PAY ATTENTION!

Regardless that these are babies, child or adults feel connected, safe, when the people in our lives SHOW they care about us, what we want, how we feel, and why. Shutting down, shutting those we ostensibly care about out, to self-protect, is destructive in the extreme.

From the clip:

“When she’s grounded, is comfortable in her world, she can explore, meet other people, try new things, as she’s got that safe base she can rely on.”

In other words, communication builds trust, and trust is the foundation of love.

What is EVIL?

What is EVIL?

It is not murder. It is not lying, cheating, stealing, or breaking any of the 10 Commandments, or Hitler, or Donald Trump. It is NOT a state of being. EVIL is an ACTION, or lack thereof.

True EVIL is indifference.

We are ALL indifferent at times. Every time you pick up your cellphone behind the wheel, you are demonstrating you don’t care about anyone else but yourself. You are 26 times more likely to injure or murder others looking at your mobile while driving. You are actively participating in EVIL, as you are indifferent to anyone but your own desires.

Hitler was indifferent to the horror, the suffering, the murder of 6 million Jews that he initiated. So was every commander who followed his orders, and every German who turned a blind eye to protect themselves, and let it happen.

We are on par with Hitler every time we text while driving.

Church, even Christ won’t save us from our sins of indifference.

The effects of indifference reverberate. You cause an accident while texting, and hurt my kid, and I no longer care about you, your kids, your life. In fact, I hate you. I want to see you harmed!

Every time indifference is demonstrated it generates more EVIL.

Indifference lets corporations like PG&E murder 8 people in San Bruno when the utility diverted the money needed to fix the pipes into bonuses for top paid execs. When COMCAST demands full payment for delivering half the service, they are practicing EVIL. So are the customer service representatives working for them, who claim they’re ‘just doing their job, as they are told to,’ like Nazi Germany, where neighbors became indifferent—didn’t really care what happened to the Jewish kid that their kid used to play soccer with.

Every time we don’t stand up to indifference, we are participating in EVIL.

Indifference is like a genetic disease, handed down through the generations.

Parents who don’t give a shit about their kids, raise kids who don’t give a shit about anyone (even themselves).

Educators who care more about their pensions, putting in 2/3rds of a workday, and working only half the year, teaches indifference to everyone but themselves.

Students (without wealth) who are indifferent to learning, don’t study, don’t do the work, choose YouTube or gaming over doing academics, become front line canon fodder in the military as the only paying job they can get, or end up criminals, or homeless.

Drivers, indifferent to everyone else while they fulfill their desire to upload a Snap, murder close to 4,000, and injure up to 500,000, one half a MILLION people, kids, dogs…etc., a YEAR. Think you know how to drive and text at the same time? Your indifference is supporting your ignorance, which is only surpassed by your arrogance.

EVERY DAY, half or more drivers I see are chatting or texting away, and I fight the urge to ram my car into them. If they stop where I do, like the store, and I pass them in the aisle, I want to spit in their face, for no other reason than to get them to PAY ATTENTION TO SOMEONE OTHER THAN THEMSELVES.

When a COMCAST customer service rep tells me to get another modem, knowing it won’t make my internet connection any better because they know, and COMCAST knows, they don’t have the bandwidth to support the neighborhood’s wireless devices, I become irate, rude, indifferent to their plight, as they are to mine.

Every time we encounter indifference, we become more indifferent.

Stand at the Pearly Gates, and the first question St Peter is likely to ask is were you GOOD or EVIL in your lifetime. Lie, and go to hell. Say you’re GOOD, and believe it? If you spent more of your life addressing and responding to your own needs and desires than anyone else, count on going to hell.

Assuming, like me, you are a non-believer, why worry about anyone else if the only reward is in this life? Take as much as you can get, seems to be the attitude of so many these days, religious or not.

While self-interest is the foundation of our nature, indifference is not. It is taught, shown, modeled by all of us, at times. We begin life as solipsists, then grow to narcissists through our teens and early 20s. Maturity means we’ve expanded our awareness beyond just ourselves, and often put our own desires aside to actively care for others.

