Saturday, February 3, 2018

Greetings--Permanent Payment Explanation

Welcome to the blog, 'zine, and bookstore of Priscilla King. Effective February 2, 2017, this web site has gone to a pay-per-view mode. Old posts, and keywords for new posts not yet visible here, continue to show up here. They can be found by using the site-specific search bar on your right. New posts can be seen for $1 and will become visible free of charge, in a graphics-friendly format here and a graphics-free format at Live Journal, when they've earned $5.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Makers and Takers: How Welfare Hurts Entrepreneurs

(Status update: this whole post is another big fat status update. Bottom line, I just earned $18, to add to $5, for the week's living expenses. If your income for the past year was US$12,000 or higher, go here first, and follow instructions:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4923804 )

I am sooo tired this afternoon, Gentle Readers. It's a Friday afternoon and I've spent the morning in the open-air market in Gate City, Virginia.

Technically, the day started at 5:45 a.m., which was when I woke up. I left home at 7:15. Car-pooling with a fellow vendor, I was in the market at 7:34. The market technically opens at 8:30. Vendors and a few sharpwitted tightwads check out displays before that, if they can. Of the $18 I collected from sales, I'd taken in $13 before 8:30.

I had a few books that have been reviewed at this web site, a few that had not; I try to avoid taking the same ones in twice in a row. Fear it not, with my furniture-smart-but-book-clueless friend's collection on top of mine, I  have enough books for sale to deliver a new collection every week for a year or more, if I make the time to rotate stock.

Mostly I had soda pop.

Earlier in the spring, I happened to be looking for something to buy, "for Miss Manners," in a convenience store where I'd used the facilities. I found some small bottles of soda pop on sale at a price that allowed me to take them into the market that Friday and offer them, not on ice, at a price Wal-Mart couldn't beat. They sold fast. I used the profit, and the frugal supermarket shopping habits I learned in Mrs. Ramey's Home Economics class before Gate City even had a supermarket, to locate more bottles of soda pop at a price Wal-Mart couldn't beat next week, and the next week, and the next week.

Anybody can do this; Sam Walton would have approved. It's merely a matter of taking the time to shop for the lowest prices for an amount of any kind of merchandise that you can handle, on which you can then make a modest, ethical profit by reselling single units of merchandise as impulse purchases. It's how Wal-Mart actually began.




To offer single bottles of soda pop at a price substantially nicer than Wal-Mart's only involved walking seven miles to the supermarket where they were on sale in six-packs, carrying those six-packs to the warehouse on my shoulders. Well, fifty-year-old women do not maintain my kind of body shape by sitting in that ugly slouched-back-then-hunched-forward position car seats force a woman into. The usual sarcastic observations on people who drive past me in half-empty cars, not offering a lift, and then call themselves Christians, naturally apply...

Well...last week people didn't come to the market at all. For the first time I had a lot of bottles to lug back from the market.

This week, however, a well-known welfare cheat was cluttering the path through the market. (In an open-air market it's not an aisle; it's a traffic lane, along which people drive trucks.)

If I'd imagined anybody was going to listen to this character, I would have snapped a picture of him and posted it here (and a cheap cell phone camera can compete with Busted magazine for unflattering snapshots). "The Blighter" used to work in a local supermarket, from which he wasn't fired immediately after I caught him trying to rip me off, and was able to alienate me as a customer. He officially left the supermarket claiming some sort of work-related injury. If he has any such injury, it's not noticeable. He has rented space in the Friday Market. He has usually sold work tools for which he obviously has no use, and sometimes sold iced bottled drinks--smaller bottles, for a higher price. His father, whose disability pension is based on alleged mental illness, is one of my Insane Admirers. (Because he didn't want to admit how accurate his father's claim of mental illness probably was, at one time this poor man was worried that he'd have a stepmother who's a few years younger than he is. He had no need to worry.)

He had not set up a booth. He was just wandering around, telling everyone how terrible it was that "some idiot comes in, offers a lower price, and spoils things for everybody."

In selling bottled drinks at low prices I am not, of course, spoiling anything for anybody--not even the blighter who could, if he were intelligent, buy my drinks early in the day, at my price, and resell them at his price. My best steady customer has been doing that. Steady customer, who was intelligent enough to get a post-"retirement" job, buys bottled drinks at a modest profit to me, puts them in the cooler at his workplace, and resells them at a modest profit to himself.

I don't try to sell things at a price much higher than I'd be willing to pay for my own personal use, because I don't have the best lying skills. I can give people really ridiculous disinformation, in such a way that any competent adult knows it's a joke, but I wouldn't be able to ask the kind of prices The Blighter asks with a straight face. Local lurkers can expect to get dealers' rates on everything...unless they tick me off. When I offer any of the books in a box for $1, it does not bother me at all to see a literate fellow vendor buy a dictionary, Bible, or instruction book, transfer it to her or his own booth, and sell it for $2 or even $5.

As a Christian, I don't presume to forgive people before they repent, but I do release my emotional energy from people who, let's just say, could best serve humankind by dying right now before they waste another breath of oxygen. I've not followed The Blighter around trying to ruin everything he does, although I would technically be in the right if I did that. I would have been delighted to sell him all my bottles and let him spend the rest of the day reselling them at his prices, if he could, while I spent the day online.

The Blighter is not, however, intelligent enough to think of that. It's the sort of thing his pathetic father would have been able to think of, all by himself, if goaded to use what he has in the way of brains. If he needed the money to pay bills and buy groceries, The Blighter would probably have realized that his nasty behavior did him no good at all.

Let's walk through the steps, making this simple enough for a brain like The Blighter's.

A. Intelligent Choice: You, the person who wants to be able to get a higher price for something, buy as much as you can from anyone who's offering a lower price.

Result #1: The person(s) offering the lower price have accomplished what they set out to accomplish. They are pleased. They can go home.

Result #2: Although your purchase doesn't guarantee that they want to buy something from you, their feeling of being pleased in the Friday Market does improve the chance that they'll buy something in the Friday Market. The money may trickle back to you on the very same day.

Result #3: People like good customers, so someone who may have had good reasons to dislike you based on your past behavior (assuming the person spends enough mental energy remembering your past behavior to notice that it's you) may start to form a better opinion of you because you're a good customer...even if you turn around and resell the person's merchandise at a higher price.

B. Stupid Choice: You, the person who wants to be able to get a higher price for something, are able to exploit people's loyalty, ignorance, or fear of your reputation as a middle school bully, enough that they don't buy it at a price Wal-Mart can't match.

Result #1: The person(s) offering the lower price will still be able to sell some merchandise to some people, so you're not making them go away. To whatever extent you do reduce their profits, you merely make them less happy--and less likely to circulate more money around the Friday Market.

Result #2: Inevitably, the person(s) identify who's been sabotaging their business. Then they're motivated to discredit that person. You set up a backlash of dislike and disloyalty against you.

Result #3: A more hostile market is a less lucrative market. In a small town whose economy fluctuates noticeably depending on the Friday Market, your "negativity" may well make a small but noticeable dent in everybody's profits.

Result #4: More people buy food products than sell them, so you're not going to win a war with the person who's willing to sell them cheaper. You can hurt everybody's profits and everybody's feelings, maybe all over the whole town...but you, yourself, aren't going to come out ahead.

