Tag Archives: Philosophy

The Sleep of Reason


Goya, the famous Spanish painter was well known for dark art.  No one ever accused him of seeing only the sunny side of life. Goya inscribed one of his works with the following words: “The sleep of reason brings forth monsters.” I find that profoundly true.

Voltaire the child of the Enlightenment, one might say a Fundamentalist Enlightenment thinker, said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Our species has impressive powers of reasoning. It is what sets us apart from most species. Yet we give up our advantage all the time. Why do we do that? Why do we allow reason to go to sleep? More importantly, why do we do that when it is clearly against our own interests to do that? That is a very big question. One I would like to answer.

One of the worst things that we can do is to abdicate our power of reasoning. If ever—ever–we give up our rationale for beliefs we are doomed.  We must always insist that all beliefs are based on reason and evidence.

Our reasoning power may be weak. It is certainly far from perfect. For each and every one of us our power of reasoning is flawed, but we never have a better tool to justify belief. Any belief. Beliefs based on evidence and reasoning are not guaranteed to be true. They are not certainly true, but they are the best-grounded beliefs we can have.

Reason goes to sleep whenever we don’t base our beliefs on reason and evidence.  The bars to reason are many and varied and include the following among many others: faith substituted for reason, indoctrination, fear, prejudice or bias, laziness, ignorance, herd instinct or wish to conform, wishful thinking, ideological blinkers, and advertising or propaganda.


I am going far beyond religion now. Beliefs based on something other than reason, like faith, or feelings, or wishes, can have dangerous consequences. This can lead to crazy beliefs. No where is that more obvious than the United States. There is a good reason for this. America is in my opinion the most religious country in the west. At least by conventional definitions of religion. Kurt Anderson described this phenomenon this way in his book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire(2017): “Unlike the Earth’s other moderns, we have rushed headlong back toward magic and miracles, crazifying some legacy churches, filling up the already crazy ones, inventing all kinds of crazy new ones.]Because the US has given itself over to beliefs without reason to such a fantastic extent for so long it has become vulnerable to believing all kinds of crazy things. Americans have become vulnerable to all kinds of crackpots from the ludicrous to the deranged.

For example it is astonishing how many Americans believed, without any evidence whatsoever, that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of the basement of a pizzeria that had no basement. Or that there is a government conspiracy to spread toxic vaccines. Or that Satanic child molesters are everywhere.  That Obama is the anti-Christ, a  Muslim and was born outside the United States. That the massacre of elementary school children in Sandy Hook by a lone gunman was a scam promulgated by paid actors. That climate change is a hoax. That the high school students at Parkland Florida who were terrorized by a gunman were also paid actors.

The gullibility of millions of Americans is truly astonishing. Where did this come from? I believe that it is the result of checking reason at the door for decades if not centuries.    When reason sleeps monsters are indeed brought forth.


Whisper words of Wisdom

I am still struggling with the concept of moral humility–an elusive but important goal.

A good friend of mine, much smarter than me, told me that he does not feel he can do more than ask gentle questions. He is very effective at avoiding excessive arrogance. He practices moral humility. I aim to move in that direction.

That does not mean I should be silent. I think that if we see someone acting badly, particularly if that person is in power, we should speak. We should do that respectfully, but we may and should do that. I am trying to teach myself to criticize gently, without pontificating. That is not easy.

Today I learned something valuable for a fellow walker in our walking club.  He is a strong Christian—even an evangelical Christian I would guess—and said he had learned something valuable recently.  He said when talking to someone he never tried to convert the other person. Rather, he said,  “I ask questions,” he said, “all I want to do is leave a stone in the other person’s shoe”.

I know that I have been pontificating too much. For example, I have been very critical of capitalism.  I have never denied that capitalism has done a lot of good. It has pulled hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty into poverty. That is a momentous achievement. We need to do even better, but that is not nothing. It is a lot. I doubt that I have converted anyone.

