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History and Education

Last night once again I watched the movie “The Patriot” starring Mel Gibson. It’s one of my favorites. I’m not a movie critic so I will not debate the historical accuracies or inaccuracies of the film. The character Gibson plays Benjamin Martin is loosely based upon the lives of some very real Americans like Francis Marion known as the Swamp Fox who fought a guerrilla war against the British in South Carolina and is regarded as one of the heroes of the American Revolution.

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Say what you want about Mel Gibson the actor, he might have issues with alcohol and bigotry but the characters he plays in his movies are emotionally visceral, and stir the passions of most audiences. That’s something a good movie should do in my opinion. When I first watched this movie back in 2000, when it came out, it provoked an interest for me in a period of our country’s history I was not really familiar with, specifically the Revolutionary War and its battles in South Carolina.

The danger of course is that a movie’s portrayal of historical characters can and often does mislead the audience, into thinking they understand what really happened.  Oliver Stone’s movie JFK  comes to mind. I bet there were thousands of Americans after watching the movie, who were fully convinced once they left the theater that a conspiracy to kill Kennedy had existed and that Oswald had not acted alone. However, I would argue that a good movie like a good book opens doors to the minds of its audience stimulating interest in topics that would not otherwise never be explored. How many of you knew who William Wallace was before the movie Braveheart  came out? Maybe you still don’t really know after watching the movie but I’m sure there was more than one person who actually took the time to look up who the real William Wallace was and through their own research actually learned something about him. That interest in the topic would not have been there but for the movie.


Similarly I came across a television mini-series years back on BBC television set during Britain’s war with France in the early 19th century. Subsequently I wanted to learn more about the source of the movies and its central character Richard Sharpe and discovered the gems written by Bernard Cornwell  who is a master at writing historical fiction. Through this author’s work an entire period of world history came alive for me. I became interested in the Napoleonic period something that never would have happened had I not stumbled across the television mini-series.

History doesn’t have to be boring and should not be to those paying attention. Americans today need to understand their world history and their own history. As British author G.K. Chesteron  once said “The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from which alone men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are living. We are already seeing the price of ignorance today as more and more Americans are embracing a carefully fabricated image of government looking out for the little guy. They forget that not that long ago Americans rejected the fiction that a single enlightened ruler and his ministers could somehow govern their lives better than they could themselves.

In today’s world where businesses are demanding schools provide them more graduates with science and technology skills, the danger becomes focusing only on these areas and skimping on history. While having more skilled scientists and technicians may provide for more competitiveness and more profitable economies, reading just the Cliff Notes of history makes for altogether a too malleable citizen. A population must be able to think for itself if it is to remain free. Americans need to understand the sacrifices made by men like Marion and others who pledged their lives, their fortunes and sacred honor  in order to be free. This is something that should not be taken for granted or willingly surrendered for a false sense of security. Ignorance and apathy is being used against Americans today by those seeking to replace American exceptionalism and self-determination with a highly structured state controlled apparatus.


Schools provide one venue for education and news outlets another but there are dangers in getting information from only one or two sources. Americans need to read more preferably from the classics and original source documents. Many of these materials since the advent of the internet are only a click away.

Historical fiction can be a great gateway to getting started learning about past events and people and with that understanding ourselves.

“Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child. If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge.” -Marcus T. Cicero c. 106-43 BC, Great Roman Orator, Politician

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Something I saw today on Facebook and had to share.

A society lacking grace and afraid of intimacy spells trouble

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I was waiting at the traffic light today to take our daughter to the doctor’s office and there in front of me was a jacked up pick-up truck with a twenty-something guy wearing a cowboy hat. Country music could be heard coming from his speakers and there pasted on his back window in prominent view of everyone was the message “Porn…It’s cheaper than dating.”  I suppose he thought it was funny. My daughter was unfazed by it, but frankly I was embarrassed and more than a little annoyed muttering “loser” a little too loud perhaps. Cowboys of legend and John Wayne must be rolling in their graves, if this guy is the epitome of the modern cowboy.

I suppose some will say this bumper sticker is tame by today’s standards; however I would argue there are no standards and that is indeed the problem. In society’s rush to tolerate and accept everything and everybody, good taste and decency have been thrown under the bus and replaced by the most shocking, crude, prurient communication dreamed up. Nothing apparently gets censored anymore. Everything gets a pass; all is acceptable for consumption. When did this happen?  Will this  young man a few years from now feel the same way about exercising his first amendment right to free speech when his eight or ten year old daughter asks him what is Porn. I wonder will she already know what Porn is? Will she already be influenced by it at some level as the culture reaches new levels of depravity? Just how decadent can American society become if we put our minds to it?

Maybe this “cowboy” truly believes dating’s only purpose is to get physically intimate. “Hooking up” is what some people are calling it these days but that is definitely not dating. Porn maybe offers him an easy short cut to self-gratification. The trouble is Porn never satisfies. How incredibly sad it must be for him, if dating is only about self-gratification. What about taking an interest in your fellow human being that you’re attracted to. Why not try and get to know them intimately through conversation first and time well spent together. That’s what the purpose of dating is supposed to be, and that takes a lot of effort, but most relationships of value do take effort. A human being has to invest in a person physically, emotionally, spiritually, and monetarily if they are going to love them. It’s going “all in” as they say in poker. That’s risky and requires patience but it’s worth it. My marriage of twenty-four years is proof of that.

Like every other electronic gadget and gizmo that has dehumanized society these days, Porn is now very high tech and I guess to some socially & sexually hungry human beings its promise of a quick fix is not unlike a drug that creates addiction. I would argue it’s cheating them of the true pleasure and romance in dating and creating instead intimacy problems for them in the future.

Don’t judge me man. That’s what I hear some of you reading this are saying. That’s what my kids tell me too when I have a critical comment to make about the clothes they wear, their appearance or manners. Don’t judge, really? This is the message being taught to the youth today. Well guess what, the world does judge you and me and everyone else. Whether you like it or not, whether you think it’s fair or not, it’s a fact of life and the older you get the more you realize that prejudices and judgments exist.  Everyday human beings make first impressions with their fellow human beings, and things like physical attractiveness, clothes, smells, grooming, speech, intelligence all play a role in making that first impression.

If you don’t think people judge you by appearance or actions, or you say well I’m not a judgmental person, think again and be honest. Ask yourself what you would think of a daycare provider who was watching kiddie Porn on their computer the moment you walked in to leave your kids with them. Or perhaps you need a good lawyer because your wife is divorcing you because you believe Porn is cheaper than paying attention to her. When you get to the lawyer’s office he’s dressed in pajamas sitting on his desk smoking a doobie, with a Twinkie in his other hand. Are you going to hire him? Don’t tell me you don’t judge people. We all do. It is human nature and we are hard wired to be discerning.

So why then if impressions do count and we know people judge us, do some continue to flaunt their dark side in public. Do they just simply not care or do they just not know any better? Those from the generation whose motto was “if it feels good, do it” must really be proud. For feeling good seems to be what their offspring are into these days. More and more of American society seems to exhibit this kind of detachment from their fellow human beings. Crude and rude behavior toward others is becoming more the norm instead of the rare occasion. Texting has substituted physical conversation. In person office communication to address concerns is avoided and replaced by electronic mail communication. Intimacy is replaced with pornography. Marriage is replaced with live in arrangements or “friendship with benefits”. Recognize the trend?

Just how prepared do you think this coming generation is for the tough times ahead of us if they are afraid of criticism, refuse to be held accountable or judged by their actions, and are afraid of physical human interaction and true intimacy ? How easily will they be manipulated by a government that tracks all of their electronic communication now?

Today’s American society lacks social grace and has definite intimacy issues. People of the baby boomer and my generation “the x generation”, I think have failed the youth of today in their responsibilities with their selfishness, and complacent attitudes. We failed to model that which our fathers and grandfathers did without even trying. We all can and should do a better job at being fathers and mothers, business people and leaders of our families and communities. It all starts with the man in the mirror.

Consideration of Americans over Pancakes

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The other day I decided to take my daughter to breakfast one morning before getting started with the day’s errands. We were still recovering from a car accident we had a month and half ago and had places to visit for treatment so I was still not back to work yet.  We decided the local IHOP sounded like as good a place as any to get a bite to eat since we both like pancakes and they are reasonably fast and affordable. We exited the car, but just then my daughter received a phone call from one of her friends, who she had not talked with in an awhile. My daughter elected to hang back and speak outside in private while I entered the restaurant. The hostess asked me how many and after telling her someone else would be joining me she proceeded to head towards the dining room, menus in hand looking for a place for two. Just as I was being seated the guy two tables over let out a loud belch.

Wow. My first thought was, really dude, this isn’t the beer hall or the German deli. Burping is a compliment to the host for enjoying really rich tasting food in some places in Europe, but I was pretty sure IHOP wasn’t one of those places. A few minutes passed and my thoughts were interrupted by the volume of the conversation and colorful language from my eruptive neighbor and his guest. My curious nosy, investigator self couldn’t miss that this young twenty something and his breakfast companion were pouring over paper work, laptops and doing some sort of strategizing. The volume of their conversation was much louder than normal. In fact I think they believed themselves to be in their own private little conference room instead of the middle of the IHOP dining room.  Perhaps they were the next Jobs or Gates planning the latest release of some new high tech gizmo or gadget that will make our lives simpler by not requiring we see, hear, or interact with our fellow human beings. In any case I was getting hungry, and my breakfast neighbor’s loud and crude conversation was starting to disturb my calm, especially without my first cup of coffee yet.

RING, RING….RING RING…. RING RING….My heart began pounding and my temples starting playing the rumba as I searched the room for the fire or threat that I was certain was coming as no human being could have originated this sound…. what a cell phone ring tone like the old fashion ones, that loud?? Really?? My breakfast neighbor must be stone deaf I thought. Anyway my blood pressure was just starting to reach popping point when Mister Burp began his telephone conversation in a really loud voice. HELLO THIS IS JIM. OH HI WE ARE JUST ABOUT READY TO MEET FOR THE PROPOSAL, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE WE CAN DO OR BRING TO THE MEETING, OH OKAY BLAH BLAH BLAH..   I motioned for the hostess. I am normally reasonable and believe that people have a right to have a conversation, however I am a firm believer that said conversations should be private not for other humans to be forced to hear while savoring syrupy sweet boysenberry pancakes. I demanded that I please be re-seated since my breakfast neighbor did not seem to mind he was disturbing me and quarter of the restaurant with his business meeting. It was as if I and my fellow restaurant patrons were invisible.

I am of the generation that did not originally have telephones we carried with us everywhere when we grew up. When we needed to make a call or get a call we excused ourselves and our company and left the dining room and made the call, in private. Courteous behavior dictated that a gentleman does not talk about personal matters in public let alone the middle of a restaurant or bathroom stall for that matter. You’re not one of those are you? Times have certainly changed and not necessarily for the better in my opinion.

 After being seated my daughter came to the table with red eyes as though she had been just crying. I did not know what was wrong, and then she told me her best friend had called to tell her that her mother was just diagnosed with stage four cancer and the prognosis was not good, in fact terminal was the word that was used. A stabbing sensation came over me as my wife and I have known the mother for years as a casual acquaintance and had no idea she was even ill.  Breakfast was turning out to be a real bummer at this point. Our waitress apologized as the hostess had relayed the message about Mr. Burp and my dissatisfaction of the seating arrangements but when she noticed my daughter crying and my stoic but visibly shaken countenance she continued to apologize. Only then did I explain what had just transpired and the waitress, after some further apologizing and sincere empathy took our order. Within a few minutes another waitress stopped by our table and leaned down towards my daughter and me and said it was going to be okay. Our waitress must have conveyed our story to the other wait staff. This other waitress then explained that things happen for a reason and proceeded to tell us how one of her close family members had been diagnosed with cancer recently and that miraculously she was healed and has made a full recovery.

Part of me said to myself sure but how far advanced was your family member’s condition, was it stage four?  The circumstances were most certainly different; but another part of me heard this woman, at the very moment my daughter and I were feeling terrible, and recognized what she really was doing. She was taking time out of her life to provide a brief moment of comfort to total strangers. What a concept.  In the span of just ten minutes or so I experienced an insensitive rude narcissist and a compassionate and caring fellow human being serving more than just a plate of pancakes. I then commented to my daughter that our current suffering from the car accident did not sound so bad compared to what her friend and family was going through. She agreed. I think young people today need to remember to lift their heads up once in a while and step back from the “life simplifying devices” and recognize there is a real world out there with real people and real problems in it. Serving humanity is our purpose not pretending it does not exist.

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