Posted by: JDM..... | January 31, 2013

There I go…

…taking myself too seriously again…

too serious_450

Posted by: JDM..... | April 18, 2015

The Word of Man…

a view from 2015…

I once wrote a short piece of fiction called “Bob” regarding what might transpire if only one or two people were left on our planet. I thought it might be interesting to speculate about how things may have played out when, say only one or two human beings had yet come to be. Fiction? Of course, but a seriously considered allegory as well.


It would be highly unlikely for things to have started off with a single human being wandering around trying to figure out what the heck was going on. It isn’t even likely that the beginning began with two human beings suddenly coming to be, and as luck would have it, that they happened to be of different genders, which facilitated reproduction. I’m sure the real story is far too complex for me to get a handle on like that, so I will simply say that I tend to look to science for such truths.

The question remains then. Where do I look for the other kinds of answers dealing with matters that cannot be seen or touched but that are nevertheless a major part of the human existence? I would suggest that the answer to that question would be the same today as it was the very first time it was posed; I look within. I would suggest that at some point during the past million or so years, a few upright bipeds who had the capacity for reason and a certain amount of introspection came onto the scene and did the same thing. They began to ponder their own existence. And they came up with some answers.

Starting out with no knowledge meant, of course, that they had to make stuff up and wait to see if it worked. Over the millennia, the lore grew and was eventually put into written form. These several written formats serve as the Rule Books for the major Western religions of today. Those who follow the Christian religion look to the Bible as their text, though estimates are that there are anywhere from 21,000 to 43,000 versions of Christianity in the world and many have edited and produced their own interpretations of what the Good Book says and what it means. It would seem logical that not all could be “right”. Then again, could they all be “wrong”? Could they all be both? And, most important of all, does it really matter?

My answer would be, apparently it does matter to each denomination, as their interpretations speak to their own needs. My answer would also be, it doesn’t matter to me because I see such anthologies as the Word of Man as he struggled over the centuries to understand the teachings of a man named Jesus. While these writings provide both an interesting view of history and some of the greatest wisdom of all time, I do not accept them as the Word of any “deity”. They are the word of Man, sometimes well served, and sometimes serving mainly the narrow agendas, or the aspirations for wealth and power, of Men.


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Posted by: JDM..... | March 7, 2015

Spring tide….time for a big change….

repeal obamacare

Posted by: JDM..... | February 10, 2015

Brian Williams the focus of a feeding frenzy


Posted by: JDM..... | January 12, 2015

PC, Extremism…

and King of the Mountain.….

Let’s forget for a moment that we are right and try to just take a look at our species objectively in its entirety. Sounds easy, I suppose, but over the span of 6,000 to a couple of million years, depending upon whose objectivity one accepts as the definitive objective absolute, humanity has not yet seemed up to that task. A handful of individuals have…..and were typically demonized, abused, tortured, killed, or all of the above and more for their efforts.

The family dog licks itself at the most inopportune times, because it can; his family, and the rest of its species, create “Truths ” for the same reason. Perhaps a truly objective view would identify the two behaviors as indistinguishable.

At various times over the years I have observed the meandering paths of global obsessions, and I eventually came to wonder why we do that and what it means. Honestly, I don’t know, but I think I can invent as valid a Truth as the next person, so I will; and I don’t even own a dog.


To begin with, the fundamental theme doesn’t appear to change; in addition to nourishment, shelter, and nurturing, human beings apparently cannot exist without conflict. If none presents itself spontaneously, we will create it just as we produce our own food, build our dwelling places, and cleave into self-congratulatory groups.

We engage in interpersonal conflicts, local conflicts, and international conflicts. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am aware that I can also participate in rather vigorous conflicts all by myself.

The present times offer no exception to this historical Truth, and we currently see conflicts underway concerning the natural, species-normal behavior of “differentiation“, or “discrimination” as the purveyors of social correctitude would prefer, in several main venues.

The first word, “differentiation“, merely acknowledges variant characteristics, and is therefore colorless, tasteless, and without any enticing aroma, rendering it flat, uninteresting, and potentially dangerous. The latter term, on the other hand, “discrimination“, is more popular because it demands that differences be arranged according to numerous scales of value. Human beings are incapable of processing the idea of two or more considerations wherein there is no pecking order or resident King of the Mountain. One of the leading focal points of human conflict then would be the question of “race“.


