23 Cool Things To Do. Or Not.

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1. Use your head and listen to your heart.

2.  Aim for being imperfect. You’ll probably succeed. And success is good for you.

3. Make rules and then use your head, listen to your heart and if your rules don’t apply any more, toss them. When you’re making new ones, use your head, listen to your heart.

4. If you’re going to speculate on the future, make sure your speculations make you happy and optimistic about life and you and everything. If they don’t, find something else to do other than speculating. (Hint, see 7, 11, 12…)

5. Avoid smugly spiritual people. In fact, avoid smugly anything people.

6. People who believe they’re better than you usually have a tremendous skill you don’t have – bullshitting themselves.

7. Snuggle up as often as you can to a furry animal that loves you and wants to be snuggled up to.

8. The word anal sounds horrible because it is horrible. When you see it disguising itself as a human, run as fast and as far as you can.

9. Do something new for God’s sake. And yours.

10. Bored is angry.

11. Let yourself fall in love once in a while. And have sex. Sex is good for you. At least I think that’s what somebody said to me once.

12. Eat dark chocolate more than once in a while. Especially if the sex thing isn’t happening. Mind you, if that’s the case, there’s always the other option… Have the chocolate afterwards. Or before. Or during.

13. If you want a face lift, to hell with all the smugs who say you should learn to love yourself for who you are.

14. If you want something you can’t afford, find a way. Try to stop short of robbing a bank but if you must, then be Hollywood about it and don’t get caught. Hey, you can even write the book or the screenplay and sell it to George Clooney. If you don’t know how to write, here’s my number…

15. Get the heck out of whatever one horse town you inhabit in some part of you. Jump on that one horse before somebody else does and ride on out of town.

16. This whole business of worshipping at the altar of balance is getting out of hand. Go on, take a risk; get unbalanced now and then.

17. Which would you rather have on your tombstone: “she was always soooo nice to everybody” or “damn bitch drove me crazy sometimes”.

18. If there’s something you don’t like about yourself find a way to change it. If you don’t want to be bothered… Oh. I got nothing for you then.

19. If somebody bullies you, clock them.

20. Too much insurance = not enough living. It’s a proven mathematical formula discovered in the tombful depths of some Egyptian queen or other. Or was it Euclid? Darwin? Well, whether they said it or not, I just did.

21. If you’re feeling blue be kind to yourself. Whatever you do, lecturing yourself into a false state of blissful happiness is neither listening to your heart nor using your head. Blue is blue. Better to cry and have somebody hold you or snuggle up to a furry animal that likes it and loves you. Pretty soon you won’t be feeling blue any more.

22. Take up the hula hoop.

23. It’s much more fun to be sassy than overly well-mannered. On the note of fun, have some. Have a lot. Throw balance right out of the window on this one.

The Poor Wealthy

It’s always distressing to see people who either have all the outward show of being intelligent and well-educated or who are in positions of power behaving like the village idiot, clearly incapable of stepping back from themselves enough to look in the mirror. Granted, it’s a difficult thing to do, but one of the drawbacks of having power is that you have to use it wisely and to do that you have to examine your motives.

This is not about morality, it’s about practicality. Wield your power irresponsibly and mindlessly and you’ll reign supreme for a while, but ultimately whoever you’re trampling on will rise up against you with a force that your power can’t overwhelm. I’m not just talking about despots either, although they illustrate this beautifully. There’s almost a formula for how events play out.

They gain power undemocratically, or even democratically. Then it goes to their head and they begin to bleed their subjects dry. They surround themselves with sycophants, and convince themselves that they’re acting in the country’s best interests. Eventually they’re fit only for the lunatic asylum. One day their subjects begin to say we’ve had enough. They protest. They’re ignored. Their protests get louder and more physical.

Protesters get brutalized, arrested, violated. They get angrier and more violent. Further suppression follows, bloody and violent. Surprisingly no doubt to the despot, their power isn’t so effective any more. They go into denial. Their sycophants start deserting them. The world either intervenes or doesn’t but severely criticizes them and they become outcasts. They insist they are doing nothing wrong.

They refuse to leave. They say they will die in the country that they were born in. The sycophants that are left beat their chests with bravado as they nervously look around them and calculate the odds. The rebellion doesn’t stop, no matter how much and how bloodily the subjects are violated, no matter how more sophisticated the despot’s weapons of suppression.

The despot goes down still protesting. It never happens any other way, unless the despot has some capacity to step outside of themselves to look at the consequences of their actions and get out sooner. As in Egypt. In countries where the democratic process is more sophisticated, the violence is mostly absent, but the process is the same.

