Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Know your Nature

This above all: To thine own self be true,
for it must follow as dost the night the day,
that canst not then be false to any man.

- Shakespeare (Hamlet) inspired by Socrates (Know thyself).

Some observers suggest that humans make up themselves “from a tool kit of options made available by our culture and society ... We do make choices but we don't determine the options among which we choose.” Well, yes and no. As psychologists, like George Kelly has suggested, experience is not just what happens to us, it is also about what we do with what happens to us. And, a significant component of the what we do with what happens to us is programmed into our genetic profile.

Humans are part of the natural world. Consequently, our options also come from some innate forces. Walt Disney may have been the first media mogul in the last century to capture this in his iconic characters. Although we recognized many of his characters as animals, their innate selves were clearly visible, whether duck, mouse, rat, dog, or cat. Our various individual behaviors, too, can be found in animals, which is to say that a particular type of animal behavior can be found in all humans, some with more than one. For example, I may think of myself as a bird with the following profile: do not like chatter; a hunter, who can sit quietly for hours; domestic, preferring the nest (home) to roaming; can live alone or with others; and, enjoy certain aspects of childrearing. What type of bird am I?

Why is it important to relate to yourself as an animal? Because humans are animals! And, the type of animal you are determines many things: the type of mate you need to be looking for or why certain social and business relationships do not work for you. There can be a relationship of tragic consequences formed between two persons whose innate natures are that of a bird and a cat. Everyone needs to know the inner animal of potential mates early on so that when faced with relationships of choice, we can select with wisdom.

Most of us move through life looking for a "soul mate," expecting some "chemistry" to let us know if someone is "the one." That chemistry may only be a primordial feeling. Any two humans can get it on up to a point, but it takes a special person that can and will commit to a single person to help them get on with life and derive satisfaction from that commitment for a lifetime.

Another reason for better understanding the animal in you is that by doing so you can become a better judge of the animal in others: the predator (hawk, lion, shark, or dog), the scavenger (hyena, rat, or chicken), the hunted (gazelle, deer, or bison), the gatherers (bees, squirrels, bears), the colonizers (ants, bees, termites, mammal), royalty (elephant, rhinoceros, giraffe, lion, whale), the solitary (panda, tiger, snake), the spirits (ravens, horses, bats, spiders), the migrators (birds, sea turtles, whales, seals) There is an animal group that correlates to any human emotion; a flavor for every taste.

Gaining an understanding of the kind of being you are can lead to less self-esteem problems and a greater conviction in the value of your being and that of others. If you find your animal among the negative categories, just remember that human beings have the capacity to change just as some wild animals can be domesticated; whether we do change or not is not an easy thing to do, but we know that it can be done.

At any rate, avoiding criticism is impossible. Do not try to please everyone. To do so, will cause you to forget who you are or to become much that you should not. A story from the Arab world about Nasrudin, a Sufi folk character in jokes, and his attempt to avoid criticism illustrates this:

Nasrudin and his son were traveling with their donkey. Nasrudin preferred to walk while his son rode the donkey. But then they passed a group of bystanders, and one scoffed, “Look—that selfish boy is riding on a donkey while his poor old father is forced to walk alongside. That is so disrespectful. What a horrible and spoiled child!”

Nasrudin and his son felt embarrassed, so they switched spots—this time Nasrudin rode the donkey while his son walked.

Soon they passed another group of people. “Oh, that’s detestable!” one of them exclaimed. “That poor young boy has to walk while his abusive father rides the donkey! That horrible man should be ashamed of himself for the way he is treating his son. What a heartless parent!”

Nasrudin was upset to hear this. He wanted to avoid anybody else’s scorn, so he decided to have both himself and his son ride the donkey at the same time.

As they both rode, they passed another group of people. “That man and his son are so cruel,” one bystander said. “Just look at how they are forcing that poor donkey to bear the weight if two people. They should be put in jail for their despicable act. What scoundrels!”

Nasrudin heard this and told his son, “I guess the only way we can avoid the criticism of others is to both walk.”