Race is a powerful concept, word, and ad hoc weapon, with a long and sometimes volatile history. The irony that another word of identical spelling and pronunciation describes a competition where somebody wins and everyone else loses first occurred to me many years ago.

I have observed the “race” conflict from a few vantage points and have adopted two Truths about it that guide my views. (1) Defining “race” is not unlike trying to describe the appearance of an oil slick. One must approach the word itself in such broad terms that it conveys little information, with even that being vague, at best. One cannot define “race” without incorporating the factor of continuous change, and identifying the science behind those changes. (2) Many physical anthropologists and biological scientists have rejected “race” as a legitimate concept, pointing out the relatively insignificant genetic differences among human populations despite the wide variety of observable physical differences. Such variations facilitated the compulsive human sorting instinct, giving us useful descriptive short cuts such as Caucasian, Asian, a litany of terms with which to identify dark skinned natives of Africa, and so on. Professional sorters, like physical anthropologists and biologists, don’t generally split any hairs beyond the taxonomic placement of modern human beings in the pigeon hole labeled “Homo Sapiens.”

The meaning of the word “race” has generally involved matters of observable and/or describable physical, geographical and cultural variations among individuals and groups. Context plays a huge role in arriving at a definition. At the height of the Industrial Revolution, during the nineteenth century, when tens of thousands of people emigrated from Ireland to the United States annually, the Irish tended to be referred to as a “race” rather than a nationality. People of the religion and culture of Judaism have also been considered by some at various times to be a “race“. The word is also used instead of the more scientifically preferred taxonomic description, “Homo Sapiens“, to describe humanity as a whole. Settling upon a stable and universally accepted definition for “race” is like trying to come up with a specific and universally accepted identity for “somebody”. Much conflict could be avoided, or at least eased, should the use of the word “race” in its pseudo-scientific context be demoted to extinct archaism status, leaving the term to its less inflammatory use as a reference to certain sporting contests.


Allegorically speaking, I presume that the one of the initial sputterings of human brain activity, when that loosely described creature discovered the ability to stand upright, was to ponder the question “Why and how am I here?” A split second later, a second individual arrived at the same internal conflict, and it was immediately recognized that each knew a different Truth than the other. The most effective solution was, of course, homicide, and it might have worked except for the large number of upright bipeds participating in the melee. We’re still working on it, though, and we still believe in pugilism, football, and other substitutions for the preferred resolution.

The original gridiron for this process, religion, has historically been inseparable from the combat variation, loosely represented in the form of contact sports for the “everyman” as mentioned above.

The percent of humanity that identifies with some form of religion or believes in the existence of some form of deity depends upon who one asks. When two differing answers occupy the same space at the same time, natural law requires that the defender of one kill, or at least damage the dignity and credibility, of the defender of the other.

This arena remains vigorous and fundamentally unchanged, no pun intended, but certainly acknowledged. Less conflict occurred around such matters early on because precursors to modern humanity likely explained environmental phenomena they did not understand as magic or some sort of communicative rumblings of an unseen superior being. Since they presumably understood little or nothing at first, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that they basically worshipped everything. That couldn’t have lasted long, though,

The real conflicts began when human beings discovered grain-based intoxicants and invented “civilization”, which enabled them to settle in one place so they could produce the stuff. This could not have been as easy as it might sound, however. Wanderers by nature, they knew only the ways of small, independent family groups and tribes. At that stage, Homo Sapiens was not accustomed to marching to the beat of anyone’s drum but his own.

Those who were able to achieve King of the Mountain status through wisdom and guile, and probably by being able to kick everyone else’s butt, capitalized on the well established reverence, awe, fear, and magical thinking always applied to appearances and instances of the Unknown and developed more organized forms of early religion with built in hierarchies and levels of authority. At the top of that allegorical man-made Mountain resided what was probably the first multi-tasker who protected the grain and food supples in addition to his primary role as the sole communicant with, and spokesman for, the settlement’s Big Kahuna(s).

