Tara's Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Nature of Reality’ Category

This is a very large, complicated topic. And I am grateful for the chance to air some thoughts.  I have been baffled and frustrated for many years by what I hear people say about Ayn Rand.  She is made out to be the heroine of the Conservative, Right-wing,  Free-market, Libertarian, Trickle-down, Supply-side economics  proponents. But, in fact, I believe, those who profess to be her followers are doing exactly the opposite of what she herself would have wanted.

I started reading Ayn Rand when I was 17. I have read all of her novels; most of them several times.  I am not a Libertarian. In fact I have objections to many Libertarian views. But I have been frustrated for many years by, what I perceive to be, a massive misinterpretation of what Ayn Rand wrote and believed.

As a matter of fact,  she did not call herself a Libertarian. She created her own philosophy that she called Objectivism.  The basis of which is that no one should live their life for the sake of another without regard to their own personal value. A direct push-back against the communist oppression she experienced growing up in Soviet Russia where the State is everything and the individual doesn’t count.

Her writings about enlightened self-interest are often twisted into  accusations of selfishness but are actually more in line with the what they tell you on an airplane: Put your own oxygen mask on first. Then you can help others.  In point of fact, there are many instances in her novels of characters making enormous personal sacrifices for others  in order to live up to the obligations they have committed to.

Ayn Rand grew up in Russia and rebelled against the control of the Soviet government. So It is understandable that she would talk about being free of governmental control.  But the heroes in her novels are quite different from the industrialist and CEOs of our present day reality even though they claim to be aligned with her beliefs.   Ayn Rand was an Atheist, pro-choice and a firm believer in a rational view of reality that permitted no deviation from actual facts.

In Ayn Rand’s novels the heroes are people who create real value – not financial manipulators who just amass more and more money. I see a major difference between her characters and the conservative business owners of today in that her heroes value the contributions of everyone, at every level , who contribute to their success. And her industrialists take care of their employees and their customers, treat them fairly and take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The ethics of her main characters is such that no regulation is necessary because they would never choose to do anything unethical or take advantage of anyone.  No unions are necessary because the employers take such good care of their employees that an outside agency to control wages and working conditions is not needed.  I do not think I am putting words in her mouth when I say that Ayn Rand’s “free market” does  not the take the shape of today’s conservative notion where anyone is free to abuse ethical standards, cheat their customers and employees and destroy the environment in pursuit of wealth and power.

Ayn Rand’s heroes are copper magnates and architects and owners of railroads, yes. But also janitors and gardeners and assembly line workers who do their jobs in an excellent way.  Employer and employee trade value for value and the employer always acknowledges the contribution of the smallest cog in the wheel that allows their businesses to run.

In her novel “Atlas Shrugged” two of the main characters are Dagny Taggart and her brother James Taggart who co-own the railroad.  Dagny is the brains behind the operation and the one who runs the business.  James is the moocher who doesn’t want to put out any effort and wants to live the high life off the company’s  earnings.  James almost gets away with it until, near the end of the story, it is his secretary who finally realizes his true nature and takes him down.  The secretary is one of the novel’s true heroes.

Ayn Rand’s heroes would never play the financial gambling games that have brought us to the brink of economic ruin because – and she is quite clear about this – money is only a tool to be used for the creation of goods and circumstances. She says this over and over: Money is not evil. It is the love of money that is destructive and to be avoided.

The villains of Ayn Rand’s novels are the moochers who think the world owes them whatever they want without any effort of their own.  Her villains try to get away with not doing any of the work themselves and expect others to supply them with whatever  they want.  These moochers believe they are entitled to whatever they want simply because they want  it.  That is very different from the category of people in our country being called “moochers” and “welfare mothers”,  etc.  When your own government has allowed your jobs to be outsourced overseas and Wal-mart has destroyed your cities’ economy to such a degree that there are no jobs to be had in your town it is not “mooching” to accept help from governmental safety-net programs. Our current business model has created a system where no other options are available to help you feed your family. And it is not “mooching” to collect social security after you have spent a lifetime paying a portion of each and every pay check into that system.

The richest, most conservative among us believe that humans are only valuable if they are creating more wealth.  That is why politicians like Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell,  Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan are so callous about the poor and elderly.  THOSE people, the poor, the elderly and the infirm,  can’t create wealth anymore so, in the view of the wealthy conservatives, they have no value and don’t deserve any respect or consideration.

Rand would not have aligned herself with today’s conservative movement which has chosen  to air only bits and pieces of her philosophy  in order to rationalize their own positions. The following quote is from Jennifer Burns, history professor at Stanford University and author of Goddess of the Market : Ayn Rand and the American Right:

“Libertarians who borrowed her political ideas but didn’t buy her epistemology were “a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people,” “plagiarizers,” and “scum.” Conservatives were far, far worse. “Futile, impotent and culturally dead,” conservatives could only “accelerate this country’s uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.” Despite their agreement on capitalism, unlike most conservatives Rand was a forthright atheist who supported abortion rights and opposed the Vietnam War. After her death, her philosophy was liberated from its origins; it was now possible to mix and match bits and pieces of Rand’s ideology to better fit the emerging conservative worldview. “

In the worlds of Ayn Rand’s novels  it is excellence that is valued and rewarded whether that comes in the form of a railroad,  a piece of art or the ability to care for a child.  Everyone’s contribution is valued and the ideals to be aspired to are not limited to financial wizardry.

Another false parallel that is being drawn between Rand’s writings and the actions of today’s conservative power structure is the intention behind, and the consequences of, the growing, gaping separation of uber-wealthy and lower-income populations.  What we see happening in our society is a massive grab by the wealthiest among us for as much wealth, power and as many resources as they can take regardless of the consequences to the rest of the world.  The rich surround themselves with comfort and luxury while allowing the cities around them to suffer.

Again, a reference to Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” comes into play.  The main character of this novel is John Galt. Galt sees that the true producers and creators of the world are being used by those around them.  People with no talent or desire to achieve have come to believe that they have a claim on those that do and are making victims of the creators without any regard for their rights and needs.  Galt decides to create a civilization apart from the world at large where the producers can be free of the moochers and be properly acknowledged and rewarded for what they produce.  He approaches each person who is being drained and shows them how they are being victimized. He then gives them an alternative: Stop supporting your own destruction.  Quit. Leave the moochers behind and live in Galt’s Gulch, hidden from the world, among only those who will also live honorably as responsible creators.

One by one the “brains of the world” disappear and the outside world falls apart because there is no one left who will take the time and effort to reason out how to fix anything.

That is quite different from the power and resource grab we are witnessing today by the wealthy moochers who believe the world is theirs to drink from without ever refilling the pool.

The notion that Ayn Rand would approve of what today’s conservative, right wing,  corporate CEOs and Industrialist Republicans are doing is just plain wrong.  I believe her views are being twisted and used in ways she never intended.

Image I lost a friend this week.  His name was John Glass and he was a hero in the very real sense of the word.

John and his wife, Judy Glass, are well-known in the progressive community in Los Angeles. They are, and she will still be, staunch supporters of organizations that work for peace and social justice. John’s central cause for the past handful of years was the single-payer health care movement.  He believed that health care is a right, not a priviledge, and should be available to everyone without the constraints of a particular employer or the limitations of insurance companies dictating what doctors can provide based on their own self-serving priorities.

I have known John for almost 40 years. He was a giver from the word “go” and never stopped focusing on making the world a better place for us all.  Throughout his career John was a sociologist, a professor, a volunteer coordinator for non-profit organizations, a therapist, a published author and a friend to the working man.  Every choice he made was in the service of others and with the true intention of helping and healing the world and the human heart.

Talk to anyone who knew John and practically the first thing they will recall is his enthusiasm about the social causes and political candidates he supported.  He always carried fliers with him for whatever rally or event was coming up and would invariably offer the fliers to whoever was within earshot with a bold statement encouraging his audience to attend. Show up! Make your voice heard! Make a difference!

John died Tuesday night, May 9, 2012, at the age of 76, after a week-long battle with pneumonia and a lifetime battle against the dragons that seek to diminish the individual spirit.  He will be missed by many and our work to regain the dignity of the common man will be made harder for his absence.

Of all the responses we received to our announcement of John’s death this was the one that hit me the hardest and is, I believe, the perfect statement of how John’s life affected the world in which he lived:

The average person lost a friend this week.
The people John Glass helped the most will never 
know who John Glass was. That was John Glass.

Jeff Bornstein

The Sitser Siblings at 6, 9 & 10 years old

    “We don’t see the world the way it is. We see it the way we are.

Talmud

As small children we decide what is real based on what we learn from our parents, teachers and from the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  Those lessons transform in our minds to become what we perceive to be facts. Those “facts” become a map in our consciousness that guides us through future decisions.

The problems begin when circumstances change and the map in our head remains the same.  We begin to act on our assumptions about reality rather than on what actually exists.

When results don’t match our expectations it’s time to re-evaluate the map.

If you find yourself bumping into walls stop and take a fresh look around.  You may find the route you’ve been traveling is no longer there.  You might also find new doors in what use to be solid walls.

Don’t go through life with an outdated map.  You’ll miss a lot of great scenery.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it begets more violence. With violence, you can murder the hater but you just increase the hate.  Hate cannot drive out hate. Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that; only love can drive out hate.”

                                      – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

With the unprecedented emergence of civil unrest around the world  images of massive, coordinated efforts by diverse populations gathering in the streets to make themselves heard by the powers-that-be have been presented to us by the media as never before.   These efforts have been met by governmental violence and suppression of civilian rights in shocking ways.

I chanced upon the following story this morning and was stunned by the simple beauty and courage of this response to violence and hate.

 

In 1992 an artillery shell killed twenty-two innocent civilians standing in a bread line in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Vedran Smailovic, a former principal cellist for the Sarajevo Opera, responded by donning his tuxedo, bringing his instrument to the bomb site and performing alone for the next twenty-two days as the shelling continued. Twenty two days, amid shrapnel and sniper fire, Smailovic played; one day for each of the twenty-two friends and neighbors who had been killed.

http://myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=vedrans

In 1997, after hearing this story, 10-year-old Jason Crowe, was moved to action. He is working to create a tribute to the spirit of the Bosnian people in the form of the Children’s International Peace & Harmony Statue, to be shipped to Bosnia as a gift from peace-loving people around the world, especially children.

“We will inherit the new millennium and we must voice our desire for peace and show the world we are willing to work for it. The statue itself will be our voice giving us a way to shout, ‘Never again must mean never again’.

The Children’s International Peace and Harmony Statue will depict and honor: 1. The spirit of all Bosnians who have lived through or died in the madness of ethnic cleansing; 2. The spirit of harmony that cries on like a lone cello in a world full of violence which refuses to listen; and 3. The spirit of children around the world who want peace and harmony, not war and genocide, as their legacy in the new millennium.

 For more information or to support Jason’s project go to: 

http://myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=jasoncrowe

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

Actually – not true.  This one phrase has been said so many times by so many people for so long that most people accept it without thinking.

Here’s the thing:  YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO AN OPINION ON A SUBJECT ABOUT WHICH YOU KNOW NOTHING !!

If a patient is about to have brain surgery you are NOT entitled to an opinion on which technique ought to be used unless you are a brain surgeon.  If your pet dog is chewing up the furniture you are not entitled to an opinion on why he is behaving this way unless you are well versed in canine behavior.  If the political pundits are arguing the merits of a proposed amendment to the Constitution you are not entitle to an opinion, pro or con, unless you study the facts, learn the history behind the amendment, research the possible consequences of it and understand the legislative process used.

I could come up with six more examples but you get the point.  Here is the corrected version of this all-too-familiar but incomplete phrase:

 Everyone is entitled to his own INFORMED opinion.

So the moral of the story is:  Don’t feel compelled to throw out an opinion just because everybody else is spouting theirs.  It is perfectly valid to say “I am not currently qualified to have an opinion on that subject. Let me do some research and I’ll get back to you.”

(With thanks to Harlan Ellison for the inspiration.)

This is an except from Tara’s upcoming book with co-author John Glass, “Speaking Truth: Words That Matter” which will be published later this year.

One of the most valuable sentences I have ever come across is this:

“Let me see what I can learn.”

When you feel resistance to doing something that you know you must do, say to yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.” If you are feeling bored and think there is nothing going on, look around and try this perspective on for size: “Let me see what I can learn”.  If you find yourself procrastinating because you are afraid to face a task, tell yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.” Maybe there is a reportImage: Fork in the road you need to read that you have been avoiding. Or you find yourself in a conversation with someone you don’t know well. Maybe you have to tackle doing something unfamiliar and are afraid you won’t do it well so you’d rather not try. Tell yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.”

This technique works especially well when other people are involved in the scenario. At a party or gathering of any kind if you find yourself seated next to someone you might not have chosen to speak with or who maybe doesn’t , at first glance, look like someone you wouldn’t find interesting, tell yourself this: “Let me see what I can learn.” (Everybody has a story. Try it. You’ll be surprised at the riches you’ll unearth!)

If someone asks you for information you don’t have just say, “Let me see what I can learn. I’ll get back to you.” Boy, oh boy! Do I wish all customer service personnel were taught to do just that!

This one sentence can help you push past your reluctance and fear. It opens up otherwise unseen avenues for exploration that will motivate you to plunge right in. Now you have a task in mind for yourself that will lead you forward in any situation. “Let me see what I can learn.”

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”  — Martin Vanbee

 This little story came to mind today as I found myself, for the second time in two days, the lucky beneficiary of someone else’s experience. 

A small village had a system of plumbing pipes that had, for many decades, been maintained by one man.  Yacov had spent his years in the central control room learning the intricacies of the pipes and keeping the system running smoothly.

As is often the case, new technologies come along that interfere with the old ways.

One day the village elders came to Yacov’s house to inform him that they had decided to install a new, computerized system to run the town’s pipes. His services were no longer needed. Yacov smiled at them, accepted their decree and went back into his home to brew a pot of tea and enjoy the view of his garden.

Several days after the new system had been brought online the plumbing in the town failed.  None of the technicians could figure out what was wrong. Nobody knew what to do.  After a few days of listening to the townspeople’s complaints, the elders gathered at Yacov’s front door and begged him to please come fix the pipes.

With a small smile on his face and a glint of something in his eye, Yacov agreed.

Back in the control room the elders stood in silence watching Yacov as he stood very still for many minutes. He looked. He listened. Then he took a wrench in his hand walked over to a junction and tapped twice on the overhead pipe.  Lo and behold! the system began to run again.

Later that day the village elders received a bill from Yacov charging them $2000.12 for his services.  Outraged, they once again assembled at Yacov’s front door, this time shouting at him and asking how dare he charge them this enormous amount when all he did was to tap a couple of times on a pipe!

Yacov’s smile was wider than the village square as he said to them, “The 12 cents is for the tapping. The $2000.00 is for knowing where to tap!”


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As a member of the Americana-Folk/Rock band, John Zipperer & Friends, Tara performs in around Los Angeles, CA (with an occasional out-of-town appearance). Come see for yourself why John Zipperer's CD "Full Circle" has been on the top 25 of the Roots Music Report Album Chart for over a year!

Tara Sitser - Author / Singer/Songwriter

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