You and I and King Cobra and Queen Anne’s Lace and every other living thing on earth are small and temporary little leaves on the ancient (4.5 billion years and counting), vast, and diverse Tree of Life. Typically, you know a lot more about the neighborhood surrounding your little leaf than you do about mine and vice versa. Yet, I may discover things that are of use to you. And, you may discover things that are of use to me. So, humans, have one gift that is valuable above all others.
But before we explore what that valuable gift is, let me ask you a question about how you would react to a hypothetical.
Suppose you were so poor that you barely had enough to eat, no clothes to wear, a small damp cave for shelter. You were cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Now, suppose I gave you a magic ring that changed all that. If you wear this ring — voila! — you now have clean water and sufficient food and plenty of clothes and a house that really shelters you from the extremes of the environment. In return, you must wear the magic ring at all times. If you remove the ring, your life reverts immediately.
How tempted would you be to throw that magic ring in the toilet?
Yet, that is precisely what many people do.
And, if a sufficient number of people throw away the ring, everyone will essentially live the life of a beast.
That “magic” ring is, like most rings, circular. It represents the whole of humanity. It represents the family. It represents a club, a marriage, a lodge, a company, a church, a school, a class, a group of friends. It represents our respect for each other as human beings. It represents our ability to communicate with each other.
You could call that ring love and I wouldn’t object. It need not be imbued with so much positivity that people feel love. But it must be overall positive. It represents truth. It represents empathy. Love is strong and it can overcome both a few misdeeds by everyone and many misdeeds by a few. But if lies become more commonplace than truths, civilization will run downhill and eventually cease.
Similarly, if hate and fear and contempt are how we mostly regard each other, the marriage, the family, the club, the school, the church, the party, the lodge, the company, the group of friends will eventually disintegrate. In many cases, it would disintegrate into a self-destructive war except that most people will stop themselves because they don’t want to be ostracized or jailed by the larger society. If, however, the entire society becomes rife enough with hate and fear, no one will come to anyone else’s rescue.
Our entire survival depends on our gift, our ring, our community, our country, our fellow human beings.
Our gift is not our lightning speed of running.
Our ring is not our ability to out-swim the shark.
Our gift is not our powerful jaws, or our steel strong talons.
It is our ability to communicate with each other by sharing experiences. It is truth, caring, and cooperation. That is our one gift that enabled us to survive and thrive.
A democracy can take many specific forms. What it is, at base, is that it recognizes the gift as a fundamental value to be cherished and used. The fundamental purpose is to ensure that government is aware of and takes into account how policies and people and processes actually impact people who live in the democracy. In a representative democracy, the people, in turn, can vote for people to represent them. They can vote for any reason they like; e.g., because they admire a particular person; they believe they will do a competent job; they like the candidate’s promised policy changes; they find that the candidate reminds them of his funny old uncle Al who always had the best candy on offer.
No democracy is perfect. There has to be in its structure and processes more truth than lie; more empathy than indifference; more love than hate; more hope than fear. In some democracies, there are basically two parties; others have dozens. Parties may differ on philosophies, priorities, platforms, programs, etc.
A “party” who rejectsdemocracy itself however, is not an actual political party. The term “political party” only makes sense in the context of a democracy. If “elections” are determined by those in power, they are not actual elections and there is no party. It’s just a group of thugs who want to rule by hate and fear and lies. That is not a political party. It is not a legitimate part of a political process. They want to throw the ring away in the toilet. They want to subvert the truth to lies. They want to severely limit love and enhance fear and hate. They divide rather than unify. Oh, and guess what else? Historically, they want war. They will ensure that war just as Putrid is doing right now.
Democracies have also been known to start wars. When they do, it’s often based on lies. As communication has become more ubiquitous, it has been harder and harder for democracies to lie, cheat, and be cruel. Most people don’t want that! Most people want there to be more truth, love, caring, and cooperation. There are plenty of differences about how to go about that. That’s fine. That’s just the sort of difficult and messy problem that democracy is particularly less bad than any other system.
