Ramblings: Nexus of Change, Nexus of Despair? Times of Change-

The Sixties ushered an era filled with changing moralities and priorities. The biggest questions that come to mind from the era — how and why was the decade so impactful? Many who experienced the decade may acknowledge a confluence of circumstances. Firstly, the USA was a hotbed of protests with college-student ‘sit-ins.’ Secondly, the space-race between the USA and USSR was at a peak. Thirdly, the war in Southeast Asia pitted the USA against Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnamese who were aided by China and Russia, simultaneously. Fourth, the experimentation of teenagers and young adults with psychedelic drugs and marijuana was at a peak. Fifth, the Civil Rights Movement reached a peak –the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 moved the fulcrum of equality for minorities. Sixth, the environmental movement gathered steam and reached new heights — with Rachel Carson’s publication, Silent Spring.

The confluence of events provided a point where change and opportunity to change by individuals was possible. Whether individuals protested the Vietnam war or against unfair practices against minorities, the decade provided an opportunity to anyone who utilized their conscience for change.

However, areas of concern lay in the ease of illicit drug use. As if the US citizen did not have enough to manage on his proverbial dinner plate, beleaguered parents fretted over their own children falling prey to drug addiction. For those who recall the era, outrage and consternation from parts of the government seemed excessive. However, hindsight tells a different story.

Of all teens who start down the path of beer, cigarettes and marijuana –the vast majority do not die a miserable death from heroin overdoses. In fact, the percentage who travel down the path is about the size that lead lives of crime- sadly so.

Addictions can prove deadly. Whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol, intravenous drug use, or opioids, addictions seem to affect a random cross-section of population. When we look at this phenomenon, we also see individuals who appear to be more affected by mental illness. What does this mean?

A generation or two ago, policy makers attempted to explain this phenomenon as a gateway affect. It sounded a bit like this–teenagers with still-developing brains or anyone who becomes addicted to drugs started with introductory drug. The introductory drug was a gateway drug. Over the years, doctors and epidemiologists debated whether the gateway effect existed. In fact, the gateway was associated with alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, and all too often any of a number of devices that blamed societal ills.

To a cynical or a skeptical observer, such pronouncements from the experts came across as dubious. And, the observers were correct. The latest research offers the more accurate explanation: there is a certain subsection of the world population that is more susceptible to addiction and mental illness than others. It is a product of genetics and the interactions with peers that some individuals are easily drawn to substance abuse.

Gateway drugs affect certain genetic markers that predispose a small section of population to mental health problems. In fact, the gateway concept was formulated as such, it applies to a rather few unlucky souls. No one knew how genetics played in such negative ways with environment. These individuals possess genetic markers that predispose them to addiction and some other mental health problems. Psychologists and other mental health experts term this issue – mal-adaptive way to handle a crisis.

Just take one case in point, we have a healthy child came out of the womb healthy. Here he is -three, five, or even seven years of age. He is subjected to the stress of child abuse. This unlucky person or soul say, tried to adapt to the stress with the only tools and made available to him or her. Now, this child learns to adapt in his or her immediate environment and that was that. However, with the child reaches maybe 20 maybe 18 maybe later only in the mid 20s, he chooses to use cigarettes, gambling, alcohol, or some drug of his choice. He may be a criminal that has serious mental health issues if his genetic markers deem as such. This individual, now branded a loser by parts of society, has to sustain the weight of abuse they he could not as a child. In present instances, this is termed PTSD. While it seems almost absurd to some – there are actual medical cases in which it has occurred. There are so many instances like it, and it is a diagnosis in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for physicians.

This line of reasoning has been apart of the public discourse since the 1960s. It comes across as liberal mumbo-jumbo or just plain bad science to some. However, to others, the scenario comes across as a failure of society to address its own accountability. And, in some ways, all scenarios are correct. The reason is that the cycle continues. People (good people) are impacted from a greater societal ill. We, as a people, need to aid the abused.

How do we address that the issue behind addiction criminality and mental health? It is a true health issue. Not just a mental health issue–given the propensity that any almost anyone can fall victim crime, we need a kinder approach to ourselves. This is not a platitude, but it is one approach that honors the human and does not impose upon him. I’m not asking we all undergo psychotherapy or some kind of genetic enhancement to remove the likelihood of addiction. The best approach is to rebuild how we approach one another. It is the ultimate message behind Christmas, itself.

