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  • March 24, 2020

    MOTHER NATURE IS A BITCH

    NOT OUR PAL — Picture by Mysty Baker inworld on Foter.com / CC BY

    Everybody thinks of Mother Nature as this wonderful symbol of sunshine and flowers, and she truly is that. But there’s another side to Mother Nature. She is also a pragmatic and remorseless bitch.

    Her job is to keep things in balance.

    It isn’t always spring time and summer, when the grass is thick and tall and the days are long and lazy. There are the fall and the winter, when the grass turns brown, the trees lose their leaves, the young and sickly die, and the old and lame starve.

    It’s all part of nature’s plan.

    Humans tend to overlook that dark side of Mother Nature because they are locked up all snug and warm, sitting in front of a blazing fire reading a book or laid back on the couch watching the big game on TV. Nobody at the top of the food chain is thinking about all the cold and hungry creatures shivering out in the rain and the snow.

    Because of our big brains, opposable thumbs, and gift of language, we have become immune to annual nature balancing devices such as winter. So our population keeps growing and growing and growing.

    Thomas Robert Malthus warned back in 1798 that when times are good and food abundant, people tend to have more children. The more people there are, the less food available per person, leading ultimately to sickness and famine when food production falls.

    Human nature drives people to have multiple babies rather than live within the limits of the planet.

    Some people point to the world today as proof that Malthus’ theory was incorrect.

    The human population of the world has exploded – especially during the past century –because of better agricultural practices and the conquering of diseases that used to kill the lame and the weak. But there are still limits.

    In addition to being creatures that are driven to reproduce, we are also warlike in our manner. We didn’t get to the top of the food chain by being nice guys.

    And with modern technology, we are ever more efficient in eliminating people with whom we disagree. The massacre of ethnic minorities in Africa and Asia; the extermination of Jews, other minorities, and dissidents in Germany, Russia, China, and Asia; the aerial bombing of entire cities that killed millions of civilians.

    And yet, scientists keep finding ways to keep us alive despite our baser nature. They are out on the front lines, tracking down diseases and developing new medical defenses as microbes evolve immunities to current medications.

    That’s when Mother Nature strikes again. Those microbes are some of her creatures too. And sometimes they win.

    Meanwhile, try not to be a victim of Mother Nature. This is the time for everybody to hunker down and take care of each other. We all need to take advantage of our big brains. Even if you’re weak, try not to be stupid.

    Mother Nature doesn’t like stupid.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have an opinion on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • March 17, 2020

    A CHANCE TO CHANGE YOUR PATH

    A VIRAL OPPORTUNITY

    So here you are. The business where you work has been shut down for an extended period by the Corona Virus and you’re stuck at home drinking Corona Beer and waiting an unspecified time for the “all clear” that will allow you to resume your life.

    You watch old reruns on TV or endless movies on Netflix and Amazon. You read trashy books and listen to music. You go online to text and call friends and commiserate about your forced timeout from life.

    Which is exactly what almost everybody else in your circumstance is going to be doing.

    But there is another choice. This is also a time when you can sit down, maybe with a pad and a pencil, and figure out exactly what you want for the rest of your life.

    I was a business reporter at a newspaper years ago, and on at least three occasions I interviewed successful businessmen with similar stories. Their big break came when they lost their jobs because of downsizing, or contracts ending, or the company they worked for going bankrupt.

    The bad thing turned into an opportunity because it gave them a chance to step back, examine what they were doing in life, and go forward in another direction. In every case it took planning and research and guts to do what they did, but it made their lives better.

    I understand that it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes people try something new and fall flat on their face. But at least they tried.

    You’re stuck at home anyway. It’s either an opportunity or a hardship.

    The choice is yours.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have an opinion on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • March 6, 2020

    ARE YOU A HEDGEHOG OR A FOX?

    HEDGEHOG OR FOX

    Are you a hedgehog or are you a fox? How about Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton? How about your pals? Or your mate?

    Philosopher-professor Isaiah Berlin came up with the Hedgehog-Fox concept among friends in the late 1930s, before using it in lectures and essays in the early 1950s. According to the theory, a hedgehog believes in one big truth that governs life and the world, while a fox believes in many smaller truths.

    A hedgehog would be someone who will do whatever is necessary to force others into his or her idea of the one big truth. Examples might include Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. A fox would be someone who believes in many smaller truths – some of which may be contradictory and self-serving, according to the given circumstance. Perhaps folks such as Al Capone, Harvey Weinstein, or Casey Anthony.

    In real life, foxes believe that the world is too complex to know everything; hedgehogs are on a quest for the one elusive truth that explains it all.

    It should come as no surprise that foxes tend to be happier than hedgehogs.

    Like most such antonymic comparisons – winners and losers, givers and takers, heroes and cowards – the hedgehog and fox comparison can be valuable as a broad way of looking at people and understanding them. Pushed to the limits, however, it quickly breaks down, something that Berlin was quick to acknowledge.

