Category Archives: Philosophy

The Circle of Life (A Non-Disney Rendition)

Lion KingThe past month has been mind-bogglingly painful for IDROS, as I am sure it has been for many of you. It’s basically been like Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire Part Deux…in thirty friggin’ days. Another horrific mass shooting, nuclear war somehow becoming more likely to invoke Nena-like apocalyptic nightmare scenarios for the first time in 25 years, natural disasters out the yin yang (is that still a saying?), celebrity deaths that leave us shaking our heads (IDROS was particularly saddened by Walter Becker’s passing), the only Vice President IDROS likes these days got diagnosed with Breast Cancer, various examples of racism and homophobia, terrorist attacks, This is Us got the axe (kidding), another oil spill, the best quarterback in the NFL broke his collarbone (and ruined IDROS’ chances of winning his fantasy football championship this season), Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job and the movement he has spawned has caused a caustic environment throughout the nation, our president’s lack of empathy (demonstrated in numerous ways this past month) continues to embarrass and frustrate many Americans…and on, and on, and on.

But the story currently gripping the nation, sending shockwaves through the entertainment industry and beyond, finally motivated IDROS to make time in his busy schedule to hunt and peck for a stretch in an effort to make sense of all of the hopeless and catastrophic BS that haunts us as we enter the fourth quarter of 2017.

You know…the story that ensures you will never look at a potted plant the same way….ever again.

IDROS is not surprised by the news, to say the least. And obviously that is part of the problem…pretty much nobody was. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg penned a well-written post about his Golden Goose named Harvey and the role the silence of those around him played in the sick and twisted mogul’s twenty-plus-year (likely much more) run harassing hundreds of unsuspecting women (click here if you haven’t read it yet).

While entertaining, IDROS did not find the piece to be enlightening…in fact it served only to reinforce the feeling IDROS already had upon first hearing the news…of course everybody f-ing knew. And to think: Disney owned Miramax during the time Harvey really rose to prominence. Wholesome Disney…meet your sinister underbelly. We shall see if the brass over at Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse knew about the rat they had lurking inside their Magic Kingdom.

Disney inadvertently helped create Harvey Weinstein when they purchased Miramax in 1993. Disney also created The Lion King, a mostly accurate portrait of earth’s animal kingdom and the symbiosis necessary to perpetuate the health of life on our planet. IDROS wants to discuss these themes as they relate to pretty much all of the awful news gripping our planet. Grab a drink and a snack and make yourself comfortable…this could take a while.

Bullying is a topic of concern among most parents in America, and likely the world. It has emerged and jumped to the forefront of national dialogue in recent years in the wake of various school shootings and an increase in suicides among America’s youth. But bullying is not new. We know this because Biff Tannen, pretty much the poster-boy for bullying, was brought to the big screen in 1985, more than three decades ago. But bullying has been around since the dawn of man…in fact since the dawn of LIFE.

Animals of all species have bullies, and always have. Darwin explained the phenomenon using his theory of “Survival of the Fittest.” Alpha males of various species assert themselves in a myriad of behaviors in order to gain access to the best feeding territories, clean water, safe terrain free from enemies, or at least more easy to defend, and most importantly, to suitable mates. Females, for their part, are generally open to this display of male dominance, and often to the point of allowing (or at least accepting that) their mate is also mating with several other females, because mating with an alpha male improves the odds that her offspring will be stronger, faster and more able to survive. Bullying is a trait necessary for survival in the Animal Kingdom.

Humans have evolved. But our base instincts are still derived from our pre-civilized time as animals.

Bullying is a major problem. In fact, IDROS will go so far as to say, as far as the future of society is concerned…bullying is THE problem. It is the singular greatest problem man has…and always has been.

All conflict is a direct result of bullying. All fights are a direct result of bullying. And all wars are a direct result of bullying. Think about that. Let it sink in. Any time a person or group of people attempt to assert themselves over another, for ANY reason…they are acting the bully.

Awful criminal activity is pretty much universally some form of bullying. From blackmail to rape, human trafficking to armed robbery, pedophilia to organized crime.

Furthermore, there are more subtle forms of bullying. Bribery (which unbelievably is legal in the form of LOBBYING), harassment (sexual and otherwise) and racism. While all of these types of bullying can be overt, often they manifest in less public ways…especially in the anonymous age of the internet. But acts such as racism are learned…and so just being racist assholes in the confines of your home, around your children, without directly committing any racist acts to anyone else, can have deleterious effects.

