They want you afraid

© Fotocelia |

They want you afraid. They want you feeling hopeless. They want you to turn to them for help.

Who are “they”?

Well, who scares you? Government bosses? Drug commercials? Political commercials? Some sales guy who says his product will solve your fear?

Could be it’s all of the above. It’s a common tactic, and it’s a common tactic because it works.

The whole idea is to alarm you and get you to search for a safe solution, which they just happen to have here for you — just $19.99 plus shipping — just tax the rich and you can have it for free —oh, and we’ll need to trim just this tiny bit of your freedom to go about your business and make your own decisions.

Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that you’re scared and plow ahead anyway. Everything carries a risk. When you leave the house, you might get hit by a falling meteor or held up at gunpoint. When you drive your car, some idiot might T-bone you at an intersection. When you apply for a job, you might not get it, or when you quit your job to pursue what you really want to do, you may not succeed right away. When you question government rules, regulations, guidelines or other edicts, or heaven forbid you decide not to follow them, something might happen.

With every step you take in life, you risk something going wrong.

The only safe place is in a cage. Nobody can hurt you if you’re behind four sturdy walls. Ask a prison inmate alone in his cell — it’s very safe in there.

They want you afraid: It makes it easier to back you into your cell. They promise this will make you safer. They never promise this will make you freer.

“Freedom is slavery anyway,” they scoff. “Don’t question why; ignorance is strength.” And then they send us off to war in the name of peace.

Puppy portrait

This is Summer on Sunday, Sept. 19, as she completes her ninth week on this plane of existence. She has learned how to go down and up stairs and how to sneak-attack her big sister, Dejah Thoris, who can give as good as she gets. The carpet cleaner is still on hot standby, but at least Summer seems to have learned that number 2 is an outside activity. As for number 1, what the heck, she’s only nine weeks old.

Sometimes, I think, we just need to contemplate how sweet puppies are, rather than ruminate over the matters of this world, especially on Mondays. Mondays are complicated enough.

So there you go.

See here

To share a book or a disc or a file: Look! See! Listen! Do you know what this object is? It is the finished product of so much work, these few hundred pages of story, this half-hour of music, this 90-minute film — someone had a story to tell, an argument to make, a desire to inspire and encourage and motivate, and here is what they created. Now dropped into a pile or stacked lovingly on a shelf, each of these objects is a time bomb waiting to be rediscovered and set off again in a willing brain with a ready heart.

Do you know how many millions of things are out there waiting to be found, and what fabulous good can be done when they are? The literal wisdom of the ages in our hands — an explosion of the greatness and vision and passion — people who overcame personal doubt and uncertainty and wrote down the thoughts and stories and dared to go forth and say, “See here! I need to share this with you. I think it’s important.”

And this here — this book, this music, this film — these words — this vision — this greatest story told so well —

See here. Don’t look there, and don’t be afraid. See what I’ve found, or rather see what I’ve rediscovered. The guy who wrote Ecclesiastes was full of despair because everything ends and comes to dust, and he concluded that means it’s all meaningless, but in the transitory and the inevitable ending is where the meaning is. In a world where all things must pass, the best use of that precious time is to be kind, seek out the good, care and share the wealth of knowledge and wisdom.

Fire not the flames of hatred and anger and despair. Spark the heat of hope and compassion and understanding. Offer the open hand of friendship, not the fist, the plowshare, not the sword. Life is short enough without hastening death.

All these thousands of creations, and that’s just in this one house — the books, the albums, the films, the TV shows — all of them promises against the darkness, declarations of “See here! This is important and I want to give it to you —” Souls sharing what they’ve learned for your delight and inspiration, and you may find this sort of collection in million of homes, likely yours, too — shouts against the darkness wherever darkness may turn.

The end of journalism as I knew it

All my life as a journalist, I have tried to write in a way that was fair to all sides of an issue and masked whatever my personal opinion was, because the idea was to present the facts of a story accurately.

This is the authentic beginning of a news story that cleared the Associated Press feed the other day.

WASHINGTON (AP) — First, some blamed the deadly Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol on left-wing antifa antagonists, a theory quickly debunked. Then came comparisons of the rioters to peaceful protesters or even tourists.
Now, allies of former President Donald Trump are calling those charged in the Capitol riot “political prisoners,” a stunning effort to revise the narrative of that deadly day.
The brazen rhetoric ahead of a rally planned for Saturday at the Capitol is the latest attempt to explain away the horrific assault and obscure what played out for all the world to see: rioters loyal to the then-president storming the building, battling police and trying to stop Congress from certifying the election of Democrat Joe Biden.

Neither the writer of this AP story, nor whatever editor(s) read and cleared it for release, would have a job in a newsroom where I was asked to be in charge.

I don’t think I need to point out the places where the writer’s opinion bleeds through, do I? Hints: “a theory quickly debunked.” Words like “stunning” and “brazen” and “horrific.” This is the opposite of objective reporting.

There’s a place for this kind of writing in journalism, of course — in articles clearly marked “opinion” and/or “analysis.” I saw neither label in plain sight.

This is an example of why the average human being has lost faith in what has come to be known as mainstream media. At least non-mainstream media is straightforward about its agenda. There seems to be no one left in the business interested in telling the story straight down the middle.

The only way to get something resembling an objective view is to read several versions of a story and try to discern the objective facts that every side seems to agree on. For example, on Jan. 6 it’s clear that hundreds if not thousands of people entered the Capitol building, one person was shot and killed by a police officer, a number of people were injured and property damage was done. Almost everything beyond that is open to interpretation.

It always has depended on your point of view. In the past, at least, or at least in news stories I wrote, each point of view was presented with neutral language. I guess I’m an old fossil from another time.

The frustrations of puppyhood

“I’m BORED. There’s nothing to DO here,” the puppy whined.

“Here’s a bone, chew on that for a while,” Mom said.

“Been there, done that.”

“Well, chase the cat around the house.”

“She’s sleeping.”

“OK. Where’s that ball?”

“Balls are boring. I’m going to chew the door trim.”

“No, you’re not.”

“I’m going to eat Daddy’s toe.”


“That’s not a good thing,” Mom said with a smile.

“I know! I’ll shred this blanket.”

“Now you’re being sassy. Maybe go in your crate and have a time out.”

“Aw, you never let me do ANYthing …”


I believe I became a kinder, gentler man when I stumbled across the Zero Aggression Principle, or ZAP, best articulated by the recently deceased L. Neil Smith:

“No one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor should anyone advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else.”

That principle says what I have always believed and how I think most people live their lives. At a young age I admired the U.S. government’s rebranding of its War Department as the Department of Defense and its declaration that it would never initiate a first strike in an armed conflict. I liked the concept that violence would only be used defensively. (Part of my later disillusionment with government was when I realized both the rebranding and the declaration were dishonest, but that’s for another day.)

I always admired Smith’s writing. He was forceful, clear and effective in stating his views, which were passionately held and had the Zero Aggression Principle at its core. But I had never read any of his books, and so on hearing of his death I sought to rectify that oversight and am now in possession of and thirstily reading The Probability Broach, his first and most well-known novel, and Lever Action, a 2000 collection of his articles, speeches and letters to the editor that another person I respect recently cited as life-changing.

The latter collection was delivered Wednesday, the perfect day because I had time to read for a while and the puppy fell asleep on my foot, forcing me to do nothing but page through the first 60 or so pages.

And I realized something I always knew instinctively but never quite verbalized: The linchpin word in ZAP is “initiate.” The principle does not eschew force or violence; it eschews the initiation of force or violence. As I said, I always knew that, I just downplayed it because I so much admire those who seek and choose nonviolent solutions.

Smith was an ardent proponent of the Second Amendment — all 10 amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, in fact. The book begins with a 1994 speech he gave advocating a society where those 10 limitations on government were sacred and enforced. The Second Amendment is about the individual’s right to use violence in self-defense, nothing more, nothing less.

Such a society — with the Bill of Rights summarized in the Zero Aggression Principle — would necessarily be kinder and gentler, Smith argued, and I agree. If we all agreed never to initiate violence on one another — and tacitly agreed that violence initiated would be met in kind — then the impulse to turn to violence would be under control most of the time.

Over and over in his 1994 speech Smith repeated a pledge he said should be required of all public servants, who would be subject to arrest if they ever violated it — and of course the administration running the country at that time would be rounded up first thing: “I swear by my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor to uphold the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, popularly known as the ‘Bill of Rights.’”

What a different world we would live in, if we made our rulers adhere to that pledge. We owe it to ourselves, and to the memory of L. Neil Smith, to get started.

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