Monday, May 29, 2017

Last Full Measure of Devotion

It’s Memorial Day, and I want to add my tribute to those who paid the “last full measure of devotion.” Mostly I’ll be sharing tributes others have offered that I think are beautiful.

Let’s start with words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.—Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
These words from Lincoln show up at the end of the three-minute video below, Hillsdale College’s Memorial Day tribute from 2016, which includes Ronald Reagan offering tribute, plus the song “Mansions of the Lord.”

Here are some of Reagan's words:

We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. We must realize that nor arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.
The price for this freedom at times has been high. But we have never been unwilling to pay that price.
Those that say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.

President Reagan had a knack for saying the right thing. Here’s another tribute using his words. It comes from Champion Forest Baptist Church, which is in Northwest Houston, from 2014, which includes these words from Pres. Reagan:

The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers—grave and gray-haired. But most of them were boys when they died. And they gave up two lives: the one they were living, and the one they would have lived…. They gave up everything for our country, for us. We owe them a debt we can never repay. All we can do is remember them, and what they did, and why they had to be brave for us.

One more. This links to a tweet from 2015 in which Chris Pratt is teaching his son the Pledge of Allegiance. It should make you smile.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Incompatible with Civilization

Monday night the Manchester Arena was bombed, at the end of a concert, where many young people—often along with their parents—were attending. The perpetrator was among the 22 dead. He was an Islamist extremist. Of course.

In today’s world, despite news media going far out of their way to hide names, ethnicity, and religion, heinous mass murder attempts are 99% of the time Islamist extremists.

There’s always this overweening concern that if the fact is mentioned, there will be a backlash against non-extreme Muslims. While that backlash has been mostly non-existent, the failure to provide truth is stirring people to anger. Muslims who are not Islamist extremists have a stake in clarifying who they are, in contrast to the terrorists. They need to find a way to separate out the wicked from among them, for their own sake as well as for civilization at large.

I don’t know how they should go about this. But I wish them well, because the friends we’ve had who are Muslim are very well suited to civilization, and we want them with us.

I believe clarity will help. Since I’m about defining civilization, I appreciated a response from Steven Crowder on Tuesday.

Instead of civilization, he refers to Western culture, but for now we’ll call that a synonym. He lays out several beliefs that are incompatible with Western culture:

• Want sharia courts? You’re not welcome.
• Think it’s okay to marry a six-year-old? You’re not welcome.
• Think it’s okay to strike your wife for ANY reason? You’re not welcome.
• Believe in ANY kind of punishment for apostasy? You’re not welcome.
• Believe in ANY kind of punishment for “blasphemy”? You’re not welcome.
It’s a big more specific than what we at the Spherical Model call the requirements for Civilization:

·         Honor God—which must include freedom of thought, freedom of belief, and freedom of speech that disagrees with those who believe differently. As one of the Articles of Faith in my religion puts it, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” [Articles of Faith 11]
·         Honor life—protect the life of each innocent human life, including the weak and defenseless, such as the unborn and the elderly and the afflicted. All human life is valuable, more valuable than other animals; no groups of humans can be categorized as subhuman. Categorizing any “them” as subhuman leads to atrocities.
·         Honor family—respect parents, and reserve sex for marriage, where mother and father raise children faithfully to adulthood.
·         Honor property—never taking what belongs to someone else, never expecting something to be given to you at someone else’s expense.
·         Honor truth—real objective truth, that exists outside ourselves and we are obliged to do our best to perceive.
Crowder’s list mainly targets freedom of thought and honoring life. But he’s right; you can’t get along in the civilized world when you’re believing savage things. We have to say, “If you believe in savagery, you’re not welcome among us.”

The full video is about seven minutes, and includes commentary on the need to “shame” the believers of what he accurately refers to as political Islam—because it’s seeking power rather than righteousness. Worth watching:

Some people are crying that this is Islamic terrorist attack is a new low—targeting children. But that’s not accurate. This savagery has long included targeting children. Michelle Malkin, in her piece "The Forgotten Slaughter of the Innocents," reminds us of eight previous attacks targeting or including young people and children.

She didn’t include Beslan, September 2004. Glenn Beck retells that event, from his days at CNN:

There’s a school in Beslan, and it started on the first day of school. In Russia, they have this tradition that the parents bring their kids to school for the first day of school. And so the parents brought their little kids into school, and there waiting for them were monsters, armed Islamic groups. They ushered everybody into the gym. Anybody who spoke out, anybody who cried, was killed. The mothers and the daughters were raped in front of everyone. It lasted three days. There were 1100 hostages, 777 children. They killed 385.
Every civilized person in the world can recognize this behavior as savage. There is no reason within the sphere of civilization that can include this behavior. The perpetrators will have no place in the afterlife but hell, and they have no place among civilized human beings on this planet.

