Monday, January 25, 2010

Being right means having to say you're sorry

One of the disadvantages of being politically conservative is having to say I'm sorry.  You know, acknowledge that you did something wrong, or hurt someone's feelings, or made a mistake.  Saying sorry means you take responsibility for your own actions.  That concept is lost to our liberal friends.  One of the most mindblowing examples of this came last week, the day after the Massachusetts special election.  Our president, Barack Obama, had an interview, in which he stated that "The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office, people are angry and they're frustrated, not just because of what's happend in the last year or two years, because of what happened in the last eight years." Don't take my word for it, watch yourself A major loss for the president's agenda and the Democrat party is because the deep blue state of Massachusetts voted a Republican who campaigned almost exclusively as the key to killing the current healthcare reform bill into the seat held by Ted Kennedy for 40+ years because they are still mad at W.  Not because the people don't want the plan.  Not because it's a sorry piece of legislation that hasn't been read by the people in office.  Not because it's so horrible that HUGE bribes had to be offered to collect votes (not a new event, or exclusively liberal, but the blatancy of this round of bribery is especially disturbing in view of the massive opposition to the bill from the people) This is one of the finest examples of avoiding taking responsibility we have seen from the left in a long time.  Obama, Pelosi and Reid should have said a long time ago that this is not a plan the people want, it needs to be scrapped and started from scratch.  But ego, pride and agenda all got in the way.  Reid gave us another example with his "light skinned" and "Negro dialect" comment by not following his own example and demanding for his own resignation like he did to Trent Lott for his comment at Strom Thurman's 100th birthday party. 

Now, if you're still reading, good.  You are probably mature and intelligent enough to at least recognize the point of this rant.  My point today is not really about Obama or Reid, they just have recently given fine examples of my point.  Personal accountability is one of the bricks in the foundation of conservatism and many other good ideologies.  Acknowledging our own part in our situation, whether it is a good situation or a bad situation, is a requirement.  If it is a good situation, that acknowledgment can keep us on the right track, maintaining good habits and keep us humble by acknowledging the people who have helped us out.  If we are in a bad situation, acknowledging our part in it helps us identify the actions and habits that got us there so we can fix them  For some reason, the left leaning mindset that is overwhelming our society, not just politics, can't stand the idea of personal responsibility.  We see it in frivolous lawsuits, inane warning labels who's sole purpose is to prevent frivolous lawsuits, therapy blame games (not saying events in our past and things people have done to us can't affect us, especially traumatic events, but part of the healing process is not letting those things rule our lives anymore) no fault divorces, the list goes on and on. 

I'll present a personal example of the power of personal accountability.  My financial situation isn't the best in the world.  There are a whole lot of reasons for that, primarily decisions that I and my wife have made over the years, and yes even decisions I made before I was married.  Some of those decisions, mostly the ones I made before I was married were not very intelligent or forward thinking.  Some of those decisions were good decisions, but they have had profound effects on life.  Having kids early is one of those good, profound decisions, especially as later events have made the possibility of having kids later nil.  Not applying myself in high school and the first trip through college is one of those less than stellar choices.  Guess what? Since acknowledging that I was not applying myself in my educational endeavors, I have completed both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree.  Finishing either one would not have been possible without first accepting my responsibility for breezing through high school and flunking out of my initial attempt at college.

None of us can make anything better without figuring out where things went wrong, and 98.7% of the time, we will find that where things went wrong was with our own choices and actions.  Not racism, not sexism, not politics, not poverty, not family ties, not other people's opinions of us.  So many great people throughout history have started with nothing, and instead of wallowing in self-pity or playing the blame game, they simply said "I will not remain in this situation."  Some of them had it all, lost it all, and examined how they got it all to begin with, how they lost it, and then got it all back.  Again, these people did not hide in a corner, or scream that the system was out to get them.  They acknowledged the situation and their part in it, and went forth to fix whatever was wrong with the situation.  There are problems in our political system right now, on the left and the right, and they aren't all George W. Bush's fault.  There are problems in our economic system right now and they aren't all AIG and GM's fault.  There are problems in our social systems right now, and they aren't all because of racism and sexism.  None of these will get fixed unless people stand up and acknowledge what caused those problems and set forth to fix their part of that.  If you made it all the way through this screed without throwing your computer through a window, you know what the first step is.  Are you willing to take it, to better yourself and the world? 