As I said, I really think most people prefer interacting in a caring and cooperative way. We see that it’s more effective in getting things done and it simply feels better for everyone. For that reason, dick-tater-$hits have to provide lies to help assuage the consciences of its citizens. “Oh, they are all murderers and rapists! You shouldn’t feel bad about being cruel to them!” Another favorite is: “Oh, they aren’t really human beings, the way we are. No need to treat them any better than a fox trying to steal your chickens!”
Needless to say, this ploy completely fails on many people and isn’t completely effective on anyone. Any time you’re cruel, whatever story you tell yourself about it, you know you are destroying a bit of yourself. Except, what you are really destroying is something much vaster than a bit of yourself. In fact, what you are destroying is something much vaster than all of yourself. What you are destroying by being cruel, whatever story you tell yourself is the human branch of the Tree of Life. Lies weaken that branch. Cruelty weakens that branch. Bullying weakens that branch. So too does cowardice.
The architecture of karma shows that the future impact of your present day behavior is much greater in scope than your present impact. Behaving well is in your interest because what you are is essentially a very small and very temporary part of that ancient, vast, and diverse Tree of Life. The more you can enhance that tree with truth and love, the better for the whole tree.
Don’t throw away the ring. Wear it proudly. It is truly an amazing gift!
After some delicate and delicious love-making with Shadow Walker, Many Paths decided to check on She Who Saved Many Lives. If she seemed well enough, it might also be good to see whether her mentor had any further wisdom to share about Many Path’s plan to gather all the tribes. Her goal was to bring about peace but she realized that in trying to accomplish that, she might trigger the very things she hoped to avoid. Her tentative plan was therefore to gather as much wisdom as she might from many sources — but not to wait overlong. As the story goes, she thought to herself, if you waste the entire warm season deciding where to plant, you will starve in the season of great ice and snow.
Many Paths called out to her friend and mentor and received a surprisingly strong and cheery response. “Come in, Many Paths. Come in! I’ve been meaning to ask your advice about something. Do sit down. I will get you a cup of tea this time.”
Not for the first time, Many Paths wondered whether it was actually possible for She Who Saved Many Lives to see into her heart and mind. After serving them both a cup of spicebush tea, ever so slightly flavored with mint, She Who Saved Many Lives went to her work area and brought over two patches of weaving. She placed one on each knee of Many Paths. The older woman smiled and said, “It never fails to amaze me how strong a weave of reeds is! It’s so wonderful. Just as I hope our community is.”
“I have had that exact same though,” Many Paths replied. Then, she laughed and added, “Likely because you pointed that out to me before I was even old enough to remember.”
The Elder Shaman tilted her head and nodded ever so slightly. “Perhaps. But you have made so many wonderful discoveries. And, not only you but the entire tribe. That’s because you have been open to learning and seeing what is there. But enough of that. I did have a question for you. Which of these two do you think is better?”
Many Paths frowned. “Better for what? What are you making?”
She Who Saved Many Lives considered, “A basket to carry things.”
Many Paths nodded, “What things and how many? This weave has these stiffer switches to help support the weight. If you’re making a small bag to collect mint, for example, you wouldn’t have any need. If you’re making a large bag to collect apples, however, you would want the extra structuring support.”
She Who Saved Many Lives nodded. “Yes, yes. That sounds obvious when you say it. I guess the fever must have addled my brain a bit. Anyway, thank you for reminding me. Soon, I will have to decide on what I want to use the bag for; then I will know which one is likely correct. Now, what did you want to ask my advice on?”
Many Paths took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I am quite sure I didn’t say anything about asking your advice.”
She Who Saved Many Lives nodded. “I think you’re right. Sometimes I confuse us.” She laughed. “I know it sounds crazy but any way, I will get back to my weaving — or at least deciding why I’m weaving and let you go about your business — unless, of course, there was something else you wanted to talk about.”
