Founding Principle

Of no small consequence to this endeavor I’ve dubbed “The Edison Project”, from the outset, was the intentional digging into myself I felt needed in order to expand my voice.  That in order to have something to say, I needed to know the core of myself.  While not near the heart of my core, as of yet, I have devised a first tenant of life: purpose.

That is to say that it is in finding purpose that we find what feeds us towards our goals, our ambitions, our happiness.  No matter how small or large a person’s penchant for competition is, at the heart of each of us lie certain constructs of winning and losing.  We set goals and we measure them.  If we succeed in our task, we measure that out to be a win, and are therefore happy.  If we fail in that task, we measure that out to be a loss, and we either are unhappy, or resolve to create happiness by reinvesting ourselves in accomplishing what was once failed.

In setting goals that satisfy our core, we increase our happiness by building further purpose for our lives.  The best way of doing this is to establish initiative and accountability.  No matter how large or small the aim, establishing accountability to the things we say we are going to do ties us to our words, creates a mission and sense of purpose.  By constantly probing our deepest selves, we begin to take initiative to both reach out to the world and accomplish goals, while simultaneously uncovering more of who we are.  I believe there are central tenants which need to constantly exist while we dig, lest we venture off the path:

 

  1. God (read: Faith) – While I certainly advocate for the adoption of Christianity as the pillar behind our faith, any faith with ambitions to achieve the Golden Rule propels us towards enriching the fabric of ourselves and our immediate communities.  An accredited Faith in this sense cannot be one that is warped into maliciously creating harm towards others in the name of that faith.  To be fair, there are pockets from nearly every faith that seek to abuse the central aspects of their theology.  None can be accepted over others, merely because they fit our understanding of what is beneficial to us.  There are other aspects created by faith that are so large and important, that I will list them later.
  2. Family – Whether through the course of marriage, or the family to which one was born, purpose is derived from family.  Role models are created first in this core component of creating purpose.  Ideologies and pathologies are first communicated here and can also be the source of rebellion in later stages of life.  The role of both a father and a mother are critical, as despite recent beliefs, men and women bring to children different examples of love, authority, acceptance of individuality and permission to be oneself that the other cannot mimic genuinely.  Parents must work through differences and set a tone of compassion, teamwork, and handling of conflict in healthy ways in order for children to see compromise as optimal – in order to see that people don’t need to agree completely to get along properly.  Purpose in this sense, is more of a passive understanding of right and wrong.  A foundation of formulating virtue over vanity; where it can never be questioned that moral and philosophical right and wrong are not relative.  They are fixed.  If one strives towards virtue, they can never proclaim to subscribe to a separate set of virtues.  In part, this is why religion and family are so critical to back each other up.
  3. An understanding of the power of evil against the power of good – And the willingness to acknowledge the evil that exists within ourselves.  Dr. Jordan B Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist, a man to whom I am now becoming acquainted through his work, describes perfectly the virtue of power.  He dismisses out of hand that power is found through manipulation or exertion of force or the threat of it.  He says that is tyranny.  I agree with him.  Power is standing on moral principles and executing them with the authority and discipline given earned as we move along in the world.  Power is when a man uses his strength, or any otherEdisonProject71 masculine trait for good.  Power is when a woman uses her love, or any other feminine trait for good.  Peterson aptly describes that both men and women posses the same virtues; only that they posses different quantities of each virtue, as well as the focus to develop certain traits over others.  Put together, men and women complement one another.  Neither can be removed, or silenced, without creating a vacuum of virtue in one form or another.  Peterson claims that we are first charged with defeating the evil within ourselves before we can expand that fight towards fighting evil in our communities, or society at large.  I believe that is the inability to do so that creates in our leaders and inability to lead by example.  How many times have we seen authority figures brought up on the very charges they espouse to disdain? It is in understanding evil that we defeat pluralism, moral relativism and vanity – in order to harness that evil and employ virtue against.  The presence of this knowledge cannot be overstated.  When one begins a new effort, if he, or she, has not accounted for the malicious existence within themselves, that effort can be easily forced down a path of destruction.  To illuminate my claim further, one has only to watch Star Wars.  As silly as that may sound, the entire epic rests solely on one’s ability to keep the evil that rests within each of us in check.
  4. Social Connection – A friend and mentor of mine, Andrew Bustamante has said it be when he put to me the thought, backed up by several studies that loneliness may become the next great epidemic in mental health.  The fact that so many people now derive a majority of their interaction with friends and family through social media has led to the distilling of group thought, and advice, as crucial.  I am certainly guilty of this fact.  He has his own plans, which can be seen here, but for the purposes of my thoughts on purpose, social interaction and connection to society must be maintained in order to assure that purpose exists within the framework that society gives us.  Without incorporating our purpose into the greater good, it is impossible to determine whether or not one’s goals and purpose establishes a productive element to society.  As an aside, I’d encourage you to visit his website.  Andrew is an excellent motivator, and has proved an even more valuable curator of ideas, as I try to bounce ideas off of him as often as I can.

