughter of the tribe, mother of the tribe, leader of the tribe. There is no great trick. You did all this and more when you passed the seven trials. It is not so magical to understand that you are worried about Tu-Swift. You are worried about the tribe. You are disappointed that the feast did not go as planned. You are grateful yet worried about sending two of the Nomads on such a critical mission. You are worried whether you will be an adequate leader. You are worried whether the world seems to be a different place than the one you grew up in. Of course, you would be wise to seek my counsel and I will be glad to give it. And you seek the counsel of other elders in the tribe as well. There is no trick to understanding that beyond opening my heart to your heart and putting myself in your place. We will indeed have a dialogue about all that has happened. First, however, you need to eat, drink, and rest. Look upon this wonderful world and see it again with the eyes of youth. Let your heart drink in and fully enjoy some of the pleasures of life before dialogue. A dialogue based only on fear and, perhaps revenge, will not necessarily be one that results in wisdom. Wisdom need acknowledge both the reality of life and of the reality of death. The true path can never be based solely on one or the other.” 

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Tu-Swift in a Cage

Tu-Swift awoke from a lovely dream of home so vivid he could smell honey-sweetened ground nuts. He awoke to find himself shivering on a bare pounded earth floor. At least his hood had been removed and he could see that he was in a small wooden room. Gaps in the wooden slats allowed some light in. Tu-Swift again took inventory. Apart from some bruised ribs and a large bump on the back of his head, he seemed unhurt. Physically. Where in the world was he? 

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Normally, he would have been peering out from between the slats, but his confidence had been badly shaken. He replayed that scene again, but he could still make no sense of it. No, that wasn’t true. Many-Paths had given him many thinking tools. True enough, he had no recollection of what happened, beyond running into a sapling. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t outline some reasonable alternatives. At the same time, it would be useful to recon the surroundings. Tu-Swift wanted to begin his reconnaissance in such a way that he would minimize anyone seeing him in turn. 

He looked out from the deepest shadows of his small cell. In the distance, he could see a herd of horses. But something was wrong. They were moving very oddly. They all seem to be tethered in some way. Tu-Swift frowned and was rewarded with a sharp pain at the back of his head. It seemed completely agains the nature of a horse to have it tethered. 

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Tu-Swift suddenly realized that he may have been bouncing on the back of a horse! How could such a thing come to be? Of course, there might be other possibilities. He crept with the silent stalking skills of the Veritas. Even though Tu-Swift was in relative darkness, he only moved when the wind moved. Out these gaps between the slats, however, not much could be seen because of another near building. He could still make out the horses, but now he saw a smaller enclosure with three horses and these did not seem tethered. After peering up and down, he discovered nothing else of use. He crept to the opposite side and looked out. 

He could see a group of women sitting in a circle grinding grain on small stone mills. This was a sight he was well familiar with. He had seem the same in the Veritas central place. A bit farther off, Tu-Swift could see a group of braves working on breaking up large logs into smaller ones. These appeared to be for fire rather than building because they were not taking care as to the size of the pieces. Once again, these sights gladdened him because they reminded him of home. The garb was different, but these activities were the same. Except…the men were chopping through the wood at a terrific pace. Also, the corn grinding was going very fast, as though, they were being chased by a wild animal. Perhaps I’ll like this place, he thought and then immediately felt guilty for thinking it. 

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Then, it hit him. This was not home. Nothing like it. I’m being imprisoned for — having done nothing wrong. I was stolen from my home. And those grinders of the corn and the hewers of the logs are not talking. There are no stories being told. No jokes are being shared. No songs. This is not anything like home. And Tu-Swift felt a panic welling up so he consciously relaxed his muscles. He slowed his breathing. He spoke his mantra mentally and began riffing on it. Once his mind turned to improvisational music, he was in a state far from panic. He returned to the situation at hand, which was, nothing more or less than a problem solving task. True, the stakes were likely his life, but that could be true at any moment, whether you had been stolen from your family or not. 

So, Tu-Swift thought, I need a reconnaissance plan and an escape plan. But I cannot make a reasonable escape plan until I learn more about where I am and who these people are. Tu-Swift, still reluctant to peer out the side where the sunlight entered his cell, lest his apparent captors find out he was awake, crept back to the first side. As he did so, he saw several men walking toward the herd of horses. Each held a club in their hand. It was a strange club with thongs of rawhide attached. As they reached the tethered horses, one of them reared up, pinwheeling his hooves in the air. Two of the men swished their clubs through the air and stung the stallion with the rawhide. The rawhide appeared to be weighted at the end, perhaps with a clamped piece of metal. The horse screamed in pain. But one of the men moved in closer and whipped the horse again. 

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Tu-Swift had learned from Many Paths how the Veritas trained wolves and hawks. Indeed, though his own nature proved too impatient to make him an excellent trainer, he had had some success with two of the wolf cubs. The training was mainly based on mutual respect and love. The training of these people seemed to be based on hatred and fear. He wondered whether they taught their children the same way. 

Children! That was the other realization that suddenly hit him. He cautiously went back to view the pounding corn and cutting wood. There were no children. In fact, he had seen no children in any of his views. How would the children learn to do such tasks if they never observed them being done? There was much still to be learned about these strange people. He made no more mental jokes about wanting to stay here. Homesickness for his people and especially for Many-Paths began once more to overtake him. But in his twelve winters, the tribe had taught him what to do when one’s thinking becomes cloudy with fear or anger. 

Tu-Swift calmed himself and concentrated on trying to identify the plants in the distance as well as nearby weeds. Many of the trees appeared to be cedar or pine. The odor of cedar in particular was strong. He felt the rough planking of his cell. It too was cedar. Weatherproof and easy to work, but not very strong for a cage or prison. 

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Tu-Swift wondered whether he might be able to kick out the planks of his enclosure. His captors had stolen his moccasins. Because he liked to run barefoot for the extra speed, his feet were pretty tough, but he didn’t relish the thought of trying to escape back to his tribe — which so far lay in an unknown direction — in bare feet. He would need to find his moccasins or steal someone else’s. Even if he could kick out some planks, he would make such a commotion that he would be discovered long before he could make a large enough hole for his body to fit through. Yet, he realized that someone would come check on him. If they found him awake, they might kill him, or tie him up, or torture him. 