    “For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system, less or more coherent or articulate … and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory … related to no moral or aesthetic principle,” Berlin wrote.

    That’s because few people are pure hedgehogs or pure foxes. Most of us, fortunately, fall somewhere in between.

    The majority of us probably consider ourselves more fox-like than hedgehog. There are only a few of us who go all the way to hedgehogism – although you do find such people on the left and right political extremes.

    For instance, I am suspicious of big government. I see government as a necessary evil. But deciding how people should live, what they should eat or drink, and who they may or may not marry should not be the government’s business.

    It’s not that big business or big unions can’t be corrupt. They often are. But private organizations have limits that the government does not. The purpose of private business or unions is to provide goods and services and to make money or provide benefits for their stockholders or members. If they fail to do that, sooner or later they go out of business, and some other organization takes their place.

    Big government, on the other hand, can continue to raise taxes and throw money at problems to see what may or may not work. Once a new agency is established to solve a problem, it’s almost impossible to get rid of that agency or its people, even if it fails to fulfill its purpose. And with all that money flying around, it’s inevitable that some folks along the line are going to siphon off some for themselves.

    However, we do need government agencies to check and make sure that the T-bone we’ve just bought is not riddled with e-coli, that the children of drug-addicted parents have enough to eat and a chance at a better life, and that factories and other businesses aren’t disposing of their toxic junk into rivers or letting it leach down to the water table.

    For most of us, it’s merely a question of where you draw the line – whether you err on the side of the fox or the hedgehog.

    The world is not fair. It’s never going to be fair. But it can be better, and that’s what we all should work toward. Whether we lean toward the foxes or the hedgehogs, we need to find solutions.

    The foxes and the hedgehogs, together.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have an opinion on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • December 23, 2019

    2020 VISION

    2020 VISION is a book of 12-poems – one for each month of the year – by George Lee Cunningham. The poems are about the joy of life, the state of the world, getting older, and coming to terms with your own humanity. You can get a PDF copy of the poems by clicking HERE.

  • November 19, 2019

    WE ADVISE YOU TO BE WARY OF ADVICE

    – Photo by Ken Whytock on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

    If you believe in the theory of Supply and Demand – and really who doesn’t – you already know that the more plentiful a commodity is, the cheaper it becomes.

    For instance, gold is a commodity. What makes it valuable, is that there isn’t that much of it. What makes gold even more valuable is when an artisan takes the raw material and fashions it into a beautiful ring or necklace. It is no longer a commodity, it is a work of art.

    Advice is liked that. Everybody has an opinion and few are shy about sharing it. That’s why people warn you that advice is cheap, which of course is its own kind of advice.

    What transforms advice from a commodity to something of value is when the person giving advice to you knows what he or she is talking about and is kind enough to share it with you.

    For example:

    DON’T BELIEVE any advice that relies on statistics to make its point. Common sense is almost always better than statistics. It’s almost impossible to know all the details about how the data was gathered, who gathered it, and what role personal prejudice and motive played in putting together the conclusions.

    On the other hand, in the rare incidents in which common sense turns out to be not correct, you need to be willing to look at the other alternatives.

    MY BUSINESS PARTNER once advised me, during a tense time when a lot of money was coming in and a lot of money was going out to pay bills, that it wasn’t really about cash – it was about “cash flow.” This was of course complete nonsense – 90 percent wishful thinking and 10 percent blind hope – but we still laugh about it today.

    THE TRUTHFULLNESS OF ADVICE doesn’t necessarily make it valuable. I had a fellow vet give me a street-wise tip about dealing with the Veterans Administration. When you are trying to score some drugs to get you through the night, never tell them “you keep thinking about killing people.” That will get you in deep shit, he warned.

    “Tell them, you dream about killing people. You can’t help what you dream, man.”

    I thought it was good advice if I wanted free drugs. Sadly, I did not.

    NEVER TRUST anybody who says “trust me.” In my experience, the words “trust me,” translates in real life to “I’m going to tell you a lie.” If you don’t already trust him, certainly don’t trust him after he tells you to trust him.

    This manifests itself in a variety of ways. When Google promotes itself with the term, “Do No Evil,” watch your back. What they mean is “do no evil,” unless there is a good reason to do so. Other manifestations of the same sentiment are auto dealers trying to convince you to buy the undercoating; realtors urging you to come down $10,000 on your price, costing them maybe $300 in commission; and those Nigerian princes, who always need some fast cash.

    NEVER TAKE anything you read in the news or see on TV at face value. Across the political and aesthetic spectrum, news reporters and editors have prejudices, hidden agendas and sometimes weird perspectives. And as in all occupations from college professors to plumbers, incompetence is rampant.

    That means, if you read a story in the newspaper and you don’t understand exactly what happened, there’s a good chance that neither did the reporter.

    You may think I am being a skeptic. You would be correct, and I think you should be too.

    At least, that’s my advice.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have an opinion on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.