Indifference, to justify doing whatever you want (from lying for COMCAST, to driving a fuel-guzzling SUV, to texting behind the wheel of it) chips away at our humanity with every slight. This toxicity of EVIL ultimately endangers every living thing on this planet. Demonstrate you don’t care about me, and I won’t care about you. We self-protect, which ultimately serves no one, not even ourselves.

CARE BEYOND YOURSELF, and SHOW IT, and we not only insure our survival, we give our childrens’ children, and way beyond them, a chance to experience living, and the opportunity to thrive.

Immigration Ignorance

Had some yard work done that required cutting concrete. My gardener gave me a quote of $150 to do the job. I accepted his bid as fair and equitable, assuming the job would likely take less than 20 minutes, and we agreed on last Sunday for him to do the work.

He arrived promptly 8:30 Sunday morning and began cutting our concrete patio. He used a small electric saw with a 4” blade, which I thought odd, since the last guy I’d seen cut concrete had a major power saw that had to be held with both hands and came with a water supply to keep the blade cool.

Gardener struggled to cut a mere 20” of concrete for over 5 hours. He left once, to buy new blades for his little saw. He did not take a lunch break. In fact, he took no breaks at all.

Ninty-four degrees at mid-day when I brought him some ice water. Sweat dripped down his face and cut brown lines in the concrete chalk covering his skin. He gave me a crooked-tooth grin of thanks, took a long drink then wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “Caliente!” (Hot!)

I nodded agreement and pointed to his little saw. Pequeño (Small), I said, closing the gap between thumb and forefinger. Why so small? Harder to cut the concrete. I spoke in English, as my Spanish sucks, but he got it.

He laughed. You’re right. Yes! Si! Demasiado pequeño (too small). Herramienta incorrecta (wrong tool). He picked up his tiny cutter. Muy caro! Expensive! $100 for herramienta. $35 for blades. Ay, yi yi!

I’m paying him $150 for the job. He’d just spent over that buying equipment to do the work. I was mind boggled. I assumed he had all he needed to do the job when he gave me his bid. He went back to work and I went inside and got the receipt from the equipment rental place I’d visited the previous week. Only $24.99 to rent a jigsaw for 24 hours! At the time I rented the jigsaw, I inquired about renting a concrete cutter. $59.00 for 24 hours. Why hadn’t my gardener just rented the right equipment? He could have got the job done in half an hour and actually made money.

I took the receipt outside and showed it him. Do you know of this place? Just down the road?

He took the receipt and studied the logo at the top of the paper. His expression brightened. Si! Yes! Alquiler de equipos Rentals. Rents. Yes?

Yes! Concrete saw is $59.00 bucks for the day. Taken you 30 minutes to do the job. Why didn’t you rent a saw? Using hand signals and body gestures I somehow communicated.

Ah. No. No rent. Can’t. No license. No seguro (insurance). Not legal here.

Four years running our gardener’s been coming and he is the best gardener I’ve ever had. More than a gardener, he fixes our watering system, landscapes, trims trees, sets fences. He comes every Tuesday around 9:00am, rain or shine, and is on time, every time. He always smiles and waves when we cross paths. He is a stellar model of a dedicated hard worker for our children, and the community at large.

Yet, he can not get a Green Card.

His company won’t sponsor him. He has no legal relatives here. He is not a refugee. Even if he could get one, the process of applying and then waiting for the Card takes years. My gardener needs, and in fact, has work now. He can’t wait years to get U.S. approval to work for a living.

Why doesn’t he leave his job for Americans and just go back to Mexico?

I had three other bids on the concrete work I needed. A neighborhood contractor quoted me $1,600 to do the job. A mason didn’t want the job because it was 20 miles from his location and not worth the trip. A local handyman quoted $800, but couldn’t start the job for over two months, and required half upfront to hold my time slot. All were licensed, bonded, U.S. citizens.

Until our conversation last Sunday, I had no idea my gardener was here illegally, and driving without a license. The man is probably in his early 30s. He’ll die young from hard labor, lack of medical care, working with poor or improper equipment, like breathing toxic concrete dust without a mask, carcinogenic construction materials, garden poisons. If he is graced with children, and I hope he is, and will pass on his excellent work ethic to them, he still will not be granted U.S. citizenship, and is at risk of deportation. Like many illegals lately, he could end up having to take his American children back to live in the Mexico he left for a ‘better life.’

Sunday alone, our gardener put over $150 into the U.S. economy, counting just his little saw and multiple blades. He will buy his food here, pay for his housing here, his utilities, his fuel costs. He lives here, and contributes to our economy with every dollar he spends. He probably pays taxes, as do many illegals working for large corporations. My gardener is an employee of a huge gardening and landscaping company.

Next time you bite into that peach, remember it only costs 39 cents because illegals planting and picking the fruit are cheap labor. (Your iPhone5 is made in China for the same reason, yet Apple is rewarded with tax breaks instead of being kicked out of the country.) Billions in tax dollars and consumer spending in the U.S. by illegals annually, yet they get none of the protections of our citizens. No medicare. No social security or unemployment benefits. No welfare or government handouts. Illegals are invisible here.

I am privileged by birthright for the lifestyle we live, and can provide for our kids. I haven’t a clue, and never want one, how it feels to be so far from home, without ‘inalienable rights.’ But I know one thing for sure—our gardener deserves the ‘better life’ he sought when moving here, the one [ostensibly] available to most citizens who work hard to prosper.

Educated, but Uninformed

I’m educated, but uniformed,” Sheryl said deadpan. “And I want to stay uniformed.”

I laughed.

Laughing is good,” she said.

But I was laughing at her, and not with happiness, but skin-crawling disgust.

An accountant for over 30 years, at one time running her own firm, Sheryl has an MBA from Wharton, which informed her about the world of finance. Unfortunately, Sheryl’s thirst for knowledge ended as soon as she passed her CPA exam.

To fill the schisms in her understanding of our world beyond her accounting job, she forms her opinions based on interactions with the few family members and neighbors remaining in her tiny, financially depressed Colorado town. They were, and still are angry they lost their coal mining jobs the town of Delta, CO was built on. They blame democrats for closing down their coal mines, though their mines have been closing since the 1990s, with natural gas, as well as renewable energy sources of wind and solar, slowly replacing dirty coal.

Obama killed this town,” she assured me on the phone last week. “Closing all the mines for no good reason.”

Well, global warming is a pretty good reason to get rid of coal,” I offered. “Don’t ya think?”

It sure isn’t doing this town any good,” her retort.

Yeah, well, it’ll do the planet some good, and the rest of humanity, as without clean air, we all die, even the good folks left in Delta.”

Dead silence on the other end of the line. I waited some time for her to say something, but she didn’t.

Sher, you do know that burning coal pollutes the air with toxic chemistry like lead, mercury, and other heavy metals, right?”

All I know is Delta was once vibrant, and now it’s like a ghost town. And that didn’t need to happen.”

You’re right. It didn’t. Had the town acted, invited other industries to set up shop, or the miners had gone back to school to retrain for thinking jobs, instead of manual labor that a robot can do better…” I let my voice trail off, as I knew I’d lost her.

Anyway,” she finally offered. “I find talking about stuff like this tedious. It’s so depressing. Friends and family I know have lost their jobs, their homes, which destroyed their marriages, like my sister and her ex-husband.”

Sheryl’s sister married the high school quarterback the day they both graduated because she was pregnant with his baby. He was injured his first year with the Colorado State Rams, quit college shortly thereafter, and has lived on welfare since. He was never a coal miner.

But you know that burning more coal to generate electricity is bad for the planet, and every living thing on it, right?”

I don’t know anything but what I see. And the air around where I live looks just fine to me.”

Be that as it may, the world doesn’t begin and end in Delta, Colorado, Sher,” I reminded her. “Dirty air travels around the planet. Come on, girl, you are highly educated. You know this.

I’m educated, but uniformed,” she said. “And I prefer to stay uninformed.

I laughed. Hearing someone tout their ignorance was shocking.

Laughing is good,” she sighed, with my heavy sigh. “Like I said, talking about all this drama, or reading about it, or even watching the news, is just so tedious.”

I didn’t try to engage her further. I made some excuse about having to go somewhere and hung up, but I still can not get her words out of my head. She proudly proclaimed she’s “uninformed,” and chooses to stay this way.

Sheryl’s brother committed suicide at 45 years old. Why? Her family has no idea. They didn’t, and don’t deal in weighty, “tedious” subjects. Ever. It was so much easier to ignore his depression, keep the conversations light. Makes everyone less uptight.