I need a weapon, he thought. Well, his speed was a weapon of sorts. But he would definitely need a head start. What if they had trained horses to track people down and kill them. Tu-Swift knew he could not outrun a horse. Perhaps they had trained other animals as well. He hadn’t heard any wolves howling. The plants he saw led to a conclusion that he was either at a higher elevation or farther north than the Veritas or possibly both. How far had they travelled? He had been unconscious for some of the journey so it was hard to tell. He was hungry and more thirsty than hungry, but he was not yet delirious. He felt the bruise on his chest where he had smacked into the seedling. It was still sore. He must be only a day’s journey from the Veritas – two at the very most. This meant that if he could escape, he could return in one or two days, but only if he were not caught. Once more his mind began to race from one unknown to the next, from one possibility to the next. 

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“Tu-Swift,” he mouthed to himself, “you need to stay focused. Build and decorate your tree.” {Translator’s note}: I might have used the word ‘plan’ or ‘contingency plan’ but the Veritas enjoyed decorating trees and often referred to building their contingency plans as “decorating the tree” by way of analogy. When time permitted, the plans of the Veritas included many branches and side branches — far more than most modern people have. To “decorate” the tree would mean that Tu-Swift would not only make many contingency plans but also “play them out” in his head so that he could react quickly and without hesitation when the time came for speed. Sometimes the Veritas referred to one of their adages, “Plant the acorns; forage the forests” which meant basically that it was a good idea, not only to think of many possible contingencies but to actually practice them mentally. 

If he did escape this enclosure, his tentative plan was to run both downhill and toward the area of greatest underbrush. Shadow Walker had once told him that the only possible way to outrun a bear was to run down a steep hill. The bear, because of its greater size could not achieve top speed in such conditions. Tu-Swift could not recall anyone telling him how to outrun horses. Somehow the idea that they could send horses out after him seemed against the nature of horses. If they send wolves to track him down, he could more easily believe that wolves could be trained to kill. There was so much more to learn. And yet, the longer he stayed here, the greater danger he put himself in. They whipped their horses. Perhaps they ate their children. That seemed impossible. A tribe that cared nothing for the future would not long survive. Surely, every tribe must see that. But these people seemed to be as cruel as the Cupiditas. 

He occasionally heard snippets of conversation. He knew only that they were not speaking any of the tongues he had studied. If he were here for long, he would have to learn their language. That would be difficult. He would have to listen with “broken dishes.” Eyes-of-Eagle had once explained to Tu-Swift that once you learned your native tongue you put all sounds that you heard into one of a series of “dishes.” Every sound that sounded like the wind in the aspen trees would go into one dish and every sound that reminded you of a cracking branch would have to go into a different dish. In reality, every sound spoken was slightly different. But when you “understood” what was said, you had to ignore all those differences and treat each sound as just another example of a category. To learn to hear and speak a different language, you would need to “break all those dishes” and listen to the pure sounds until you constructed a new set of dishes for the new language. That took a long time. 

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He had been turning things over and over in the hands of his mind but kept pushing one thing away. Now, it came rushing in with full force. Where were the Veritas? Why hadn’t Many-Paths, and Shadow Walker and the rest of the tribe come to find him? Tu-Swift was angry. Why had they not followed the trail and rescued him? One possible reason…one possible reason he did not really want to imagine was that the Veritas had all been killed. It was almost unimaginable. But it was also unimaginable that Many-Paths would simply say, “Oh, well. Too bad. Let’s get back to feasting.” Feasting! That’s why he had run into the sapling. He and Many-Paths were racing to the feast of Bel-Tanay. Excellent! Now, if he could see even a few stars or the face of tonight’s moon, he could tell exactly how many days since his capture. 

The hair stood up on the back of his neck. He heard voices. He tried to mentally crack apart all his mental crockery and listen. They were coming closer. He quietly went back to where he had awakened and arranged his body so that he could peer out from under his arm and he pretended to be asleep. He judged there must be at least four men outside his door. They were talking in sounds that made no sense and also laughing. 

One opened a small opening to look inside. He then unlatched something and slid part of one wall aside. They are coming for me, Tu-Swift thought with a sudden panic. Should I make a run for it now? This might be my best chance. Before he could decide, however, they threw a wild animal in with him and slid the door back in place. He still feigned sleep but regarded the animal. It screamed hideous noises. 

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The voices outside receded and the animal, rather than attacking him, huddled in a corner and screamed. It sounded nearly human. Its forelegs were wrapped around its hind legs much like — it was — it was a child. This was not a wild animal but a human child, of perhaps only three or four winters. What? Why would they possibly capture a small child and throw it in a cage? What kind of a people would do that? 

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Books by the same author: 

The Winning Weekend Warrior: strategy, tactics, & the ‘mental game’ for all sports. Enjoy your sport(s) more and win more often.

Turing’s Nightmares: 23 Sci-Fi stories meant to explore the possible impact of AI on business, society, and humanity. Be ready. It’s coming!

Fit in Bits: Suggestions for many ways to incorporate more fun and exercise into daily activities such as shopping, sitting in meetings, playing with your kids, standing in line, traveling, etc. Meant for the very busy person who nonetheless would like to live a long healthy life. 

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and then reflects on them in light of current events and issues.

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The creation myth of the Veritas.

The beginning of Book Two of the Myths of the Veritas. 

The Myths of the Z-Lotz

The Myths of the Z-Lotz. 

{Translator’s Notes}. Much like other tribes whose myths are here recorded, the myths of the Z-Lotz were mainly passed down by oral tradition for many years before being written down. What is most striking about the Z-Lotz is not so much their myths, but the way that they used the myths in daily life. Most of the tribes at that time told their myths often, and they served many purposes. For instance, many of the stories of the Veritas were used often as a guide for current action. The stories had details and they had central learnings. The Veritas seemed, so far as I can tell, not to be confused about which was more important. To the Veritas, the central learning was the core, the important part to think about and perhaps use as a guide. They felt that these central learnings had been argued about and trialed many times both in imagination and in action and found to be generally sound guidance. By contrast, the Z-Lotz seem to have a different fundamental relationship to their myths. They often seemed to focus on (what I would consider) the irrelevant details of a particular story as opposed to the central learning. We can discern this because, just as many tribes did, the Z-Lotz referred to earlier myths in their later myths. This is illustrated by the short fragment of Z-Lotz mythology translated below. 