What should be the civilized response? Celebrities, such as Katy Perry, call for love and unity. Blogger Matt Walsh responds to that call:

I realize that celebrities who pontificate about love and unity aren’t talking about the kind of love or unity that actually requires us to do anything or make any kind of sacrifice. That’s why they feel comfortable telling us about “love” even as they treat their own spouses and children like disposable props. The love that keeps a marriage going is active and self-giving. The “love” Katy Perry refers to is just a vague feeling of pleasant indifference towards all of humanity. She “loves the world” by shrugging her shoulders at it. And when she tells us to respond to these tragedies with “love,” she means only that we ought not do anything to actively stop it from happening again. Instead, we should throw our hands up in loving surrender, and if more of us are brutally slaughtered, well, that’s a price Katy Perry is willing to pay.
Perry and others who call for “no borders or barriers” hypocritically live in gated, guarded homes. They know, for the sake of their own life and property, they can’t just invite the world to “co-own” their home.

But, just to consider the “love” response, let’s keep an open mind and assume, if you could retrain the brains of these brainwashed savages, they could come to choose civilization. Theoretically I’d like to believe that’s possible. 

But you can only do that if you put a stop to their killing first. And that requires defense: killing, imprisoning, or containing in their own walled-off corner of the globe—every single one who holds the belief that killing us is a delight to them and their god.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Commencement Words

Gradual adj.—almost imperceptible steps or degrees; developing little by little
Graduate vt.—to mark with degrees for measuring; to arrange in grades, or stages
Graduate vi.—to change, or advance, by degrees
Graduation n.—the ceremony connected with commencement
Commencement n.—the act or time of commencing; beginning; start

Above are not the obvious, or standard, definitions of these words, during this season when schools give out diplomas.

These are the background definitions that offer additional meaning. I think it’s helpful to notice that graduation is just a marker in a progression of almost imperceptible degrees. Like having a birthday—it marks becoming a year older, but it happens when you’re only one day older than the day before.
A high school or college graduate is only a single day wiser than the day before. But the event marks the beginning—the commencement—of life after that mark of progress.

So it’s a tradition during this season to talk about advice for those who are commencing with the rest of adulthood.

A year or so ago, PragerU offered a commencement address by Mike Rowe called “Don’t Follow Your Passion.” Worth taking 5 minutes for.

I’ve blogged here about commencements a couple of times, when my children Economic Sphere and Social Sphere graduated from BYU, and we heard some good words at their ceremonies.

Daughter Social Sphere and her husband were somewhere
in the crowd of 6000 graduates back in 2015

Today I’ll add just a few pieces of advice from someone who commenced from high school in the bicentennial year, and from college in the year Reagan was elected President, with the perspective of the Spherical Model.

·         Keep learning. Formal education was just to teach you how to learn; now you’re commencing to do the real learning. Becoming educated is something you never grow out of.
·         Any time you have an opportunity to learn to play a new musical instrument or speak a new language, do it.
·         Read. At least a book a month. More is better. Fiction and nonfiction. And talk about it afterward with someone else who has read it or might want to. This is in addition to reading news, articles, blogs, or other short pieces that the internet is full of. Books are lasting knowledge, and you want that learning to last inside your head.
·         You’re made up of a full person: physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual. Keep all these parts of yourself healthy and balanced.
·         Work is what you’ll do to make money to live. If you can, find work that will be interesting to you, of service to the world, and make enough money to let you live comfortably.
·         Living is about relationships with friends and family. Never let the means to living (the work) stop you from doing the living—especially spending quality time with your spouse and children. And don’t put off relationships until the work life is everything you could want it to be.
Commencement day for the whole family:
Social Sphere and family in 2015

·         You’re on track to leave the lower income levels behind. Here’s the formula for the middle-class in America or higher: graduate from high school; don’t have sex before age 20; don’t have sex before marriage; stay married.
·         Make memories. Include travel, or recreational activities with your family and friends. And tell stories so those memories stay alive.
·         Take your citizenship responsibilities seriously. If you don’t choose who governs you and how, someone else chooses.
·         Take voting seriously. Study the ballot ahead of time. If you don’t know enough to make an informed decision, don’t guess. Everyone else has to suffer when you get the answers wrong.
·         Be cautious about where you’re getting your news. Most is biased. You’re probably better off getting news from someone who reveals their bias than from a biased reporter who claims to be unbiased. Use multiple sources. Keep an open mind. Question emotional reactions to news. Use good sense. And love the truth, no matter where it leads.
·         Be open-minded and cautiously skeptical, but don’t give in to cynicism. Cynics like the appearance of world-weary intellectualism, but it’s fake. Be better than that. Optimism and curiosity will take you further.
·         The further away from big city centers you live, the more people feel confident that they can do things on their own, and government should mostly get out of the way. If you have to live in an urban center, get out to real country frequently, so you don’t start thinking helplessness and reliance on government are normal.
·         The person who earns the money ought to decide how to spend it. Anyone who tells you differently approves of theft, so beware.
·         Rights come from God, not government. Government is only necessary to protect those rights, all of which are related to life, liberty, and ownership of property—which is the result of how a person freely spends their life. Rights are never something that’s nice to have but can be purchased; if it’s something that has to be purchased, it’s a product of service. Any product or service that you insist should be free requires someone to spend their life and liberty providing it for you; that makes you a slaver.
·         The Ten Commandments teach us to honor God, life, family, property, and truth. That’s still good advice three thousand years later.
·         Make sure God is a part of your life decisions. Fear means you’re putting all the burden on yourself; let go of that and trust God, so that fear doesn’t keep you from making the most of your life.
·         Listen to how you talk to yourself. If you hear yourself criticizing or putting yourself down, stop that talk. Don’t talk that way to other people either. Lift yourself, and lift others.
·         Hard times are going to come. Some of them you may bring on yourself, despite your good decisions up until now; change your thoughts and behaviors, and things will improve. Some hard times come anyway. If you know God loves you and you regularly get in tune with Him, He’ll guide you through. And somehow in the end those things will be for your good, and might make you better prepared to help others through their hard times.
·         Tithe. Pay 10% or more of your income to charity. It helps you feel grateful for what you have; it helps you organize your money better; and it helps you love God and others more and love money less.
·         Start saving now. Compounding interest is practically magical after a few decades. The longer the better.

If you had already arrived at some educated destination, you wouldn’t be needing this advice. But you’re not at a destination; you’re at a beginning. So, commence, and make it good. We, here, in civilization, are pulling for you.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Shame vs. Guilt Culture

Sometimes what I choose to write about is something that gets my attention in several places in a short time. That’s true today.

A friend linked to an LDS General Conference talk, by Elder D. Todd Christopherson, from this past April Much of the talk was on why we share the word of God with others, as part of how we live, which comes down to loving our neighbor. All worth hearing again.
Elder D. Todd Christopherson
photo from

But there was a part where he mentioned the contrast between “shame culture” and guilt culture. When I looked up the print version, with footnotes, I realized he was quoting a piece by David Brooks from a year ago, “TheShame Culture.”

I looked that up, and realized Brooks was referring to a previous piece written by Andy Crouch in 2015, “The Return of Shame.” Crouch, in turn, was referencing research by anthropologist Ruth Benedict, defining the difference between guilt culture and shame culture.

So, back to the definition. Here is what Christopherson quoted from Brooks:

Sometimes those who raise a warning voice are dismissed as judgmental. Paradoxically, however, those who claim truth is relative and moral standards are a matter of personal preference are often the same ones who most harshly criticize people who don’t accept the current norm of “correct thinking.” One writer referred to this as the “shame culture”:
“In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. … [In the shame culture,] moral life is not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion. …
“… Everybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along. …
“The guilt culture could be harsh, but at least you could hate the sin and still love the sinner. The modern shame culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, but it can be strangely unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in.”
So, guilt is what you feel when you are out of alignment with a set standard, that you know within yourself. Shame is what you feel when a shifting crowd decides to exclude you, because of your ideas or beliefs or associations, or anything they decide.

Guilt is something we want to avoid—but we can generally do so with efforts to live a moral life; we are in control. Shame is also something we want to avoid—but, because the goal post changes, we have very little control, other than to succumb to public opinion of the moment and define that as “moral.”

I read the rest of David Brooks’ article, and he adds this:
David Brooks
photo from here

If we’re going to avoid a constant state of anxiety, people’s identities have to be based on standards of justice and virtue that are deeper and more permanent than the shifting fancy of the crowd. In an era of omnipresent social media, it’s probably doubly important to discover and name your own personal True North, vision of an ultimate good, which is worth defending even at the cost of unpopularity and exclusion.
The guilt culture could be harsh, but at least you could hate the sin and still love the sinner. The modern shame culture allegedly values inclusion and tolerance, but it can be strangely unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in.
I’m a believer in ultimate good. God defines what that is; it is up to us to ascertain what God defines as good and seek that.

