Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: The Zombies

Like many people, I suppose, I am familiar with the Zombies because of two 60’s classics:  “She’s Not There” and “Time Of The Season,” which are both excellent songs that have aged well and continue to be well-known and well-recognized.  Two songs, though, even two great songs, does not make a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame resume, though.  One needs more than that.  I must admit that this is a band that somewhat surprises me in terms of the passionate nature of its fanbase, as there are numerous people who have written me telling me to write about this particular group.  Consider this, therefore, a request that has been belatedly granted.  Who are the Zombies and why are they a worthy entrant in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  It seems that nearly every [1] worthwhile act from the 1960’s has been inducted, so how come they haven’t?

The Influence Of The Zombies

One of the ways of determining the influence of a band is seeing what kind of bands can trace themselves back to the Zombies.  Like some groups, the Zombies had a lot of turmoil and their lack of immediate success and sales led to the band breaking up before they had hits, and so even if the Zombies are fondly remembered today, they were not particularly big sellers during their heyday.  Be that as it may, one of the members of the Zombies went on to form Argent, which had a hit with “Hold Your Head Up,” a top 5 hit in the US and UK, and another couple members of a touring group that performed the songs of the Zombies ended up becoming part of ZZ Top.  Aside from anyone who would claim to be influenced by the Zombies or their fellow British Invasion acts, and that would be a lot of bands, the fact that two immensely successful bands spring from the Zombies themselves suggests that there is a great deal of influence that the band had both directly and indirectly.

Why The Zombies Belong In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Aside from their influence on other acts, the Zombies belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for two reasons.  As earlier noted, while the band had a tumultuous history, they did manage to make two immortal songs that have long outlived any of the band’s many lineups in “She’s Not There” and “Time Of The Season.”  Likewise, the band’s first album was listed among the top 100 albums of all time by Rolling Stone, and if you are able to have an album of that kind of critical appeal, even despite disappointing sales, one is doing something right.  This is the sort of band that it is easy to champion–a band that deserved a better fate than it got and whose critical appeal and lasting success make its initial struggles something to look to as evidence of the band’s underdog appeal.  And as there is plenty of room for underdog causes here on a list of snubs to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s pretty easy to see that this is a band that deserves a lot more interest.  Despite a rather small discography, the band did serve as a vitally important member of the British Invasion and made some songs that still live on today.  That’s more than enough reason for them to end up in Cleveland.

Why The Zombies Aren’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

It’s quite possible the Zombies just fell through the cracks.  After the more obvious 60’s acts were inducted, the Zombies were probably just not quite famous enough to catch in the memory of the people nominating.  And now that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is starting to work on 90’s acts, it has become increasingly difficult to induct worthy acts in their early years of eligibility while inducting worthwhile acts that were passed over.

Verdict:  Put them in.  They’ve got the critical acclaim for their debut album and some memorable songs.  This shouldn’t be a very complicated decision to make.

[1] But see, for example:









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Book Review: Lies We Tell Our Kids

Lies We Tell Our Kids, written and illustrated by Brett E. Wagner

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Net Gallery/Animal Media Group.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

I found this book to be surprisingly touching.  In general, I must say that I am not in favor of lying to children.  It is fairly common, unfortunately, for children to ask a lot of questions, not all of which they genuinely wish to know, but all the same I believe that children should receive honest but age-appropriate answers to the concerns that they have and that their curiosity in the world around them should be gratified and encouraged to the greatest extent possible.  I expected this book to be a lot more cynical and sarcastic than it was, and found the book surprisingly touching.  If I feel that the book is mislabeled as humor [1], at least I feel that this book has something to offer that is genuinely touching and much of the artwork here is gorgeous.  The author has done a really good job of taking ridiculous scenarios and showing how they would work out as drawings, and this is a work that has to be seen to be believed, and perhaps even read to children for them to laugh at.