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In his wanderings to create the Z-Lotz, Nepec found himself hungry so he walked down to a nearby brook. When he approached however, he saw that many other folks were already fishing and many such fish had already been captured by others. So, its being of the time of the Autumn Moon, Nepec decided to forage for apples. He saw the gnarled trunk that signaled likely apples and walked over. This tree had been picked clean of fruit! Still hungry, he walked over the crest of the knoll and saw in a small hollow below some blackberry bushes. It was likely too late for blackberries but the leaves could be boiled and eaten. So, he picked a large number of leaves and also captured six large grasshoppers who were leaping about. These he made into a stew that satisfied him. He slept peacefully that night and the next morning returned to his journey toward the great Sea that the Bear of the Sky had pointed him to.”  

The Veritas, much as modern folk might, might draw any one of a number of lessons from this such as: “If the first path does not work out, try another.” The Cupiditas might have preferred a story in which Nepec simply took the fish after killing the other fishermen, but if they had heard the story as written, they would still come up with a similar lesson perhaps expressed this way: “When you want something, you must overcome all obstacles to get it.” The ROI would likely take a more rigid lesson such as, “You must try three ways and the third way will succeed.” The Z-Lotz, however, inferred an even more limited lesson: “During the Autumn Moon, Fish are forbidden meat. Apples are forbidden fruit. You must feast in celebration of the Autumn Moon on blackberry leaves and grasshoppers.” 

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Needless to say, in order to survive, many of the Z-Lotz would eat something different during the Autumn Moon, but they would apparently always feel guilty about it. They would try to do it secretly or with only the family watching. While in public, they would make a great show of eating only blackberry leaves and fried grasshoppers as though eating anything else would be disrespectful to Nepec or even the Bear of the Sky. 

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A few scholars (Ara Pologist, 2001; Izzy Rong, 2007) have argued that the Z-Lotz simply found the tradition fun. While that may have been true in the instance of many individuals of the Z-Lotz tribe, it certainly doesn’t explain why people were burned at the stake for eating fish during the Autumn Moon! Nor, does it explain why laws were passed to ban apples during the Autumn Moon when it’s obviously the best time to eat them. It would detract too much from the upcoming epic narrative to digress into a review of all the evidence here, but it seems well-established that, whatever the unknown motives of individual Z-Lotz may have been, their societal mores were based on an unthinking devotion to the literal details of the Z-Lotz myths. 

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I bring this to the reader’s attention now, because some of the decisions that the Z-Lotz made in the following tales would otherwise make no sense. The ultimately absurd decisions evidenced by the Z-Lotz further belie the interpretations of Pologist & Rong in that their alliance with the remnants of the Cupiditas and the ROI were serious decisions for the Z-Lotz, not decisions about the details of a feast. And yet, the evidence seems clear that these decisions were based on the specific details of Z-Lotz myths. (The reader is free, of course, to reach their own conclusions).


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The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Beginning of Book Two

Myths of the Veritas: Book 2 – The ROI

{Translator’s Note}: The origins of the ROI tribe are not completely determined but the “story” or “myth” or “history” that I prefer is the premise used in this story. Their language is precise in some ways, but deeply embedded at the syntactic and semantic levels were very rigid framings about many things in life. In some areas that we would consider important, they had scarcely any vocabulary at all! For example, they seemed to view love as something of a disaster rather than as something wonderful. Often it was described as a kind of disease! This is a “disease” that allows us to survive as a species! But for them, things that proved less rigid and less predictable and less quantifiable seem to have been quite confusing and uncomfortable. Difficulties abounded in my attempts to portray what was actually happening until the Narrator told me that it was fine; he would fix it later because he had an omniscient view. 

What follows served as both a creation myth and a daily devotional prayer among the ROI.  

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Long ago, there were many tribes. But our tribe, the ROI, proved best of all. This is what we know: 

“Each tribe had developed a different way of looking at life. Some argued that this was a natural consequence of having spent a long time in a different environment. But we know the truth; we chose our way because it is the best way. It is the way of putting numbers to everything and making very strict rules. 

“Other tribes had different ideas so we devised a contest to see which tribe was correct. We would see who could propel their bodies fastest from the north edge of the common plain of Many Herds to the south end of the plain. All the tribes would go and prepare in whatever way they felt best and we would reconvene in one year to see who would win. 

“Needless to say, all the other tribes interpreted our words to mean that we would have individuals from each tribe race for the prize — a fine parcel of land that stretched to the banks of the Stream of Many Trout. The various tribes went off and had various ways of choosing their fastest runners and having them train and train. Of course, we already had a superior solution: horses. After many years we discovered how to capture horses and then train them with the use of whips. 

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“When the day of the Great Contest came, the rest of the tribes were quite shocked to see someone astride a horse. Some seemed to think the horse would kill the human-astride or that the human-astride might break the back of the horse and kill it. Some felt it highly unlikely that the human-astride or rider would stay astride.  {Translator’s Note: Analyses reveal that there was a shortening of the name as “riding” became more widespread.} Naturally, when the race was run, the ROI won! And, also naturally, the other tribes objected. But these objections eventually became mere glowing coals. 

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“Most tribes wanted to know how to capture and train horses. Naturally, we declined to show them! And, that wanting to have as their own that which was rightfully ours is why their complaints rekindled the fires of war. And, so the tribes worked together to drive us from our rightful home and we became wanderers. And so, we have been seeking another land. We will make this happen and destroy whoever now claims such a land.”  


 

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Beginning of the Myths of the Veritas

Beginning of Book 2 of the Legends of the Veritas

Index to Pattern Language for Cooperation & Teamwork

Essays on “Family Matters”

On Horses?

Though the Veritas were at high feast and had no known enemies, they reacted with amazing speed and fluid preparedness. They radiated out to previously staked out positions across the stream, opposite the direction of the arrows. Shadow Walker and Fleet of Foot ran with Many Paths. Once under cover, they turned back to assess the situation. 

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Many Paths tracked the flaming arrows still streaming into the Center Place. Her thoughts raced. Who was this enemy that attacked without warning? What had happened to the Veritas guards? Which pre-planned counter-attack should be mounted? Many Paths felt a hand upon her shoulder. It was Fleet of Foot. He pointed to a small herd of horses speeding up the hill on the other side. But…Many Paths stared. These horses had people astride them! For a moment it seemed impossible. Yet, here it was, clearly visible for a moment before the horses and their companions disappeared into the forest. The arrows stopped flying. People and horses running as one? It was all happening too fast for her to decide what to do. She glanced at Fleet of Foot and spoke in a low voice. “A double flanking counter-attack?” 

Fleet of Foot nodded and barked a few short “commands” which were not words but the whistles of birds. The Veritas now streamed out from cover with weapons drawn and bows drawn, ready to overwhelm their enemy. Yet, no such enemy appeared. Those Veritas with the youngest and keenest ears could hear the distant muffled hoofbeats of horses in the wooded hills but no target could be discerned. The arrows were burning out and had not caused any serious or widespread damage. 

