Bertrand Russell’s Four Desires

The publication including Bertrand Russell’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech

The Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell is surely an astute observer of human nature. His Nobel acceptance speech of December 11, 1950 is often presented as an example of the magnificence of his sharp observation and lucid wisdom. One cannot but agree; he endeavored to distill the average human of his times down to a few essential characteristics and communicate that in pithy words.

To be sure, many of his observations resonated with a widespread understanding of the common human animal as a fearful, selfish, acquisitive creature. Yet, there’s something rather disconcerting about condensing all human nature, and actions, as prompted solely by ‘desire’ as he does. True to his times, Russell noted the conflict between duty and the free pursuits of enjoyment – and summarized that divergence by the claim that a human is dutiful only because he desires to be so. That may be, but methinks Russell narrowed his search for the awareness, the consciousness, with which humans think and act. Where does he even consider that human thought may be both conscious, or willful, and involuntary? Did he wonder that human activities may span both industry and art: perseverance toward production, and effort that is of value in itself? He limited his description of humans to that of animals driven by the basest urges for food, shelter, and procreation.

“What else is there,” the adoring, conforming citizen may demand! Oh so very much more, my dear fellow, says the contemplative compatriot.

Acquisitiveness, rivalry, vanity, and the love of power: these are the characteristics that define most of us, or so Russell claimed. He called these infinite desires, or those that “can never be fully gratified.”

From my own life, modeled upon the lives of my parents, I can say these qualities hardly define the lives of people I have known and admired. If I were to engage in an intellectual joust with Russell, he’d surely say, “They desired to be dutiful, family and community-oriented, or just different, and thus avoided overt expressions of these [his] characteristics!” That – would be patently unfair! These are people who lived lives of sacrifice, deprivation, and simplicity and service, largely by personal choice.

My father served in two wars to protect his country of birth against those who’d do it harm – not because he desired to be ‘patriotic,’ but because that was his chosen role and it’d shame his family were he to shirk his responsibilities. And, after the second war, he asked and moved into an instructor’s role so he could be with family. He found no glamour or honor in waging patriotic violence; he never spoke to me of his wartime service that earned him numerous ribbons, medals, and a commission as an officer. His pithy advice to me, when I endeavored to join the nation’s prestigious Defense Academy to train as a fighter pilot, was this: “Son, ask yourself what you wish to become: a glorified driver going about killing people.” That was the only guidance I received from him. Needless to say, all my yearning to become a glamorous fighter jock in service to the nation dissipated much as air from a pricked balloon. Desire became irrelevant in the face of – dare I say – wisdom.

In a personal instance, I was once challenged by a friend with, “What would you do, Rian, if you were offered a knighthood by the Queen of England?” My immediate response: “Why would I place myself at the bottom of their hierarchy?” Russell may have argued that this response also indicates a desire, of not wanting something, but then that’d cover just about any sentiment in the world! Is my lack of interest in some made-up title also a ‘desire?’

I could write so much more about each of these individual characteristics that define a human for Russell…but that’d bore you. Let me just say that perhaps Russell captured Western Materialism in his succinct speech, and perhaps he did not intend to describe much of human nature and culture in the rest of the world. If he’d presumed to, he’d be very wrong.

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FREE Download: Humbling and Humility, Sep 21 – 23

AZ Sunset in July

Arizona Sunset in July (Gilbert)

Take a break from the incessant scandals in sensational media these days. Read a book that gives you an honest and unvarnished view of contemporary life for immigrant fathers in America.

Download ‘Humbling and Humility,’ FREE Sept. 21 – 23, from Amazon® here.

It’s the sixth (in 2020) anniversary of the publication of my first work…if it makes you think, and feel, please do post a review. Thanks!

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Glimpses of America: 2010 and 2020

The title of my first book, Humbling and Humility, is curious, no? When I wrote it, in 2014, that sentiment, humility, was uppermost in my mind. I felt then, as I do even more now, that America needed a strong dose of humility, and that this should be the highest expression of those aspiring to high office. Besides, I’d passed through a gauntlet that did humble me.

Yet, that was not to be…America chose one to whom humility is as far as can be.