This book is designed very simply and repeats its pattern consistently.  First there is an obviously untrue statement, followed by a drawing that presents what it would look like if this statement was true.  Some of the statements sound like things people would tell their children, like the fact that monsters under the bed just want to read, or that dinosaurs died because they couldn’t swim, or that Abraham Lincoln simulated the Civil War with a VR headset or that George Washington was the first president in space.  Other ones seem far darker, like the screeching of screech owls coming from the babies they steal or the fact that the storks are also involved in the baby trafficking ring.  The lies seem set up to show of the virtuoso drawing skills of the author, to point out that perhaps he has a bit too much of an imagination when it comes to telling his kids untruths, and to demonstrate a concern about subject matter children are interested in.  At the very least, while some of these obvious untruths seem particularly frightening to many small children, they at least seem like the sort of thing that children would enjoy reading.

Overall, I think this book is directed at children to prompt them to ask questions or want to create obviously imaginary stories.  Some of these setups will bring a smile and a laugh to tolerant adults, who will no doubt appreciate the talent of the artist as well as the creativity of his untruths.  Even so, this looks like a book whose main audience is young, with monsters that could have come out of Where The Wild Things Are or The Princess In Black or any other related story like that.  The humor is often of a fairly immature but amusing nature, and one can at least see adults–not least the author–trying to fob off irritating questions with stories like these.  For adults, this book is likely a reminder that fiction can be a good place to start a story when, as in this book, it is framed as imaginary and not factual and where there is no attempt to pass them off as true, but merely use them as the origin source for an amusing or heartwarming tale.  Warning children not to accept donuts from gators can be an introduction into discussing dangerous strangers, while telling children that monsters under the bed want to read can point out that even powerful and frightening beings may have surprising vulnerabilities.  These are all things that could help spur the emotional and moral development of children, which is all the more surprising given the silly tone of much of this book.

[1] See, for example:






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Book Review: 101 Trump Jokes

101 Trump Jokes, With Barack, Hillary, Bernie And More, by Zane Hogan, illustrations by Katherine Hogan

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Tiny Camel Books.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

It is rare in a comedy book [1] when the author diagnoses the main problem with his work.  In this book we have the author’s open admission that the problem with Trump jokes is that Trump supporters don’t think the jokes are funny and his haters don’t think they are jokes.  In reading this I understood that the author himself understood the nature of the problem of creating a joke book on our current president, even if many of the readers of the book will find themselves either viewing this book as nonfiction rather than humor or not finding it funny at all.  I view this book in a similar sense to the joke book about Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server [2] in that the book served as an attempt to laugh rather than cry about the current political state of our nation, and it should be noted that not all the jokes are at Trump’s expense even if most of them are.

One can get a sense at the low-hanging fruit the author is working with here in looking at the sort of subjects that make up these jokes.  The author comments on Trump’s combover, his orange tan, his career as a businessman, his supposed unlikable nature, his marriages, the wall with Mexico, and the like.  Some of the more potent zingers make reference to his tweeting as well as his golf game and his womanizing.  A few of the punch lines are a bit of a surprise, and given the general obviousness of much of this material the fact that any surprises could be found was somewhat remarkable.  One of the pleasures, if you can call it that, of reading this book is trying to figure out who all of the people giving the captions are.  It is fairly easy to recognize Trump himself, Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, but it is not always obvious who is meant by a woman who appears often.  Is the ugly woman Pelosi or Senator Fauxcahontas?  Does it really matter anyway?  Such are the mysteries one has when one reads joke books about politicians, and that is trying to identify everyone.  Perhaps the book could have used a key.

As I mentioned before, some of the funnier jokes in this book are not necessarily at Trump’s expense.  At least one of the jokes, for example, makes reference to Hillary’s e-mail server.  One can imagine that the author is not hostile to Trump as much as he wishes to capitalize on the widespread derangement of people against him on the part of those on the left, who are not generally known for their overabundance of humor.  This book manages to demonstrate that contemporary politics is not well-suited to good humor, although the author gives it his best effort, without a doubt.  As someone who does not find these books to be as funny as I would like, I view this book as useful more as a sign of our nation’s troubled political state at present than for its jokes.  And I do not know where that is something to laugh about or cry about, that the author shows himself trying to laugh about our political malaise and view himself as above it all, while demonstrating that our political state is not particularly funny.  For whether you view this book’s humor as not funny on account of being disrespectful or not funny because it is not a joke, either way you are taking politics more seriously than the author himself.