Not only are humans wired genetically to be bullies, but we pass on bullying behavior socially and educationally as well. Children and adults alike witness aggressive or ignorant behavior at home, at school, with their friends and even in the workplace, and become infinitely more likely to act similarly.

Maybe more impactful than all of that is the cyclical nature of experience. People who are bullied, especially as children, are more likely to become bullies themselves. Children whom are molested and/or abused are exponentially more likely to become predators themselves.

Bullying is a true circle of life. Scar was a bully in The Lion King. And when he rose to (read: murderously seized) power, the kingdom became a desert wasteland. Sound eerily like any scenario that seems more and more imminent every day in the actual world?

Power is the drug that fuels pretty much all bullies. And all forms of bullying are an assertion of power over a bully’s prey.

Americans elected a friggin’ bully to be the leader of the free world. If that isn’t a complete nod to the fact that bullying is in our DNA, and that Americans have all been bullied themselves and so are now subconsciously (and unfortunately, in many cases, consciously) becoming bullies themselves by placing the king of all bullies on the proverbial Iron Throne! And our Confederacy of Dunces isn’t the only nation to have a bully in its highest office. Russia, North Korea, Syria, China, and the Philippines among others fit the bill. But our bully-in-chief has displayed a rare aptitude for bullying, demonstrating his prowess in a multitude of ways over the years: Racism, verbal abuse, threats, and of course, sexual harassment/abuse.

Sexual harassment and abuse is rampant around the globe. Vile rapes and sexual mutilations occur with ridiculous frequency…and those are the ones we find out about through the media. 50% of our society is disrespected on a daily basis…and always has been. Even some of the male population gets sexually harassed and abused. And women can be perpetrators as well.

The god-damned Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street…wait for it…Fearless Girlwas commissioned by a hedge fund that was recently outed for unequal pay practices. Hypocrisy emanates from every scandal that is uncovered. We are all guilty.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal is important. It helps pinpoint the focal point of all that is wrong with modern society. If we can identify a problem, we can then work to address and overcome it. But it won’t be easy.

When IDROS was in middle school, a bully was tormenting some peers in the hallway. The bully was pretty much twice the size of the then awkward 11-year-old IDROS. Rather than confront the bully and tell him to stop, IDROS chose to laugh at his classmates. IDROS didn’t even go and report the bullying after the fact, in private…not even anonymously. The guilt still lingers. It is compounded by the fact that IDROS felt good whilst chuckling at his peer’s misfortune. Good because IDROS wasn’t in the crosshairs himself, but also good because IDROS definitely felt better about himself at that moment because for whatever reason, this gargantuan troglodyte decided that IDROS did not deserve his wrath…which in your author’s sophomoric mind…must have meant that the asshole liked IDROS more than the unfortunate souls he was targeting. It meant IDROS was higher on the social hierarchy, in the view of our school bully, than those other “losers”…some of whom, incidentally, were my friends. The bully caught two of my scrawny classmates by their shirt collars as they tried to run away from him. I could hear one of their shirt necks rip and stretch. “You think they’re fags?” the bully asked me. “How would I know?” I answered. He then forced the two boys together face to face, draped their arms over each other’s shoulders and forced them into a hug. “What about now?” he asked, laughing. I laughed nervously. But I laughed. I said nothing. I did nothing.

I’m not saying it was putting a bag of dog-shit on my best friend’s porch, lighting it on fire and ringing the bell type behavior. But the bully wasn’t one of the cool kids, either. I think about that day sometimes. I try to make sense of it. I see the fear in the eyes of my two friends. I hear my nervous laughter. And I think about what I should have done…could have done differently. I also think about scenarios like in the aforementioned Can’t Buy Me Love, about whether if the bully was not merely a giant jock strap, but someone who was cool and revered at my school…what would I have done? What would I have been willing to do to impress them? IDROS was bullied and teased at a young age. And so this instance of not being bullied when I definitely could have been was a game changer. Rather than risk becoming a rat, a tattle tale, and thus give new reasons to Mr. Asshole to turn his charms on me, I did nothing. I said nothing. I laughed. And I even enjoyed it on some incomprehensible level.

And so I come back to Scott Rosenberg’s post. A rising tide lifts all boats…even if said tide happens to be a tsunami. At a certain point though, those boats gets smashed on the rocky shore just like everything else. He knows it. You can feel his shame, his guilt emanate from the screen you are reading. He is trying to get that monkey off his back, as he clamors for others who rose on Weinstein’s coattails to do the same. It’s got to be cathartic. But is it enough?

Look, if anyone has ever watched Beautiful Girls, a vastly underrated film that put Rosenberg on the map back in 1996, there is a scene toward the end where Mo (who was likely a bully in high school), played by Noah Emmerich, is pounding on the rich cuckold Steve’s door. When the door opens, Steve’s friends are pinned into a snowbank, and the target of Mo’s fury begins to cower and beg for mercy, Mo sees his genuine fear and also, through the open door, his young daughter. He sees the lives that hang in the balance from his and his friend’s (Matt Dillon’s) actions. He feels guilt and shame…and he feels EMPATHY, and the audience experiences it with him. Both the writing and acting are stellar.

And if Rosenberg understood this well enough to create that moment, I am going to accept his apology. Heaven knows IDROS hasn’t been perfect. We are all human. We are all bullies. We are all bullied.

But things do need to change.

Hollywood has championed a recent trend to feature television shows and movies that center around flawed anti-heroes…most of whom are BULLIES (think Tony Soprano, Frank Underwood, etc.) Even women are portrayed as bullies…Cersei Lannister, Selina Meyer, Norma Bates, etc. We, as the audience, are demanding this, and consuming it at alarming speeds thanks to on demand streaming services. Americans are living vicariously through our favorite bullies, allowing them to satisfy our subconscious desire…our INNATE desire…to be the bully ourselves.

Who among us, when Dr. Melfi was raped, didn’t secretly or openly yearn for Tony to find that piece of shit rapist and do unspeakable things to him. The writers were actually smart in not satisfying our craving, because truth be told, their closure would never have measured up to the horrors each of us likely unleashed in our own imaginations. We want this. We enjoy this.

So much so that we (and by we, I in no way want any credit for it) as Americans actually elected a head of state that reflects this inner bully.

But still, things need to change.

And it will be an uphill battle to make positive change regarding any aspect of bullying if the leader of the free world is as big a bully as the world has ever seen. I don’t care what side of the political fence you tend to occupy…the man who our countrymen elected to sit in the Oval Office is so lacking in empathy it is terrifying. So perhaps we should start there. I mean if Big Harv was fired from his own company, unceremoniously removed from its board and banished from all things Hollywood, I believe Agent Orange has earned a similar fate. Who’s starting the “Your Fired” campaign on Change.org?

Second, we need to adopt the same credo for all bullying that we do for terrorism (which is, itself, a form of bullying). See Something, Say Something. Especially for those of us who witness acts of aggression but aren’t victims ourselves. Victims often remain silent because they were traumatized, and don’t want to be traumatized a second time by reporting their awful experiences…especially given there is a chance their account will fall on deaf, or unsupportive ears. It is up to the rest of us to create an environment where bullies cannot operate, where the silence of victims and witnesses alike actually aids and abets the perpetrators.

And finally, we need to LISTEN. We need to value and respect the women (and men and children) who are victimized. We need to really hear them, and comfort them and offer to help. Sometimes we need to make hard choices, and help even when we are told not to do or say anything. IDROS is not a trained therapist, so would recommend consulting one before going rogue. But we all need to listen.

We’re all in this together…and overcoming our genetic predisposition for bullying, our psychological and physical damage from bullying as well as our awful behaviors that were taught to us by our parents, friends, peers, colleagues, siblings, teachers and other “role models” from the time we were born will be hard.

But in the incredible words of JFK, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Slow clap finale as the screen fades to black.

#MeToo

IDROS

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Things

1) Pretty sure I saw the big DJ from Maloney’s circular bar a few weeks ago when I was at the shore…I did a double take and may have even stared a second or two too long…but that guy played Bon Jovi and Bruce and kept the party going until hours I only see when my baby cries in the middle of the night (because my two year old woke her up crying and I am useless).

