View from the Edge

Peter Riva of Gila has offered his many years of columns for this online newspaper. His writings have been published in East Coast newspapers, and he decided to share them with the Beat and you, our readers.


Here's a word you may not be familiar with: Habituate. It literally means to make you become used to, to acclimatize you, to condition you. In the Second World War the families seeking shelter hundreds of feet underground in the subway (tube) tunnels were at first terrified. The thump, thump, thump of bombs exploding overhead caused fear and confusion. But after a few nights, seeing that they were safe so deep in the earth, people relaxed their fears of imminent danger, brewed cups of tea, napped and children played. The real destruction was never lost on them, never forgotten, but they had become accustomed to the relative safety, they had become habituated to their new conditional safety abode. But they never forgot.

Punishment or Encouragement — Which One Works Best?

As a parent, if you actually care about your kids, you soon learn that you cannot punish to teach them anything. Yes, punishment can show them what NOT to do, but punishment can never show them what TO DO. If your child is not doing well at school, punishing them for a "D" makes them hate learning. If you take the time to sit with them, encourage their learning, then what can result is the self-pride that comes with a better grade. Learning can't be taught with punishment. Ask any teacher worth his or her salt, learning is taught by enthusing kids, making them proud of what they learn, opening their minds, not closing it with fear or hatred for being punished.

A non-funded mandate to go to the moon undertaken with a flourish of a worthless pen notwithstanding, the actual science and governmental programs already underway around the world are likely to see moon landings within the year. What? You didn't know? Of course not, because the news you get is filtered down to marketing platforms meant not to fill your head, leaving room for medical remedies you must desperately want to pester your doctor about.

Next week (yes, Dec. 28) the Indian Research Organization will launch the TeamIndus Satellite Launch Vehicle atop their PSLV rocket from Sriharikota (check your geography knowledge). After the first, second, and third stage separation (a technological feat previously only the USA had), the rocket will speed on to the moon where the fourth stage will separate and a lander will make a Moon de-orbit and hopefully land unscathed on Mare Imbrium near the polar top of the Moon. There, the IndianTeam Indus lander will conduct soil and other spectra-analysis experiments, giving improved scientific ability a chance to claim new knowledge from the moon to Indian scientists.

In these times, it has become clear we need to look out for each other. Charity is up (thankfully), food programs are expanding, neighbors are helping neighbors. In our household, at least six working days a month are devoted to just helping neighbors. Me? Other than time, one thing I can do is share information – information the mainstream, advertising-managed media may not be giving you.

"The people of South Sudan have simply suffered far too much for far too long and we must not take their resilience against incredible odds for granted," Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council. More than 2,000,000 people have fled South Sudan as refugees over the past four years of conflict, 7,000,000 displaced people inside the country – that is almost two-thirds of the remaining population – still need humanitarian assistance, he said, adding that as the end of 2017 approaches, 1,250,000 people are just one step away from famine, almost doubling from a year earlier.

In the USA, we have a two party system. No, we don't. We have Libertarians, Conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Peace & Freedom, Independence, Tea Party, Socialist, Christian Liberty, Citizens Party, Communist, Constitution, and another 40 or so. It is generally accepted that Congress is a two-party governing body, but tell that to the Tea Party or the Freedom Caucus. The system may be two-party, but the individual members are clearly not in any sort of agreement or moral positions.

American citizens all have a right to vote. No, not everybody does. With the cost of proof of identity running at $300 (original birth certificate or a $600 Citizenship Certificate proving you're American – note in some states neither a US passport nor a driver's license is accepted) – many poor or paperless people can't register to vote. And the more poor or unpapered people are, the more likely the more conservative candidates will win.

All political advertising is held to the same standard as product advertising. No, it is not. If you sell Tide detergent, you cannot claim that Tide gets your clothes whiter than any other detergent, nor can you pretend that Humera does not have side effects. Those disclaimers are, in effect, truth in advertising. Political ads have no such constraints, no rule for any standard of truth whatsoever.

In any discussion or argument, pointing out other transgressions to offset or obfuscate the issue being discussed is considered fair and honest. No, it's not. The new standard by politicians and their promoters is to distract from the real issue by resorting, over and over, to, "What about…" and changing the subject, equating two unrelated events. One man has 12 accusers of sexual predatory events, especially with underage girls and the new deviant defense is to point to another person, decades ago, who was found guilty of an extra-marital affair with a young, but adult, woman. Of course, this has the added benefit of lessening the public perception of the horror factor of the victims. This was the same tactic used by the Catholic Church in defending their position of the pedophile priests – point at others' wrongdoing, nothing to see here…

A mistake in the press highlights a bias of all reporters. No, it doesn't. Everyone makes mistakes, does that mean that everyone always makes mistakes? Does that mean everyone can never be trusted? Follow the old rule: you can fool all the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. The media and reporters need to be checked and double checked, but it is impossible they are wrong all of the time, impossible they are the absolutism of "fake."

Everything you say should only be directed at people who believe in you and should be repeated often to win new supporters simply by repetition of the same false message. No, it doesn't work all the time. For a while, yes, but in the end, even supporters will begin to see the fallacies, will begin to evaluate previously accepted "truths" and if those are found to have been chirping idiocy, opinions and loyalty will be reversed.

What works? American people, ideals, and basic honesty. Slowly, they are coming back.

The computer age is enabling workers to mask deficiencies (like spelling) and odd work times behind productivity and work-load achievements; work set and achieved at a blistering pace – and big business knows this. Sitting at home, an over-65er who can't sleep anyway and tomorrow's young work force, both can catch up on paperwork, statistics, sales, whatever, and transmit the results over the Internet. Up to today, the measure of the output of a worker (productivity) was set against piecework standards or office overhead. Soon pay will be linked to company profit. Working flexi-time, old pay standards no longer apply and the only measure of output from a worker will be his or her success in getting paid for a set amount of work (piecework) or corporate financial gain from sales/profit contracts.

Ten years ago the idea was that you could get on-line, take on an e-task and earn extra e-dollars. Like migrant workers standing on a street corner waiting for day work, you too could pick jobs off an Internet site and, task completed, earn e-credits good toward your holiday, mortgage, car payment, whatever. Somehow it has not quite worked out that way.

As a child, you learn to recognize the signs confronting you. You look up at the sky and see clouds rolling in, grey clouds, and you know to leave the field before a downpour. On the playground, you see a bunch of kids gathering, see their body language, their peering over at you or your group and are forewarned that conflict is about to begin.

All through life, signs we pick up on are instinctively necessary to keep us safe. When you become an adult you watch for signs in the stock-market trends, or listen to rumors in your company about financial shifts or personnel changes on the wind. The police use criminal signs to out-smart or prevent crime. At night you walk the streets listening, watching for signs of danger. Soldiers use signs on the battlefield to spot the enemy and estimate movement; a puff of dust here, a trail of smoke there, sounds of an engine revving. Without seeing signs, recognizing them, and then acting on them, most of life's perils would come to pass.

In this age of waves of information on Facebook, YouTube, the main media outlets in the USA and newspapers, you may be torn between caring—deeply caring—and feeling you have to respond in some quick but well-meaning manner. Click like on Facebook and the other person will know you paid attention to them, reaffirming kinship. Watch the evening news and the channel will get ratings which assure them—perhaps falsely—they are providing a vital service. Buy a national paper and—at the very least—you may feel assured you understand the country you reside in and community you “belong” to.

All of that is likely to be nonsense. Well meaning, perhaps, but nonsense. There is so much you are missing and being deprived of knowing.