When a critical mass of society believes this way—in ultimate good—society moves northward (Spherical Model north) toward thriving civilization. An unfixed “moral compass” leads south toward savagery.

While I was looking at this idea of differences of opinion about morality, and how that has coincided with variations in bringing about conformity, I started reading my BYU College of Humanities magazine that came in yesterday’s mail. The theme is on diversity.

I’m not a fan of what you might call the diversity movement of the past couple of decades. I don’t think diversity of skin color or ethnic background is particularly valuable as an end in itself.

The first time Mr. Spherical Model came home from work talking about some required diversity training, and mentioned the claim that teams that are diverse (i.e., racially diverse and including women as well as men) get better results, I said, “You mean they’re teaching you how to do better despite the diversity?” No. They were not teaching the obvious—how to get work toward good results when facing this common built-in challenge; they were teaching that the common built-in problem wasn’t a problem but a benefit. That didn’t coincide with my life experience. But it turns out that’s pretty much doctrine today.

I still think I’m right. There is some value in having various viewpoints on a team. It might be valuable to get a female point of view (or several, if the group is large enough for the variety, because women are varied). And it might be very valuable to get a viewpoint from someone who has lived in circumstances different from others in the group and more like those they’re aiming to offer a service or product to. And it’s likely to help if you have some detail people and some strategic thinkers on a team. But I don’t see what skin color has to do with it.

The prologue (message from the dean) in the Humanities magazine, by Dean J. Scott Miller, seems to agree with me:

There is an irony to the fact that as we get to know others and experience the many diversities we carry around within us, the superficial differences and outward appearances that so often signal diversity come to matter less and less.
There’s another piece in the magazine by Thomas B. Griffith, Judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, who also earned a degree from the College of Humanities at BYU. He talks mainly about political discourse—and how it would be better to emulate some better examples than we’ve seen recently, like “The Federalist Papers, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the Letter from Birmingham Jail, and Robert F. Kennedy’s extemporaneous speech invoking Aeschylus as he announced that assassination of Dr. King to a black neighborhood in Indianapolis.” He asserts that the study of the humanities could help. He says:

In his Defense of Poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that the key to morality is empathy and that we grow in empathy by exercising our imagination, which means experiencing the otherness of the lives that literature, music, drama, dance, and art present to us.
So learning how others think through the arts is valuable for humans to understand one another; I agree. And then this:

Disagreement is critical to the well-being of our nation. But good humanists will recognize that those with whom we disagree are not our enemies; rather, they are our colleagues in a great enterprise. When we respect each other enough to respond carefully to argument, we are filling necessary roles in a republic founded on the insight that human rights are inalienable because they are given by God.
What we are about here, in this nation’s (the world’s?) effort toward freedom, prosperity, and civilization, is a conversation in which different people, with different minds, different experiences, and different beliefs exchange ideas.

That conversation ought to be the very definition of what goes on on college campuses. But I’d say today the typical college campus (with a few exceptions that I hope includes my alma mater) is the very microcosm of shame culture: ever-moving “morality” based on popular opinion, with no tolerance for any difference of opinion.

The shame culture attack can be stifling opposing ideas, shutting down speech; putting reputation, and maybe class grades, in jeopardy; maybe also choice of career, means of making a living, and ability to live freely in society.

There’s a long list of things for which you can be given the shame culture attack these days. In short, you can be given the shame culture attack for recognizing the principles that lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization—because the shame culture has redefined tyranny, poverty, and savagery as “good” for now, until they change their minds.

Diversity of superficial things is pretty irrelevant. Diversity of ideas was never the danger. A closed mind combined with a shaming culture that forces conformity—that’s a danger.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Here at the Spherical Model, the world’s smallest think tank, we don’t do a lot of primary research.

What I hope to do is educate, so that more people are equipped with the ideas and principles that lead us to political freedom, economic free market prosperity, and thriving civilization—as alternatives to the historically more common tyranny, poverty, and savagery.

The Spherical Model framework is original, and the opinions are mainly mine. But there are many others interested in freedom, prosperity, and civilization and how we get there.

I thought it might be useful today to share some of the many resources I frequent, in no particular order.


My list keeps growing. There are many that add good information on specific issues or areas of interest. But these few are essential for economics, as well as for understanding the interrelationships of the political, economic, and social spheres:

·         The Road to Serfdom—Friedrich Hayek
·         Basic Economics—Thomas Sowell
·         Economics in One Lesson—Henry Hazlitt
·         Liberal Fascism—Jonah Goldberg
·         The 5000-Year Leap—W. Cleon Skousen
Organizations and Education

These are some of the regular places I turn to, or tune in to:

·         Hillsdale College online courses—These are free, and equivalent to the courses provided to students on campus, if you do the reading and work with it. Or you can just enjoy the lectures and take the quizzes (or not). They just redid their original Constitution class, and I’m looking forward to that. Others include Western Heritage, American Heritage, Economics, Great Books, The Presidency and the Constitution, The Federalist Papers, Winston Churchill, C. S. Lewis, Athens and Sparta, Public Policy, US Supreme Court, and Theology. Each course has 8-10 or so lectures.
·        The Heritage Foundation—This organization has been reliably conservative for decades, some recent leadership changes notwithstanding. They offer news sources, such as the Daily Signal, There’s an activist group called the Sentinels, with a weekly phonecall about current legislative action and online and local support. And they do research and policy work.

·         Hoover Institution—The organization has been around a long time, related to Stanford University, in favor of free market economic policies and prosperity, and other geopolitical issues. Their Uncommon Knowledge, an interview program with authors and experts, is a favorite source. I don’t agree with every interviewee, but it’s a good way to get clarity about their viewpoints.
·         The Witherspoon Institute—This organization does research and education related to the “moral foundations of free and democratic societies.” They’ve come to my attention because of Ryan T. Anderson, their public discourse editor, who is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and is one of the clearest voices writing today in defense of marriage. This is scholarly information, and often aimed at advanced college students or professors. But they attempt to write in a way that is accessible, reasonable, and moral.
·         The Ludwig von Mises Institute—This is an organization based on the Austrian school of economics, emphasizing free market policies.
·         Wallbuilders—David Barton is the force behind this organization. They teach history, mainly American history, with the perspective that looks at the necessity of a moral people in maintaining our Constitution. This organization is especially helpful for homeschoolers, which is how I became familiar with it.
·         Texas Home School Coalition—Speaking of homeschooling, THSC is a good resource on education and parental rights issues. While I’m not still homeschooling, I still get their newsletters and rely on them heavily for information during the Texas legislative session.
·         Prager University—A collection of 5-minute videos on a wide array of topics, mainly explaining the conservative (classical liberal) viewpoint. They’re free, and easy to share. And you can login and take a short quiz to test your understanding.
News and Commentary Voices

I don’t spend much time going to main stream media sources. I prefer an admitted bias from someone seeking truth, rather than a claim of unbiased news from sources that are clearly skewed. Still, it’s a good idea to get a variety of views. Often when I use a MSM news source, it is to get more information about an issue I hear about on radio top-of-the-hour news headlines, or stories linked by friends or various sources. This list isn’t exhaustive, or even always views I endorse. And this list changes from time to time. Some I turn to daily or weekly, others only occasionally.

·         Townhall—a daily collection of mostly conservative columnists
·         The Blaze—and various Glenn Beck shows and resources (some parts require subscription fee)
·         The Daily Signal—Heritage Foundation’s daily news source
·         Fox News (if I must go to a traditional source on television) 
·         Hugh Hewitt radio—(archive requires subscription fee)
·         Ben Shapiro and The Daily Wire—the website includes pieces by various writers, but I mainly tune in for Ben Shapiro’s commentary and podcast
·         Thomas Sowell—economist; he has retired from his regular column, but he still writes books and does occasional pieces or interviews
·         Walter Williams—economist; I usually get his columns at Townhall
·         PJ Media—I used to watch their videos, but funding for those ended a year or so ago. I still appreciate, when I find them, Andrew Klavan, Victor Davis Hanson, and others.
·         Matt Walsh—culture blog, found on The Blaze these days
·         Tom Woods—economic and libertarian blog, and good on education issues as well
·         Dennis Prager radio—in addition to the PragerU videos
·         Volokh Conspiracy—legal blog, written by Eugen Volokh and other law professors
·         Greg Mankiw—economic blog by Harvard economics professor

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Motherhood Collection

Mother’s Day is coming up Sunday. It does that every year. Sometimes I write about it; sometimes I don’t. But I thought maybe it was time again. And now I’m not sure I can add much. Maybe I should just collect those pieces and wish all the women out there a Happy Mother’s Day!