TheBestArmourFor it was Marcus Tullius Cicero who said ” The best Armour of Old Age is a well spent Life preceding it; a Life employed in the Pursuit of useful Knowledge, in honourable Actions and the Practice of Virtue; in which he who labors to improve himself from his You, will in Age reap the happiest Fruits of them; not only because these never leave a Man, not even in the extremest Old Age, but because a Conscience bearing Witness that our Life was well spent, together with the Remembrance of past good Actions, yields an unspeakable Comfort to the Soul.  This is invaluable advice.  For each day, age eats at us.  Each moment, we pass up a purpose-filled life in exchange for nothing of benefit to us, we are less likely to reward ourselves with a soul full of comfort and gratitude for the moments we have left to spend.

Yours in the Pursuit of Purpose,

Will O’Connor

S#*thole

Last night a friend in my close, inner-circle shared an article detailing the now infamous s#*thole comment we’ve been all been talking about all day today.  Last night, I wasn’t sure if it was real, or a manufactured story.  These days its truly hard to tell at first glance.  Today, I promised myself I’d listen, first.  I wanted to listen to my liberal friends.  You know, the ones who haven’t liked a single thing the President has done.  I wanted to listen to my most conservative friends.  You know, the ones who haven’t had a negative word to say about the man.  In case you weren’t aware, the main topic of this Congressional session is immigration reform.

Apparently, having become frustrated with some form of the bi-partisan talks about how legislation could take shape, Donald Trump formed a question.  “Why”, he asked, “do people from shithole countries come here?”  In the context of the meetings, the question surely came as a way of dragging out from Democrats a response somewhere along the lines of “well, because our country provides freedoms, securities and luxuries that no other country will, or even can, to immigrants, while also being the most willing to accept peoples of all nations into its borders through legal processes.”  I’m not sure what the answer he got was, but I’m betting it wasn’t that.

As one who evolved over the past decade from a Progressive Democrat to a Reaganite (that’s the closest I can come to describing policy I completely support), I can appreciate the position of both parties, although I really only believe one to be correct.  I’d like to explain, after listening, pondering and checking against what I know to be true, the three reasons why I agree with the President, even if I wish he’d package his delivery in an easier-to-swallow tone and message.

  1. President Trump wasn’t labeling people, only nations – and he’s not wrong: Okay, so I don’t happen to agree that word selection should be shithole.  But it is a matter of objective fact that the United States has accomplished more in the sectors of human rights, liberties, economy, just military activity, peaceful political transition… and just about everything else, than nations he specifically referred to – Haiti, El Salvador, various African Nations.  This is not to suggest that these nations can’t elevate themselves to more equal standing in some of these areas.  But to be clear, they’ll never achieve complete and total equal standing with the United States and at present nearly anyone who has the means to leave these mentioned nations for another nation essentially does.  This indicator of immigration/emigration is a prime indicator of a nation’s place on the spectrum of misery/prosperity.  The United States, by all accounts is decidedly prosperous.  Haiti, by all accounts, is perhaps the least prosperous of all the nations in the Western Hemisphere.  None of that has anything to do with the people governed by corrupt and totalitarian regimes led by careless authoritarians or oligarchies.
  2. Over the past seven years, I have worked for three general contractor firms.  I have worked in Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Richmond, Virginia.  On a given day, any of the fourteen projects I have managed are somewhere between 35%-75% Hispanic.  Those people come from all over.  Many of them are illegal immigrants.  Citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela; I have had the opportunity to have in-depth conversations with many of those whose presence has been continuous.  Nearly to a man, financial relief is sent to family back home.  Also, nearly to a man, their chief hope is that they can one day save enough to move every single member of his family to America.  And the rational is not merely that America is so prosperous.  It coincides with the complimentary fact that drug lords and gangsters control their homelands.  Returning to their country with enough money to retire often alerts these crime rings to pay a visit to a family and demand patronage of some sort, in order to remain protected.  Their government, police force and elected leaders (if they are fortunate to live in a democracy) offer no help. Some have even discussed the miserable reality of having elected leaders and police officers side with the crime ring or in some cases be the entity that propositions this patronage relationship.  By their own admission, their country is firmly affixed to the opposite end of the spectrum of misery/prosperity.  They would never use the word shithole out of veneration for their ancestors and friends lost to drugs, crime and corruption – but the words they use are essential interchangeable, if only slightly less profane.  Candidly, my experience does not extend to Haitian or African citizens.  There are decidedly less of those individuals in the construction industry, if only because their nationalities are not as present in the area of the country in which I reside.
  3. Finally, the prime defense I’ve witnessed in attacking Donald Trump is that this statement is racist.  In an era where a Caucasian levels a statement whereby a minority – whether an individual or entire citizenry – is compared to a Caucasian of the same magnitude, that statement is automatically racist in its roots.  This is purely a derivative of temporal movements.  Racism is the inherent belief that the color of one’s skin creates superiority in-and-of-itself.  When someone accuses another of racism, it is a serious accusation.  And yet recently, the context by which this accusation is delivered is increasingly diluted – for two reasons.  Many of these cases, such as yesterday’s, incorporate variables having nothing to do with race.  Haiti’s historic response to deadly disaster after deadly disaster has prevented it from achieving any stability.  Their size and limited profile of resources similarly guarantee its economy will never be as vivacious, dynamic or sustainable.  Haiti’s culture, rooted as a hotbed for slave trade is pervasive even to this day in the class system that exists.  Upward mobility is not a word that can be employed there.  It is not racist to assert these things.  In fact, in Eastern Europe, in places such as the Balkans, there are similar examples of nations riddled with natural disasters, limited economies and culture of authoritarian dictatorships/communist influence.  While their men are not subject to slavery,  its women very much are.  Would it be racist for me to call Latvia a shithole? Is it even a shithole, or is its distant location to me and history of soviet occupation just create in my mind a false pretense? No doubt, Latvia is probably a fine place to live.  But if I had to choose, you wouldn’t be able to accurately represent with a stopwatch how quickly I made my decision.

If I were a person of influence with Donald Trump, I’d tell him he was doing a fine job of incorporating his campaign promises into legislation and through judicial appointments as well as executive order (only when necessary).  I’d also implore him to do two things – 1. Stop Tweeting.  Although he has been able to effectively deliver his message to his constituency without manipulation by the media, the topics he’s chosen to engage in have been suspect at best and harmful at worst.  Perhaps a daily rundown at the end of the day, where he’d only be using his Twitter account between 7-9PM and topics would be pre-determined. 2. Politics in a democracy is a balance between content and packaging.  While Donald Trump, generally, has provided decent content.  His packaging has sucked.  Historically, we’ve had Presidents who would come off just like Trump had they been subject to a 24 hour news-cycle, and these men were considered very effective leaders.  Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F Kennedy, Jr., Andrew Jackson chiefly among them.  These men cursed like sailors, cavorted with women like they played for an NBA team, and just generally didn’t have to worry about packaging their message but for the State of the Union Address, and they occasional direct statement publicized in papers to reach the American people.  Trump shares some form of this rough-edged personality with each of these men.

I have no idea what type of President Donald Trump will turn out to be.  He has three years left on his first term.  Much of his legacy is yet to be written.  My hope, and reason for getting political tonight, is that Donald Trump will package his message better AND that his opposition will make more of an effort to understand that some of this is just poor packaging, while other aspects of the affront are simply higher levels of ethnocentrism, patriotism and hot air.

May God Continue to Bless America,

Will O’Connor

Current Events: A Break from My Standard

EdisonProject34

I created this blog not to comment on social or political matters, but rather to share experiences which, I hope, can be shared by others and lead to a more positive overall approach to this world.  Occasionally I will break from that stride to address matters I believe to be of great importance.  Some of these will be conservative stances, others more moderate.  I do not subscribe to a particular party line.  I believe each person ought to formulate for themselves the most logical set of beliefs and incorporate how these beliefs affect the world as a whole, prior to solidifying them.