The results of such choice of the nation’s leader are self-evident. Take the current global pandemic and America’s response as an example.


Rise in US Covid-19 cases and a model (below)

Yes, this is “America First.” The nation with the most infections, uncontrolled, with case growth modeled by a simple exponential, 500000*2(days-from-Mar-16/43). The data points of 1, 2, and 4 million cases lie exactly upon this exponential curve. And the infection phenomenon – one infecting a few more, who then infect many more – is indeed exponential. We are past 5.5 million cases as of this blog.

But – back to my earlier observation – will humility help America in this pandemic?

I think it most definitely will; it takes much humility to subdue individualistic drives and demands, and practice the social discipline essential to managing this inferno.

But I’ll let you be the judge! Leave me a review if you do enjoy my work that touches upon other social pandemics in this nation.

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A Perfect Storm

An authoritarian President attacking the Press

An incompetent, impotent, impeached and authoritarian POTUS emboldened by a complicit senate and party, a global pandemic and accompanying unemployment and deprivation, acts of vicious and gratuitous violence by the public and the police against the oppressed, and large masses of people protesting and letting loose all their frustrations and agony.

A vicious circle of great suffering.

A tormented people must protest peacefully, and sometimes not so peacefully. An incompetent narcissist must subdue the people, for he loves his own voice, and that must, in his ill-formed mind, “dominate.” Violence perpetuates violence and more protest gatherings. The Covid-19 pandemic feeds on such gatherings… hence, more suffering, death, and torment.

And what are the leaders of the States of these United States to do? Curfews? New lockdowns? Or just watch rising infection numbers? See how Arizona is doing:

New Cases of Covid-19 infections in AZ (the y-axis clips the June 2 number, 1127, at 800)

The last week of May in the graphic above reflects an ill-advised reopening of AZ, my state, towards the middle of the month. The day before June 2nd saw 1,127 cases: a number so large the graphic is unable to display it.

But why is this a perfect storm? Why am I so pessimistic, when everyone’s looking for better news? A curse of a truthsayer; one who wishes, with all his heart, to be a soothsayer.

I wish I could make even the feeblest of attempts to say it’ll be alright, everything will turn out for the best in the end. But this is the beginning; we are nowhere near the unknown termination of this prolonged period of agony. Our tribulations stem from incompetence and unmitigated arrogance: the current administration undid every sensible step the previous administration took toward a more peaceful America and world. They tore up the pandemic playbook prepared. Disbanded the global pandemic office that may have acted proactively to keep America safe. The head of government downplayed the pandemic for the longest period he could – presumably because of the election year. America was caught unprepared and leaderless in a once-a-century event; more than 100,000 citizens are dead in 3 months, the economy is in shambles, and instead of reopening gradually, safely, as many other nations have done, we have disregarded many recommendations of the experts in reopening state economies without meeting necessary preconditions for doing so. And, rather than advocating caution, the ignorant head of the administration has been further dividing opinion in the nation and demanding that large religious gatherings be allowed again. He wanted the “Churches filled for Easter.”

So… no, I cannot say that everything will be alright. Nothing is!

In the midst of the pandemic, we saw, in the space of about a week, vicious acts of racial violence against black Americans. A white woman in Central Park, New York City, demonstrated, for all America to see, how she could willfully threaten the life of an African-American by calling cops and filing a false complaint against him. Three white men pursued a jogging Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man, cornered him with their vehicles, and shot him dead. All this upon the excuse that they were executing a citizen’s arrest on a suspected burglar. Cops in the State of Georgia did not arrest them (for two months!) until public outrage reached a crescendo. Cops arrested an unarmed George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and choked the life out of him kneeling on his neck, after handcuffing him, for almost 9 minutes, 3 minutes of which were after he stopped pleading for breath, for life, and had become unresponsive. This too was recorded for all America to see; bystanders who begged to help Floyd were prevented from doing so by cops. Police brutality, a veritable lynching, of the kind seen only during Ku Klux Klan days, was on display in the present for all America to know.

Goaded on by a cowardly bully, who hides behind armies of lawyers and sycophants, cops shoot and harm journalists as they cover protests. More than 100 incidents of police violence upon the press have been recorded in just the past week.

