Monday, May 22, 2017

newspaper column

Printed today in the local paper under the newspaper headline, "Searching Honesty in a land of distrust" (My headline, "Which democracy are you talking about?":

When I was a kid, there were moms who would use soap to wash out the mouths of offspring who were daring enough or foolish enough to use a cuss word around the house. My mom wasn't one of them, but I experimented and can report that soap really tasted like ... well, I don't want my mouth washed out with soap.

I thought of this home-schooling the other day when, not for the first time, I wondered whatever had happened to the once-praised virtue of moderated language. And that made me realize that since I am in no position to moderate the blabber-mouth tactics of the president of the United States combined with the feeling that national events have simply gotten too messy for me to keep up with, the best I can expect, perhaps, is to pay closer attention to my own posturings.

Aside from anything else, if I could rein in my own tendency to fling virtues and philosophies around without a second thought, I might be able to claim to have learned a good lesson from a man whose every pronouncement seems to require an explanation from pundits and apologists that begins, "Well, that's not exactly what he meant...." That sort of lifestyle may be OK for a real estate blowhard, but it is not OK with me. So....

As a small beginning in my desire to be a more thoughtful broker, I have decided to steer clear of using or listening too carefully to the use of the word "democracy." As far as I can gather from the outraged and the delighted, "democracy" means whatever the current user wants it to mean. Until "democracy" is clearly defined in a discussion, well, it is just a goodie-two-shoes lash that means I get to say what I want and you have to listen. Or vice-versa. When the word "democracy" passes its gas, somehow everyone is expected to genuflect. But what exactly is being praised and who benefits?

For example, what does "democracy" mean when the flying of the Confederate  battle flag is the issue? What does it mean when a commencement speaker does not meet with the expectations of the prospective audience? What does "democracy" mean in a country where healthcare is widely regarded as a right and making money is simultaneously an ingrown imperative? Specifically -- which democracy are we talking about?

And "democracy" is not the only political football I have decided to put aside ... or anyway try to. Remember Bernie Sanders and the edgy sniggers that surrounded his "socialist" agenda? How many have looked up "socialism" and considered the practical and metaphorical meanings that can go into that word? From one standpoint, for example, both Christianity and Communism might be labeled "socialist." But it's so much easier to wink-wink-nod-nod and let the word go, whether as an insult or a bit of sanity.

It's all too much like Donald Trump for my liking. It's all too much like the idiotic traveler in a foreign land who is so convinced by his or her own beliefs that s/he imagines speaking louder will convey the one true meaning. Yes, it's earnest. But volume and a couple of bucks will get you a bus ride.

Anyway, the current state of confusion and the current lack of trust across the land has left this aging onlooker exhausted. I need someone who's honest -- or actually, someone I can credit as honest -- and I honestly no longer know where to look. At 77, I'm crabby: Why should I have to look? Why should a leader be so palpably thin on facts and thinner still on the nation and its needs? As promise after promise is followed by "well, that's not exactly what he meant," my sense of terra firma is weakened. I don't like the feeling, but it is time I made some lemonade out of the lemons that have been delivered. 
As a dwindling news junkie -- someone who reads four or five news wires a day and watches the evening TV news -- I have found some recent relief in the recognition that I don't really need to credit those who cannot define their terms. I will do what I can to be sure of my own terms.

Adam Fisher lives in Northampton and can be reached at


  1. Hey, you can trust me! I'm honest! You just have to take my stupid along with it. lol

  2. Nice piece. Congrats on getting it into print. You've touch on the tip of the iceberg.

    Some important points about "democracy." For example,from its beginnings in Ancient Athens, Greece, "democracy" was the not the idealist democracy that exist only in propaganda. In Ancient Athens only certain men (yep, no women), were able to vote. Also Slavery existed in Athens. Slaves didn't vote.

    The notion we have of democracy in the 21st century, is great; but for the most part it's idealistic to the extreme. It ignores much about human nature. It doesn't intrinsically address much less provide mechanisms to fight greed for power. It assumes everyone wants to share wealth and power.

    Think the USA is a good model for Practical Democracy?
    Check this out on Wikipedia:
    See the chart:

    The United States ranking in the Democratic Index has been lowered recently. On the scale of 1 to 10, the US is below 8. I suspect that this country's 2017 rating may change one way or another due to the current highly dishonest and unstable president. Right before Trump took over the US received a 7.98 rating. By comparison Austrialia, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden are in the 9's. China's rating is 3.14, Russia's rating is 3.24. Saudia Arabia's is 1.93, Iran is 2.34, Israel's is 7.85 (and I think that might be too high based on conversations I've had with those far more knowledgeable than I with both the Israeli government and the on the ground situation (e.g. I didn't know that Palestinians can not use the same roads as "Israelis.")

    Consider: peace and justice activism has been increasing since Mr. Trump won the electoral college vote (Note that the electoral college is am extremely undemocratic mechanism inserted into the US Constitution). But even in the 120 or so days in office, Trump and his Oligarch Cronies (including US, Russians and Saudis) are doing much to suppress voter participation, reduce health care, reduce education, ignore & reduce science, etc.

  3. PS

    Given how overwhelming the current political situation is, it might be useful to learn, or review and renew techniques to help the development of a calm, clear and stable mind.

    Exercise. Tai Chi. Chi Gung. Yoga Asana and Breath Practices. Meditation Practices like breath counting and awareness (e.g. Search Anapanasati, & introductory Zen Meditation.)

    A good diet tends to help as well.