social criticism

social criticism


A Nightmare About America

America November 13th, 2022

While jogging at sundown one day in April 2003, I had a very moving experience, one that may indeed have bridged my conception of the spiritual and the worldly. My wandering mind juxtaposed my impression of American Indian culture, spirituality, worldview, and morality with the current state of affairs and mentality in European-American culture. I experienced a combination of seemingly coincidental events that struck me as conveying great meaning: that we may come to face a startling reckoning for our legacy and lifestyle.

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How to Find Happiness in Modern America

happiness October 18th, 2022

Attitude is everything, so they say. There is truly something to that. According to one strain of research, our happiness is about 50% “determined” by our genes. There is little we can do to stray very far from our “set point” level of happiness. A death will bring us very low, and that “new car smell” will give us a happiness bump for days, perhaps weeks. A promotion will engender some greater satisfaction, but it’s effect, too, will fade (perhaps only leaving a somewhat larger paycheck and potentially greater stress associated with increased or different responsibilities). The point is, If genes account for 50% of one’s level of happiness, what does that leave us with? This is a blog about psychological research, applied philosophy, and values and virtues such as personal growth, free will, and responsibility.

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Are Americans Virtuous, or the Opposite?

virtuous September 30th, 2022

I wish to ask a question about whether we Americans are virtuous—or, alternatively, vice-ridden, lazy, selfish, evil, immoral, and culpable. The curiosity was brought about by my watching a Firing Line with Margaret Hoover last night. In light of the interview Hoover conducted with Sara Botstein and Ken Burns, the co-directors of the recently-completed documentary film America and the Holocaust, I really do wonder about my country and my fellow citizens

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Do Humans Deserve Climate Catastrophe?

climate catastrophe September 13th, 2022

Does America deserve to survive and thrive on into the future? We are facing a veritable climate catastrophe, yet our sense of alarm is about “3” on a scale of 1-10. Does that mean we deserve (morally) to suffer whatever fate the gods have in store for us, if you will? I am talking here about responsibility, wisdom, and proactivity. Bottom line: there really is no excuse; we are out of time; it’s a climate catastrophe that should trump Trump, cultural disputes, and the status quo.

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“Strange Fruit” Had a Massive Impact on Society

Strange Fruit August 17th, 2022

America has maximized human and societal potential in many ways – we are truly a republic of great potential and productivity. Of course, being black, Holliday experienced an appalling side of America first-hand, one grossly shy of the beautiful principles on which it was founded. We are the best and the worst of everything in humanity. It is fair, recognizing slavery and poverty and vicious wealth inequality since ideals such as liberty, inclusion, democracy, and opportunity are unambiguously glorious values and aspirations we do treasure here. We must be truthful and integrate all our past and reconcile our darkness with our light. Anyway, Billie Holliday represented something special to many people, and I think the story of her song “Strange Fruit” is quite relevant to the idea of integration – both on a personal level, and certainly on a societal one.

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“Anti-Intellectualism”: A Rejection of Critical Thinking

anti-intellectualism August 2nd, 2022

As writer and attorney David Noise put it, “The gun massacres that occur on a weekly basis will no doubt lead to more discussion of several important and recurring issues in American culture—particularly racism and gun violence and mental instability/rage. However, these dialogues are unlikely to bear much fruit until the nation undertakes a serious self-examination.” Indeed, considering the tenacity and inflexibility of the positions held by gun fetishists, the obnoxious relativism and doublespeak one sees on right-wing media outlets, and an astonishing unwillingness to throw Trumpism into the dustbin of history are not that hard to fathom if one considers the following:

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Social Justice on This July Fourth Holiday

social justice July 4th, 2022

This is one of the hardest starts I have had writing a blog – and usually they just pour out of me. I think it is because the present topic is very disturbing to me as a Jew, a liberal, a person who is fairly educated. I also have feelings of hatred inside me, and that is uncomfortable and hard to deal with – obviously, I don’t want to vomit a screed of ill-conceived hatred onto your screen. At any rate, I will try to share some of my feelings and a few thoughts as well!

The topic: what has become of almost half the population of the United States, vis-a-vis social justice, racism, privilege, demagoguery, and authoritarianism.

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The Republican Party is a Clear and Present Danger

The Republican Party June 30th, 2022

Things keep coming across my desk that strike the same note of fear and anger: the skullduggery, chicanery, and corruption the modern Republican Party is engaging in is a clear and present danger to the fabric of American society. We must not take this lightly, be cowed into silence, or shrink from this grave danger. Obviously, no one has to agree with my take on vigilance, patriotism, or decency—or any other value, political stance, or threat assessment—but I believe it is imperative that we stay cognizant of just how extreme, dangerous, and self-aggrandizing this broken Republican Party is.

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What Do Mass Shootings and Wisdom Have in Common?

mass shootings and wisdom May 28th, 2022

What do mass shootings and wisdom have in common?

How did America go from putting astronauts on the moon and boasting millions of middle-class families to banning books and borrowing money endlessly??

How do the wealthy and powerful stay so wealthy and powerful while there is so much pain and privation for 90% of people in society?

America is suffering gravely from an astonishing lack of wisdom!

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The Wisdom of Taking Climate Change Seriously

climate change and wisdom May 14th, 2022

In my recently published book on wisdom, I found that defining wisdom is more challenging (and less useful) than to approach the topic more obliquely: sharing examples of wisdom in action, describing the values and virtues I believe are associated with individuals who are wise, etc. I also don’t forego the opportunity to share a number of lessons I’ve learned in my life, including some examples of a lack of wisdom! This blog focuses in on one case in point that those who study wisdom must not miss: the wisdom underlying taking climate change seriously.

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