Have you ever wondered how it’s possible that so many people want so much from their lives, yet most people spend their entire lifetimes unfulfilled? Why does mediocrity abound? What holds us back?
For many, it’s a lack of confidence. For some, it’s a lack of persistence or drive. For others, it’s a lack of imagination or creativity. Then there are those who live in mediocrity because their goals are not clear, written, and specific, while others are held back by their excuses and other self-defeating and self-sabotaging ego defense mechanisms.
The list could go on, but the major cause of mediocrity is much more basic and much more real. It’s fear. Not the fear of failure, as many would guess, but the fear of what others will think, say, or do—the fear of criticism—the most common weakness of all human beings. Paralyzing and inhibiting, the fear of criticism can turn life into a “hell on earth” by sapping us of our energy, creativity, and enthusiasm.
Think about it. This fear so pervades our “psychology of being” that the majority of the population is stuck wallowing in mediocrity…afraid to pay the penalty of leadership. And there is a penalty. Leaders, by stepping out in front of the pack and making things happen, make good targets, because they are easy to spot. Also, because of their position of power, they are often envied, resented, and attacked.
The upshot and downside of all this is that in order to avoid criticism and escape the responsibilities of leadership, too many fear-motivated people are turning to a “say nothing, do nothing, be nothing” philosophy of life. Their coping attitudes are “don’t take chances,” “don’t rock the boat,” “don’t stick your neck out,” and “let sleeping dogs lie.” With these attitudes they unwittingly relegate themselves to living in familiar and comfortable ruts, unaware that ruts are like graves with the ends kicked out. In knee-jerk fashion, these individuals become consumed in seeking ways to avoid risk, change, and challenge, because making mistakes, being different, or trying something new is an open invitation to the critical judgment, faultfinding, and censure of all who observe.
What this means, unfortunately, is that in their desperate need to please everyone and avoid criticism, fear-motivated people are willing to forsake their higher needs by placing a greater value on gaining the acceptance and approval of others than on being uniquely and expressly themselves.
Why, though, are they willing to pay such a price?
I believe it’s because they are hung up on the third rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—the need to belong—to be a member of the group, organization, or subculture. They simply have not yet gained sufficient self-acceptance and self-approval to be assertive without being aggressive; to be open and vulnerable without being neurotically defensive, or to be seen as different without being defiant, rebellious, or indignantly self-righteous.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s now take a look at four suggestions to help you transcend the third rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Here are some ideas to help you strengthen your resolve whenever you’re bombarded with criticism or threatened with rejection:
1. Reduce your vulnerability and sensitivity to negative feedback by regularly taking time out to affirm your uniqueness and sense of identity. (read Being Unique vs. Feeling Unique)
2. Keep in mind that in the long run it often costs more to avoid criticism than it does to confront or accept it, evidenced by the fact that we treat cover-ups worse than the offense.
3. Engage in some visualization exercises. Imagine yourself uninhibited by the fear of criticism and see yourself living life’s most exciting possibilities.
4. Keep in mind that although bucking the crowd may seem emotionally risky, you’ll find that if you come from your heart, there will always be a few people who do understand and accept you. Be aware also that it matters not that these relationships may be few in quantity, but, if they are built on a foundation of trust and understanding, these relationships will not only survive all the superficial ties to the group but, in the end, they’ll enhance the quality of your life beyond measurement.
Ultimately, then, it's the individuals who can handle criticism and pay the “penalty of leadership” who have the best of both worlds, because these individuals not only have the opportunity to belong, but they also have the strength and freedom to stand alone, if need be.
So remember, whatever you do, don’t hold back out of fear. Run some risks, rock some boats, and rattle a few cages. You may not win an award as a professional people pleaser, but you won’t die with this on your tombstone, by Paul J. Meyer: “Here lies John Averageman and Mary Mediocre. Lived sixty-five years without goals, plans, desires, confidence, or determination. Their favorite books were Non-Involvement and The Story of Playing It Safe. They tried never to try; they asked little of life, and life paid their price.”
The message is clear: Untether yourself from the fear of criticism and unleash your unlimited and untapped potential. Be a leader, take a stand, rise to the occasion, and make something great happen! Why not?
PPPS. Credit Success Motivation Institute & Paul J. Meyer with some of the wording and phrases. I internalized them, a zillion years ago, while marketing their motivational, life-changing products.
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Being Unique vs. Feeling Unique
An article by Mel Solon
Have you ever been told you’re unique? How did it make you feel? The fact is, most people take this compliment with a grain of salt, after all, we’re all children of God, we’re all unique. So, how much of a compliment is it to be told you’re unique since it’s a label that applies to everyone?
Okay, it’s a given, you’re unique. Even your thumbprint is unique. The question, however, is how unique do you feel, and does it matter? I think it matters a lot because your answer to this question plays a major roll in how you feel about yourself...your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth. It also can affect the quality of your interpersonal relationships.
I contend that most people don’t really appreciate how truly unique they are, otherwise, there wouldn’t be such an inclination for people to compare themselves to others, whether it be their looks, body, clothes, wealth, status, intelligence, or competence.
In making such self-defeating, irrational comparisons, they conclude they are either better than or less than. This kind of thinking unfortunately, and inescapably leads to feelings of either superiority or inferiority, neither of which is an admirable character trait.
The need to feel superior to another person ultimately springs from deep-seated feelings of insecurity.
Why is it important to understand this premise? For one, in my opinion, superiority feelings are often at the root of bullying, so topical nowadays. Further, I believe inferiority feelings are often tied to teenage depression and suicide, another newsworthy topic. Unfortunately, the habit of comparing ourselves to others applies not only to our youth but in more subtle ways, it can apply to adults, as well.
Regarding feeling superior, a Hindu proverb states, “There’s nothing noble in being superior to another person, true nobility lies in being superior to your previous self.”
I’ve also learned that an ego problem is simply the exaggerated concern with proving one’s uniqueness or greatness, whereas all that is necessary is the simple recognition, respect, and appreciation for one’s own innate and unique awareness.
An egotist, incidentally, is not someone who thinks too much of himself, but too little of other people and humility doesn’t mean putting yourself down or feeling insignificant, it means appreciating the inherent importance, uniqueness, and greatness of others.
Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent or approval.”
Back to the question, just how truly unique are you, and how deeply unique do you feel? Before answering, consider these mathematical facts involving variables.
One, the odds of matching 7 lottery numbers out of 49 possibilities is over 85 million to one.
Two, a social security number using 9 digits can produce one billion possibilities.
Three, there are more possible moves in a chess game, played on 64 squares with 32 pieces, than there are atoms in the universe.
Now ask yourself, how many variables go into the development of one’s mind? In contemplating the answer to this question, consider that no two people who have ever lived have the exact same family, educational, social, political, religious, economic, cultural, racial, time or place background. Not even identical twins.
This means no two people have the exact same psychological, philosophical, and spiritual perspectives on life. They are the product of different past experiences, positive and negative. In short, no two people think in exactly the same way.
As a result, they have different wants, needs, and preferences; different fears, doubts, and worries; different loves, hates, and prejudices.
At the risk of overkill, they have different goals, dreams, hopes, and wishes, different desires, plans, and aspirations, as well as different habits and attitudes, and different potentialities and capacities.
The list could go on.
Given the immeasurable number of variables that comprise one’s unique awareness, what are the odds of finding a duplicate of you? To answer, consider that your brain is comprised of 100 billion neurons. Although 100 billion is a large number, it is nevertheless a finite number. How then can we say our potential is infinite or unlimited?
This is true because each neuron has a network of thousands of synapses and dendrites that allow it to communicate with other neurons through thousands of pathways.
This understanding leads to the conclusion that the number of permutations and combinations of creative possibilities in your brain is the number 2 x itself 10 trillion times. It's a number so large, it exceeds the number of elementary protons and neutrons in the universe, plus all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world.
To put it another way, consider that however complex a computer chip is, our brains are still infinitely more complex than all the computers in the world linked and networked together with all the telephone lines in the world.
Mathematically, the message is clear, your mind is infinitely unique among all the people who have ever lived and ever will. In short, your potential for original, unique, and creative thought is immeasurable and incomprehensible.
Given our differences, is it not a wonder that any relationships survive? It takes work, compromise, and a lot of forgiveness to reconcile the differences. It takes tolerance for conflict and a lot of flexibility. Our goal then is to learn to accept and appreciate ourselves and others not in spite of our differences but because of them.
To avoid the jealousy, insecurity, and possessiveness that ruins so many relationships, remind yourself that you are a unique and special human being. You cannot be duplicated or replicated, you are truly irreplaceable, even if not totally indispensable.
Your sense of self-worth, then, is inherent in your understanding and appreciation of your uniqueness and your God-given, unlimited and untapped creative potential.
So, believe in yourself. Love your uniqueness. You have a special contribution to make to the world, and, if not to the world, to those you touch and those who love you. Trust your creative potential to find solutions to any problem you encounter. And remember this quote, attributed to Jesus, “When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this one thing, you haven’t.”
Bless you and may the thinker’s edge always be with you.
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Instant Coffee & Pyramids
An Article by Mel Solon
Instant coffee, instant soup, TV dinners, and microwave ovens—each an attempt to save and preserve our most precious asset—time! Time to smell the roses…time to love.
Yet, in spite of an endless array of modern time-saving technologies, most of us still feel that time is running out or rushing by. So we hurry and the anxiety continues to grow. In a frenzy, we hurry to enjoy ourselves, to be there now, and then wonder upon arrival, what’s more important, the journey or the destination?
It’s as though we don’t really accept the fact that life is a process, a journey to be lived one day at a time. Our problem, though, is not time. Our problem is our attitude about time, and our attitude is called impatience.