[1] See, for example:







[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/09/book-review-the-deleted-e-mails-of-hillary-clinton-a-parody/

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Because The Night

How does a one-hit wonder who is not named Jimi Hendrix get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?  I give Laura Nyro a lot of grief because it is unbelievable that she could be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame when so many worthy acts are denied [1], but Patti Smith is the same sort of act.  Bruce Springsteen wrote her only hit, and despite decades of material, “Because The Night” is the only song most casual fans of rock music will know of hers, except perhaps for her work on the bizarre “E-Bow The Letter” by REM.  Yet “Because The Night” is a really good song, not least because it has a dark subtext that makes it appealing for listeners as well as other bands (like 10,000 Maniacs, who memorably covered it for their biggest hit).  The song has the sort of mood and music that it seems as if the singer/narrator is trying to reclaim the night from the horrors that people can often suffer in the darkness and turn the night from a time of evil into a time that belongs to lovers.  There is something admirable in trying to claim the night for lovers in light of the darkness that is just under the surface of the song, and one can believe that Patti Smith is being candid about her own efforts to reclaim the darkness.

Strictly speaking, darkness is simply the absence of light.  It is not the absence of light that is itself evil or terrifying to many people [2], but the fact that the absence of light provides the opportunity for evil to be done by those who seek a cover for those deeds.  In our day and time we largely ignore the night as being all that different from the night.  The popularity of artificial light indoors and out means that the night can be treated almost like the daytime when it comes to our activities.  Daylight savings time early in the year can mean, for example, that dawn comes long after the time when people wake up to go to school and go to work.  At other times, our work schedules make it so that we spend the entire daylight hours at work and enter and leave work in darkness, something that always made me somewhat sad, even if I am a person who does not fare well in direct sunlight either.  At any rate, darkness is a venue.  What we do in that venue is up to us, and what others do is up to them.

I went grocery shopping today, as I usually do on Sunday evenings.  I was struck, though, by the fact that the light of my local grocery store was out and the parking lot was entirely dark as well.  I thought this was creepy, but since I really wanted to get my food for the week, I decided, why not, and went inside, as I could see that the lights were still on inside the grocery store thankfully.  Getting my shopping done was uneventful, as it it usually is.  I get pretty similar items of food every time and it was the same this time.  I did notice that my ramen noodles were advertising something relating to Final Fantasy, which I found mildly amusing.  When your ramen noodles are advertising, perhaps that is a bridge too far.  At any rate, when I got to the checkout line I asked the cashier about the mystery and she was not aware of why the lights were out outside the building.  I love a good mystery, but it definitely seemed creepy to me.

Obviously, nothing untoward happened, as I am writing this blog entry.  I was able to make enough noise pushing the shopping cart to deliver my groceries that despite the total darkness no cars decided to run me over.  It was, in fact, a rather quiet time and far less dangerous than a normal walk through the parking lot with cars reversing without paying much attention to those around them.  Even so, I was struck by the mystery of the darkness as I drove home and saw that the darkness had not spread beyond that specific parking lot alone.  A person with a taste for horror movies could make a great treatment out of someone having intentionally chosen that place to be dark so that they could fulfill some dark purpose, but most of us were just looking to get our groceries and get home as quickly as possible.  It is safer to think about the night when one is in one’s room with the light on than when one is navigating through a dark parking lot towards a building whose lights are on in the inside but whose neon sign has gone dark as well.  It is not healthy to think about the darkness while one is still in it, because the night is not a safe place for some of us.

