Tears Required

Perception. Deception. Human gullibility. Swiss and American marketing equals tears.

In Texas there are many days throughout the seasons where the gusty winds blow around high levels of pollen, cedar, weed, and other allergenic particles. For those with sinus issues or dry eyes, this can make certain days wiping your eyes and nose until you turn into Rudolph the reindeer and other days like you just departed a showing of Old Yeller or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. When you try and speak you sound as if the only orifice functioning is your conflicted retarded mouth that desperately wants more air rather than bellowing out moose mating calls. Mariah the Allergy Queen comes hunting eyes and noses we bawl a song for thee…

Mariah makes the moosy sounds
So folks out here are dyin’
Mariah, O, Mariah
There ain’t no words a lyin’
I’m snotty can’t you see
Please blow my nose for me!

Get the picture?

Time for relief and an immediate trip to the pharmacy and/or grocery store, right? For contact lens wearers like myself, we require specialized eye-drops suitable for our high-tech lenses. It can’t be just any drops. It’s very technical ophthalmology. It is the difference between beautiful soothed eyes or swollen, bloodshot zombie eyes. Despite the urgency for the best correct solution, the selection demands careful decision-making skills.

You enter the store and THIS is what your screaming eyes see and snorty nose sniffles at:

eyecare shelf

Hell or paradise? America loves choices! This is a parade and epitome of American capitalism, marketing, and consumerism at its best. Everything imaginable for what you need and don’t need! They should put up a sign:  Hope you have a full afternoon to READ everything! Thank you for your business!” Aww, the store and product manufacturers want me to stay and spend hours perusing their packaged cornucopia layers. How nice.

But beware! Clever mischief is afoot.

Things are not always as they seem… or presented. On the shelf. Of eye-catching vistas. For your examination, Exhibit A:

Exhibit A

Exhibit A — notice the number of ounces

When searching for a product’s volume, or weight, or item numbers within, for the best buy for your buck, many times (all the time?) a shopper must be equally an expert in forensic sleuthing and a brilliant mathematician in conversions. And this is why, Exhibit B:

Exhibit B

Exhibit B — notice the length of the cap

One particular component of these pictures you cannot detect — because a customer cannot open the box without buying the product first — is the thickness of the plastic bottle compared to the perceived volume for the package/box and height of the bottle. Now, for all this show and pomp and circumstance for an enormously spectacular allergenic eye-relief, here is what 0.5 fluid ounces really looks like:

Exhibit C

Exhibit C — 0.5 fluid ounces next to a U.S. quarter

Now for the price of these eye-relief drops packaged in an oversized box, in a distorted container with a gargantuan cap and thick plastic bottle. Drum roll please… $8.25 to $10.50!

I wonder, what is the breakdown of that price for packaging, containing, for the Swiss parent-company Novartis, and the maker Alcon, let alone the retail store? Do I want to know?

Please hand me the crate of tissues. Here is truly where my tears of pain are required!

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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No More Nation States?

Author, social philosopher, historian, and speaker Roman Krznaric is one of my most favorite writers. I have utilized much of his work in my blog-posts, especially his writing, theories, and organizations promoting a more significant, impactful life with friends, family, coworkers, and community. On Roman’s website he writes an intriguing, thought-provoking article about the modern signs of returning, rising city-states similar to that of 14th – 17th century Renaissance Era”s Venice and Florence, Italy. Are there more advantages than disadvantages to this possible/probable trend?

City-State vs. Nation-state

Britannica.com defines city-state as “a political system consisting of an independent city having sovereignty over contiguous territory and serving as a centre and leader of political, economic, and cultural life.” There is a large consensus that the term does apply to at least three different modern cities:  Singapore, Monaco, and Vatican City. What distinguishes the three city-states comparatively are their higher degrees of sovereign autonomy.

