Friday, July 15, 2022

The History of the World, Vol. 4

A multi-column series originally published in 2016

Image by Ingi Finnsson from Pixabay 

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  


Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device 

"History is a vast early warning system." -Norman Cousins

Dear Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

I'm spending the summer in a cabin on a beautiful lake somewhere in the Swiss Alps, working on my memoirs, and trying to decide if this column will resume post-Labor Day. The market has found me wanting; I'm buying most of my own coffee just now. So be it, I remain an unrepentant supporter of capitalism. 

My big brother Eddie is currently my only financial patron so I'm starting to feel like Van Gogh... without the world-class talent, but with both ears. I'm also considering publishing only when the spirit moves me. Cranking out columns week after week, while enjoyable, is hard work — well, intellectually speaking — at least for me. 

{It sure ain't roofing or the like you whiney b...}

In the meantime, I'll be republishing mostly gently (but occasionally heavily) edited columns with updated statistics and fun facts in [brackets].

The invention of the USA: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  


Self-evidently, although we’re all unique in how we look, how smart we are, and what innate talents we have, nobody is born automatically better than anyone else. We are entitled to live as long as biology and fate permit, we’re free to pursue our own path and discover what it is that will keep getting us out of bed in the morning until we can’t (or won’t) get out of bed in the morning. I maintain that this is obvious (self-evident) to any more or less well-adjusted kid on the playground. I also maintain that this is obvious to any emotionally healthy, clear-thinking grownup. I maintain that any well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) king, cleric, or bully (even politically correct bullies) that maintains otherwise is delusional and needs to be dealt with appropriately.

{Obvious huh?}

Yes, well obvious to those of us that have grown up fortunate enough to take the concept for granted, Dana. The, um, traditional way was/is the way of the alpha male, still in vogue in more than a few places.    

We have two choices. The traditional way - the way of the alpha male, the way of the bully, king, high priest, etc - or the way of the (at least superficially) rational person. Rational people employ reason. Wikipedia: “Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions and beliefs based on new or existing information.”  

And yes, I used the word superficially. Rationality is a buggy, crash-prone app still in beta testing. For the dead (mostly) white males that invented the USA, fortunately for us, reason was a thing, a very big thing. We got lucky. Many were the 1% of their day, but back in their particular day, something that came to be called the Age of Enlightenment was rockin’ the world, a new meme was going around.

If you decided that the traditional way of doing things only worked well for a tiny group of people and you could rewrite the rules, using reason, to set up a new system that benefited everyone equally (at least in theory), what would you do?

What they did, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, was set up the USA. The wailing and gnashing continued, and continues, as it should in a democratic republic. Fortunately, the new system includes built-in mechanisms to fix and/or change what the people decide needs to be fixed and/or changed. It ain’t easy to change, and it shouldn’t be, considering how thin the veneer of rationality is.            

Emotionally healthy, clear-thinking kids and grownups realize they’re not the only kid on the playground and that just enough rules are necessary to ensure everyone has fun but has to share the equipment and that bullies are not allowed. This is called government and it requires that a few conditions be met in order that the people remain as free as realistically possible. First, we the governed, get to decide what the rules are. Second, the rules should be as few in number as possible so that individuals remain as free as possible. Third, great care must be taken to avoid the potentially huge, honking, downside of democracy, the tyranny of the majority.

If a majority of the kids on the playground get together to ban little Timmy from the premises just because of his unfortunate tendency to publicly pick his nose, even though he’s not breaking any rules, a grownup (the rule of law) must step in to protect not only Timmy’s right to be there but also make sure he isn’t bullied. This is the why and what of the U.S. constitution. America's called the American experiment because no one else in history had managed to pull off anything quite like it and many thought we wouldn’t either. Some still don’t, and there’s no guarantee that it will ultimately end well.

Now, just because we’re lucky enough to have been born into the species that sits at the top of the food chain, in the most prosperous nation the world has seen (so far at least) we still live in a dangerous, hostile world that guarantees nothing but our eventual death. It’s up to us to come up with food, clothing, and shelter and defend ourselves from those that want to kill us for fun and/or profit.

And yes, a nation as well off as America is morally required to install a rationally designed safety net to catch everyone that fate shoves off the trampoline, but not necessarily for those who deliberately jumped off because they thought it would be fun. I once heard a nurse that was the head of some organization or other declaring with passion and conviction that, “Healthcare is a right!” in a radio interview.

No, it’s not.

Life, freedom, and the pursuit of whatever it is that keeps us getting out of bed are the fundamental rights everyone obviously should get. But even these natural, fundamental rights are a reality, not just a potential reality, only for those fortunate enough to be born into a culture that acknowledges and defends them. You may have noticed there’s no shortage of thugs that look at things a bit differently. Everything else you’re entitled to depends on what you and your fellow citizens agree upon and are prepared to work your bums off to pay for - or put on the national credit card because "If tomorrow never comes, everything is free." -J.J. Cale

If you don’t believe this, try performing the following experiment.

Have yourself stranded on a desert island without a crew from a reality television show. Raise your fist to the sky and DEMAND! food, clothing, shelter (and healthcare), then wait and see what happens. Oh, and make sure you don’t let your situational awareness chops get rusty while you’re waiting because mother nature is notoriously oblivious to our rights. Like any good mom, if she has a favorite, she’s keeping it to herself, and she doesn’t seem to lose any sleep when her kids eat each other to stay alive.

Also, please note that you don’t even have to ask nicely for life (however temporary), liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Self-evidently, unless Gilligan and company show up and turn out to be evil, drug-addled crazies (which would explain a lot), you’re about as free as you can be within the physical limitations of life on Earth. And unless one or more of the zany castaways has brought along a trunk full of fentanyl, you could stay as free as possible (all things considered) simply by agreeing to respect each other's unalienable rights. Next, on to the original Mr. Smith.

To be continued...

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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Feel free to comment and set me straight on Cranky's Facebook page. I post my latest columns on Saturdays, other things other days. Cranky don't tweet.


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