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#435 – Dick Bernard: But/And

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Directly related posts here; here; and here.

Tuesday night I was invited to a closing event of a well known program of Landmark Education, a world wide and well known personal improvement program.

I’m well acquainted with Landmark Education, having taken much of their curriculum 13 years ago. The event was an evening very well spent.

We were given a very simple exercise: to identify (my interpretation of the exercise) some decision making quandary of two options, separated by the word BUT.

A personal example of mine might be:

I’d like to lose a few pounds, BUT I like pie and ice cream (amongst a large array of such temptations)

There are endless variations on this quandary.

Then, the instructor asked us to replace the BUT with AND, so my statement would now become:

I’d like to lose a few pounds, AND I like pie and ice cream….

(I had my annual physical yesterday and the dreaded scale at the beginning of the process shows which of these has won. I wasn’t surprised.)

There followed an interesting discussion of the distinction (again, my interpretation) between these two statements.

When we use the BUT word in such matters, we are, in effect, making a decision: one option over the other. The word decision is in itself an interesting word. It shares a root with words like suicide, homicide, insecticide and on and on and on. When you decide something, you elect one fork in the road, and kill off the other.

Often a decision is made in anger, with frequent unpleasant results. Prisons are full of people who made decisions out of anger and killed somebody. (Whole societies can make decisions which ultimately cause their death, too. That includes our own American society, at this point in our history.)

The AND word connotes a right to choose, and in fact to change one’s mind. With choice, you’re not killing off other options.

Both BUT and AND have their merits and their problems; BUT, however, tends to be terminal. Deciding ones route tends to burn the bridge to the other route.

Before the exercise, the person who invited me and I were discussing some of the happenings in our respective lives. She happened to mention a meditation group that she had chosen to join, with some reservations, but had come to find very fulfilling for her.

In the course of the conversation, she mentioned a friend who had a weight problem, who was in the meditation group. In some manner, at some point, her friend chose to focus on a single meal each day, rather than look on the transformation as a 24 hour a day seven days a week task.

She took on her choice and over a period of time lost 35 pounds.

Apparently a very good choice.

I’m like everyone else, with plenty of BUTs impeding me in my life.

Time to replace a few of them, at least, with ANDs.

Maybe looking at that “pie and ice cream” as “sugar and fat” (which is what they are) will make a difference (I was going to say “can make a difference”, but that’s a cop out.)

As individuals, and as a society, we can make good choices or awful decisions.

We will choose what decision to make.

#328 – Dick Bernard: Part 4. A Message to the Proles*

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Shortly after the Super Bowl, even with the events continuing in Egypt, the nightly news paid a lot of attention to the rollout of Donald Rumsfeld’s new book, “Known and Unknown“.

There is no need to waste words or even internet links about Donald Rumsfeld – anything one wants to know, positive or negative, about the man, can be easily found…except his own personal secrets.

Personally, I believe that his career – most of his work life – as a “public servant” exemplified manipulation by use and misuse of all of the means of Power** at his disposal, as that word is defined by people who are Powerful. This includes the right to do wrong and never, never, ever admit that you make mistakes, and blame someone else for whatever mistakes were made.

I didn’t see all of the interviews, but the ones I saw were of the Rumsfeld of old: completely on message, not about to be tricked into going off script even the tiniest amount. No accountability.

Examples of shady kinds of behaviors by powerful people are endless. Rumsfeld is way up near the top of the list of those who feel righteous in what they were trying to do, including supposedly to bring, euphemistically, “democracy and freedom” to places far away, all for the greater honor and glory of themselves.

I am particularly interested in the title of Rumsfeld’s book: “Known and Unknown“. I’ve been intrigued by that phraseology since I first heard him use it in the early days of Iraq War.

It brought me back to a lesson learned in one outstanding program of an international company called Landmark Education in the summer of 1998.

In the programs of Landmark, we learned many obvious things that most of us never really connect with.

One of the lessons that stuck was this (paraphrased): “There are things that we know that we know. There are things we know we don’t know. Finally, there are things that we don’t know that we don’t know.

I could have sworn, from his use of this phrase, that at some point in his development Rumsfeld had taken the same Landmark program that I did. He simply parroted these words, much to the delight of the media, since they were so quotable.

In my assessment, he had the vocabulary down, but he misused the entire concept in denying any culpability for catastrophic calculations made by himself and others at the highest levels in the U.S. Government during the entire post 9-11 time of Iraq.

Not part of that Landmark Lesson was a fourth phrase that I’ll coin that perhaps should well be paid attention to: “There are things that we don’t know because we don’t want to know them.” Think a gangster leader who sends word, “take care of that problem”, and somebody downline ends up dead….

You can never tell what to believe from an executive with Rumsfeld’s experience. Rumsfeld will likely die not revealing any unspoken truth. No apologies at least to his earthly counterparts.

Perhaps the best strategy for us is to believe nothing on first hearing or reading. To be endlessly skeptical. But to retain hope that you can impact on the system.

That’s my message to the Proles (of which I am one).

* – In George Orwell’s book, 1984, the masses were called the Proles. “Prole” was probably a shortened version of the word “proletariat” and 1984 was apparently modeled on then-Soviet Union. Orwell’s book was published in 1949.

In Orwell’s book, the Proles were caricatured through images like the meek housewife, happily singing a tune while hanging out her wash on a clothesline; and the boys hanging out at a pub, getting drunk on cheap gin. In Orwell’s world, Big Brother and his minions were in control in a gigantic pyramidal headquarters in London, and Newspeak (i.e. “war is peace”, etc.) was the alternate official language of power. Telescreens and the Two Minute Hate against a distant enemy kept the rabble afraid and compliant.

The Proles vastly outnumbered the power, but (it seems) never got organized.

The first decade of the 21st century we’ve been living in “1984″, in my opinion.

** – Power defined. I once heard an excellent talk about some of the many kinds of “Power” in plays in all of our lives. As I remember them: there is the power that comes with authority (“I can fire you”, or variations usually involving money); there is the power that comes with the capability of defining the rules of society (“I can make laws”). Power comes with family connections – a family marries into a family with power. The list goes on.

But there was one power I paid most attention to, and the speaker called it “referent power” or “the likeability factor”. For people immersed in the other kinds of power, this is the scary one: this is the problem of relationships, and builds outside, and independent of, the others.

Related Posts: Feb. 6, Feb. 7, and Feb. 8