How is it we’ve learned so little of patience? Were we not all taught that patience is a virtue and its own reward, or that "the secret to great success is knowing how to wait"? Maybe our impatience is just a reflection of the times, with our emphasis on ends over means.
The fact is, patience is the cement with which the great pyramids of ancient Egypt were built—pyramids forty stories tall with wide bases—pyramids that have withstood the test of time.
How simple a premise. Patience and base-building…the slow, secure way to success, riches, and outstanding achievements, whether in the arts and sciences, in business, education, or politics, or any other field of endeavor. Witness the patience of our Olympic athletes as they train with dedication for ten years to run just ten seconds.
Patience, then, is the name of the game. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” nor is it likely that anything of substance or enduring value will be created from scratch in any less time.
But who has the patience to wait? After all, isn’t life too short not to take shortcuts? Impatiently, then, we proceed en masse to build one-dimensional, paper pyramids, in a desperate attempt to achieve instant success and fulfillment, without having to suffer the slow, plodding, meaningless journey. We build our paper pyramids and then watch them crumble and fall like a house of cards, enduring no longer than the patience and persistence of the builders themselves.
The point is timeless, persistence without patience causes anxiety, while patience without persistence yields futility. But combine patience with persistence and the result is a power that, when harnessed over time, can topple despotic governments, bring down walls that divide us, and change the destiny of the world, all with the appearance of happening overnight.
And so, too, with patience and time, the mulberry leaf becomes silk, a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, an organization becomes an institution, and dreams become realities.
In the final analysis,patience, at its roots, is really little more than a demonstration of faith; so God, grant me patience, and I want itNOW!For those of you who say you have no time to think or that you're too busy, too anxious, or too stressed to think, then it's definitely time to think. And what better way to do so than to download
The Mighty Mind Expander at thethinkingplace.com. Listen to this comprehensive and condensed, 90-minute, audio, mini-seminar, broken into 6 bite-size segments, and think about your life, calmly and proactively, the perfect solution for dealing effectively with the stressors of our times. We call it musings for the thinking class; wisdom for minds that matter. See the testimonials at the bottom ofthethinkingplace.com.
Quotes on Impatience
The first three quotes, screened and filtered, are found in our book — Quotations To Help You — From Out of Their Minds. They represent 3 of 60 quotations on patience collected during my past 40-plus years in the self-development field. The fourth quote, by TY-Thoughtfully Yours, will be in a future edition. For an audio/video presentation on our book, click here.
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” —Saint Augustine
“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.”—Dutch Proverb
“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” —Barbara Johnson
“Personal experience has taught me that my impatience has been more responsible for the errors, mistakes, do-overs, and bad decisions in my life than my ignorance, immaturity, or inexperience.”—TY
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Selfishness, Altruism & Enlightened Self-interest
An article by Mel Solon
Have you every been accused of being selfish? How did it make you feel? Most people would consider it an insult.
Have you ever accused someone you care about of being selfish? If you’re being honest, your answer is likely yes.
With these thoughts in mind, how common, in your experience, is selfishness?
I agree that the word selfishness by definition has a negative connotation, but only when examined out of context and taken to the extreme. The other extreme is selflessness.
Would it surprise you that psychologists and philosophers consider selfishness a universal, human character trait. According to psychological egoism (not egotism), we are all basically selfish. Every action, every decision, and every behavior is motivated by what we perceive to be in our own self-interest, even when we think we’re being selfless. It’s just as true even if we’re motivated out of a sense of duty, obligation, or guilt.
But how, you ask, does altruism enter the picture? The answer is that although you may act based on what appears to be a totally altruistic, unselfish motive, that behavior, if you dig deep enough, ultimately serves your personal self interest and welfare. There really is something in it for you.
For example, running into a burning building to save others, at the risk of your personal life and limb, may appear to be a purely selfless, altruistic action. However, if those actions are motivated consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously by a desire to be perceived as a hero, avoid being seen as a coward, or a desire to feel valuable or appreciated, can such behaviors be considered solely altruistic and selfless? Sometimes we help others for no apparent personal benefit, except that it makes us feel good or will please one's God.
Thomas Jefferson put it this way. "It has been said that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bind up the wounds of the man beaten by thieves…because we receive ourselves pleasure from these acts.”
I am not saying that selfishness is good. It just is. We are all concerned with our own best self-interests, but when the concern with “self “ is excessive, meaning focused on one’s own personal benefit, pleasure, or well-being to the exclusion of and without regard to the needs of others, that’s when our selfish nature, gets a bad rap. Note, the key words are 'without regard for others'.
Richard Whately states it this way. "A man is called selfish, not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbors."
Some people are so averse to being called "selfish", they will, on behalf of, or in support of others, compromise their own family’s financial security, or even impair their personal health to avoid the "selfish" label. The point: the side effects of regularly ignoring one's own needs in favor of pleasing others may lead to cirumstances that prevent them from being truly helpful to anyone else.
The message...take care of yourself, first, so that you’re in a position to help others. On airplanes, in an emergency, passengers are instructed to put their oxygen masks on themselves first, even before their children.
Dr. David Seabury, in his book, The Art of Selfishness, says “The art of selfishness consists in looking after your own needs so that no one else will have to.”
If you investigate selfishness further, you’ll find many more references to how a little selfishness has many benefits, beyond contributing to our survival. When our selfish pursuits fail us, be thankful for the altruistic and selfless actions of others that can save our hides, which is why we say “thank you for your service” to our soldiers.
The real problem arises when our selfish needs conflict with the selfish needs of others. “Aye, there’s the rub.” How many times have you been told that you’re being selfish, and you were inclined to say, “Yes I am, and so are you. You want what you want no matter what it costs me.”
My advice, we need to accept our intrinsic, "selfish nature," without guilt, while understanding futher that we are also "basically good", doing the best we can within the limits of our awareness to be happy, happier, or less unhappy. Note, the more aware and educated we become of our true nature, the better our choices and happier we’ll be.
Ultimately, our goal and basic need is to feel good about ourselves, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Hopefully, with this understanding of selfishness and altruism, we’ll feel less conflicted about our nature and less likely to escalate arguments by attacking others with the “selfish” label.
Further, if you believe that your "altruistic" behavior is totally unselfish, meaning that your actions impart no personal benefit to you or your psyche, you may become resentful when your altruistic-good-nature is not sufficiently appreciated. If such is the case, you may not be as altruistic as you think you are.
If you understand the preceding, you now also understand the meaning of “enlightened self-interest.”
In closing, consider this mind-bender: Imagine what your life would be like if everyone were totally altruistic, totally unselfish, and made everyone else's business and self-interests more important than their own? Hmm!
The big picture in response to the killing of George Floyd
Racism, police brutality, and social inequalityare three of the most talked about topics of the day.
Add to this:the pandemic crisis, economic uncertainty, climate change, civil disruption, and political disunity, in an election year, and it becomes clear that our number one goal in addressing our problems is to remain calm and manage fear — fear, “the offspring of ignorance” and “the parent of cruelty.” Fear not only robs us of hope and optimism, but it’s also the root of anger and violence.
Ignoring these issues, putting your head in the sand, and not wanting to talk about them, because it’s depressing and makes you feel helpless, won’t make them go away. The issues dominate current events and will remain newsworthy for quite some time to come.
The key to accomplishing this goalof staying calm during these turbulent times is ‘knowledge,’ which is also the key to overcoming fear. Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi had this to say about fear: “The worse things we do to each other are not out of hate but out of fear.”
Almost every crisisand its related issues are debatable, so controversial that some marriages and friendships have dissolved because of them. This article has one purpose. Get people talking and sharing their views calmly and peacefully.
Incidentally, staying calm does not meanbeing inactive or uninvolved in the recovery process; it simply means, drop the anger and violence, which unchecked only leads to more unproductive, self-defeating reactions, such as email-forwarding of provocative, one-sided, divisive videos through social media. These videos reinforce the biased views of the sender and their supporters, and make the opposition more defensive. Ultimately, these provocative videos neither solve nor change anything. On the other hand, if you want mutually satisfying outcomes, the solution is talking face-to-face, in person or virtually. Whatever you do, don’t excuse doing nothing, just because you can’t do much. Do what you can.
To me, the first step in problem-solvingis to be clear as to what the problem is, or as Charles F. Kettering said, “A problem well-stated is half solved.”
So, what is the problem?
In my mind,it’s that too many people think they understand the racism problem; they think they have all the answers, often without awareness of the questions. They do not understand how layered and complicated the problem really is.
To discuss racism and prejudice in depth, it also helps to understand how nationality, ethnicity, and the caste system play into the discussion. When politics and religion enter the picture, the issues become even more complicated, and more arguable.
Because most people are uninformed as to how complex the racism issue is, they have a tendency to express their conviction by getting angry. They pound their fists on the table, and get caught up in pointing out the effects of the problem, without understanding the causes. Their baseless opinions and misdiagnose of the problem only serve to impede the problem-solving process.
As a result, they fight over issues such as the legality of choke holds, holding the police accountable in the death of a suspect, or whether “stop and frisk” is constitutional, etc. But these are not causes of racism, bigotry, and social inequality, they are simply symptoms and evidence of it.
While incremental stepsin fixing these issues is immensely helpful and give us hope, fixing them will not solve the bigger problem: cultural systemic racism, and man’s inhumanity to man.
Few people want to face this fact; they’re impatient, they want the problem solved yesterday. Progress isn’t good enough for them; they haven’t learned that the most important word in the definition of success is progress. As a result, much of the arguing and fighting is over not only… ‘if or how the problem will be solved,’ but when, how soon? One politician naively claims… “We’re going to fight racism very easily and quickly.” The same attitude was purported with Covid-19.
Unfortunately,curing the effects and pain of racism requires that we accept that racism is more than what we see. It is not only the sporadic police brutality we see on TV, racism also is very subtle and widespread. Without understanding it, fixing it is going to take a lot longer than necessary, and that means living with more frustration, anxiety, impatience, anger, violence, and hostility than necessary.
So, to you the reader,slow down, take a breath, be calm. All will end well. As Paul J. Meyer said, “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass!” And, as Norman Cousins said, “The message from the moon...is that no problem need any longer be considered insoluble.” — I add, as long as we’re patient, don’t give up, and approach the problem one day at a time, as teammates, not opponents.
The rest of this articleis a condensed overview of the major issues surrounding racism. Once acknowledged and understood, cultural-systemic-structural racism, in the future, will be spoken of mainly in history classes.
Quick context: American slavery began 400 years ago, and wasn’t resolved until 245 years later in 1865 with the Emancipation Proclamation, following our civil war.
What most people don’t understandis that although the 15th amendment to the constitution in 1870 freed the slaves and gave them the right to vote, that right has been compromised by endless discriminatory voting practices, many of which exist today. These practices hurt blacks in particular and were enacted to make the “right to vote” basically ineffectual. It took the 1964-1965 Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts to put these rights back on track.
With the benefit of digital computer technology,plus worldwide instant communication, both progress and obstacles toward resolving these issues can be addressed daily. It doesn’t have to take another couple of centuries to do the right thing and make things right. Personally, I think the world will look decidedly more healthy well within a decade, if we would just calm down and talk, vociferously vent if necessary, but keep on talking.
Debating, free speech, and a free pressare what help keep democracies alive and kicking. It’s all about communication. Ignoring problems is never a solution.
With the preceding as a backdrop,the balance of this writing will take a brief look at the issues that need to be faced and addressed, if we’re serious about resolving these seemingly insoluble problems.
The racism issues go well beyond police reform.It requires that we understand how the following seven topics impact the problem:
1. attitude 2. human nature 3. basic facts of life 4. leadership 5. the press 6. the criminal justice system 7. influencers in the arts and entertainment
Ignore these racism issuesand we may see more glaring examples of it on national TV. However, if these topics are addressed intelligently, our quest to be a shining example of what a democracy is capable of will be fulfilled, again.
Here’s how pessimists and cynics think…unsupported by evidence to the contrary • Nothing can change 400-years of conditioning. False. • Racism and slavery are inherent in human nature. False • Change will come only with revolution or a race war. False • Systemic racism doesn’t exist. False
Here’s how problem solvers and optimists think… • What’s happening is historic. Protesters were organized in all 50 states. • Slavery is a “sin.” We’re now beginning to publicly accept and address this reality. • Most protestors express their first amendment rights, peacefully. • Most people are not actively racist; they are just unaware of how subtlety racism reveals itself. They are open to change. • Most cops are not flagrantly racist. They are, however, becoming aware of how it appears otherwise. • Black lives matter, as much as all lives matter. • We’re at a turning point. If we work together across political and color lines, we can make changes that matter.
Keep in mind,whatever we think about racism, most of our opinions & attitudes about this complicated problem are limited… • to what we’ve been told by others. • to what we’ve read that’s been written by others. • to what we’ve seen that’s been shown to us by others. • to what we’ve seen first hand or experienced personally in our own lives. • to what our commonsense tells us about what makes sense and what sounds like nonsense; what’s biased based on other’s agendas; what’s designed to deceive, mislead, and detract. Before drinking from the well, consider the source.
The message: read, listen, and observe with an open, tolerant, critical mind.
How human nature influences
our attitudes and ability to change
We all have our opinions, biases, and prejudices based on our unique backgrounds and experiences. By nature, they are resistant to change without a dose of self-awareness and conscious effort.
We are all affected by ‘selective perception,’ the inclination to see and hear proof of what we already believe, while discounting evidence to the contrary.
We are all creatures of habit. Changing one’s personal physical habits can be difficult; changing one’s personal thinking habits or attitudes is more challenging, but changing other people’s attitudes from negative to positive, well, that takes some real doing, and that’s going to take leadership at the top.
Few of us like to be made wrong or admit we were wrong. Understanding this explains why systemic racism is not going away anytime soon. Few of us are willing to admit being racist. In the meantime, we need to regularly institute incremental, measurable, positive changes whenever possible, if we want to witness the demise of systemic racism.
When confronted with injustice, inequality, and abuse, most people have the urge to retaliate, to get even in one form or another. Some people react violently, some turn the other cheek, some suppress it, some repress it. Some reactions are self-defeating, and some are productive. For many, getting revenge and even martyrdom trumps hopelessness.
We all have free will, agency, and moral responsibility for our behavior, actions, and choices, as well as the responsibility for accepting the consequences thereof.
Shaming a victim of racism with the commandment “thou shall not steal,” loot, or vandalize does little to change their reactive behavior, nor does it lessen the overcrowding of our jails and prisons. Punishing behavior without the benefit of intervention, rehabilitation, or removal of the causes is like whistling into the wind. In short, it’s not very effective at changing behavior and attitudes. There must, however, be consequences for causing violent destructive behavior to a person or property.
The urge to violently react to a life-time of racist abuse, whether the result of mistreatment by bosses, landlords, the banks, police, government, the justice system, etc. is not easily curbed.
Peaceful protesting can work, if not sabotaged by anarchists, looters, vandals, and arsonists.
Few people, other than admitted white supremacists, acknowledge their racist predilections; they genuinely believe their beliefs and feelings are not prejudicial, but are justified based on their experience and perception of reality, especially economic reality.
Not wanting to socialize with someone of a different race because you don’t like their character, behavior, personality or attitude is not racism, unless your real reason is their race and color of their skin.
Nothing is so strong as the need to belong, whether to a group, organization or subculture. No one wants to be ostracized, which leads people to do almost anything to defend the beliefs of their tribe. While independent individuals may change overnight, groups are generally very slow to change until the leader does, and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon.
People are inherently self-centered. Their highest priority is their personal survival plus that of their family’s well being, including their health and safety, financial security, and spiritual freedom. When threatened, they will do whatever is necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones. This governs much of human behavior.
Other facts of life
relevant to bringing about change
People often have difficulty understanding causes and effects. They often identify effects as causes. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This results in circular thinking, breakdowns in logical thought, and nonproductive arguments.
Other than highly publicized incidents, or those witnessed or experienced first-hand, how can any of us be certain of anything, especially given that the sources of our knowledge are often based on the biases, personal agendas, and prejudices of those who deliver us the “truth.” This makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories.
Much of the population has, at some time in their lives felt belittled, rejected, neglected, or personally ‘misjudged’ or ‘prejudged’ based simply on the group or organization which they belonged to. Many other people are seen as different and prejudged simply by their country of origin, such as the early Italians and Irish.
This premise is especially true for people of color. Is there anyone of color who hasn’t been judged as inferior or less than by someone in the majority. This includes Native Americans, Inuits and Africans; immigrants whether or not documented; Mexicans; Central and South Americans; Asians including Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Pakistani’s, Turks, Armenians, and Indians; mid-easterners including Jews, Palestinians, Muslims, Persians, and Arabs.
In short, a great percentage of the world’s population feels or has felt mistreated or misunderstood by someone they felt was prejudiced. This is why bringing about national unity and, in time, universal unity is no simple matter. This issue is further complicated by the fact that what is given to one group, as a form of reparations or to assuage their guilt, is often at the expense of another group, or groups. Complicated is an understatement.
Note that beyond just feeling judged and misjudged, prejudice and bigotry are often experienced as discrimination, intolerance, and violence.
Notwithstanding the above, that most of us know what it feels like to be judged and prejudged as “inferior” or ‘less than,’ the fact is, blacks have experienced more than their share of discrimination, specifically, culturally systemic racism.
I’ve probably offended some group or class by overlooking them. My apology. I didn’t include Canadians, Europeans, or Australians probably because they are, I believe, predominantly white. Nevertheless, my guess is that the people in the Canadian providences have their own internal differences and prejudices, as do the members of the EU, and the citizens of the states and territories of Australia. It seems everyone has some group to blame for why their lives are not what they think they should be. Our country is especially vulnerable to racism because of our diversity. Our 50 states are like 50 countries with diverse populations. That’s why we need unifiers in leadership positions.
People are unique. They think and believe differently, but their actions often tell a different story. Judge people more by their actions and behavior than the color of their skin or their words alone. It’s a better measuring stick of character and likability.
Extreme solutions or overreactions to problems often provoke pushback, blowback, or a backlash. The side effects of a “cure” can sometimes be worse than the disease.
Many statistics on racism are cherry-picked to promote an agenda of the quoter of the statistic. Note also, that many statistics or statements of ‘fact,’ refer to exceptions and one-offs. They do not prove trends, nor do they provide support for predictions; nor are they disproof of well-established facts.
Agendas of groups and individuals are often motivated by a desire for group acceptance or financial self-interest, such as job security and profit, more so than by noble, principled, righteous motives.
Influencers and change agents
Leadership Regarding leaders, which of the following have the influence and power to change things related to racism and police brutality? How many leaders have to be on the same page before systemic changes in how to run a country can actually take place?
National Security Advisor
Joint Chiefs Chairman
Secretary of State
Agency Chiefs of Staff
Media / The Press
The press is a major influencer of what we think and feel about what goes on around us.
The free press is free to lie, and not all journalists conform consistently to their journalistic oaths. The news is all too often called “fake” and unreliable as a source of objective information. One politician calls the press “the enemy of the people.” These perspectives precede our generation. Read with a discerning mind.
The free press is too often quick to publish sensationalized stories for ratings, as opposed to stories that recognize the positive changes that are taking place every day, all around us, which is why we read conspiracy theories while we wait in grocery lines at the supermarket, instead of un-shocking headlines in respected publications.
The free press should not be restricted or controlled by the subjects that the press writes about.
A free press, notwithstanding its shortcomings, is all that keeps us from becoming an authoritarian dictatorship.
Movies, music, and social media
These influencers can alter our attitudes both positively and negatively, depending on the motivations of the artists and writers who control, publish, and post the content.
Let us not support those cynical artists who continually affirm what’s wrong with everything, without ever proposing solutions.
More issues surrounding
black racism, poverty, and reactions to it
Bigoted and prejudiced people unjustly judge blacks with stereotypes. Others see blacks as competition for limited economic opportunities.
Those who are prejudiced think this way because they don’t understand cause and effect or context.
They don’t understand that blacks are disproportionately the victims of conditions and circumstances that lead to prejudicial false assumptions.
What follows gives context to how and why blacks have come to be saddled with these prejudices.
Poverty, low wages, limited access to well-paying jobs or economic opportunities in their communities often leads to hopelessness and illegal, criminal solutions to financial survival.
Solutions for resolving financial problems often lead to broken families and absent fathers.
Absence of local role-models robs growing minds of thoughtful choices.
Abusive treatment and their desire to punish those whom they rightly or wrongly blame is directed at the establishment, government agencies, the police, and the justice system, among others.
Having limited or unaffordable legal access to redress their anger increases their anger.
Feeling their right to vote is being compromised, they feel disenfranchised, marginalized, unheard, and resentful.
Feeling they can’t escape their conditions, circumstances, or neighborhoods often leads to depression, chronic stress, violence, drugs, alcohol, and crime.
Having limited or unaffordable access to quality education makes it difficult to develop the skills necessary to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Having limited or unaffordable access to funding for a startup business or home purchase destroys the hope of achieving the American dream.
Having limited or unaffordable access to quality healthcare, including mental health, leads to lingering health problems and lower life expectancy.
Having limited or unaffordable access to child care leads to overwhelming moral conflicts and stress.
Having less access to quality, healthful food can affect physical health.
While violent reactions to these limitations and feelings of hopelessness are self-defeating, they do beg for empathy, social justice, and racial equality.
Laws and issues governing the police
that need to be addressed
the wall of silence
the 50-A law re: access to police recordsdue process in the courts; justice delayed is justice denied
laws in the hands of state attorneys general
protection for whistle blowers
intent vs premeditation
stop and frisk
use of tasers
use of body cams
use of a choke hold
use of rubber bullets
use of a baton
use of less lethal 12-gauge sandbags/beanbags
use of the National Guard
use of the U.S. military — under the insurrection act
We also need to address the punishment and disciplines applicable when police violate laws and rules of conduct.
fired without pay
removal from office
The following reflect the degree of possible offenses for killing a criminal suspect.
murder, 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree
abandoned & malignant heart
manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary
non-physical, degrading, but unnecessary abuse of power
Note that many of the laws being suggested are already on the books and in police manuals. The issue, in many cases, is less a matter of needing more laws than it is in the implementation and application of those already in existence.
Also needing to be addressed is who judges police complaints of use of excessive, overwhelming, unnecessary, or deadly force by police?
Do not judge anything before knowing the context, the relevant details and variables that surround an event or incident. Ask what came before, what happened during, what followed: demeanor, admission, remorse, apology.
There are three sides to every story, yours, theirs, and the truth.
The truth is determined in a court of law through cross examination in front of a properly vetted, impartial jury, selected by attorneys of opposing sides who respect the law and follow it, all overseen by a honorable unbiased judge.
Remember, hardly anything is as simple as it first appears. Don’t be too quick to judge. There is little that is black and white or absolutely right and wrong. Stay calm, take a breath before reacting. Be willing to hear opposing views.
Don’t cherry-pick single instances or events to prove or disprove a systemic, complicated problem. Not all police act in brutal ways. Not all protestors engage in looting and vandalism.
Lastly, be aware that coverups are often seen as worse than the crime.
Next question, who judges the application of the laws involving the police related to human and civil rights?
U.S. Supreme court
U.S. District courts
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Police reform needs to address all of the above with the understanding that in all laws, the devil is in the details.
Further perspectives on police brutality
Many instances of what appear to be police brutality occur under very dynamic, fluid circumstances. These split-second decisions make it difficult to codify all life and death decisions that police may encounter.
The goal is to find an equitable balance between protecting citizens from abuse by police and maintaining the thin blue line that protects police and citizens from violent criminals.
Our actions and reactions to police brutality are often motivated not so much by our philosophy and personal history with racism, as by our feelings in the present when impacted by the freshest images of abuse, especially those images that get endlessly publicized.
Policies and decisions are data-driven, but don’t hesitate to question the collector of the data regarding the means and methods of collecting it, e.g., polls; who paid for the poll, who designed the questions, who asked them, who was polled, and who interpreted the statistics they arrived at. Scientists don’t always agree, but they do a better job at determining the facts than simply guessing or wishing for the conclusions you’d prefer.
When judging police responses, ask yourself, how should they respond to an arrestee who was looting and vandalizing during a riot, who is not following commands, resisting arrest, aggressive, drunk and belligerent, physically attacking the officer, grabbing for the officer’s gun or taser, getting the officer’s weapon, escaping and running away? Are there non-lethal options to handling this?
Emphasize ‘shoot don’t shoot’ and “de-escalation” training to reduce the need for lethal force.
Add psychologists, sociologists, and educators to education and training programs.
Get the community involved in neighborhood watch programs and joint meetings with the police.
Institute police reform, not by defunding, dismantling, or disbanding police departments, but rather by refunding them, with funds aimed at reducing the need for guns, batons, and battering rams.
Move statues honoring the Confederacy and its support for slavery to museums.
Reparations, a highly charged topic.
Affirmative action, another high-voltage topic
Initiate the implementation of drug, alcohol addiction, and detox programs in areas that are in particular need.
Provide more funding for body-worn cameras. Failure to turn them on should favor the accused in a court of law. Note that there are laws involving privacy that prevent body cams from being turned on, e.g., in hospitals.
Provide more funding for community programs in high crime areas, i.e., PAL, Police Activity League
Do what’s necessary to demonstrate through transparency that the marginalized and disenfranchised are being heard. One way is to keep the important changes that are being made in the present freshly in the public eye, a job for the media.
Spend more of our federal tax money getting our poor out of poverty and less on making the rich richer, without destroying the incentive of employers to invest in their businesses.
Have the government hire the unemployed to do work in the public sector.
Educate our youth, no matter the cost.
Recognize and reward police for standing up to their peers who cross the line.
Make it clear that violators of rules of conduct won’t escape penalty and consequences.
Vote at the ballot box from the top down to elect those people who have proven that they truly are in politics to serve the people.
Change laws that need changing soon after discovering that they need changing, however impractical to do so, not every two or four years.
Treat each other as equal members of the human race. As a guide, use the Rotary Creed entitled, “The four-way test of the things we think, say, or do: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and friendship? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
Make the judicial system work equally for everyone, not just those who can afford it. Give more incentive to public defenders to treat the blacks and poor with greater respect.
Create a diverse national task force with one goal: end irrational divisiveness; rethink the whole idea of how to bring peace and unity to the United States, even to the world, beyond the scope of the United Nations. Given state-of-the-art technology, I believe this goal is well within the realm of possibilities.
Raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to match states at $12 to $15.00 an hour.
As stated in the opening, if we’re serious about dramatically improving race relations and “justice for all,” all of the issues discussed above must be addressed.
Failure in any area can sabotage any real changes from taking place.
To conquer racism and eliminate police brutality requires that changes be made in the following: 1. our leadership, 2. laws supported by our courts and the judicial system, 3. our understanding of human nature, 4. our recognition of the difference between causes and effects, 5. our rules governing accountability and consequences of an abuse of power, plus 6. the narrative promulgated through the media, the press, and the arts.
Most everyone I’ve interviewed or spoken to about this issue agrees on one point of view…namely, that if everyone had God in their soul, love in their heart, and common sense between their ears, then racism, social injustice, and police brutality, in the United States of America, could become a thing of the past, sooner than later.
How long will it take to see evidence that things are changing? Not long, if we approach these issues with an open, optimistic mind, one step at a time, one day at a time, every day, starting now.
As everyone says, we’re all in this together. We can do this. Let’s make it happen!
Eight quotations on fear
“Anxiety is the fear of hurt or loss. Hurt or loss leads to anger. Anger held in leads to guilt. Guilt unrelieved, leads to depression.” —Dr. David S. Viscott
“It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly.” —Margaret Mead
“Big business is basic to the very life of this country; and yet many—perhaps most—Americans have a deep-seated fear and an emotional repugnance to it. Here is monumental contradiction.” —David Lilienthal
”To hate and to fear is to be psychologically ill. It is, in fact, the consuming illness of our time.” —Henry A. Overstreet
“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” —John F. Kennedy
“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts, perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” —John Steinbeck
“A rational man neither represses his feelings nor acts on them blindly. One of the strongest protections against repression is a man's conviction that he will not act on an emotion merely because he feels it; this allows him to identify his emotions calmly and to determine their justifiability without fear or guilt.” —Nathaniel Branden
“The greatest weakness of all is the great fear of appearing weak.” —Jacques Bénigne Bossue
Contributions, edits, and corrections are welcome. What I’ve written may change tomorrow, if I’m presented with new facts, contrary information, or better wording.
Consider using this document as a digital handout prior to having a live or Zoom discussion group. With an emphasis on communication, transparency, and knowledge, the enlightenment process can be dramatically accelerated.
Lastly, ask me about EPS, my 100% anonymous Electronic Polling System — analog, not digital, immune from the hacking, collecting, or storing of data. As a result, the participants feel their privacy is not at risk and, therefore, the polling feedback is 100% honest.