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Many Paths quickly convened a war council. Shadow Walker quickly volunteered to lead a tracking party into the woods to determine the origin of this unseen enemy. Fleet of Foot and several other braves agreed to join including their visitors from the Nomads of the South. Many Paths knew that Tu-Swift would also volunteer but she judged that he was not quite ready for such a dangerous adventure. The arguments were forming on her lips but no such request came. She moved on to other matters at hand. 

She turned to Eagle Eyes. “I have trained wolves and you have trained hawks and eagles. Have you imagined to train horses as well?” 

“No, I mean, they are so large and fast and strong. How could one convince such an animal to serve a human? Yet, so too the eagle could easily fly away yet chooses to stay and befriend me. So, perhaps it is possible. I could try. I would have to think on that. It would take time. It takes time. It is all happening too quickly.” 

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Many Paths nodded. “Indeed, it all happened too swiftly for me to….” Many Paths broke off her speech and scanned the larger crowd of Veritas who were repairing the feast, putting out small fires, and fetching weapons and provisions for the tracking party. She swallowed hard as panic began to dry her mouth so badly she found it hard to speak loudly. 

“Tu-Swift! TU-SWIFT!! Where is Tu-Swift?” Her council looked about them. Shadow Walker leapt on top of a small log pile and yelled, “Has anyone seen Tu-Swift?” The people paused in their tasks, looking about them. They muttered questions at each other and shook their heads. No-one had seen Tu-Swift since the feast had been interrupted. 

Many Paths breathed deeply to calm herself. The Veritas were looking to her and she needed to keep a cool head. She looked to She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives and their eyes locked. The old shaman shook her head imperceptibly. Many Paths understood her meaning — that Many Paths was now the leader and it was up to her to decide what to do. Many Paths nodded back. Again panic almost overtook her as she imagined Tu-Swift injured or dead. Into her mind, unbidden, the image of the death of her parents came to mind. She pushed all this aside and strode over to the table where she had last seen Tu-Swift, dreading to find his lifeless body under the table. 

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“I can’t see! I can’t see!” 

Mentally, Tu-Swift screamed, but he was, in fact, unable to manage more than a muffled grumble. He felt the cloth, tight across his mouth and the dark cloth around his head. He could not imagine what was happening. He felt his body bouncing up and down. Perhaps he had fallen into the rapids, he thought, and the rocks and frothing water tossed his body about like a fluttering leaf. But he didn’t feel wet. Fighting to stay coherent, he tried to organize his thoughts. Inventory. Inventory. An image of Many Paths playing a game with him flashed into his mind. She had explained that, even in confusion, one could use various tricks to stay calm. One was to take inventory. What did he know and what did he sense? 

He began at the top. The back of his head pained him. He could hear. He could see as well, though not well. The world continued to bounce but it was cloth tight around his head that made it difficult to see. He heard pounding all around him. He smelled pine and dirt and horses. His wrists hurt and so did his ankles. He tried to move them but found them tightly bound. The pounding sound, he recognized. And people were talking, but not in the tongue of the Veritas. He tried to recall the snippets of other languages he had heard. This speech didn’t sound like Cupiditas, or the speech of the Southern Nomads nor yet of the Fierce Fighters of the North. 

What did he remember? There had been a race. He had raced Many Paths to the Center Place where they were about to have a feast. Had he won the race? He couldn’t recall. Wait! He had turned and run straight into a sapling. It must have knocked him out. No, that wasn’t a hard enough blow. The sapling had sprung him backwards. It had mainly hit his chest, not the back of his head which now throbbed with every bounce. Had he fallen backwards and hit his head? Maybe, but how would that make him tied up? And bouncing? Inventory. Inventory. Tu-Swift tried to sort it out, but nothing made sense and he drifted out of consciousness again. 

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Many-Paths thought she had been fearing the worst: to see the lifeless body of her brother. But when she saw instead, the obvious signs that he had been dragged away, she found that, this was even worse than the worst. If her brother had died, of course, that was cause for grief. But no-one is brought back from the dead. Her journey would be a trail of tears, but it was a single path. Her only strategic choice for the tribe would be whether or not to pursue revenge for her own private motive. It would be easy, she knew, to slide from one issue to the other. She might hate the people who killed her brother and want them all dead, even though this might (or might not) be disastrous for the tribe. They didn’t really know enough about this enemy right now to decide the best course of action. But she could argue and support those who argued that this enemy was dangerous and deadly; that they needed to be weeded out now or they could keep striking like this over and over. There was certainly that possibility. But Many Paths knew that misleading the tribe in even the smallest degree would be the worst possible thing that a leader could do. She would be able, she knew to fight and win the battle of that temptation. 

But now, Many Paths was faced with a far more painful path, and a far less certain one. What to do? What was best for Tu-Swift? What was best for everyone? Should they invade, negotiate, run. Determining the best course of action for her own selfish motives would be difficult and complex. Determining the best course of action for her tribe would also be difficult and complex. Trying to disentangle the two so that she could do what was best for the tribe would be more difficult still. She never once doubted whether this was the proper course of action, but she did doubt her ability to do all that. Perhaps she should relinquish leadership to another. She at least knew that she needed the counsel of She Who Saves Many Lives. 

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Many Paths turned to walk to to the cabin of She Who Saves Many Lives and there she was and she spoke immediately, “You will do the right thing, Many Paths. You will do the right thing. Listen to the heart of your heart and you will know. It is okay to share everything with others to get their input, of course. I know you to be a listener. Go and lead our people. Go.”

“What kind of a people would tear a child from their family?” Many Paths asked.

“Indeed,” said She Who Saves Many Lives, “that is the central question. What kind of a people would tear a child away from their family? And, what will we do about it? No, Go and lead the people.”

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The Beginning of the Myths of the Veritas. 

Essays on Greed.

A Pattern Language for Collaboration. 

Our Choices Impact Evolution.

Three Part Series on the Pros and Cons of AI. 

Articles on the Uses of Stories and Storytelling. 

Myths of the Veritas: Feast and Fire

Myths of the Veritas: Book II

{Translator’s Note} In what follows, I was able to make use of a new class of self-correcting statistical algorithms that allows for a more detailed depiction of the spoken and drum languages of the Veritas. This work has been aided immeasurably by archaeometrical modeling and, in particular, the Schliemann-Baudhayana equations. Needless to say, these advances notwithstanding, narrative reconstruction is still fraught with numerous perils and is still as much an art as a science — a distinction lacking, so far as we can tell, in the thinking of the Veritas themselves who conceived of truth and beauty as tree and fruit.

