Saturday, December 3, 2011

Untying the Knots - Bill Cosby

My response to Bill Cosby's e-mail (see below)

I have always felt that Bill Cosby's humor has tended to have a slightly fascistic side to it– ("why should I do it, daddy?" "Because I'm telling you, that's why," ha ha), and I have long been critical of it– even when he was the darling of "politically correct" white liberals over here in America in the eighties… I suppose, simply, because he was a successful black man. It all seemed such a new fangled idea to him that perhaps we could share with our children the reasons for what we ask of them, so they could learn to think for themselves in a reasoned manner. And the fact that he regularly pitched junk food to children on the TV didn't raise my opinion of him, either. When I was trying to educate my son and his friends about healthy nutrition, he didn't seem like a great children's advocate to me– more like a lackey of big business.

Neither did I feel that his TV show uplifted the black community of NYC, or that it inspired them to "move on up" (as the old saying goes), but instead it obscured– with cheap humor, and the myth of the American dream– the real problems that many people of color faced daily.

Because in this country (and I'm sure in many others), such things as the quality of schools, garbage collection, police presence etc… are all determined by local real estate taxes (pay to play), you simply don't get high quality local services unless you live in a wealthy neighborhood. Does the point really need to be made that this is a Catch 22 situation for those who find themselves living in poverty through no fault of their own, other than heredity? The fact that Mr. Cosby, and one or two others, have clawed their way up to the top of a discriminatory system, does not mean that it isn't discriminatory. Instead of bragging about how he deserves his success, maybe he could show some gratitude to all the people out there who have supported him through the years and made him successful, especially when you consider his relatively mediocre talent.

When he talks about the government taking the money that he has earned "by force if necessary,"we have to wonder if he is opposed to taxes of any kind. In which case, who do you suppose will build the roads and the infrastructure of this country that he claims to love? And the phrase, "people too lazy to earn it," always reminds me of the story of the Mexican immigrant who was providing for his family on poverty wages, but still insisted there were plenty of jobs to be had in this country. "I know there are," he would say, "I have three of them."

Cosby claims that he made a "reasonable salary." If this is true, perhaps my definition of reasonable (and that Mexican's) is different to his— for many years he was the highest paid entertainer in the world. Come on Cos'… don't be greedy, give something back!

But Cosby's tirade against Muslims– indefensible though it might be– is simply the ignorance of the average American. Compared with other countries, America tends to have the most ghettoized system of multiculturalism. All the ethnic groups are represented, it is true, but they don't mix, they rarely intermarry, and they don't know shit about each other. Part of the blame must be laid at the feet of the sad state of western commercial media. Man, this is 2011… where was the last interracial couple you saw on TV? Some of us expected that to change in the seventies. And we all know that Muslims are, to this day, portrayed in the media predominantly as terrorists, or at best extreme orthodox types who beat their wives and treat them like pack animals. Can we wonder, then, why the kind of vapid stereotypes which Cosby regurgitates yet prevail? Still, it always makes me chuckle to see these old windbag chauvinists of the last five decades suddenly adopt an almost stridently feministic rhetoric when it comes to discussions of Islamic culture. I believe it was General Schwarzkopf, or some such military apologist, who cited one of the reasons for the invasion of Afghanistan as "women's rights." Hah! I thought— How about equal pay over here.

Still, its hard to take this diatribe seriously. When Cosby deridingly uses such classic curmudgeonly phrases as, "people with a sense of entitlement," and "young men and women in their teens and early 20's who be-deck them selves in tattoos and face studs," we find ourselves wanting to say, "It's okay grandpa, don't worry, the world is changing, soon you'll be in a beautiful field, with flowers and butterflies overlooking a lovely waterfall… with a rainbow… and you won't have to think about it anymore." But then it occurs to us that seventy-six is not that old, certainly not an excuse for believing the fairy tale idea that life is fair and you get what you deserve. In reality, for many people that is not even remotely true.

On the other hand, for me, there is one really great thing that Bill Cosby did in his life: he spoke out against the death penalty for the murderer of his son Ennis. I find it hard to imagine what kind of courage and strength of purpose it would take to not lay claim to that most obvious form of revenge when it impacts your own beloved child. But I doubt that it is something which will be admired by most of those who agree with him in general.

It does seem, however, that all his "honorary" degrees (which by definition are not earned) and his inclusion in the list of the 100 greatest African Americans (For what earth shattering accomplishment? I wonder), may have gone to his head, and created such a grandiose self image as to make him believe that this ranting geriatric e-mail, with all its scattered logic and factually incorrect details, needs to be read by every human being on the planet in order to, somehow, make this world a better place. I won't even comment on how much arrogance and judgmentalism it would require to make the claim that if we don't forward his thoughts, then we are "part of the problem."

But Cosby's idea of a world where everybody is in it for themselves, where nobody tends to the environment in which we exist, and pollution is okay; where nothing is shared, and no one is grateful to the community for the blessings which have been cast upon them; where religious intolerance is considered a virtue; where the sick in body and mind are not cared for, and the weak are downtrodden; where there is no room for change or evolution, nor acknowledgement of one's own mistakes; where some old fart can sit in judgment over everybody else's individual tastes and aesthetics, … that is not my idea of a better place, and I hope it is not yours.


Bill Cosby "I'm 76 and Tired"

This should be required reading for every man, woman and child in Jamaica, the UK , United States of America , Canada , Australia and New Zealand and to all the world...

"I'm 76 and I'm Tired"

I'm 76. Except for brief period in the 50's when I was doing my National Service, I've worked hard since I was 17. Except for some some serious health challenges, I put in 50-hour weeks, and didn't call in sick in nearly 40 years. I made a reasonable salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, it looks as though retirement was a bad idea, and I'm tired. Very tired.

I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.

I'm tired of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family "honor"; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren't "believers"; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for "adultery"; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur'an and Shari'a law tells them to.

I'm tired of being told that out of "tolerance for other cultures" we must let Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries use our oil money to fund mosques and madrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in Australia , New Zealand, UK, America and Canada , while no one from these countries are allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country to teach love and tolerance..

I'm tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate.

I'm tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses or stick a needle in their arm while they tried to fight it off?

I'm tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of all parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I'm tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

I'm really tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.

I'm also tired and fed up with seeing young men and women in their teens and early 20's be-deck them selves in tattoos and face studs, thereby making themselves un-employable and claiming money from the Government.

Yes, I'm damn tired. But I'm also glad to be 76.. Because, mostly, I'm not going to have to see the world these people are making. I'm just sorry for my granddaughter and her children. Thank God I'm on the way out and not on the way in.

There is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on!

This is your chance to make a difference.

" I'm 76 and I'm tired. If you don't forward this, you are part of the problem".

Monday, June 6, 2011

Untying the Knots - Distance & Perspective

Distance and Perspective
in Physics and in Life

by The High Priest of Prickly Bog

Which of us as a small child has not looked at moon, whilst being driven down a highway, and wondered— how does it manage to keep pace with such a fast car? Soon we start to notice that the mountains which are very far away are moving very slowly, whereas the trees that are close by are whizzing past at a rapid rate. Of course, eventually, we learn that it is the extreme distance of the moon from us which allows it to appear to retain its position in relation to ours, because, compared to that measurement, the distance that we have travelled in our car is negligible. It would work the same way if we were on the moon and could see a car on earth driving a mile or so. It would not appear to have moved.
So it is the ratio of the distance of the observer (from the car) to the distance between the two points (beginning of car's journey… end of car's journey) which defines how much difference the observer will notice. The closer we get… the more disparity there appears to be between the two points.

I have found this principle to work similarly in many aspects of life.

As a textile designer I often have to match colors very specifically… sometimes close enough is just not close enough. I would place the color tab I need to match next to the tab of the color I have mixed upon my white desk and examine them for differences. But I discovered something odd. If the color was very pale, let's say a pale yellow… then I could see the subtle differences between the two tabs fairly easily and correct them, but if the color was, say… navy blue, then the differences would be very hard to see. However, if I took a piece of black paper, and put the two navy tabs upon it, then I could see the differences much more clearly. So I tried matching the two pale yellow tabs on the black background, but now I found it hard to see the difference between the two of them.
It occurred to me that background color I was using was conceptually the same as the distance to the moon. By placing the two yellow tabs on a white background, which is close to them, I was bringing the distance of my perspective closer, so that the distance between them would be more noticeable. And by placing them on a black background, which is very different to them, I was moving my perspective much further away which, predictably, made them seem more similar. Conversely, black is a lot closer to navy blue and so, obviously, the whole experiment worked in exactly the opposite way for the navy tabs.

One day, a friend of mine who had just come back from a trip on a cruise ship was explaining to me just how well the ship's crew had taken care of him on the trip. "They were so good, Mario," he explained, "that when I asked for ketchup with my fries, they brought me what looked like ketchup… but when I tasted it, guess what? It was cocktail sauce!" He was positively delighted that his ketchup had been upgraded in such a fashion.
Now, at first I didn't get it. What's the difference, I thought. Cocktail sauce is basically ketchup… isn't it… with some other stuff thrown in. It just didn't seem that big of a difference to me. But as I thought about it, this idea of perspective cropped up in my mind, and I realized that my friend was just a lot closer to ketchup than I was, inasmuch as he consumes it much more often than do I. So from his perspective, that subtle difference was quite important, but from mine… well, it appeared inconsequential.

Possibly because thinking about something a lot tends to bring one closer to it, I am noticing, more and more these days, how this simple principle of physics and geometry seems to conceptually affect human relations in many areas.
For example, when we are close to any given culture, we tend to experience the diversity within it, whereas when we are removed from a culture… well, it all looks the same. If we don't know any black people, or any white people, or any Jews, or Mexicans, or Hindus, or Muslims… then they each seem to fall well within their stereotyped definitions of color or type. (For some of us, they all fall within the same definition– foreigners!) But as we draw closer and closer we start to notice that they come in all different shapes, sizes and colors– even within the same "group," and as we get still closer we notice that they all actually behave differently from each other as well… just as do the members of our culture. In fact, sometimes we get so close that we see more differences between them, than between them and us.

In closing, I would like to say that I make no judgment about what is the "right" perspective to have. In some cases a distant generalized perspective is actually more useful, and in others, it is the details which are most important. I leave it up to you to choose which to use, and when, with the hope that having thought about it this way will have helped you to make that choice with greater clarity.

I would love to hear any examples you might have come across of this principle at work. Please share them with us below.