Yet that does not mean we must give capitalism a free pass. We cannot allow capitalists free rein to destroy life on the planet as sometimes they seem bent on doing. We must criticize, but do so with humility always remembering that we mightbe wrong. Recall the uncertainty principle. Act as if we might be wrong.

As the Beatles said, “Whisper words of wisdom. Let it be.”

In Search of a Better World by Payam Akhavan.

If you read this book it may be the best book you read this year. It is written by a Canadian lawyer, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. Or go to the CBC Radio archive and listen to the CBC’s 2017 Massey Lectures. The book contains those lectures. It is a delightful combination of personal reminiscences of himself and his family and his life as a UN human rights prosecutor and reflections on his experiences.

The book starts out with a wonderful and humorous description of how his family fled Iran as religious exiles fleeing persecution after their revolution. He was a young lad and did not realize why they were leaving the country he loved, but he was excited to go to Canada. His first impression was from 30,000 ft. in a jet.

Sadly, he found that Canada was not the country of unabashed welcoming of refugees. Instead in the schoolyard he was bullied as a “Paki.” Ignorant Canadian school children did not know better. He was different; so he was mocked. He spoke funny, that meant he must be ready to be made fun of. He thought the Hockey Night in Canada song was our national anthem. Maybe he was right.

Later the bigotry of Canadians morphed. He described it this way, “As my school days came to a close, the all-purpose pejorative “Paki” label was given way to a more sophisticated taxonomy of bigotry. Thanks to the simplistic sound bites and sensational images that passed as evening news, Arabs and Iranians were merging in the popular imagination as a barbaric race of crazed terrorists. Instead of getting better the ordeal by association was getting worse. It didn’t matter that we were actually the biggest victims of those same bearded fanatics appearing on their television screens, or that Western leaders had sabotaged secular democracy in our countries. Our story was irrelevant. We were merely a blank screen on which others projected their psychological needs, of either scorn or of pity.

Whether in the schoolyard or in global politics the clash of civilizations is a convenient escape from the visceral fear of embracing others. The bully and the bigot, the tyrant and the terrorist need to inflict pain on others to escape their own pain. Connecting with others renders us vulnerable; accepting differences challenges our way of life. The cowardly way out is to make enemies rather than doing the hard work of learning and growing. Why struggle to discover a deeper identity when hatred is within easy reach?”

In the book Akhavan meanders through many examples of a failure to empathize. Arabs and Israelis. Serbs and Croats. Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda. Western European settlers and North American indigenous peoples. And many more. Invariably he adds value to the discussion of these conflicts. But he always comes back to the central concept of empathy. He quotes Persian philosopher Rumi: “the wound is the place where light enters.”

Here is what he says about the West and Islam,

“For much of history, Islamic civilization has been the enduring “other” of the Western world, and Western civilization the enduring “other” of the Islamic world. But the reality today is that the irresistible forces of globalization, the inexorable expansion of our collective unconscious, is infusing diverse peoples with an ever-broader sense of belonging. That is exactly why the extremists are panicking. In these times of accelerating change, they need each other more than ever. The white crusaders and the wicked jihadists are inseparable dancing partners, entangled in an awkward tango of mutual disgust. Whether they like it or not, identities are not fossils in a museum. They are inherently dynamic constantly shaping and being shaped by others in a never-ending exchange of perspectives. Amidst intensifying interdependence, parochial identities will invariably give way to a wider loyalty. Then better to negotiate the inevitable by dialogue rather than violence. The xenophobic hissy fit of identity warriors is futile avoidance of a shared future.”

Akhavan finds empathy as the basis of human rights. As an immigrant to Canada, during a time when brown people were rare and exotic, he understands from deep personal experience, that “multiculturalism is a messy affair.” It is often difficult and challenging. But is there any reason to believe that we are not up for the challenge? Akhavan points out,

“We each have a unique path, but when our journeys occasionally converge, we may discover that we also have a shared humanity; that we all suffer; whatever our identity may be. The universality of human rights means that despite our differences, we all deserve to be treated with the same dignity. We should not project demeaning stereotypes on others, portraying them as savages to justify our bigotry. But in celebrating diversity, we should also not become apologists for those that abuse others in the name of tradition.”

