The Grumpy Old Men

Well that was fun…..

As I have said, I frequent the conservative debates because I find them interesting, entertaining, and often informative.

In a momentary lapse of reason, “yours truly” became the consensus nominee to fill Peter Fletcher’s position as moderator.

Yep, you heard right, Rodney “Left of Lenin” Smith moderating the conservative debate.

I find it amusing to be referred to as a left-winger in this country.

In Australia I hold a “middle ground” position with some sympathetic leanings to the left. My Labor Party friends are decidedly to my left, my Liberal Party (conservative- go figure) friends are decidedly to my right, and I would weigh the issues argument by argument to take my own stance.

The same position here puts me firmly in the left, and many of my democratic friends have positions well to the right of my own. I guess the difference is that I believe firmly in socialized medicine, the necessity of the trade-union movement (though it is often a necessary evil), the integral benefits of a living wage, and a solid social security net.

These are “middle ground” positions where I come from, the left and right arguments determine how these fundamentals should be administered.

Now to another misnomer… the conservative debate is actually not quite so conservative. It is certainly moderated by Peter Fletcher (a well known, and delightfully eloquent conservative in these parts) and it is probably the only regular gathering of conservatives in the (extremely liberal) county. It is true that the conservative position is always represented, but there are some notable liberals in regular attendance, and their voice receives a fair airing.

Politicians from all camps frequent the place, but the part I enjoy most is being able to discuss real issues with real people, some with whom I agree, and some with whom I don’t. There are folks on both sides of the political fence who hold indefensible positions in my opinion.

I won’t name names or quote speeches, because part of the gathering’s charm is that folks can be themselves without having every word scrutinized by the press.

I have earned a modest reputation as a smart-alec heckler in the group. I love to pepper the conversation with apropos (and sometimes non-apropos) “one liners” to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. I pick and choose the topics I actually weigh in on, and like anyone else, I am heard out and often debated.

I have learned a great deal about American politics by attending these debates, and in a strange way, I have learned a lot about Australian politics as well.

It has become abundantly clear to me how elections are swayed by opinion, rather than by reason, in this country and my own.

You see, it doesn’t matter how defensible a position is. Reason is for those who concern themselves with such things. Political opinion begins with a plausible premise, reinforces it with an overly-simplistic analogy, attaches one of several emotive “catch cries” to it, and then proclaims itself sound reason. I am constantly amazed how little analysis folks do of an opinion before they espouse it, and how many eloquent and notable people dispense such hyperbole on a regular basis for the masses to lap up.

I watch this happen time and again, and well-intended folks rally to a cause that has little base in either fact or sound reason.

My wife and son have come to refer to this meeting as “The Grumpy Old Men”, so if you spot such a reference in the future, you know what I’m talking about.

Take Care



"The Secret" -in the balance

I finally had a look at “the Secret” the other day, and was somewhat underwhelmed. Billed as a thread of knowledge that has permeated the great minds of philosophy and science, you can imagine my let-down to be greeted by “Norman Vincent Peale meets the Celestine Prophecy”.

I think the thing that undoes it for me is that they give one-line quotes from some of the greatest minds in Western and Eastern thought without doing a single scrap of work to establish the source of the quote, let alone what it meant within its original context.

In other words, they quote great minds in the same manner that an evangelist might quote scripture, and like the evangelist, our “teachers” expect to be taken at their word.

In short, it is academically lazy and chock-a-block full of positive thinking pep talk. I had hoped that the authors might have attempted to string their affirmations together with something more enlightening than “great achievers are deeply focussed on their goals.”

On the positive side, the “law of attraction” they espouse actually has a lot of merit. It is the principle wherein we tend to manifest whatever is foremost in our thoughts. Visual cues take precedence over academic ones, and the intensity of “belief” takes precedence over empty repetition. We are conditioned to find negative thoughts more believable than positive ones, and with a bit of deliberate thought, we can reverse that trend and change our lives. Its pretty basic really, but we do need to be told, so I guess this presentation does that much.

In my experience, the “law of attraction” is one of several metaphysical laws that can be studied in depth by any student of the great metaphysical and religious disciplines. It is only “secret” because we tend to be intellectually lazy. I find it ironic that the post-modern era and the “information age” are co-existent with a pandemic that is best characterized by intellectual sloth. “The Secret” is actually hidden in plain sight.

Affirmation is a useful tool in good hands, but like any tool it leaves itself open to abuse. If you don’t use it properly, it won’t work well. Affirmation and visualization should be used as part of a larger metaphysical model, lest the hapless practitioner visualize and affirm their way into abject misery, a principle simply summed up by the old adage “be careful what you wish for”.

For $4.95, the refresher course in "attraction" is probably good value for money. Certainly the information us useful to those who have never encountered the concept.

My only real criticism of the presentation is that it is overly materialistic in its emphasis, which says a great deal more about its sponsors and its target audience, than it does about the quality of information it carries.

One would hope that the “teachers of the secret” take their students through a broader metaphysical training than the one they espouse in the presentation.

There is a free viewing here if you, like me, are simply curious about what these folks are peddling.

In summary, intellectually lazy and materialistic in focus, but nevertheless a reasonable refresher course in “the law of attraction” that is better taken as part of your greater metaphysical model than as a stand-alone.

Take Care