Sheryl is a Republican. Choosing to remain ignorant to the rise in global temperatures most every scientist in the world now acknowledges is real, she voted for Trump and his band of merry rich men who promised to bring the coal industry back to Delta, CO. This has yet to happen.

Ignorance isn’t bliss. It didn’t help Sheryl’s brother, or her mother who still grieves the loss of her son, or the unemployed coal miners get their jobs back. Ignoring “tedious” issues didn’t serve Sheryl either. Ignorance is corrosive, lazy, self-interested—sticking your head in the sand, or more precisely, up your own ass to live carefree, thoughtlessly, binge watching TV. Choosing to remain “uninformed,” avoiding ‘weighty’ issues to ‘lighter,’ trite exchanges about the latest celebrity gossip, or [scripted] realty TV, serves nobody.

If the human race, and every living thing on this planet is to survive the technology people create, each of us must invest the time and the energy it takes to become “informed” about important local and global issues, as they arise. All of us must work to defeat ignorance, by seeking knowledge from those who share our perspectives, and those who don’t. When we learn to really listen to each other, seek to understand, with empathy, not judgment, exchange informed opinions, and engage in the art of compromise…humanity will thrive. ; }

On Being Human

Angy-Birds-fo-PCTalked to an old friend yesterday. We hadn’t spoken for almost 2 yrs. No particular reason. Life took over and we lost touch. The last time we spoke he told me his 45 year old wife had quit her job as a restaurant manager and was very happy to be home, fixing up their house, shopping, cooking, doing things she never had time to do when working. Two years later, she is still at home. The house is now fixed up. There are no children, and she has no other responsibilities. When I asked my friend what his wife does with her days, he told me she enjoys working out, watching TV, and she plays a lot of Angry Birds.

My mother-in-law lost her husband of 53 yrs a couple years back, a year after they closed the small business they had together for almost as long. With no business to maintain, no kids to care for, and only sparse time with grown grandchildren, I assumed she’d would find her niche in volunteering, perhaps invest time into her community, teach literacy at her local library or maybe the hospice her husband spent most of his last days in. I don’t like sick people, she told me upon inquiry. And she has no interest in teaching, anyone, anything, she insisted, clearly annoyed at my suggestions. I’ve worked my whole life. It’s my turn to do what I want. What does she do all day? At 78, and in perfect health, she plays Solitaire, or goes to plays and movies with friends and family, when they’re available, which isn’t often. Most retired folks she knows are helping their kids with the grandkids, or volunteering.

On the phone with my old friend, I intimated his wife was wasting her life. A talented professional, she has too much to give to waste time with Angry Birds, I insisted. But my friend disagreed. She enjoys her days now, no longer under constant pressure to preform, he informed me. She’s allowed to relax, after working most of her life. She’s 45 yrs old, I countered. And has been relaxing for almost 4 yrs now. So? He was perturbed by my observation. They don’t need her income. He makes enough to support them both, so no harm, right?

Wrong.

We are ALL born owing humanity for the life we have. Without those who worked hard before us, there would be no humanity at all. My mother-in-law, my friend’s wife, you or I wouldn’t exist without the hard work of those before us. From our laws to the lightbulb, we stand on the shoulders of those who contributed to the human race that provide us with the life we now enjoy.

Our system that seemingly runs itself–doesn’t. We actually have to work at making it work. And playing Solitaire or Angry Birds all day, most every day, does nothing for our society. It’s selfish and lazy. Everyday we are alive we owe each other and those who will follow us. We are ALL responsible to make the world better. Whether fighting for a worthy cause we believe in, or inventing technology to make our lives more productive, or managing a restaurant or small business, we must continually contribute to humanity for our race to survive.

Life did not begin, nor does it end with my friend’s wife, or my mother-in-law, or the tens of thousands out there wasting enormous amounts of every day of their lives playing with themselves. Lazy behavior must be compensated for by those who see beyond their own narcissistic desires, putting the burden of humanities survival on the few, instead of us ALL, which is where it must be for our race to thrive.

The 5% Factor in Finance  

I had a conversation with my former financial advisor when the markets were crashing back in ‘08. I asked him to give me an estimate, his best, ostensibly educated guess when the market might turn around or at least stabilize. He assured me it would be soon. The credit default scandal had already been exposed. Real estate foreclosures had been assessed and the projected losses factored in to financial projections. The fact is, he offered with conviction, in any industry one had to account for a certain amount of corruption. Maybe 5% of the people in any given field were evil. The evil had now been weeded out and the markets would bounce back to its mean of 8 to 10% growth or better annually very soon.

Turns out, evil abounds in the financial industry. From Bernie Madoff to AIG to JP Morgan Chase and their corporate cronies with 7, 8 figure bonuses; to banks and mortgage brokers hording stimulus funds, my advisor had to be grossly low on his 5% estimate of evil in finance.

According to forensic psychologist and author Robert Hare, it is possible, even likely, that the percentage of evil is greater in the financial industry than most any other field. Money attracts greedy people. Those who choose a career pursuing money, instead of building, inventing, engineering, teaching, are generally looking for what they can get from society instead of what they can give to it. In Snakes in Suits, Mr. Hare claims at least 10% of all those in finance are psychopaths.

The 5% (or more) who callously exploit the rest of us is what makes the free-market system they purport a myth. That 5% evil controls 95% of the financial markets of the world. The enormous scale of capital they play with has proven to collapse economies, robbing millions of their life savings, their jobs, their homes.

Most of us put our earnings in the bank or the market and hope our savings will go up. We depend on those in charge of most everyone’s money to know what they’re doing and manage the money we entrust to them wisely. Most of us don’t have the time or inclination for in-depth study and monitoring of the markets. Even if we did, it is rarely possible to get an intimate and transparent view inside most corporations. We rely on our government to monitor the SEC and avoid financial catastrophes. The Bush administration is an example of what happens when they don’t.

A ‘free-market’ system strives to maintain very few restrictions, touting supply and demand will regulate economics. And though this is a lovely idea, like communism, it doesn’t work in the real world. The economy collapses when demand is only from the [wealthy] 1% of the population that can afford anything. Public companies with no limits on growth, minimal regulations, limited liability and lack of transparency virtually inviteexploitation by the small, but none the less formidable percentage of evil. Our ‘free-market’ invariably becomes controlled by a small minority who represent only their own interests. This corrupts the entire society by shifting the balance of power to a handful of narcissists, if not out and out psychopaths, as Robert Hare claims.

Republicans and conservatives threaten socialism if the government regulates the markets beyond ‘protection of property and against force or fraud.’ But everyone pays the price for the 5% that continually redefine the term ‘fraud.’ The 5% evil at AIG, and more recently JP Morgan Chase that took ridiculous risks for excessive short term yields to line their pockets continue to send shock waves throughout our financial industry and beyond. And the fact is, it IS socialism when taxpayers are forced to bail out banks and brokers who were, and are still indifferent to the suffering they cause—the very definition of ‘Psychopath.’

We will never be able to ‘weed out’ evil from humanity. A certain percentage of our population will always be narcissists, care exclusively about their own welfare over the society in which they live. Regulations on our financial industry must be imposed and upheld to keep evil in-check, and limit the damage the 5% factor will surely cause again and again. We are more than willing to put sanctions on countries that support terrorism. If we are truly ‘by the people, of the people and for the people‘ of this nation, we must sanction the evil in our system as well.

About Face

I got her at the pound on my 26th birthday, a Shepherd-mix with a perfect black diamond dead in the center of her tan forehead. She was just seven weeks, not yet ready for adoption. I lied to get her out. They found her in the San Fernando hills and thought she was feral, but I told them she was mine and I’d lost her on a hike up near Mr. Wilson.

I named her Killer Dog Face. Killer as in cool. Dog because she was one. And Face after a term of endearment my mother used to call me. I figured she deserved three names, like most everyone else had, but I called her by her last name almost all the time.

My beautiful Face.

The only time I ever saw her be aggressive was the day I took her home from the pound. She was in a dirty concrete cage with a Golden puppy. I was thinking I wanted a Retriever this time. We’d had Shepherds growing up and I was hoping for a water dog. But Face wouldn’t let me touch that Golden. She practically bit its head off every time it tried to touch it through the gate.

She never grew into her paws and her ears. They remained exaggerated against her trim, medium frame and for almost ten years everyone thought she was a puppy. She acted like one too. She could pace me on my bike at 25 miles an hour. She could clear a five-foot wall or a six-foot wide river in one fluid motion. She accompanied me everywhere and she genuinely liked pretty much everybody. She learned to respond to my commands quickly, which were few and for her safety. I gave her the space she needed to play and the attention she required for her security. She helped me feel wanted, appreciated, safer, and not so alone. Forever forward, our relationship will remain one of the most stable, even exchanges of love and respect I will ever know.

I found out about the slip disks in her spine a few months after her 10th birthday. We had gone hiking up in the coastal mountains of Marin and she took off after something pacing us along a grove of redwoods. When I called for her she was way down in a gulch and I could tell she was struggling to make it back up the hill to me. The vet said she probably messed up her back jumping and that even though it was treatable with vitamin supplements, eventually she would get arthritis from the bad disks pinching her nerves. And though it took another five years, the vet turned out to be right.

I never expected to be faced with having to put her down. I assumed she’d go off a cliff chasing a squirrel, or miss when jumping over a river and I wouldn’t be around to save her. Everyone kept telling me it was time. At 15 she had hip problems, and walking problems, and was becoming incontinent. I felt sad for her a lot, watching her struggle to get up, and then fall within a few steps. And then I had my son. And Face wasn’t the baby anymore. And she was sad a lot too. Her health problems went from bad to worst, and picking up her poop all over the house where an infant crawled was more than just disgusting. It was a health hazard.

I’ve always thought that if I ever got cancer or some terminal disease I would choose to terminate my life before I was unable to do so. I didn’t want to be a burden, a useless piece of flesh wasting away, loved ones killing time at my bedside bemoaning my loss before I was gone as they watched me whither. Before I lost all my faculties I’d go in the garage and turn on the car, or find the right drugs to take me over the edge. It never dawned on me to think differently until I was faced with the responsibility of having to make that choice for a loved one.

Maybe life—living—was about existing to the bitter end and experiencing every moment we have.

I sat on the floor next to my dog wishing she could tell me what to do. She put her head in my lap then rolled onto her side for me to scratch her belly. Her pained expression turned to bliss as I gently stroked her, recalling some of our time together. Yellowstone; Breckenridge; Yosemite; the Grand Canyon; watching her tear after birds on the countless shorelines we’d strolled. We’d shared some grand adventures, but mostly quiet exchanges of affection, like the one we were sharing right then. Perhaps these moments—the times I stroked her during the day, or rubbed her belly late at night made living in pain worth it. Who was I to facilitate her death? I was suddenly torn by the choice to be made.

I had her put down a few months after her 16th birthday. She couldn’t walk. Her hind legs kept giving out. She was hardly eating, or even drinking much anymore. Treats she puked up or pooped out multiple times daily, messing her new confined space by the tiled entry. I made the call on a Saturday morning. A certified veterinarian came to my house with a truck, complete with metal table and loaded with medical equipment. After carrying her to the truck and placing her on the table, I held her head in my hands while the vet administered a tranquilizer.

“Thank you for sharing your life with me, for being my friend.” I whispered to her as the doctor removed the needle from her hind quarters. “I love you. I’ll think of you often. I’ll miss you terribly, my beauty. Goodbye, sweet Face.”

She lay on the cold metal table and stared at me until her eyes closed. I stroked her head one last time, lay my hand on the black fur diamond marking on her head and kissed her right between the eyes. I stood there crying as the doctor softly informed me that he would be taking her to his office where he would administer the fatal cocktail that would kill her. He assured me she would drift into blackness forever without waking. I didn’t ask what they’d do with her body. I didn’t want to know.

As I left the truck the doctor assured me I’d made the right decision, the ‘humane’ choice. I stood at the curb until the truck pulled away, held my arms clasps on top of my head to hold in my brain, hold my emotions in. My quiet street was deserted again and I looked around for the dog to come inside with me when it hit me Killer Dog Face was gone. My arms came down and with it any facade of composer. I sank to the sidewalk sobbing with the acute pain of loss.

Everyone told me I did the right thing, the “compassionate” thing. But I wonder. A part of me feels like I did the convenient thing, robbing Face of her moments.