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Feast and Fire

“Well, why wouldn’t we? It is faster, right?” Tu-Swift grew impatient with his older sister. 

Many-Paths however, simply smiled as she answered. It was a genuine smile too, not the patronizing smile of an older, wiser sister; nor the forced smile used today as a means of manipulation; rather, her smile was nothing other than a genuine expression of her heart. 

Many-Paths could don an expression and feign a tone of voice as well as anyone. She, like most of the Veritas, simply chose not to feign feelings with other members of their own tribe, or indeed, with any other tribe excepting only in the case of true enemies like the Cupiditas had been. 

The reason that Many-Paths smiled was this: she appreciated the passion of her younger brother and his single-mindedly determination to prove his point even if it meant overlooking things that he himself knew to be true. Many-Paths was of an entirely different nature, as indicated from her name. As leader of the Veritas, Many-Paths had passed many trials of empathy and fair judgement. And as a leader, she was well-aware that the tribe needed people like Tu-Swift who would press on and on for something no matter what. And as a leader she was also well-aware that the tribe needed people like Many-Paths to provide a check on such ill-conceived enthusiasm. 

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So, Tu-Swift felt the actual kindness in the voice of Many-Paths as she answered gently. “I think you yourself know the answers to why we might not choose to do it even if it is faster.  I also think you can imagine conditions under which your method would be considerably slower.  But meanwhile, I can  hear that the voices of the people are happy and loudening. We ourselves should also be making our way to the feast.”

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Tu-Swift needed no further encouragement to attend a feast, especially the feast of Bel-Tanay, with its promise of fresh greens, strawberries, grilled fish, and honey-sweetened ground nuts. He spun on his heel and hurtled toward the Center Place. So quickly did he turn and so quickly did he begin to sprint, and so thoroughly did the image of honey-sweetened ground nuts capture his attention, that he immediately slapped his body into a small sapling which rebounded him backwards at the feet of Many-Paths. He was a tough little boy, graced with a lithe and muscular frame. Hence, he sprang back up almost as quickly as the sapling had slung him backwards. “Sorry,” he muttered to the sapling as he once again sprinted toward the feast. 

Many-Paths shouted after him with good humor: “Are you too swift Tu-Swift?” She shook her head slightly, still unsure whether he had even heard her gentle rebuke let alone truly processed it. There would be other opportunities, she thought. Many-Paths had no more desire to change the nature of To-Swift than she did to change a rabbit into a tortoise. She pictured a brown rabbit with a white tail plodding methodically along with his long legs splayed out sideways. Without a shell, such a slow and furry tortoise would stand no chance to survive the predations of eagle or fox. As She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives had taught her, each branch of life must be its own form. Yet, rabbit, tortoise, and human beings also made choices. One of the most important a human being could ever make was simply accepting that no one path is most appropriate for every occasion. 

Many-Paths could still have caught up with her younger brother for she had also inherited feet that flew. And, this natural talent she had nurtured. She had explored various loping, skipping, and sprinting gaits thoroughly to see for herself how various gaits worked best under various circumstances of terrain and weather. This day, this moment, however, require no speed whatever and Many-Paths found it more pleasant to stroll to the Center Place, anticipating the savory salmon laid on a bed of wild lettuce and garnished with grape tendrils; the rich warm acorn and wild rice pudding; the tangy sweetness of fresh strawberries. 

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Before she rounded the guardhouse that blocked her view of the gathering throng, she tried to imagine the various groups and sub-groups that would be eating together. As leader, it often proved useful to be able to predict such matters. Her predictive skills improved daily though perfection at such a task might be years, perhaps even decades away, as She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives had explained soon after she had bestowed upon Many-Paths the Seventh and Final Ring of Empathy. 

“Your skills will continue to improve,” She-Who-Saves-Many-Lives had explained, “provided only that you walk a balanced way using both legs and both minds – the mind that sees what may be and the mind that sees what is actually there.” 

 

Many-Paths had nodded solemnly because she “understood” what Saves-Many had meant though the depth of that understanding had deepened considerably over the years. In her mind that sees what may be, Many-Paths first pictured Shadow Walker and she predicted that he would likely be already chatting with Eyes-of-Eagle and Fleet-of-Foot whom she had seen for nearly a year. Many-Paths thought it likely that one of the Nomads of the South would have accompanied them. Trust was still a bit fragile between the two tribes but trade, and games, and sharing stories, and playing drums, and dancing, and sharing meals — all of these had served to grow many bonds between the two tribes. And surely today’s feast with the wonderful aromas she now inhaled could only serve to strengthen ties between the tribes. 

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Many-Paths walked into the clearing of the Center Place. She glanced around quickly to see how people had arranged themselves. The groupings largely confirmed her hypotheses except that strangers occupied the space near — no, wait! There they were! Eyes-of-Eagle, Fleet-of-Foot, and even Shadow Walker had donned robes in the manner of the Southern Nomads. The craftily constructed garb fooled her eyes so badly that she had not even recognized her friends at first, not even Shadow Walker! She laughed at how she had been fooled. In this case, she had even know where to look, but she had still found it difficult to see what was truly there. Walking a balanced way did indeed prove to be a life-long challenge. 

As Many-Paths made her way to her place, she exchanged many small waves and nods with other in her tribe. Though all were aware of her role as leader and the vital role she had played in the storied victory in the war with the Cupiditas, the people did not indulge in various displays of deference or position. They gave great weight to her words, despite her youth, because of her intelligence and competence, not because she held some “position.” Unlike the Cupiditas, no-one bowed deeply to her or waited to see what she thought before offering their own honest opinion. She dressed in deerskins much like the others of the Veritas. Typically, as today, she wore the Seven Rings of Empathy threaded onto a knotted necklace of leather. Only this and her radiant manner set her off from her compatriots. 

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As she approached, the animated chatter of her friends stopped and they all rose to embrace her. Shadow Walker’s embrace held the most strength and the most warmth. She found herself blushing slightly. She wished to clear her mind so she could properly welcome the visitors from the Southern Nomads. That took precedence over her own considerably awakened desire. 

“Well met, new friends from the south. I am Many-Paths and I am much impressed with the raiment you provided! These, my friends from birth, I at first did not recognize so cleverly did you fashion these robes! My congratulations. I must confess that I am led toward three paths at once. I wish to know more about such magic and skill. I want to learn about you and what you think of the Veritas and yet, I also want to learn from my friends about their adventures in your lands as well. Sometimes, you see, Many-Paths are too many to chose from.”