Singapore

Singapore is considered one of the most successful, happiest city-states in the world

A nation-state according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a form of political organization under which a relatively homogeneous people inhabits a sovereign state; especially : a state containing one as opposed to several [ethnicities and] nationalities.” Naming examples of nation-states is not an exact science. It is hotly debated due to the many complexities that make up a nation or a state. Dr. Atul Kohli of Princeton University describes them as “Legitimate states that govern effectively and dynamic industrial economies are widely regarded today as the defining characteristics of a modern nation-state.” Perhaps what differentiates the nation-state from other forms of governing is to what degree it utilizes its complex social, cultural, and economic instruments in unison. Historically these factors morph and change, further fueling contrasting debates. For instance, does a culture of North and South or Confederacy/Union still exist today in the “nation-state” called United States? What does a current approval rating of only 17% for the U.S. Congress indicate?

John Fullerton, founder and president of Capital Institute and contributor to Huffington Post, explains our current nation-states this way:

Ideological rather than pragmatic, a political abstraction that has no grounding in the concrete reality of where and how we live and how life-supporting ecosystems function, the Nation State, together with its political party structure, is not well equipped for today’s most important globally interdependent challenges that cannot be solved through inter-State rivalries where self-interest and might rule the day.

The “City State” predates the Nation State; it endures. Rome is older than Italy, Alexandria is older than Egypt. Cities are expanding as we know. They are already home to more than half the world’s population, and 80% in the developed economies. They are home to 85% of the global economy (and associated greenhouse gas emissions) and much of the evolution of our culture. Like it or not, we have become an increasingly urban species. Visionaries like Jonathan Rose are showing the way to regenerative cities with his timely publication of A Well-Tempered City. At the same time, rural culture, small towns, and life-sustaining rural landscapes, historically understood as essential extensions of the City State, have never been more vital…

Film producer Sharon Chang is optimistic of a more pronounced city-state political, economic, and cultural movement that is more quickly in tune with its citizen’s needs and unleash their ingenuity.

Our political, educational, and industrial systems to date have been designed to operate with constraint rather than abundance. These systems encourage and reward behaviors defined by a zero-sum attitude. Even the most brilliant innovations have been limited within the mindset of arbitrary, war-born lines on centuries-old maps. For some reason, they’re untouchable. We’d never dare to think — let alone color — outside the lines.

[…]

When we put modern industry and technology into a new design of city-state, we cross-pollinate two extremely powerful concepts: exponential growth and diversity. We forge a path of least resistance to true abundance.

In Krznaric’s article The Return of the City State, he cites three contributing factors for the modern rise/need of the city-state. His last and most compelling factor is that nation-states are no longer well-structured for adaptability:

They have failed to deal effectively with issues arising from migration, climate change, wealth inequality and terrorism. This failure partly explains the declining faith in traditional political parties in many countries and in the value of democratic government itself. But it is also behind the rise of cities, which are much more effective at pragmatic problem-solving on issues ranging from flood management to dealing with increasing numbers of refugees.

These are all valid arguments for the removal or reduction of nation-states and the need for a modern return to city-states — that is “valid” in a perfect world of equality, extensive understanding, and overall peace.

300: Rise of an Empire

Fall of Athens, 404 BCE

The Historical Record of City-States

Probably the most notable city-states in history were those of ancient Greece:  Athens, Corinth, Sparta, and Thebes. Others were those of Mesoamerica:  Chichen Itza, Copán, Monte Albán, Tikal, and then the cities, or metropoles, of Renaissance Italy like Florence, Genoa, Milan, Pisa, Venice and several others. Though it can be argued that these cities far outlasted their empires which surrounded them and subjugated them — several are still in existence today — they lacked the natural and human resources to defend themselves against large empires or nation-states. Almost every single historical city-state has fallen to mega-states or empires at least once, in certain cases several times.

If our modern world is to return to forms of city-states, hence allowing freer ingenuity and progress, yet weakening or hollowing out present nation-states, how do we avoid the envious big bullies around the corner or on the next continent? Do we make “unbreakable” alliances with all other progressive city-states around the globe to come quickly to our rescue if Goliath attacks? Is that even possible? Will there ever come a day when all imperialistic-minded, narcissistic megalomaniac males are extinct or psychologically pathologically reprogrammed and their potential gullible (like-minded?) masses or followers redirected?

As a diverse species, are we ready internationally for this sort of change or return to a much more localized form of mercantilism, culture, technology, and governing?

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Civil Responsibility 2016

I pointed to the classroom’s lesson hook on the board, I turned to my 8th graders and repeated the question, “Who has the power to do things in the United States?” I quickly had to add, “LEGALLY do things!

Over the years of teaching Social Studies, there is one answer I consistently get: “THE PRESIDENT!” I remain silent for as long as necessary. Why? For a number of fine reasons, comic relief is one, but mostly to gauge how extensive the class will need to cover U.S. government, and indirectly Texas state government, for the upcoming week or two. However, there is another reason I like to ask the class this hook question. Inevitably parental teaching and influence will surface between the lines of their responses, especially if I allow the students some time and freedom to challenge each other’s answer and explanation. Those opening minutes are not too unlike adult conversations over political issues you catch at town squares or workplace break rooms. Every four years these conversations, sometimes volatile debates, can be exactly the same as those my 8th graders start. 😮

Don Huffines - TX Senator

Senator Huffines reply to me about the absurd injustice of Texas businesses refusing service to any of the LGBT community on religious grounds

If all of you received a quality education in primary school through secondary school and graduated obtaining your diploma, perhaps in the upper half of your senior class or better, or had the fortune to attend four years of undergraduate studies obtaining a bachelor’s degree, then it is reasonable to assume that you know that our U.S. President does NOT have all the power to do things. There is a very good reason… it prevents one person, or one office, organization, branch, from gaining a greedy and/or abusive advantage; in a word: dictatorship. Yet, surprisingly (or not) a significant population of American adults under the age of 50 feel the U.S. President is the sole person responsible for good times and bad times. At the risk of stating the obvious, this political mentality is tragic, let alone harmful for a community’s, a state’s, or a nation’s future.

Critical thinking skills are sometimes (often?) NOT taught to our young children, adolescents, or undergraduates. This is partly due to how much freedom people and institutions are indeed given, e.g. the above image and response letter from Don Huffines, my Texas Senator, regarding the rights of business owners to refuse all services to gays-lesbians-transgendered whomever they choose. Another reason critical thinking skills are not taught or tested in primary and secondary schools is that until recently Common Core Standards in education did not exist 10-20 years ago. Thus, a generation of un-ingenious or unimaginative followers were raised. Today, 43 states have fortunately adopted Common Core Standards teaching critical thinking skills to young minds. But that is only in public education. It does not reflect the ever-increasing popularity in some states for charter or private schools, much less the home-schooling sector.

Following is a good 3-minute video about these skills and how ProCon.org promotes them in non-partisan fashion.

As I alluded to in my previous post, I have very little time at the moment to write in-depth 3,000 – 7,000 word posts on such MONUMENTAL subjects as voting and other civil responsibilities during campaign years, primaries, elections — and elections of public officers who APPOINT other officers or judges into positions of great power the general population will have no direct say in their placing — and how these officials will affect millions of citizens for years to follow. Knowing how your candidate might “appoint” other officials, collaborate with other officials, or remain consistent to their campaign positions and promises are just as crucial as your here-n-gone single vote for him or her! I feel this is a subject, a blog-post that is important enough to pause my hectic life for a few hours and share in a small way how paramount civil responsibility is to each of us… including your own children’s and grandchildren’s futures and how to make changes, improvements, even though they may be slow and gradual.

Therefore, if you would like to get a broad introduction into how to be a more informed wiser voter, I’ll recommend my post Oversimplification 2012 and its 4-part series as a starting point. However, if you’d prefer the abbreviated more shallow introduction — i.e. the version(s) many American voters prefer or only have time for — then continue reading. If you barely had time to read this far, then I beg you to try and at least watch completely the below video. It could cause you to reconsider your voting and political tendencies regarding our privileged, important, and free (or costly?) civil right to vote that each of us are gifted. Voting, and voting wisely, as well as freely, should never be ignored or taken lightly.

So many political issues and controversy are rooted in economics; its healthy or unhealthy status. This is partly why I chose Joseph Stiglitz’s video and commentary over his new book, The Great Divide. Also because he is a Nobel Prize winner in Economics and has loads of wisdom to impart!

I hope this very brief post has helped you and other voters to be a bit more informed, but informed in more objective broader ways. Please get or remain very involved in your community’s, your county’s, your municipal’s, your state’s, and your federal elections. Correspond with your elected officials frequently. Vote and vote wisely, and just as important, vote for a greater good for the greatest number!

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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