Now obviously The Blighter never was Berea material...I'd be surprised if he'd been able to finish a two-year course at one of those public colleges that are required by law to accept anybody who can sign a tuition payment check. Still, he did qualify for a cashier's job and even work his way up to a middle management position in a supermarket, before his "injury" (not that he walks with a noticeable limp). So he probably can count, as well as read at least a little. If all he had to live on were what he earned, he would have figured this out for himself.

How is it possible that he's not figured it out? How is it possible that a man who's old enough to be a grandfather, and can probably even read on at least a third or fourth grade level, is still acting like a fourth grade bully?

Welfare is what makes it possible. As long as this able-bodied semi-skilled worker is able to live as a parasite on working people, as long as he doesn't actually need to make a profit, he can afford to go into the Friday Market for the sole purpose of, well, blighting the market for everyone else. He doesn't have to make a positive contribution to the community. From his drug-warped point of view, it may even seem profitable to him to do only harm to everyone around him.

Frankly, Gentle Readers, I was surprised that this sort of thing could happen. Yes, we all carry around our "wounded inner children of the past," and mine is a sickly middle school student who just couldn't be as big or as strong or as energetic as my alleged peer group, no matter what I did (until I grew up and stopped eating wheat products). My "inner child" is always willing to believe that anyone I don't know well who looks in my direction is going to hit me if I don't knock him down first, because, for no logical reason--after all I was a child prodigy, and "everybody always" hates child prodigies--everyone else is hostile to me. For all my "inner child" knows, if my parents aren't around I probably am the last nice, quiet, peaceable person left on Earth.

(And yes, it's true that all I have to live on is what I earn...so if people pass by me in the Friday Market and don't buy something, they are in fact doing me harm. Don't think you "need" anything you see? Well, maybe not; from a broader perspective, there are a lot more humans on Earth than the planet really needs, and maybe what you need is to try to push up some daisies that will undoubtedly be more pleasant to look at than you ever were. Try telling yourself the truth, that you're shopping because you enjoy shopping, and all you need to do is encourage people who are not welfare cheats to stay honest and healthy so that you can grow older in a community of decent human beings. Which means, if there's something else you want more than you want what I currently have--which is likely, given that what I have is what I carried in on my shoulders!--you need to put up the money to order it from me. That's what Amazon is for.)

But no one else seemed surprised. Apparently there are several welfare cheats who have nothing to do but hang around trying to sabotage honest enterprises, even in a town as small as this one. Apparently some lazy, greedy, ignorant son-of-a-pup pulls some sort of stunt like this every time somebody tries to offer prices good enough to attract intelligent customers. Apparently they succeed in discouraging a lot of people into either joining the welfare-cheat demographic, or leaving our little town, moving to cities where they are the ones who tell the rest of the world how worthless towns like Gate City are.

There are things you can do about this, local readers. You can start by showing respect for whatever your neighbors do instead of welfare-cheating. Should you stumble across someone offering dealers' prices to any and all customers in a flea market, make sure the whole market hears you proclaiming how WONDERFUL it is to find anyone PUBLIC-SPIRITED enough to offer this kind of SERVICE TO THE WHOLE COMMUNITY--while you peel off not the one-dollar bills, but the twenty-dollar bills, from that wad I see you pull out and count as you approach. Make sure people see that you're taking from that site a little more than you can comfortably carry.

There's probably no real need to identify The Blighter, although it'd be no less than he deserved if I posted his picture, real name, and home address here--which I could do, and might still do. Just make sure he sees and hears a good strong backlash against his little hate campaign. He knows who he is. Encourage me, encourage any other vendors who you may know are working for their living rather than cultivating old injuries as bogus disabilities, and with any luck The Blighter will go home and commit suicide. Maybe he'll even report his emotional distress to some sort of counsellor who might (with God all things are possible) help him develop into a decent human being.

But this is not only a conflict between two individual vendors who've chosen different pricing strategies for their own reasons. That would not be a story worth publishing. This is also a conflict between honest business and welfare-cheating. It involves many other people as well as The Blighter and me, and there are things you can do to help all of those other people, too...to build a healthier community.

One of those things is to demand a pitiless reexamination of the whole monthly pension plan: In order to draw one penny beyond the amount they have personally paid into their own retirement, disability, or unemployment accounts, people need to be genuinely disabled, which means they're not walking around town making nuisances of themselves. Anyone who is able to walk, or steer a wheelchair, and who receives any tax-funded benefits needs to spend the "business hours," 9-5 Monday-Friday, on a designated day labor site holding up a list of the unskilled labor jobs s/he is able to do. Any absence from that "job," except when and as they've been led away from the site by an employer, should mean no benefits for at least one month. There's a reason why the Bible tells us that even widows should not be able to depend on handouts before age 70--which in Bible days meant "before they were totally bedridden": lest

"
 they learn to be idle, cwandering about from house to house; and not only idle, butdtattlers also and ebusybodies, speaking things which they ought not. 
"

The Bible tells us that able-bodied people should be paid for what they do, not according to what they supposedly "need," but because they and their work are worthy:

"
the labourer is worthy of his hire.
"

We all need to stop deluding ourselves that anybody "needs" anything. At best people "need" things in order to stay alive. Well, if all they're doing is sitting around (or sauntering around) going "needy-needy-needy," maybe they really need not to stay alive. Let'em starve, see how they like it! Let's admit that adults in these United States buy things because we want and choose and enjoy them, and public-spirited people enjoy supporting honest, public-spirited people rather than lazy, greedy parasites. Let's start rewarding honest efforts that are worthy of compensation, rather than listening to any blather about "needs."

Book Review: The Right Words at the Right Time

A Fair Trade Book (lol)


Title: The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2 Your Turn

Editor: Marlo Thomas

Date: 2006

Publisher: Atria

ISBN: 978-0-7434-9743-5

Length: 401 pages (but the type is large)

Illustrations: black & white photo at back of book

Quote: “The right words can be funny words, thought-provoking words, words that prop us up.”

Marlo “That Girl” Thomas put together a collection of her celebrity friends' memories of what had been “the right words at the right time” for them. Readers responded with similar stories of their own. What was an actress with a charity to raise money for supposed to do? This was the second fundraiser, dedicated to the child patients at St. Jude's Hospital.

It's a nice, cheerful bedside or coffee-table book, suitable for dipping into whenever you have time for just a short cheerful read. The people in these stories are not famous and many of them are no better writers than the famous, but all stories are readable and easy to relate to.

In other years I wouldn't have made this comment, but in view of recent cyberchatter I have to mention this: this book is political. It runs over with the kind of moderate-left trendiness that used to be obligatory at the Big Three TV networks. Because Thomas undoubtedly thought, as many Washington Post writers would undoubtedly agree, that this is a nice neutral sampling of nice feel-good stories for just about anybody—and it is, for anybody who's not been sensitized to the presence of political rhetoric—let me call attention to:

* Several stories from survivors of the 2001 suicide plane attacks. A media blitz of “9/11 stories” was demonstrably successful in boosting support for the resulting war.

* There's a story about an American finding enlightenment in a Japanese Buddhist monastery. There's no story about a Japanese Buddhist finding enlightenment in an American Christian monastery.

* There are stories about women embracing mediocrity. There are stories about men pushing themselves to succeed even in the absence of talent.

