Sunday, February 23, 2014

The problem of inequality - Some thoughts by Friedrich Hayek

If you haven't noticed, one of the main goals of the Obama administration is the redistribution of wealth and equalization of income between the wealthy and the poor. This is not speculation. During the last campaign the White House authenticated a tape of the president previously promoting redistribution and only recently he has announced equalization as a major goal. His raising of the minimum wage for federal workers is precisely a move in that direction.

Certainly the goal is a noble one, born of not only sympathy for those less fortunate and perhaps even desperate. We find this throughout history. Solon, deemed one of the wisest, if not the wisest man of ancient Greece, certainly tried. It is a basis of many economic philosophies, including for centuries the Catholic Church (and before that the primitive church). It is the preeminent goal of Marxism, socialism, Jacobinism, collectivists, levelers and all like -isms. It is certainly one of the goals of modern progressivism or liberalism.

It should not be thought that these political movements or philosophies of the left have an end game different than most of those on the right. They often want the same things but have different views of how to get there. Libertarianism sometimes seems associated with the right or the left, depending on the issue. Certainly the libertarianism to which I claim to lean does not associate itself with either the right or the left, although the thinker I am considering today certainly seemed more opposed to the left, particularly socialism, while also eschewing the right as well as being dedicated to conserving while at the same time, in reality, being just a slower form of progressivism. For Friedrich Hayek, to whom I have referred many times in this blog, conservatism is necessary to slow many of the worst aspects of socialism, but is no answer itself.

I have read Hayek as close as my free time has permitted, in fact, transcribing hundreds of pages of his works word for word and reading others. Many people who know of him are familiar with only one book, The Road to Serfdom (TRTS), which is a political, not an economic or scientific tract, as are many of Hayek's work. I say familiar because I doubt many who have picked it up have actually read it.  Others know him from a video pitting an avatar of him in a rap battle against his economic nemesis (but, to some degree, friend), the far more famous and successful, John Keynes. TRTS is an excellent, if boring to read, book. TRTS is far from my favorite or, in my opinion, the most valuable of his works, from which comes the best explanation of capitalism, liberty and politics that I have ever read. The award would go to his Constitution of Liberty (COL), a much larger work where he goes much deeper in explaining the reasons for his beliefs. It is a deeply scholarly work. He is certainly not the only one to write on what we call libertarianism (he did not like the word, but preferred classical liberalism).

I find that many commentators who write about him do not understand him and associate him with Ayn Rand or other more "strict" libertarians (she didn't really prefer that title either - her philosophy was called Objectivism). But, though there are more similarities than differences, certainly those differences do exist.

I am not going to even begin to attempt in the little space I give myself here to make any attempt at a comprehensive explanation of Hayek or differentiate him from anyone else. But, I would like to delve into COL and transmit some of his thoughts on the necessity of their being different economic success. That too cannot be comprehensive, and the best thing I can do is encourage others to get a copy and read it slowly themselves. I don't expect that, but I will recommend it and it is the point of quoting him here. In reading Hayek, I was constantly amazed how his thoughts seemed timeless, as appropriate to historic periods as they are to modern times. I found that true in the selections I chose below. I plan on going back to him several times for the next few months on related topics. But, this selection should suffice for now.

The following is edited, that is, sentences plucked out of paragraphs, and often broken up with ellipses where I thought necessary in order to try to use his words to make a somewhat pithier explanation. I will, just to help a little, give a one short paragraph synopsis first:

It is necessary and better for poor people and nations that other people and nations are economically superior to them; this is the way the world progresses. To artificially stop it through coercion - directly by physical force or indirectly by law, not only impedes the natural progress and success of man in general, but particularly those who are poorer. I'll let him do the rest to explain why many people want Obama to "fail." Because, in order for us to succeed, and that includes those of whom he is most concerned, he must.

*****

Not all that is the result of the historical development of the West can or should be transplanted to other cultural foundation; and whatever kind of civilization will in the end emerge in those parts under Western influence may sooner take appropriate forms if allowed to grow rather than if it is imposed from above.

[O]ur freedom is threatened in many fields because of the fact that we are much too ready to leave the decision to the expert or to accept too uncritically his opinion about a problem of which he knows intimately only one little aspect. . . .

[I]f we want to convince those who do not already share our moral suppositions, we must not simply take them for granted. We must show that liberty is not merely one particular value but that it is the source and condition of most moral values.

Liberty in practice depends on very prosaic matters, and those anxious to preserve it must prove their devotion by their attention to the mundane concerns of public life and by the efforts they are prepared to give to the understanding of issues that the idealist is often inclined to treat as common, if not sordid.

Th[e] confusion of liberty as power with liberty in its original meaning inevitably leads to the identification of liberty with wealth, and this makes it possible to exploit all the appeal which the word “liberty” carries in the support for a demand for the redistribution of wealth. Yet, though freedom and wealth are both good things which most of us desire and though we often need both to obtain what we wish, they still remain different.

Above all, however, we must recognize that we may be free and yet miserable. Liberty does not mean all good things or the absence of all evils.

By “coercion” we mean such control of the environment or circumstances of a person by another that, in order to avoid greater evil, he is forced to act not according to a coherent plan of his own but to serve the ends of another. . . .

Coercion . . . cannot be altogether avoided because the only way to prevent it is by the threat of coercion. Free society has met this problem by conferring the monopoly of coercion the state and by attempting to limit this power of the state to instances where it is required to prevent coercion by private persons.  

The Socratic maxim that the recognition of our ignorance is the beginning of wisdom has profound significance for out understanding of society. . . It might be said that civilization begins when the individual in pursuit of his ends can make use of more knowledge than he has himself acquired and when he can transcend the boundaries of his ignorance by profiting from knowledge he does not himself possess.

Many of the utopian constructions are worthless because they follow the lead of the theorists in assuming that we have perfect knowledge.

In a sense it is true, of course, that man has made his civilization. This does not mean, however, that civilization is the product of human design, or even that man knows what its functioning or continued existence depends upon.

If we are to advance, we must leave room for a continuous revision of our present conceptions and ideals which will be necessitated by further experience. We are as little able to conceive what civilization will be, or can be, five hundred or even fifty years hence as our medieval forefathers or even our grandparents were able to foresee our manner of life today.

The scientific methods of the search for knowledge are not capable of satisfying all society’s needs for explicit knowledge. Not all the knowledge of the ever changing particular facts that man continually uses lends itself to organization or systematic exposition; much of it exists only dispersed among countless individuals.

The more men know, the smaller the share of all that knowledge becomes that any one mind can absorb.

Liberty is essential in order to leave room for the unforeseeable and unpredictable; we want it because we have learned to expect from it the opportunity of realizing many of our aims.

Humiliating to human pride as it may be, we must recognize that the advance and even the preservation of civilization are dependent upon a maximum of opportunity for accidents to happen.

Man learns by the disappointment of expectations. Needless to say, we ought not to increase the unpredictability of events by foolish human institutions. So far as possible, our aim should be to improve human institutions so as to increase the chances of correct foresight. Above all, however, we should provide the maximum of opportunity for unknown individuals to learn of facts that we ourselves are yet unaware of and to make use of this knowledge in their actions.

The argument for the freedom of some therefore applies to the freedom of all. But it is still better for all that some should be free than none and also that many enjoy full freedom than that all have a restricted freedom.

Freedom of action, even in humble things, is as important as freedom thought. . . .

It is a fact which we must recognize that even what we regard as good or beautiful is changeable—if not in any recognizable manner that would entitle us to take a relativistic position, then in the sense that in many respects we do not know what will appear as good or beautiful to another generation.

