Dr. Forbush Thinks

Look at the world through the eyes of Dr. Forbush. He leads you through politics, religion and science asking questions and attempting to answer them....

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Fear Again and Fear More

Crawling through the jungle in Southeast Asia might heighten your senses. Knowing that besides the poison offered by nature there are also dangers in the form of a human enemy moving with stealth through the jungle piques the senses even higher. The heightened sensitivity of ones senses in these circumstances is due to the fear of the unknown. If a soldier didn’t have a touch of fear he would just be suicidal. In the original “Ocean’s 11” Sammy Davis Jr. tells us that bravery was another word for stupidity. These were men who survived World War II not by shirking their duties, but by carefully doing what they were asked to do without the crazy heroics that got many of their friends killed. These were not frightened men, but smart and careful men.

Fear causes us to be careful. And, the reaction to fear is most often understood and predictable. And, when all those precautions are taken and the fear remains, then we begin to react in more and more extreme ways. This is the way fear has evolved over time to protect our species.

I remember an instance when I was younger and fear effected me in a profound way. It was silly and irrational, but fear changed my behavior. It was about 10 or 11 o’clock at night and I had a silly idea to go skinny-dipping with a girl I knew. We both thought that it might be fun and we knew just the place, a public swimming pool. We figured that we could climb a short fence, undress and swim around quietly without being detected. There were shady areas and the pool could not easily be seen from any of the roads nearby.

Just the idea of doing something that we normally wouldn’t do was enough to get my adrenaline flowing. My senses were piqued as we got to the pool and climbed the fence. We got undressed and entered the pool. The water was cold and invigorating. Every nerve cell in my body was on high alert. The problem, however, was the sounds that came from around the pool. Every car that drove by just might have been someone that could catch us swimming in the pool. Every noise was amplified in our heads. Headlights shining as a car drove by just might be someone with a flashlight. After only a short time of swimming in the pool, we retreated to the locker area. The possibility of being caught surely could be reduced if we just hid in the locker room.

We sat on the bench talking. But the echo of the locker room building created eerie sounds that continued to pique our senses. Adrenaline continued to flow and every little sound now seemed to be amplified. Cars that were over 100 yards away driving down the street sounded like they were just outside the building. Finally the fear got the better of us, and we decided to just get dressed and go neck in the park somewhere out in the open where we had ventured many times before.

Just thinking about this silly incident that happened more than twenty years ago still brings back some of those feelings. And, our lives were never in danger and if we had gotten caught the cops would have just told us to be on our way. I know, because there had been other occasions where we had been told to be on our way.

When I imagine a soldier in the jungle of Vietnam or the desert of Iraq hold up in a place just sitting there waiting I imagine those few minutes I spent at that pool. Then I begin to multiply. There is the length of time. I spent about 30 minutes with my senses piqued thinking that every sound might be some official that might catch us sitting around naked. The soldiers are sitting around for hours and days not knowing if that next sound might be their last. Just the idea of being catch with your pants down compared to be caught off guard with your riffle down might mean the difference between life and death.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that some of these men might begin to behave in strange and different ways. When the stress doesn’t go away people begin to experiment with ways that might make that stress go away. Obviously they can’t just leave the battlefield; the military would frown on that. So, like my adventure at the pool we left the pool to seek a safer place. Soldiers would naturally seek to find a safer place. But, when they have no choice and can not leave the position assigned to them then they are forced to leave the place mentally or spiritually. People cope by fantasizing and imagining different times and places. They cope by praying and focusing on something outside the current reality. No matter what they specifically do to cope they find a way to leave the place of fear and danger only to be jarred back into reality when they are called on to respond to the next military need. But, what about those who don’t know how to escape the present through fantasy and imagination? Does the stress effect them even more than those who have found these other ways of coping? What about those who actually fear their imagination, because they have dreams that bring back horrible memories? Surely these people are out there mixed in with all the rest. And, what about those who have created such an elaborate fantasy that they know longer know how to come back into reality? Or, perhaps they are too frightened to rejoin reality?

Stress takes its toll on the human body. War creates stress. The military deals with stress of war every day, and they never teach soldiers effective ways to deal with stress. That is because every person needs to create their own way to deal with stress. And each person might need specific ways to deal with different types of stress. The issue of stress is actually quite complex and not perfectly understood and agreed upon. In fact, the military doesn’t want to admit that there is a permanent effect of stress on the soldiers in the military, because then they might be responsible for compensation to the soldiers effected by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And, if the military was responsible for PTSD, then the US government would be required to pay a large sum of money to help those in the military suffering from PTSD.

War puts our soldiers in harm’s way. And, being put in harm’s way creates fear. The prolonged experience of fear creates long exposure to stress. Long exposure to stress will cause people to react in experimental ways to relieve the stress. If that stress is not relieved it may become imprinted on the person to such a degree that the person feels as if they are still under stress even after the real fear has been removed. This state is what we call PTSD. The fear becomes imagined fantasy that remains in the person for many years to come. It isn’t the person’s fault that they experience this fear. The fear is not real, but it doesn’t go away. And the person begins to react in strange ways in order to relieve the stress caused by the fear. Thinking about this in a rational way will not make the fear go away. It is just there and it will remain there until the person learns to cope with the irrational fear. Often the person knows that the fear doesn’t make any sense, but they can’t make it go away, even by drinking alcohol, taking drugs or doing irrational and dangerous things.

For some people therapy helps. This can help by getting a person to sort through his fears and eventually realize that the fears are not based in reality. But, being told that the fears are not real will not take the fear away. Instead a person needs to come to a realization that the fears are “really really” not real. This is a mental stumbling block.

However, who is going to pay a person to sit and listen to them talk about things that they really do not want to think about? Should the US government pay these soldiers to go talk to a shrink? Is this irrational fear a “real” war injury? How should society react to a veteran that has withdrawn to his machine gun nest to fantasize about the years of yore? In the end, who is ultimately responsible for these vets, and who should pay?


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Think Outside the Box!

As we should all know by now, George W Bush started the War in Iraq so that we could fight al Qaeda there. They weren’t there to begin, but our wise President knew that and he had the patience to wait for them to follow us there. After all, we couldn’t just protect the American borders and wait in America. If we were to do that, then the terrorists would obviously follow us home. And, it didn’t make sense to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan, because that was an easy war that we have already won long ago - don’t you know?

George W Bush suggests in his rhetoric that our military is like a military magnet. Where ever we go the terrorists will follow us. So, we thought that we would go to Iraq and bring the joy of Middle East terrorism to that country. After all, weren’t they really bad - being on the Axis of Evil and all? People that are stupid enough to be controlled by a ruthless dictator obviously deserve to be destroyed by random acts of terror.

However, why don’t we take this idea one step further and step outside the box?

If the terrorists are bound to follow our military wherever we go, then why don’t we lead them to someplace in the middle of no where. I know just the place. It would be like the testing of our nuclear weapons in the middle of the Nevada desert. If we could just lead the terrorists to some place in the middle of some desert somewhere. To most American’s surprise, Iraq isn’t really the middle of no where. In fact, Mesopotamia is actually the cradle of civilization. Agriculture was born in the valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

My crazy idea is to take our forces and move them to a place where the terrorists will fight us, and be drawn away from the innocents that surround the cradle of civilization. I first thought that we might move our troops to the Saudi dessert and just sit there and wait for the terrorists to show up. But, our troops might need to wait around for a while twiddling their thumbs before the terrorists finally show up.

Then I suddenly realized that we could actually send our troops to a place that is in the middle of no where and the terrorists would actually show up to fight us sooner than later. And, even if the terrorists didn’t show up extremely fast our troops would actually have something to do. We could gather our 160,000 troops together and move them a bit to the east. Well, maybe a little bit more than a bit to the east. We would move them over Iran and into Afghanistan to fight the terrorists that are hiding in the middle of no where. This way, our American troops would be occupied fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, without destroying big cities occupied by thousands of civilians. If we were to send 160,000 troops to Northeastern Afghanistan we would surely have a tough job to do. We could begin to bring some authority to this frontier in the middle of no where. But, the advantage would be that the area is so sparsely occupied that we would have a much higher probability of killing terrorists when we indiscriminately drop our bombs over our targets. If we could us some of that diplomacy that President George W Bush claims that he has we could persuade General Pervez Musharraf the dictator of Pakistan to allow us to fight the terrorists in the wastelands of Northern Pakistan.

If we put 200,000 troops in the middle of nowhere the terrorists will come. If we clear out the terrorists that are already hiding here with the remnants of the Taliban will be rooted out. And, if the terrorists in Iraq are really connected to the al Qaeda group that attacked us on 9/11/2001, then they will leave Iraq and eagerly fight us in the middle of nowhere. If the terrorists leave Iraq, then the Iraqi leaders will finally get some breathing room so that they can organize the government, and protect its people.

I know that no one will take this plan seriously. It actually makes too much sense. The parts that don’t make sense are actually the same things that the President continues to argue for in Iraq. He tells us that if we leave Iraq the terrorists will follow us home. Obviously to seems to be crazy, but even if a few terrorists followed us into the desolate outback of Asia those terrorists would be less likely to kill innocent civilians in Iraq. Less killing in Iraq means more time for the Iraqi government to govern. Maybe this isn’t “THE” magic solution, but at least it is one solution that seems to offer hope.