“I suppose you are right,” the son replied.

So they got off the donkey and continued on foot. But as they passed another group of people, they heard them laughing. “Ha, ha, ha,” the group jeered. “Look at those two fools. They are so stupid that both of them are walking under this scorching hot sun and neither of them is riding the donkey! What morons!”

Stand for something because some people have the innate nature always to find fault. If you find yourself in such a relationship or in a bevy of quail, my advice is to get a passport and find a new home.

Value Intellectual Curiosity

"The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind." – William Blake (1757-1827)

In general we learn, and even recognize at the perceptual level, what has value or significance to us. As used here, intellectual curiosity refers to a healthy, insatiable appetite for purposeful knowledge by inquiring minds. An individual with such a mind will not say “I don’t need to know that.” How does one know when some specific knowledge will be useful? No, the inquiring mind asks: "Why is this knowledge valued and what meaning does it have for me, for my community?" It is only through intimacy that one knows something whether it is knowledge or another human being. Get intimate with learning as one would any other natural thing. For all learning is organic and needs to be cultivated as a farmer does his crops. The better the care given the crops, the greater the harvests.

Yet, one should not study just for self – which is important, for knowledge takes on a greater importance when we look at it not only in terms of how it can enrich one's own life, but in how one can use that knowledge to enrich one's community. This is the difference between information and knowledge. One is passing and the other is lasting, shared by generations into the future. Gossip is information, but its life cycle usually is finite. Knowlege has universal application, gossip is situational and does not.

One exemplary example of an inquiring mind is that of W.E.B. (William Edward Burghardt) DuBois (1868-1963), a graduate of Harvard University in the late 19th century and one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, and a man who made purposeful learning his life-long mission:

Night – grand and wonderful. I am glad I am living. I rejoice as a strong man to win a race, and I am strong – is it egotism – is it assurance – or is it the silent call of the world spirit that makes me feel that I am and that beneath my scepter a world of kings shall bow[?] The hot dark blood of a black forefather is beating at my heart, and I know that I am either a genius or a fool. O, I wander what I am – I wonder what the world is – I wonder if life is worth the Strum. I do not know – perhaps I shall never know: But this I do know: be the truth what it may I will seek it on the pure assumption that it is worth seeking – and Heaven nor hell, God nor Devil shall turn me from my purpose till I die . . . I therefore take the world that the unknown lay in my hands and work for the rise of the [African-American], taking for granted that their best development means the best development of the world . . . .[1]

1. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Autobiography of W. E. B. Dubois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century. International Publishers, 1968. p. 171.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Nurture the God in You

"Experience is not what happens to us, experience is what we do with what happens to us." — George Kelly

I have often returned mentally to a trip I was taking by car from northern Minnesota to the east coast of the United States back in 1969. We were four college students in the car – owned by the parents of one of them–who were traveling east that Christmas holiday intersession each for a different reason. As a senior in college that year, my purpose for the trip was to visit several college campuses in the Northeast in order to make a decision later about where I wished to attend graduate school.

However, before we even arrived, the trip almost ended. Here’s why. It was my turn to drive and we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike heading toward New York City. The weather was horrible. Growing up as a teenager in Minnesota and learning to drive there, I was not unaccustomed to bad winter weather. In Minnesota, however, the cold is usually a dry cold. In Pennsylvania, the weather that evening was a mix of rain and snow, making the road icy slick even with the high volume of car and truck traffic along this section of the turnpike. What’s worse, it was foggy.

Our adventure begins sometime around 9:00 pm. I was driving in the passing lane. I remember some comments about the weather and we were guarded about the inclement weather conditions, especially the potential of icy roads. Then, out of nowhere seemingly, we passed a warning marker with what appeared as blinking yellow and red lights situated just over a rise instead of on its opposite side. That was the brilliance of the Pennsylvania Highway Patrol who I assumed later had family in the towing business. The usual response – and it was mine – is to slow the car so as to avoid whatever potential danger is being advertised. Therefore, I tapped the brakes as I had learned to do in Minnesota to avoid spinning on ice. Of course, the car began to spin. Usually, I was in the habit of checking my rear- and side-view mirrors to determine where I was in relation to other cars, but, at that moment, I could not remember if there was another car to my right or behind. And, I did not want to take my eyes from the impending crisis below to look.