I’ve opined before that I don’t think humankind has fundamentally changed very much down through the ages, except in his breeding habits and increasingly effective ways of killing each other, as well as inadvertently contributing to their own early exits. This particular Truth having an “across the board” component, I suspect the world’s umpteen versions of collective religion have evolved accordingly. History provides a rich continuum of supporting events, ages, and eras. Currently, the world is experiencing an “above and beyond the call” campaign by the purveyors of one particular alleged Truth to Shanghai and impose absolute control over the allegedly evil believers of all other alleged Truths, which of course, are universally “unapproved”. Some things never change.


Politics and collective religious practices are more alike than different in that they tend to serve dual purposes (multi-tasking again), those being overseeing and managing the well being of their fellow group members while at the same time making a living from the process. That’s where it gets interesting, as the idea of “making a living” may entail virtually anything from room, board, and a small stipend to absolute control and authority which coincidentally redefines “making a living” as whatever extent the population can be exploited to.

As with most elements of the human experience, there are the good and the bad, those who serve and those who exploit. The bottom line is, no Golden Goose lives forever.


As demonstrated, language is the oil slick of human communication, being quite random and unpredictable except perhaps to a fractals physicist, the inclusion of which would do little more than add another Truth and alleged Deity to an already complex stew.

The most egregious offense known to man is the spoken word. We slog through complex legal processes in response to everything from shoplifting to rape or homicide, but the reaction to one person uttering “that” word or phrase to one who despises that word or phrase, and who takes it quite personally, may be immediate, violent, and is often excused as justifiable. To complicate matters, the lexicon, like the host language itself, exists in a continuous process of change, absorbing new terminology and presumed philosophies almost daily, while relabeling those that have fallen out of favor as “archaisms”, or criminal offenses, and remanding them to the compost heap of language.

In our particular culture, this acceleration is facilitated to some extent by the reward factor. Being identified as belonging to a subpopulation officially approved as “special” for any one of an infinite number of reasons usually includes special considerations and/or financial benefits. One has nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain by presenting as emotionally distraught about some comment sourced from The lexicon of the moment.

The PC Phenomenon

The cultural tic known today as being “politically correct ” is, of course, nothing new, although that particular expression itself appeared in the lexicon as recently as 1990 or so. Identifying and enforcing the “group conscience”, or the fiat of some totalitarian Honcho, of course, ensures that the “political correctitude” and “Truths” of some populations will conflict with or offend the “political correctitude” and “Truths” of another. This phenomenon occurs across the board, from internationally down to neighborhood squabbles.

Current methodologies for establishing and promoting or enforcing differing versions of “political correctitude” and “Truths” may be grossly dissimilar. The behaviors of some Middle Eastern groups, as exercised according to the dictates of their particular versions of “political correctitude” and “Truth“, that we find reprehensible and unjustifiable under our own particular versions of “political correctitude” and “Truth“, and the behaviors of some western groups, including the United States, are nevertheless essentially little more than different facets of a similar coin. At their respective roots, each is the expression of one group imposing its personal “political correctitude” and “Truth” upon the other. King of the Mountain is humanity’s oldest game.


By stepping outside of the accepted and essentially mandated traditional boundaries of a society or culture, one enters the realm of “extremism”. Whether one so violates the established “mores” in a constructive or destructive manner, the action is generally perceived as a threat to the group’s status quo..

This is just a part of a body of laws beyond the control of humanity that determine how everything within our universal environment functions. People interact, react, and respond to each other interpersonally, inter-culturally, and internationally according to what we see as natural laws not unlike the manner in which different components under any scientific focus interact, react, and respond to each other. There are parallels among the fields of chemistry, physics, math, the social sciences, and so forth just as there are parallels between different languages to express the same concepts. Human beings, in all configurations, are both predictable and predictably unpredictable to a large extent.

Predictably then, at least in some ways, my actions and reactions could be foreseen by one who knows where and how to look, at least part of the time, especially if they occupy a cubicle at the NSA or some other bathroom peep hole.