Many Paths chuckled. “As it turns out, I did want to ask your advice about something. You know I want to convene a — Let me ask you another question first. Are you going to teach me how to see into another person’s mind?”
She Who Saved Many Lives laughed surprisingly long. At last, she caught her breath and said, “Many Paths! You won all seven rings of empathy! Of course, you can see into others. Of course, you can never be perfect at it. But you already do it. I knew you were busy. Yet you came to see me. You probably wanted to see whether I was dead or not, but even your footsteps and the way you called out told me you had something else on your mind. In fact, whether you knew it or not, you assumed I was alive. There was no edge of anxious worry in your voice. It was friendly — but also a bit — plaintive. I knew you wanted something from me. Now, you can see I have very few possessions. I find too many to be intolerably distracting. I am not going to help you with any arduous physical task. What is left? You want to offer me the opportunity to share my experiences; that is a great gift. For once we die, what else is left? So, naturally, I am more than willing to try to see what grows from our discussion.”
Many Paths looked down and slowly shook her head. She realized that she could read people. She simply forgot sometimes to do it. If you really take the time to put yourself in their sandals, of course, you can make a good guess at what they’re thinking, she thought. Aloud, she said, “Yes. You’re right. So, I want to convene the tribes and I am wondering how, exactly, to go about it. How can I make sure it helps bring greater peace and doesn’t somehow spark off violence. Maybe it’s better not to try?”
She Who Saved Many Lives replied, “I can say that no-one has attempted to bring all the tribes we know about together — not in my lifetime or the lifetime of my mother or the lifetime of my mother’s mother. During that time, there have been many wars and other atrocities. People stealing other people’s children? Even in our own tribe, we had some who forgot they were not the Tree of Life but a small and temporary part of the Tree of Life. I judge it’s worth the attempt.”
Many Paths. “As to how…?”
She Who Saved Many Lives said, “What comes to mind for what you are trying to do is more akin to growing things than it is to making things. I am making a basket, and I will use it for a time. I don’t ever imagine that it will live forever any more than that I will or you, my dear. But if I know your heart correctly, you don’t want to make a thing, which will at some time break or dissolve. You want to make something grow for a hundred years, like a giant oak. Ideally, it would be an oak that would seed still more oaks when old mother oak also died.”
Many Paths nodded. She realized that her mentor had described her desires precisely even though she herself could not have articulated so succinctly. “Yes, that’s exactly right.”
She Who Saved Many Lives nodded. “Let’s suppose then that you want to plant something so that it’s likely to grow. What do you need?”
“A seed. Fertile ground. Water. Sun. That’s it. Is there more? Love! It’s all more likely to grow with love.”
She Who Saved Many Lives nodded. “Yes. That’s it. I would start with the love. You already have that. Then, you need to know what seed. The seed determines what will grow though not exactly how. But you will need the ground, water, and sun so it can grow at all.”
Many Paths continued the thought stream. “If you know what the seed is, then, you know what kind of place to look for. You know whether you need to plant it in bright sunlight or in shade. You know whether it needs very fertile ground or if it can grow in dirt and rocks. And, you know whether it needs to be in very wet ground or if arid ground will do.”
“Yes,” Many Paths, “and it occurs to me, that you might choose a place with enough light first, because, you can make the ground more fertile and bring more water, if need be. But brining light is more difficult.” She Who Saved Many Paths sighed. “Once, apparently, we knew how to bring light as those which lit the tunnel that leads to the Veritas on the … on the other side of the mountain.”
“I do wonder, Old Mother, whether such light would is strong enough to grow plants. And then, Shadow Walker used reflections of the sun, along with other captives, to escape from the City of the Z-Lotz. It seems too contrived and elaborate for growing plants, but … perhaps writing is a little like that when it comes to providing enough truth so that peace can grow. It allows you to bring the light of wisdom to places that are many days walk from where they started. More importantly, you can place the light in a different time as well. We have all learned so much from the books uncovered in the great library. But, as usual, you are right. We must determine what type of thing we want to grow. That decision will determine the type of seed. The type of seed will determine the proper material, sunshine, and water.”
