The Altar

¬†Leadership by example has been drilled into me since I was a small child. My father instilled this in us, so I learned to do what I say. People follow a leader they can believe. Dad was a career Marine Drill Instructor at Camp Le Jeune until he retired. He died in 2016; I’m glad he never saw what we’ve done to our country.

A cursory examination of religious leaders and their teachings embodies this ethic as a central tenet. They all espouse the leadership by example principles following the precedent set by a central figure. Until recently, America extolled the merits of example-based leadership, although elected leaders of the past few decades are the antithesis of the practice and principle.

As I drove home from an appointment this morning, I reflected on absolute chaos before my eyes. It was like a combat zone. The rule of law was a set of guidelines, i.e. rules with no consequences.  It brought to mind all the other shocking acts we experience at the altar of enlightenment.

Speed limits are ignored altogether, as were common courtesies like signaling turns and lane changes or darting through lines of traffic to gain a single-car-length advantage. I marveled at the bullying and outright arrogance of these drivers. It was live-action vehicular anarchy.

Drive too slow for the person behind grants them a license to tailgate and intimidate with a megaton mobile weapon. They freely fly the fickle-finger-of-fate, indicating an exemplary IQ as they pass only to swerve in front and slam on their breaks to teach you a lesson.

If you’ve followed my commentaries, you recognize that my observations and style differ from most writers. “In My Mind, I See Things Differently” would make a good title for a compilation of my writing. That title should give you a clue that I’m not like everyone else.

So rather than being thoroughly pissed off, I started thinking through the commonalities of this melee, the abandonments of common decorum, and other all too typical public outbursts of outright anger. That’s how my mind works, by the way. I look for connections between actions, events, and their root causes.

That’s the assertion of this post.

Attacking flight attendants for enforcing federal mask mandates come to mind immediately. Then there is arguing with law enforcement personnel for doing what we pay them to do, enforcing our laws – Entrapping and murdering police officers or other authority figures. Finally, we address each other using derogatory ethnic slurs and slang, characterizing our value for each other and our society.

Where did we learn this?

Sometime before 1900, the saying “Monkey see, Monkey do” became part of our vernacular. This pidgin-style saying captures my point perfectly.

The general evolutionary consensus is that we’ve descended from apes. I did not use, evolve intentionally since it infers improvement. The other camp cites intelligent design as our genesis. Our behavior does justice to neither creation nor evolution. Modern Americans are a poor example as a basis for comparing or human development. We would make a tremendous behavioral contrast.

I am an observer, a watcher. As I see this country circling the drain, I can’t help but conclude from these distressing examples of the Americans I witness that we’ve learned to ignore what’s proper and do what we notice. Monkey see monkey do.

Are our lives so demanding that we ignore simple courtesy to save a few milliseconds? Does excuse me or thank you require extraordinary effort? That seems to be the case.

So, what is our standard?

From whom did we learn this disaffected demeanor?

Let’s look to the ubiquitous, inescapable, glowing rectangular pulpit in every room of your home, office, store, bar, club, and restaurant. It is our altar of enlightenment. We’ve even made it portable, so we’ll never be without our god.

Here, we receive messages and life lessons. We learn everything we need to function in The New Socialist States of North America and take our place as abusive and impolite replicants, supplicants at the altar of enlightenment.

We can hear directly from the media oracle what we need to know and think about it. Our god speaks directly to us publicly and privately. It fills our lives to overflowing. Our cups of information, regardless of quality, runneth over.

Some of us thank the maker for George Orwell and others who tried to warn us. How sad we didn’t heed this advice.

Where else can you see such flagrant and glaring examples of reprehensible behavior celebrated? Every criminal act parades across this altar in lurid detail for us to absorb. We witness these acts replayed before our eyes. We hear comments that invite our attention but never mention a moral. They never mark the results of the actions, although we’re reminded en masse that the culprits are now free to continue their atrocious conduct.

The oracle even tracks these peccant statistics for us. Now we’ll know the carnage level, frequency, and comparisons because this detail is essential. They remind us, so we know they’re watching for us and watching us.

For all, we know there is no punishment for licentious behavior. No one ever goes to jail, and if they do, they’re soon back on the streets to rampage on. These tragedies never end, nor is there an ending. We see the beginning, a representation of the situation crafted to fit a narrative, but never, never see resolution, restitution, retribution, or closure. Does the story ever end?

Our elected officials are the models supreme. Honesty is only a faint memory of an overlooked word with a washed-out meaning. Trite sayings like “You can tell a politicians’ lying because their lips move” is cliche but indicative of our time. If they can do it, we can too. Monkey see monkey do!

Our worst example is the most persuasive of all. They are the tribe that walks with impunity. Our elected nobility are untouchables – elite – above the law. Our simian brain can’t rationalize this concept. It’s inconceivable.

How can they so easily ignore the law yet expect us to adhere to its mandates? If they can do it, why can’t we? They call themselves leaders, but should we follow – obediently, faithfully, unquestioningly, unconditionally, blindly. Do as I say, not as I do? That’s the dichotomy!

Their alleged transgressions are tried in the court of public opinion with the media oracle as judge and jury. Facts are moot, and intentions are perverted. Their example tells us that politics is a no-holds-barred brawl with no penalties and illegal moves. The end justifies the means. The ONLY goal is winning at any cost. There is no sentencing, no punishment, rarely a verdict.

This is partisan politics in America – it is who we are!

We’ve forgotten that these altars of enlightenment were proposed for entertainment and educational purposes, but it didn’t take us long to corrupt these intentions to more nefarious ends. There are estimates of 1.1 billion such Altars of Enlightenment throughout the world.

We live in a world of fantasy and illusion but expect the truth. Still, we emulate behavior ignoring the conflict between the remnants of conscience and our programming.

Our entertainment is violent, more gladiatorial than benign. Our latest offering on the altar of enlightenment is called Gaming – where every sort of violent fantasy is played out in real-time, pitting the player against all manner of ‘imagined’ scenarios testing hand-eye coordination and your ability to absorb.

There are no morals, only mayhem, and carnage. The more brutal, the better. Fiercely savage, without pain, remorse, or regret. We die a thousand deaths and return to play another round – an interesting metaphor for life, or is it?

It isn’t just the games. It’s the combination of these continuous feeds from the altar of enlightenment. Everything from the media and most programming involves violence in some form. We are a cruel and savage society.

We’re spring-loaded to anger – trip the trigger, and we fly into a rage. Is it any wonder we react violently to every situation?

Psychologists rationalize this as our ‘lizard brain’ or our ‘id,’ our most profound personality. Societal norms taught us to suppress these base instincts, but modern life has freed us from inhibitions and allows us ‘just do it.’ This advertising slogan entices us to buy shoes, but that ran amok. All in all, it’s an excuse for bad behavior. We’ve abandoned self-control.

The television is a tool with such untapped positive potential, but it is so sadly misused. However, we cannot fault the tool for its misuse. That would be like blaming murders on guns, or spelling errors on pencils, or obesity on spoons. We must place the blame squarely where it belongs – on the morally bankrupt people that run this country.

Honestly, it’s not just the lack of morality. There are more reasons for this ethical deficit. There is avarice for power and selfishness to consider. This disease is spreading as we worship at the altar of enlightenment.

Like I always say, it’s our fault for allowing it, but we can change it.

Groucho Marx said, “Television is very educational. Every time someone turns on the set, I go into another room and read a book.”