We need turn away from the culture of hate and turn into a culture of respect and dignity. That’s the first step.

Welcome Back to the Stone Age: Life During the Impeachment of president Trump

I have been keeping an eye on the impeachment proceedings. I openly state I am not a fan of the current administration — nor any of their actions or policies.

Keeping in mind that Mr. Trump is a polarizing figure, lets attempt to take a better look at potential outcomes from his divisive actions.

                        The Issue at Hand — Divisiveness

Only the strong thrive! The true winners in life thrive under adverse conditions! Suck it up! You go it alone with no one to help you.

When all of the present Administration’s actions are taken p a whole, they have seemingly divided much of American public between Conservatives and Progressives. However, if one takes a good look at who still support the president– many of these individuals have a lot of money,  or seemingly are afraid of losing their status.

Furthermore, what comes to my mind is that these individuals are much like him in deed — if not attitude. They rarely venture to see “How the Other Half Lives” to borrow a phrase from the late Michael Harrington.

When you are poor and have few resources, it is easy to become isolated from peers and those who willingly assist you for your betterment. Unfortunately in times such as these, you have few resources and you will lose hope and eventually the faith that you can rise above your circumstances. That sounds much like a game-plan of tyrants and authoritarian dictators.

In the present era, the rugged individual is praised and lauded by deal makers and certain politicians, alike. One of the biggest issues I have about the rugged individual is that he never truly existed. Perhaps for a few moments, this person thrived while  in the throes of battle… only to go down to defeat from a knife in the back.

All of us in some way or another rely on others– whether directly or indirectly, no one acts alone. If Mr. Trump successfully allows the ‘other half’ to lose faith in themselves, many will turn desperately inward and some will turn to his ilk for help. It is a losing situation.

However, if one observes actions of the Chief Executive of U.S., that is precisely what seems to occur at the present moment. Looking dispassionately upon the results of #45’s actions, it seems as if many of us are left to our own devices as he exerts more control over his personal finances. He acts as if no one mattered except his cronies and himself. Emoluments clause aside, he seemingly acts as if he is the only one in the room (let alone the country, itself).

If he is allowed to go further, he presents a threat to all– both friend and foe alike. We risk an extinction of sorts–

A Potential Solution– Change the Discourse  of Public Discussion?

Former-president Obama was a uniter in many ways–he was community advocate and worked tirelessly to draw individuals from diverse  backgrounds into a common cause. That, in so many words, is the solution to problem at hand. It is,  “We the People who need to seek a Better Union among All of Us” need to come together like brothers.  The divisiveness can be broken if we recognize that we much to gain if we unite as did the Founding Fathers in 1776 to defeat tyranny.  I don’t advocate armed conflict– but we as individuals don’t have put up with bullies nor dictators. I believe there are so many parallels between our plight and that of the colonists that we fail to see that we can tell them NO — I Refuse to Listen to Bullies and Refuse to be Treated as Chattel. Laws have been broken by occupiers in the Executive Branch. We don’t need to be like goats drawn to slaughter.

[Featured image – Stone Age Huts]

Peace

John

It is in the Water — and Much More?

By John Antone Jaksich

Flint, Michigan has suffered without clean water for more than four years. Leaded water is the least of their worries? Image by John A. Jaksich

Water is crucial to life, it can be a vehicle that carries disease as well. A specific case is the agent known to cause a deadly form of pneumonia- legionella. The bacteria first gained notoriety in the late 1970s. In 1976, cases of an antibiotic resistant pneumonia struck in Philadelphia. Individuals attending an American Legion convention were struck ill. There were fatalities. The disease became known as legionnaire’s disease since it affected convention-goers at the American Legion convention.

While the above diseases are associated with Third World countries, they occur with greater frequency in the USA. Their occurrence is correlated with a neglect of social services and insufficient funding of infrastructure. However, there is a more hideous culprit; it is confluence of circumstances associated with an increasing temperatures, too. Copyright image by John A. Jaksich. All Rights Reserved.

While the cause of the pneumonia was mysterious, it took more than one year to pin down its mode of action — or how individuals were sickened. To this day, illnesses associated with legionella are not completely understood. [There are at least two known diseases associated with legionnaires’ bacteria: pneumonia and Pontiac fever.] However, through painstaking detective work, some common factors appeared: water and air conditioning units were involved. More mysteriously, the water was shown as plain tap water. Eventually, epidemiologists narrowed the causative factors as an aerosolization of bacteria-carrying water. Shockingly, chlorinated drinking water does not remove the bacterium in all cases. Normally, water is chlorinated to remove all traces of bacteria, but chlorination failed in this instance.

According to the U.S. EPA – “… if more prevalent bacteria and viruses are not present in the drinking water, then chlorination would have removed Legionella, as well …

So, we ruminate on potentially deadly diseases transmitted via a life-giving substance – water. The primary problems we face with water are poor infrastructure management. In fact, if we survey the potential number of diseases associated with water — the number and variety may astound us? From listeria to cholera to legionnaire’s to mosquitos infected with zika and west nile virus, it is a neglect of infrastructure coinciding with drastic climate change that proves problematic. It is no coincidence that rises in atmospheric and ocean temperatures trigger more cases of illnesses. To use an-oft quoted expression, we have a “perfect storm.”

While many individuals within the mainstream can not or don’t know how to accept that we are undergoing a drastic change, our fates appeared sealed with squabbling politicians whose only concern is money and wealth.

PARTS OF FLINT, MICHIGAN CONTINUE TO HAVE BAD WATER. IT HAS BEEN MORE THAT FOUR YEARS SINCE THE NEW WATER TREATMENT FACILITY HAS COME ON-LINE. DEATHS IN FLINT, FROM THE BAD WATER, CAME FROM LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE.

While Flint, Michigan continues to struggle with bad water, scientists and policy-makers continue to scratch their heads. The deaths in the poverty-stricken city are pushed to the back-pages of newspapers and not covered by the nightly news. The questions to ponder (according to this author), since Legionnaires’ is associated with higher temperatures, the likelihood of completely removing the bacterium from the water supply was not 100 percent.

Scientists now know that the legionnaires’ bacteria thrive in higher temperatures — even in chlorinated water.

Bibliography and sources

Water Purity and EPA standards: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations#three Accessed October 7, 2019.

Frontline PBS: Flint’s Deadly Water. aired: September 10, 2019 https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/flints-deadly-water/

Aaron J. Prussin II, and others. Ten Questions Concerning the Aerosolization and Transmission of Legionella in Built Environment, Building Environment Journal 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29104349

Ronald S. Martin, and others. Isolation of Legionella pneumophila form hte blood of a patient with Legionnaires’ disease. Canadian Medical Association Journal 1984. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6388781

The Responsibility of Humanity: Should Science be a Tool of War?

Science has been a handmaiden to the military for thousands of years. Humanity has sought to weaponize technology since the use of hand axes, fire, and spears against large prey on the plains of the Serengeti.

Among some of the more notable individuals of science helping the war efforts of the past was Archimedes. Archimedes was born in Syracuse— an ancient Greek colony of Corinth [in present day Sicily.] Archimedes, known as both Natural Philosopher and Mathematician,  made scientific discoveries equal to that of Newton and Einstein.

Notably different from Newton and Einstein, Archimedes aided the war effort of ancient Syracuse by inventing advanced weapons of war (neither Newton nor Einstein aided war efforts despite popular myth to the contrary).

Operation Crossroads Test Able explosion_ 946

Weapons of war have grown increasingly sophisticated from the invention of gun powder to the threat of nuclear weapons. By USAAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Archimedes aided the war effort during the Roman siege of Syracuse. One of  his accomplishments, the Iron Claw,  reportedly stalled the Roman siege on Syracuse. The Iron Claw reportedly capsized Roman war vessels

Other instances of science assisting the weapons of war include (1) the hardening of steel by ancient metallurgists for swords with the Damascus process, (2) the invention of gun powder by Chinese scientists, and modern inventions like the (3) hydrogen and neutron bombs. When looked at from the lens of war, science has been both deterrent and  weapon.

“… dynamite will sooner lead to peace … … men will find that in one instant, whole armies can be utterly destroyed …”  Alfred Nobel, (1867.)

The economic gains from the spoils of war, alone, would provide good reasons for some nations to push science education. However, there lies the problem with using science as the means for economic gain— science as war machine is costly. The costs of war come from its effects upon limb and mind. 

Many mourn the loss of loved ones long after a war has ended. The loss of innocence that war brings, however, may be worse. To those who study war and its psychological effects, PTSD and depression among veterans occurs in many instances. The general population must care for war veterans who suffer psychological trauma. 

The-Claw-of-Archimedes

The inventions of Archimedes helped stave off the complete destruction of peoples. The question remains: should technology be used as a means to conduct war? Image by John A. Jaksich

 

Is it Morally Responsible to Use Technology to Build War Weapons?

While war is often argued to be wrong and immoral, using technology to gain an advantage over a foe is an escalation of the war machine. And the question follows, what if we didn’t use technology to build more destructive bombs and war tools?

Could we, as a species, survive? Pacifists often respond: an intelligent and morally sophisticated society has no need to spill blood to prove its worth nor to advance its goals.

More to the point: ‘Is is realistic to assume that war can be eliminated?’ – I often ponder the question myself… with no real answers, either… … it is as if there needs to be a part of the human condition that needs to be expunged. How and where that relates to individual behavior is hard to pin down. The human brain acts in part by instinct and in higher cognitive faculties, as well.

However, the two questions can be viewed as mutually exclusive– using technology to build advanced weapons and fighting a war through the spilling of blood.

So a question arises: why can’t we just send our best athletes to a game that determines who is top dog (kind of sounds like the Olympics… well, almost)?

There is something about the human condition that makes some of us act out aggressively and some of us, not so much? What needs to addressed is the need or satisfaction that aggression brings in the human brain?

And, that is a ‘Holy Grail’ — that we may need to address if we are to become a more advanced civilization….

“We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. Violence and war lead only to death.”   Pope Francis, (2016.)

 

Hero’s Journey from Darkness: the Space Race, the Silver Screen, and Mythology

EGA_Plus_10_mapcam_Earth_Moon-768x768

Understanding the smallness of our planet within a cosmic context breeds a sense of humility and love for humankind. Many astronauts who have ventured to the moon have come back from their journey exclaiming a sense of humility and respect for their planet and humanity, itself. Can we claim the same for ourselves?  Image by John A. Jaksich

Most of us love to gaze at the night sky with wonder and hope. If you are one of the lucky ones, you will get to voyage past Earth’s gravity and learn to question the vastness of space. You may gain the gifted perspective of its magnificent desolation (quoting moon walker, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin) or understand how gifted we truly are to be living on a vastly beautiful planet.

Thus, when the Apollo spacecraft journeyed to the Moon, those of us who watched on the television set were greatly privileged. We learned to love the solar system and its wondrous perspective. For those of us who remember it, we were pioneers.

Earthrise

For those of us who remember the Apollo missions of the 1960s, we became pioneers. The missions kindled a love for space in many of us. Image courtesy of NASA

While it is unclear whether humans will journey back to the moon or even Mars, what has become clear is that our sense of nobleness and pioneering spirit has given way to self-centered Nationalism. While many may argue the moonshot was a product of the Cold War, the feelings of discovery drove many children to wish to be astronauts. Some of these would-be astronauts became academically oriented and studied the cosmos or the sciences. It was a good time gaze at the cosmos with wonder.

The Power of the Mythic Cosmos on the Silver Screen

Just as NASA was winding down the moonshots (and Skylab too), we were captivated by a little known film maker by the name of George Lucas. The Star Wars saga debuted in the 1970s. The visionary film maker George Lucas wowed audiences and fellow-film-makers, alike. His story of a band of outgunned and outnumbered rebels seeking to uphold noble values against tyranny is a twist to classical stories from mythology. Its setting was in a galaxy far away and long ago.

However, it is akin to Homer’s telling of the Odyssey and the battles for Troy by heroic ‘god-like’ humans. Mr. Lucas is said to have been influenced by the story-telling power of the mythic figures of Homer. He is specifically said to be influenced by the scholar, Joseph Campbell. Mr. Campbell studied world mythology and the roles it played in past societies — he was also interested in how it applied to today’s mythological figures.

The protagonist in the original 1970s-1980s trilogy is one Luke Skywalker– someone who is at the margins of society. However, he mentored by an older  “father-like” figure- Obi Wan Kenobi. Skywalker must battle the forces of evil (and his true father, as well). However, as Skywalker becomes victorious, we are left with a sense: doesn’t a lot of the themes touched on by Lucas have themes prevalent in everyday life?

Family members battle one another in the hopes of truth and nobility. And, along the way, we learn a few things about the right and wrong. We learn that we are not the only ones who sit in the darkened theaters cheering for the ‘good guy’ to win out?

And, in many ways it is similar to the ancient Greeks listening to Homer making  sense of life?

A Hero’s Journey– Star Wars Retelling

What to Take-Away? -A Slap of Reality across our Faces?

When our children’s children read of the years 2016 – early 2018 as history, it will read like a step backwards in time. The most powerful politician of the US is a bigot and is ‘money-obsessed.’ He has no regard for anyone who holds little or no real property and wants to make sure the U.S. is the bastion of a ‘white’s only’ citizenry.

For many of us, we thought that darkness of this sort had been banished through the U.S. Civil War, and two World Wars. How wrong are we? I am not calling for war–I am pacifist.  I truly do not like suffering.

However, something needs to be done–

When the U.S. colonies fought the Revolutionary War, it was a battle against repression. The cause was noble and good. We were taking the high road. When the U.S. fought its own Civil War, it was a battle against repression and evil. When we fought the two World Wars, it was against repression.

The buck needs to stop with the youngest among us…. we don’t need to face repression, hatred, and or war–

Who among you recognizes that history is cyclical? — We should have learned our lessons many years ago? At, least I believe we did so… … isn’t there a hero among us?

Human Rights January – Fundamental Truths About Love?

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”  MLK Jr.

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”  MLK Jr.

Love can make the hard-times bearable. However, nothing is worse than finding oneself trapped in a rut. While many of us don’t like change nor hard-times, traversing the same paths repeatedly prevent us from learning from our mistakes. It can retard our ability to love and to mature, as well.

It is more often true than not – learning to persevere in the face of self-centeredness is a tough proposition. We may view that our motives are good (and that may be so) but we fall short all too often. Some approaches become piece-meal and almost half-hearted. However, the reasons for semi-failure are many– 1) not all goals are clear, 2) not all goals are achievable, 3) the paths to achieving the worthiest of intentions may not be clear —even to the planner.

In the instances in that we fail, we can find ourselves in a muddled path.

 

What can I do to prevent confused goals and intentions?

Perhaps the simplest approach is organize and execute noble paths around ‘small steps’ –even when the end result is the best possible outcome. It may take many, many smaller steps to achieve the ‘grand result.’

Perhaps we should ask ourselves?– Do we recognize red flags or proverbial signs that we are coming short to the goal?

I had a good mentor just recently tell me to pick up the book: The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz.  It sounds like a good idea. I had another mentor tell me to return to a more spiritual grounding—

The Four Agreements

Either path sounds like a more conservative approach to living. And why not?  The sign of the times dictates that a better grounding in the spirit may solve many problems–not only my own but those that closest to me. ❤

Peace

John

Human Rights January

A new year is upon us. As the old year is set to expire, planning and execution of what is important for the coming 12 months should be considered. For me, January is a “Human Rights” month.

Each month, I will pick an individual that I believe epitomizes the best of the human condition (dead or alive). In January of 2018, my pick is Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my heroes. His views on civil rights and non-violence are an inspiration. His struggles to achieve his goals are well documented. From facing down water cannons and klansmen to dealing with uncooperative individuals from the government, his life is one of a profile of courage and hope (to borrow the phrase from JFK).

While his Dream speech at the foot of the Lincoln memorial is one that many will remember, there are aspects of his inspiration that few heard of nor knew of. He realized that the dream he shared with so many was part of a long nightmare– (the following is taken from a Christmas sermon broadcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation):

… If there is to be peace on earth and good will toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. Something must remind us of this as we once again stand in the Christmas season and think of the Easter season simultaneously, for the two somehow go together. Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light, and they crucified him, and there on Good Friday on the cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, “No lie can live forever.” And so this is our faith, as we continue to hope for peace on earth and good will toward men: let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington, D.C., and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare. I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisors, sixteen thousand strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over five hundred thousand American boys are fighting on Asian soil. Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. …

The sermon was  broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Christmas Eve 1967

 

As can be inferred by my quotation (below) and passage choices, Martin Luther King Jr. never ever gave up. He understood that to persist in times of trouble, there had to be an overarching sense of purpose in the face of overwhelming odds.

For some of us, individuals like MLK Jr. hold inspiration – although we may not have the same trials— but their life of example is one to imitate. A better version of ourselves.

Lincoln Memorial

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” –MLK Jr.

 

Are we truly free –or do we submit to the paean of the many? Traveling a road less traveled is normally far harder than would appear. Can we sacrifice selfish desires?