Many Paths arose and began pacing around in the Old Leader’s shelter. “Of course, since the outcome could impact everyone, I need to know how everyone believes it should be. Or, at least, find out as much as they know about how they want it to be.”
“Yes.” She Who Saved Many Lives considered for a moment before answering. “I suspect some will have many ideas about that while others may not care that much. Nearly everyone wants peace. On other matters, there may be great differences.”
Many Paths sat back down. The two sat in a comfortable silence for a time. Many Paths rose at last and said, “Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I will look for some to walk with me a bit and contemplate the plants and their nature and try to see among them what it is that the people may be seeking. I’m glad you seem so much better.”
“As am I, Many Paths. You know, you give me much to live for.” She Who Saved Many Lives smiled and added, “But I do think I will lie down for a nap now. Though some time in the near future, I might accompany you on such a walk.”
Many Paths left and saw Shadow Walker coming toward her. From the look on his face, Many Paths judged he had some news. His smile broadened as he approached and he said, “Hello my love! Can we go for a bit of a walk?”
Putting a dick-tater* [see below*] in charge of things has always been a very very bad idea.
But in today’s world, this bad idea is worse than ever!
There is still the problem that such a position appeals mainly to cruel and cowardly people. That results in the person who is in that position surrounding themselves, not with the best experts in the country, nor the most diverse range of opinions, but with people they can cow.
Hence, you end up with someone predisposed to greed, cruelty, and cowardliness surrounding themselves with others who are cruel, greedy, and cowardly. The entire government decision making process ends up narrow, uncreative, and stupid. It was that way in ancient times and in the Middle Ages.
In those days, however, the whole of accurate human knowledge was much more limited than it is today. Today, even an actual genius (not a self-declared one) will know only a small fraction of the knowledge relevant to a given problem. That’s a bit of an issue for democratically elected leaders as well, but at least there is some chance that elected leaders will listen to a range of experts and make a decent decision. But in a dick-tater-$hit**, that almost never happens.
Although a dick-tater is supposed to have infinite power, it’s actually just a public fiction. Of course, the people as a whole are way more powerful than the dick-tater. But the dick-tater tries to put everyone in fear of each other. They divide in order to conquer. If the people would all stop obeying stupid orders, the dick-tater-$hit would crumble. But it takes a lot of bravery to be the first one to disobey their orders. The first one will be killed.
It takes even more bravery to be the second one. Because the second one to defy the Putintate (or whatever it’s called) has already seen the effects of radiation poisoning (or whatever other cowardly action was taken to silence the first). And, perhaps it takes even more courage to be the third person to work for the people rather than just please the dictator.
I enjoy playing chess myself. But it’s not that fun to simply stare at an empty chessboard. (I have actually done that to see how I can allocate my attention to various squares in the matrix, but that’s the subject of a different essay.) It gets old though. It’s certainly more fun to play chess. If you have no pieces however, it’s basically a boring game. It only works because you have pieces to move. If the pieces move on their own and express their basic nature as separate human beings, it’s disconcerting. But it’s even more disconcerting if there are no pieces whatsoever because you’ve murdered them all.
NOTES: * I use the term “dick-tater” because I think it shows a better derivation. Latin for “Say often or prescribe” is where “dictator” comes from. And although some dictators and would-be dictators are mouthy or whiney, they don’t really *say* things at all in the way most of us do. Most people, most of the time, say things so as to better communicate and to coordinate our work for the community. The purpose of a dick-tater is to control, not to share truths. So, I don’t like relating what a dick-tater does with words like “diction” or “predict.”
When we think about toxic masculinity, however, we often refer to someone who only has his own interests at heart with the answer to this question: “What do you call it when a needle when stabs into your skin?” Or, we sometimes use a person’s name — one that rhymes with “ick”. And the use of this word “dick” in that way is not at all inclusive of the many characteristics of male anatomy. When we say someone is a “dick”, we’re not saying he’s shaped like one, or that he changes size a lot, or that he’s used for urination. We refer quite specifically to someone being a dick as acting, perceiving, and actually being a certain way. It doesn’t really even have anything to do with sex, per se, although certainly a “dick” is likely to approach sex, like everything else in a selfish, dickish way. He might be prone to “grab women by the pu$$y” or rape them or pay for sex. But that has nothing to do with, e.g., the actual miniscuality of the mushroom in question. True, microsize might be part of the motivation for someone to “become a dick” (since they don’t really have much of one), but it need not go that way.
The essence of the term refers only to the psychology behind what is being done. What is behind every perception, action, and decision is being an absolute coward. This is basically why the dick-tater seeks absolute power. He or she is too chicken to face a fair contest of any kind. They might lose. That is also why they are prone to pay for sex or sexually assault or molest someone younger. In all cases, they don’t have to face whether or not they will be accepted by their desired partner. It’s too scary for them. They might be rejected. But not if they can be bullied or forced or paid off. The slime invades every aspect of the dick-tater’s life.
No-one really knows exactly what causes people to be extremely (or sightly) sociopathic. It seems correlated with a lack of unconditional love given on the part of the parents. Criminality does tend to run in families but it’s unclear how much of that is due to which sorts of factors. In some ways, maybe it’s a lot like learning any other family business. This family tends to have good cooks. That family tends to have good crooks. In each case, the people in the family learn from each. Within this family there is an innately determined ability to imagine the result of combining tastes, while in that family people seem to have the natural talent to cause great wastes.
Let’s move on to the “tater” part. When I think of a “tater” I think of “tater tot” and that too seems wildly appropriate. The “tater tot” is very appealing. And, it’s also very bad for you compared with most other foods; it’s high in fat, in calories, and in fast-absorbing carbs. And, typically, it comes with added heart-unhealthy sodium. So, in terms of what it means for a society, few things could be more appropriate metaphors. It looks attractive and yummy but what it really does it tend to kill you while it makes you feel good for a moment. But your kids and grandkids and great-grandkids won’t feel that moment that you’ll relish. All they’ll feel is endless frustration and despair of the situation you put them in. And utter hate.
Can you really blame them?
The word “tater-tot” also has within in the two words, “tater” and “tot” and again both of these seem appropriate. A “tater” is a slang word for “potato” — a food which is something we can almost all relate to. I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t really like potatoes. Some only like French Fries while other prefer a Baked Potato. I like potatoes every way made that I’ve ever had: Baked, Fried, Scalloped, Potato Salad, German Potato Salad, boiled, mashed. The only “problem” with potatoes is that they don’t really solve the hunger problem very permanently. They are high calorie and the energy is quickly absorbed. This means your pancreas secretes insulin to drive your blood sugar level back down. And, since our biochemistry mainly evolved before French Fries, our pancreas thinks we are having a huge meal and sends way more than enough insulin. And, that drops your blood sugar level again. So fifteen minutes after eating the French Fries with salt & ketchup (Yes, of course, I love them!) You feel wonderful! Yum! But an hour and a half after eating them you may feel hungrier than you did before you started!
That seems totally appropriate as a metaphor.
At last, we come to “tot.” It’s almost too easy and obvious, isn’t it? Many of us go through a phase as a toddler where we try this “I am the dictator of the world” and everyone must cater to me.” It doesn’t happen to everyone, but to far more than actually become dicks. It takes time and experience to understand how to be kind to people in all its complexity, but the basics are pretty easy, actually. So, most kids are “nice” to others most of the time. But there are a few who are not. And, then almost everyone has a bad day now and again. Now, personally, I was much more of a dick at age 13 than I was at 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11. Hormones? I don’t know. I just know it was so. Your mileage may differ. But, I think generally speaking, we would agree that dick-titorial behavior is childish behavior. It’s childish to be so self-centered that you care more about your own ego than about the fact that you’re killing women and children who have done nothing to hurt you. Nothing.
So, where were we? Ah, yes, a dick-tater-$hit is a balancing act. Everyone around the dick-tater is afraid of that dick-tater. But at the same time, the dick-tater is scared of everyone around them! This means, among other things, that the dick-tater is always looking for external enemies in order to keep his inner ring from turning their gaze toward him and thinking how much better a job of it they could do. To avoid internal division, the dick-tater is always fomenting discord to outside enemies or to the “undesirables” within their own society.
Good luck with that one! Because there is absolutely no way anyone can tell with certainty who or what is going to be called a deadly evil in a dictatorship ten years down the line. Just because a dictatorship begins by forbidding gay marriage in year one doesn’t mean they won’t require it next decade. “No, they couldn’t. They wouldn’t.” Well, don’t be so sure. TFG, would-be tater-tot, was a liberal (gasp!) On many issues such as abortion, before getting into politics. Of course, he needs the support of his fans in order to gain absolute power, but not to keep it. Once the machinery of a dictatorship is well in place, it is very easy to target different groups at different times. If someone thinks they’re safe because the current dick-tater pretends to be a lot like them, they’re simply fooling themselves. First of all, they’re a lot less like the dick-tater than he would have you believe. Second, even if he were your identical twin, he’s out to steal from the people and if he can do that better by throwing you under the bus, he would sacrifice that twin brother. That’s what it means to be a dick-tater: No-one else really matters; you sizzle them with flashy illusion but there’s nothing lasting or substantive; you appeal to the selfish child that lives in everyone. That child was formed before you learned about logic and evidence and facts versus opinions. Why appeal to the rational mind who might (in fact, likely would) see right through your web of lies? Instead, promise them something wonderful and undefined. Whenever you need a bump in popularity, tell them you’ve achieved one of those wonderful things.
You don’t actually have to achieve anything. You simply have to direct newspapers and social media what to say about your wonderful achievement. Oh, and let’s not forget to jail or poison any journalist who reports on the truth. Eventually, people will begin to catch on despite the dick-tater’s insistence on the web of lies. Eventually, everyone knows the emperor has no clothes. But he simply makes it known that anyone who mentions it will be decapitated which is ironic in that it’s actually the state that needs to be decapitated.
[Notes: (cont.) ** The suffix “$hit” is appended dick-tater in order to form the word for the type of government. I find the suffix: “ship” leaves me adrift. Maybe running a country is like running a ship? I think the most we can say about “ship” is that it is used to make a collective out of individuals. Partners form a partnership. Towns form a township. But…? Dick-taters make a dick-tater-ship? I guess to some extent that is true. The people closes to the Dick-Tater also have to be pretty cowardly. And so on. The further away you get from the dick-tater, the braver people tend to be. They almost have to because they have far less power. The dick-tater rules because he has power. But what is that power? He doesn’t physically have control over very many.
There are agreements throughout the society that enforce the power. On any given day, everyone could wake up and simply stop enforcing them. After all, they might ask themselves, “Why should the dick-tater be the only one in the country allowed to break his promises? Anyway, I promised I would protect Mother Russia from attack, not that I would attack my neighbors who pose no threat to me.” Those are uncomfortable questions for a dick-tater to answer. So he won’t. To survive in a dick-tater-$hit you need to bribe people. Hence, the dollar sign. Because the rule of law means nothing and the truth means nothing and fair play means nothing and raw power means everything, you and me and everyone we care about will be in something and believe me that thing we will be in is not a ship.
Fire: “What are you doing here? Fool. I’m god here. You’re neither wanted nor needed. It’s over. Have an ice day!”
Ice: “Perhaps. Perhaps not.”
Fire: “Bah. In war, it is I who kills. Flame-throwers, the gunpowder propelling bullets, bombs, and best of all, but rarely used, atomic fire. Oh, it warms my heart to see.”