I will say, first, that women who look at motherhood today as something they may or may not want, don’t understand the decision. It’s not like deciding whether or not to adopt a dog. Maybe it will fun, but maybe too much trouble and mess. I’m all for adopting dogs. But becoming a mother is about much more.

When you become a mother, you understand love in a way you didn’t before—even if you are in a very strong, loving marriage. If you want to know what God feels for you as His child, let yourself feel the full, natural love that suddenly fills up your life the day your child is born.

You thought it was about bringing up children, but if you want to become the best person you can become—patient, kind, long-suffering, unselfishly joyful for the success of others, humble, learning, caring, loving—your best, transformational school is your home as you raise your children.

Your life in a career will not bring you this training. This is not to say no woman should have any career but raising her children; always do what God leads you to do with your talents, capabilities, and passions. But if you want to become the best you, let your children teach you.

Five years ago today, my baby girl (my only girl) Social Sphere got married. She’s an example of a mother who takes delight in mothering. And just recently announced baby #2 on the way. The photo is Little Social Sphere, in his (almost everyday) Captain America outfit, about to get a sidekick.

Little Social Sphere
is going to get a sidekick

And here is the Motherhood Collection from this blog:

·         Mother Joy, May 8, 2014 
·         The Good Part, May 8, 2013 
·         Home Making, May 6, 2013 
·         The Motherhood Study, May 6, 2011 
·         Another Word about Life, January 30, 2013
·         Family Superpower, July 29, 2013      
·         That Decision Mothers Make, November 3, 2014 
·         Motherless Princesses, June 17, 2013

Monday, May 8, 2017

Water and Other Basic Needs

I’ve been puzzling over what appears to me an unsolvable problem, related in a way to illegal immigration.

There’s this trailer park, not that far from my neighborhood—it was a bus stop when my kids used to ride a school bus to middle school. It’s a pretty poor neighborhood, a step down from a trailer park just to the east.

This trailer park doesn’t have potable water. I thought it must be in the same municipal utilities district that I am, because it’s so close. But I looked on a map, and my neighborhood is apparently as far north as our district goes.

The trailer park has commercial businesses next door and across the street, which have potable water. But the private property on which the trailer park sits, I am told, does not. It is reportedly because the owner of the park does not want to spend the money to supply the park with municipal water.

About half a year ago, there was a news report about a retention pond right behind the trailer park. It’s green because of natural growth in the water, but it’s also filthy. So this standing water is an additional danger for trailer park residents—risk of drowning, 

The pond on the property, from news report

particularly for children, risk of disease, and greater risk of mosquito-borne illness. When this park was first brought to my attention, I think there was confusion that the pond was their source of water; I do not believe that is the case.

Under normal circumstances, no landlord could rent out a place without providing basic utility services, including water. I think the park has running water—just not clean enough for human consumption. It’s unclear to me how long this has been a problem.

I’ve been in meetings with people concerned about these people, and trying to alleviate some of their needs. My friends are working with other churches, plus the American Latino center for Research, Education, and Justice (ALCREJ). Our church has been donating some bottled water, which other churches and a food pantry are delivering, along with other needs.

But this is crisis help, not a long-term solution. The long-term solution would be to get this trailer park hooked up to a municipal water source.

In normal circumstances, government officials could be contacted, to let them know that a landlord is failing to provide clean water to his tenants. Officials could simply be requested to come out and test the water. Then they could pressure the landlord to do whatever upgrades are necessary, with the threat that they could condemn the park so that he couldn’t rent out the spaces.

But most (possibly all) of the tenants are illegal aliens. They can’t call the government; they don’t want anyone to call the government. Because they are illegal, and government “help” could result in deportation, or at the very least turning them out of homes they can more or less afford, with no place to go.

People want to help, but, as one friend said, “Nobody wants to be on the pokey end of that stick.”
So how do good, civilized people help? And should they?

In civilization, people honor God, family, life, property,and truth. In honoring God, we’re asked to love our neighbor as ourselves. There’s a wide range of what fits here. If we’re going to share our property—our wealth, including money, food, and other things—we have to supply for ourselves plus extra. So, to start with, we shouldn’t give up our livelihood or our basic needs.

We value life, so we would want to provide lifesaving supplies to our neighbors in dire need. We don’t want anyone to die of hunger. But life-sustaining supplies aren’t necessarily satisfying. They’re not meant to be. Nor are they meant to be indefinite in most cases.

It is better to do well in business to have jobs to offer than it is to give freebies.

As far as the water issue is concerned, the people in this trailer park are not seeking indefinite freebies, at least not from churches and pantries. They seem to be simply grateful for clean water. I think they drink the unclean water otherwise.

They have come here, presumably, to have better opportunities than they had in the probably third world situations they came from. Many are hard working. But, as illegals, their opportunities are limited. They’re likely doing yard work, restaurant kitchen help, house cleaning, or, if they’re lucky, construction work. Sometimes their pay is well below minimum wage, because they have no recourse if a boss treats them unfairly—except as everyone has, to quit and find other work.

There’s a question about why they come, if their poverty here is so profound. Maybe that takes some perspective. Certainly it would have been better if they had come legally; then all kinds of possibilities open up for their future. But for many of them, their level of poverty here is not greater than they came from.

Here they have running water, though unclean; they may have come from no running water, and probably unclean, whatever the source. Here they have electricity; they might not have had that. Here they have shelter—and even though it’s pretty poor, that trailer park has been there since before we moved here nearly two decades ago, and has survived hurricanes and tropical storms. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s better than nothing. Maybe better than they had.

Their children have schools here—the same schools my children went to before we pulled them out to homeschool. And they’ll be learning English. That means the next generation, while not as well off as if they had immigrated legally, or with more and better resources, is still several steps ahead of what they left behind.

So, unfortunately, there’s a logic in their minds about the decision to come here illegally. But their decision to do so likely leaves them in poverty for a generation or two—inescapable if they get into drugs or other illegal activities.

If the conditions are truly unacceptable, then it is a greater kindness to them to enforce border laws so that only legal immigrants come, which will mean better resources and opportunities for their future one they go through that difficult process.

We cannot alleviate all of the economic suffering worldwide simply with American largesse. There’s a good video that explains visually why that is:

So, what we need to offer is basic help, so that they can help themselves in their countries of origin. Some of this could be government help, but I suspect that non-governmental organizations are more likely to succeed, going to the people in need, assessing the next step, and offering help in that. It might be developing a clean water source. It might be developing a power supply. It might be upgrading their educational opportunities. It might be providing capital for micro-businesses.

The problem in the trailer park exists because there is an unscrupulous landowner. But such a person gets away with being unscrupulous because he is dealing with illegals.

When there are wrongs done, correcting them is a first step. I don’t know how these people without resources can do that, other than going back home and starting the process legally. That’s a hard thing. Maybe harder than they can even visualize. But it is certainly no kindness to make conditions even worse by inviting more of the poor around the world to sneak in illegally and try to live in the shadows.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Religious Freedom Is Necessary to Civilization

It’s National Prayer Day. Also, the president signed an executive order to remove the threat over churches the last several decades (since 1954) monitoring their speech on penalty of removing their tax exempt status.

So, for today’s post I’m repeating a part of the Spherical Model website, under the Civilization section.

