Saturday, March 29, 2008

Do More With Less! Pay More; Get Less!

"And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words. And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw. Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished. So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore? Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD. Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task." In other words "Do More With Less! Pay More; Get Less!

I started with this story from the Bible (Exodus 5:6-19) to illustrate our current state of affairs concerning two words that begin with the letter "E;" Expectations and Economy. Expectation because like in the biblical story above, and in this economy, we are expected to do more with less. We are expected to pay more and receive less. While Accounting was not one of my better subjects, I do know a little about the balance sheet and neither of these adages of do more with less or pay more and get less make sense. As a critical thinker, MORE and LESS are polarities......opposites. The sad reality is, in this economy we are paying a lot more and receiving a lot less. Have you done the math on the amount of gas you receive for the same amount of money you handed the attendant last week? How about the reduced services or product quality you received lately for an additional amount of money? Something has got to give. Everything with the exception of the paycheck/salary can't keep increasing at this rate without the bottom falling out. This is already being seen in many markets; housing; banking; utilities; auto, etc. etc. etc.

At some point, U.S. businesses and economists are going to have to figure out a way to significantly roll back prices across EVERY industry simultaneously if the largest class, which is the middle class, is going to survive. Of course this would mean less profits for the companies and less bonuses for the chief executives, so the likelihood of this voluntarily happening is slim to none. However, things are reaching a point where it won't have to be voluntary; it will be forced as a result of very few people having enough money to pay for anything. A devalued dollar will only go so far. As a critical thinker, stand back and watch the ripples. See how everything is connected and how what impacts one directly impacts us all indirectly. Note the number of job losses because products are not being purchased therefore doing away with the need for production (ripple). The more job losses, the more people without money (ripple). The more people without money, the less money spent (ripple) and the vicious circle continues on and on and on.

I was watching my local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) a few weeks ago and the commentator made the comment that the United States is on it's way to becoming the "richest third world country" on the planet. Based on what I am seeing and hearing, I couldn't agree more. Reread the biblical story at the top of this blog and see if you'll agree. Give it some critical thought and then write your elected officials to do something about it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Signs Of The Times: Does This Make Sense To You?

Everyone has seen the two signs above at one point or another. The critical thinking question is, has anyone thought about how we arrived at a point where such signs are necessary? Like for UnderDog (Some of you are old enough to remember UnderDog) alas, this sounds like a job for The Critical Thinker. Think about it. We actually need signs to tell supposedly rational and intelligent human beings to wash their hands after using the bathroom or turn off their cell phone when coming into a movie, church or classroom. Wouldn't you think this would happen naturally or out of common courtesy?

When you go to many movie theaters now, there is at least a thirty to sixty second spot during the previews asking moviegoers to silence their cell phones. As far as these cell phones go, no one can make me believe that we have to be accessible to everyone at all times. The inevitable question; "What did we do before cell phones?" Doesn't it seem strange that common sense doesn't "kick-in" and instruct one to turn off his or her cell phone in church? Then again, common sense is not too common these days. If I'm at church, or at a movie, or in class, I don't want to be bothered by the phone. (I don't want to be bothered with it half of the time when I'm not somewhere that requires my attention.) Not to mention, those close to me, know the hours that I would be at church or in school and ought to have sense enough not to call me during those times.

To prepare for the writing of this blog, it was amazing to me the number of sites that was available offering these signs for sale to businesses. I was in a large stationary chain store the other day and at the top of their removable adhesive plaques selection was............ you guessed it; the two signs above. It got me to "critically thinking," hence the creation of this blog you are reading right now. I'm sure many of you will read this and think it is a trivial matter, however, really give these two signs and what they mean some thought. We don't have sense enough to wash our hands after using the bathroom (especially employees at restaurants no less) nor turn off our cell phones at appropriate times. Not doing either would suggest to me that we are either stupid, stubborn, or both. Or could it be that we just don't give a damn? Things have gotten so bad that there are entire businesses created to make signs that remind us of what we ought to do naturally. (I know. I know. That's why this blog is called The Critical Thinker.)

So the next time you are dining sufficiently at your favorite restaurant, just think that some employee might have just used the lavatory and might not have washed his or her hands if it were not for that little sign placed above the sink......hmmmm, some thought. Or had it not been for the foresight of the movie industry, at the climax of that movie you were dying to see, someones personally selected ring tone would be ringing forever (because no one can ever find their phone when it is ringing disruptively) causing you to miss the moment. Yes, friends that's where we are. We must idiot proof everything.

As always, I welcome your comments.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Burned Up With the Overuse of the word "Outrage"

Is everyone "Outraged?" You would think so if you listened to the news. Not being a betting man, I'll bet anyone reading this blog that if you watch the news today or tonight you'll hear one or more of the anchors report that some community or someone is "outraged." Outraged at this.... Outraged at that.... See and type in "outrage." You'll see a graph showing how often the word appeared in the news.

The word outrage can definitely be added to the list of overused words. It's to the point that I cringe every time I hear it used on the news. It seems as if everyone is in an outrage about something.

Let's take a look at some other words we can use in the place of the infamous "outrage": abuse, affront, atrocity, barbarism, damage, desecration, enormity, evildoing, harm, hurt, indignity, inhumanity, injury, insult, mischief, misdoing, offense, profanation, rape, rapine, ravishing, ruin, shock, violation, violence, wrongdoing, blowup, boiling point, cat fit, conniption, conniption fit, flare-up, fury, huff, hurt, indignation, mad, resentment, ruckus, shock, stew, storm, wrath, abuse, affront, aggrieve, boil over, burn up, defile, deflower, desecrate, fire up, force, ill-treat, incense, infuriate, injure, insult, jar, madden, maltreat, mistreat, misuse, oppress, persecute, raise cain, raise hell, rape, ravage, ravish, scandalize, shock, spoil, violate, whip up, wrong

Now, of course you will have to select the correct word for the situation, however, I'm sure many of these words can be used in the place of "outrage."

More importantly though, when will we as a people not have to be in outrage? When will we do away with the things that are causing all of this outrage? Racial strife, economic concerns, miseducation, thuggery and thievery, ignorance, sexual misconduct, underemployment, etc. etc. etc. That question won't be answered in this blog. For now though, would someone please clue our news writers and anchors in on their overuse of the word "outrage."

Critically thinking in Andy Rooney style; I welcome your thoughts.

What is it about the "Truth?"

Pronunciation: \ˈtrüth\Function: nounInflected Form(s): plural truths \ˈtrüthz, ˈtrüths\Etymology: Middle English trewthe, from Old English trēowth fidelity; akin to Old English trēowe faithful — more at trueDate: before 12th century1 aarchaic : fidelity, constancy b: sincerity in action, character, and utterance2 a (1): the state of being the case : fact (2): the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3)often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b: a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true c: the body of true statements and propositions3 a: the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality bchiefly British : true 2 c: fidelity to an original or to a standard4capitalized Christian Science : god— in truth : in accordance with fact : actually

Needless to say, I went to the source for the definition of the word “Truth,” and that is none other than Merriam-Webster. The one source we look to when we are attempting to define a word used in our language. I decided to look up the word truth because so many of us have such difficulty dealing with or hearing it. This occurred to me as I listened to African Americans cry out against Bill Cosby because of the “truth” he spoke concerning the plight of black folks. As he eloquently described a prescription for our pathway to a clean bill of health, we became angry, choosing to stay in denial rather than admit that he was correct in his diagnosis. Many of us have even gone so far as to say that Mr. Cosby is not black enough to be writing a prescription. He speaks of this in the introduction in his latest book COME ON PEOPLE: ON THE PATH FROM VICTIMS TO VICTORS co-authored by Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D. (Great book by the way).

It amazes me how we become angry with the messenger rather than take the corrective action needed to make things better. It doesn’t matter if the messenger is within the same racial group or not. In fact, we get even more angry when our own tell us the truth. Mr. Cosby is not the first and unfortunately won’t be the last. Whether you agree with Minister Louis Farrakhan or not, he too in many of his messages attempt to help African Americans understand what we must do to become self sufficient. Again we balk.

So as I write this, another messenger by the name of Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright is being villified for telling the truth. While my aforementioned examples dealt with how the truth is taken from within ones own race, this is an example of how folks of other racial groups take the truth about them and their actions. There is nothing said by Rev. Wright that can be considered inaccurate. At one time or another the things that he so fervently speaks about or has spoken about did occur and in many instances still occur. Once again, the truth hurts.

Sadly, the truth spoken by Dr. Wright is now being used in an attempt to derail Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid. Incredibly, alleged pundits grasping at straws are using Senator Obama’s church membership and his pastor’s sermons as a reason for him to not be considered for the presidency. How many times have I heard this weekend that Senator Obama was a member of this church for over 20 years? How he sat in the pews and didn’t walk out during Rev. Wright’s explosive sermons. That his not walking out signified his agreement with what was said. When you think about this, it is ridiculous on many fronts. I can not even take the time within this blog to address the numerous idiotic aspects. Are we saying that preachers and ministers have to censor what they say for the fear that everyone in their congregation will agree with EVERYTHING they say? Are we saying that Senator Obama doesn’t have a mind for himself and can decipher what he chooses to agree or disagree with? Must congregants who sit under pastors week after week become concerned that one day they will be kept from a position because of what their pastor preached? If I choose to run for president one day, will I be held accountable for what my dynamic pastor says?

Many are saying that Senator Obama is misleading the public by calling for racial unity while at the same time looking to Rev. Wright as his mentor. That is utter nonsense. Senator Obama is well capable of thinking for himself. Think about this….if we apply the model we are using for Senator Obama and his association with his pastor, the members of the Senate and Congress have been sitting in the pews under the leadership of President Bush for eight years…… My point exactly; now you see the silliness of the current assertion.

It would be a shame if Senator Obama loses support over such a non-issue; a politcial subterfuge. He is no more under the influence of Rev. Wright when it comes to decision making about the United States than John F. Kennedy was under the Pope. I close quoting my pastor when he says “The truth hurts, but it helps.”

I welcome your thoughts.