Ice: “Yes, but I am your best partner, though you know it not.”
Fire: “You? Hah. Okay, I grant you, frostbite and cold have destroyed the bodies of many. Napolean and Hitler and Lord knows who else’s armies. But still.”
Ice: “No, you’re foolish and rambling as ever. I’m not talking about how I can help you kill. I’m talking about how I prepare the ground for you. Make people not care. Encourage the turning of a cold shoulder, a blind eye. Without me, people might never turn to you.”
Fire: “I doubt it. Fire begets fire. Hate begets hate. What does your little chill of indifference have to do with it? Be gone or I’ll melt you to water.”
Ice: “Perhaps. But I might douse you to smoldering embers. I suggest you think about it. We can work as partners. Each making the other stronger. Actually, we have been partnering, but I’ve never gotten the credit I deserve. You’ve ignored me too long.”
Fire: “Hah! Not nearly so much as you have ignored me! You’re useless without me!”
Ice: “Fine, if that’s the way you feel, then this is goodbye. Forever.”
One quarter of the country is prepared to die and have their loved ones die for the sake of what they know or should know to be lies.
But what happens in war?
At least one side, and more typically both sides are willing to die and put their families at risk for what they know or should know to be lies. They don’t typically go into combat for their own benefit! They do it for country. They do it for their religion. They do it to protect their families. They do it in reprisal for some real or imagined actions in the past. But very few would willingly walk into combat hoping to “get more out of it” than they put into it! That would be like running through a rich neighborhood during a heavy lightening storm. Sure, you might be struck by lightening or hit by a falling tree and die or be permanently injured. But — hey! — there’s also a chance you might be able to sue one of these rich suckers and make millions! Yeah. That could happen. But, as I say, that’s not why most people put themselves in harm’s way.
So, to recapitulate, war itself is based, at least partly, on lies.
Are we doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over and over again?
But consider this:
Suppose there are two teams Purple and Green. These two teams have a competition in something. It doesn’t much matter whether it’s soccer, baseball, debate, ice hockey, figure skating, cheerleading or anything else. What matters is that each side wants to “win.” But it also matters, and more than a little bit, that each side also wants to enjoy themselves. They value other things in addition to winning or losing. Some enjoy the companionship. Some enjoy the challenge. Some enjoy improving. Some enjoy the sunshine. It doesn’t have to be the same value for everyone.
The point is that tennis is not a zero sum game. It’s true that a particular match has one and only one winning team. But there are other benefits. Everyone is a “winner” in the sense of the challenge or the emotional ups & downs or the sheer joy of movement. The score is only one part of the value of the game. The same is true for all sports and for almost all human endeavors in the real world. It is very seldom a zero sum game. We can almost always find some state of affairs as being bad (all out atomic war destroys the entire human species)
Similarly, both the Purple and the Green team want to keep the game going. In most cases, they also want to have cordial social relations with all the other players. So, in the vast majority of cases, people “handle” disagreements about the score, the line calls, etc. within the bounds of civility. Let’s suppose that one person of the four is a narcissistic sociopath who thinks he’s always right and insists he’s always right no matter how egregious his line calls. Eventually, such a person would destroy the game. It wouldn’t take a majority. A single sociopathic teammate could spoil it for everyone. But only if everyone else lets them get away with it.
Have you ever watched an all-out bench-clearing brawl between to baseball teams or two hockey teams? Every time I’ve seen it, it’s really only triggered by one person and accepted by one person. So, two, among those whole teams, are sometimes enough to ignite a kind of “war.” While a brawl isn’t the most pleasant experience I can imagine, it’s even worse among professional athletes. It’s potentially career-ending. For most, it’s a potential financial hit from the world of brand endorsements. There could be legal trouble. For a few, there might be regret. Similarly, guess what? Most people do not benefit from war! It’s so obvious that I hesitate to say it, but it seems as though people do not see it as obvious. A very few people get very very rich. Many people die; many are seriously and permanently injured; many people’s homes are destroyed; families are separated; possessions are destroyed; plans are accomplishments are destroyed; peace of mind is destroyed; forests and wild places are destroyed; innocent animals are destroyed; friendships are destroyed; trust is destroyed…I mean, are you starting to see a pattern here?