Monday, January 18, 2010

My state of the Union

I was out cold calling this week, and made my way through one of Wichita's industrial sectors looking for potential customers.  I was amazed at the number of empty buildings.  Some had weathered For Sale signs in front of them, some just looked abandoned.  How did this happen?  Obviously, there was a time when these buildings were in use.  Thinking back, there are a whole lot of reason why they are empty now.  Poor government policies.  Poor corporate policies.  Poor decisions and attitudes of the general population.  Government, fed, state and local, have all made short sighted or poorly influenced decisions regarding environmental regulation, wages and taxes (see the recent suggestions that Kansas raise taxes to close the budget gap, at a time when people don't have money to spend, nor do businesses) have been made, making running these large plants and fabrication shops difficult and nonprofitable. Corporations have made short sited decisions in dealing with unions, in taking jobs out from under people who spend their paychecks on products and services that in turn create more need for the corporations products, and questionable executive actions and incentives (such as golden parachutes). 

The main one I want to talk about here is the poor decisions and attitudes of people.  The other two get lots of attention, usually ugly debates with one side blaming the other for everything.  We will take a different path today.  Looking at these buildings, I notice the huge steel fences, the steel bars over the windows.  This is expensive security stuff, and I'm sure there are other measures that aren't so easily spotted.  Why are these needed?  Because too many people have the attitude that they would rather steal something and sell it than work for money (lots of sidenotes today, but think of this summers rash of copper thefts).  Because too many people would rather break out windows for fun or tag the walls with graffiti, the second one made more distressing by the fact that many of those taggers are enormously talented and could make a great living in the art world or graphic design if they wanted to.  I was filling out an app for a second part time job this week.  Part of the app was a 145 question quiz with about a dozen questions about theft, knowing people who stole, or knowingly owning stolen property.  While I was unemployed, I filled out plenty of apps that included a box to check to allow a background check to be ran for employment.  Why?  Because of those same bad attitudes and poor decisions people have made that emptied out those industrial buildings.

There are a whole lot of people here in America, and yes even here in Wichita Kansas who want the world handed to them on a silver platter.  At least the culture revolutionaries of the 60's were willing to fight and sacrifice to try and take over the world.  Here it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Do you think "I Have A Dream" would have had the same affect if it had been typed up in a blog?  Going further back, do you think Henry Ford would have changed the world with a internet startup instead of the assembly line?  Better yet and more to the point, would the Founding Fathers be the Founding Fathers if they hadn't been willing to put their lives on the line for their beliefs?  America as a whole has lost the will to work.  Pickup trucks stop on street corners to pick up a dozen illegal immigrant for a days work in no small part due to the fact that so many Americans don't want to work without a high hourly wage, a great benefits package and a weeks paid vacation every year. 

Those poor government and corporate policies are feeding that loss of will (I'll leave the discussion of whether or not it is intentional to the tinfoil hat crowd) but it is possible to get out from under it.  The first step, just like in AA, is to stand up and admit that you have a problem.  "Hi, I'm (say your name here) and I'm a lazy bum who wants to be taken care of."  I haven't codified the next eleven steps yet, but there are a whole lot of people our there who have in the past.  Stephen Covey, Napoleon Hill, and W. Clement Stone are some great places to start.  Those industrial parks didn't empty out overnight, you and I didn't turn into bums overnight, and neither one is going to rocket back overnight.  But of the three listed causes, this one is going to be the easiest to fix, (which says a lot about how hard the other ones will be to fix)because as each of us becomes more industrious, more responsible, and more prosperous, the more right minded folks will be moving into the positions to start repairing the other two. 


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What Is Love? (no, not the Haddaway song)

One of the issues the Church (as in the whole body of Christ, not a specific denomination or church) has in modern Western culture is that we preach love, and the idea of love has been severely bent and twisted in the culture we live in.  Love can run the gamut from sex and sexual attraction to a fleeting emotion that comes and goes by it's own will to, in many unfortunate cases, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from someone.  When a preacher or believer stands up and says God is love, the images that come to peoples minds are varied, and often do not match the intended vision, sometimes even if the listener is another Christian.

Our culture attaches the word love to a lot of things.  So often in pop-culture, we see love as a motivation for sex.  Songs, movies, and tv shows are wrapped in the idea that if we love someone, we take them to bed, or the backseat of the car, or wherever the "big moment" happens.  Obviously, there is nothing sexual about God's love for us, but when dealing with things like God, sometimes the obvious must be stated.  I have yet to see any evidence that the Greek word "eros", for sexual love, was ever used in any of the Bible's descriptions of God or Jesus' love, neither does there appear to be any use of the Hebrew word for lust in the Old Testament when referring to God's feelings towards His people.

Love is also seen nowadays as a high, a self-sustaining emotion, one that, should it fail to sustain itself, disappears.  This attitude has created the proliferation of prenuptial agreements and do-it-yourself divorce kits.  Fairy tales of happily ever after, mixed with again massive doses of romantic comedies and tear-jerker romantic dramas and cheesy love songs have created the idea that love just is, that once you are in love with someone, there is no effort required to remain in love.  That idea, extrapolated out, tells people that if the feeling fades, rather than putting in the work to rekindle the flame, just to drop out.  (Note: romantic movies and love songs are not inherently destroying our ideas of what love is, but when the fantasy is not balanced with some reality, we end up where we are at.  Please don't write back that I told you you cannot watch :fill in your favorite romance movie/tv show here: that is not my point.) 

Most people today have some experience, direct or indirect, with abusive relationships.  Often we find that the victim in the relationship, and sometimes the abuser as well, really believe that the emotional, physical, or spiritual abuse in the relationship is really love.  What goes through their mind when they hear that "God is love"?

1 Corinthians 13 is commonly known as the love chapter.  It contains a long list of the attributes of love, and none of them match any of these modern definitions of love.  " Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" ( 1 Cor. 13:4-8 NIV)  A pretty far cry from the first few paragraphs there, isn't it?  Nothing about sex, nothing about butterflies in your stomach, nothing about love coming and going at will.  Protection, trust, perseverance, patience, kindness, these are what love is, and this is the love that God has for us.  His love protects us here, He trusts us with our free will, He is unbelievably patient with us.  There is no need for a prenup, because as far as God is concerned, the love doesn't end.  He loves us when we don't deserve it.  Heck, God's greatest expression of His love for us happened 2000 years before anyone reading this showed up (John 3:16).  

So what can the Church do?  We have to keep taking the definition of love back.  Say it loud, say it often, and when needed, use words.  Say it from the pulpit, the street corner, the soup kitchen, the neighbor's kitchen, and everywhere else you go.  These definitions didn't change overnight.  These ideas didn't just spring up one day.  It took time for the problems to proliferate, it's going to take time to repair the damage to society.  But more importantly, just like love, it's going to take conscious action to keep the fire going. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The power of planning

I've been working my way through a book called "Underground", a look into some of the history of hacking focusing mainly on a group from Australia in the early 90's. (the book is available free at Project Gutenberg ) It amazes me reading the book what these various folks were able to accomplish in those days before Google, blogs, automated hacking tools, or even internet access as we know it now. The reason I bring this up is because as the end of the book approaches, I realized what all the hackers had in common with their accomplishments. Passion. Desire. Not just random, "gee, I'd like to do something big someday" desire that so many of us carry around, myself included, but focused, defined passion with set goals to be reached. W. Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill called it definitiveness of purpose. Steven Covey breaks it into two effective habits, beginning with the end in mind and putting first things first. The old adage goes "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." Jesus asked His listeners in Luke "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?" (Lk 14:28 NIV) People, again myself included, have the bad habit of thinking in generalities. If I get a good job, if I finish school, get another degree, if I sit down and write, things will be better. That's not how we are successful though. Success comes through setting solid goals, making the plans to reach those goals, following through with the plans, and keeping track of the plan to make sure it will get us to our goal.

Each step is required for the process to be successful. Setting the goals puts our destination on the map. If your goal is a certain income level, putting the number down in black and white helps solidify that goal. If that goal is a certain object, again, putting it down in black and white (or color picture) solidifies the goal. Once the destination is decided, the path to reach it can be chosen. Income is the easiest one to look at here. Compare what you are currently making with what you want to make. Is it possible to bring in the desired income with your present job, or will you need to look at switching jobs? Is a second job or stream of income needed? Measurements and quantification is required, otherwise your goals are nebulous and impossible to reach. The next step is to work the plan. What good is a road map if you never look at it? How do you know how far away from you destination you are if you aren't checking your progress on the map? Road blocks and detours are a guarantee, and sometimes halfway through the trip, it may be necessary to reassess the destination. But those obstacles are easier to deal with as part of a path, as is that occasional change of course.