“I am happy most glad to meet you at last, She-Who-Walks-Many-Paths-to-Save-Many-Lives. I am happy most glad you like the robes of. We have brought such a glad one for you as well. I am known among my tribe as ‘Lion-Slayer, The Silent One’ and this is my wife, Hudah Salah.”

Hudah Salah now stepped forward and took both hands of Many-Paths in hers and looked into her eyes. Many-Paths returned the gaze. “It is nice. I to meet you in person. My husband is yes glad to be Lion-Slayer. He does not often be called ‘Silent One.’ 

Lion-Slayer chuckled. “I make joke. I like talk.” 

“I do too,” chimed in Fleet-of-Foot. “I like to eat even more! Please pass the salmon!”

Tu-Swift, grabbed the plate quickly and passed it to Fleet-of-Foot, his favorite ‘Uncle.’ Before he had finished handing off the platter, an urgent cry rang out in his ears, sharp above the general happy din. 

“To arms! To arms!” It was Many-Paths issuing commands! Tu-Swift wondered whether she had gone mad. Why was she saying that in the middle of a feast? He shook his head to wake himself up in case he had been dreaming. Again, she was shouting, “To the Cottonwoods!”

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But shaking his head changed nothing, everywhere warriors were readying their weapons and now Tu-Swift’s consciousness seemed to shatter into an incoherent blur of sound and color and pain. He heard whooshing arrows twang into wood. He saw an arrow land on a table near him. Color shot out from the shaft. He could feel the heat and taste the pain. Fleet-of-Foot wrenched him around and in one swift motion snapped the arrow in two, pulled out the shaft and wrapped a makeshift bandage around Tu-Swift’s forearm. 

All around him, Tu-Swift saw arrows streaming and flaming down from the sky; he saw his people gather weapons. He saw his sister leading a band of warriors out across the water toward a stand of trees. This, he thought, is where the arrows come from. This arrow. This arrow came through my arm. I am shot. That’s why I hurt. I have to help fight. Tu-Swift rose to his feet and immediately felt very light-headed. He grabbed a large flint carving knife. He fell to his knees, crawled under the table and fainted. 

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Author Page on Amazon

Creation Myth of the Veritas

Fragmentary Myth of the Veritas

The First Ring of Empathy

Doing the Dishes; Pounding the Corn; Chewing the Fat.

Doing the Dishes; Pounding the Corn; Chewing the Fat.

In the eighth grade, when I was about 13 years old, one of my classes was “Metal Shop.” Metal  Shop was a double period which meant it was an hour and a half. We learned some interesting things in Metal Shop, to be sure, but mostly it was extremely boring. We would, for instance, file something for an hour and a half or sand something for an hour and a half or use steel wool on something for an hour and a half or wind wire around a core for an hour and a half. 

Talking was strictly forbidden. I think it’s safe to say that none of us would have been incapable of talking and filing, sanding, or polishing. And, when I say “strictly forbidden” what I mean is that our 6 foot 4 inch instructor, Mr. McKeever, would paddle anyone who let out a peep. Eventually, we reached an agreement with Mr. McKeever that we could play chess during class, but only if we agreed to be paddled at the end of class. 

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Sad (or sadistic?) to say, the “no-talking” rule was not confined to Junior High School. In many industrial settings, even for adults, there was also a “no-talking” rule. More commonly, the workplace was arranged and built so that talking to someone else proved nearly impossible. What do you suppose the purpose of the no-talking rule is? Does it make the workplace safer? Does it help prevent underpaid and overworked folks from organizing? Or, do some bosses (and teachers) just like being mean for the hell of it? Whatever the reason or reasons, it was not uncommon for folks with boring jobs on assembly lines to be prohibited from speaking unless it was immediately work related. 

By contrast, in many so-called primitive societies, much of the work was carried out in a social setting. And, by a “social” setting, I don’t just mean that other human beings were physically nearby. I mean especially that they could see, hear, touch, and talk with each other. In some cases, they would sing or chant together; for instance, when he work required coordinated movement as in pulling a fishing net, or poling a boat.  

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Clearly, talking was sometimes discouraged as when silently stalking prey. However, gathering nuts, or leaves, or berries or roots or firewood; preparing meals; cleaning; migrating; watching children; nursing; pounding grain; tanning leather; building a hut — these were activities that were easy enough to do and repetitive enough that talking was easily accomplished. 

In modern domestic life, many of these opportunities have disappeared. If you sweep or mop a floor, you can talk to someone. When you use a vacuum cleaner, the noise makes talking unpleasnt. When people took clothes down to the river to clean on stones, they could talk to each other. In modern times, people do not generally hang out near a banging washing machine and chat. If two people go out and shovel snow, it is hard work, but conversation is still possible. With a snowblower, it’s quicker and a lot noisier and typically done alone. If you wash dishes by hand, it’s easy to converse. Loading and unloading a dishwasher however, is more of a one person job. 

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In fact, washing dishes is a great opportunity for chit chat but also for some heavier duty conversations. Two people work together side by side. Instead of looking at each other directly, they are focused on the task at hand. But the task is generally easy enough that there is minimal cognitive load in washing or drying dishes. There is plenty of time to converse and because you are working together on a common task, it provides a felicitous setting for broaching difficult topics. 

Even when no difficult topics are broached, conversation in such activities increases trust and social capital. It also provides an opportunity for common ground. If you work together successfully on a task, you are far less likely to see the other person merely in terms of their “positions” on contentious political or religious issues. You have built some common ground. 

Traditional societies, at least those that survived long enough to leave any sort of record, had many opportunities for doing “mindless” (or, perhaps mindful) repetitive tasks together in a way that afforded a chance to talk. These were not timed “debates” — they were simply occasions for talk. These tasks were woven into the fabric of work and allowed for the group and the individuals within it to strengthen their bonds. 

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I doubt that these occasions were “designed.” I don’t see the elders of a tribe sitting down together and “deciding” it would be “good” for the tribe to spend more time talking. It is simply that the nature of their technology happened to facilitate working together and talking very often. Conversely, I don’t see the early captains of industrialization sitting down together and deciding to fragment society by designing tasks that were more atomized and individual. And, I doubt that industrial machinery was designed to be noisy, dangerous, and hot. It just turned out that way. 