War is about destruction. War does not create beauty. War does not feed the hungry. War does not heal the sick. War does not comfort the soul. War benefits the few; never the many.
At the extreme, there is dictatorship which will always be much more incentivized to war than will a democracy. The dictator will use the fact that there’s no free press to whip up hatred against an enemy. Then, he’ll attack (but pretend the other side started it), etc. Now, if attacked, the democracy has little choice but to respond. Encouraging a bully is a losing strategy. Going to war is also losing. War is never about winning. It’s about losing less. And going to war is better than giving in to a bully. If you succumb to the bully, you have no life any more. The bully is a parasite on you; one that you cannot get rid of while he sucks your blood and everyone else’s in the nation. Parasite is just another name for dictator.
In any case, a small number of people can start a war which, in turn, benefits only a small number of people, at most.
That doesn’t seem like a good system to me.
It sounds like “an accident waiting to happen.” And, it has. Over and over and over and over again.
When will we ever learn?
And, while three fourths of America has battled their butts off for over a year and a half — socially distancing, wearing masks, making masks, getting vaccinated, staying healthy — in some cases working heroically — quite literally — heroically to fight the war against COVID. While that’s what’s been happening with about 3/4 of Americans….
One fourth of America has decided to join in the War on COVID — on the side of the virus! They refuse to get vaccinated; refuse to wear a mask; refuse to socially distance. Why? Because they’ve been ordered to by the leaders of a death cult. Make no mistake. This has nothing to do with personal freedom. If it were about personal freedom, there might be as many as seventeen people nationwide who would prefer to be intubated for weeks than to wear a mask for minutes. If it were really about personal freedom, the vast vast majority would choose a few moments of discomfort rather than dying or being permanently disabled. Ironically, most of the cult leaders have been vaccinated, and when they’ve fallen ill, they’ve received expensive top notch care that you or I or the COVIDites will not be likely to receive.
Something there is that doesn’t love a war, not even a war on truth.
“Little Grandma” (as we all called her) was 86 when last I saw her alive on what was to be her deathbed. She smiled and asked about my broken arm. She was old, bent, wrinkled — and tired — so she said. I guess it was from her Native American bones that I inherited my love of nature, my peace with all of it; all that is natural and beautiful on this tiny jewel of a planet — the wild iris, the rose, the caterpillar, the crimson sunset and the rain.
The rain. But of course, there are a thousand kinds of rain. They come in so many colors, moods, and sounds. Tall sheets of rain seen from miles across the “Big Sky” country; cold, drizzly little fall rains; sudden laughing summer showers; lashing hurricanes that flood and kill and toss trees like broken toys.
When we buried you, “Little Grandma,” it was a gray day steel steady rain of tears from a sky that held unseen clouds. It was the rain, I guess, that drowned out the meaningless words of the poor man in the black robes babbling uselessly to comfort me. The grass was very green in your little spot beneath the black, dripping elm.
On the rain fell, on the ancient little church, on the little crowd of black umbrellas, on the stones of the graveyard, gradually, gradually, fading out even the words carved in stone — but not the words carved in my heart, “Little Grandma.”
We don’t think of “Little Grandma” as a fallen soldier. In her longish life, however, she saw her children and then her grandchildren go off to war. Seldom even a heavily redacted post card. Never a call on the satellite phone. And her grand-daughter’s husband was killed in a war. So, I thought of her on Memorial Day — and all the other millions of women who kept life going — and all the while never knowing whether their sons and husbands would ever return whole — or return at all. Now, of course, women are also war-fighters. But haven’t they always been?