* There are stories about abusive or inadequate parents. There aren't stories about abusive day-care centers or inadequate public schools. There's a story about incest; there's no story about a child being sexually abused at school. There's a story about a child who's beaten up by her mother; there's no story about a child who's beaten up by schoolmates.

* If it's not been made an issue of identity politics yet, it should be: There's a story about a child “being brave enough to overcome shyness” and talk to strangers. There's no story about a child “being brave enough to overcome fear of being alone with his/her own damaged brain” and not chatter.

* There's a story about a guy who “stopped being born again” and “became a devout homosexual instead.” There's no story about any man or woman who stopped living for sexual pleasure and became a devout celibate instead.

* There's a story about wounded soldiers being cheered up by Christmas carols. This never used to be a political issue, but it's become one. Limousine Lefties no longer want to admit that religious holiday traditions could have enough meaning for any number of people to be worth exposing any possible follower of a different religion to the horror and trauma of having to watch anyone celebrate his or her religious tradition.

* There are stories about immigration to the United States. Granted, these stories come from the past, many from the 1940s. Still, there aren't stories about the observed fact that the United States is now sufficiently overpopulated that people are beginning to scream about sealing the borders.

* There's a story about an older man learning to use a computer. There's no story about a younger person learning to do something without electronic gadgets.

* There are stories about people whose religion is vaguely, liberally Jewish and stories about people whose religion is vaguely, liberally Christian. There are no stories about orthodox followers of either religion, and the proportion of Jewish to Christian respondents in this book is vastly higher than the proportion of Jewish to Christian people in the United States.

* There's a story about a teacher who was less concerned with teaching the subject he was paid to teach than with teaching “social skills” or social attitudes or some such twaddle. (That was considered cool, in some circles, around 1970.) This math teacher has an odd-numbered group of students pair off by calling out code words while the one student left out is told to “keep yelling the word ['Help'] at the top of your lungs, no matter what happens,” as an object lesson that “when people form their own little cliques, someone is always left out...silently calling for help.” It's easy to think that the teacher was just encouraging the students to be kind to people who'd like to join the cliques but have somehow been overlooked. That way of thinking, however, denies the existence of students who don't want to join the cliques of same-physical-age classmates, who are much more attuned to the things they're able to do with their own same-mental-age friends outside of school. It teaches young people to flatter themselves to assume that any invitation they make is an act of charity for which the person invited should be grateful, rather than recognizing that any invitation they make is likely to be a bid for charity and, if the invitation is accepted, they need to be grateful.

* Oh, by the way, did I mention soldiers? (Yes.) There's no story about radical pacifists.

I could go on. There are several stories about people who were on, or who got onto, the U.S. side of the Second World War. Arguably no American reader should miss the stories from the German, Russian, Japanese, French, Italian, Ethiopian, or Swiss sides; many people in the U.S. would agree with the claim that the only other side of the World War that deserves hearing is the U.K. side, that the British were the only real, solid ally we had even among “The Allies.” I don't want to read the war stories of Nazis either, so I probably have no right to point this out, but...the stories from the 1940s are totally politically biased. There's not even a British story in the lot.

Regular readers know why I felt a need to review this feel-good book in this way. I set up this web site to broadcast my views on writing, censorship, and compensation. Those have not been the divisive issues in any U.S. election, but they certainly are political issues. They are also moral, hence even religious, issues. There is no way on earth this web site could pretend not to be “political”--although from time to time I do like to remind everybody that this web site markets books that express political, religious, and other philosophical ideas that aren't mine. But when people start yammering on about wanting web sites not to be “political”...duh. You cannot not communicate.

Web sites that are not about writing, books, publishing, can of course get away with limiting the scope of their content. If your business is repairing washing machines, you can have a “blog” that endlessly recycles a half-dozen “posts” like “Things People Do That Damage Their Washing Machines” and “The Right Place to Put Your Washing Machine” and “Quick Fixes for Washing Machine Problems.” Since you can spend your days either repairing washing machines or writing, and you presumably prefer to spend them repairing washing machines, you don't have to write anything about yourself at all; your web site doesn't have to show your age, gender, or color, much less your political views. Your “blog” can be ghostwritten by a professional hack writer—I've done that. Your customers are there to learn about washing machines; they're not interested in you.

My business, web site, and customers, are a different kind.

I'm not here to “polarize” people. I don't think people need to be “polarized.” I think truth often emerges from the conflict between the errors on either side of a dichotomy.

Nevertheless, I'm picking up a lot of angst in cyberspace about the fact that socialism has not turned out to be the direction of the future, that people around the world are not turning to global totalitarian government as a savior. Ooohhh, please, don't mention nasty old politics to them! That would be as mean, as cruel, as mentioning football to them the day after their school was eliminated from the championship round!

And seriously, I have to say: most of the time my political issues aren't yours, and some of the time I may even be on your side, but if you want me to stay away from political topics, then so should you. For example, The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2, Your Turn, may be a feel-good read but it's also a political...screed! If political topics are too “polarizing” or “hurtful” for you, don't read it!

If you have a hardier sort of mind, of course, this book is a feel-good read, and despite its being written by non-celebrities and containing very little celebrity gossip, you'll probably enjoy it.


Marlo Thomas is alive and active in cyberspace, so this is a Fair Trade Book; when you buy it here, for the usual $5 per copy, $5 per package, plus $1 per online payment, this web site will send $1 to Thomas or a charity of her choice. The Right Words at the Right Time are odd-sized, awkward books, but both volumes would fit into one package for one $5 shipping charge; if you order them that way, Thomas or her charity gets $2, and you send only $15 via U.S. postal money order or $16 via Paypal. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tonteria Toxica (Reply to Angel J. Colon)

(Status update: I earned $24.75 last week, $5 so far this week. There'd be more of the posts you readers apparently find more interesting, on this web site, if you'd done your bit:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4923804 )

Change.org is discriminating against the version of Google Chrome I'm using, so the comment below failed to show on this petition:

https://www.change.org/p/department-of-veteran-affairs-expand-comprehensive-caregiver-benefits-to-severely-disabled-veterans-of-all-generations

"
To Angel J. Colon:

Se dice que tantos veteranos jovenes necesitan ayuda con problemas mentales que no se puede soportar los mas viejos tambien. Tonteria. Es lo que Glenn Beck ha llamado un "Gambito del Washington Monument"--cuando los burocratas no reciben todo que desean, intentan destruir cualquier programa que la gente creen mas indispensable.

(We're told that so many young veterans need help with mental problems that (the V.A.) can't support both (them, and the older veterans with physical injuries, as discussed in the petition). Bosh. This is what Glenn Beck has called a "Washington Monument Ploy"--when bureaucrats don't get what they want, they propose to destroy whichever program the people think is most indispensable.)
"

Budget cuts need to be made...and contractual obligations to guarantee the most appropriate, efficient, and cheap way to provide for older veterans' retirement, which were a major reason why young men volunteered to fight in the twentieth century wars, are so not one of the things that need to be cut. Better the federal government should start by cutting out any federal department created after 1976, on the grounds that the states managed certain things adequately for two hundred years and can resume doing so.

The contents of Beck's book Broke are no longer Breaking News, but they've been fact-checked and found accurate...and the explanation of the Washington Monument Ploy is timeless. The Ploy probably worked before George Washington was born.



There's no Spanish edition of Broke but there's a Kindle edition; I suspect Bing or Google will translate it about as well as either translates Change.org petitions. (Some people gripe about those who comment on an English-language page in Spanish. I'm more likely to reply in Spanish-as-a-Second-Language...but seriously, Gentle Readers, these days a lot of Google-hosted sites, apparently including this one, open in whichever of several languages a reader's browser is set to use. People who type Spanish comments into English forums may be reading the forums in Spanish.)

Book Review: The Red Badge of Courage

Classic book has been on reading lists for over a hundred years...should this be called a Book Announcement rather than a Book Review? Here's a shiny new edition you can buy from Amazon. What I physically read, reviewed, and have already sold, was a nostalgic, battered discard from a school library...


Title: The Red Badge of Courage

Author: Stephen Crane

Date: 1894, 1951, many reprints since then

Publisher: D. Appleton & Company (1894), Random House (1951)

ISBN: none

Length: 267 pages

Quote: “So they were at last going to fight. On the morrow, perhaps, there would be a battle, and he would be in it.”

Stephen Crane, who claimed to believe that great writing should reflect the writer's life experience, is remembered for two novels that substantially distorted any life experience Crane could possibly have put into them: Maggie, the story of a woman of the sort Mrs. Crane exploited, and The Red Badge of Courage, the story of a soldier in a war that ended ten years before Crane was born. In practice Crane could almost have been said to adhere to Willa Cather's rule—writing the stories of people who interested the writer by being so different from the writer. He shared Cather's gift of visualizing other people's stories so vividly that they agreed his books captured what their stories had been like.

It was on the strength of his vivid visualization of the American Civil War that Crane was allowed to visit a battlefield as a journalist, and see for himself that he'd imagined how he'd react to combat conditions, quite well. Real Civil War veterans bought The Red Badge of Courage. They criticized it liberally—one particular line, according to the reprint I have, was for some time “the most notorious metaphor in American literature”--but they recommended it to students with equal liberality. This novel has been on high school reading lists for a hundred years.

Crane said that he'd set out to communicate an experience as it had been communicated to him, without philosophy, symbolism, moralism, or overt religion. There are no meditations on life and death. Readers have often felt that there ought to be some significance about the initials of Jim Conklin, the character whose death (from a wound in the side, yet) gives his younger friend Henry a vicarious experience that helps Henry overcome panic. Crane never said that there was.

I acquired my copy of The Red Badge of Courage because a school library discarded it. My copy shows wear, including students' doodling. Newer editions are available and are what online purchasers are likely to receive.

Should schools keep on buying new editions of The Red Badge of Courage? I think so, even though, as I recall, even bright, precocious middle school kids are likely to miss the point. At sixteen or eighteen, when teenagers are considering military service, thinking about the horrors of war is horribly appropriate. At ten or twelve, I remember understanding all the words in this novel but thinking of it as just another gross-out horror story. (Not that it's terribly explicit--considering the historical reality it reflects, the gross-outs have been toned down. We see Jim dying quickly; we don't have to watch people dying slowly from wounds that went septic, or dead men and animals left rotting on the field...) If literary admiration is the reaction teachers want from students, Cather might be a better choice.

However, I can now affirm that, if you were a teenybopper who was told to read The Red Badge of Courage in school, and all you learned or remember is that you “didn't like” it, this unrelentingly grown-up story is worth rereading as an adult. Crane's literary achievement, and the question of whether Henry's experience is anything like one you had or think you might have had, deserve some attention from people who've lived long enough to have some idea what this novel was about.


Psychologists have been blamed for trying to offer “death education” to students before nature had provided them any opportunity to face the reality of mortality. Efforts to march any group of children through any curriculum plan, in lockstep, tend to fail so I don't blame parents for objecting to “death education.” Nevertheless, the psychological fact is that many people's anxious reactions and cowardly conduct seem to be caused by an excessive fear of death, and the experience of observing what might be called a “good” death can be liberating. Awareness that life ends, that the choices people make often contribute to making the ends of their lives more or less unpleasant, can help us make the most of the time we have. The “badge of courage” can even show up as a mental attitude that, without being aggressive, commands respect and scares off attackers. Children are not necessarily capable of developing this awareness. Teenagers' reckless thrill-seeking may be a not very effective effort to develop it—courage is risking your life for a valid reason, not for a stupid one. Adults, nevertheless, need a “badge of courage.” I believe they can come from watching good people die bravely in peacetime, from old age, too.

Obviously this is not a Fair Trade Book. It is, however, a small enough book to fit into a package along with several Fair Trade Books, so feel free to scroll down and look for some; James McPherson's Ordeal by Fire , an historical study of the years before, during, and after the Civil War, would be a nice choice for background information on this story. If you don't insist on one specific edition that may be hard to find, The Red Badge of Courage can be purchased in support of this web site for $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Title: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff


Author: Richard Carlson

Date: 1997

Publisher: Hyperion

ISBN: 0-7868-8185-2

Length: 249 pages

Quote: “A stranger...might cut in front of us in traffic...we convince ourselves that we are justified in our anger...Many of us might even tell someone else about the incident later on.”

In the foreword to this book, Carlson explains that he got the main idea from Wayne Dyer, who once wrote to him that there were “two rules for harmony: (1) don't sweat the small stuff, and (2) it's all small stuff.”

Right. Consider the source. 

This is a book in which another self-righteous type—a disciple of Wayne Dyer—tells you that, whatever you may feel angry or sad or worried about, it doesn't matter, it's all in your mind, nobody else is interested in it...I'm one of those quiet, mellow people who's never had a blood pressure problem and always known how to use deep breathing for pain control, and that line of talk raises my blood pressure. So I can't feel too optimistic about this book having great promise for those whose doctors have ordered them to grow some patience, like, yesterday, before they have strokes and die “old” at forty-five. Many people have read it and said it helped them; Amazon shows a whole page of follow-up volumes that have been bought and loved by Carlson's fans. I'd still hesitate to give Don't Sweat the Small Stuff to a hypertensive friend. These thoughts did not, after all, keep Carlson from succumbing to cardiovascular disease before he was even fifty years old.

Genes undoubtedly contributed to Carlson's looking so much older than coevals like Barack Obama and George Stephanopoulos, and Hollywood customs may have contributed to his looking so much older than a long list of other well-known people born in 1961 (here), but let's face it: that pudgy, saggy-faced geezer of 45 was obviously unable to avoid "sweating" some things no matter how many blow-off-your-worries books he'd written. So this review of his first and best known book doesn't have to be charitable. It needs to point out the most obvious shortcomings of the contents of the book. 

How do you discuss the concept of mellowing out with someone who isn't hypertensive in the first place, without irritating even that person? For starters you avoid phrases like “you will begin to create a more peaceful and loving you.” Urgh. I can stand “you will be cultivating the virtue of patience,” but I'm a Christian. Generally, when we want to encourage adults to change their behavior (or when we want children to have any idea what we want), it's a good idea to avoid characterizing, or judging, or describing the person. Focus on the target behavior.

Was Wayne Dyer, a popular author of the 1970s of whose work I remember most vividly a suggestion that people ought to be able to tell themselves to be sexually excited by having dental work done, stupid, hateful, obnoxious, a pervert, or a person who really deserved 32 root canals without an anesthetic? How do you know that Dyer is or isn't any of those things? Where do you draw the line between doing something that is stupid, hateful, or obnoxious, and being a stupid, hateful, obnoxious person...

There is a way out of this little intellectual whirlpool. It consists of four words: “I am not God.” Since I'm not God, I don't have access to all the information about all your past, present, and future thoughts, words, and deeds, and the reasons for them, and the influences behind them, that God has to take into account in order to judge God's mortal creatures. So I do not, in fact, know what you are. In advice from a family counsellor, as in a confrontation with a family member, all of the “be” words are killer be's, best not used in the same sentence with “you.”

Some total Type A's are in fact loving people, even if it's possible to identify the people they love by their hunted expressions. They don't need to “be more loving.” They are already “loving” in all the ways that phrase brings to their minds. If they need to change their behavior, whether by getting that blood pressure down so they can go on loving their loved ones, or by listening more attentively, or cultivating a milder manner of speaking, or touching more, or swearing less, or whatever...that's what can usefully be described. Active verbs and specific suggestions can help somebody. "Be" phrases merely fail to communicate.

Since Carlson does offer some specific suggestions for things Type A's can do that may help them sweat less (“Don't Interrupt Others,” “Once a Week Write a Heartfelt Letter,” “Tell At Least One Person Something You Like, Admire, or Appreciate About Them”), it's fair to say that this book offers some helpful advice to anyone seeking to reduce the level of stress in their life. Unfortunately, it sets readers up to reject the good advice with lines like “a more peaceful and loving you”...

What is “a more [desirable quality] you,” anyway? It's not a classic sneaky vap; it doesn't rely on intonation to distinguish an unmistakably hostile form from a benign form. (“If you really wanted to go out tonight, you should've told me so before I cooked,” is benign even though it might appear in a quarrel; “If you really wanted to go out tonight, you wouldn't have spent the money on [whatever],” is
hostile.) “A more [X] you” is rare. Women of a certain age probably encountered it first in the Girl Scout manual with the chapter heading “A More Attractive You.” Ouch. That presupposition, “You're not as attractive as you want to be, or as you might be”? What a thing to tell junior high school girls--though true in most cases. No wonder that, when the Girl Scouts divided their junior high school members into separate “Cadette” troops and gave them that manual, girls dropped out of Scouts in droves. No wonder readers who, whatever their flaws, knew they already were “loving,” made fun of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

Well, laughing is another way to rebalance our hormones in a mellower direction, Gentle Readers. May I suggest laughing at Don't Sweat the Small Stuff? Laugh out loud. “Create a more peaceful and loving you”? Hahaha! Hold the back cover up and laugh in Carlson's face. Laughing, even if it starts in a mean and snarky way, can actually help people reduce pain and control blood pressure. Then read on: “Remind yourself that when you die your 'in basket' won't be empty.” Most of us need occasional reminders. There are valid reasons to buy Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. Some of these thoughts can help.

The extent to which our thoughts really control the level of stress we suffer has been a matter of some debate. For some people, using angry energy in a nonviolent way helps build cardiovascular resistance and fight cardiovascular disease; for some people, the feeling of anger can become a physical addiction that increases hypertension, overall dissatisfaction, felt levels of anger about various provocations, and the chance that these people will abuse others, often family members who can't fight back. When Carlson and I (and all those movie stars at the IMDB site) were growing up, psychologists were encouraging people to get in touch with our anger, "Shout! Let it all out: These are the things I could do without!" Now there's more of a perception that, even if that was a healthy approach for some people (especially women) to take, to "rehearse" expressing our anger to adults rather than dumping it on children, that was just too dangerous for the anger addicts, so we should all focus on just releasing the emotional feeling of anger. For those interested in releasing the feeling through meditation, which really does work for some people, there are books on that specific subject. This web site recommends:


There's also valid cause for concern that too much focus on the feeling of anger may distract people from addressing the things that God gave us angry energy in order to help us change, because those things are doing harm to other people as well as us...I'm not saying that sweat, a flushed face, or clenched teeth are in any way necessary to address societal problems such as crime, but I am saying that anything that actually prevents or reduces the incidence of crime does crime victims more good than merely trying to feel something other than anger.

Fix Facts First Shirt


It can be worth spending the time to sort out how much of the stress we feel has anything to do with stuff that's not actually small, that does harm to us and others, and how much of it has more to do with merely feeling physically below par. Cardiovascular disease kills people who become angry because they feel below par. They get tired easily, their resistance to infections is low, they don't get enough sleep, they don't digest food efficiently, their hormones are unbalanced, they have addictions (including that addiction to the adrenalin rush of angry energy that some men get), and as a result of all these things they're grumpy, miserable to be around, capable of yelling at you because you left the window closed (or open) and then yelling at you, five minutes later, because you opened (or closed) it for their comfort. These people can benefit from working through their emotional feelings and thought processes, but they need more than that; they also need, at the bare minimum, a diet, exercise, and meditation regimen, and sometimes medication, supervised by a medical doctor as well as a psychotherapist or family counsellor.

So, in conclusion: if Richard Carlson did take the time to tell his children he loved them and write letters of appreciation to service people, that was good, and undoubtedly made his last years less unpleasant for everyone...but if he'd paid more attention to the advice of someone like John McDougall or Stephen Sinatra , he might be as fit and healthy, today, as most people our age are.

If you are hypertensive, there is nevertheless a stage, as you begin to fix the facts of your hypertension, at which the psychological and social exercises discussed in Don't Sweat the Small Stuff can be useful. So go ahead and buy the book, why not? It's a small, thin book and would fit into a package with Anger and Lower Your Blood Pressure and even this web site's trademark T-shirt from Zazzle. For that you'd pay $5 per book (yes, each of the three books is only $5, and the other two are Fair Trade Books!), $20 for the shirt, $5 for the package, and $1 per online payment.

(Will three books and a T-shirt really reverse cardiovascular disease? The answer is yes...for some people, if those people use the information in time. This does not, however, imply that three books and a T-shirt can take the place of a doctor.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: My Three Years with Eisenhower

Title: My Three Years with Eisenhower


Author: Harry C. Butcher

Date: 1946

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: none

Length: 876 pages with 34-page index

Quote: “I have seen you several times in pictures and movies with General Eisenhower. You're always away back in the background. Why didn't you get up front?”

“In the background” as aide to the future President, Captain Butcher was keeping a “secret” diary (dictated to a secretary and redacted for publication in U.S. newspapers), participating in what he reports as the general tendency among the soldiers in that “World War” to cheer for all the other Allied leaders and victories while talking as if their own leader was basically winning the whole war. From his perspective, Roosevelt and Churchill and then-ally Stalin were merely supporters in Eisenhower's war.

One of the more endearing bits of a rather dry story is that Butcher was aware of this at the time. He knew in 1942 that his reports on his superordinate's role might be used as a political campaign document some day. So did the future President Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, and sometimes they disagreed about what to report. In the Army, Eisenhower used “Army language,” but in reports he preferred to have it edited out.

One anecdote (pages 716-717) shows Butcher covering his chief's back side a little too well. In the 1940s drinking alcohol was legal even in the United States, but it was still considered disreputable (as, in my part of the U.S., it still is). Fans had been known to send General Eisenhower wine or whisky. Believing that he needed to be fully alert at all times, the general had sent the bottles o'cheer to hospitals for the wounded. One day in 1944, however, a congressional delegation had brought the general various comforts from home—American food treats including sausage and hominy grits, and a bottle of bourbon. Butcher told a reporter to say, “General Eisenhower sent the whisky to a near-by field hospital.” Eisenhower was “displeased”: “[E]very member of the Military Affairs Committee would...say 'the fellow is a **** liar.'” Politicians themselves, they'd surely understand, Butcher soothed; in any case, “What did happen to the whisky?” The Congressmen drank it, Eisenhower said.

I chortled...for, I think, the only time, while reading this book. What Butcher's diary is, and was meant to be, was History. Military History. Every bit as detached as it was in your school history book, only in more detail. Intended for reference not for pleasure, although those who really Liked Ike would be expected to skim through it.

Well...this fat little book tells me more than its first owner probably expected it to. As mentioned earlier I know a lady who had been buying books to display in a furniture store, decided there were too many books, and demanded that I take them off her hands or she'd send them to the landfill. My Three Years with Eisenhower was one of the books she'd bought, obviously, for its authentic early twentieth century look. It hadn't been perfectly preserved—it's foxed, a few pages crinkled from damp, the binding giving that crumbly feeling that warned me to lay it flat on a table and turn its pages with care. I felt no qualms about creasing or even dog-earing pages...until I came to the first few uncut pages, in the second or so hundred pages. Commercial publishers have, for a long time, been printing several pages of a book on a single big sheet of paper—standard-sized books, typically, consist of 16 two-sided pages that started out as one big page—and into the twentieth century it was common practice to leave it to the first reader of the book to separate the pages with a knife as s/he read. This proved that the book was really new. (It was also common practice to burn all the books of anyone who'd been positively diagnosed with a contagious disease. Very few if any serious diseases have been spread by handling books, but many people preferred to be safe rather than sorry.) And My Three Years with Eisenhower had lasted from 1946 to 2017 with about half a dozen pages uncut. I am the very first person ever to read the copy on the desk where I'm typing this.

Let's just say that, after cutting the pages, I became more mindful about creasing them. The book was not in “new” condition but I handled it even more gently.

If you set out to read this book, and were not able to finish it during an entire presidential administration, you'd not be the first. You already know the plot: Algeria, Italy, Germany, the White House. Details you might want to use in an historical study are listed in the index, provided that you know which people and places you're looking for. (You may or may not have been interested in knowing that General Eisenhower managed to keep both dogs and cats, overseas; Butcher introduces two of each and explains how three of the animals got their names.)

There's something ineffably icky, for me, about official military history. It's dry, detached—as it has to be. Military leaders live in comfortable houses, throughout a modern war, and don't even have to see an actual combat zone. Eisenhower thought “Telegraph Cottage” needed a dog, and named the dog Telek; Butcher thought “Telek” sounded like a brand name for a toothbrush; Eisenhower cheerfully observed that the dog's tail looked a bit like a toothbrush...Yonder are men shot through their eyes. The heavens veil their face from Man's intolerable race, drifts through my mind. No, I don't prefer the memoirs or reports of those actually wading through the very special war mud that was compounded of ordinary dirt, garbage and bodywastes, plus the liquid effluvia from human corpses. I would prefer that humans figured out that there have to be better ways to resolve disputes, and limit population, than war.

Read an honest war story and say that making a third baby is less a “perversion” than any other sexual act of which humans are capable, if you can. Military history is written by people sitting at a distance sufficient that they can go on giving other things higher priority than ending the practice (and the felt need) of war. Wars are won by people capable of forgiving their leaders for bickering about the best name to give a puppy while those people, themselves, are using a friend's body as a shield. It is better to win wars than to lose wars, and we respect and thank the people who fought the wars...but when will we evolve an acceptance of better ways to thin our population down?


Sorry. Here is a war story, not necessarily dishonest for its distance from what your grandfather probably remembered. Buy it if it's useful to you. I've left a few pages of the index uncut, and I promise I didn't cough on the book. It's not a Fair Trade Book and will cost $5 per book, $5 per package, and $1 per online payment; two copies of this book might or might not fit into one package but several smaller books would fit in alongside one copy.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book Review: Problems of American Democracy

Title: Problems of American Democracy


(Reprints are available, and may be cheaper, but this is the book I physically read and reviewed.)

Author: Henry Reed Burch (and S. Howard Patterson)

Date: 1922, 1928

ISBN: none

Length: 575 pages, plus reprint of the U.S. Constitution and index

Quote: “[T]he aim has been to provide the student with typical material for a general introductory course in problems of democracy, which not only stresses certain fundamental characteristics of our own civilization, but preserves at the same time a proper balance between the political, the economic, and the social factors in American life.”

After studying several books like this gem of the “Progressive” thought of the 1920s, Erica Carle concluded that sociology as taught in American high schools was not a science at all, but a religion—or pseudo-religion. How else could schools justify using this collection of opinions as if it were a scientific study of facts? Burch and Patterson do present occasional, usually isolated, facts but they're more concerned with sharing their faith that “Man” can perfect his collective self by collective, or collectivist, efforts.

In the 1920s it was still possible to bloviate at length about “Man,” theoretically meaning humankind (and in practice, if anything real, meaning the (always male) leaders of your own party). Children were given books about The Story of Man (kind). Burch and Patterson commendably avoid the tendency to blather about “Man” but they make up for it whenever they consider the female half of humankind, as on pages 392-394: “Women as well as children became workers under the new factory system. The economic causes of both problems are much the same and their effects quite similar...For physical reasons the efficiency of woman is sometimes not so high as that of man...[I]t is necessary to protect her [“Woman”] in the exercise of this new freedom. Therefore laws have been passed to regulate the industries into which she may enter.”

Discussions of “the negro” and “the Indian” (meaning the Native American; Burch and Patterson said very little about India) are also not to be missed, but if you're looking for quotes that ought to be really embarrassing to any latter-day Prog, go directly to the discussion of “Defectives in Society” on pages 500-517. By the standards of their day the authors were being both progressive and liberal in saying that people with physical disabilities (“defects”) deserved education and employment that would allow them to make some profit on what they could do. Other people who fantasized about a perfect human society fantasized that disabilities could be bred out or, as in the Nazional Sozialistische schema, people with disabilities could be used up in scientific experiments. However, at no point anywhere in this book do the authors miss a chance, after any passing mention of “defective” intelligence, to insist that all “defective” people need to be “segregated” and prevented from breeding their “defective” genes back into the pool. Heavenforbidandfend anyone else should give birth to a child like Helen Keller or Albert Einstein.

The ignorance about genetic conditions in the 1920s was truly awesome. Burch and Patterson were so fully cocooned in this ignorance that they display only a smidgen of it, themselves. Little did they know that nobody has truly healthy genes—that when an individual's genes don't produce any obvious disease effects all by themselves, they'll still produce undesirable or lethal effects in combination with just about anyone the individual might choose to be the other parent of his or her children. Physical attraction turns out to be one way a majority of young people, given the choice, avoid the most lethal combinations of DNA, but it's not infallible, and it now appears that nature did not intend that humankind ever succeed in eliminating “bad” genes from the pool. 


Some of the deadliest genetic conditions are produced when individuals inherit two “good” genes for resistance to diseases that are otherwise fatal. Two survivors of a typhoid epidemic who have children together are likely to have children with cystic fibrosis; two survivors of a malaria epidemic are likely to have children with sickle cell anemia; two people with high resistance to tuberculosis are likely to have children with Tay-Sachs Disease, and so on. However, Burch and Patterson were still at the naïve, idealistic stage where people imagined that if those blessed with good health, high I.Q. scores, and admirable characters would only marry each other, they'd give birth to “the Super-Man,” rather than to babies with genetic diseases.

The Roaring Twenties were, as Jonah Goldberg has reminded us, a period when Hitler still seemed like a failure at life in general but Stalin and Mussolini were truly Bright Young Things, much admired by many “progressive” Americans. Their bold totalitarian programs promised to produce one version or another of the Paradise on Earth that many left-wing Christians still believe Jesus commanded us to build.

Hence the problematic use of a title like Problems of American Democracy. “Problems” are to be solved; the title was not Shortcomings of American Democracy or What's Wrong with American Democracy. But neither was it Advantages of American Democracy Over European Monarchy and Dictatorship, which might have been the title of a more useful book for high school students.
  
Well...my copy of Problems of American Democracy was handed down through another family, and came into my hands as a specimen of “old schoolbooks as items of décor.” It has a nice old-schoolbook look, with the name of the boy its owner had a crush on scribbled on the flyleaves and “Amo Tui” written in small letters in among the text, and lightly frayed but clean covers, darkened but fungus-free pages. It's most likely to appeal to those looking for a décor item, a deep, cool shade of greenish-blackish-grey.

A pity, that is. For anyone who takes the time to read it, Problems of American Democracy is quite an informative read. 


It has, in fact, been reprinted as a "classic," and is even available as an "e-book," so copies aren't hard to find unless you insist on a really old book in excellent condition. If you're willing to take a reprint, we can offer this book for $10 per copy + $5 per package (two to four books of this size fit into one package) + $1 per online payment.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Book Review: How to Survive the Loss of a Love

Title: How to Survive the Loss of a Love


Author: Melba Colgrove with Harold Bloomfield and Peter McWilliams

Date: 1976, 1991

Publisher: Bantam

ISBN: 0-553-07760-0

Length: 212 pages

Illustrations: a few vintage woodcuts

Quote: “It's hard to look back on any gain in life that does not have a loss attached to it.”

How to Survive the Loss of a Love is not exactly a Christian book. It does discuss "spiritual" matters, and has been marketed as a Christian book, so it belongs in the Sunday Book Review category. Although this web site reviews religious books from a Christian perspective, this one was written with the hope of being inclusive for readers of any faith or none.

In this book, the authors attempt to guide everybody through every conceivable kind of “loss,” specifically including bereavement, divorce, unemployment, violent crimes, changes of address, illness, graduation, “success (the loss of striving),” midlife, retirement, lawsuits, and waiting for test results—all of this, using the end of a romantic infatuation as the paradigm. Alternate pages reiterate in prose that the only way out of the grief process is through it, and display free-verse “poems” about McWilliams' failed romance in the early 1970s.

It does take courage for a grown man publicly to claim the “poems” he wrote about a love affair that ended fifteen or twenty years ago, so first this web site salutes McWilliams for that.

Now, does anyone really need this book? Does anyone not already know that the only way out of the grief process is through it? I think this book may help some people but I'd like, for the record, to say some more about some of the ways I've seen it (and the kind of advice it contains) fail people.

First, even the authors fell for a popular error of the 1990s. Ah yes, some people think they'd like to identify their grief (or, more dangerously, someone else's grief) as “continu[ing] longer than normal” and requiring medication, and the authors blithely assure us that “Antidepressants, taken as prescribed by a psychiatrist, are non-addictive and effective. If you wonder whether you need antidepressant medication, contact a competent psychiatrist for an evaluation.”

And the helpful pharmaceutical industry has supplied that psychiatrist with a checklist of symptoms that definitely will not include the one I'd consider indispensable, “Has the patient honestly tried every other alternative over a period of no less than ten years, and/or is the patient already receiving treatment and/or hospice care?” That checklist may not include, in so many words, “Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever been blue? Have you ever loved someone who didn't love you? Are you still alive? If so, you need antidepressants immediately,” but it won't be a great deal more subtle than that; it will most definitely not be written to yield results like “You're not depressed, you're a teenager,” and “You're not depressed, you're bereaved,” and “You're not depressed, you're lactose-intolerant,” and “You're depressed all right, and you need to watch your moods as a symptom while seeking a diagnosis of the physical disease that's causing your depression, so if you can't say no to all drugs including alcohol it'd be a good idea to check into a drug treatment facility,” and, for maybe five percent of all patients, “You're depressed, which is understandable since you have an incurable disease, and an antidepressant may alleviate your distress during the hospice process.”

Admittedly this approach to depression might allow some people to suffer from gloomy moods longer, but it would restore the incidence of murders of total strangers by females back to the norm of virtually zero, where it was before today's popular antidepressant drugs came onto the market.

Because many English-speaking people use the word “depressed” to describe any noticeably “low” mood however transient, many people will say that everybody gets depressed. Psychiatrists used to be required to limit the discussion of “clinical depression” to cases where the patient insists that s/he has felt intensely unhappy, consistently, for at least six months, in the absence of real-world bereavement or other major losses or of treatable physical diseases. The pharmaceutical industry has pushed very hard to create a cultural atmosphere in which random acquaintances feel free to tell anyone who seems calmer than they are all about the wonderful pills they can start popping to “get rid of that depression” and be as manic as TV commercial actors are required to appear to be. Those of us who prefer to live in a world where most strangers aren't likely to murder us (and where we're not likely to feel a need to murder strangers, ourselves) need to push back, reminding everyone that TV commercial actors spend whole days splicing recordings to get the perkiest look and sound from a hundred different “takes,” and end up merely boring and annoying us anyway.

Meanwhile, with its wonderful 1990s discovery that “antidepressants are non-addictive” (disproven by now), How to Survive received a boost and reprinting...not specifically credited to any pharmaceutical company. Despite the shiny new binding it's still the same consciously “cornball” book that expresses where baby-boomers' heads generally tended to be at (yes, that was the phrase) in the 1970s.

I'm a bit dismayed to see that my 1991 edition of How to Survive was distributed as a Christian book, years after Dave Hunt had guided Christians to repudiate The Seduction of Christianity by the various New Age feel-good cults that were typically formed by and for ex-Christians. At their best the New Age groups wanted to blend a few aspects of Christian practice that still felt warm'n'fuzzy with a sort of warmer'n'fuzzier watered-down Buddhism, so they could make peace with their parents without actually having to give up a few cherished sins. At their worst they were psychological personality cults. If How to Survive hadn't been mistaken for a Christian book I'd have no qualms about sharing it with Christians as a general-audience book, but since that mistake has been made...

How to Survive is the nicer sort of New Age book. It tries—sincerely, no doubt—to stay accessible to Christians but it advises readers to adopt that bland, Buddhist-passivist attitude toward sin that is, in fact, contrary to Christian teaching...not just blanket one-way “forgiveness” (meaning emotional release), but an effort to dispense with all moral judgments whatsoever. Many Christians are still trying to practice this (per)version of our faith, because they've never taken a long step back and looked at the results trying to embrace all behaviors impartially has had in the Buddhist countries. No, not the absence of totalitarian governments, and not the absence of material wealth; the absence of a firm sense of right and wrong is what leads to slavery and thuggery and all kinds of abuse.

Individual Christians who have physical “anger addictions” can benefit from recusing themselves from passing moral judgments. Society as a whole cannot afford to do this. Most people are not anger addicts and need to take a firmer, not softer, attitude toward immoral behavior, beginning with our own. Instead of trying (futilely, if we have healthy moral senses) to achieve warm'n'fuzzy moods by “forgiving ourselves for judging ourselves,” we need to recognize what we did wrong, to whom, and ask those people what we have to do to put things right.

If you understand forgiveness (as I do) to mean a process that begins when we sincerely want to make amends for behavior we sincerely intend not to repeat because we realize that it's done harm to other people, then one of the losses you have to accept, at various times in your life, is that some people are going to die before they can forgive us or we can forgive them. Some of the emotions we release, without that process of forgiveness, just in order to get on with our own lives, may include frustration (that feels like anger) with the people who died before we wanted to live without them.

I have found it useful to make a very clear, firm distinction between releasing emotions (the one-way process that other people want us to be able to rush through in a few hours, and usually we can) and forgiveness (always at least a two-party process that can only ever begin with the person seeking to be forgiven). It is harmful to others, as well as ourselves, to babble about forgiving a child molester who is still actively abusing people who are still children. It is wrong to try to feel good about having “forgiven” a swindler who is still cheating other people out of money. The emotional mood we feel about these things normally passes at a rate that corresponds fairly exactly to the rate at which we're able to recover from the physical, material damage that's been done to us. Thus, when we

FIX FACTS FIRST, FEELINGS FOLLOW.

One of the facts that may or may not be fixable is whether or not the person who did us wrong has repented, so that we can forgive him or her. If that hasn't happened, it's probably not a high priority. By fixing the more direct damage done, we can look forward to reaching an emotional position from which we can release our emotions about the fact that that person hasn't received our forgiveness in this life and may thereby be disqualified from receiving God's forgiveness in the next.

(Another fact, which may in some cases be “fixed” by thinking about the matter more clearly, is that the person may not have done us wrong...by ending or never beginning the sort of premarital sexual relationship that the “poems” in How to Survive suggest, for instance, the person may have spared us from the misery of premature parenthood, thereby doing us a good turn, as we can clearly see once we've readjusted.)

It may be a source of tremendous frustration and anxiety and pain to those who've trained themselves to alleviate their own emotions by trying to “help someone else” (yes, that's one of the generally better suggestions in How to Survive)...but we really can't help someone feel better just by focussing on the person's feelings. We can offer ourselves, if we so choose, as emotional crutches. We can listen-more-than-talk about whatever the person wants to talk about during the (hours, not quarter-hours) it takes a normal emotional mood to subside. That will help the person if, meanwhile, the facts of the person's life are improving or being improved. Otherwise, it won't; the person will feel just as bad, or worse, about the same thing another day. So if we want to do more than just encourage the person to go on and on feeling worse and worse until s/he becomes desperate enough to make the facts of his/her situation even worse than that, we can sit still and chatter and blather about the person's feelings. If we want to be the one who actually helps, we're going to have to exercise body parts other than our mouths. Don't even bother uttering words like “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled.” Get up and feed the person, if you find someone whose main complaint is not having enough to eat.

There are some good suggestions in How to Survive for those of us who are co-surviving someone else's loss, e.g. the end of a Teen Romance. By reading the book along with this person we may get ideas for things that actually keep the emotional pain from expanding into, say, a physical illness. In order to get the most use from this book it may be good to make it a rule not to volunteer any thoughts about the person's emotional feelings. (Listen if the person wants to talk through a mood swing, but don't talk about the mood; let it pass.) Do offer to do things with or for the person: cook, clean, walk, drive, do chores and errands. (Bereaved people may be brainfogged by their overwhelming loss for months, and need you to do things for them. Adolescents with heartache are feeling as if they'd lost something they'd had, although they've not, and need you to do things with them, keeping them in motion, until the hormones subside and they can go to sleep.) Let them be the judges of how relevant, irrelevant, cheering, annoying, etc., McWilliams' poems are. You're outside of their emotions; that means you can monitor, and when possible improve, the facts.

To Melody Beattie's expressed dismay, a lot of baby-boomers chose to interpret Co-Dependent No More as telling them they must never do anything practical to help other people. “If I drive for someone who's crying, cook for someone who's not eating, or heavenforbidandfend give or lend someone MONEY (expression of horror), the person might become dependent on me! No no no, all I can do is tell people to get professional help to deal with their feelings!” People who never depend on each other (as crutches, yes) never bond with each other. If you do not, in fact, want to be a close friend, you don't have to be one; you wouldn't be one in any case. You might hand someone money while expressing a mental attitude that would guarantee that the person might continue to use you, but would never ever like, trust, or respect you, for the rest of your lives. If your friend is in financial distress, whether you prefer to be “Lady Bountiful, That Stupid Sucker” or “Scrooge McWorthless” may be the only choice you're able to make—if you're really all that attached to having more money. If you do choose to be a friend worth having, you should know that (1) most people naturally prefer to be independent (many of the people exploiting Lady Bountiful, That Stupid Sucker, turned down several offers before they realized that she likes to be exploited), and (2) the time to haul out Co-Dependent No More is when you see evidence that someone is excessively dependent on you, at which point you can always say, “I offered to drive for you while you were crying every day, but that doesn't mean I like driving,” or “I appreciate the part-time work you did while I was able to pay for it, but with the medical bills I have now I can't afford a lawn service,” or whatever may apply.

Which brings me to a final observation: If you read a few cubic yards of the popular psychology-philosophy-religious thought of the 1970s, and you used what you found good in it and threw away the rest, such that as an adult you live with inner peace and self-respect and integrity and all of those things that some hoped would displace spirituality, and you also have spirituality...oh wow, are some of the self-appointed amateur psychotherapists of this world ever going to hate you. Would you rather be co-dependent and depressive and addictive and blah blah blah, and have friends, or be liberated from all the emotional dreck and be your own, and only, trusted friend? (It's up to you, but here I stand to testify: the latter is more fun.)


Readers of the book of Job in the Bible have always agreed that, of all Job's miseries, his four longwinded friends had to have been the most likely to turn him against God. The book of Job is generally thought to be a legend from far back in the mists of prehistoric time...and it's been hard for friends' reactions to alleviate, rather than aggravate, any source of pain anybody has ever had, ever since. Sharing How to Survive with a grief-stricken friend can have either effect. I've discussed some common pitfalls into which people my age have fallen since 1976; that may not prevent you and your friends from discovering new ones. Then again, it may actually help you, your friend, and your friendship survive that first doom-guaranteed Teen Romance...or even the loss of a job or a relative.

Melba Cosgrove is alive and active in cyberspace, so this is a Fair Trade Book. When you send $5 per copy of this book, plus $5 per package (at least six and possibly eight copies of this book would fit in one $5 package), via U.S. postal order to P.O. Box 322, or add $1 per online payment for a total of $11 via Paypal to the address you get by e-mailing salolianigodagewi @ yahoo, this web site will send $1 to Cosgrove or a charity of her choice.