[1] See, for example:


[2] See, for example:





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Book Review: Never Split The Difference

Never Split The Difference:  Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Chris Voss with Tahl Raz

I read this book after a bit of time, since someone recommended this book to me some time ago and the book was so much in demand that it took me months to get the chance to read it.  Was it worth the wait?  I think it was.  This is an exciting book and it is easy to see why it is a popular one because the author manages to combine two worlds together that have a lot to say about each other as an experienced hostage negotiator for the FBI as well as someone with a deep interest in business negotiations [1].  The combination of the two makes this an interesting book and one that encourages people to take a look at themselves and not view themselves as rational and also to use listening skills as a long-term strategic advantage to withhold information while one gathers it and builds rapport.  There is a great deal to enjoy here, even if the author takes a somewhat harsh tone of the time that would likely not come off very well in person.

In terms of its contents, this book is one that is well organized and constantly goes back and forth between the author’s experiences as a hostage negotiator and his experiences as a student of business consulting with regards to negotiations.  The book begins by a discussion of the new rules and the importance of listening and personal growth, which is often sabotaged when people think of themselves as the smartest people in the room.  After that comes a discussion of the use of mirroring to build rapport in a negotiation.  The third chapter then looks at the use of labeling that creates trust through tactical empathy.  The author then talks about the pace of negotiations and how to generate momentum that is wary of yes and mastering no.  The author then talks about how to trigger the two words that transform any negotiation–“that’s right” and the way that people can learn how to shape the reality of what is fair by building solid anchors.  A discussion of how to give others the illusion of control then moves into ways to guarantee execution and spot liars.  The last two chapters talk about hard bargaining and finding the black swans, those elusive unknown unknowns that can create breakthroughs or destroy one’s well-laid plans.

Part of the fascination with this book is the way that the author shows himself to be an adrenaline junkie with his discussions of high stakes hostage negotiations including Haitian hostages for parties, the problems that result when people are immensely divided, the way that important people tend to use language that minimizes their own feelings of self-importance, and the way that people are divided into assertive, analytical, and accommodating people.  The author comes off rather strongly in a way that would turn me off personally, but appeared to work given the sort of people he worked with, and it was fortunate for him that he managed to find work that has allowed him to perform a useful job to society in terms of popularizing insights gained in dealing with particularly violent forms of businessmen in those who take hostages and hold them for random rather than simply being an aggressive lout.  All in all this is a good book and one that I can say deserves its popularity in my local library system, that’s for sure.  most readers will be able to get a few worthwhile techniques or encourage the development of techniques that they already know at least in part.

[1] See, for example:







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Book Review: Avoiding The Greener Grass Syndrome

Avoiding The Greener Grass Syndrome:  How To Grow Affair-Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage, by Nancy C. Anderson

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Despite never having been married and having no particular immediate prospects for the state, I do read a great deal of books relating to marriage, perhaps optimistically as preparation [1].  This is a book that most readers will likely begin with a negative view of the author.  The author skillfully begins this book by showing herself at her worst before showing how things worked out for the best thanks to a great deal of effort, the love of her husband, and the good counsel of her parents.  Providing Christian answers as to how to protect a marriage from affairs, the author also recognizes the brokenness of many marriages and the brokenness that many people bring into marriages from their families of origin (in the case of the author’s husband) as well as our own selfishness and immaturity and bent towards self-deception and evil, which we have to wrestle with no matter how blessed our backgrounds or how conspicuous our gifts and talents and abilities.

The first three chapters of the book make up the author’s own exposure of her affair that led her to separate from her husband until her parents more or less browbeat her into reconsidering her folly and her husband forgives her and they are able to start again with her quitting her job so as to avoid continued encounters with her paramour.  The rest of the short book (under 150 pages) show the author discussing various ways to build hedges around a marriage to protect it from the harm of an affair, such as hearing, encouraging, dating, guarding, educating, and satisfying.  A sober chapter about how to repair a marriage that has been harmed by an affair closes the main content of the book before its conclusion and an appendix that briefly provides her husband’s perspective.  Included in the book are a lot of discussions of the author’s approach to working as a team as well as continually working on their marriage and on each other.  The story certainly has a strong air of verisimilitude and the author has a great deal of honesty in her approach–this is no pretense and pretending that everything is fine, but rather a serious book about a serious matter.

