Tuesday, December 9, 2008

About That Meaning and Legacy Stuff

Sunday the FFM brought up an important conversation about meaning... meaning or purpose in people's lives, people wanting to leave a legacy, and how or why we even would construct such a thing if in the long run it doesn't mean anything. It was a long discussion, and I won't recreate all that here because it was personal, too, but I know where I stand in all that stuff and will say for the million and fortieth time that if I didn't construct meaning on a daily basis, then I would have driven the car off the cliff and put an end to my own life long ago. That's just the way it is.

And this is how it is, too, along the lines of at least doing what we can to, if not only to not hurt others while we all have that brief burp of time together, then to actually make some attempt to ease suffering:
Secret Santas in 3 states spread cheer, $100 bills
By CHERYL WITTENAUER, Associated Press Writer Cheryl Wittenauer, Associated Press Writer – Fri Dec 5
ST. LOUIS – At a suburban Goodwill store on Friday, Theresa Settles selected a large, black comforter to warm her family until she can raise the money to turn the gas heat back on. A petite woman approached, her face obscured by dark sunglasses and a wrapped winter scarf, and handed Settles two $100 bills stamped with the words "secret Santa." "The only condition," she said, "is that you do something nice for someone. Pass it on."...

...The secret Santa was a protege of Kansas City's undercover gift giver, Larry Stewart, who died of cancer nearly two years ago. Stewart roamed city streets each December doling out $100 bills to anyone who looked like they might need a lift.

Before his death in January 2007, Stewart told a friend how much he would miss his 26 years of anonymous streetside giving, during which he gave away about $1.3 million. Stewart, from the city suburb of Lee's Summit, made millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.
The friend promised Stewart he would be a secret Santa the next year. "He squeezed my hand and that was it," said the Kansas City Santa, who would say only that he was an area businessman and investor. "I honored a promise."

Two secret Santas, one from the Kansas City area and the other from the St. Louis area, descended on thrift stores, a health clinic, convenience store and small auto repair shop to dole out $20,000 in $100 bills, hugs and words of encouragement to unsuspecting souls in need.

In this economy, they weren't hard to find....

...For the secret Santas, it's not about keeping Stewart's memory alive as much as the meaning behind his legacy.

"It's not about the man, it's not about the money, it's about the message," the Kansas City Santa said. "Anyone can be a secret Santa with a kind word, gesture, a helping hand."

He said the money is given without judgment, but on the condition that the receiver pass along a kindness to someone else. Stewart began his holiday tradition at a restaurant in December 1979, after he had just been fired. He gave a waitress $20 and told her to keep the change and was struck by her gratitude....

...The secret Santas want to expand their operation to every state, but so far only nine givers operate in Charlotte, N.C., Phoenix, St. Louis and Kansas City. They plan to start giving in Detroit this holiday season.
On the Net:
Secret Santa World, http://secretsantaworld.net/
Well, crap; that's pretty nice, right? I mean, we can leave it at that for now.

In Vigilance and Virtue (Fall 2008 "Culture"), an essay considering the actions of Nazi leader Adolph Eichmann, who organized transport of Jews to concentration camps, Amy Gilbert says, "French philosopher Chantal Delsol, in her penetrating book Icarus Fallen, points to two opposed trends in our responses to evil: unexamined indignation and a priori absolution. The first is evident in popular responses to events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the Rwanda genocide: we voice our outrage and disorientation in quick and sometimes indiscriminate blame, accompanied in the media by replaying images of the events over and over again. The repetition is necessary, for we quickly reach the limits of our ability to articularly express our moral intuitions and judgments. The second trend generally emerges in response to more everyday situations, though it sometimes follows blind indignation n our processing of horrific events. In this mode, we excuse wrongdoing by denying the responsibility of the perpetrators. We identify some deterministic factor- upbringing, genes, neurochemistry- as the real culprit behind the transgression. And so we transform vices into pathologies for which people cannot be answerable."

(I just want to say that latter part scares the crap out of me.)

"This a priori absolution has a flip side. Just as vices are not blameworthy, so virtues are not commendable. Those who bravely risk their lives to save others, for instance, are not entitled to feel ennobled by their deeds- their neurochemistry determined their actions. And the rest of us need not feel guilty for our (likely) lack of action in simmilar circumstances. The 'heroes' simply have better genes than we do...."

"...Currently in vogue in psychology, philosophy, and evolutionary biology and traceable through Hobbes back to the ancient hedonists, this individualism maintains that our sole motivation, consciously or unconsciously, and even our most selfless seeming acts, is our own pleasure or satisfaction. Interestingly, if this is an accurate picture of human motivation, then Eichmann correctly identified his own key failing: his ineptitude at achieving his goals of self-advancement" (within the Nazi regime.) (pp. 7-8)

I don't know about you all, and I don't mean to oversimplify a complex question, but no matter how short a time I am here on this planet, or this planet is here in this solar system, and so on, I'd rather be doing what I do than what Eichmann did, and not just for my own self-satisfaction. (And dang, I haven't been advancing in any particular direction lately.)

Court: No review of Obama's eligibility to serve
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth. The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election.

Donofrio says that since Obama had dual nationality at birth — his mother was American and his Kenyan father at the time was a British subject — he cannot possibly be a "natural born citizen," one of the requirements the Constitution lists for eligibility to be president.

Donofrio also contends that two other candidates, Republican John McCain and Socialist Workers candidate Roger Calero, also are not natural-born citizens and thus ineligible to be president.
At least one other appeal over Obama's citizenship remains at the court. Philip J. Berg of Lafayette Hill, Pa., argues that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii as Obama says and Hawaii officials have confirmed.

Does this guy really care about holding up constitutional law (he is an attorney), or is he just being a pain in the arse looking for a media ride on the Presidential train? I'd call it thinly veiled racism, but he's picked on Mccain and Calero, too. Maybe he's just a bitter hardcore Republican with a bone to pick. Classification: individualist evil.

Bank of America will no longer finance mountaintop removal coal mining
Bank of America will phase out financing for companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive and controversial method of coal extraction, according to a statement from the banking giant. The policy comes the day after the Environmental Protection Agency — at the behest of the Bush administration — approved a rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump waste from mountaintop removal mining operations into streams and valleys.

"Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia," the company said in a statement. "We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies."

Bank of America is currently involved with eight of the U.S.'s top mountaintop removal coal-mining operators, according to the Rainforest Action Network, an environmental activist group that is campaigning against coal use.
"Bank of America's decision is a giant leap forward in the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining, which has devastated Appalachian communities and the mountains and streams they depend on," said Rebecca Tarbotton, director of Rainforest Action Network's Global Finance Campaign, which has pressured Bank of America since October 2007 to cease financing of mountaintop removal mining and coal-fired power plants. "We hope that Citi, JP Morgan Chase and other banks follow Bank of America's lead."
For the rest of the story, go to: http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1204-coal.html
So, Bank of America was hassled to make the decision, but the outcome was positive, regardless of motivation. Classification: individualist good.

Eh, what are you going to do?

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