Monday, February 1, 2016

Week of 02/01/2016

Ego Is Our Greatest and Worst Enemy
The world lost a great wordsmith in the form of comedian George Carlin in 2008.
Carlin questioned a lot of things that we would hold dear.  He slaughtered sacred cows and did so in a way that would cause us to laugh before realizing he was right.
One of his best arguments was how we used “soft language” to dilute and negate serious problems. 
For instance, in World War I, we called a certain state of mental unbalance due to stress and trauma “Shell Shock”.  It was simple and to-the-point.  It even sounded like the concussion of the mortar shells themselves.
Then in World War II, we called the exact same condition “Battle-Fatigue”.  Longer words, hyphenated, and not as harsh as “Shell Shock”.
Then in Vietnam, we called it “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.  Much longer and still with a hyphen, and now all of the seriousness has been watered down and whittled away by the passive softer language.
“Now,” Carlin would say, “if we still called it ‘Shell Shock’, I’d bet you that our veterans would be getting the help that they need.”
I couldn’t help but think of Carlin when two certain terms began popping up during the holiday season.  Neither of them are new but they certainly have been showing up more and more frequently now.
The first term is “Affluenza”.  Not “Influenza”, as in the disease, but “Affluenza”, as in the asinine idea that “affluence” or wealth can be like a disease.
The term was supposedly first invented in the 1950’s, but didn’t take effect until 1997, when a PBS documentary focused on the overwhelming emphasis on consumerism.  Since then, it was considered a social disorder, showing that the acquisition of wealth and affluence and a fanatical obsession with consumerism have actually made people sicker, not better, as the capitalist script would have you believe.
Unfortunately, this term was then hijacked in 2013 by a shrink and a shyster to keep a 16-year old by the name of Ethan Couch from facing justice for his drunk-driving conviction in which four people were killed through his actions.  His defense team somehow convinced the judge that young Mister Couch was so “influenced” by his wealthy parents that he could not tell the difference between right and wrong.  So, according to the legal argument, he supposedly did not know what he was doing when he stole beer from a liquor store, stole his father’s truck, driving at over 70-miles an hour in a 40mph zone, and then plowed said stolen vehicle into a stationary vehicle which killed four people and injured eleven.  It was supposedly the fault of his parents, who were so wealthy that they could not teach him right from wrong, other than the Capitalist Golden Rule, which is “those with the gold make the rules”.
The truly insane part about this is that the judge actually believed this pile of cow dung and sentenced young Mister Couch to ten years of probation for killing four people.
Well, the term came up again because young Mister Couch decided to miss one of those probation hearings and instead fled to Mexico with his mother.  He supposedly fled because a video surfaced of him at a drinking party, which was one of the things he wasn’t supposed to be doing while on probation.  And for a while they managed to get away with it... until Mister Couch was stupid and ordered pizza through a cellphone that he should have known that the police would be monitoring.
“Affluenza” ...
Do you know what us “common folk” call that?  We call it for what it really is:
Bad parenting.
Mommy and Daddy Couch were incompetent parents and the end result of that incompetence killed four people and injured eleven.  And if they didn’t have money, then they wouldn’t have been able to afford the high-priced attorneys and shrinks to dream up with an excuse for their incompetence.
Ethan Couch was sixteen at the time.  Even though motor vehicle laws make him an adult, in any other situation, he would be considered a juvenile, so this incompetence was on his parents.
But today he’s eighteen.  That made him a legal adult when he decided to violate the terms of his probation and flee the country.  He can vote, he can enlist in the military, he can sign contracts, and he can be held to the same standard as the rest of us.  And if “Affluenza” supposedly made him amoral, then I have the perfect rehabilitation center for him to readjust his priorities that his parents won’t have to spend extra money to put him in.  In fact, we all pay for this program.  It’s called prison.
Maybe if the judge wasn’t swayed by overpriced lawyers and shrinks and actually called the problem what it really is... bad parenting... then Mister Couch would still be behind bars and away from all of that supposedly “virulent” affluence.
The other term that has come up of late has to do with a certain state of mind from a certain socio-political faction in America.
They call it “cognitive dissonance”.  It’s the mind trying to deal with ideas or information that contradicts what they personally believe in.
Like searching for Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction”, which was the whole justification for the Iraq War.  Even though only a handful of weapons were found, the huge cache that the GOP claimed was there and were about to be put to use or else sold to terrorists were never found.  But the GOP, to this day, assert that those weapons are there... somewhere.
Or the idea that somehow President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States as required under the United States Constitution.  (Are you listening, Ted Cruz?)  Even though people saw Obama’s birth certificate, there are still plenty of “birthers” that refuse to recognize the document and will cling to forgeries to try to validate their delusion that Obama wasn’t legitimately elected.  And yet this is the same political faction that will turn right around and declare someone born in Canada to be “legitimate” even though it is a clear violation of the same Constitutional requirement.  (Again, are you listening, Senator Cruz?)
“Cognitive Dissonance” is being used to explain how supposedly “educated” politicians would ignore evidence of global climate change and instead cling to the paid script from K-Street lobbyists that either challenge, question, or openly dismiss any indication that climate change even exists.  “It’s not their fault”, claim the liberals.  “They’re just suffering from cognitive dissonance.”  Of course the obscene amounts of money being given to them from K-Street may have something to do with that as well.
Of course, back in the days of George Carlin, there was another term that best described this situation.  One word, in fact, that was so easy to comprehend that nobody disagreed with the root cause.  A word that only had three letters to it and no hyphens.
That’s right, boys and girls, back in the days of Mister Carlin, we didn’t dismiss the naysayers and doubters by saying they suffer from “cognitive dissonance”.  We called it for what it was... a bunch of pig-headed self-serving egos!
But that’s too harsh, isn’t it?  That’s just too “combative” to consider that one’s ego could be so stubborn so as to refuse to see the truth put before them.  And when you’re talking about conservatives and neo-conservatives, you’re talking about egos with a gun-fetish, and who really wants to be shot for telling some pig-headed fascist that he or she has an ego problem?
So, instead, we simply “dismiss” the people with an ego-problem by describing the problem in a clinical term like “cognitive dissonance”.  That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?  Hell, I’m sure the politicians and the talk radio personalities would even try to use that to get one of those handicap plates.  “I’m disabled.  I suffer from cognitive dissonance.”
But just like Carlin saying that our veterans would probably be getting better treatment if they were still calling PTSD “Shell-Shock”, I think we’d be confronting a lot more problems if we called out the politicians and their sycophants in talk radio and newspaper editorials for what they really have.  Egos.  Damnable egos the size of Stone Mountain.
And I think we need to do that sooner rather than later.
Because let’s get brutally honest here... those same money-fueled egos are doing more than just denying the elephant in the room.  Their egos are also fueling a tsunami of anti-intellectualism that denigrates science and even education itself.  Oh, yes, let’s attack the efforts to get kids to actually learn something other than how to make YouTube videos and sending selfies.  Let’s attack a form of learning simply because “that President” endorsed it, even if it was really started by his predecessor.  Let’s pollute the airwaves with junk “science” that give contradictory messages about what’s “good” for you.  Today wine is good for you, and tomorrow it won’t be.  Next week, pork will kill you, and a week later it won’t.  Let’s load up the legislative oversight boards with evangelicals that question any scientific concept that challenge their own beliefs.  Who cares if Johnny still can’t read if he can still win football games?  Why should he learn code when all of the coding jobs will be outsourced to other countries, or to have people from those countries come here on H1B visas?  And don’t worry if the “facts” make America look bad... because we’ll just hire our own “experts” to make everything look just peachy!
It’s gotten to the point to where people don’t even care if they’re caught in a lie!  The new standard operating procedure for conservatives and neo-conservatives when caught telling a falsehood is to simply “double-down” on the lie.  Never back down.  Never apologize.  Never acknowledge that they’re wrong.  But they’re also quick to attack anyone else that actually has the courage to admit when they’re wrong about anything, and then use that as ammunition the next time around.
And all to feed and placate their egos. 
Well, maybe they can just blame it on “Affluenza” from their K-Street friends.  If it worked for a punk-ass loser like Ethan Couch, it can work for just about anyone with money.

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