Most of the counsel given in this book is not particularly surprising.  Of course it is wise to guard your eyes, to build trust and to keep working hard to woo a partner even after one is married.  To be sure, most people view dating and courtship as the place where one seeks to charm others until they are locked up, which leads to all kind of changes when people no longer are looking to impress someone they take for granted.  The author points out that a lot of unhappy people in marriages end up being vulnerable to the way that people charm others instead of charming their own spouses.  For all of the fact that the advice in this book seems a bit basic, it is one thing to know and another thing to do.  All kinds of people think that they are above the sort of rules that they recognize as wise in general, and this is the sort of book that might inspire people to think that there was something more complicated than listening well, being considerate, seeking adventure and growth, and keeping one’s relationship with God strong, among other wise counsel that, like so much good advice, is much easier said than done.

[1] See, for example:











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Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

Early Friday afternoon I received an e-mail from one of the deacons of our congregation inviting me to The Dalles to give the inaugural sermonette there.  I had spoken in Hood River on numerous occasions [1], and so it was not surprising that I was thought of as someone to speak in a pinch.  What was perhaps surprising was that I had not typed out my next sermonette message yet, so I took that as an invitation to type out what I had been thinking about for a couple of months to write and found it to be just long to be a somewhat ambitious scope for the small amount of time alotted to sermonette messages, and was generally pleased.  Meanwhile, there was a misunderstanding about doing backup for a son of one of our elders in the congregation who has been quite busy on new father duty, and with a newly prepared message in hand it did not strike me as something to worry about.  After a fairly relaxing remainder of the evening, I got at least a few hours sleep and then got ready to meet the deacon and carpool up to the Dalles.

After having been informed that he was immensely sleepy after a crazy experience traveling from Florida to Portland after giving a presentation–which I had the chance to hear–we chatted and traveled up to the site of the new congregation, which met in the Deschutes Room of a bingo hall not far from where some of the members of the congregation live.  This prompted some serious reflection from us later on.  After all, the congregation in Hood River was a site where no one actually lived, but where people traveled to who happened to live in other parts of the Gorge area.  This particular new site is located just a short distance from the house of a large family, and that gives the pater familias a sense of ownership over the new place, since he found the location.  It is a question of just how this will work out given the complicated history involved.  As someone who enjoys complicated histories and interesting mysteries, it is certainly a matter that will have at least some of my attention.

Although the new congregation is considered as a monthly Bible Study group, the format itself was a familiar one.  The host of the congregation led songs and gave the closing prayer, I gave the opening prayer and the sermonette, and the visiting deacon gave the announcements and sermon despite being on only a couple hours of sleep.  I had heard the sermon a couple of weeks ago and taken notes, and it turns out that he had given the same sermon last week in Salem as well, which makes the message a chestnut by this point.  After services I had the chance to talk for quite a bit with him and we pondered the question of the appeal of Judaism for many people and the lack of in-depth Bible study on the part of many people and what can be done to encourage speakers to have more focus and depth in their own messages, and how to adopt a more conversational style with others as well.  Humorously enough, the deacon’s wife commented that some of us (myself included as well as her husband and some others) have a style of speaking that is like our own conversations but not necessarily like the conversations most people have.

Although I was quite tired by the time I was back in the Portland area after being in the Dalles, I had much to ponder.  What was it that makes a small congregation like La Grande work?  To be sure, it is a very small congregation, but it has a very loyal core of membership that I have had the chance to meet personally and speak to, and that counts for a lot.  The congregation in the Dalles is a new beginning, but it is a new beginning after the end of Hood River after some nearly four decades as a congregation.  In his closing prayer, the host of the congregation prayed for the same length of time in his city, and we will see how it works.  There are many scattered people among the Church of God, but a great many of them do not want to be gathered up into organizations and are quite embittered about their experience with organizations and institutions.  We live in an age where a great many people want to teach, but few want to be taught, where a great many want to speak and few want to listen.  Being part of the solution and not part of the problem is not an easy or straightforward matter at all.