In front I could see cars ahead straddling the road following an obvious accident, whose drivers probably did exactly what I did – tapping the brakes and losing control of their vehicles on the icy road. My traveling companions are now going bananas, but I remember time slowing down for me as a myriad of millisecond calculations was being assessed about what to do. What now was the primary question? Option one was to continue to tap the brakes and gain traction. That was clearly not working.

Finally, the time for options was closing as we neared the collision of cars in front of us, so I decided that our best option was to go off the road to the left and at worst hit a steel barrier in its middle if we had not stopped before then. I assumed that the barrier would absorb some of the shock. So, that’s what I did to the terror of my fellow passengers who were still looking ahead when I quickly turned the car to the left onto the medium. My calculations were accurate, except for one unaccounted for problem. After we hit the barrier, which did, in fact, absorb the collision as there was little impact, but instead of stopping us, the barrier acted as a rubber band and rebounded the car back across the road! This time, I looked to the left with big eyes in the night to see if any cars were barreling down on us. I remember thinking a short prayer or blasphemy–I can’t remember which–that there would not be any and was relieved to see none as the car safely crossed the road and stopped perfectly on the emergency strip to be pointed in our initial direction.

This was not, however, the end of the story. Relieved, the guys bounded from the car to check on their vitals and also to get out of the way in case another car experienced what we had just gone through. Of course, one did, and as I was walking from the car, someone yelled that another vehicle was out of control on its way directly towards us. I planted my foot to take off and slipped to the icy ground, scraping my right palm on broken glass and stone, the scars of which still remain. While down, I looked up to see the car coming right for us. At that moment, unable to get to my feet, I simply said to myself that if it’s my time, so be it, or words to that affect. As the car came within 15-20 feet of me, it veered back suddenly to the left and across the road to the other side, with the help of its driver, or not.

Later on, I would describe this incident as a miracle. Today, however, with more worldly experience, I believe that everything that occurs in life is a miracle. The whole of life, to me, is a miracle we receive from nature and shaped by the God in us. To some, this will sound blasphemous, but to many peoples not shackled by established religious beliefs, it will not. The difference between miracles and "the natural order" is only one of perception. Most humans in Western culture refer to "the natural order" as the laws of cause and effect that God set up at the creation of the universe – such as gravity and electromagnetism, things that the human eye can see or the brain can reason. In general, when these laws operate consistently, except when there is an exception, we call the outcome "a miracle."

According to Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, a noted Hebrew scholar, nature is an illusion which God created in order to give human beings free choice to recognize God or not. Once a human being has risen above the illusion of nature as an independent power, he is no longer constrained by "the laws of nature."

Respectfully, I disagree with the rabbi. Nature is not the illusion, God, as defined by established religion, is the illusion. The God in me is not the same as the God in him, you or anyone else. If this is the case, how can you believe in my God and me in yours? Because of the laws of Nature. The single most comprehensible thread that holds our gods in common is Nature. It is nature that is orderly, that has a systemic plan, and nature that established coherent fundamental laws that humans can observe and hear and touch and smell.

Well, how is it that someone else’s God is a tyrant and another person’s God is kind? It’s quite simple, humans are a reflection of their nature as is their god. A god in the body of a tyrant will be a tyrannical god. A god in the body of an altruistic person will most likely be a kind god. Each of our gods, however, will be forged by the forces of nature that began before our births, in the sperm and eggs of our parents and nature’s water that bonded them together to launch the age-old process of human procreation and natural selection.