What can the people, exhausted and frightened by the pandemic, sick and tired of a racist and narcissist in office, do when these see such outrages? What can we expect of anyone in such circumstances? What do you think will happen when a pandemic, systemic racism, and rampant police brutality ravage the people while a pretender eggs his base and radical fringes on with calls for violence and “domination?”

A revolution, no less, but an agonizing one.

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Humiliation: A Day Sans Freedom

Drawbridge

An excerpt from ‘Humbling and Humility,’ stories from immigrants to America. FREE ebook May 25th and 26th.

The last paragraph — you just might find it prophetic! It has to do with our instinctive fear of tiny, invisible invaders that ravage our bodies. I have to smile when I think of the CDC’s recommendation of washing our hands for 20 seconds in the current pandemic…I washed my entire body for 20 minutes, then, more than a decade ago, as I recall!

Enjoy, comment, and share as you like…

It was late in the night as I stood on the street corner, awaiting John and Parvathi, who came by soon thereafter to give me a ride home. I apologized for my disheveled, smelly state, and sat away from them in the back of their car. Parvathi pointedly informed me that my wife had arranged for the bail money they posted, but these details mattered little to me. The protective order in place prevented me from going home to see my children.

My wife declared that it would be perfectly alright with her if I did come home to the children. But something deep within my mind cautioned me not to do so. What I had gone through, in the past day and a half, seemed to me only the beginning of a struggle for survival with known and unknown enemies facing me. I asked John and Parvathi to drive me to a second home bought toward the end of 2007 as a gift for my wife and for the family. A house bought as a change we could all move forward with, leaving unpleasant memories behind in our first home. One that could now become a change that tears my home and family apart.

As my friends left, promising to return with food, they handed me the disinfectant, antibacterial soaps, and other toiletries I’d asked them to bring along. For the first and only such time in my life, I coated my entire body, head to toe, with disinfectant, and antibacterial soap, and washed it off in a hot shower, repeating this process once again. Funny how frightened we can be of the smallest of creatures on earth. I scrubbed as I’d never scrubbed before in life. But nothing could wash away the humiliation and a growing sense of disillusionment I came to feel at everything I’d gone through.

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A Raging Inferno

US_Covid19dash_May15

US Covid-19 Infections and Mortality (2-wk period), May 15, 2020

Numbers often do not register in our minds.

Sure, we remember them, maybe, but they leave no taste, no lasting impression, nothing of significance. They are…just dry numbers.

Someone once said that a poem, with its meter and rhyme, is like numbers singing. Poems do make an impression, they stimulate the mind, and I can understand that insight. Perhaps if numbers moved, if they were aflame…

Even the simplest of animations, a ‘visualization’ of numbers as in the figure,  intrigues the mind. Some note with sinking hearts the large growing numbers, infections and deaths, and may see that deaths grow faster than infections in the same period. Others may latch onto the circular red dots on the map of the US expanding as infections spread in localized clusters in the nation…and deduce, perhaps, that these are likely the urban crowded areas of the country. Some may compute the graph of infections rising and lengthening and grasp that on a logarithmic scale, this is a spread of disease that continues to grow exponentially.

I see a raging inferno, nothing less!

I smell fear, suspended, a heaviness in the atmosphere reminiscent of the beginning of a thunderstorm. I feel…resignation.

These numbers do mean something…1.5 million infected is less than one-half of one percent of the nation’s population, and we’ve lost more than 85,000 souls. Imagine what we’ll lose if 50%, one-half of the population were to be infected.

Let that sink into our consciousness, if you will. And drive us to change our ways, respect everyone’s safety, and contain this conflagration that decimates humanity!

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Compelled by Truth

What is it that they say about the truth?

That it will “set you free?” Or, “Satyameva jayate,” it is only truth that wins? Or Daniel Webster’s “Nothing is so powerful as the truth?” Or that it is “out there,” somewhere?

I am beginning to hate the truth. Of a pandemic, a plague, a pox that has descended upon us all. Its growth in those afflicted and lost is simply frightening.

IMG_20200322_000746

Covid-19 related deaths, national trajectories

If you’re thinking: “Oh, look, the curves are flattening,” please – think again…that’s far from the truth. The vertical scale is logarithmic; a straight line indicates exponential growth.

This has scared me enough to compile a 3-page summary information document in the dearly-held hope that it may help communities:

Covid19_community_info

I hope it helps you, my patient reader, and all to whom you forward it. (Please do so with abandon!)

The truth notwithstanding, I shall not leave you in a sombre mood. Here are creative thoughts from others pondering this virulent monster we face:

May TRUTH always be with, and keep you!

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The Truth is Overrated

society_truth_hate_Orwell

Truth and Division in Society

Neil, a student of mine, asked, “What happens to all the energy that is my thought when I die?”

Vanishes like dust in the wind was what came to mind. From dust, stardust, to dust.

But I couldn’t. Neil was young, too young, and the very young do not always comprehend (or do as they’re told).  No, he needed another answer, one that he could wrap his mind around.

“You transform into Energy. From one form to another. That’s an immutable Law of Nature.”

“So my thought energy becomes some other form? Thermal energy?”

“Yeah…there are so many forms, and we do not know or comprehend all of them yet.”

“Right, so I’ll continue to exist in another form?”

“Can’t say, Neil…forms of energy do not have to resemble each other. You know potential energy is not the same as kinetic energy.” We’d been reviewing his high-school Physics.

That calmed Neil’s curiosity. For that moment.

But I see another truth in the exchange. That truth itself may be overrated. The love of truth, that so many researchers and teachers believe in, and trust in, may itself be something that separates us and distances us from everyone. Is such separation, exclusion, desirable?

If you’ve read this far, you deserve to download, FREE this #PresidentsDay, my first work: http://goo.gl/FKUnCM

There’s much truth in that too!

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More Hard Truths

trump_no_clothes

The Republican Politics of Self-Serving Sycophancy

A Biblical admonishment, Mathew 7:5, goes, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eyeand then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Nowhere is that truer than in the America of today.

Take Domestic Violence, for instance. There is a zero-tolerance policy toward this bane of civil society, rightly so, perhaps. Men are arrested, prosecuted, and jailed indiscriminately under this decades-old regime. Lives and families are destroyed by both the malady and the implemented remedy: lock them all up.

But WHAT domestic violence? Just that which authorities can easily, readily, prosecute. Here’s where the State, in its quest for law and order, likely destroys harmony and peace in society.

And what of domestic violence of far greater harm, perpetrated by those vested with authority?

Police Brutality?
Institutionalized Racism?
Xenophobia, and Arbitrary Immigrant Detention?
Separation of Migrant Children?
Blockage of Gun Reforms?
White Nationalism?
Racial (White) Supremacy?
Unbridled Capitalism?

And what of demagoguery that feeds many of the above evils? How does the body politic address an elected leader who spews divisive rhetoric, fueling hate and xenophobia? How does America defend a man who invites hostile nations to corrupt our most sacred exercise in democracy, our election of leaders? How do Republicans continue to defend the indefensible, excuse the inexcusable, deny the undeniable?

Time, as Mathew admonished, for the representatives of America and all citizens of this nation, to cast the logs out of their eyes.

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Taking A Side

trump_dusseldorf

Antithetical to American Values

“Stupid is as stupid does.” — Forrest Gump

Let Estupido be his own witness. Here’s Jimmy Kimmel Live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsBOWSjOLsE

Class v. ass…no?

Estupido was rage-tweeting today. 30 tweets in a half hour. Presidential indeed…this unmitigated narcissist is frightened beyond imagination – for the possibility of impeachment followed by conviction in the US Senate grows every day new witnesses to his nefarious actions come forward. And if convicted, and removed from the presidency, he is sure to be indicted on a range of offenses that he escapes indictment for at present due to highly dubious guidance that sitting presidents may not be indicted for crimes. Rage is all he can spew.

Time – high time – for all Americans to choose sides. Continue to be dazzled by his ill-gotten wealth and shocking lack of dignity and grace, or seek a president who truly personifies American values of equality, fairness, tolerance, and justice.

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