When folks today talk about “finding common ground,” it is all too often misdirected. It is not common ground to start a conversation with something with: “Well, surely you believe in a women’s right to choose!” or “Well, surely, you don’t think murdering babies is all right.” These statements may be clearly and obviously true to some people, but they are not attempts to find common ground. To find common ground that will allow you to approach a discussion about topic X, do not start with topic X. 

I know it seems direct and efficient to do that. I also know that it doesn’t work. No matter how stupid, evil, ill-informed, or absurd your “opponent” seems, you will not find “common ground” about topic X by starting with topic X. Wash some dishes together; pick some berries; go for a hike; pound some grain into flour, hand wash your car together and then go wash their car together.

Casual conversations were crucial for so-called primitive tribes where people shared many common experiences. Now, we live in a society where people have different educational experiences, different religious upbringings, different economic circumstances, and listen to different subsets of a thousand different TV channels. Building trust first by working together was crucial for tribes that were relatively homogeneous. For us, today? It’s absolutely critical! If we can’t abide washing dishes together, we certainly won’t be able to agree on anything that is “controversial.” 

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Even so-called “recreational” activities have mainly become more “efficient” and speed-oriented. Golf, for instance, used to involve a small group of 2-4 people spending 4-5 hours mainly walking together. Yes, occasionally a golfer would hit a golf shot. A good golfer might hit the ball 75 times over the course of 5 hours while a mediocre golfer might hit the ball 100 times. But there was plenty of time to talk. When you play today by riding in carts and being constrained to “keep up the pace of play” there is much less time to talk, exchange ideas, find out how the other person is doing, etc. 

Spectator sports have also devolved into advertising opportunities punctuated with game play. I recall going to see Lakefront stadium with my dad to watch Cleveland play major league baseball. There was plenty of time to talk during a game! On a number of occasions, I had questions about the fine points of the game which Dad was happy to answer. 

In the last few years, I’ve gone to watch local teams compete in the World Tennis Association league. Do you know what they do after every single point? They play snippets of extremely loud music. It’s as though the management doesn’t want people in the crowd to be able to discuss what just happened on the court. The rules have also been altered so as to make the match times more predictable (and shorter). Ads are ubiquitous. I enjoy watching the play itself; but the spaces between play are so obnoxious that it’s much less pleasurable than it would be if there were silence between points. More importantly, the relationships of the people watching are twisted into an increased alignment with advertisers and promotors rather than with other folks in the audience. 

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Our society needs time. It needs space. It needs a chance to work together on easy tasks. Our society is losing the chance to chat, in person, aloud, synchronously. 

We need to do the dishes together. 

Do you want to wash or dry?  

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Author Page on Amazon

You Bet Your Life.

You bet your life. 

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Suddenly, the TV screen went blank. I was only a kid. I had no idea why. Nor did my folks. We had been watching “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho Marx. In those days of low-resolution, black and white TV and only three channels, my parents and I often watched shows together. There seems to be some controversy about what happened but this is my recollection. 

A couple came on as contestants and they had a large number of kids. Groucho said something like, “Why so many kids?” She replied, “I love my husband.” Groucho said, “I love my cigar too, but I take it out sometimes.” Black screen. No sound. 

At first, my dad assumed the picture tube had burned out, but that was clearly not true. The other two channels worked properly. We assumed there were technical difficulties at the TV studio. This had happened on various shows before when someone tripped over a cable, but generally the problem was quickly fixed. In this case however, the show never came back on. 

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I had no idea at the time that Groucho’s comment was the least bit risqué — indeed, I didn’t even know what risqué was. Today, television is considerably different. It is higher resolution. It is in color. You have hundreds of channels to choose from. If hundreds of channels provide too few choices, you can go the Internet and see podcasts or youtube videos.

If you like, you can have far more than suggestiveness about sex. Youtube began in 2005 and now (2019) over 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute. In 1950, even if you watched TV 24 hours/day, you could only watch half of what was produced. Today, if you watched youtube 24 hours/day, you could only watch 1/18,000 of what is produced. And, there are much more explicit channels than those on Youtube. Oh, yes. You bet your life there are.

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You could imagine reading or watching a well-structured story as something like riding an emotional roller-coaster ride. In a real roller coaster that is powered by gravity, the biggest “thrill” is generally at the beginning. In a well-constructed story, however, the biggest changes in emotion generally occur near the end. It makes little sense to have the hero almost die in act one; end up killing the villain instead; and then, in the final act, have the hero win a croquet match. 

Both in the long term, and in the short term, to stay entertained, we look for rising action and for more and more outrageous things to happen. In the short term, whether we are enjoying opera, a movie, a sporting event, or a novel, we expect more extreme events and changes as time goes on. In the long term, we expect the media as a whole to be more sensational and sensationalistic as time goes on. 

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For many Americans, the story of the American dream no longer seemed a story worth believing. Some folks had worked hard their whole life for a corporation that simply shut their doors and moved away for cheaper costs and higher profits. In other cases, the company that they had worked for went bankrupts. Others did not have their jobs taken away but their ability to do the job disappeared because of accident or injury. 

Other folks experienced their small businesses or farms destroyed by giant corporations who had deep pockets. These deep pockets enabled the large corporation to lower prices and drive out local competition. The large companies could also buy politicians and afford to fight in court for years. So, what do such folks do when they believe that, through no fault of their own, their dreams have been destroyed? 

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Some turn to drugs. For many, the answer is to look to identify with someone else’s dream. They watch reality TV. Or porn videos. Or, sports events. Entertainment becomes much more than simply a distraction. It becomes central to life. If such folks have ridden the earth for more than 30 or 40 circuits around the sun, they have heard and believed the promises of many politicians. For many, such promises have not been fulfilled. Politicians have come and politicians have gone, but the lives of their constituents remain roughly the same regardless of which party or which person is in power. They care much more about their entertainment because their entertainment actually does make a difference in their lives. 

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Many folks in America have essentially come to view #45 as the CEO of America. He is a completely ineffective executive. But that doesn’t matter. He is not, to them, the Chief Executive Officer. He is the Chief Entertainment Officer. He always has something outrageous to say or tweet or do. He’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys, even if not quite so organized and educated. And, it isn’t just his base who view him as such. 

The liberal media as well as the conservative media cover him more than any other POTUS. Of course, they cover him in different ways. The conservative media may report on one of his many outrageous lies with a straight face and without commentary. “POTUS declares emergency as hordes of Muslim terrorists attack our southern border!” 

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The liberal media report on this differently: “POTUS declares emergency as ‘hordes of Muslim terrorists attack our southern border.’ However, there is no evidence of this. Immigration is actually down.”

The “mainstream” media split the difference. “POTUS declares emergency because he claims ‘hordes of Muslim terrorists are attacking our southern border. Liberals in Congress question whether this is really true as do the sheriffs along the southern border.”  

Notice that both the liberal way of reporting and the mainstream media way of reporting first repeats the outrageous lie. Furthermore, the outrageous lie is much more entertaining! Picturing a horde of Muslim terrorists attacking our southern border is vivid and specific. Saying #45 lied again is rather abstract, mundane, and boring.

For the “base”, having liberals fuss and fume about the outrageous words, tweets, and actions of #45 only adds to the fun! No matter if, down the road, our planet is unlivable. The “base” has already given up on real life. That dream has been broken too many times to be thought of as realistic. But a red hat with the words, “Make America Great Again” or the chance to chant something like: “Lock her up!” is entertaining. Maybe their dreams for themselves and their kids are dead, but maybe they can do a small part to make the dictatorial dreams of #45 a reality! 

Adding racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, graphic lies about abortion — these are not strategies for statesmanship. They are antithetical to uniting or leading a country. But who cares? They add to the entertainment value. And, beneath the surface, still unsaid by most, is the hope that someday, if all goes well, and #45 stays on and on and on as “Chief Entertainment Officer” there will be the chance to see live and in person, the actual burning of “witches” (uppity women). Or, maybe lynchings and burnings of people of color can be brought back! How entertaining would that be! The base can return to the days when they didn’t have to see the deeply disturbing scenes of men loving men which makes them have and hate those feelings in themselves. 

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While sound and fury is all happening on the surface in a very public and entertaining way, beneath that surface, some very smart and methodical people are destroying America. These folks are not ignorant of American politics or history or geography. They are well-versed in it. They are, in many cases, experts. They are members of the Russian intelligence organizations. They are turning diversity — one of the strengths and competitive advantages of America — into a source of division. They may or may not enjoy the aid of a fair number of extremely wealthy and power-hungry Americans who would also like to see the federal government dismantled to be replaced wherever possible by new business opportunities; e.g., to privatize social security, prisons, the military, roads, parks, the post office, etc. Moreover, in their dream for America, not only will they be the “bosses” of most other people; they will have absolute power over them as well. No more pesky sexual harassment suits will be filed in their dreams of the future. No more EEO or OSHA to deal with. Tax laws will be modified to do what they should do: tax the poor and middle class and help the ultra-wealthy aggregate more and more wealth. 

While the surface “show” is unpredictable to the point of almost seeming random, the underlying tide continues unabated and methodical. Putin wants #45 to do all he can to isolate America from its allies; to divide Americans against each other; to weaken America economically by increasing indebtedness and the disparity in incomes; to weaken America’s belief in government by subverting the rule of law and by appointing the worst among us to government office rather than the best; to weaken the morale and materiel of the military and intelligence agencies through lies, broken promises, and undercutting expertise and honesty. Because these stories are slower and more methodical, they are also less entertaining. 

One entertaining piece though is why it is that #45 works in Putin’s interest. Does Putin “have something” on #45? Might it be really salacious? Or, perhaps, Putin’s just so much ‘smarter’ than #45, that Putin can trick him into doing whatever Putin says. I put ‘smarter’ in quotes because it isn’t simply that Putin is himself smarter. What’s more important is that he actually knows a lot about politics, power, and people. He listens to his experts on destroying America and how to manipulate #45. So Putin’s effective intelligence is far greater than #45’s. It might even be the case that #45 simply admires Putin (and other world dictators) precisely because they are dictators. #45 may simply believe that if he follows Putin’s lead, Putin can show him how to become dictator of America, in time. 

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The why is an entertaining story. It is filled with mystery and suspense. The story of what #45 is doing to destroy America is far less entertaining. It is also far more consequential to the lives of our children and grandchildren than is the story of why. If America comes to live under a dictatorship it will subvert and pervert our society in hundreds of ways, large and small. In a world where powerful people hold all the power and truth is of no account, our science, creativity, and economic power will fall. At first, we can coast along just as many corporations do after they stop caring about their customers or investing in R&D. But fall we will. You bet your life.

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Having a Chief Entertainment Officer instead of a Chief Executive Officer means that to stay “entertaining”, the CEO must continually do more and more outrageous things. Kids in cages? That’s so 2018. No, the style next year will be to cage homosexuals. Caging homosexuals? That’s so 2020. Next year, we will burn them at the stake. But that will get old. The year after that we will burn young girls who refuse to have sex with the magnificent leader. But that will get old. Soon, we will be in the territory of The Hunger Games, Idiocracy, and The Running Man. Becoming mellower over time is no problem for a Chief Executive Officer. But it is anathema to a Chief Entertainment Officer. That kind of CEO must always strive to be ever more outrageous in order to keep up the ratings, entertain the base, and stoke his own ego.  

However “bad” you think the actions of #45 have been up to now, to keep his ratings — as well as to keep us all from being distracted from the slow erosion of everything that makes America actually great, future shows of #45 will be more and more destructive as time goes on. Every evil thing that #45 has hinted at, he will strive to engender in reality. That’s the way to build a very entertaining story. And, that’s the way to destroy a once great nation. 

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#45 has declared a “national emergency” which he immediately admitted was simply a way to get what he wanted without needing an OK from Congress. If this stands, after packing the Supreme Court, it sets the precedent that he (or any future President or dictator) can do absolutely anything he wants regardless of the reason. His ratings go up with his base because he has a dramatic story for them: against all odds, he is single-handedly securing our southern border against an invading horde of criminals! It’s all a lie, of course, but it’s an entertaining story. And his ratings will also go up because everyone in America and even overseas who cares about democracy and the rule of law; everyone who wants to avoid World War Three (because ultimately dictators need wars to stay in power) — they have a riveting story as well; viz., America is in serious danger of no longer being a Constitutional democracy.   

You bet your life, there’s a national emergency! If #45 is allowed to change the funding decisions that Constitutionally belong to Congress so that he can have his own vain pet project, he will no longer be a President; he will be a dictator like the handful of world leaders that he so fervently admires. So, yes, whether you want to or not, you are betting your life. And you are betting the life of everyone on the planet. 

Is there a national emergency? 

You bet your life there is.

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Trumpism as a cult. 

First of a series of five essays about SHRUGS (Super Hyper Really Ultra Greedy Swindlers) and why dictators always need war and conflict to stay in power.