2) Where in the world did Tia Carerre (her real name is Althea Rae Janairo, BTW) go? First off…her real name is Althea. I love the name Althea. But she was one the hottest actresses on the planet for a hot cup of coffee in the early to mid-90s…almost ubiquitous. Then she took a wrong turn with Pauly Shore and a second misstep with Eric Roberts and then found herself mired in B-Movie hell with a veritable who’s who in the netherworld of straight-to-video C-Listers from Stevie Baldwin to the pro’s pro, Steven Seagal…

3) A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus. That’s right…look it up (or just click this link). Not only that, Venus is the only planet in our Solar System that spins counter-clockwise…so the sun rises in the West and sets in the East. Talk about an Axis that’s Bold as Love

4) These two guys:
Things 1 and 2

5) I just finished watching The Wire, which was tops on my list for shows to be snarfed down like a box of Bugles or Thin Mints or anything else that it is extremely difficult to stop eating/drinking/doing once you start…binge watching at its finest. As promised, the show now rests firmly in my own pantheon of top five dramas of all time (where, exactly, I am still not sure)…but I can say this unequivocally: Whereas The Sopranos and Lost had endings that irked and disturbed me because they were executed somewhere between questionably and poorly (for Lost, that might be kind)…David Simon’s opus (vastly different than Mr. Holland’s) disturbed me at its end because the subject matter is just incredibly frustrating and vexing and well, disturbing…from beginning to end and everywhere in between.

6) I recently learned that Quentin Tarantino has the exact same IQ as none other than Steven Hawking…yeah, I wasn’t sure what to do with that either, but on some level it just makes sense. You will all get a kick out of this link

7) And lastly, there is a time when you and your partner/spouse/significant other are pregnant, but you are mired in the delicate period of “loose lips sink ships,” unable to tell anyone but the closest of relatives for fear of jinxing everything. It’s a weird couple of months, and as the safe zone approaches, I find it more and more difficult to keep the secret. Recently, in our eleventh week, I ran into a couple while out with friends (wifey wasn’t with me)…the woman was probably eight months preggo…it was so obvious I felt comfortable breaking rule number one for men when speaking to women…assuming (or asking) if she is, in fact, knocked up. I was excited as a father-to-be and so I found myself blurting it out to these two complete strangers just because of the bond of pregnancy.

Anyway…that’s my show for today. Enjoy the day and fruits of your labors.

Love and peace,

IDROS

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White Trash

ImageI walked out of our house today to jog and almost tripped on a disgusting white bag covered with ants and a reddish brown substance I really hope was ketchup. It was crumpled up near our mailbox in the street. Around it were two yellow cheeseburger wrappers, also crumpled up. My first thought was that the garbage must have fallen out of the back of the garbage truck yesterday, which was trash day. But then I remembered that when I got home the previous night from work, the trash had already been picked up, and there was no nasty waste strewn about the street in front of our home. I was angered, of course, at the fact that the sanctity of our home and neighborhood had been violated…but I was not at all surprised.

For the past few months, during my morning jogs through our neighborhood, I have unfortunately encountered a similar sight far too often (and by the way, once is far too often). We seem to have a serial litterer in Weston, or a few of them (perhaps copy-cat litterers?), and the culprit(s) use(s) white McDonald’s drive thru bags along with yellow cheeseburger wrappers as their exclusive suburban DE-beautification devices of choice.

I have wracked my brain on these runs, set to whatever random musical soundtrack my Shuffle spits out that morning, thinking about litter – don’t judge me.

First the obvious stuff, like the word litter itself. I mean, how can a word with such a dirty and even criminal definition also have such a beautiful, adorable and joyous meaning? Image

Then I think about these particular incidents/crimes like a detective…as if I am going to find the hooligans responsible, and…and…and what? Wring their necks like Homer does to Bart? If only…but back to the facts. Always McDonald’s. Always thrown to the side of the road, by the curb or on the shoulder, as if it were the murder weapon tossed out the window of the getaway car fleeing a crime scene. Throughout my life I have unfortunately seen my share of litter. I would say the majority of it has been fast-food related. Not once have I ever seen litter from “The Palm,” or “Joe’s Stone Crabs” or even “P.F. Chang’s.” I know, I know. Millions and millions more people eat at fast food joints every day than at nicer restaurants, so the stats are skewed. Plus, a good percentage of people use drive-thrus at fast food restaurants, while most upscale diners eat in, and when they take out, they certainly don’t eat the food in their cars. Fun facts, but nothing that will lead to a break in the case.

So where I really have been focusing with this sudden rash of littering that has invaded my otherwise pristine suburban neighborhood is on the who and the why. While the who could be anyone (no, not Townshend, Entwistle, Moon and Daltrey), I am pretty confident it is someone (or a couple people) under the age of 22. Yes, I am profiling there, so call me an ageist, but I just don’t see the perpetrator(s) being property owners, or even renters. The crimes have a juvenile air to them, and strike me as being munchies- or alcohol-induced as well.

I also don’t see the asshole(s) responsible for using suburban Weston as his/their personal dumpster being from out of town. Nope, I seriously doubt someone from Parkland, or Cooper City or Hollywood is driving to Weston just to rid their cars of their fast food remnants…and because Mickey D’s has locations pretty much everywhere, I also refuse to believe they are coming here to eat their burgers and fries and then tossing the waste as they head back to their own town.

Furthermore, I don’t see the troglodyte(s) being female. The nature of the crime just strikes me as being male. Feel free to disagree if you must.

The why is a bit more complex. I don’t see a situation where littering is something even an adolescent would do to impress his or her peers. I also don’t see this being a reaction by a kid or young man getting grilled (no pun intended) by his girlfriend or mother about the filth accumulating in his car (“Your car is disgusting! I refuse to set foot in here ever again if you don’t clean it up. Call me when you grow up”…Or…”Clean up your car Billy. If you don’t, not only will you lose the car, but you will no longer be welcome in our home…that’s right Billy. Clean your car or move out. The choice is yours. Your father and I didn’t raise you to live like an animal.”).

Nope…this is a douchebag (or a couple of them) all the way…but the motivation is unclear.

What I do know is this…and it is clear as day:

THE PRIDE ONE HAS IN WHAT HE PUTS IN HIS BODY IS DIRECTLY CORRELATED TO THE PRIDE ONE HAS IN HIS OWN NEIGHBORHOOD

If you have any information that leads to the arrest, or at least the public humiliation, of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, please call me…I will reward you with a happy meal, and Mayor McCheese will present you with a key to the city of Weston.

As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy the Super Bowl tonight.

IDROS

My pick for tonight: Denver will cover, as the Broncos capitalize on a few key turnovers and win big in New Jersey, 31-20.

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Are We All Cheaters? Thoughts on Lance, Manti, Beyoncé and the Human Race…

I will begin with a joke I discovered in a great article called “Why We Lie” in the Wall Street Journal (please read the whole article when you get a chance):

A man loses his bike (apropos, no?) outside his synagogue and goes to his rabbi for advice. “Next week come to services, sit in the front row,” the rabbi tells the man, “and when we recite the Ten Commandments, turn around and look at the people behind you. When we get to ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ see who can’t look you in the eyes. That’s your guy.” After the next service, the rabbi is curious to learn whether his advice panned out. “So, did it work?” he asks the man. “Like a charm,” the man answers. “The moment we got to ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ I remembered where I left my bike.”

As Dan Ariely’s article explains, “what this little joke suggests is that simply being reminded of moral codes has a significant effect on how we view our own behavior.”

So I ask you all, given the biggest news stories of this week center around a big fat liar and a bigger, fatter cheater, how do the ridiculous Manti Te’o and Lance StrongArm stories affect how we view our own behavior?

From Sports Illustrated

From Sports Illustrated

Well?And lost in the lights of the Oprahtastic and Courician spectacles, it should also be noted that the first wave of Steroid enhanced baseball players were emphatically denied entry to Cooperstown last week by those with votes. For now, a generation of cheaters in MLB face at least some repercussions for their actions…though most perpetrators still made more money in their playing careers than the GDP of many third world nations.

And more recently, beloved Beyoncé apparently cheated too. While lip syncing is nothing new, it seems we all expect more from the likes of Mrs. Z.

It is said that “Cheaters never prosper.” Another classic adage is “You’re only cheating yourself.”

Seriously?

I mean, maybe if Emmett Fitz-Hume, Austin Millbarge and such caricatures are the basis for argument, I could be convinced. (It should be noted that though Fitz-Hume and Millbarge made out pretty well in the end despite their cheating, they were actually given a death sentence after being caught, and through sheer dumb luck and Hollywood scriptwriting, sidestepped every peril thrown their way).

From Warner Bros. Pictures

From Warner Bros. Pictures

But taken at face value, those might just be the most ridiculous proverbs ever conceived. More ridiculous than Fitz-Hume’s cheating in and of itself.

Looking around our world, any non-naïve person quickly comes to a Dr. Gregory House conclusion that everybody lies…and quickly takes it a step further, because it is abundantly clear and glaringly obvious that EVERYBODY CHEATS.  Cheating and lying go hand in hand. To successfully cheat, one must lie…from the very inception of a plan to cheat, until a cheater’s dying day. Not all liars cheat, but all cheaters lie. And the better the liar, the more diabolical and greater in scope the cheating can be.

But before cheaters make their lies public, they first must convince themselves that the act of cheating is ok…even justified…in their own eyes. In many cases, they must lie to themselves. This process is known as rationalization. There are many possible rationalizations for an act of cheating, from “it’s only a game,” and “everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?” to “It will cause a lot more [trouble; pain; shame; heartbreak; etc.] to [lose; fail; underperform; declare bankruptcy; etc.]” and “the potential rewards far outweigh the risk of getting caught.”

We all rationalize our actions and decisions, whether we cheat or not. And we do it every day. Here’s one of my favorite exchanges from the brilliant movie The Big Chill:

Michael Gold (Jeff Goldblum): I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

Sam Weber (Tom Berenger): Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

Michael Gold: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

So we all lie. We all cheat. And we all rationalize these sins.

But what troubles me, and I am sure most of you out there, is the indisputable fact that cheaters DO prosper…all the time. And insodoing, cheaters rob others who play by the rules of everything from better grades (when curves are affected) to promotions at work (or getting a job at all), from winning a meaningless game or sporting event to making the roster of a professional team, from winning an election at any level to winning a Pulitzer prize, etc. Cheaters rob us of heroes and role models, of dignity, of motivation and in some cases, of everything we believe and believe in.

In other words, both proverbs quoted above seem to be flat wrong.

Ever since Jacob and Rebecca cheated Esau out of his blessing and birthright (and probably even before that), people have deceived and manipulated others for their own gain.

The most incredible part of this admittedly (and unfortunately) unsurprising fact are the depths people will sink to and the random and seemingly insignificant events and mundane activities in which regular Joes (and Josephines) have felt compelled to cheat. Consider the following, just for a taste (I wish I was making some of these up):

1)     Recently, in an annual Scrabble Tournament held in Orlando that I assume a very small percentage of the population even know about, a player was caught hiding blank letter tiles (click here).

2)     Pretty much ever since the invention of TNT, people have used the explosive to aid them in…wait for it…FISHING! Yup, it’s not enough to bring a rod, hook, bait and net to the ol’ fishin’ hole anymore…too difficult and time consuming (and boring, I guess). So let’s blow up the whole lake. Dead and dying fish will float up to the top, and these menaces to all that is sacred just scoop the floaters into their boat and fry up their bounty for supper (see also: deer and bird hunting with machine guns).

3)     Difficult to even type this one: People cheat on paternity tests. And what’s worse, there are articles and websites that describe why and how people do it, like this one.

4)     People cheat when playing video games, often times even skirting fair play in games they play alone. This is not a new phenomenon…it has been going on since the days of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out and Super Mario Brothers. But this article still brings this odd behavior to light.

5)     People cheat in animal show competitions, as seen here. (Yes, you read that right).

6)     A calamity we are all aware of, but still must be reiterated for its sheer SMH power: People cheat the welfare system (and various other government agencies), like this example.

7)     And this list of jaw-dropping attempts at cheating from the world of sport…some of which even “worked.”

There are countless other examples. Cheating is ubiquitous, and we are all immersed into our society of cheaters at a very young age.

As our innocence disappears, and the veil is lifted from our childhood naiveté, we notice that despite everything our parents told us (if we were even fortunate enough to have caring, loving parents in the first place who imparted such nuggets of wisdom upon us), people cheat, and what’s worse, people benefit from cheating.

We learn it in school, when we see people looking at their classmates’ test papers and “stealing” their answers. We learn it at recess and at home playing games like hide and seek, when we notice the person deemed “it” to peek through their spread fingers and watch where the hiders seek cover. And we certainly learn it on television and in movies, where characters such as Bart Simpson regularly cheat and lie. Even on the occasions where such characters are caught, the punishments levied are generally more comical than fear-inducing. Furthermore, the never aging Peter Pan blessing creators of shows like the Simpsons bestow upon their characters allow the writers to continue to rehash these questionable behavior choices over and over again with impunity.

(Please read this article regarding the cheating epidemic facing private schools)

Children watching and emulating these flawed characters undoubtedly believe such behavior choices are anywhere from virtually inconsequential to at worst, “don’t have a cow, dude,” on the grander spectrum of “I should definitely try that” to “there is no way I am risking that.”

And what’s worse, parents often put so much pressure on their children that cheating becomes, at least in the child’s eyes, the only option…or at least the best option. Far too often, parents foster the cheating mentality themselves by doing the work for their children and allowing the kids to take credit for it.

Our other role models and heroes (besides our parents) cheat too, and their morally ambiguous (read: reprehensible) behaviors are widely publicized throughout the media. Worse still, more often than not (sorry Milli Vanilli), even when caught, the ramifications for cheating sports figures, business leaders, politicians, rock and pop stars and other celebrities seem to be no more than a perfunctory slap on the wrist accompanied by a brief public relations nightmare (which is almost always expertly handled by highly professional teams of PR reps).

It is not surprising, in a world where cheating is so commonplace, that companies have also adopted the practice. After all, companies are people too…er…I mean, they are comprised of and run by people.  Yup, we are swindled, misled and generally duped every day by Corporate Planet Earth (not just America, to be fair), with practices such as side-stepping environmental regulations; false advertising; and, out-and-out lies regarding weights and measures found inside product packaging as well as benefits and possible side affects of certain products.

Of course this has been going on for years. But the audacity of corporations coupled with the regulatory bodies’ inability to counter with any kind of credible and lasting counter-policies never ceases to amaze. A clear trend has emerged: Regulatory agencies in any sphere will never be able to fully control their respective sectors and prevent cheating because they are and always will be vastly under-funded AND those who cheat will always remain a step ahead of those trying to prevent cheating.

Why? You may be tempted to ask. Well it’s quite simple, really. The answer, as always, comes down to MONEY. And there is a great deal of it in the cheating game, in case you haven’t noticed.

So why do elementary school children cheat when playing games like Hide and Seek? No money changes hands there, you may argue. Well the truth is, nobody wants to be IT on the playground just like nobody wants to be POOR in life. Everything is relative. Young people are not ruled by monetary paradigms, so they trade (and therefore cheat) on the currency that rules their lives – self esteem. Kids believe that “winning” games, or at least demonstrating more athletic and strategic prowess on the playground than their peers, makes them cooler and more likeable. And being popular is really what any child wants. Further, kids begin to cheat in the classroom at a young age to impress and win the favor (and love) of their parents. Again, this behavior is motivated by self-esteem reasons.

And adults continue these behaviors they first learned during their youth. The only difference is adults realize their world is governed by money, and so financial motivations dominate their behaviors. It should not be a surprise though, that in our world, money (and its corresponding increase in perceived social status) buys people…wait for it…SELF ESTEEM (yup, all of us adults are just larger kids on that playground). At least people believe money can buy self-esteem.

So back to our opening joke, the Rabbi, the stolen bike and the adulterer. If simply being reminded of moral codes has a significant effect on how we view our own behavior, witnessing the likes of Lance StrongArm humiliated on Oprah (like James Frey and countless others before him), Barry Bonds (and his peers) voted out of the Hall of Fame (at least for now), Carlos Mencia blackballed by the entire comedy industry, and Beyoncé’s image taking a hit for pre-recording our national anthem at BO’s inauguration certainly registers with the rest of us for a number of reasons.

Since we all cheat, these very public shamings make us all take a closer look at ourselves, even subconsciously, for a brief moment and acknowledge our own transgressions with rules and laws…we all recognize the behavior and our own proclivities to bend the rules…and none of us like this recognition. Perhaps that is why we get so angry when others cheat…and particularly when others benefit from said cheating.

And so we then rationalize our own behavior IN COMPARISON to our fallen heroes and celebrity scapegoats. Seeing them writhe in the nets of public opinion, losing respect, honor, glory, money and in some cases, everything, makes us feel superior to these once-respected (even worshipped) personalities, if even for a moment, as we all think to ourselves that we “would never have cheated if we were in that same position” in our best “holier than thou” internal voices.

But would we have? Can we be so sure?

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading,

IDROS

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Was Darwin Wrong?

I know it is said that worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen, and to a large extent, I agree. So I am not sure where to file this:

Charles Darwin was a great man, and I am a firm believer that he pretty much nailed it with most of his theories and rhetoric.

Two of my favorite quotes of his follow:

The issue I have, however, is that by everything I see in our world, Darwin’s logic above, and pretty much throughout his oeuvre, seems ironic at best, and flat wrong in our worst case scenario.

My logic, if you will permit me to ascribe it with such a flattering term, is rather simple.

Our world is flooded with intolerance, prejudice, violence and ignorance. Those who hold dear to any and all four of those horrific schools are not a waning minority by any means, but rather a growing scourge on society.

Please consider the following examples of my troubling hypothesis below, and these are all symptomatic of the American populace:

A large and vociferous population refuses to believe in evolution, does not want it taught in public schools and feels that the bible trumps all in terms of the law and basic human rights;

Many continue to subrogate females in our society for no apparent reason other than archaic behavior patterns that evolved in a world that admittedly was once dominated by men, and refuse to wake up to the misogynistic and ludicrous reasoning that continues to cast an ugly pall on society. This manifests itself most egregiously in: a government of men continually trying to stick their hands, minds and influence into the bodies of women; a refusal to enact serious legislation and better educational programs for the far-too rampant plague that is the assault, battery and abuse (physical, mental and sexual) of women; and double standards that still find women earning considerably less than men in most industries, with far fewer women in positions of power than men.

The absolutely mind-boggling fact that homosexuals are treated as second-class citizens in a nation that boasts liberty and justice for all, not some, or most.

That someone with views like Rick Santorum (see all of the above points) can actually get as close as he is to a nomination by arguably the most powerful political party in our nation, and that Sarah Palin did get the nod by the same party, albeit as a running-mate add-on;

The tragedy that is Traymon Martin, and the countless other racially charged senseless murders and crimes that continue to occur way too frequently.

And America is far more tolerant, just and educated than the rest of the world…by leaps and bounds (maybe Americans aren’t more “evolved” than every single nation and society around the globe, but we are among the crème de la crème, overwhelmingly).  Unfortunately, the goal is not to be less awful than everyone else. A child whose hands and face are covered in dog shit still smells, even if less so than a child covered in feces from head to toe.  America still has a long way to go, even if it is mere miles compared to the light-years the disgraceful global populace must journey toward enlightenment.

So what does all of that have to do with Darwin?

Glad you asked.

From my vantage point, the populations increasing most rapidly in our country, and throughout the world, are the ignorant and the religious zealots, many of which, unsurprisingly, overlap.

I realize Darwin’s theory that the fittest will survive rings true in the near term as the poorest people, who tend to dominate the ignorant and zealous populations, do have the shortest life expectancies.

But long-term, these ignorant and zealous peoples will continue to multiply and thrive, further eroding the evolution of our society as a whole as backward ideas become or continue on as consensus by the growing masses. And unlike in prehistoric times or even a few hundred years ago, mankind has made such incredible technological and medical advances (whether the ignorant and the faithful choose to believe it or not), that even the poorest, most ignorant and most fearful of science benefit.

As a believer in democracy, I can’t help but see stormy weather up ahead for those who cling to the hopes that tolerance, justice and enlightenment will eventually win out over ignorance, prejudice, violence and intolerance. As our global population continues to grow, unfortunately, it is the intolerant, ignorant and overly faithful that are multiplying at exponentially faster rates than the rest of us.

And so, the reason I fear Darwin may have been mistaken, at least in terms of our own human society, is that I am not sure the most responsive to change will survive. And it does not seem likely that those who have learned to collaborate or improvise will continue to prevail, either. In fact, our fastest growing populations seem to be those who refuse to change at all and are completely anti-collaboration and/or improvisation. Ignorance, bliss or not, is multiplying like Danny Zuko’s chills.

I am not sure our society will ever evolve in a positive direction toward enlightenment, but rather it seems far more likely to devolve into darkness and anarchy. Or perhaps humanity was never poised to survive long-term in the first place. And if things don’t change on a grand scale, we probably won’t.

I apologize for being so bleak. I really am a cheerful person with a positive outlook on life. Just trying to stir the giant pot of crap that is simmering on the back burner.

Hope you are all well.

Thanks for reading. I promise more upbeat, positive, and likely trivial entries to come.

IDROS

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