It’s always the middle class that starts out naive and believing, willing to work like dogs for the sake of God and country. Proud of their democracy, proud that change happens peacefully and that they can have a hand in it. Not always able to grasp the extent to which their good-heartedness and commitment get exploited. Not always that able to step outside of themselves either and see that they’re letting themselves be doormats.

But democracy has an inherent flaw. It’s supposed to be the best system for the exercise of freedom. It would work well in a country where there’s no greed, where leaders and all politicians genuinely work for the better of the individual and the country as a whole. But failing that perfect scenario, gradually greed and power takes less and less responsibility (pays less and less tax) and exploits the good qualities of the middle class who pay more tax and get lower salaries until their morale and their lives are eroded beyond endurance.

The erosion has only one possible ending. People start to protest! A new leader emerges who sees that the danger isn’t just imminent, it’s upon the country, and something has to be done to restore the middle class, because it’s always the engine of any society. The leader wants the middle class to get its just rewards, and for the wealthy to pay fair tax. The powerful class clings panic-stricken to its position, terrified of giving an inch. Which nicely reveals exactly how powerful they really are.

What’s mind-boggling is the childish transparency of their excuses. Namely if you raise taxes for the wealthy they will leave the country, you will discourage investors (the implication being that they only invest in the US because they can exploit and not contribute their fair share). The best one is that you will be taxing all the small businesses who will fold and job creation will cease. Enter John Boehner, with that sulky look on his face, moaning about the poor wealthy.

It’s mindless. Pity the seemingly civilized, educated, sophisticated individual who appears to not have much better of an understanding of what makes society run smoothly than a Middle Eastern despot.

Obama Wins Florida After All

So all the swing states, including Florida, went to Obama after all, as I thought they would. How did CNN, the New York Times, and to a lesser extent the Huffpost, get it wrong, and how did I get it right? Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. Absent in polling is an understanding that giving your opinion is one thing, the reality of voting is another. Opinion has no consequence and in the case of those so-called undecided voters, it was often driven by powerful emotion.

Their lives had been difficult for a long time, they were afraid of things getting worse. They had a lot of ‘information’ thrown at them by the Romney campaign, very little of it truthful, much of it fear-mongering, but how were they to know that? Fear diminishes your capacity for rational thought. It happens to all of us.

But, the problem was that nobody really liked Romney. When you’re not a fanatic, it’s very hard to place your trust in somebody who either doesn’t know how to reach you and connect with you, or doesn’t think it’s important. Plus, he’s not a trustworthy politician. He’ll say what he thinks people want to hear. This is not the first time he changed his policies mid-way. He did it when he ran against Ted Kennedy.

He started both campaigns as a conservative, didn’t make enough headway, so became more moderate. People who want to get rid of a politician because he threatens their status quo or because he’s the wrong color, won’t care about this absence of backbone and deep-rooted conviction and they have no investment in rational thought. They’ll blind themselves to something we all instinctively know if we let ourselves admit it, that a man who betrays once will betray again. And who he betrays isn’t of much concern to him.

But even those Romney supporters didn’t really like him and their reasons for voting were not that he had great leadership qualities. He doesn’t have them. It’s ironic that all the impassioned rhetoric about rescuing the American economy and society from the claws of a socialist came from people who were willing to leave things in the hands of a patent liar. Romney did now and then irrevocably and openly expose the truth of who he is, mind you, when he said 47% of Americans were irresponsible victims and they weren’t his concern.

He consolidated that with another bit of truth about himself when he added, in his clumsy and not particularly intelligent attempt to patch things up, that in a campaign you tell your electorate what they want to hear. That must have really reassured his wealthy supporters. But they didn’t care. Now that kind of stupidity is what causes the demise of all civilizations.

I watched this circus and became pretty sure that the ‘undecided voters’ were obviously not  fanatics, and had no agenda in voting Obama out. I was sure they wouldn’t be able to blind themselves to Romney’s weaknesses or to how much he lied when it suited him, or to how much Obama connected with them at a humane level. They don’t like Romney but they do like Obama, not because he’s a con artist but because he’s a good man with powerful leadership qualities and a profound humanity.

He might not have turned the economy around sufficiently to completely alleviate their fear and discomfort, but he had succeeded enough against massive odds and despite great Congressional resistance, for them to see that he was a safer bet than Romney. That moment of voting is when the reality of consequence stares you in the face, when you realize that your choice could be the one that shapes your future. If you have an ounce of sense you cast your fears aside enough to think rationally, and you pick the safer bet.

I predicted that Obama would get all the swing states because I believed that the majority of Americans have that capacity. It’s easy to say you support somebody you don’t trust and don’t like. It’s very difficult to actually vote for them. People are so cynical about politics in the US, but I think they illustrate the degree to which its society has advanced in its capacity to make healthy choices that are truly about the improvement of their world, even if that improvement involves discomfort and challenge. And nothing could be more important than that.

President Obama’s Win – The Death Knell of Conservative Power

It’s hard to believe the election is over. I feel privileged to be living in an era when so much change is happening, so much of it for the better of humanity. It’s easy to look at developing countries and the Middle East where people are so fighting so valiantly for really basic rights and believe that’s where all the action is happening.

But for me the US election was right up at the top there, too, although it’s manifesting in a far less violent way. America has always been at the forefront of the search for the kind of freedom that allows for a person’s rights to be respected and for their creativity and individuality to have the opportunity to flourish, whilst also contributing to community.

The balance is fine, and is a challenge for anybody to get even remotely right. In America, it’s constantly evolving as a social dynamic too. Whatever people say about this phenomenal country, nobody can deny that things are always on the move, which I think the results of this election illustrate beautifully.

Yesterday, once the results were in, CNN anchors and contributors started in like vultures on the gloom and doom. It was sickening. There was such an unwillingness to let the world celebrate something beautiful even for a day and to acknowledge what an extraordinary thing had happened. Richard Quest was like a dog with a bone about the stock markets crashing because Wall Street didn’t want Obama.

In fact, the crash had nothing to do with the election, it was a reaction to the drama in Europe, and by the end of the day it had slowed down significantly. But probably the strangest distortion was how everybody was saying that so many billions were spent on the election and nothing had changed. Everything has changed. The change in America is not about the logistics of a Democratic President still in power with a Democratic Senate and Republican Congress.

It’s about a fight for that balance in society, and for people’s rights to have it in their lives. It was about people waking up and realising how much they stood to lose if they didn’t fight. And because they did, this election has proved that the upsurge of conservatism in America was actually the death rattle of a way of life dominated by fear, greed and racism. If billions had to be spent for that to be achieved, it was money very well spent.

America will never go back from this point. The older, white conservative male Republicans, who formed the bulk of Romney’s supporters, are losing their power because minorities, younger people, and women are finding their voice. They’re passionate about their rights, passionate about their desire for a life of balance and a society that nurtures it. And unlike other countries around the world, they are not being imprisoned for it, or slaughtered.

And now they have a President who recognises that they embody the spirit of everything that once made America truly great. How can anybody say nothing has changed? Everything has changed. God Bless America for showing the world how to do it.

I’m Holding Out For Barack Obama, A Man Amongst Men

I woke up this morning in Cape Town South Africa at 5:30 and my first thought was please God, the Universe or whatever, let all those Americans who support the truth and the wisdom, honesty and transparency that Barack Obama embodies as an individual and as a President, know how crucial it is to vote today.

In the past week I’ve seen two documentaries aired on CNN, one about Mitt Romney, the other about Barack Obama. There were things about Mitt Romney that I liked. I liked how passionately he loves his children and his wife. I didn’t see an evil man. But I did see a man who shifts with the wind whenever it suits him, and who apparently has no awareness that he’s doing it, and that I don’t like.

It scares me. Because either he’s dissembling and knows exactly what he’s doing, which makes him just a political opportunist who will say whatever he thinks people want to hear so he can get into power – which is definitely not outside of the realm of possibility – or he’s a fool like GW Bush, which makes him the ultimate potential puppet.

Neither alternative is particularly attractive in the leader of a country that has historically shown tremendous willingness to create war where none was necessary, to fill the pockets of the military industrial complex. I saw an interesting photo of GW Bush and Romney standing side by side, hands across their chests, looking beautifully patriotic.

But alarmingly, with the same vacuous expression on their faces. What is so hard for me to understand is how so many Americans can want to place their trust in a man who can’t steer himself on a straight course through a campaign. He couldn’t do it against Ted Kennedy and he hasn’t done it against Barack Obama.

If he was deliberately screwing with people’s minds, well, it didn’t work against Kennedy, did it? Only problem is, Kennedy wasn’t the first African American president, so factor that into the mix and the picture becomes a little more alarming. Still, somehow I have this inner conviction that Barack Obama will cary the day.

It’s one thing to say you support somebody you don’t really like, it’s another thing to actually vote for them. Mitt Romney isn’t a popular man amongst his own followers. But Barack Obama is. Which tells a story. It seems that the only people in the world who can’t see why he should be president for another 4 years are that belt of conservative Americans.

Everybody else in the world wants Obama to win. It’s so clear to all of us. I’m sure even Iran would prefer him to Romney! Plus, we’re all sick of war too. We’re all sick of lies and politicians who shift with the wind, who love to bully and throw the weight of their country around. We know a good man when we see one. And we see him, clear as day.

I love America. It embodies so much that I hold dear – the ability to make something of dreams, to think big, to constantly evolve what it means to be a free and caring individual. The years under GW were dark, but with Barack Obama as President I’ve seen the America that I love begin to come alive again. So I’m holding out for him. A man amongst men.

Dear President Obama…

Dear President Obama,

Oprah Winfrey once said that if you want to thank somebody, then do it! I can’t let another day go by without thanking you for the way you’ve inspired me in my own life, for the incredible courage you’ve shown, for your remarkable capacity to focus on the important aspects of humanity, and for the truly great president that you’ve been these past four years. I wish I was American, that I could work for and vote for you.

I’m relieved and thrilled that many Americans appreciate you. I wish more could step away from their fears, prejudices and conditioning to see how you speak and act from the heart, and with wisdom and breadth of vision. I wish they would factor in the reality of what it takes to heal America from the wounds inflicted by the past Administration.

Most of all, I wish they’d let themselves see what you’ve achieved despite unbelievable resistance and odds – and that you are succeeding. Sometimes it seems to me that you’re a great man in a room full of blind, deaf, prejudiced, fearful people. And no matter how strong you are, I think it must be painful and so hard.

When you were elected, I celebrated with every molecule of my being! Of course I want to see a landslide this time, it should be a landslide. When there’s this much good going on it’s natural to want to see it widely acknowledged and celebrated. Well, you never know, but landslide or not, I think you’ll win. Integrity and reality have a way of getting beyond the barriers of prejudice and fear.

Thanks also from the bottom of my heart for the inspiration you’ve brought to my own life. I’ve had a lot of obstacles to overcome within myself. I never give up but I do sometimes feel discouraged. Every time, though, I look to you in my mind. You remind me of what a person can achieve, and what they can withstand without losing any part of themselves.

I wish you peace in your heart, and great and wonderful success in your campaign. You’re a pearl of great price in my estimation.

Yours truly,

Jennifer Stewart

Pathetic, Jack Welch: The Birth of a Conspiracy Theory

Interesting to watch the birth of a conspiracy theory. Following the latest US release of jobs figures, well-known American CEO Jack Welch tweeted “Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything can’t debate…so change numbers.”

Anderson Cooper, whose show Anderson Cooper 360° is about keeping them honest, had Welch on his show and asked Ali Veslhi what he thought of the tweet.

Ali started out with saying “Jack Welch needs to be out there helping this country get back on track. There are CEO’s and all sorts of people retweeting what he said. I think he’s right, there are questions to be asked about the methodology; that household survey that comes up with the unemployment number—I have said throughout my whole career that people should pay less attention to it. Pay attention to the payroll survey…hours worked and wages and income…”

At this point, Welch, who had initially shown distinct signs of nervousness, thought Ali was in support of his tweet and that he was off the hook. He nodded sagely in agreement. As Ali continued with “…but to say something like this is like Donald Trump saying that the President is not an American. Without any proof…” he was amused. Then Ali delivered his “calm before the storm” line. “You are Jack Welch,” he said. Welch liked that. His face split into a boyish grin.

Ali went in for the kill. “Jack you gotta take this opportunity, while everybody is watching you, to actually say ‘yes Anderson, I’m taking that tweet back.  I’m going to send a new tweet to say I was exaggerating’…to actually throw out an accusation like that is like saying to the government how often do you beat your wife.” Very strong, very stern. Nothing humorous about it. Welch’s face turned angry and sour.

The man does not like being hauled over the coals. His response? “I should have added a question mark…” And thus a conspiracy theory was born.

But Ali wasn’t done. “…there are two very powerful things you can say here: a) let’s take a look at how the BLS and the Department of Labor measures unemployment statistics and maybe you think Barack Obama is not doing a good job and b) you think Mitt Romney should be replacing him. But to honestly suggest that there’s corruption, that the Obama campaign may have had something to do with cooking these books – why do you need to do that now, at a time when trust for government institutions is at an all time low? That is not good for society.”

You said it, Ali.