As I watch, listen to, or read the news and learn of the latest atrocities committed by extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and IS, I struggle to understand how such attitudes and acts can be construed as moral, correct, and in fact required by them and their sympathizers. One source of information after another parrots the same script until, at some point, some commentator or columnist abandons the rhythm and offers an alternative tune. The new track may be one with which I agree or one which I am revolted by, as if the originator has perpetrated a painful violation of the cultural mores to which I subscribe. When I am the one stepping over the barbed wire to think and perhaps write or voice the unacceptable, it feels perfectly reasonable and invigorating, however.

This can be a serious matter, especially at times when the energy levels of the conflicts in play are as high as they are today. There exists great tension now among the differing concepts of “race, religion, language, and political correctitude” in general. Groups of people sharing similar physical, cultural, and ethnic resumes are on edge as they talk of harmony. Interesting. In the venue of race, there may have been less tension when people were neither seeking changes in the relationships between subpopulations nor voicing any concerns about harmony. That is not to say that those who were experiencing “also-ran” status on the stage of life were pleased with that state of affairs or that they did not ache for change. There was just less tension, or a different variety of tension, when the process of change was not quite so volatile.

The religious conflicts, as usual, mostly boil down to issues of control, power, and ultimately some sort of exploitation, and this is where I tend to argue with, and violate, the boundaries of our own particular cultural barbed wire.

My first civilian job following discharge from the Navy was with a major oil company during the same time period that the peoples of the Middle East decided it was time to park the camels and ride around in Bentely’s just like the strangers who had been sucking that black stuff out of their dunes for half a century. The “free ride” for Big Oil came to an end, accompanied by higher expenses, higher prices, new regulations, and changing procedures. The days of $0.299 per gallon gasoline and the neighborhood “g’rage” were gone or on the way out. Those in their early fifties may recall the gasoline rationing days of the early seventies. People would get up at 4 a.m. to wait in line for several hours on alternate days to buy fixed amounts of fuel. Had the west exploited the middle east? Of course they had, but on an economic and cultural level, not a religious one. Nevertheless, if I understand the supposed viewpoint of some Middle Eastern groups correctly, the intense and extended presence of western interests presented a cultural and religious intrusion that they feared was threatening their traditional way of life.

It’s nice to fantasize over how much better it might have been had the bearers of western culture self-regulated more attentively during their lemming run to the oil fields, in a manner more conducive to harmony with the Middle Eastern cultures. It would be nice if those representatives of the Middle East registering their displeasure with the west were to have proceeded in ways more conducive to harmony with our western culture. But that would be out of character with human nature. The challenge, therefore, is for all of the participants in this hoedown to come to a realization that there will be more benefit to the interests of each by coming to some sort of accord. That’s a western viewpoint, however. The involved Middle Eastern cultures don’t see the world, or life, through the same eyes. Thus, it may be unrealistic to strive to see eye to eye. But, if the killing would stop, perhaps that may evolve in time. We ceased exchanging lead with North Korea in 1953 and we still don’t like each other. But, we’re workin’ on it.

On the domestic field, Race is likewise intertwined with political, religious, linguistic, and other dimensions of human existence. For conflicts in that venue to abate, there must be some additional changes, and they it’s not a one sided issue. Somebody has to blink, and each party thinks it should be “the other guy”. Everybody has a valid argument, even though it tends to be selective and somewhat biased, but few have been articulate regarding solutions.

One significant characteristic that leaders seem to share in common is that they initiate forward motion without contingencies. They know what needs to be done in order to achieve a goal, they believe in the goal, not just because it serves some Narcissistic need or narrow agenda, but because they know it is the right thing to do; they believe in their approach, and they believe in themselves. Those that choose to follow, will. Those who do not so choose, will not follow, but neither will they be obstacles.


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Posted by: JDM..... | December 25, 2014

Season’s Greetings……..

Selfie_2014 [done]

Posted by: JDM..... | December 16, 2014


Posted by: JDM..... | November 27, 2014

Discrimination is normal…

and other inflammatory viewpoints….

Recent events like the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO refocused our national radar from ISIS and Ebola to the issues permeating our sometimes painfully slow transition from a culture that is strongly compartmentalized to one that operates as one that is more inclusive. I’m talking about “diversity“, I’m talking about “racism“. We all know numerous ways to define the underlying behavior: prejudice, bias, racism, sexism, and so on.