Come on, let’s all think outside the box!


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Friday, July 06, 2007

Selfish Conservatives and Careful Progressives - What Has This World Come To?

Selfish Conservatives and Careful Progressives - What Has This World Come To?

Everyone should be concerned about health. This is obvious in the sense that it is the most selfish instinct that we possess. If we don’t have our health, then what do we have? But, with this said we still find that there are many people who are not willing to even think about the idea that every American should be able to receive at least the fundamental preventative health care that we all need before we can even contemplate the pursuit of happiness which we all agree is a basic right of all Americans.

If everyone is concerned about health, then what is it that prevents us from becoming a more healthy society? Personal self-interest should demand that we make the effort to become more healthy on a personal level and the total result would be a more healthy society. This is the same argument that conservatives use to tell us that the free market operates out of personal self-interest. The differences between these two examples of self-interest gives us insight into the problems that we face both in health care and capitalism.

One thing is certain, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle will lead to better health. This is a universally understood truth in our society and culture. There is no excuse in American culture that can be called upon to blame for our society moving in the opposite direction. There are some genetic issues that make some people more prone to some diseases, but if the culture as a whole operated in self-interest and tried to make themselves healthier by doing the things that we all know should be done, then our society as a whole would be moving toward less obesity and healthy diets. However, surveys tell us that the opposite is true.

In the capitalist scenario we know that hard work may result in earning more money, more creative ideas may result in better products, risk may result in high monetary yields. Supporters of this system claim that laziness results in poverty. The reason that we have so many poor people is not because they don’t have the opportunity, it is because they are too lazy to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get themselves out of poverty. So, does this mean that those who are not healthy are not healthy because they are too lazy to do what is needed to become healthy?

If this were the case, then there would be an obvious correlation between the wealthy and the healthy. Wealthy people are wealthy because they are not lazy, and the most important thing in your life is your health. Therefore, wealthy people should obviously be applying their hard work ethic into maintaining their personal health. Therefore wealthy people should be the healthiest people. Look at Paris Hilton and it is quite obvious that she is a counter-example to this argument. This obviously is not to say that wealthy people are lazy, or that lazy people are unhealthy. This is just to say that poverty or even unhealthfulness does not automatically imply laziness.

The confounding problem in both economics and health care is obviously the idea of self-interest. Sitting in a quiet room a carefully considering your self-interest without any outside influence may result in some profound understanding about how your health and wellbeing are effected to some degree by how much money you have, but at some point the amount of money you have becomes less important and the food you eat and the exercise you get becomes more important. And, the quiet spiritual moment that you use to come to this conclusion may even be more important than the other two. Everything stems from the question: “What is the purpose of my life?” And, for most people whatever that purpose is it most likely needs you to be alive and healthy first before you can accomplish it. And, secondly you need some money to accomplish it.

Even for those who have come to the conclusion that their main purpose in life is to witness the Boston Red Sox win back to back World Series titles - they still need to be alive and functioning in order to accomplish that purpose, even if they don’t have the cash to buy the team and make it happen. Health obviously comes first!

Why should a person not act out of self-interest when it is so obvious what one should do? The answer lay in delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is not always the best answer, but when it is some people often choose immediate gratification. This is true in all areas of life, including health and economics. There can not be a general rule that determines which is better - immediate or delayed gratification. But, often it is easier to choose immediate gratification, because we would rather have a reward instead of waiting. Waiting is not normally the easiest action to take. Projecting and estimating what the future holds is often wrong, so why should anyone take the risk when the obvious immediate self gratification is right here in front of us?

We are told all the time that risk results in profit. And, we are told that large risk results in large profit. This is often said about the risks involved in investing. However, even the stock market and the business community has become influenced by the immediate gratification disease. Quarterly reports on the progress of companies need to reflect positive growth, or investors will pull their money out of these ventures. A company must be willing to expect a sharp decline in value if they unwisely choose to re-build, re-tool or re-organize. Very vocal leaders that continuously pound the pavement shouting about long-term gratification will result if only we all wait and see can only moderate this need for immediate gratification.

Similarly, long-term health issues are subject to the same immediate gratification issues. People see food and they want to experience the taste and satisfaction without considering the long-term health effects. People choose to sit around and watch TV rather than to exercise. Short-term ease is not sacrificed for long term health because the ease of relaxation is immediate gratification.

So, what are we to think about the damage that we are doing to the environment? We continue to take the option of short-term gratification - the ease of driving our cars on petroleum based fuels. We burn the cheap coal that we dig out of the ground to cool our houses in the summer heat. We take the cheap easy way instead of delaying our gratification. But, it is worse than that because our action to take the cheap and easy way results in damage to our children and their children.

If our purpose on this planet has any meaning at all it must be some purpose that results in some everlasting effect. If it isn’t something that we personally have done to improve life on this planet, then at least it is to leave behind some children or some lessons that will make a positive difference resulting in some lasting good - eventually.

Conservatives have often vilified immediate gratification in general. In the past, conservatives have announced how wise it is to save money for a rainy day. Conservatives have also proclaimed how wise abstinence from sexual activity until after marriage is - another form of delayed gratification. Some religious conservatives proclaim the delay of all gratification until one has ascended into Heaven. Financial conservatives have often pointed out the benefit of a long slow steady rise in Blue Chip stocks, mutual funds, low risk bonds as opposed to the high risk ventures of new companies with wild new ideas. So, why is it that conservatives can not delay their gratification and save the planet? Maybe they really aren’t that conservative after all? Maybe we have a new breed of people who claim a conservative name to take a selfish immediate self gratification position because that’s just the easiest thing to do.

In fact, most conservatives today really aren’t all that conservative at all. They borrow money against the equity in their homes so their children inherit their debt. They eat what they want when they want and become obese. They buy huge suburban assault vehicles that burn gasoline faster than three smaller cars. They waste water on their enormous gardens and consume huge amounts of electricity when they aren’t even home. How are any of these actions conservative? One important conservative ideal was delaying gratification in order to prepare for unforeseen problems. Delaying sexual gratification grew out of this obsession with delaying gratification in general. Now, it seems that conservatives are mainly concerned with delaying sexual gratification while all other gratification must be fast and immediate.

It is certainly strange that we have evolved into a world where progressives worry about actions that might cause harm while conservatives are anxious to ride roughshod across the horizon destroying everything in sight. Strange times indeed; is Armageddon almost here?


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What Really Matters Any More?

American culture changes and our desires as Americans change with the culture. American culture changes as America grows in economic, social, religious and philosophical ways. As a culture we learn more about the world we live in and we learn as a culture what we believe to be true about our world. Because we are emerged in our own culture most people find it difficult to question what we believe as a culture. But, when we look at other cultures we find it easy to ridicule them for their obviously different points of view.

What we believe as a culture is shaped by what we experience as a people. The common history that we all experience through either reading about it, being taught about it, being told about it, or experiencing it first hand has a high degree of uniformity among those who have lived in this country for some time. Our common experiences define what it means to be American, and they pull us all together and give us a purpose. Our leaders reinforce those ideas by pulling our common experiences together and reminding us about what we have lived through. And, our leaders remind us what is important to keep in mind as we move into the future.

Since culture changes we can look back 70 or 80 years and view America as a different culture. The people who lived then had a different personal history even though they shared a common early American history based on the founding of our country. They had shared the history of prosperity through the 1920s and they shared the history of the Great Depression that took everything away that they once had or saw as easily obtainable. In this history they drew strength from the concept of hope. They believed that things could turn around and they believed that working together was the way that that could be achieved. They shared the history of exploitation by the wealthy businesses that used monopoly and capital for their own personal greed at the expense of the country and the workers.

Today we don’t have that same intimate history or experience. Some of us share an experience of working together to win struggles for human rights, for safety, against toxic waste or for the wilderness. Some of us share the common experience of just believing that someone else will take care of those problems for us. Some of us have the experience of fighting and winning protests against the use of violence in Vietnam. Some of us naïvely believed that that battle was already fought and won. And, some of us naïvely believed that the government knows what’s best for us.

Our common experiences are not all that common as we once believed that they should be. We have over 300 million Americans, each with personal experiences in which certain aspects are emphasized more or less than others. Some of us have just come to this country and English is our second language. Some of us put all of our faith into our religious beliefs, leaving everything else to doubt. Some of us believe what we can actually see and measure above all else. Some of us believe in superstitions passed down by our parents. Some of us believe that things can only get worse while others believe that things will get better with hard work and gaming the system. Some of us believe in fairness and others of us believe that we should get what we can get while the getting is good. Some of us just don’t know what to believe.

There used to be a time when we believed in the rule of law. We used to believe that when someone broke the law they had to pay the price. Do the crime, then do the time. In fact, George W Bush executed more criminals in Texas than any other governor at the time. George W Bush would never consider the circumstances that lead up to a crime when the ultimate price was to be paid. To take away that punishment would lead to the break down of the rule of law. At least that is what George W Bush once believed.

Or, is it what George W Bush still believes. Is it what he believes as long as the criminal is black and poor? Does George W Bush now believe as he always has, that the rules of law are different for those who know the right people? Does he believe as he always has, the rule of law should be applied differently to those who are from the right families and are brought up with the proper amount of capital behind their names?

There was a time in America when the culture would not allow a president to get away with this. Apparently times have changed.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit