Robert A. Teegarden's Blog

July 15, 2012

Sowing and Reaping

Filed under: Civics,Elections,Government — by Robert @ 12:06 pm
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You sow a seed, in this case the seed of a tree.  You nurture it, you cultivate the soil around it, you feed and water it; eventually you transplant it.  You watch it grow, you anticipate its shade.  You wait for the harvest, the first fruits of its sap.  This is a new seed, and unknown variety.  This seed has never been tried or tested before.  Investment becomes a gamble. This is a change from the last year’s crop.  There’s great hope in the outcome.

Our new seed is of the species Apple. The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica.  It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits in the world.

All of its life energy is focused on the fruit of this tree.  We might admire the byproducts of our tree; we might admire its stature, its stateliness. We could appreciate the sound of the wind blowing through its branches.  We might even wonder at its various colors through the seasons of the year. This new tree might even bring shelter and comfort to others of God’s creatures out in the field. But we wait for the fruit.  If it bears good fruit, then comes pruning, fertilizing, more nurturing, and growth; if it bears bad fruit, well… more on that later.

There’s a great deal of hope in that first fruit-bearing season.  It’s the first measure of growth and performance. A lot of effort has gone into this moment. Evidence of future fruit abounds. There are flowering buds of tantalizing hues everywhere.  The tree even looks good.  Its colors through the year appeared correct.  It has the right height and the right shape.  The air is dripping with anticipation. Our tree is ripe; it’s time for the harvest. The pickers arrive.

But instead of sweet nectar, the fruit of this tree is sour, almost acrid, both in taste and appearance. Birds won’t nest among its leaves and the crowds of ground critters avoid its branches. A change has occurred, but not for the good.  Some fruit falls from the tree to remain uneaten even by the lowly ant.  Allowed to ripen on the tree, the rest of the fruit eventually falls to the ground, withers and dies.  What does fall is collected elsewhere to be burned.  The very presence of this offspring could contaminate the soil further. This fruit would poison the very ground from which it came.

The results of all that hard labor were for naught. The outcome was blamed on the soil, on the water, and mostly on last year’s crop. But the farmer began to question the very seed itself.  Dutifully he fertilized, weeded and pruned again.  Sometimes first efforts are not always the indicator of future crops.

Good trees produce good crops.  It’s in their nature.  When there is good fruit the farmer is happy, the critters are happy, birds avail themselves of this nourishment. This is success. The life cycle of this tree is complete and it is good.  But it’s good not because of the shade, seasonal colors or aromas; no, it’s good because good fruit can only come from good trees.

So our farmer tries once again. Given agricultural encouragement our tree continues on in the cycles of life. Harvest time arrives once again.  But to the surprise of all who witnessed, this year’s crop didn’t include one complete apple.  You see, the skin of this year’s crop shielded from view the aberration taking place within, almost as if it were hiding the change taking place.  There were half-apples and half-apricots, apple-plums, cherry-apples, apple-peaches and almond-apples and each of those varieties by themselves.  This was not expected, indeed, and while surprising, it was very disappointing.  And though intriguing at first glance, this fruit was inedible as well.  Not only did our tree not bear good fruit, it bore half-fruits and fruits other than what was planted and expected.  The very sap of this tree was kind of like a lie. It was as if this tree could not live up to its very nature. The tree never delivered what was promised.  The change was not what was anticipated and planned, the hope was fruitless, and the results were catastrophic.

The farmer had no recourse. Bad trees produce bad fruit.   He had to remove the trees from his orchard.  Cut down and stacked, the wood was sold for firewood—at least someone might be warmed by its loss.  Those who labored here to find security simply from the heat of its combustion were also disappointed.  The very wood of this tree just failed to ignite.  While the tree consumed great resources from planting to harvest, it proved to be of no value whatsoever.  Thank the Maker that our farmer had the insurance necessary to protect his family from this blight, this failed experiment.

On to next year’s crop.

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June 22, 2012

The Fabricated Man

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Robert @ 1:50 pm
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In 1951 Ray Bradbury, God rest his soul, published a book entitled “The Illustrated Man.”  Here’s how Wickipedia describes the work:

“The Illustrated Man is a 1951 book of eighteen science fiction short stories by Ray Bradbury that explores the nature of mankind. While none of the stories has a plot or character connection with the next, a recurring theme is the conflict of the cold mechanics of technology and the psychology of people.

The unrelated stories are tied together by the frame device of “the Illustrated Man”, a vagrant with a tattooed body whom the unnamed narrator meets. The man’s tattoos, allegedly created by a woman from the future, are animated and each tell a different tale. All but one of the stories had been previously published elsewhere, although Bradbury revised some of the texts for the book’s publication.”

“The Illustrated Man” was an eerie set of tales, all stemming from one man’s individual tattoos, each of which had a life unto their own.  Each tattoo told a story.  The skin-carvings came alive and “lived” on the body and in the soul of this seemingly hapless individual. The nightmares he suffered were real. But these sojourns into terror cannot compare with the sleepless nights and defensive-ridden days of the character in a suggested follow-up story.

 If Bradbury were still wielding his pen, he could create a sequel in 2012 entitled “The Fabricated Man.” But unlike his sci-fi exploration, “The Fabricated Man” would be in the non-fiction or biographical section of the library or your book store. You see, “The Fabricated Man” would be based on the real-life chronology of someone alive today.

 “The Fabricated Man” is based on the life experiences of a rather existential individual because he has no past and no future. He lives only in the moment and for the moment.  The continuity of his life can only be measured after-the-fact by his momentary appearances at various events that occurred in time.  Our fabricated man has an awful lot of secrets and, therefore, no history.

 Our protagonist has no real record of birth. What is offered as that record has been shown to be manufactured; it’s a lie.  Rumors (and his own stories) abound that he was born on an island in the Pacific, a British protectorate on the African continent and somewhere in the South Pacific country of Indonesia.  No one really knows, maybe not even our protagonist himself. 

 His origins and lineage are called into question because he applied for a job.  But this wasn’t just any job.  This job required clearances of the highest order and a very specific political heritage.  You see, he must demonstrate the citizenship of both his parents at the time of his birth.  A major dilemma occurs because our protagonist gets the job before those in charge verify his credentials.  Why they don’t do due diligence is the subject of yet another tale.  But this generates another dilemma because he’s now up for a review and a possible renewal in that position and many have come to question not only his glaring lack of abilities, performance and attitude in the job,  but the very legal requirements necessary for the job in the first place.

 I call the character a protagonist in the classical sense of that term only because he does have an antagonist in this story. There is someone out to destroy him.  Our story begins to border on a sci-fi thriller because the protagonist and antagonist are one and the same person. “I have met the enemy and he is I.”  The problem is that our protagonist doesn’t know it.

 Our “Fabricated Man” is a construct. He’s the product of a thousand sources yet he has no roots or wings. From his several parents to the mentors along his way, our character has been formed into a talented echo, but one who knows not whereof he speaks. He’s been fed with the gruel of sonorous sound-bites and nurtured on the narcissistic musings of Strombolis from around the world.  And like the Pinocchio of old, he doesn’t recognize how long his nose has grown.

 Instead of glimpses at a tattoo in order to read reality, our new character must use a teleprompter to receive input and directions.  His use of this artificial window is judged stellar. He appears larger-than-life and so much in control when he has his cue cards. But he consistently flounders in those moments when the electronic crutch is not available. When he attempts to stand alone without the e-crutch he demonstrates his insecurity and shallowness by not only refusing to answer questions about what he just tried to say, but he defensively attacks the questioner for having the temerity to even ask a question.

 His defense mechanisms are so acute that he spends millions of dollars to protect the shadows of his past.  He refuses to allow anyone into the nether world of his own background.  Of friends he seems to have none.  Of classmates he has identified only one. Of professional accomplishments he has none.  There is no record of origins, lineage, writing, schooling or accomplishment.  It’s as if he just arrived off a slow boat from China.  His only recorded achievement to date was to be “present” when others took votes on important issues. But he did win a popularity contest in 2008.  But that “win” was based on false premises, lies, appearances and the guilt of those voting.

 With each day our character does reveal the vacuity of his person.  He holds so many positions on the same issue that “truth” is only for him, here, right now, and in these conditions.  Our character is consumed even in sleep by the fabrications necessary to defend, disguise, or completely hide what happened before because today is a brand new day and he cannot remember.  The web of deceit is slowly choking his life force.

 Other people in his life are simply tools to navigate the vagaries of life itself.  His own auto-biographical musings were constructed to benefit just him. According to him, his mother of record is almost nonexistent; but his father had some influence.  His friends were made up and, oh, how they loved him; the very love of his life was even invented, but oh how she loved him.  Because of the duplicitous nature of his existence and character, he cannot remember to whom he told what.  So he hires a cadre of minions to glaze over the inaccuracies and inconsistencies and protect him from the reality of his own past, real or made up.  He even pays jurists to protect him from the queries and challenges that come with his new job.

 He once had a choice between statesmanship and politics. He could have chosen a future because it was exactly that–a future, based on a history of learned and lived truths. Or he could opt for the road of machines, manipulation and machinations.  He saw in the former that it meant that he would have to give what power he had away to others in service; only in politics could the power rest solely in him.  He unfortunately chose the latter.  But consistent with his nature, in the world of politics all roads lead to him.  Our Fabricated Man recently began marketing a new, on-line registry program.  Instead of buying your kids a gift on their birthday, instead of giving friends a wedding gift, instead of treating your beloved to a symbol of your love on your anniversary, there’s the new Fabricated Man Registry: you send your gifts to him instead.

 Our wanna-be-king/god also suffers from a bipolar disorder. But his is not just the stuff of everyday, ordinary Schizophrenia (which by definition describes all the decisions he’s ever made), but his disorder stems from his very roots.  You see, our character is the piebald man.  He comes from two very distinct racial groups: one of a color and the other of another.  Reasonable people find nothing wrong in this. But because of his upbringing and narcissistic desires, he’s never come to grips with if he’s really one color and not the other, vice versa, both or neither.  He never rose above it. So it suits his purpose to use even this reality not as a wondrous bridge to bring people together (to stress the “e” in “e pluribus unum”), but as an opportunity to divide and control and enslave once again. 

 Our central character never achieves the status of hero except in his own mind.  His beliefs are a function of time and, as such, they change with the sweep of the second hand.  Tick-tock, what do I believe today?  Tick-tock, what do I believe today? Tick-tock, what do I believe?  His life was captured by a rock group that sang years before he arrived.  But prescient with the insight of many artists, they sang:

 He’s a real nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
For nobody.
Doesn’t have a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere Man, please listen,
You don’t know what you’re missing,
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command.
He’s as blind as he can be,
Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?
Doesn’t have a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere Man, don’t worry,
Take your time, don’t hurry,
Leave it all ’till somebody else
Lends you a hand.
He’s a real Nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
For nobody.

 Even with the mystery over his past, the confusion about the present and the hopelessness of his future, our protagonist has lived up to his name. Or has he?  You see, the fabricated man really doesn’t know who he really is.  The ancient ones, the Hebrews, told us of this so many years ago.  They said that if you know the name of a thing (or a person in this example), you then can have an understanding of it; you can have a relationship with it/him.  But our character, true to the existential nature of his being, has had so many names that it’s hard to know who he really is.  On college application he used one name, on job applications he used another.  With a protected and sequestered past and a Schizophrenic present, the future looks bleak for our fabricated man: he’s going nowhere, man.

May 3, 2012

Election Oddities and Quirks

Filed under: Civics,Elections,Government — by Robert @ 11:22 am
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If all elections were for an open seat, one not occupied at the moment, then it makes sense to square-off in the arena of the public: two or more candidates and two or more campaigns. It’s pretty obvious that these are unknown/new candidates for this particular position. This was ok when the Republic was new (about 240 plus years ago) or when the various territories voted for statehood.  But today most elections are NOT for an open seat. Yet we keep exercising these political events as if we were still in those halcyon days of the wild west.  Things have changed.

Most elections today involve an incumbent and challenger/s: someone who is in office versus someone or someone/s challenging to be in that office. There are all kinds of expressions to describe the situation: insider versus outsider, incumbent versus challenger, oldie versus newbie, David versus Goliath, etc..  But it all comes down to someone with a track record and someone who wants to set a track record in that same position.

The roots of the word incumbent are interesting.  The literal roots mean “to occupy obstructively or inconveniently.” Obstructive and inconvenient to whom?  It’s obvious that an incumbent occupies a position obstructive and inconvenient to any challengers.  The incumbent holds sway, is in charge and has the full weight of a given office to establish his or her position and power.  Some might argue, however, that incumbents are obstructive and inconvenient to the very public they were elected to serve; but that’s a topic for another day.

The point is that an incumbent has terrific advantages over any challenger. There’s the obvious name-recognition of the incumbent.  She or he has been around (usually for about three plus years) and folks have ample proof and examples of their character, their position and their methods of doing business.  Incumbents also can control the very timing of an election process. Since they are “the” government, they can dictate the very mandates of the election process.  And then there are the so-called franking privileges of incumbents. This usually applies to the mailing privileges with regard to their constituent publics; they get to mail stuff for free.  But the clever way that “notes from the hill” are written these days, it is oft times difficult to distinguish news notes from campaigning. Today, franking privileges have been extended to include transportation costs and security. If an incumbent uses a government airplane to fly somewhere for incumbent business that’s one thing; but to then use that travel moment to make a political statement, that’s another—the latter is politics and that’s campaigning.  The incumbent should reimburse the government for that trip.  Incumbents have enormous privileges because of their office.  Not so for the challenger.

Maybe we need some new rules of engagement for elections.

What would happen if in cases where there is an incumbent, only the challengers were allowed to campaign?  Incumbents don’t need to; they’ve already stated their case.  What we would have is a campaign of the known (incumbent) versus the unknown (challenger).  We don’t need the incumbent to spend more of our money and waste more time telling us what we already know.  What we do need to know is about the challenger.  The electorate then compares the track record versus the revealed information in the campaign.  If the electorate likes the work that has been done by the incumbent more than the promises, position and character of the campaigner, he or she is re-elected.  If the track record doesn’t stack up against the revealed direction of the challenger, then there is a change.

Some would challenge this by saying that it’s against the First Amendment rights of the incumbent.  But they have had their “voice.” They’ve stated over and over again what they believe, what direction they’re heading and how they’re going to get there—or not.  They have had their Freedom of Speech—we simply don’t need to have it re-packaged, replayed and rehashed.  But we need to hear from the challenger.

It seems this would reduce the electioneering time by 90%, reduce the opportunity for graft and corruption, and put the process on a more even footing.  Imagine an election cycle of 60 days, not two years. Imagine one debate. If there are no shows, there are no shows. Incumbents can be about the business of government for which they were elected originally, not justifying behaviors that are a matter of history. Challengers can focus on a campaign dealing with issues, not money.  After all, it seems that our election and campaigning process should be about not how much money one can raise, but on what one would do with a given amount of money in the first place.

I think Alex de Tocqueville might agree.

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