Religious Freedom Is Necessary to Civilization

No one can be forced to believe something. It isn’t how our human minds work. We can be persuaded, shown overwhelming evidence, encouraged to believe, but we cannot be forced. The problem is, in an oppressive society (as most historical societies have been, and many are today) we can be forced to appear to believe.
There was an article in the Religion section of the local paper some time ago, in which several different religious leaders were asked what they thought were the most dangerous religious beliefs. The common answer was, “that you belong to the one true church.” And I thought, what’s dangerous about that? If you’re a pastor who makes your money by how many generous believers you have, then you, personally, might feel threatened that some people out there with different beliefs actually think they have the truth. But what would be the purpose of choosing a religion if you didn’t believe you were finding the truth? Wouldn’t you just keep looking until you found one you could believe held the truth about how we should worship God and how we should behave toward one another?
One clergyman, from a place where no proselytizing among members of his religion is allowed, said he thought proselytizing was the most dangerous threat. And I thought, in his country, it’s only a threat to those few who dare to believe something other than the state religion, who if they answer simple questions about their beliefs might be seen as breaking the law, which could be life-threatening to them. But a threat to his religion? I don’t see how.
I am still a little surprised they didn’t all offer the obvious answer: the belief that it is righteous to kill people for believing something different from you. That is clearly a lot more dangerous to religious people than people who believe they have found a true church or people who share their beliefs.
In religious thought there is nothing so dangerous—and illogical—as killing because of religious beliefs. If someone believes differently from you, it means that, based on what they know so far, in the context of their life experiences and interests, they haven’t been persuaded to believe what you believe. You can’t persuade them that you have found the truth by threatening to kill them; you can only persuade them, if you’re in that oppressive power position, that if they value their life they’d better pretend to have been persuaded, and better give every outward sign of belief.
Oppression is uncivilized. Always. It’s untenable that a religion intended to improve people’s hearts and minds accepts summarily mowing people down because they were born into a different culture and taught a different belief. I don’t think this can accurately be considered religious thought; it is politically tyrannical thought. It is the thought of people who want to increase their power over others by eliminating their enemy, and they happen to choose the name of a religion as their excuse for power lust.
A religion’s strongest rightful punishment is excommunication, a declaration that an individual’s beliefs or behaviors are so far out of line with the religion that the church does not acknowledge that person’s claim of membership.
Wherever you see a religion claiming it has the right to execute people, not even for evil acts but simply for their beliefs, you can be absolutely certain you are not looking at people seeking closeness to God. You’re looking at the same run-of-the-mill tyrant types that have thirsted for power throughout history.
Likewise, there is no circumstance in which having a state-sponsored religion is actually intended to increase the faith of the people; it is always to eliminate dissent. The state—the governing entity that the people have ceded power to—has no moral sense in and of itself. So ceding to the state the decision of what religious beliefs to hold is more foolhardy than ceding just about any other personal responsibility related to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Belief that the state knows best is a weak populace’s excuse for giving in to oppressors.
[A smaller, non-political, unit of society, such as a family or a church community, can have a preferred religion. That belief can be a civilizing influence and philosophical bond. But that happens when the members choose the belief, and choose to associate, not because the governmental entity has prescribed it. At the time of the founding, only the federal government was constitutionally prohibited from establishing a state religion; the separate states were allowed. Several colonies had state religions. Connecticut continued for some time after the founding; Massachusetts continued to levy a religious tax so every man would support a church of his choice. I think we agree now, though, that any government entity at any level prescribing religion is taking from the individual’s freedom to choose. And it is only in the choosing that religion has power to improve the human heart.]
In ancient history, it was nearly always the practice of a tyrant taking over a people to force them to bow down and worship whatever idol the tyrant insisted on (quite often himself as deity). Religious uniformity was a unifying dictatorial force. And tyrants claiming religious reasons will use the very same methods for gaining power that atheist tyrants use.
In a number of countries in the world today, it is illegal to say anything against a particular religion with many violent adherents (adherents being a relative term, but they describe themselves as believers). I trust that 90% or more of the adherents of this religion are peace loving and live their religion because they are seeking to be closer to God. But a surprising majority in some countries believe that there are circumstances in which terrorism—purposefully killing innocents in as large numbers as can be accomplished (and not as part of a defensive war)—is an acceptable practice.
That is mental derangement on a grand scale. There are no such circumstances. Terrorism is a savage act. And it is a tyrannical act; the purpose is to create chaos to persuade the innocent to succumb to the rule of the tyrant. It is never a civilizing religious act. Never. Its perpetrators cannot have a civilized reason for committing the terrorist act. The only reason is savage desire for tyranny.
That terrorism increases in horror is purposeful—to instill greater fear. If there is enough chaotic fear, a sense of danger, that the oppressor can persuade people he is capable of curing, then the oppressor gains power, and that is his goal. That there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who are willing to accept such horror does not bode well for the planet. It was horrifying to find that the savages recruited suicide bombers, persuading them they were giving their lives in the pursuit of horror. In spring 2008 the horror level was raised when these tyrannists recruited two mentally deficient women to be suicide bombers, presumably without their understanding or consent. And the terrorists did this despicable act on purpose to increase the horror, since the run-of-the-mill suicide bomber no longer causes the same gut-wrenching reaction around the world.
Using the spherical model allows us to see that an act as uncivilized as terrorism against innocents is both savage and tyrannical; the behavior is polar opposite of civilization and freedom. There is no possible outcome for civilization to continue except to prevent, by every means necessary, any terrorist act, and in addition to persuade the world to choose civilization and be willing to sacrifice and fight for it, with absolutely no sympathy for terrorism.
I don’t know what means the peaceful, actual followers of this religion should use to root out the evil terrorist fringe. But they must condemn the terrorism—including any rationale the terrorists use to claim it is their right. Many have done so. But unless virtually all adherents condemn terrorism, and find a way to make that belief public, the overall religion will be rightly condemned for condoning savagery, which makes it by definition a false religion unworthy of society’s respect. I hope they find a way to bring forward the civilized sectors and expel the savagery from among them, so that their real religion can do good for society as a whole.

Just adding this video here, about freedom of religion—our first, God-given right.