An Urgent Need

Alexander_The_Great_and_Diogenes

Diogenes meets Alexander the Great

A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need.
— Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

In 1961, the philosopher Erich Fromm discussed ‘mobile truth.’  In his Afterward to George Orwell’s 1984, he proposed a fictional employee, who works for a large corporation, which claims that its product is better than any other.  This employee comes to believe this claim, whether or not it is justified.  It becomes his/her truth.  However, if that employee moves to a rival corporation, he/she will accept another truth, which is that this new corporation’s product is the best.  Though both beliefs can’t be possible, this new truth will be as true as the old one.  So much for cognitive dissonance.

Fromm saw this lack of objective truth as “one of the most characteristic and destructive developments of our society” as man “transforms reality more and more into something relative to his own interests and functions.”

He was prescient in his concerns.  Two generations out, America and much of the Western world no longer operate from an agreed upon set of facts, theories, or understandings.  Truth is personal and unmoored: an art form.  I paint my reality and you paint yours.  Each of us, a potential minority of one. Continue reading

Food in Modern and Ancient Greece

Modern Greeks start discussing dinner after the first bite of lunch and start discussing the next day’s lunch at dinner. For the unwitting visitor or in-law, like myself, there is a single escape from this circle of culinary obsession: breakfast. In the morning, you’ll find yourself on your own, consuming some undiscussed but nevertheless tasty yogurt, granola or figs.

Read more at ‘But What Are They Eating?

Let’s Sell our Babies: A Modest Health Care Proposal

Health Care Costs

The solution to our health care problem is simple: Let’s sell our babies.

The United States currently ranks 55th in the world in infant mortality.  A baby born in the U.S. is less likely to see its first birthday than one born in Latvia or Cuba or New Caledonia.  And according to a paper by economists at the University of Southern California, Brown University, and MIT, this underperformance is driven “entirely, or almost entirely” by mortality among the poor, who have less access to health care.

Our babies are dying at a terrifying rate, an indefensible embarrassment for a country that spends far more than any other on health care.  But we are an inventive, energetic and practical people who are determined to continue with our market-driven approach to health care, so we need to find a way to turn these human liabilities into assets. Continue reading

JFK’s Last Speech

Kennedy

“In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason – or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

Excerpted from John F. Kennedy’s undelivered speech to the Dallas Citizens Council, scheduled for November 22, 1963, the day he was assassinated.

My novel is available here: The Last Island

 

The Passin’ of Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter

Toward the end of Harper Lee’s classic novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ when the rape trial of Tom Robinson has concluded and Atticus Finch is walking toward the exit, Reverend Sykes instructs Scout, Atticus’ daughter, to rise.

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’,” he says.

Robinson, an innocent Black man, has just been convicted by an all-White jury, and Atticus, his White lawyer, has ostensibly failed. But they stand up, the Black citizens of Maycomb, Alabama, they stand up along with the Reverend and Scout, because moral courage of the sort Atticus exhibited, true moral courage, must be acknowledged. Continue reading

Faith, Recklessness, and Courage (Christmas in No-Man’s Land)

Border between Greece and Bulgaria

Border between Greece and Bulgaria

There were three men against the back wall with AK-47s.  They were unshaven, unmoving, and looked as if the last time they smiled there was blood on the ground.   They glared at me and there was an even chance that I was the first American they’d ever seen.  Communism had just fallen and, since no system of law, order or enforcement had yet taken its place, these men had become all of those things.

They were guarding the ‘businessmen’ that I was meeting with in a rural village in Bulgaria, businessmen who were money changers, importers/exporters, and a rural ex-party mafia rolled into one.  I was here to sell a tractor, the first modern western tractor in the country as far as any of us knew, and though I didn’t want to be negotiating with ‘businessmen’ like these, there was no choice.  They could move large equipment; they had money; and they had protection. Continue reading