Your Inner Hero; Accidental or Otherwise

Your Inner Hero; Accidental or Otherwise

                                                                                                                                                       Scott Ruppert  November 2015

Our world is broken; not because of any environmental theories emanating out of East Anglia University, shifting tectonic plates, or ice cap buildup in Antarctica. The fact is it has always been broken. Broken on a human scale going back as far as, well … Genesis. Don’t hang up yet; this is not a religious appeal but rather a humanitarian one to those willing to stick their necks out to rescue it on behalf of those that either don’t know how or simply lack the ability. This is about first responders for a broken society.

Serious times continue to hang over us with no end in sight. It is unmitigated delusion to think that recent atrocities in Paris will remain on the other side of the Atlantic especially knowing that Americans are the ultimate goal. The reality is that in the diabolical minds of our enemy an attack on a European target is a good scrimmage in preparation for their big game in the US. As good as they are, our military and law enforcement are simply not equipped to cover every contingency available to this enemy and it falls on a cognizant citizenry to step up whenever and wherever they can.

When bad things happen, if the extent of your response is to be a bystander or place a teddy bear and flowers at the scene the following day; there’s always room for comforters after the fact. But somewhere out there we’ll need an army of regular folks like you and me that are willing to step out of their comfort zone and act on the spot. We never have too many heroes and most often their actions alter an outcome in very positive way. It puts into perspective the adage; See Something, Say Something.

Virtually every day we read about professional law enforcement running into harm’s way to save lives or taking some sort of action to limit the fallout from a tragic event. Our military men and women sprint toward a fight and engage our enemies. Healthcare workers refuse to abandon terrible conditions to stay and fight the good fight against deadly diseases. Missionaries in countries you’ve never heard of shield the innocents from evil. These are the citizens of the world that sign up to have a chance at being a hero. Hero was never listed in the job description but they likely knew and accepted the risk when they signed the application.

French Train Heroes

French Train Heroes

And then there are the accidental heroes. Think back to last summer when three friends on vacation in Europe subdued a terrorist gunman on a train and saved countless lives? They became accidental heroes because they saw the need, were willing, and acted on that inner instinct. Remember Todd Beamer and the band of brothers he enlisted aboard United #93 on September 11, 2001 to fight the bad guys while facing slim odds for success?

These are the types of heroes of which I write. My thought is to simply compel some self-examination into whether or not you have it inside of you if the opportunity ever presented itself.

United Airlines 93; Todd Beamer

United Airlines 93; Todd Beamer

When the time came none of the aforementioned people thought about themselves or their own safety; their loved ones maybe – but not themselves. Bravery with a total disregard to the potential for personal pain, an acute sense of right and wrong, and an inner voice that whispers “now is the time … let’s roll” are the only personal requirements to exercise heroism, accidental or otherwise.

One last thought. Because courage and bravery aptly describe the hero, I wretch when hearing them reassigned to describe someone undergoing gender reassignment surgery, the professional golfer staring down a 15 foot putt at The Masters, a politician standing up against his own party, or a celebrity admitting to destructive behavior that led to a fall. Let’s not do to ‘hero’ what we’ve done to ‘awesome’ wherein a stuffed crust pizza now has as much linguistic value as does a sunset, a 3000 year old sequoia tree, or the birth of a baby.

Looking forward, we could use some heroes; accidental or otherwise. It’s okay that not all of us are wired with the same circuits to become one. Some instinctively know however, that they have that capacity while others will realize it only when the time arrives and you become needed in a big way. Don’t hesitate to respond when presented with this honor. If not you, then who?

Calling all heroes, it’s your time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Abandonment of Truth

January 2015

The subject matter expert was trotted out by the 24 hour news station to present his opinion. He answered some peripheral questions establishing his credibility and then had the audacity to say he not only didn’t know what caused the plane to crash but wasn’t even willing to speculate until more of the facts had been vetted and examined.

What a relief! He actually gave me reason to believe him because he didn’t know something and wasn’t willing to offer even an opinion. For me, his key phrase was ‘until I have more of the facts to vet and examine’.

But what happens when other experts aren’t as disciplined and spout off an eloquent sounding opinion that makestruth them look good and sounds like it might make sense? Assumptions are presented as fact and form a narrative. The faulty premise becomes the story and judgments are made. Lines become drawn and emotions incited on a mere assumption not based on truth or any real digestion of the facts involved. The media is happy to put it above the fold, devote Op-Ed space, and make it the headline story every half hour on the cable news networks. Why? Because they know you’ll believe it.

Consider the Duke lacrosse team fiasco a few years back or the more recent Rolling Stone Magazine article chronicling a rape culture at the University of Virginia. It made great press, sold tons of copy and gained national attention and invective. Only one problem: both accounts were fictional, pure untruth. Thankfully someone had the energy to discover the real truth and bring it to light; after the damage was done.

Truth: the state of being the case: the body of real things, events, and facts: in accordance with fact or reality: what actually is or was

Pretty amazing in this day and age that a subject as basic as truth has to be defined in order to lay groundwork but we have come to accept so much falsity as truth it has turned our worldview upside down and our sense of reason into disarray.

Truth is one of the main cornerstones of a free and self sustaining society. Without it there can be no trust or system of beliefs among its members. In the end, a leaders is only as trustworthy as his word. When people lose their ability or desire to seek the truth, they turn into gullible flock of sheep willing to follow the shepherd with the loudest voice that pleases their own self interest. Too often we find out after the fact that the shepherd was more than willing not to let the facts spoil a good story.

Where we get our facts makes a huge difference in our frame of reference. Whether it be from the Fox, MSNBC, CNN, elders, friends, educational pursuits, The Daily Show or Facebook; they all require a level of examination that many in our society have either abandoned or never developed. Long ago when elementary and high school curricula traded away developing a students’ critical thinking skills for focusing on test prep and results – our intellectual culture took on a tabloid worldview. Students blindly consumed what was fed to them, never questioning origins and rationale; never mind seeking cause and effect relationships. Learning data is easy but finding and correlating an underlying relationship between data bits is not. A fact became anything said by someone respected.

In Ferguson, Missouri a false narrative was formed by eye witnesses who initially lied about what they saw only to recant their account under oath. Activists stirred the pot while emoting about grand jury deliberations they never privy to. This abandonment of truth and total disregard for inconvenient facts led to senseless violence in the streets.

In the New York City grand jury case, a video suddenly made everyone an expert on police procedure as well as an eyewitness to an event where context was totally ignored. “Never mind anything else, I know what my eyes saw!”. Those eyes made assumptions on everything from police knowledge, intent, and training to the victim’s mindset, motivation, and medical history. In both cases our 24/7 media jumped on the storyline as commentators began choosing sides.

I submit that in neither case did any of the purported experts ever take the extra time to examine and analyze the hidden facts as intently as they did the public video. Truth and facts became secondary.

The media, internet, and the streets aren’t the only places you’ll find the abandonment of truth. The 2016 elections are just around the corner and we’ll be fed doses of rhetoric from those who would like to lead our country. Insincere and grandiloquent language that will pass for fact and truth will emanate as political apparatchiks stray as far from facts as allowed by law (sometime farther). We not only won’t blink an eye but will  accept it as part of the political game. Consider this: A campaign will do whatever it takes to get someone elected and then be expected to do the right thing once they’re in. How’s that for twisted logic?

We would be a much better society if we took the time to get ‘more of the facts to vet and examine’. Don’t abandon truth, it matters.

The New Face of Gamesmanship

December 2014

In 1981 New Zealand was playing Australia in a hotly contested cricket test match. New Zealand had an opportunity to hit six runs off the final ball to tie the score. The Australian captain, Greg Chappell told his brother Trevor to do something strange; bowl it underarm. This act of gamesmanship made it virtually impossible for the New Zealand batsman to hit the required six. Australia won the game and the uproar began. While the maneuver was within the rules albeit through exception, it was seen as so egregious that no less than the Kiwi prime minister publicly denounced the tactic. That was gamesmanship; old school.

Gamesmanship

1 : the art or practice of winning games by questionable expedients without actually violating the rules

2 : the use of ethically dubious methods to gain an objective

# 1. categorizes the noun as being used to win ‘games’. # 2. focuses on ‘gaining an objective’. In today’s culture neither definition really captures how the mechanism of gamesmanship has evolved.

Corporations have long plied a gamesmanship mentality as part of their strategic maneuvering. Airlines routinely undercut competitors prices in certain markets in order to gain market share. Grocers offer specials and willingly taking losses on select staple products they know you need in order to get you in their store.keep calm

But what happens when gamesmanship tiptoes outside the lines where rules are stretched and ethics redefined. The element of trust in our institutions and heroes is lost. Lance Armstrong got away with his version of gamesmanship for seven Tour de France victories and millions of dollars in sponsorship compensation. His fans were none the wiser as he gamed the system to perfection. In the end he suffered, but all along he played everyone like a piano.

We used to be bystanders to tongue in cheek games of gamesmanship with relatively inconsequential results as they were carried out against an athletic opponent, business competitor, bureaucratic regulator, or a political adversary. Washington has become the new IMAX of gamesmanship and they’ve made us the saps on the receiving end. We used to call it posturing, partisanship, and more benignly, part of the game. One party’s parliamentary maneuvering to thwart the other, one branch flexing it’s perceived constitutional muscle against the other; PACs, consultants, and donors all have stretched the limits of any conceivable ethical standard to advance an agenda.

In politics, gamesmanship and plausible deniability have always gone hand in hand as an accepted means to an end. More often than not it’s a way to buy time or provide cover. Was anyone actually gullible enough to buy the broken IRS computer theory to explain Lois Lerner’s missing email cache? How about the ridiculously exhaustive and repetitive environmental testing to stave off voting on Keystone? Or the parliamentary chicanery that each party in Congress employs to pass or bury bills?

The perpetrators begin by asking this question; How much can we get away with to advance our objective while staying in the general vicinity of boundaries, retain an appearance legitimacy, and not arouse the electorate to start asking questions that will be difficult to answer? They then establish the new boundary and quietly move the goalposts another few feet.

In the past one could shrug it off as politics as normal but even that weak standard has been lowered in the last few years. John Gruber, acknowledged co-architect for the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, recent revelations are prescient. His own words answers a crucial question; Was the Obamacare sales pitch a miscalculation or a strategy?

Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass. Better for the American people to be saddled with a law they dont understand than for them to understand the law and rally against it.”

Is this not the definition of gamesmanship gone wrong? To wit; the use of ethically dubious methods to gain an objective. We were played. This gamesmanship was so good it even got Chief Justice John Roberts to bite.

If not for his candor then for his cynical and arrogant mindset Gruber became the villain du jour. Had he used the word ‘lazy’ instead of ‘stupid’ to describe the American voter he could have helped himself by being a bit less indelicate and a little more accurate. Somehow just being lazy seems a little more palatable than being called stupid.

Regrettably, he was right. At some point too many did get lazy, bought into a sales pitch instead of value, became distracted, and stopped asking questions. He knew the media who are paid to ask objective questions and do the digging were also lazy and had fallen in love with the story and the story tellers to the degree that the content no longer mattered.

As with everything else in pop culture once the genie escapes the bottle he’s not going back in. The new face of gamesmanship is here to stay as new limits of “ethically dubious methods to gain an objective” are tested on us. Pay attention and don’t get played.

Mt. Kilimanjaro; The Backstory

Part 2

No, the trip wasn’t fun. It wasn’t one of those sappy Lifetime Channel dramas about aIMG_0512 dad bonding with his two boys on an awesome adventure. It wasn’t a case where we yucked it up from morning to night and then cried around the campfire to stories of past mistakes and misunderstandings. It was more.

First of all, for a father to be blessed with a skill and a job that provides the resources to take his sons on a 10 day excursion to the other side of the world is incredibly awesome. But to put a challenge at the other end whereby each of us would have to dig daily into our bag of life experiences to pull out solutions and renewed sources of motivation – was quite another thing.

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12.14.12

My emotions are as low today as ever I can remember as I work through the tragic12.14.12 news born in Newtown, Connecticut. Another slaughter of innocent lives, this time little children, at the hands of a youth with guns, ammo, a damaged mind and a confused soul.

For me this isn’t like 911. Then I was angry; someone from some far away land was going to have to shoulder the blame and pay for what they did to us. Today, I simply feel lost because we, the American culture, are the ones that must shoulder the blame for what happened and begin paying back.

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Coming to Terms

I firmly believe the three most significant and effective words in our lexicon are; I WASbad situation WRONG. If more executives, politicians, lawyers, activists …. and spouses used these words we would have a more recuperative and stronger civil discourse.

A friend of 50 years chided me recently when he felt that the BasicMan’s recent satirical analysis of the political landscape as derived from A Message from the President was more sour grapes than it was satire. Okay, fair point – criticism accepted. But I learned something and it doesn’t give me comfort to realize that I’m not sure I know who my fellow Americans are these days. My contention that Romney would win the presidency based on my confidence in the American electorate’s discernment and their grasp of reality make me say: I Was Wrong.

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A Word from the President

letterhead

My fellow Americans,

It’s been a few days since my resounding reelection victory and Michelle reminded me to thank those that helped me receive another four years serving the American people from the Oval Office. The list is quite long so I will attempt to hit the high points. Continue reading