Nonetheless, all humans live in social units and as organisms we must adjust to survival as the environment dictates. As organisms, we are not always weak, but neither are we always strong. Understanding our nature provides us with a roadmap for navigating our trials and tribulations, whether we are confronted by predator beasts or embracing angels. Most often, distinguishing between the two is not as simple as it seems. The predator may wear the garments of an angel and an angel may speak the language of a predator.

What I have found in my own life is that as soon as I connect to the God in me, I acquire a mature understanding of my environment, and if something is meant to happen, there are signs, and depending upon what I do about things I can control—mostly my own body and emotions—I wait for nature to take control of the processes that it controls and respond in ways that my nature permits. What I learned from the car hurtling toward me, catastrophe written all over its front bumper, except there was no catastrophe, only crisis resolution, was that sometimes waiting and watching is preferable to acting too quickly.

Because of these experiences I gained a fuller appreciation of both my nature and the freedom that comes with being acclimated to life by its forces. This occurred when I acknowledged that the car incident and my life had no existence independent of nature and the God in me. Although the God in me had walked with me before this event, it was not always consciously so because I did not understand cerebrally that nature walked in tandem inside me as well. But since that event, I have been more conscious about my relationship with nature within and external to me and the God in me and am thankful for their presence. More importantly, there have been numerous blessings, big and small blessings that have enriched my consciousness about life and time since that watershed moment in my evolving consciousness.

There are some for whom any god is an abomination. What's wrong with a life devoid of God? I can’t say or, perhaps, won’t say. Each person must make that declaration. What I know quite simply is that the God in you is a reflection of reality – both ultimate reality and immediate reality – but it is still only your reality until you transform that reality into universal, natural law and coexist on this planet peacefully with others irrespective of differences. As a human being, life should be an aspiration toward greater consciousness, that place that humans call wisdom.

There is a spiritual law in many human religions that says whatever humans do, God responds to them in kind – measure for measure. In other words, when we want the God in us to go beyond the laws of nature, we must first journey beyond our own nature. This is a journey not easily made, and sadly, many established religions are not true to their nature so their communicants may never know theirs. Of course there are humans who do not permit other humans to coexist. What shall one do? It's quite simple, give measure for measure and do not look back.

To live in this world oblivious to this amazing journey is like being a bird oblivious to the wind, which seems to me a good measure to take of this rite of passage. For to fully appreciate a bird – a raven or a condor for example – soaring in the sky in perfect harmony with the wind and be able to connect yourself with their flight is to know what it means to aspire beyond your limits and reach for a higher level of consciousness, spiritual and physical, feeling not only what the bird feels, but also the wind, the earth, and the heavens.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Capitalism and Consumption

“The worker leaves the capitalist, to whom he has sold himself, as often as he chooses, and the capitalist discharges him as often as he sees fit, as soon as he no longer gets any use, or not the required use, out of him. But the worker, whose only source of income is the sale of his labour-power, cannot leave the whole class of buyers, i.e., the capitalist class, unless he gives up his own existence. He does not belong to this or that capitalist, but to the capitalist class; and it is for him to find his man – i.e., to find a buyer in this capitalist class.”
– Karl Marx, “What are Wages? How are they Determined?"

In the context of Western intellection, there can be few fields of academic study as fictitious as that of American economic theory, as its practitioners largely have excommunicated their only credible intellectual critique from the marketplace of ideas — that critique derives from the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. To my knowledge, nowhere will their ideas be found in the U.S. secondary educational curriculum, a process accelerated after WWII with the "Red scare" and attack on "communists" championed by Joe McCarthy and other right-wing politicians in the 1950s. The McCarthy hearings were a media event, much like the hanging of skulls on posts alongside roadways in ancient times or lynchings in recent history; a real witch-hunt and vampire experience. Since this great propagandizing watershed in U.S. history, the public and the academic establishment largely was kowtowed and the political elite, acting for and on behalf of the military industrial complex, ramped up the fear levels of most Americans. Consequently, our educational system was designed to first and foremost graduate sheep, making the U.S. population one, if not the, most self-absorbed and misinformed on the planet.