The President, and the military, are front and center this week.  After decades of specifically banning trans-gendered people from serving in the military, President Obama passed into law a bill that provided protection for, and even medical treatment to, people in the military who believe themselves to be trans-gendered.  Just yesterday, President Trump reinstated the ban on the trans-gendered entering, or continuing to serve in the military.

Dysphoria

The American Psychological Association holds that gender dysphoria is a mental illness.  This is an important distinction, because the same Association is held as the standard-bearer for other ailments, diseases and illnesses that would disqualify an applicant from serving in the military.  Given the vast amount of research the individuals belonging to this Association have put into the work that they publish, it raises a very fair question about how we are to approach the trans-gendered in the military; Should a person affected with an illness be allowed to bypass the application process on the grounds that it is discriminatory to do so?  The follow-up questions are:

  • Does the nature of the physical, mental and emotional requirements of the military provide a need for the military to restrict admission to the military based on affliction of diseases, ailments and illnesses?
  • Does the military, as a government entity, have the right to be discriminatory if they believe that such afflictions negatively impact performance in such a high-stress field?

I believe that both questions need to be properly answered before we, as a populous, bring forth a suit against the government, and the President specifically.  I’ve seen people in droves, on both sides of the aisle, publish their feelings on this most recent ban.  I believe all of these defenses and outcries are premature.  My general feeling is complicated, because there are multiple layers of privilege and benefits that are bestowed upon our military, and multiple layers of privilege and benefits that are heretofore to be revoked from a specific demographic of the United States population.  Namely, the distinction of having served in the defense of our great nation, being chiefly among them.  Secondly, items such as the GI Bill, bestowed upon all, and sex-change operations, bestowed upon the trans-gendered, are privileges set to be revoked from a certain group of people.  These people have done nothing specifically to deserve this revocation, but stand in possession of a form of disorder, no matter which way you slice it, that is akin to color blindness, AIDS, amputation and a myriad of other disabilities or illnesses that preclude one from serving.

Initially, I believe the assessment to bar those possessing gender dysphoria from the military to be a wise one.  I’ve searched my feelings on this since the announcement was made.  Am I making this determination based upon hatred of a group that I seek, even subconsciously, to marginalize? Am I uninformed on the challenges that a trans-gendered person might face in the wake of a sex-change operation with regards to their capacity to discharge their duties? Am I making this decision based upon pre-formed opinions? I’m still grappling with those questions.  I don’t have a solidified set of answers.  But I do believe that until we address the first three questions I posed at the top of this blog, that we have a duty as citizens to uphold and support this ban.  Should there be data to prove the ability of a trans-gendered person capable of discharging said duties on a level consistent with those not trans-gendered, then I believe that there ought to be some capacity in which this group of people ought to be included.

This would then raise the question about whether or not medical benefits bestowed upon armed service members or veterans should include sex-change operations.  On this topic I am decidedly more conservative.  I do not believe that the taxpayers of the United States ought to foot the bill for such a procedure.  On this, I don’t believe data ought to be the prevailing factor.  Sure, a total value should be presented to the legislature so that a quantitative value can be placed when making the decision, but I think that the government paying for sex-change operations, hormonal replacement procedures, and all other associated forms of medical services is not a wise decision.

I am trying to fathom a medical procedure that is provided for armed services members or veterans at the cost of the public treasury, but to date cannot find one.  If a combat veteran is wounded in the line of fire, skin graphs, plastic surgery, prosthesis, general surgery etc. may be required in order to provide that serviceman or woman a semblance of their former selves, but this is caused by combat, not by a mental illness.  There are no other mental illnesses which are treated by the government, at cost to the tax-payer, without being inflicted during battle, to my knowledge.  Unless that basis of knowledge is amended by proof of pre-existing mental illnesses being treated by the government, at cost to the tax-payer, I believe we have precedent to uphold this ban and continue forward searching for the best and most capable citizens to serve our great nation.  I continue to believe we have the freedoms and privileges we do as a direct result of the courage, bravery and sacrifices bestowed upon us by our incomparable military.

I look forward to getting back to topics of observed and experienced happiness, and hope we all do the same as often as humanly possible.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor