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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Map Keys

Ever try to read a road map without understanding the map “keys?”  Ever wonder how one is able to shape the mind of another through simple control of his or her reading list?  Ever marvel at the ability of a master teacher to connect with a student who yearns only for a nudge in the proper direction?

As we ponder our evolutionary spirit, an excellent starting point in learning how to read maps is to command the “science of human nature.”  Many historical figures of note have characterized the science as being most useful.  Its variety of behaviors is constant and predictable.  Its elements have changed little through time.  So if we were to recognize the patterns in these behaviors, then plug in an assortment of random ordinary people, places and dates, the mystery of understanding history would be unlocked forever.  That being the case, can there ever be anything really new in the world?

After human nature, other map keys follow naturally.  The first is a consciousness of how we see things.  At one time or another, we’ve all heard the expression of a person who “looks at the world through rose colored glasses.”  It’s meant to describe someone who is filled with optimism, sees the positive in everything, to a fault.  That someone cannot be deterred from the mission of turning an abstract idea into a reality, sometimes against all odds.

Lenses, filters and walls affect how we see things.  Why do we have them?  And what benefits and detriments do they provide?  Our eyes are nothing more than lenses, so the eye doctor says.  Thanks to the retina and optic nerve, they allow us to see things.  We call this vision.  Filters help us emphasize certain things and minimize certain other things.  Walls provide the mechanism to permit some to see all things, on their side of the wall, and to deny those on the other side from seeing anything at all.  Fences are a sort of wall.

Another map key involves a consciousness of what we are actually witnessing.  One of the more challenging difficulties of human existence is distinguishing what is real from what only appears to be real, separating the wheat from the chaff.

And who provides access to the video room?  Powerful corporate interests behind a seemingly invisible curtain employ talented Madison Avenue professionals to influence the ordinary citizen's reality.  They expertly filter what we see and don’t see for their own purposes.  Oil companies advertise an attention to the environment.  Pharmaceutical companies focus on safety detail and quality of life advances.  Financial services firms tout the “fact” that the average returns of their managed investments typically well exceed historical norms over time.

But, do we ever stop to consider what these major industries are not telling us about their prized, revenue generating products?  Or the money they spend their obscene profits on?

Finally, they manage to transform things we want into things we somehow need, like prescriptions for restless leg syndrome.  Perhaps it would be productive to better identify needs and distinguish needs from what are merely wants.  We may be surprised to learn that in the end our needs other than bread and water are quite modest.

Understanding who provides access to the video room may provide the essential force in identifying what is necessary to preserve the American Dream.  Is the American economic opportunity structure of once upon a time still generally and readily available?  Are the yelps for less government today loudest among those whose funding sources are the monopolizers of economic opportunities?  Are the two questions fairly related?

Perhaps the central question that has vexed the most inquisitive minds involves the equality of all men under our constitution and laws.  Theodore Roosevelt said our country’s history has faced two great crises: first, when it was formed, and then, again, when it was perpetuated.  T.R. articulated the substance of the third great crisis which was upon us, the struggle "to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity," bringing it back to life in 1912 if only briefly.  A full 100 years later, America is still trying to figure out how to solve this confounding problem of our time --- completing our great unfinished business.  In truth, all roads still lead to this place.

Perhaps we are at a crossroads.  It’s a good thing the ordinary citizen is able to read map keys.  We must respect the powerful forces of conservatism in discharging the obligation to protect the status quo.  Otherwise there would be chaos and anarchy.  But we also must respect the need for change, understanding that if we do not change we must surely die.  Is one principle more important than the other?

Do we play it safe and fly under the radar, shining our beacon from under a bush?  Do we have any further obligation?  Or do we act more aggressively, throw caution to the wind, knowing that the harder we push for change the greater the assurance of our own personal destruction?


-Michael D’Angelo

1 comment:

  1. The powerful corporate interests and their Madison Ave. partners have also conspired to reduce the level - and quality - of education the masses receive, making their mission much easier. They created and depend on the " dumbing down of America".

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