Random Thoughts

RandomThoughtsThumb2by Brad Nelson
Thoughts from my head to yours, with very little chance of acquiring a communicable disease. Join me for a look at the absurd, the remarkable, and the whacky.
Gratitude in a Leftist World

I think I learn most of life’s lessons in the supermarket checkout lane. I was in that lane yesterday and the cashier said something like, “I hope I get a paper cut and then I can get off work and go watch the football game.”

He’s a nice, jovial guy, and his comment was meant to be light-hearted and funny, which it was. So I quipped back to him, “You must have one heck of a healthcare plan.” However, the large, kind of permanently-scowling, guy in front of me wasn’t quite in on the joke and said in a gruff tone something like “My plan is crap.”

I take it as axiomatic the all of the policies of the Left and of the Democrats stoke envy, grievance, a sense of entitlement, and a chronic sense of dissatisfaction. Certainly one can’t blame all the sourpusses that one sees in life on the Left. But I’m seeing more and more of this kind of stuff, and have been seeing it for years.

We live in the greatest, most wealthy country in the world, and yet I remember some of my Leftist friends complaining about how bad the economy was under George Bush. I believe unemployment was something like 5-1/2 or 6 percent…about as low as you can practically go. And yet the media had convinced these useful idiots that life was bad.

Add to this the images one sees on television 24/7 where, quite frankly, everything good and decent is ridiculed. A noble or good thought doesn’t stand much of a chance of forming. We are turning into a sourpuss culture of bitter, angry, ungrateful people. And I think this ingratitude is less an overt expression and more a case of this bitterness being on a low boil. But sometimes it does, of course, boil over. Is this what you want? Is this what I want? Hell no.

Christianity is not a Poverty Program

I still remain somewhat at arm’s length from Christianity, if only because of doubt and because so much of actual religious devotion is Marxist in orientation. It is certainly good and right to help people who need help. No question about it. Rather than a whore, as Christopher Hitchens called her, I think Mother Teresa is a saint.

And yet Christianity is not a poverty program. The compassion that is evoked and set free by an ennobled heart will certainly work to help others. But many people are jumping right past this stage and going straight to the poverty programs, in essence turning Christianity into little more than a program that Lyndon Johnson might have officially adopted into the government of his era.

But Francis of Assisi, to name one notable example, actually embraced poverty as a vocation. He did so not because he despised wealth or possessions but because he wanted nothing between him and Christ. Think of that. Instead of trying to eradicate poverty, he asked others to join him in it. And thousands did.

Christianity has lost its way. But this hasn’t been the first time. One wonders now who will rebuild His church.

The Pampered Consumer

I have some equipment around the office that still functions and is upwards of forty, maybe fifty, years old. Maybe I’m a conservative because I like conserving things.

I also have a collection of retro video game systems that I love. My nephews have played on my old Atari 800 computer and one of them remarked, “Gee, I didn’t realize you had such cool games when you were a kid.” These “cool games” consisted of 8-bit highly pixelated graphics and maybe 16 colors at most. But these systems often had gameplay that is still unsurpassed in many newer systems which simply flood the screen with smoothly-rendered pixels in millions of colors — shiny things galore. But often the gameplay is quite dull.

It is inaccurate to call it a consumer market that we live in today. We are not consumers. We are narcissists-in-the-making. Steady improvement is a good thing. But we now commonly discard perfectly functioning items because some new version has just come out that offers but a few more bells and whistles. And I’ll admit to loving my gadgets and technology. But think about the kind of person who is unwittingly being created by this market where every little whim is catered to and where “great” is quickly discarded because “super great” is the next promise.

We glorify this narcissim by calling it “consumer choice.” But, good god, I hope you know what I’m talking about. Look at just about any product or service that is offered now. They come so highly specialized that we can no longer rightly be called consumers, we are the pampered masses. And we have become used to having things completely our way.

One thing that pleases me the most is when I’ll find some old discarded gadget at, say, Goodwill and I clean it up and restore it. I have an old stopwatch that I take along with me when I’m hiking that I rescued and restored from Goodwill. I find more satisfaction in this then buying something new. It’s sort of like the love that Rudolph and friends had for the discarded toys they found on The Island of Misfit Toys.

Ironically, we are the ones becoming the misfits, expecting our every whim to be catered to. We are the Pampered Populace and it shows. I have people who regularly come into my office bitching and complaining because some service at Brand X didn’t do such-and-such. Or they bitch because they had trouble finding our address. Or whatever. Such pampered people. How will they ever hold onto their freedoms? The answer is, they won’t. They will give in to any demagogue who promises to fulfill their every wish. • (1186 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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9 Responses to Random Thoughts

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    That’s Christopher Hitchens, not Richard. And I know what you mean about Christianity; I think Paul’s purpose was to convert it into something that was workable in a society in which the Second Coming wasn’t as imminent as they thought. The computer I do FOSFAX on, incidentally, is an old Hyundai that runs MS-DOS, and I use WordStar to write and edit the magazine.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Oh, god. I’m always making that error. I kind of conflate Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens together into one thing. I’ll correct that.

      Oh my goodness. I love your old-school approach to word processing. WordStar. I dabbled for a bit in some word processing program on MS-DOS in probably the mid-80’s. I don’t remember what exact program it was. But I sort of thank god for the GUI. It was so easy to not save or to over-write files. I never really got the hang of it. But obviously those kinds of word processors work if you get the hang of them or just have the head for it.

      Maybe I ought to break out AtariWriter. 😀

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I’ll make it even more fun for you, then. The third member of that particular troika could be Daniel Dennett.
        Getting the hang of it is indeed crucial. In WordStar, for example, I know how to do things like italics and boldface, and how to access the extended character set (such as accented letters and umlauts). It makes a difference in how the material looks.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          You’re right. Daniel Dennett belongs there.

          My word process or choice is TextEdit which comes with OS X. Nothing fancy, but I don’t need fancy. It works great for composing posts and stuff.

  2. jc says:

    Along similar lines, the ‘gee-whiz’ factor in technology has become commonplace: updates, upgrades and new programs are created constantly, and without much if any consideration for the poor user who has to figure it all out by simply wandering the program or website, hoping to get lucky.

    I have just spent the better part of two days trying to sort out with the bewildered librarians at the local law school’s library how to access certain forms and information needed to prepare documents for a worthy non-profit organization. It took three visits to the library and a succession of people trying — but failing — to help me locate in the computer system an appropriate database and the needed form documents which then needed to be transferred to my own computer for use via some vague process, on which none of the helpers could agree. A half dozen librarians and helpers, who all acted as though they knew what they were doing, gave me solemn direction and advice on locating the material needed and then transmitting it to my own computer — and most of their advice was sadly ineffective and off the mark.

    CDs, thumbdrives, databases, searching, emailing results — all of these things and processes are created and structured in an obscure fashion with no useful directions (and often no directions at all) provided by the creators of the computer system (for access) or for the programs (to search, locate and manipulate the data), or the databases (through which the information was scattered randomly).

    The whole process was much like buying a car which would arrive in pieces in a large crate without instructions or labels or diagrams, and the proud new owner is expected to figure out how it all goes together. Reminded me of the dreaded Night Before Xmas when bleary-eyed mom and dad try desperately to assemble — without the missing instructions — the new bike which Santa is leaving for the happy child to discover in the morning.

    I waste enormous amounts of time each day dealing with the intricacies and stupidities of computer programs, archives, functions, tricks, tips, and all other aspects that the designers may have thought supremely clear, but only because they already knew the way through the maze.

    This really needs to stop.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      CDs, thumbdrives, databases, searching, emailing results — all of these things and processes are created and structured in an obscure fashion with no useful directions (and often no directions at all) provided by the creators of the computer system (for access) or for the programs (to search, locate and manipulate the data), or the databases (through which the information was scattered randomly).

      Are you describing your library or the future medical system under Obamacare?

      Your comments make me realize how valuable good documentation is. Even if it’s a crap program, if you know the steps and how it works, you can make use of it.

      While putting together this site I’ve run across all kinds of useful software, including the new “slider” gallery on the home page. But it took me about 5 hours (at least) to do that. The directions were incomplete or wrong. That happens a lot.

      Sorry to hear about your labyrinthine process.

      • jc says:

        Thanks for the sympathy.

        The person who figures out how to make all this work seamlessly will be very very wealthy and appreciated.

        Maybe it’s that I don’t use an Apple; stuck in the dark ages.

        And yes, this is what Obamacare will be as well.

        Reminds me of a short story (Kafka perhaps?) where an unfortunate soul is strapped into a machine that carves intricate messages into his body. Somewhere during the torture, he suddenly realizes what the message says… shortly before he dies.

        The question is how to make the inquisitors stop. How do we wrest back some level of control of our own lives — technologically, politically, societally?

        Sorry to be so gloomy.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          The story is “In the Penal Colony” by Kafka. I read it in the 10th grade. The writing took 12 hours, and after 6 hours the victim usually realized what the message was.
          Of course, with my morbid inclinations, I had a slightly warped view of the machine. Of course, I also made sure to memorize Dorothy Parker’s poem “Resume”, which we had in a collection of poetry (though I don’t recall if we actually covered it in class). It wasn’t a good year for me, as might be guessed.

          • jc says:

            Ah, 10th grade. Awkward limbs, a spectacular display of zits, girls taller than boys, learning to drive (sort of), learning to kiss (sort of). The age of betwixt and between.

            Perhaps the curriculum designers for high schools thought to comfort the gangly teens with gloomy stories of torture and eventual enlightenment.

            How sadistic of them.

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