The miracle is that this strategy did not fully succeed, though the self-absorption rate of xenophobia in the United States remains the highest of any place on the planet in the 21st century, with Germany and France attempting to catch up. In the U.S. one need only to monitor the machinations and negative commentary regarding the immigration issue today to understand some of what other Americans went through in the 50s whose only crime was that they valued ideas. Of course, school age children were taught that this WAS a war of ideas without being given an intellectual diet containing all the ideas. It was only when I entered college and took an economics class that I began to understand what the TV and propaganda farce was about. I compare the majority of Americans to the colony of ants in the really serious, must-see cartoon film that's not just for your kids: Antz.

General Mandible: [Z has broken through to the surface where Mandible and his soldiers wait for them to be drowned] Let go! Don't you understand? It's for the good of the colony!
Z: What are you saying? We are the colony!
[Mandible is about to strike Z when Cutter knocks him aside]
General Mandible: Cutter, what are you doing?
Colonel Cutter: Something I should have done a long time ago.
[extends his hand to the worker ants]
Colonel Cutter: *This* is for the good of the colony, General.
General Mandible: You useless, ungrateful maggot! *I* am the colony!

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, there were few Americans willing to come to the aid of those targeted as "Reds" in the 1950s. One of them, in his own indubitable way, however, was the late great Paul Robeson.

American economists like to say that economics is about scarce or limited resources, that not all human needs can be met, particularly yours and mine, and that the role of the economist is to determine the most efficient and equitable ways to distribute these resources. If this is the case, and the decisions are based on merit, why does that determination always insure that those who control the capital always get the lion’s share, and that labor is relegated to the garbage heap? Well, of course, that's the way the system is designed.

Some American economists even claim that their work is “science” based upon human behavior. Well, it is to some degree based upon human behavior, but that behavior has been carefully selected in favor of predators, rather than humanists or naturalists from which the works of Marx and Engels derive. For it is not “human behavior” writ large in world history who decides on the allocation of resources, scarce or not, but a mere few who have monolithic control of planetary resources and their derivatives by their control over capital and politics, but who, nonetheless, are able to mobilize other subordinated humans to work against their own self-interests either out of ignorance, powerlessness, or an innate scavenger nature.

Wealth consumes power or to paraphrase Marx's observation relative to history from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, “Economics does nothing, people do.” Economics does not decide who eats and who does not; humans make this decision. In short, all economic systems are first and foremost political, but of all economic systems that humans have devised capitalism is the most predatory, predicated on infinitely expanding market share, increasing both production and consumption on a planet where the only thing that is not finite is capitalist greed.

Frederick Douglass, the great 19th century American rhetorician and human rights leader, knew intimately the tyranny of consumption as a self-emancipated slave. He had these words to say about hierarchically-structured systems:

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they would oppress…. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get." [Douglass, 1845]

More than anything else, Capitalism is about who controls the “gross consumption” of resources – natural, human, manufactured, or spiritual. A few statistical bullets will suffice to support this observation:
  1. It is estimated that "the richest 225 people in the world today control more wealth than the poorest 2.5 billion people. And that the three richest people in the world control more wealth than the poorest 48 nations. A.H. Bill, Facing the Future: People and the Planet. 1998.

  2. The U.S. spent half a trillion dollars in 1998: 50% went toward the military budget; 6% was spent on education; health, the environment, and justice each received 5%, transportation less than 3%; economic development almost 2%; and agriculture and energy less than 1% each. A.H. Bill, Facing the Future: People and the Planet.

  3. Americans constitute 5% of the world's population, but consume 24% of the world's energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as 2 Japanese, 6 Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians, or 370 Ethiopians. P. Ehrlich, Population Bomb [PBS website– website now retired but book by same name should contain this information].

  4. 250 million people have died of hunger-related causes in the past quarter-century — roughly 10 million each year.

  5. 700 to 800 million people, perhaps even as many as a billion, don't get enough food to support normal daily activities.

  6. 1.7 billion people lack access to clean drinking water and, by the year 2000, the number of urban dwellers without access to safe water and sanitation services is expected to grow by 80%.

  7. One-third of the world's fish catch and more than one-third of the world's total grain output are fed to livestock.

  8. 38 million people are poor in the United States; 19 million of these are working!

Afrothetic's First Law of Consumption: Humans are born from consumption, live by consumption and, at death, are by-products of consumption. Corollaries: “Dust to dust, ash to ashes.” "We are what we eat."

On the Merits of Single-Sex Education - Part I

The issues of gender are complex, ranging from cultural expectations and childrearing methods to sexual preferences and neurological and physiological issues. When you add to the mix a discussion on Black manhood, it's like adding gasoline to a fire.

I know that, as an African-American male, I'm always frustrated by the outcomes of such dialogues, primarily because as individuals we belong to one gender or another or sexual preference or another, and, therefore, believe that we know the full-scope of what that gender or sexual preference lifecycle is about. NOT!

Few of us understand, for example, that the needs of the male in the first five years of life are dramatically different from that of females nor is it appreciated that although males catch up with girls physically in their teens, recent neurological research tells us that males may not catch up with females in brain development until their late teens (ages 18-20). We are told that only the X chromosome carries a full set of defining body characteristics; a man's single X chromosome may be defective, whereas a woman, who has two chances, is believed to seldom fall short. And, even when partners can possibly understand this, how is the information integrated in their childrearing patterns? Among caregivers? Nursery school providers? Educators? Grandparents?

To create an environment for equitable education for Black males will require a complete overhauling of the system of knowledge delivery in public schools up to at least the 6th grade. That will not happen soon, of course, as the larger society does not accept the need for change, particularly for Black males. More to the point, the failure of young Blacks and Latinos (male and female) is important to the criminally unjust law enforcement and incarceration system in the United States.

As an adult male, I understand more clearly that the current warehousing method of education worked partially for me, but not for most of my peers. Boys in general, regardless of ethnicity, are exploratory by nature, and sitting in rows and forbidden to explore is going to cause conflict. The problem is not the child or the gender; it's the inability of the teacher and the system to adapt to the neurological and physiological needs of boys. To create better men, our parents, our community, and our schools must make creating healthier boys a priority.

Additionally, how gender roles are defined by BOTH women and men needs increased discourse as the roles of husbands in the household is changing. But, I also know that many women have not made the full shift to equitable gender sharing. While men now perform domestic tasks in their households more than ever before, fewer women have taken up "outside tasks" like lawn, landscaping, home repair activities, because these do not reinforce their standard of beauty, and are still considered male tasks. In my opinion, until some women and men redefine their image of beauty, change is going to be slow. Are nails and hair or condition of hands more important than family and relationship? Not if we are parents. I believe that it's healthier for parents to work together in all tasks in our fast-paced economy and for children to see them doing so, even if one or the other is only showing spiritual support.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

On the Merits of Single-Sex Education - Part II

Parenting, today, is more important than ever. There are great risks and challenges facing the next generations. Both males and females must come to grips with definitions of manhood since both genders reinforce the image. In his new book, Marc Anthony Neal, who is viewed by some as the leading African-American intellectual interpreting Generation X today, argues that the idea of a "Strong Black Man" is not compatible with parenting, because parenting functions reflect female gender roles. As the father of two daughters, Neal says that raising children with this gender view of the world today cannot be sustained in an economy where African-American females are increasingly likely to be the bread-winners in families. More importantly, to maintain them will continue to put all African-American children — male and female — at risk. Nurturing males has many benefits, but only one is paramount – the survival of a people.

Yet, there may be hope. In 2002, Lee Mansell, principal of Foley Intermediate School in Foley, Alabama read a book by Michael Gurian called Boys and Girls Learn Differently! which started her thinking more seriously about single sex education. After that she discovered the ideas of Leonard Sax in a magazine article and thought that his insights would help improve the test scores of Foley’s lowest-achieving group, minority boys. Sax went on to publish those ideas in Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences. In 2003, Mansell began educating teachers and parents about single-sex education and launched the program in 2005. It has been so successful that Sax, a family physician turned author and advocate, will quit his medical practice this May to devote himself full time to promoting single-sex public education.

That the integration of brain maturation and gender has finally made it into the public school system is a miracle and is the making of a revolution. This acceptance is due, I believe, because nothing else educators have done since the 1970s has worked. That's when politics entered the educational system in the form of collective bargaining. How much did politics play a role? Well, in 2003 Hillary Clinton briefed the American Federation of Teachers about the threat that Iraq represented, whereupon the nation’s second-largest teacher’s union supported the Bush administration's jihad to attack Iraq. What is an American teachers union doing involved with supporting military action in a sovereign nation, you ask? That's what some Congressional oversight committee should be asking because the behavior of the AFT and its board clearly shows that there are some citizens managing your child's future who need to be doing something else, and if this something else is global imperialism, they should be shown the door.

This beginning is not the end. What must happen next is that the textbooks and standardized tests need to be written at the language and grade level at which the children are being taught, and not 4-5 grade levels above. Language is where the cultural discrimination has been taking place to thwart the dreams of young people for the pass 30 years no matter what their complexion. Of course, some school districts also removed music, physical education, and health care from the schools to further degrade the educational process and prevent youngsters who are right-hemisphere dominant, particularly African-Americans, from advancing intellectually into historic areas of self-employment — better to have the dropouts ready for all those jobs in the military or to feed the excessive appetite of an unjust predatory penal system.

It's a long road to reconstruction, as the first American social reconstruction proved, but there are leaders in this 21st century social revolution that have at least kick-started it. Parents can learn more about Foley Intermediate School here: Teaching Boys and Girls Separately by Elizabeth Weil, New York Times, 2 March 2008.

A Word (or two) on Free Speech

Whenever free speech absolutists speak of "free speech" I often think what they mean is that "agree speech" is free speech, usually followed by a personal attack against those who disagree with them. From their perspective, "your 'free Speech' has limits, while theirs does not."

As the Biblical James writes: "...the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts." Sir James recognized that words can be used as weapons, and he recognized that words do not operate in a vacuum. Like everything else in our world, speech is governed by the laws of nature. The science used to describe the motion of objects using words, diagrams, numbers, graphs, and equations is called Kinematics. Since speech is language in motion, it is governed by the laws of motion as defined by Isaac Newton, the 17th century scientist.

According to Newton's third law, for every action force there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction) reaction force. Since forces always come in pairs, known as "action-reaction force pairs," speech, too, follows this rule. Someone who bullies another person, for example, can expect three types of opposite reactions of a varying nature. One reaction may be a passive retreat, which may lead to harm by undermining a victim's sense of self-worth, with any name-calling significantly reducing a person's self-esteem as recent studies on bullying and spousal verbal abuse has revealed. One of the these studies was conducted by Dr. Stephen Joseph, a psychologist at the University of Warwick, who researched bullying at Secondary Schools in the United Kingdom. His work dispels the well-known myth "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me".

A second reaction could be a verbal repartee in which the subject responds to the attacker tit-for-tat. These tit-for-tats can lead to a third reaction, which may turn physical or extremely violent if the targeted individual or group believe themselves to be a victim of verbal abuse or if a blaspheme is thrown at them like an offensive warhead. It's highly unlikely that a sober college professor, for example, will meander up to a 250-lb NFL linebacker and with conviction call him a "sissy" — at least where it can be heard.

Free speech absolutists are being disingenuous if they suggest they never modify their speech or their reporting under any circumstances. Our speech is governed by situational ethics, which is Newton's first law of motion: "An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force."

The object here is the tongue, of course, and an unbalanced force can be a social, political, economic, military or natural environment that requires the tongue to be restrained. Some humans may require either force or wisdom to know when restraint or silence is appropriate. Speech that is offensive is not free speech. It is just what it is, offensive. Those who require force to curb offensive speech will almost always find an opposing reaction that will assist them in doing so. It's a law of nature.