THE ANOINTED

I often encounter well meaning, politically correct people, who pride themselves on their liberal views. Almost all of them are college graduates and a surprising number have advanced degrees. Often their comments reflect a subtle disdain for the unwashed proletariat, particularly when the views of the plebes differ from their own. Although many have never watched the Fox News channel they abhor it. Undoubtedly anyone who watches it must be stupid. Tolerance is regarded as one of their virtues. However, tolerance toward opposing (usually conservative) views seems absent, especially in the political sphere. High in their scale of importance is not to be offensive. If minorities or females are the butt of jokes the humor is strictly verboten. The only socially sanctioned targets of lewd or denigrating humor are white males. A corollary to being non-offensive is the use of euphemisms such as “the N-word” or the “F-word”.

Many worship at the holy grail of diversity. Minorities must be represented proportional to their number in the population whether they are qualified or not. Affirmative action and special preferences are promoted to achieve the goal of equality. Meritocracy becomes less important than what is perceived to be fair. University admissions and minority preferences in hiring often discriminate against Asians and Caucasians. The lack of fairness that results from this type of social engineering does not seem to bother its proponents. These views are perpetuated by social science professors who often see the world through a prism of race, class, gender and victimhood.

Rather than extol the contributions of the past they often dismiss them as the product of dead white males. Often white males are seen as the oppressors and exploiters of females and minorities. Yet, it is difficult to deny that the great majority of great thinkers, philosophers, scientists and contributors to civilization happened to be male and Caucasian. I would make no apology for that reality.

I will admit that some of the above comments are caricatures of the militant liberal. Yet, I have encountered persons who behave and believe as described above. They exist! Often they feel very self righteous about their enlightened state and superior to the stupid masses. I must also admit that many militant conservatives are equally guilty of limited vision and intolerance. People who live at the extremes of the spectrum are particularly dangerous when they try to force their views upon others through legislation or by other means.

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CONTEXT

Recently I have been receiving a blog involving historical events. Each event has an appended quiz regarding happenings in the past. Obviously, the author of the blog is a younger historian. Almost all of the events he presents occurred in the past century. Surprisingly, I have personally lived through many of the eras the historian discussed. I’ve discovered that when I have personally experienced events they assume a different quality from the same events written in a history book. The latter events may be more accurate but most often more dry. Having actually experienced an event evokes a mental imagery that written historical accounts lack. Reading about Venice can never substitute for memories of sitting alongside the Grand Canal, sipping a glass of wine, or visiting Saint Marks cathedral. Each time the movies or television portray scenes of places that I have personally visited my inner eye activates. On a feeling level I am actually transported there. Recently we have been introducing the grandchildren to different countries in Europe through a television series on travel. Most of the countries featured I have visited. When viewing programs of countries I have not visited my emotional reactions are quite different. Wordsworth described how, in memory, he dances with the daffodils. Perhaps this is one of the true joys provided by reminiscences in the aged.

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SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH “THE OCTOGENARIAN”

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On Saturday, May 5, 2013, I had the pleasure of interviewing “The Octogenarian” along with his long time friend, Dr. Jim Skalicky. We hope you enjoy this interview.
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By the end of this decade, all but a few of the “Greatest Generation” will be gone. This is the generation who survived The Great Depression, WWII, and rebuilt America. Join me as I interview one of those few remaining survivors of that generation, Vernon Bohr, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Bohr’s eclectic life includes the summer of ’44 spent among the bloody hedgerows of Normandy, and participation in every major campaign in Northern Europe. He has emerged from a plane crash unscathed, survived a horrendous automobile accident, and eluded a charging wounded water buffalo. His professional accomplishments include professor, scientist, practitioner, administrator, business man and founder of a psychiatric hospital. He’s been listed in Who’s Who among American Men of Science and Who’s Who in the West. He’s been the medical director of three different psychiatric hospitals and president of the medical staff of a large community hospital.

My co-host in this interview will be Dr. Jim Scalicky, a practicing Clinical Psychologist who teaches at Citrus College in Glendale CA and is a long time personal friend of Dr. Bohr.

(Dr. Scalicky’s full bio, impressive list of credentials, and publications can be found on his website, Dr. Jim Skalicky )

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CAN THE LEOPARD CHANGE?

