Ideology Clash

DDOC_Daily_Choices_Deepest_Values
image via https://www.colleenpatrickgoudreau.com/

 

What do you do when someone you respect, or even love, shows you a side of themselves that is in direct opposition to values you hold dear and true? This question hit close to the bone for me this week. I’d like to share an anecdote with you, dear Readers, for your consideration as we continue to navigate some tricky waters in the social sphere.

(Spoiler alert: this post will be a bit of a ramble, due to the nature of the story.)

This week I had an interesting discussion with a former professor. I’d stopped into his office to say hello and ask him for some advice about learning how to do costing and portioning for quantity cooking in professional food service. This is his area of expertise, so I figured he’d be a good starting point for a quick lesson, or be able to point me in the right direction for information on the subject.

Our conversation began well enough. He was friendly and seemed happy to see me (it had been a few months since we had last met). When I asked my questions, he started right into a quick lecture on portioning and determining quantities of product for large groups. Then I asked about determining how to order based on a certain budget, say weekly or monthly. My professor seemed to have a ready answer for that too, and pulled up some figures based on an obscure scenario of older people in a nursing home and how much it cost to feed them three meals a day.

I took a look at the list of menu items, broken down by ingredients (a slice of white bread, $0.08, one lettuce leaf, $0.04, one chicken breast, $ 0.45, etc.). That’s when the trouble began.

“But, Professor, I don’t want to feed my guests cheap chicken raised in factory farms under horrendous conditions,” I protested. “I’d rather buy better quality, sustainably raised poultry to serve.”

My professor became agitated and grew red in the face. “Oh, please spare me your political bullshit,” he implored. “I’m asking you to work up a menu based on a budget of less than $3 per day in food costs. Can you do it? If so, I will give you the job. If not, then goodbye!” he flourished with his arm toward the door. I gave a dry laugh, replying, “Okay, then, thanks and goodbye.” I paused a moment, then mused, “I would not be able to work for a place that had no regard for how the food is raised or how the workers are treated. I need to work with people who are in alignment with my values, what I hold to be most important.” He heard me, then calming down, suggested that I could work for the local food bank, that perhaps it would be a better fit for me. We talked a little while further, and then I left.

That conversation and interaction taught me some important lessons. In a flash, I understood that his values were centered around the standard business model of profit as the motivator and bottom line for everything that happens in a food service establishment. It was how he’d been trained decades ago as a chef and manager, before turning to academia and teaching. It is what he continues to teach his students, and sincerely believes is most important to know going into that career path. Once again, it was brought home to me how my most foundational values are at odds with standard business philosophy in a capitalist-based economy. My professor is a product of that system, believes in it whole-heartedly, and teaches it as he feels is his duty. In capitalist economy, you either control all your costs with the goal of making a profit, or you fail. Period. Full stop. In this worldview, there is no room for nonsense like caring about how poultry or any other animal product is raised. It matters not how farm workers are treated, as long as you can get your produce for the lowest price point possible. Profit or die.

Yet, I know that there is another way and system for doing business, and for having an economy that works for everyone. In fact, there are many other models being tested, honed, refined, and experimented upon all around the globe. But, in our current crazed global business model based on profit or perish, most of the people who train to be business owners, CEOs, salespeople, managers and the like, keep to the standard capitalist model which continues to be promoted and taught as THE ONLY and BEST way to keep it all going—linear GDP and all.

When my professor became angry and told me to save my “political bullshit” because I objected to buying factory-farmed poultry, I had a choice. I could have reacted in kind, with anger and defensiveness, and argued further for all the reasons why I feel it is important to not support that industry. Yet, I chose to simply let his anger boil and then settle, without giving it any more fuel. I maneuvered the conversation in another direction, and defused a potentially damaging situation. By the time I got up to leave his office, my professor had regained his composure, and I believe we remain on good terms.

In the times we are living through, these kind of tensions between human beings are more prevalent than ever. Ideologies are more extreme towards one pole or the other than they have been in recent memory. Given this, I saw first-hand how easy it is to throw fuel on the fires that smolder just under the surface of many people’s psyches, and how damaging it is for moving forward towards a world that is more just, kind and loving. Humanity’s boiling point is at a lower temperature than ever, and it is our work to find the tact, honesty and good will to have difficult conversations without succumbing to the destructive heat of anger and self-righteousness. There is way too much of that energy going around on Earth and it is getting us nowhere.

Dear Readers, I plan to write more posts concerning the issues of factory farming and alternatives to eating animals (yes, that means veganism alright). For those of you who haven’t yet considered the possibility of giving up eating animals for a more humane and compassionate world, I encourage you to open to this possibility. And, I hope you will continue reading, regardless of your personal beliefs around eating or not eating animals. It’s a big subject, and extremely relevant to us all moving into the future.

How many more will it take?

Students_protest_gun_violence
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) via https://abc7news.com/politics/gunsafe-student-signs-and-slogans-from-school-walkouts/3215255/ 

I live in the heart of Denver, Colorado. For a long time, Denver was an average mid-sized city in the western United States. During the past decade, however, it has grown exponentially into a respected larger city, desirable to startups, tech firms, the marijuana industry, restaurateurs and hotel corporations, as well as real estate developers. As with many American cities during the past few decades, money and development have changed this city almost beyond recognition.

The greater Denver area is also famous for a more somber reason, as it was the site of one of the earliest school shooting tragedies in America, the Columbine School massacre in 1999. Columbine High School is located in a suburb south of Denver called Highlands Ranch, a middle-class, mostly white, average American suburb. The anniversary of that tragedy was April 20th. Police shut down the entire Denver metro area schools that day, due to a threat by a young woman from out of state who travelled to our area, bought a gun, and ended up killing herself in the mountains near Denver.

Today (May 7, 2019), two young men entered the STEM school in Highlands Ranch and opened fire on students in the upper grades. When the police were called, they arrived in a couple of minutes, found and arrested the shooters. But it was already too late—eight students were shot and wounded, and one has since died.

During the past twenty years since the first school shooting in Highlands Ranch, there have been so many shootings by insane people inside public schools in America that most of us have lost count. Doing a quick Google search revealed that in the twenty years since Columbine, there have been 230 school shootings in this country, not including shootings at colleges or universities. https://www.necn.com/news/national-international/School-Shootings-Since-Columbine-508503771.html

According to the Washington Post, “at least 143 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 302 have been injured.”  They also reported the total number of children exposed to gun violence in schools stands at “more than 228,000 children at 234 schools.” They noted that the United States government does NOT track gun violence in schools, therefore they decided to investigate the statistics for the public. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/local/school-shootings-database

These numbers and every story that the numbers represent, are horrifying. As the statistics show, The United States, due to an obscene corruption of the Second Amendment, has become one of the most violent and dangerous places in the industrialized West for people, including school children, to live. According to Google, “The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope.” https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment. Surely, were the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution here today they would be completely outraged at how misconstrued their amendment has been, toward the rapacious greed of global arms dealers.

It is only Tuesday, and yet within the last 48 hours we have been given dire news of the state of nature on Earth, and now just one more report of school students being shot at during their classes. Last week we read of other students who were tragically shot, with two killed, at the University of North Carolina-Charleston as they sat in a classroom with their professor. Bad news upon more bad news, and it’s all related. Private corporations continue to bully and buy off whomever might stand in their way from reaping profits from the loss of life on our planet—whether human, animal, plant or mineral, it amounts to rape and pillage for the benefit of a very few, at the expense of everyone and everything else.

Tens of thousands have been asking for the past decades: when will this insanity end? When will our government enact gun control laws that are strong, meaningful and will finally end this sacrificing of innocents enabled by the National Rifle Association’s heartless lobbyists, with the help of the most senior officials in Washington DC? The big picture is so insidious and dark that it takes the courage of the strongest warriors we can imagine, just to face it without breaking down. The battle for the Light rages on, more strongly than ever.

Dear Readers, I am well aware that the subjects of my current blog posts are dark, scary and super depressing, and I am truly sorry for it. I am not a person who likes or wants to dwell on all that is wrong with the world, but it feels extraordinarily important to keep bringing light and attention to these events, because they simply will not change unless we do. As an aside, I know a man in the college where I currently work, who is the nicest person you’d ever want to meet—friendly, kind, always smiling and gentle. Yet each time I have brought up anything remotely serious regarding the current news cycle, he laughs dryly, and tells me that he just can’t think about “all that bad news.” As nice as he is, he is cowardly when it comes to facing what is actually happening to us and because of us in the world. There are so many people like him—kind, well-meaning, friendly, harmless—yet they are in denial or simply unwilling to look squarely at the situation we humans have created, or work to find solutions.

There are plenty of bloggers and writers on the internet who are only too willing to report the Upside, put a positive spin on whatever narrative they are selling, and yes, most of it is a sales pitch. But that’s a topic for another blog post. Tonight, I simply send my love and empathy to the students and their families who were hurt today (and condolences to the family of the one who was killed) at the STEM school in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. May they find the comfort and healing they need in the days and months to come.

 

 

We Are Star Stuff

Tenbaum_Star-stuff_quote_valuescom
via https://www.passiton.com/inspirational-quotes/6104-the-molecules-of-your-body-are-the-same

“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C. The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of a galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from Earth, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the implacable power of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/science/black-hole-picture.html

The New York Times reported on the first image ever revealed of a massive black hole at the far reaches of the galaxy Messier 87 this week.  Titled Darkness Visible, Finally: Astronomers Capture First Ever Image of a Black Hole, the article, by Dennis Overbye, was written with language that at times approached poetry and science fiction, with overtones of awe and wonder. Overbye used descriptors like monster, phrases such as portal into eternity, and described the image as the place where “according to Einstein’s theory, matter, space and time come to an end and vanish like a dream.”

The results of years of work by astronomers working in collaboration on several continents, Wednesday’s news was announced at six locations on Earth simultaneously. Overbye wrote, “When the image was put up on the screen in Washington, cheers and gasps, followed by applause, broke out in the room and throughout a universe of astrofans following the live-streamed event.”

It has taken a century of scientific investigation to prove that Einstein’s theory of relativity, from which his theory of black holes arose, is indeed true and no longer simply a theory. In the NYTimes article, Overbye quotes Priyamvada Natarajan, an astrophysicist at Yale, who said “Einstein must be delighted. His theory has just been stress-tested under conditions of extreme gravity, and looks to have held up.”  And astrophysicist Kip Thorne wrote in an email, “It is wonderful to see the nearly circular shadow of the black hole. There can be no doubt this really is a black hole at the center of M87, with no signs of deviations from general relativity.”

event-horizon-black-hole-images-1554901170942-NYTimes_april10-2019
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/science/black-hole-picture.html

It’s fascinating to read how the team of roughly 200 astronomers put together the data, collected from eight radio observatories on six mountains and four continents. The data was taken during a period of ten days in April of 2017, and took the next two years to compile it into the stunning images revealed to the world this week. Here is a link to that article: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/10/science/event-horizon-black-hole-images.html

It is not easy to describe in words the elation that many of us feel at reading this week’s news, and seeing the black hole images for the first time in history. But a feeling of vindication is part of the larger and more complex web of feelings surrounding the evidence. In a world fraught with opinions passing as truth, outright lies and human egotism run amok, it is such a breath of fresh air to see, with human eyes, an image of a cosmic reality so vast that it is impossible to comprehend. The black hole that lies in the heart of galaxy Messier 87 is nearly seven billion times the mass of our own sun. This is a moment when even scientists will turn to poetry and prophetic words from long ago, as we attempt to grasp the incomprehensible as it is presented to us. In so many ways, for human beings, seeing is believing. This week, we are finally able to see a black hole, a cosmic force incomprehensibly huge.

I looked up quotes by Dr. Carl Sagan, who was a master of writing about science and humanity with eloquence and clarity. Here are some of his thoughts on the relationship between humans and the cosmos, taken from his seminal book, Cosmos, first published in 1980. With gratitude to Dr. Sagan, I offer them to you, dear readers.

“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”

“The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.”

“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

― Carl Sagan, Cosmos, via https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3237312-cosmos