It is a fundamental theme of the book that we must recognize that other people suffer, just like we do. He knows, as Shakespeare’s Shylock did, that each of us bleeds in the same way. When we recognize that, we empathize. As the original meaning of the word “sympathy” indicates, “we suffer with.”

That is precisely why we have to be skeptical of claims from our leaders that “we” are different from “them”. No matter how much they want it otherwise, this is not a matter of “us” against “them.” This is a matter of “we.” We are in this together. We really are one human race, no matter where we come from, no matter what the color of our skin, and no matter how we worship (or not) our gods. We are fellows.

Akhavan says that our encounters with human rights atrocities have a lot to say about who we actually are, as opposed to who we pretend to be. That is why Akhavan explores how the pursuit of a virtuous self-image affects our perceptions of suffering at the periphery of our society. This is a version of the thought, now often accepted, that a civilization is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable–i.e. those who suffer at the periphery.

Akhavan points out that many of us are no longer able to define the sublime by reference to the divine. Therefore, to many, they are unable to find moral certainty. As Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov said, “If God is dead then all is permitted.” To such thinking Akhavan responds as follows:

“Disabused of the catastrophic illusions of the past, in our post-modern search for transcendence we have embraced human rights as the secular sacred. Having shunned absolute truths, we navigate the stormy seas of moral relativism, weary of foundering on the forbidden rocks of individual autonomy and cultural diversity. In this disenchanted universe, belief in the inherent dignity of humankind is the magical island where we can still find refuge amidst moral uncertainty.”

This book is certainly worth the trip.

A Jazzman in the World of Ideas


This is part II of the discussion between Cornell West and Robert George that we heard a Arizona State University. Their topic was truth seeking, democracy, and freedom of thought and expression.

Cornel West said that we should revel in our common humanity even when you think the other is wrong. In my opinion that is the beginning and most important part of respectful (and hence useful) dialogue. Name calling and finger wagging are seldom useful.

To be a fundamental searcher for truth, one must begin with piety. By piety he means we should depend on those who came before us. We should learn from their mistakes, and try to gain wisdom from them. “We should try to be truth seekers together.” We should learn from our spiritual, moral and political teachers of excellence who came before us.

West said he came from a long tradition of a great people who had been subjugated for a long time even though his tradition taught love.   Their anthem, West said, was “Lift every voice.” Every jazzman finds his voice. He did not use this expression today, but I have heard West say that he is “A Jazzman in the world of ideas.” This reminds me a bit of my own views: be a meanderer in the world of ideas. There is no straight line to truth. The search for truth moves by twists and turns, steps forward and backward. There is no laid out map. There is no recipe for truth. It would be convenient if there was.

West says that in his classes he tells his students he wants “to teach them to learn to die.” Plato in his dialogues said much the same thing. He said his philosophy was meditation on how to die. Seneca said “he who learns to die learns to give up slavery.” West wants us to “learn how to die, in order to learn how to live.” In the end it is about living.

West wants us to achieve “Deep education, not cheap schooling.” His mentor, Socrates, urged us to respect the other in dialogue. After that empathy is what comes out of his mouth.”

Cornell West also said, “If the kingdom of God is within you, everywhere you go, you will leave a little of heaven behind.” West was blunt about current conditions in America and the west: “We live in a period of spiritual blackout.”

West also commented on the current President of the United States. “Donald Trump has no monopoly on spiritual blackout. Trump also did not cause the spiritual blackout; he is a symptom of it. Donald Trump is as American as cherry pie.” I found this particularly important at this time in America. About 50 million Americans voted for Trump in the last election and he was clearly a racist and a liar, but they voted for him anyway. Donald Trump did not hide anything about himself. He put it out there and millions of people voted for him. Millions liked what they heard. To many of us that is incomprehensible, but not to millions of Americans. Nearly half the American voters voted for Trump. So what Trump is, America is too.

West, like George, and like John Stuart Mill reminded us all said we had to be wary of our own convictions. Convictions can be the enemy of truth. We had to be willing to expose them to criticism and attack. Like Nietzsche said, we must have the courage to attack our convictions. Each of us is only as strong as our critics.

According to West, with spiritual blackout you end up distrusting people. You adopt the morality of much of 19th century capitalism. Do what ever you want; just don’t get caught. This attitude is widespread across the board in all institutions, he said. Not just capitalism. No democracy can survive when this attitude is rampant. In the west, particularly America, this attitude is rampant. That puts democracy in jeopardy.

Both West and George urged us to consider and adopt civic virtues. These result from recognition that all groups of people are precious and human at the deepest level. It is based on the finding of a common humanity in diverse groups. I would say that we discover this by accessing our innate fellow feeling at a deep level. I think West has a deep appreciation of the commons. This is how West and George connect with each other. They embrace their differences and their common humanity. I wish more of us could do that. This is particularly exemplary in this age of extremes, in which it appears most of us can no longer speak softly with others who disagree with us. West and George exemplified what they preached. You could see one listening intently while the other spoke. They did not interrupt each other. They learned from one another.

West is inspired by jazz music in particular and his favorite is John Coltrane. West treats an intellectual discussion as Coltrane and his friends would “a jam session.” He wants to make music by dialogue. That would be a jam session of ideas. West said that Coltrane and his friends would learn not only from each other, but from the dead, when they jammed. They would listen to the playing of the others in the jam session and then show what they had learned from Louis Armstrong and other jazz greats. The musical ideas would bounce off each other. That is what West wants in intellectual dialogue too. Voices bouncing off each other including voices of the dead like Martin Luther King or William Shakespeare or Friedrich Nietzsche or Jesus Christ. Then we can access something bigger than the parts in the search for truth, whether you are in a jam session or a philosophical discussion.

Even that was not enough, West said. Democracy is exactly this too. Democracy is ideas bouncing off each other when each voice is heard and no voice is shut down. When people respect each other’s voices great things can result. Of course this requires others to want to make music (getting back to the music analogy again). If they are just trying to shut you down you can’t make music. This gets back to freedom of speech.

That does not mean you have the right to say anything at all at any time. You have no right to shout “fire” in a crowded dark theatre. That might cause a stampede and people could get hurt. That does not mean you have the right to defame other people. That causes harm to them. False statements that harm others are not permitted, even though we all want a robust form of freedom of expression. You have no right to walk into a University classroom and call people names, like “the N word,” or other derogatory names. That is not done to engage in free discussion. Such statements are made to end discussion. Therefore they are not permitted. The same goes for hate speech. Hate speech is not made to engage in discussion. If a statement is made for that purpose, I would argue, it is not hate speech. If speech is made to generate hate against others that is not to engage in free thought and discussion either. We do not have the right to make such statements.

West in a very brief comment made a very important point. He said, if you want to make an important argument you have to visit the “chocolate side of town.” You can’t just stay physically and mentally in the comfortable suburbs. You have to visit the ghettos. You have to visit places where poor people hang out; where vulnerable people go. Otherwise your ideas are bound to be inadequate. There is a lot to be learned on the chocolate side of town. For example there is a lot to be learned from jazz, from Black Baptist religion, and from a long tradition of suffering and the enduring of suffering. These were my examples, but I think West would endorse them. We should all learn from that side of town.

August 25, 2017 London England to Steinbach Manitoba: It was worth the trip

            We all have our reasons for wanting to go home. I am rarely ready to go home. I love to travel,but eventually I want to go home, but it takes some time. Once I am ready—once I am on the way—then I wish I was home at the touch of a button. This is particularly true of air travel which has become increasingly brutal. It used to be much more enjoyable. Those days are long gone Sally.

The most interesting part of the trip home was the Heathrow airport in London. That sounds crazy. It is crazy. What made it interesting was Shoheha. I hope I spelled her name right. She was a crazy Iranian woman we met in the airport. Chris and I were sitting in the airport waiting for our flight to begin. This is not usually the most pleasant task, but a book always makes it bearable. Shoheha was sitting next to us. She had a broken arm and was carrying a large carryon bag with the good arm. She asked me where I had purchased my cup of coffee and after I pointed out the kiosk nearby, she ambled off carrying her massive bag. Chris, being much smarter (and better) than me, told me to go and help her buy coffee. It would be impossible for her to carry the bag and coffee with one good arm. Dutifully, I got up to help. I offered to carry her bag while she bought coffee. Chris said a real gentleman would have bought her coffee. Right again. When I carried her bag I was astonished at the weight. It was HERAVY! Shoheha explained that she had been visiting her family in Iran and was going back home to Ottawa. Her mother—like mothers everywhere—insisted on filling her bag with Iranian culinary treats that you can’t get anywhere except from moms. And like all moms, she brooked no objections from her daughter. It did not matter how heavy the load or inconvenient the huge bag, Shoheha had no choice but to take it back home to her family who would no doubt be overjoyed at the treat bag. Easy for them to say.

We were stuck in Heathrow for an extra hour and half, while what the airline called a simple electronic problem that would be fixed soon” was dealt with. Assurances that the delay would be brief vaporized into the ether like such assurances usually do. Thankfully, we have a pleasant conversation with our new friend from Iran.

Naturally we missed our connecting flight in Toronto and managed to text our friend Garry who was picking us up, that we would be delayed while we waited for the next flight. We were very happy there was a next flight that day. A couple of hours late was no biggie. Our friend disconcertingly advised us he would wait for us in the bar. He might be intoxicated, but he would be there he assured us.

Annoyingly the flight to Winnipeg from Toronto varied between stifling hot and bone-chilling cold. No one would call it a pleasant flight.

We did arrive in time completely exhausted ready for home where, to quote Simon and Garfunkel,  all our words would come back to us like emptiness in harmony. But we were filled with joy. It is always great to travel; it is always great to come home.

I love to travel. I think I inherited this from my mother and father. They loved to travel. I am like that and my children are like that. Chris got infected with it the first trip we ever made with my parents to Grand Forks North Dakota .

I often try to figure out why we love to travel. What is so special about it? I think travel is learning. We learn about new places and new people that we would not encounter back home.

Mark Kingwell that great philosopher from Toronto (yes we have them there) got it right. He said travel was like a drug, not just because it is addictive, but also because it alters our consciousness. It affects the brain. It can challenge our routine way of thinking and, as a result, it can change us. One is not the same person after a trip as before.

Alfred Lord Tennyson on the other hand got it backwards I think when he said, “I am a part of everything I meet.” I rather think that everything I meet is now a part of me. I carry a small part of Luzerne Switzerland, Kőln Germany, Strasbourg France, Amsterdam, Paris and London with me. And I will carry them with me forever. I think that makes me a better person. I know others will say, not good enough. They are right. Never good enough.

The essential lesson is to heed the wise words of that children’s book many of read when we first learned to read: “Stop, look, and listen.” That is what it is all about. If we do that, we will enjoy the travel for we will experience something we cannot experience back home. It is not there no matter how much we love our homes. As Robertson Davies said, “People are very very hungry for some kind of contact with a greater world than the one they can immediately perceive.” This is true in more than one sense.

We do not travel to see new things, or new places, or even new people. Henry Miller was correct when he said, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing.” We want to see things, places, and people differently than we did before. We want to change. We want to become better.

Steinbach has this crazy motto: ‘It’s worth the trip.’ Every place is worth the trip. If we see nothing worth seeing that does not mean that we went to the wrong places. It means we were not worth the trip. We did not bring our minds to the trip and then the trip is worthless. Then it is not worth the trip, but we have no one to blame but ourselves. Henry David Thoreau that great American thinker said, “It is not what you look at that matters, but what you see.”

Thoreau’s friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, also a great thinker, said, “If we meet no gods, it is because we harbor none. If there is grandeur in you, you will find grandeur in porters and sweeps. He only is rightly immortal, to whom all things are immortal.”

To do that we have to be open to new experiences. Sometimes that is difficult. But we will be rewarded if we do. One of my favorite philosophers, Albert Camus, who haunted one of the cafés we passed by on trip in Paris, understood this well. He said, “All of a man’s life consists of the search for those few special images in the presence of which his soul first opened.” We want to open up our souls. That’s why we travel.

And once our souls are opened then we can truly see. Then we are able to appreciate what we have back home. It is special too. It also is a place of wonder. If we have learned something on the trip then we can bring that new knowledge to our old home. As T.S. Eliot wisely said,


We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time


Then we are able to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, which to my view is what great art is all about. Finding the miraculous in the common. I hope I found this on this trip. I think I did. It was truly worth the trip. I can hardly wait for the next trip.


The Opioid Crisis: Don’t buy medicine from a snake oil salesman or a New York Real estate Developer

By now it is well known that opioid drugs such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Percocet are ravaging North American society. Opioids are now responsible in the United States for causing about 37,000 deaths per year. Since the year 2,000 opioid deaths in the U.S. have quadrupled. That is without counting deaths from overdoes of heroin or fentanyl and other drugs. Some people overdose on these drugs after getting addicted to opioids.

How did this happen? In part the problem is that for decades medical doctors have been prescribing prescription opioids for all kinds of ailments, including fairly minor ones. This included things like toothaches, back pain, and the like. Their patients asked the doctors for help and the doctors gave it, even when it was probably not wise for many of these patients to get such prescriptions. We shouldn’t always get what we want. Of course, once people were addicted, Big Pharma was happy to oblige.

In the U.S, the Drug Enforcement Administration (‘DEA’) saw some astonishing efforts to fill prescriptions. In some cases, they were sending out thousands of suspicious orders for pharmaceuticals. In one case, one pharmacy in Kermit West Virginian—in the heart of Trumpland—a town of just 396 people ordered 9 million opioid pills in 2 years!

One would think this would be an easy problem to resolve. One would think wrong. The DEA should be able to investigate and shutdown such commercial trafficking without getting indigestion. But in 2016 the American Congress unanimously passed a law that drastically curtailed the power of their DEA to go after drug distribution. And they did this in the midst of a drug epidemic. And they did it unanimously when ordinarily they cannot agree unanimously what day it is. How did that happen?

It is interesting how that happened. According to Trevor Noah on the Daily Show (Of course I get most of my news from Comedy News ) “that is because of the thing that they are addicted to—Money.” [1] Political commentators have long understood a fundamental principle of political analysis—follow the money. In 2016 the Pharmaceutical Industry (‘Big Pharma’) spent $246 million on lobbying the American Congress. In the decade from 2007 to 2017 they spent a cumulated total of $2.4 billion. That money was well spent.

Big Pharma consistently ranks at the top or near the top of big spenders on lobbying Congress. They do that because it works. That money buys them a lot. The insurance industry another big spender is cheap in comparison. Even though they were second in 2016, they spent a paltry $152.9 million. The gun lobby spent a puny $10.5 million. That is about 4% of what Big Pharma spent. Big Pharma spend money like river boat gamblers and it paid off BIGLEY. It paid off with unanimous legislation that they like. Like the law that crippled the ability of the DEA to investigate commercial drug traffickers.

As a result of such big spending Big Pharma has big influence with Congress. Big spending and big influence go together like love and marriage. Big Pharma wanted to get rid of regulations they did not like. These are more of those regulations that Trump keeps saying hobble American industry. In fact it bought them the right to basically write the laws that emasculated the DEA in the middle of a drug crisis that they helped to create and from which they were the primary financial beneficiaries. As the Washington Post said,

“In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.

A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The i and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.” [2]


Bob Dylan was right again—“money doesn’t talk it swears.” It is not surprising either that the chief designer of the of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, who is now reputed to be Donald Trump’s next drug czar. Funny how that happens. In fact according to the Washington Post, Drug Industry executive Linden Barber played a key role in crafting an earlier version of the legislation that eventually curtailed the DEA’s power.” As Trevor Noah said, “for $250 million you can write your own laws.” [3]

Of course Donald Trump understood how serious the drug crisis was. In August of 2017 he declared the opioid crisis an “official national emergency.” That was very significant because it made available many millions of dollars to tackle the crisis. He said specifically, this means the country is committed to spending a lot of time, effort and a lot of money on this crisis. This was a big deal. No doubt about it. Trump should have been applauded for that declaration. Yet there was a hitch. Like there usually is with Trump’s dealings.

The problem is that Trump is a snake oil salesman. They know that in New York. They are used to him there. That is why they did not vote for Trump in the election of 2016. When Trump made the formal announcement on October 26, 2017 he did not do exactly what he had promised. It sounded the same. It looked the same. But it was not the same. Sometimes it can look like a duck, quack like a duck, yet not be duck. He said instead, “my administration is officially declaring the opioid crisis a “national public health emergency under federal law.” That is not quite the same. As a recovering lawyer, I know it is important, very important when dealing with charlatans to read the contract over very slowly and very carefully word for word. Nothing else will do. This is not the time and place for shortcuts. Politics is the time for short cuts. When listening to Trump extreme care is needed.

As a result of this “slight” change in wording, instead of many millions of dollars being available to deal with the “official national emergency” for a “national public health emergency under federal law” there was only $57,000 available. Of course he did not tell us this. He kept mum. Trump had played the old shell game. The American public were the suckers. They bought snake oil.


[1] Trevor Noah, The Daily Show, Comedy News Network, (Oct. 26, 2017)

[2] Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein, “The Drug Industry’s Triumph over the Dea,” Washington Post, October 15, 2017

[3] Trevor Noah, The Daily Show, Comedy News Network, (Oct. 26, 2017)

American “Communities”

I frequently  walked through one of these so-called ‘communities’ that are found in Arizona. Americans love to call them that, but as a wise judge once said, you can call a jackass an eagle, but that won’t make it fly. Some “communities” are gated. The one we stayed at in Arizona in 2017 and hope to stay at in 2018 are not gated. But uniformly, these communities are not welcoming to everyone. They want to keep ‘others’ out. They abhor biodiversity.

Yet the walk was most pleasant and the people I encountered friendly people. I guess I looked like one of ‘them.’ I did not look strange enough to be an outsider. I will have to improve next time.

The Gay Science

Nietzsche talked about what he called “the Gay Science.” Unfortunately that now has a new meaning. What Nietzsche meant was “a sense of joy at facing life’s absurdity or cruelty or viciousness.” “Facing the world, knowing all of its nastier points and smiling anyway,” was what Nietzsche wanted to see and do. Exercise is one way to do the, but there are others.

Nietzsche thought the body was very important. He thought dance was important. Physicality was important. The very same people who were disembodied and who were interested in an otherworldly life, an anemic life, a fleshless life, were also the people who denied the world. These other people said there was another place, a heaven. Nietzsche’s view is an embrace of the body and of our biology. “And,” according to one philosopher, who talked about running and Nietzsche, two of my favourite topics, “we are able to embrace a more joyous existence.”

“So the joy of running is not about anything, it is just a glimpse of what is to be alive,” Young said. It is to be happy for this glimpse.

Nietzsche also held the view there is something wonderful about feeling the power to do things. He called this “the will-to-power.” People often think he is talking about cruelty or vulgar domination. These people don’t understand Nietzsche. When he talks about the will-to-power he is talking about that profound joy you have when you are expressing yourself well.

When you are driving yourself hard, or in some way, living up to your fullest, then you feel power. It is power over self. The Overman, his hero, was the man who could overcome himself! Not some petty tyrant.