As a young psychiatrist I was periodically employed by the Superior court of California as a consultant. One case that I evaluated continues to stand out in my mind. It involved a group of middle class young adults who came from very conventional backgrounds. Following the siren call of the notorious Dr. Timothy O’Leary they dropped out and turned on with drugs. Drifting aimlessly they gravitated toward a wild eyed, extremely charismatic guru. His name was Charles Manson. To become his disciples he needed to bend their will. To enable this he formed a commune in an abandoned ranch on the desert. There he cut off all contact with the outside world. Large doses of psychedelic drugs enabled him to convince these hapless young fools that he was God. Obeying his commands, they committed a series of incredibly gruesome crimes. Amongst these was the butchering of a pregnant woman, Sharon Tate, while she was still alive. After ripping the fetus from her womb they bashed its brains against a wall.

Why would I share this story? In previous musings I’ve suggested that people have great resistance to changing their core beliefs. Yet, the Manson gang story illustrates that under certain circumstances an unbelievable reversal of values is possible. The background of the young people represented an epitome of conventionality. In a relatively short period of time they were able to discard their middle class values and transform into cold blooded killers. Through isolation, drugs, group pressure and the continual repetition of ideas from a persuasive leader they were able to adopt ideation and patterns of behavior totally alien to their former self.

Under certain circumstances various types of belief can be deliberately implanted in another person. This ability to alter the ideation of another person we now call brain washing. It first came to public attention during the show trials conducted by the Soviets during the thirties. Western observers were amazed that the political prisoners readily and willingly confessed to crimes that they obviously did not commit. Somehow the jailers had been successful in totally changing the opinions of their wards. Not only were they able to sway the ideation of their minions but were successful in convincing them to sincerely believe that their past actions were criminally wrong and deserving of punishment. If such techniques became widely available they would be a panacea for politicians, clergy, ad-men and psychotherapists. However, the gift would be fraught with menace. The Soviets who indoctrinated their political prisoners were firmly convinced they were doing acts of goodness for the greater society.

Banning the input of information from the outside world is absolutely vital in brain washing. In addition to this sensory isolation the victim is deluged with only one view. The rudiments of such techniques have been in use since ancient times. The children of Israel were warned not to have contact with unbelievers. They were to be a peculiar people. Dietary laws, circumcision and other rituals kept them isolated from the surrounding Canaanites. In the Christian era many religious orders were cloistered as a way to avoid temptations and maintain their rigid beliefs. To the present date, religions such as the Amish practice customs that isolate their children from learning about the outside world and assist in controlling their thinking. My personal religious training exemplified some of these practices. I was taught that movies, dancing, card playing and use of coffee and alcohol were sinful. Our Sabbath day was on Saturday and regular church attendance was obligatory. Strict dietary laws were practiced. Friendships were mostly with other believers. As a result of these beliefs I felt different. I was unable to attend school dances or football games. Even beyond adolescence I was cautioned that attending a worldly college might cause me to go astray. That caveat proved to be true.

In regard to change, Plato made this pregnant comment: “As the years go by, time will change and even reverse many of your present opinions. Refrain therefore a while from setting yourself as judge of the highest matters”.

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GOOD INTENTIONS

An old proverb maintains that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. That this adage has persisted over a number of generations might suggest that it has some validity. It poses the interesting question whether evil can masquerade behind a facade of of virtue and goodness.

If my readers allow me to digress I will share a recent experience. I have a vice. Each morning I will practice the useless task of scanning four newspapers. One recent day I was truly impressed by the unusual number of violent events perpetrated in the name of a Deity. Shiites and Sunis were blowing each other up in Iraq in the name of Allah. A hugh car bomb had been detonated in India resulting in dozens of deaths. Again the cause was religious strife. Similarly, a religious war had erupted in Mali.

These events are not unique to our time and generation. During the conquest of Canaan, God instructed the children of Israel to kill every man, woman, child and animals in the the conquered villages. The horrors of the inquisition, the bloody conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders and the slaughter of Huguenots and Albigenses were all conducted by well meaning people in the name of God.

However, I would like to shift attention to some more contemporary attempts to do good that seem to have had disastrous (evil?) consequences. Some of these are based upon religious beliefs and others upon strong secular ideologies. Refusal to immunize against polio has led to a resurgence of that disease in some Moslem countries. In recent years many diseases in the first world have been all but eliminated due to immunizations. Yet, more and more parents are refusing to inoculate their children based upon irrational belief systems. As a result serious childhood diseases are making a comeback. I also believe that the doctrinal prohibition against the use of condoms helped to foster the spread of aids. The religious proscription against contraception and family planning has resulted in grinding poverty and death in many parts of the world. All of these problems seem to have arisen out of the good intentions of well meaning people with rigid beliefs. Placing ideals and philosophy over the value of human life can lead to truly horrendous results. Hitler’s destruction of the Jews, Stalin’s elimination of the Kulaks and Mao’s great leap forward exemplify the results of such twisted ideals.

Allow me to mention two shocking examples of how beliefs triumphed over the value of human life. During World War I the bane of existence in the trenches was the body louse. Often typhus resulted from such infestation. Fortunately this problem did not surface during the next war. A miraculous chemical had been developed that killed the parasites. It was DDT. In the post war period it was discovered that DDT was effective in preventing malaria by killing the mosquito vectors of the disease. However, environmental groups coerced nations to enact a world wide ban on its use. It is estimated that banning this insecticide resulted in up to fifty million deaths from the resurgence of the disease. African children were especially targets of this scourge.

An equally egregious example of good intentions gone awry is the opposition of the environmentalists to genetically modified foods. Rice is the basic dietary staple of many Asian children. Unfortunately rice is deficient in vitamin A. As a result of this deficiency millions of children go blind each year and many die. The correction of this problem is simple, cheap and readily available. Rice can be genetically modified to add vitamin A to the native strains. The use of this life and health saving genetic modification frequently has been opposed by environmental groups who generally disapprove of genetically tampering with natural foods. These policies may have led to as many deaths as caused by Hitler, Mao and Stalin combined. Unfortunately, they were instituted all by well meaning people in the pursuit of good motives.

In summary, I am an enthusiastic supporter of attempts to improve our environment. However, I have problems with placing philosophies and belief systems above the value of human life.

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WORDS TO LIVE BY

Recently I was asked to participate in a panel discussing consciousness, materialism and spiritual matters. Frankly, I felt that I had little to contribute in regard to these profound matters. Due to the fact that I have arrived at an advanced age makes many feel that I possess a degree of sagacity beyond what I actually have. Some see me as a veritable fountain of wisdom. In that capacity I would feel like a fraud. Yet, I feel that having lived a long time has presented me with many perspectives and opportunities that can only be gained through a variety of experiences. Because of my early religious training I felt compelled to seek answers to existential questions through education, psychoanalysis, reading the philosophers, meditation and other disciplines.

One of the topics touched upon during the conference was the existence and importance of religion. From time immemorial humans have constructed beliefs and rites to honor and appease their deities. The belief in higher powers and that life transcends death is nearly universal. For most humans the thought of non-being is so horrendous that they have developed systems of thought that enable them to deny the reality of the grave. Some regard the universality of such beliefs as evidence of their truth. The fact that they enable humans to cope with their mortality makes them useful but does not necessarily make them true.

The appeasement of the gods provided other advantages. They were instrumental in the development of codes of conduct such as the ten commandments. These are highly utilitarian in fostering behavior that curbs our animal nature and enables group behavior and cohesion. Often they are based upon fear of punishment in the after life. The question arises whether mankind could have developed in an ethical and moral way without religious belief. Perhaps not.

I also have recently encountered,words of wisdom from the Dali Lama. I would like to share some of them with my readers. He maintains, “There is no religion that is higher than the truth”. I feel very much in tune with that definition. However, “truth’ can be highly subjective. I’m certain that Aztec priests felt they were being true to their gods when they cut the hearts out of living human beings.

The holy lama expands his thoughts as to what is the best religion. It is the one that makes you more compassionate, sensible, loving, humanitarian,responsible and ethical. To him the behavior of a person in front of his peers, his work, family and the world is more important than one’s religion.

The universe is the echo of our actions and thoughts. If one acts with goodness he will receive goodness. If he acts with evil he will receive evil. His holiness added the following pregnant thoughts.

“Take care of your thoughts, they will become your words.
Take care of your words for they will become your actions.
Take care of your actions, they will become your habits.
Take care of your habits, they will become your character.
Take care of your character, it will form your destiny and
your destiny will become your life”.

If these sage words constitute religion, sign me on and call me a believer!

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OF BUFFALO DUNG

In Spanish the word Tonto means stupid. The radio program, The Lone Ranger, had its debut during the nineteen twenties. In that era it was assumed that indigenous peoples were not as intelligent as Caucasians. In the decade of my birth the notion of political correctness had not yet appeared. It was possible to express outrageous racist ideas in public without being crucified. Allow me to present a narrative that casts a light upon the subject of intelligence.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the desert. After they got their tent all set up, both men fell into a deep asleep.

Some hours later, Tonto awakens the Lone Ranger and says, Kemo Sabe, look towards sky. What you see?

The Lone Ranger replies, ‘I see millions of stars.’

What that tell you?’ asked Tonto.

The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says, Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems it will be a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you Tonto?

Kemo Sabe, you dumber than buffalo shit. It means someone stole our tent.

This humorous anecdote illustrates how an obviously well informed and intelligent man gets overwhelmed in details. The Lone Ranger fails to see the forest because of the trees. His intellectual mind set does not allow him to see the obvious. In contrast, his simple Indian companion is not confused by irrelevant details. He immediately sees the situation. This little story raises the question as to what is intelligence. One dictionary defines it as the capacity to acquire, analyze and apply information. Furthermore it is an ability to cope with demands arising from new situations and solving new problems. Intelligent people manifest a quickness in mastering unforeseen dilemmas. What is the little joke trying to tell us about being smart? I believe the story resonates with us because we recognize that even the brightest of people can be dumber than buffalo shit, that an armamentarium of facts and information can impede us from seeing or doing the obvious. We joke about the absent minded professor or about some genius who is unable to balance his check book. Possibly we feel some need to denigrate them because we are threatened by their superiority.

During my years in Academia I’ve had the humbling experience of rubbing shoulders with a number of truly brilliant men including two Nobel laureates. In the mathematical-spatial realms of intelligence they truly were giants. In day to day practical matters many often were not. They made as many stupid life choices as did the rest of us. Outside of their field of competence they could appear less than competent. I once witnessed a world famous engineer unsuccessfully attempt to force a long bag into the overhead bin of an airplane. His son, who was not college educated, simply rotated the long axis of the bag ninety degrees and it slipped into the space easily. Might there be a difference between theoretical intelligence and street smarts? At times I believe there is.

Living in an analytical age we tend to overlook the possibility that there may be other types of intelligence. Most professional athletes excel in neuromuscular and motor skills. The same could be said for those with exceptional musical ability or have the talents of a chess grand master. Recently the concept of Emotional Quotient (EQ) has been introduced. It is a fuzzy and non quantifiable measurement. However it probably has some validity. A true genius might be unable to exercise his abilities because of emotional factors. This might be true of idiot savants. The chess genius of Bobby Fisher never spilled over into the way he conducted his personal life.

Fortunately those of us adequate, but not brilliant, don’t have to worry about these matters. Great intellectual feats are not expected of us. As Tonto so eloquently suggested, we are human. At times each of us is capable of being dumber than buffalo shit. Maturity dictates that we comfortably accept that fact.

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A SPECIAL POST BY “THE OCTOGENARIAN”

Enjoy this fascinating discussion with “The Octogenarian” amongst friends:

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A QUESTION FOR OUR TIMES

From time to time my readers encourage me to write my thoughts on various subjects. In lieu of doing that, I am forwarding comments I received from a former veteran regarding the role of women in combat. Based upon my personal military experiences during world war II, I believe that some of his arguments deserve consideration. It is easy to dismiss them as the product of male chauvinism or sexism. However, they represent one man’s sincere opinions about exposing women to the degradation, filth, and intense physical demands of battle. Even though you might disagree with his views, read his comments with an open mind and decide for yourself.

The Octogenerian..
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WOMEN IN COMBAT IS A BAD IDEA!

One thing I have never been accused of is being chauvinistic. On the contrary, I have always gone in the opposite direction, allowing that women are superior to men in most respects…they are usually smarter, wiser, stronger emotionally (sometimes physically) and wilier in a way, as well as being more compassionate. All my life I have gone out of my way to deal with women on an equal basis in business and personally. But when I observed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, proclaim this week that women are no longer banned from participating in direct combat, I thought it was a terrible idea!

In my distant past, I saw combat up close in the Korean War. In those days, there were almost no females in the armed services….now they constitute about 17% of all forces. Even the Marines, the most elitist and male-oriented branch, have a fair number of women in the ranks and as officers. Imagine how superior those women are to breach that gender gap! Let me be clear: there is no question about the courage, skill, determination, of women in combat. Only one salient point is the basis for my argument: women are less physically capable in performing herculean tasks of strength…that is a fact. Sure, there are individual women who can compete successfully with any man in certain tasks. And the armed forces say that they will not diminish the physical requirements for service, although I am skeptical of that claim. But there is another point which has not been raised to my knowledge in this discussion…the capture of women in combat is always a real possibility. And their treatment by enemy forces is far more draconian than that perpetuated upon male captives. Rape is an ugly word and reprehensible deed…but a reality in this cruel world of war. Measure their survival rates against that of men in captivity and it will diminish markedly.

I stand for the equalization of women’s roles in our armed forces. Yes, they can and should fly our planes, maintain our supply lines, operate our vehicles and do almost every other task out there. And have equal chance for advancement and rise in rank. I would gladly serve under a capable women officer any time. (Having often worked for women in my early career, I know of what I speak.) But I recall with grim anguish the memory of that bitter combat in that forgotten war, in cold and mud, despair and death. The overwhelming closeness in fighting of a small unit…the ugliness of the intimate life. And I cannot imagine what it would have been like if women were part of our unit. We men have been brought up to instinctfully care for and look out for women in our ken, and it would have been difficult, nay impossible, to do so in those close quarters of combat. Defecation is an ugly reality in such circumstances, and it isn’t pretty. Think of the average 18-19 year old female soldier, probably of a minority group, thrown into a combat situation. I read somewhere that young men are fueled with testosterone in combat situations, a hormone lacking in females. Women biologically don’t have the upper body strength of men….that’s a fact. (Despite the front-page story yesterday in the New York Times of a female army sergeant of 130 pounds who dragged a 220 pound wounded man to safety.) I have read all those stories about women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan with valor and courage. Yes, they were all in supply-and- support groups….and can and did pick up a gun when attacked and shoot with the best of men. And often die doing so. But what I am addressing is the thousands upon thousands of young (very young!) women who now will be admitted to that cruelest of combat’s stresses. Would I want my daughter or neighbor’s girl to face that. Not in your life. Frankly, I don’t want any kids of either gender to ever have to face life’s cruelest, toughest task….the killing of another person legally before they kill you. Combat in the military has a specific meaning…the seeking out of an enemy and annihilating him before he kills you. It’s vicious and dirty and ugly and terrible…and I don’t want to think of any woman being asked to do it….even if they are foolhardily eager to do so. And if they are captured and subjected to unholy tortures, it is a shattering thought. Look at the torture scenes in that great film, Zero Dark Thirty, to see what I mean. And the sequence when the Navy Seals go after Bin Laden…no women were included in that force for a very specific reason. What this new rule proposes is not a movie or a video game, it is a radical change to a way of life, a change which is alien to all common sense and reason. Women, I love you with all my heart…I just don’t want you fighting and dying beside me in a war.

Jay Weston

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IS MARRIAGE OBSOLETE? (II)

Recently the New York Times carried an editorial about poverty in schools. The article maintained that children raised in poverty were traumatized. As a result they became sad, distracted, aggressive and tuned out. Chaos reigned and the most disruptive students dominated the class room. Their disruption impeded the learning process of the other students. It was expected of teachers to learn methods of controlling the disruption. When they were unable to do that the school was labeled dysfunctional. Surprisingly the article failed to mention an important factor contributing to poverty. Children of unwed, urban mothers have a high incidence of poverty. The offspring of these mothers manifest a much higher rate of delinquency, school drop out, drug use and teen pregnancy. This social pathology is perpetuated from generation to generation. The absence of healthy male roll models correlates with much of the antisocial behavior of disruptive students. Of course, the negative effects of single motherhood are compounded by other factors. Divorce, remarriage, serial cohabitation and conflicts about joint custody aggravate the the problems. We are often reassured that we are in a new era. The conventional, bourgeois family has become passe. Unmarried motherhood is merely an alternate life style that can replace the conventional nuclear family. Can that be true?

I would like to reexamine the notion that poverty is a type of trauma that damages children. To answer the question I would like to draw upon upon my personal childhood experiences. I am part of what some people call the greatest generation. We were raised during a severe economic depression. Safety nets did not exist. By today’s standards our level of poverty was considerably greater that that of the present welfare recipient. Yet we didn’t feel traumatized. Schools functioned reasonably well. A photo of my second grade class shows forty students with one teacher. Disruption was minimal. Miss Holland ruled with an iron hand. If we misbehaved she would send a note to our parents. They, in turn, would punish us. What was the difference between my generation and the present children in poverty? Without exception we came from intact, two parent families. We had male role models who went to work and mothers who participated in the teaching-learning process. The family expectation was that we would obey our elders, learn our lessons, not drop out of school and be successful.

Wait! There is an alternate version to this story. These trends and statistics do not apply to a portion of the population. The vast majority of women who are college graduates continue to delay pregnancy until married (roughly ninety four percent of college women delay having a baby until married). This statistic has remained steady over a period of years. These educated women tend to be in better position to civilize and educate their children. The social pathologies seen in many schools occur less often amongst children of educated families. Marriage seems to be the best bulwark against social disorganization. Single parenthood often correlates with dysfunctional behavior in the offspring.

Because of these disparities are we destined to produce a stratified society of the advantaged and the disadvantaged? The sociologist, Charles Murray suggests that America is fragmenting. The fault lines include lingual, cultural, monetary and political divisions. He also includes the disparities encountered by children raised in conventional, intact families compared to children who lack that experience.

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