I find it strange for me to be writing from such an angle instead of the usual curmudgeonry. Actually, my views haven’t changed significantly, but I think the way I arrive at them has been nudged over some.

I have been curious for as long as I can remember about what makes both individuals and groups of individuals tick. As a child, I’d take things apart just to see what was in there even though I didn’t have as clue how to put them back together. Various arrangements of the underlying mentality associated with such behaviors have given us a litany of “I wonder what will happen if I push this button… ” and “..hold my beer and watch this” jokes, but I suppose it also led me to major in psychology and sociology in college and later to spend 25 years working in the behavioral health field.

I still approach current events, metaphorically speaking, with a magnifying glass, a pocketful of litmus papers, and a kit of small hand tools. What has transpired in the world is far less interesting to me than why it happened and why it is being reported in different ways across the media.

My neurons have been kept buzzing in recent years, along those lines, by the periodic eruptions occurring around circumstances involving racial conflicts, gender related issues, and “bias” in general. My focus has not been one of advocacy, but one of the what-where-when-why and how variety. While the news pumped out seemingly endless visual and editorial descriptions of intra-cultural collisions involving the popular racial, gender, and class issues, I have pondered and sputtered via-keyboard about some of the underlying factors of our levels of polarity, the widespread all or nothing perception-response phenomenon, etcetera.

In other words, my approach tends to be “I know we are ticking, but that is a natural human behavior, so the issue is not that we need to eliminate ticking, but to know why we tick and perhaps how to redirect it to constructive purposes”.

I was gratified to stumble across a You Tube presentation on that very subject that sounded a great deal like what I have been trying to understand and write about. It is wordy and long….about an hour….but I found it to be extremely enlightening. I highly recommend “Everyday Bias”, with Howard Ross, ( to anyone interested in seeing a non-cliché discussion of bias and discrimination for a change. It’s long, but I found it worth listening to.


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Posted by: JDM..... | November 15, 2014

American Idle………………..


Posted by: JDM..... | November 10, 2014

The Affordable Care Act scam….

and the currency of need….

Let’s be clear from the start. I’m not overly fond of President Obama, and I see the “Affordable Care Act” as being neither affordable nor caring, but most assuredly counter to the principles of the United States of America. Yes, I’m preaching to the choir, so those who have no intention of being weaned and those named Paul who actually like seeing Peter get robbed might just as well go read a comic book or something. You’ll either not like what I have to say, won’t understand it, or both.


We’re like children. We stretch permissions and presumed permissions to the limit, just like a toddler explaining “…but I thought you meant I could eat the whole box of cookies…”

The last time I looked, neither the Constitution of the United States, nor the one of my state, says anything about healthcare being a “Right“, nor do they declare it a privilege, nor do they suggest or imply that our “rights” must be paid for by way of the government confiscating and redistributing the earned income of the entire working population. Expanding the declared rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to include increasingly more generous interpretations of what those three words mean over recent decades has obscured the underlying principles whereby the Founders saw the wisdom in declaring equal access to the benefits of citizenship for all so as to prevent the development of privilege by class and classification. They were breaking loose from the centuries old tradition of self indulgent and pampered monarchy and nobility. Equal access to the water in the well was of primary significance.

It still is, but serial amendments, exceptions, special cases, and simply drawing the longest straw at the right time have created a cesspool of privilege and denial, with a pseudo-monarchy formed of the incestuous mutual ear nibbling of government and industry.

Think about it. The evolution of a welfare society, a path we embarked upon long before the unnamed recruited a relatively unknown and unremarkable Illinois Senator to put his name on what would be called the Affordable Care Act, includes outcomes the naive and overly passionate don’t know about or refuse to see.

No matter what one calls it, any process by which the population is mandated to buy a product it doesn’t want, from vendors set up by the government, and regulations are tweaked and reinterpreted to establish the Internal Revenue Service as the National Repo Man to confiscate the assets of any who dare to say no….is NOT VOLUNTARY. Using such carefully vetted terminology for the Liberal rape of the American people as “Affordable” and “Care” is a travesty of language and morality. It has proven to NOT be affordable in many instances and has failed to demonstrate affordability in others. The administration and its handlers did a bit of hot-shoe dancing to finalize plans to put lipstick on the proverbial pig and sell it as a centerfold.

Playing musical pockets with the money to make something look “affordable” or “free” doesn’t make it so. That’s like buying a $35,000 car marked down to $25,000 because you “save” $10,000, even though you know it’s a phony deal. What the hey, it sounded good…..

Make no mistake. This scam was not put together by idiots, and it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to parse it down to truth and consequences. If the Republicans think they can do that, they are fools. The only sensible recourse is to just flat out repeal it, and that’s not without serious consequences either.

Remember Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s iconic pronouncement “We Have to Pass the Bill So That You Can Find Out What Is In It“…?

If it is subsequently decided that some sort of federally influenced healthcare system is needed and wanted, not only by a healthier Congress, an appropriate President, and serious, transparent research, but by a direct vote by the people rather than by cabal of whispering politicians and their ménage à quiconque partners in crime, then perhaps that’s the way it will end up going. Between now and then, we must recognize that we’ve “been had” and decide exactly what we plan to do about it. Voting is not enough, because too many of those we elect are a part of the problem.

When something like “Obamacare” is perpetrated in the name of “helping the people who need help,” keep in mind the modern hobby of creative linguistics. What is meant by help? What is meant by people, and how does one distinguish between those who need that “help” and those who should pay for it…and how?

As former President Clinton so eloquently put it back in 1998, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

The dynamic has very little wiggle room. Consider four subpopulations:

  • (1) the poor who are not insured and don’t currently qualify for medical care under preexisting programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and who supposedly would benefit from a government mandated healthcare system;

  • (2) the wage earner and members of the “middle class” who are employed, have insurance, have access to healthcare, and will end up paying the most for a mandated government controlled program they don’t need;

  • (3) Elected and appointed officials of government who benefited from passage of the ACA, and who are conveniently exempt;

  • (4) those behind the scenes who benefit financially from government programs and mandates by participating in operating and servicing the “machinery”.

In this scenario, two groups will benefit, and not all “benefits” are financial. Money is the currency of the middle class. Power is the currency of others such as politicians and “royalty”. The wealthiest don’t need money. They can point at something and it is taken care of for them. Fame and stature are forms of currency, too. I recall one college professor talking about this topic and about how different classes steal and what their “currency” was. The lower income brackets, the working poor, were said to steal “time“. I wonder if that is the case anymore, since so many have been introduced to the currency of need.

Thus, the ones who stand to benefit the most from the Affordable Care Act are groups (3) and (4). Just enough of group (1) will see some improvement in certain areas to lend an air of legitimacy to the ACA, but the largest group of all, group (2) not only ends up paying for the ACA through confiscated income, but experiences disruption in their own existing insurance and care. They lose. Period. Cattle. There are more than the obvious reasons for so much ranting about rebuilding the middle class! This is the biggest act of organized crime since Guido made his rounds in Chicago and elsewhere back in the twenties and thirties “helping” people to not get their knees pulverized.

One of the saddest things I can imagine would be for young people of today to experience the USA my generation experienced in the sixties and seventies. It was a time of fire in the streets, armed troops patrolling American cities, fighting, assassinations. The other saddest thing I can think of would be for nobody to act, for the heart and soul of the United States to be surgically removed and then be replaced by a government programmed computer, one that they are required to pay for.


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Posted by: JDM..... | October 29, 2014

Fear & ignorance.….

the loving parents of injustice….

I have certainly been guilty of breaking my own resolve, but I generally avoid internet “comment” opportunities and the like. Despite frequent claims to the contrary, such environs are not reservoirs of intellectual stimulation and discussion. Those who never launched a stream of mother-cuts and other character disembowelments as a kid have no business entering such places. That would be like Mr. Peepers barging into a biker bar.

Owing to my partially misspent youth, I am credentialed to frequent such seedier loci, and have done so, at least until I realized that the experience always felt like “déjà vu”, the reason being that the regulars either were fourteen years old, or middle aged with severely arrested emotional development, a bona fide diagnosis, or both.

Anyway, I suppose I needed a refresher course or something because this morning I found myself inexplicably staring at the invitation to comment at the foot of an online news item about the Maine nurse held in quarantine in New Jersey and then hunkered down in her home, under siege, because she had been in West Africa treating ebola patients, even though she was not symptomatic.

I succumbed to temptation and scrolled down through the vitriol.

It was like a one note concert. Virtually all who commented viciously accused the nurse as being uncaring, selfish, self centered, stupid, an idiot, unfit to practice her profession and on and on. Most said she should lose her license, many said they hoped she comes down with ebola, and a few opined that she should be shot. Standard internet fare.

While there were one or two commenters who identified themselves as nurses and condemned Kaci Hickox for bucking mandatory quarantine anyway, almost all demonstrated little or no understanding of the disease and the history of the current situation.

My thoughts on the matter:

First of all, I am opinionated and have rarely passed up an opportunity to exercise that characteristic. I claim no expertise on the matters of medicine, law, or ebola. However, I do claim a modicum of skill when it comes to extracting a message from a sea of misapplied verbiage, reading between the lines, and knowing when and where to look for information about a subject rather than try to pretend I actually know anything about it by hiding behind a paper shield of bellicosity. My somewhat eclectic work history included being an editor and working in the mental health field as a counselor. I specialized in probationers and people most folks would not wish to be alone in a elevator with.

Selfishness-self centeredness-self interest

That said, I would first like to address the rampant use of the word “selfish”, almost universally applied as a pejorative rather than as the description of a thought process or personality characteristic. I understand that it sounds more authoritative and legitimate than “shit head“, but it doesn’t communicate anything of substance about the speaker or the target.

People confuse the term selfish with self-centered and self interest.

Selfishness, as used by those commenting about nurse Kaci Hickox, is intended to imply a general lack of concern for, or interest in the needs or desires of others. It is the act of consciously placing one’s own interests before all others. Considering the fact that Kaci Hickox is a Registered Nurse, and voluntarily travelled halfway around the world to battle a deadly disease in spite of the potential risk to herself, selfish just doesn’t seem to fit. Now, those brandishing their pitchforks and squealing for her essential incarceration, without due cause and without due process, because of their own fears and poverty of knowledge, might qualify for such a moniker….I don’t know. When a person is transported to a hospital because knowledgeable people have assessed that he appears to be a danger to himself or others, a considerable amount of time, paperwork, and an appearance before a Judge precedes that person’s involuntary restraint and treatment.

Self centeredness can appear similar to selfishness, but it has a different etiology, perhaps stemming from a developmental glitch or personality disorder. It may involve some awareness, but not necessarily intent.

Self interest is something else entirely, and seems to be mistaken here for one or both of the preceding issues. Self interest is a process of decision making and action based on an understanding and recognition of one’s own self worth and value. One practicing self interest tries to live in ways that honor and respect their sense of self worth. Often, that means standing up to those who would violate that principle by demeaning one’s worth and right of self determination. This may spark resentment and ire in others who are not comfortable in the company of self assuredness and assertiveness, or who have been unexpectedly disagreed with. Self interest does not exclude respecting those same qualities and rights in others, however. In fact, it demands it.

Think of selfishness as a behavior, self centeredness as a mindset, and self interest as a conscious process of decision and action.

As a related sidebar, I would include altruism for consideration.

Altruism is considered to be the antithesis of selfishness, and thus may be incorrectly believed to be antithetical to self interest. It is not, although altruism implies selflessness while self interest is the practice of valuing oneself. Altruism is actually a philosophical ideal rather than a definable quality. One may be said to act “altruistically” as demonstrated by a dedication to some service or cause, but that does not preclude self interest. Altruism in the common understanding does disallow self interest, and may in fact require observable sacrifice or humility in practice.

It is difficult to assign boundaries between all of these concepts, largely because they are not fixed or finite. I am presenting my understanding of them with full appreciation for the possibility that my interpretations may not work for another. Along those lines, I’d like to move on to discuss a thinking structure that I believe is at the core of much of our most egregious interpersonal conflict.

Black and white thinking

So called “black and white” thinking (BWT) goes by many names, but they all describe the same process. Some of the other terms are “polarized” thinking and “all or nothing” thinking. To understand the significance of BWT it may be helpful to consider some of the basics of communication.

Communication is not just “talking” any more than “dining” is just walking by a restaurant. Communication describes the process of transferring information and ideas, and as with a radio signal there must be a transmitter and a receiver. A man wandering about the desert talking to himself is not communicating. If nobody reads what I have written, have I communicated? No, I will simply have written something, as in a journal or diary.

Communication occurs by many means. In face to face, verbal communication, information and ideas are exchanged through the use of words, but that is a very small part of the whole. In fact, most of whatever message is transmitted and received does not involve words. Some say words comprise 15% or less of the average verbal communication. Most of the message is conveyed by the way in which those words are expressed and the body language involved. It is understandable then why written communication, and the internet “chat” format are significantly handicapped and can be volatile. Some 85% of the cues necessary to the efficient exchange of information and ideas is missing!

The art of saying “have a nice day” in a way that communicates “eat $#@! and die” is learned by most of us before reaching high school.

Black & white thinking interferes with clear communication because it involves distorted messages. The English language is rife with idiomatic references and words borrowed from many different languages. When one verbalizes an exaggerated expression, our culture intuitively knows where to draw the line between the data and the bling. “That was the best day ever” actually means “I had a good time and enjoyed myself very much.” The literal interpretation is unlikely to be accurate. We communicate in such a manner on a daily basis.

However, when the exaggerations are unspoken thoughts and provide the foundation for assessments, attitudes, and actions, the outcomes can be problematic or even disastrous in some cases. There are some legitimate explanations for why we gravitate to black and white thinking sometimes and not at others, and regarding the historic basis of such a thinking process, but that is for another time. Here we need only understand the existence of black and white thinking and how it may impact communication.

Black and white thinking is not an abnormality; it is a normal aspect of defense that happens to occur excessively. It is neither conscious nor intentional. What teenager doesn’t classify entire populations such as a rival school or some group as all good or all bad? When one carries such shortcuts into adulthood, however, it can cause great injustice and harm. It is quite normal for people to observe, assess, and make decisions about things and people they encounter in their environments, but when all are assessed on the basis of observations of one, and decisions are made accordingly, trouble ensues. Two major sources of ignorance are lack of knowledge and the application of black and white thinking to otherwise perfectly good knowledge.

I sensed a prevalence of this rigid decision making tree in the comments about the nurse in question. Draco would be proud. Such commentary would easily excuse one from jury duty!

Regarding the underlying issue itself, the question of whether the governors of some states are justified in declaring mandatory quarantine measures, or whether the nurse is justified in challenging that action, I look to what we know and what we don’t know.

What we know:

The most appropriate interventions are the result of a learning process. Those having to respond to potential threats of contamination know more about the nature of ebola today than they did when the Liberian gentleman Thomas Duncan arrived in Texas at the end of September.

The CDC has established guidelines for assessing the risks posed by those returning from West Africa. The four levels of risk run from no risk to one suggesting the advisability of quarantine. Kaci Hickox was not level 4.

Medical scientists know that non-symptomatic subjects are not contagious. Front line people are now practicing extreme methods for putting on and removing protective suits, including using teams to observe each other.

Considering what was known about the nurse, Kaci Hickox, her exposure to ebola patients in Africa, and measures taken to ensure her safety, medical professionals agree that quarantine was not warranted.

There are legitimate questions regarding the legality of holding a person against their will without due cause and due process.

What we don’t know:

We don’t know that public safety is enhanced if those deemed by the public and by politicians to be at risk are sequestered away from the general population regardless of medical assessment and reasoning to the contrary.

I agree that the passionate and overreaching demands for a modern version of the Leper Colony approach without medical justification are excessive, fear based, and hold more potential danger than the disease in question.

Government does indeed bear responsibility for protecting the safety, as well as the liberty, of all citizens. However, it can best fulfill those duties by enlisting, and listening to, those most knowledgeable in the field of concern. I understand they also feel compelled to allay the fears of a reactive public. They can best do that by leading, not by following.


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