It is, of course, a mistake to believe that we can draw conclusions about what our values ought to be simply because we realize that they are a product of evolution. But we by the same evolutionary forces that have produced our intelligence. All that we can know is that the ultimate decision about what is good or bad will be made not by individual human wisdom by individual human wisdom by the decline of the groups that have adhered to the “wrong” beliefs.

At most, we understand only partially whey the values we hold or the ethical rules we observe are conducive to the continued existence of society. Nor can we be sure that under constantly changing conditions all the rules that have proved to be conducive to the attainment of a certain end will remain so. Though there is a presumption any established social standard contributes in some manner to the preservation of civilization, our only way of confirming this is to ascertain whether it continues to prove itself in competition with other standards observed by other individuals or groups.

[C]ompetition on which the process of selection rests must be understood in the widest sense. It involves competition between organized and unorganized groups no less than competition between individuals. . . The endeavor to achieve certain results by co-operation and organization is as much a part  of competition as individual efforts. . . It is only when . . . exclusive rights are conferred on the presumption of superior knowledge of particular individuals or groups that the process ceases to be experimental and beliefs that happen to prevalent at a given time may become an obstacle to the advancement of knowledge.

The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful means that human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from trying to do better. . . To turn the whole or society into a single organization built and directed according to a single plan would be to extinguish the very forces that shaped the individual human minds that planned it.

The rationalist who desires to subject everything to human reason is thus faced with a real dilemma. The use of reason aims at control and predictability. But the process of the advance of reason rests on freedom and the unpredictability of human action. Those who extol the powers of human reason usually see only one side of that interaction of human thought and conduct in which reason is at the same time used and shaped. They do not see that, for advance to take place, the social process from which the growth of reason emerges must remain free from its control.

If it is true that evolution does not always lead to better things, it is also true that, without the forces which produce it, civilization and all we value—indeed, almost all that distinguishes man from beast—would neither exist nor could long be maintained.

It is not in this sense that social evolution can be called progress, for it is not achieved by human reason striving by known means toward a fixed aim. It would be more correct to think of progress as a process of formation and modification of the human intellect, a process of adaptation and learning in which not only the possibilities known to us but also our values and desires continually change. As progress consists in the discovery of the not yet known, its consequences must be unpredictable. It always leads into the unknown, and the most we can expect is to gain an understanding of the kind of forces that bring it about. . . Human reason can neither predict nor deliberately shape its own future. Its advances consist in finding out where it has been wrong.

Even in the field where the search for new knowledge is most deliberate, i.e., in science, no man can predict what will be the consequences of his work. . . It is knowing what we have not known before that makes us wiser men.

But often it also makes us sadder men. Though progress consists in part in achieving things we have been striving for, this does not mean that we shall like all its results or that all will be gainers. And since our wishes and aims are also subject to change in the course of the process, it is questionable whether the statement has a clear meaning that the new state of affairs that progress creates is a better one. . . The question whether, if we had to stop at our present stage of development, we would in any significant sense be better off or happier than if we had stopped a hundred or a thousand years ago is probably unanswerable.

There can therefore be little doubt that Adam Smith was right when he said: “It is in the progressive state, while society is advancing to the further acquisition, rather than when it has acquired its full complement of riches, that the condition of the labouring poor, of the great body of people, seems to be happiest and the most comfortable. It is hard in the stationary, and miserable in the declining state.

[N]ew knowledge and its benefits can spread only gradually, and the ambitions of the many will always be determined by what is as yet accessible only to the few. It is misleading to think of those new possibilities as if they were, from the beginning, a common possession of society which its members could deliberately share; they become a common possession only through that slow process by which the achievements of the few are made available to the many. This is often obscured by the exaggerated attention usually given to a few conspicuous major steps in the development. But, more often than not, major discoveries merely open new vistas, and long further efforts are necessary before the new knowledge that has sprung up somewhere can be put to general use. It will have to pass through a long course of adaptation, selection, combination, and improvement before full use can be made of it. This means that there will always be people who already benefit from new achievements that have not yet reached others.

Progress at such a fast rate cannot proceed on a uniform front but must take place in echelon fashion, with some far ahead of the rest. The reason for this is concealed by our habit of regarding economic progress chiefly as an accumulation of ever greater quantities of goods and equipment. But the rise of our standard of life is due at least as much to an increase in knowledge which enables us not merely to consume more of the same things but to use different things, and often things we not even know before.

[T]he new things will often become available to the greater part of the people only because for some time they have been the luxuries of the few.

A large part of the expenditure of the rich, though not intended for that end, thus serves to defray the cost of the experimentation with the new things that, as a result, can later be made available to the poor.

Even the poorest today owe their relative material well-being to the results of past inequality.

The contention that in any phase of progress the rich, by experimenting with new styles of living not yet accessible to the poor, perform a necessary service without which the advance of the poor would be very much slower will appear to some as a piece of farfetched and cynical apologetics. Yet . . . that is fully valid and . . . a socialist society would in this respect have to imitate a free society. It would be necessary in a planned economy (unless it could simply imitate the example of other more advanced societies) to designate individuals whose duty it would be to try out the latest advances long before they were made available to the rest.

In the long run, the existence of groups ahead of the rest is clearly an advantage to those who are behind, in the same way that , if we could suddenly draw on the more advanced knowledge which some other men on a previously unknown continent or on another planet had gained under more favorable conditions, we would all profit greatly.

[E]ven countries or groups which do not possess freedom can profit from many of its fruits is one the reasons why the importance of freedom is not better understood.

At any given moment we could improve the positions of the poorest by giving them what we took from the wealthy. But while such an equalizing of the positions in the column of progress would temporarily quicken the closing-up of the ranks, it would, before long, slow down the movement of the whole and in the long run held back those in the rear.

The individual does not have it in his power to choose to take part in progress or not; and always it not only brings new opportunities but deprives many of much they want, much that is dear and important to them. To some it may be sheer tragedy, and to all those who would prefer to live on the fruits of past progress and not take part in its future course, it may seem a curse rather than a blessing.

The changes to which such people must submit are part of the cost of progress, an illustration of the fact that not only the mass of men but, strictly speaking, every human being is led by the growth of civilization into a path that is not of his own choosing. If the majority were asked their opinion of all the changes involved in progress, they would probably want to prevent many of its necessary conditions and consequences and thus ultimately stop progress itself. . . This does not mean, however, that the achievement of most things men actually want does not depend on the continuance of that progress which, if they could, they would probably stop by preventing the effects which do not meet with their immediate approval.

Regardless of whether from some higher point of view our civilization is really better or not, we must recognize that its material results are demanded by practically all who have come know them. Those people may not wish to adopt our entire civilization, but they certainly want to be able to pick and choose from it whatever suits them.  We may regret, but cannot disregard, the fact that even where different civilizations are still preserved and dominate the lives of the majority, the leadership has fallen almost invariably into the hands of those who have gone furthest in adopting the knowledge and technology of Western civilization.

At some future date . . .we may again have it in our power to choose whether or not we want to go ahead at such a rate. But, at this moment, when the greater part of mankind has only just awakened to the possibility of abolishing starvation, filth, and disease; when it has just been touched by the expanding wave of modern technology after centuries of millennia of relative stability; and as first reaction has begun to increase in number at a frightening rate, even a small decline in our rate of advance might be fatal to us.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's about forgiveness

            I do spend a lot of time thinking about things like ethics, psychology, philosophy, blah, blah, blah. Always have. This week a few conversations, a few things read, led to this post about forgiveness:

            A week or so I was tuned in to Dylan Farrow's molestation accusations about Woody Allen. She had written an open letter about him, which a New York Times' columnist posted in his own blog, explaining that while they are considering what Woody Allen movie is their favorite, they should consider what he did to her. She then explains in detail her story of being molested in an attic and I think other places, and how he ruined her life. It was pretty moving. Naturally, he is suspect to some people because he picked up with Mia's adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, who he married (and is still married to).  I read the online comments and wrote one saying basically, well, we will never know and that is just the way it is. People you might think would never do anything wrong, can be molesters and people you would think would never so passionately falsely accuse someone else, can and do.  It would be nice to be able to know, but the most we can do is have beliefs and form opinions.

            Some time later I read Woody's response, which was also pretty moving. He described an ordeal of being accused of molestation in his 50s during a bitter divorce and custody battle with Mia. He describes how at first 7 year old Dylan was taken by Mia to the doctor, but denied anything happened, only to change her mind after being taken out by her mother for ice cream; how he passed a lie detector test and Mia refused to take one; how the official investigation led to a conclusion that he did not molest her and that likely the reason Dylan claimed it had happened was either due to her imagination or her mother's influence; how a friend of Mia's has told the press that Mia asked her to lie and say she was under-aged when Woody dated her; quoted their other son Moses saying “My mother drummed it into me to hate my father for tearing apart the family and sexually molesting my sister” and “Of course Woody did not molest my sister. She loved him and looked forward to seeing him when he would visit. She never hid from him until our mother succeeded in creating the atmosphere of fear and hate towards him,” and how he now has a relationship with the adult Moses; that Mia allowed her image to be used in an award celebration for Woody after she had accused him of molestation (why would she do it if true), and other facts - presuming he is giving it accurately (he would be slaughtered by the press if he doesn't) concluding that Mia cannot be believed at all, nor, sadly, Dylan, who he thinks believes what she says. While I was reading Woody's reply I remembered that this was actually my impression when it all went down.  

            Still, then and now I still say we will never know for sure.  Woody actually complained about the judge in his case (I believe the custody case) saying the same thing, as he felt all the facts showed it hadn't happened and their is no valid dispute.  He knows what happened because he was there.  Mia may know, although it is always possible, if it is not true, that she talked herself into it. Dylan may know, but she might not either.  I personally know people who have described childhood molestation to me and I didn't believe it, while admitting that I cannot know that either.   

            Of course, sometimes you can know. About 24 years ago there was a murder on Long Island of a young girl. Her neighbor, barely a man himself, was arrested and prosecuted. It was the first time in NY where a murder conviction was obtained with forensic evidence. However, I watched most of the trial and was appalled by the lack of professionalism and downright bad science that was used. In fact, the prosecutor used a so-called tooth bite expert, whose testimony was just ridiculous - years later it was determined he was a fraud (I thought it pretty obvious). But, the defendant seemed like the natural suspect based on his age, lack of a girlfriend and steroid use. The media was grossly biased against him. After watching the trial I realized the terrible dilemma that I would have if on the jury. I didn't think the prosecution proved their case. But, he did seem to be the likely one. I would have acquitted and wondered my whole life.

            Well, that is what I thought for all these years. And I always nursed a hope that someday he would admit it, so that everyone could know for sure. Then, a few months ago, the convicted defendant, in an effort to win probation, admitted it. I was overjoyed. Now, if only O.J. would do the same.

            Woody claims he does not hold it against Dylan at all, but his efforts to reach out to her now that she is an adult have been rebuffed.  She was a child when this went down and he does not doubt she believes it. I imagine that makes forgiveness easier.

            Anyway, at the same time as I was reading Woody's response I was getting emails from a friend who likes to send me quotes. Usually it is one a day, and they vary in message, but that day he was on a tear.  A couple of them were about people disappointing you. One of them I am almost positive he just wrote himself - "Expect the people of the 21st Century to be greedy, selfish and self-centered; it helps you from ever being disappointed because you have no expectations and you will remain vigilant to never help those who only call you when they need something and lose your number when they don’t."  Sounds a little like Paul Simon's I am a rock, I am an island, but not so lyrical.

            I'm pretty used to some friends only calling me when they need me. It has happened many times. But, I don't really mind that much. I've even told some who made a habit of it that it is okay just to say, I need you, but maybe we can talk a little anyway. I do remember that once, with one friend in particular, it got a little much. She would email me for legal advice, but would not even return calls anymore (not just from me, but anyone we knew). I emailed back that I wouldn't unless she told me at least one personal thing about herself. She did, but, it didn't really change anything. And it was probably the last time I heard from her.

             I didn't ask my friend who sent the quotes what happened that made him write that to me. He would have told me if he had wanted to, but you could read the frustration, maybe anger, in it.  I sent back two quotes from my own tiny collection (yes, I collect quotes, which, ironically, I write just as there is an advertisement on tv for a show called King of the Nerds; I think I've even written a post about them once). I was trying to be helpful. I'm hoping one day he quotes them back to me without realizing I sent them to him in the first place. At least I could know that it had some effect on him.
            
             The first quote was from Viktor E. Frankl, who wrote a wonderful book called Man's Search for Meaning. I read it a long time ago, but there were two quotes from it that I loved, one of which is pertinent: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

            But when we say that we want to have a good attitude, we usually mean we are going to try and stay balanced when things we don't like are happening. That's what my friend meant when he was chagrined about his friends disappointing him and it is what I think we all mean when we say to  others, try to have a good attitude or words to that effect.

            Frankl might know a thing or two about forgiveness. He was a holocaust survivor. It's hard to imagine anything more terrifying and which would test someone's ability to forgive. Though he was allowed to practice as a doctor for some time while a prisoner, and survived, he lost his wife and almost his entire immediate family - all but one sister who had emigrated. Nevertheless, he was able to later write about his experience in a remarkably uplifting book with real insight. I was not all that keen on his psychological system -- at one time a very respected one - called logotherapy. He professed that crisis was important in learning values and that these values provide a meaning to the existence in life. I find most humanistic theories about almost any topic have their good points, but break down when put under a sharp light. His just seemed unrealistic to me and perhaps too biographically attached to his own life. But, what did attract me to him was his attitude and his ability to forgive, which seemed enormous, given what he had suffered. He is no longer a household name, in fact he wasn't when I discovered him decades ago (he died in 1997) but you can find plenty about him online.

            The other quote I sent my friend was a poem by Mother Teresa, which I first received from a cousin of mine. Leave aside the God reference at the end, the thoughts mirrored many of my own and I stuck it in my collection.

"People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway."

            I could write that shorter. "People suck sometimes. Try and have a good attitude about it," but I like the way she said it better.

            I'm not going to analyze these two further. I think they are pretty clear. I tried to transmit some values to my daughter when she was growing up, among them trying to have a good attitude and trying to treat others better than they treat you, despite all the disappointments in the way people react to you. The fact that it seems like she got it, is among the things I'm proudest of in my life (realizing, of course, that I have to hope I had something to do with it). Nowadays, she probably lives it better than I do. Of course, you always do them very imperfectly, and sometimes one or more completely drops off the radar. As I get older, I notice it gets harder. At some point you start thinking - I just don't want to bother with it anymore. It is not a matter of shrinking values. It's a matter of satiation.

            I'm not claiming any meditative harmony or perfect stoic calm. I've heard so many times in my life from other people that nothing seems to bother me. That's ridiculous. Of course things bother me. But, I can't tell you how many times insisting to myself that I have a good attitude about something, including letting insults and hubris roll off my back, has helped me immensely. I had better take that approach, anyway. I'm not the most orthodox guy and that makes you a bit of a target for criticism.

            But, life isn't about not having problems, it's about dealing with the ones you have. I've quoted Gandalf a number of times to the same point when Frodo complained that he wished the rise of Sauron had not happened in his time. Gandalf replied: "'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'"

            Knowing it is for us to decide what to do with the time given us just raises a big question and provides no answers. Everything else we are in life has to provide them. A "good attitude" (entirely subjective, of course) and tendency towards forgiveness doesn't hurt. If you don't have that, you get bogged down in a lot of stuff that just isn't fun. And you become less fun.

            I have never been tested as Frankl was. When I think of what people like him have gone through I feel ashamed I have ever complained at all. But, in most of our lives (probably everyone) we do go through periods where we are disappointed by people and sometimes feel betrayed and overlooked. I recall, as if yesterday, when I was undergoing the biggest sense of betrayal in my life, hearing the song "The Heart of the Matter," by the Eagles' Don Henley for the first time. In particular, some lines stood out to me -

"I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore"

            I like some music well enough, but have no talent for it - can't sing, dance or play an instrument, and this was the only time in my life that I remember music actually helping me. I played that song over and over again, probably hundreds of times in just a few weeks until I knew every word (that took a while too as I have little ability to remember the lyrics to even my favorite songs). Writing this, I popped online and played it. Amazing how a song can bring back old feelings - instantly.

            It wasn't a magic pill, of course, but it did help get me to get where I wanted to be over the course of a few months. I did not want to be stuck in feeling hate or other negative emotions and I had to work at it as you can't just wish or reason grief away. There are things I know help me forgive and I'm sure can help others forgive too. Time may be the most essential element. And time takes time. Of course, an apology or some recognition of responsibility by the other person helps enormously, but you can't always get it. Often the situation has nothing to do with you, but almost completely with the other person, and it is hard for them to see it. Other times, they want to, but just can't do it. I have had subtle apologies made to me, some which I didn't even expect or need, but I knew it helped the other person and was the best they were capable of doing. There has to be some recognition that perhaps we are wrong and they are right. But, tautology though it be, when we don't see it, we don't see it and emotionally there is no difference in the two.

            I am generally speaking, much more an Adlerian than a Freudian, Jungian or Franklian, though I think they all made contributions. Sometimes when someone says something about me I don't appreciate or judges me in a way I'd rather not be judged, I feel bad about it. It is natural to want others to like us and even to admire us -- certainly not think little of us. But, most often, when I really think about it, I recognize that it is more about that person's insecurity or need to feel admired or liked or vindicated themselves and I try and approach it that way. People think that I am wrong about a lot of things. If you aren't the type to bow to all conventional thinking when it doesn't suit you (I always maintain that I acquiesce to 99% of life's conventions, but the other 1% drives people crazy) that is going to happen a lot and I am very used to it. But, people don't often like to rely just on their reason to win an argument (even if they are the only one who knows there is an argument). They gild the lily and often that is done by making up stuff that isn't true. It is the combination of it that finds its way into so many disputes, including legal ones, that especially galls people and makes them intractable. It certainly doesn't make me smile.

            Most of the few times in my life where I learned of friends talking behind my back (because other friends came running to me) I chose to deal with it by having a pleasant conversation about something else with the person involved and only at the end mentioning it by saying something like, it is no big deal, and we don't need to discuss it, but, just don't want you to be in position of confiding to others things that turn out not to be true and having other people dislike you for it. You can do this in a positive way - though when I see it in writing now I wonder how - but it very much seemed to work. A couple of years or so ago I learned from a large number of friends that someone I was close to was repeatedly stating things about me that were not just his opinion (which is fine), but which were factually untrue. Not only that, it appeared to have taken hold and it became the common belief among many people I knew.  Part of it I knew was my fault. I'm very quick to tell people things about myself that are less than impressive (just read my blog) and often reluctant to defend myself. Honestly, I don't know why I do that as I can't see a moral reason for it. Maybe I've read too much philosophy and it's a stoic influence. There are times I have even been mad at myself just for caving and beginning to defend myself.  But, I also knew my friend and believed strongly that it wasn't malicious. Some people, and I know quite a few, tend to believe things they want to or even fear to be the case - as the actual fact. The last time I heard from someone else what he had said about me that was untrue I did get angry for about two hours. But, I got over it, recognizing it had more to do with him than me. We spoke about it once and I said what I thought plainly, but not with any venom. I didn't ask him to stop. I just said I know and joked that he was busted.  Did it help? It helped me. I don't carry any anger about it. Did it get him to stop? Maybe.