[1] See, for example:






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Non-Book Review: Game Of Thrones And The Medieval Art Of War

Game Of Thrones And The Medieval Art Of War, by Ken Mondschein

It ought not to be a surprise that there have been a few notable efforts on the part of military historians to tie the Game of Thrones with medieval military history [1].  It should be noted that I am somewhat fond of the Game of Thrones series myself and its ubiquitous tie-ins [2].  As it happens, I requested this book from the De Re Militari as is my fashion after reading and reviewing my previous book from them, and although a copy of the book had just gone out the person in charge of soliciting reviews was able to swing a second copy of the book directly from the publisher upon the promise from me that I would inform him when I got a copy, which reminds me that I should do that soon in case I forget and send him the review as my notice that I received the book, which would be in bad form.

The book itself is about two hundred pages of material, and is divided into nine chapters, making for a manageable chapter length of just over 20 pages apiece.  The author begins by pointing out the myth of chivalry, and then moves on to discussing how armor will help one survive a battle.  After that the author looks at dragonsteel and wildfire as aspects of weaponry in Westeros.  A discussion of fighting arts follows before a look at duels and tournaments.  A chapter on the economics of feudal warfare and a discussion of women warriors of Westeros then comes before the author closes the book with chapters on conquest and culture and a medieval atrocity sourcebook.  All in all this looks like a book I will greatly enjoy reading and reviewing and it does not appear as if the book will take me very long to complete, at least by my initial impression.  Whether or not this book has mass market appeal, it aims at the audience that likes Game of Thrones as well as medieval military history, and surely that is a large enough audience to make it worth their while to receive my review.

[1] See, for example:


[2] See, for example:







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Non-Book Review: Agincourt 1415

Agincourt 1415:  A Tourist’s Guide To The Campaign, by Peter Hoskins with Anne Curry

Having read another of the author’s other books relating to the same subject [1], I was interested in reading this book to add to my trove of books about the Hundred Years’ War from De Re Militari [2].  This book, though, took a very long time to come, largely because someone had borrowed the book and had not returned it so that it could not be sent out to me.  At any rate, it was finally returned so I finally get to read it, and I will likely enjoy looking through it as it looks like the kind of book I would greatly appreciate.  Given that most of the big battles of the Hundred Years’ War were won by England over France:  Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, it is little surprise that English language historiography should predominate.  I would be surprised, for example, for there to be a great demand for tourist guides for the Battle of Castillon, although it was an important and even decisive battle, although won by the French.

As is the case with the author’s previous work, this book divides the Agincourt Campaign into 5 tours that not only allow the reader to visit the site of the battle itself but also to follow the armies as much as possible.  As someone who is not only interested in tactics but also questions of logistics and grand strategy, I tend to find this approach appealing as it allows someone to see the transportation networks as well as the desired outcomes of the campaign that led the armies to fight where they did and to march where they did.  These are questions, I think, that many people do not even think to ask, but this book and others like it encourage travelers to appreciate the world in which historical armies marched and fought, and that is definitely something to appreciate.  It is likely that the French tourism industry in Northern France is fine with English military tourists as well, or else this would be a much less popular endeavor and there would be much less market for a book like this one.

[1] See, for example:


[2] See, for example:





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We Regret To Inform You That There Is Not Enough Room On The Lifeboat

There are times when seemingly unrelated news stories end up having surprising relevance with each other, and which prompts me to reflect with considerable concern on the repercussions of these convergences on my own life and on the well-being of our world.  Earlier this week, for example, a town in New Jersey passed a law that sought to fine people for using their town’s roads as a bypass.  The law, as one might imagine, caused an intense furor, although its purpose was not to fine motorists so much as force companies like Google Maps and various other traffic routing systems to avoid routing drivers through their town in order to save a few minutes of time on an otherwise horrific commute.  Let us note, because it will be important for us to return to this point, that the town and its leaders were not interested in helping make life easier for the poor suffering drivers of the area but rather wanted to protect their town, wall it off, so to speak, from the brokenness and dysfunctionality of the traffic system as a whole [1].  If this law is allowed to stand and/or if its effects are indeed to allow towns the leeway to reject through traffic seeking to avoid even worse freeways, clearly there will be plenty of other small towns who will likely take a similar course for similar goals.

In a seemingly unrelated story, this week our nation’s president caused an intense furor when he labeled many African nations as well as Haiti with an indecorous term that, as a family blogger, I feel prevented from using.  While he claims he did not precisely use that word, repeatedly, it is easy enough to understand that there are many nations with an excess of refugees whose economic and political systems appear hopelessly broken.  His labeling of Haiti as well as Sub-Saharan Africa would appear to indicate that he is speaking about nations which would be part of the fourth world economically.  These nations are poorly connected to the rest of the world in terms of international trade and often have unrepresentative governments whose corrupt behavior brings continued misery on the part of their people.  Any time one reads a sob story about famines threatening the lives of millions of people or some sort of dreadful outbreak of ordinarily preventable diseases or child soldiers engaging in interminable civil wars, these are the sorts of countries one thinks of.

It is not as if these countries lack natural beauty or that their people are not subject to intense suffering or that their people do not deserve a better fate than the misery of existence in nations that seem to be continually falling further and further behind more developed parts of the world.  These nations are, not surprisingly, the recipients of a great deal of foreign aid and seem to never improve.  They are the beggars seeking the charity of an increasingly cynical world that wants to see results before giving aid.  It should be noted as well that the same societies which are showing increasing unwillingness to underwrite massive aid packages to nations which appear to be broken without remedy or improvement are growing similarly less charitable to the poor and dysfunctional within their own societies, a hardening of the heart to those who are in need and who appear to be unwilling or unable to improve their own conditions.

What makes both of these stories, and many other related ones involving increased hostility towards social nets on the part of embattled elites, so distinctive is the fact that they involve the same approach to intractable problems.  Instead of seeking to solve difficult problems for the well-being of everyone, a conscious choice is being made on the part of those who feel they can wall themselves off from the problems of the world around them to try to cut themselves off from those larger problems and to refuse to allow their own resources or their own places to serve as a refuge for those dealing with larger dysfunction.  Whether we are trying to wall ourselves off from hordes of irritated drivers or from refugees fleeing their impoverished and forsaken homelands, we are signalling to others that we do not feel we have the resources or the interest to deal with the problems of the larger world around us.  We are telling those who are worse off than we are that they cannot depend on us, but only on themselves, and if they cannot manage on their own, their fate is of no concern to us.

In general, this is not a mindset I particularly like.  The savagery of survival of the fittest is not a pleasant thing to one who has a great deal to wonder concerning my own fitness.  The problems of this world and of the people in it are massively complex and difficult to solve, difficult even to cope with, and the fact that those who are doing a bit better than everyone else feel that now is a good time to cut themselves off from the problems of the wider world that appear not to be even in the process of being solved is a sign that, if followed by others, will make this world an increasingly unfriendly place to be.  Rather than being seen as people who suffer and who could use a hand up and some encouragement and education and work, such people are being viewed as an impediment, as if the world would be better off without those whose existence is more of a struggle.  If such a mood continues or intensifies, we can expect life growing a lot more savage for those who come from broken families, or who struggle from physical or mental health issues, or who are old or poor or sick or vulnerable or disabled or young.  Obviously, this is not the sort of world that we want to live in.  How can we better serve as models and workers for a better world and less as selfish and uncaring people who, seeking only to save ourselves, want to keep our lifeboats as safe as possible from the drowning hordes we see all around us in the tempestuous seas of our evil age?

[1] See, for example:







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