            I don't admire all forgiveness. Things which are done out of venality, spite, for economic gain, out of anger, etc., can rise to a level where it is not necessary to forgive absent some kind of apology or even an act of contrition or recompense. There have been a few times in life I have insisted on it. And sometimes, like with murder or other heinous acts, almost any forgiveness seems impossible - though there are some who can do it. I don't know how Frankl forgave, though I presume he did it for himself and by focusing on the stresses of those who persecuted him or sat silent while it occurred. And, I'm sure it helped him. A good attitude and ability to forgive is worth more than Fort Knox.

            Here's my cheat sheet for forgiveness and getting over unpleasant things:

            Take your time. Time does heal all wounds (at least almost every one). You don't see feeling  better coming, but only in the rear view mirror.

            Ask yourself what in the other person's life might cause them to behave the way they did? It is probably more about them then you. Often, all about them.

            Vent - I find there is more anxiety among people I know because of their shame in discussing something that hurts them or embarrasses them. Confession is good for the soul, because it takes a lot of work to keep a secret - and the emotion comes out anyway, often in non-productive ways.

            Confront - I mean, verbally - and it doesn't have to be aggressive at all, though that may be   the other person's reaction, especially if the other person feels they may have been wrong. In my experience, lack of communication is the biggest reason for most conflicts.

             If possible ask for acknowledgment of the bad act, not an apology. If there is acknowledgement, apology will usually come on its heels.

             Recognize that we forgive not just - maybe mostly not - for the other person, but because it helps us to do so.

             Nothing on that list should be taken to mean we must always forgive or something is wrong with us. We are just better off if we can.  Nothing means that just because we forgive we need to associate or deal with someone anymore - they are two different things.

              Mostly, if you've gotten this far, forgive me for the length of this evalovin' post. I do go on.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Super Bowlllll!!!!!!

Been overdosing on football here, but it is Super Bowl today and why not end the year with a bang before I go into post football mourning.

These are predictions, but the type that would surprise me zero if none come true.

1) I've already said why I believe Seattle will win by a bit, probably less than a score.

2) If Denver has a last chance to win and throws the ball up, Richard Sherman will again make the big play (interception?) to end the game.

3) If Denver wins, it will largely be due to the efforts of Knowshon Moreno, who gets little credit as opposed to his Seattle counterpart - Marshawn Lynch.

4). If either Nnowshon or Marshawn performs very well, an unusual number of just born children will bear their name in the next year.

So much for predictions -

Who are the unsung heroes this year? In my mind it was Denver's line, who protected Manning as well as any line I ever remember protecting any quarterback. Without taking anything away from his own abilities, his record blasting season is in good part due to them - as he well knows and says.

By the way, I blasted (in an online comment I seriously doubt he read) a well known sports columnist for saying Peyton was less than a sweetheart and intimating he was the central, if not only reason, for a sex discrimination lawsuit while at college. I don't know Peyton personally, of course, and can only go by his publicity and what others say, but apparently he mooned a trainer that wasn't very popular as a gag when still in school. But, she sued the college too over a number of issues and that was only one. He did not settle with her  but the school did (although there was a later slander suit by her against him of which we really don't know what happened). All I see is an apparently good guy who did something dumb while just a stupid college kid. I don't care if the columnist (who I am not dignifying by using his name) mentions it, but you shouldn't just hit and run like that - say enough so people don't think he molested her, for goodness sakes.  And remember, I'm a Brady fan.

Looking forward to a great game.
 

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .