Worth Reading….and Doing

 

mark bittman food in NY Times

Mark Bittman

I rarely do this, but this piece by Mark Bittman is so well constructed, with solid recommendations for fixing our food supply, that I want to spread his news as far as possible.

Share it with all you know around the world.  In many ways, our lives depend on it.

His article printed in the NY Times.

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“Civility” & The Press

inflammatory news storiesSo, how much responsibility does the press hold for keeping civility alive?

Does having a free press – which is a  cornerstone of American greatness – include a “no holds barred” approach to news reporting, printing/airing pretty much anything?  Or with great power, does great responsibility as well reside?

Take “reverend” whathisname who got the press in his pocket with his threat to burn the Koran.  The question afterward – How far would that situation have gotten if the press chose to ignore him? – was asked indignantly but never answered.  It’s well known that more stories are not reported than those that are, so we turn to the criteria for choosing one situation/comment/behavior, over another, thus considering it more “newsworthy”…

We’ve also known… for decades… of the ever-increasing needs of a starved 24/7 media system more intent on trumping the competition for 60 seconds than it is on the nation’s greater good…which both sides of the media aisle (“liberal” or “conservative”) claim as their motivation.

So: Is it the media’s responsibility to opt to report only the less inflammatory items in the best interest of improved national discourse aka not stoking crazy people, or is it our responsibility as media consumers to refuse to support such presentations by tuning out rather than droolingly tuning in when they go for the jugular to get better ratings?

They claim to be simply providing what the public wants; the public decries violent rhetoric that almost killed a Congresswoman yet continues to seek out blood in the water; Congress responds by considering a movement back about 150 years to the Wild West & takes a 2 minute break from name-calling; no one shows a modicum of true determination to end their part in this vicious cycle.

Here’s the real and most important question: If the media were to take their responsibility far more seriously, eg take the higher and more journalistically pure road, refusing to report nonsense as “newsworthy” or vitriol as verity, would it help make us a tad more “civil”?  Follow-up questions: would that be the end to the 24/7 news cycle, and the closing of more newspapers?  Is it a worthy price to pay for a nation ever more torn by extreme, and therefore extremely easily stoked, anger and personal dissatisfaction?

Once you’ve answered for yourself, we’ll have ourselves a start down the road of either less, or more, civil discourse.

Do You Have the Courage of Your “Repeal HCL” Convictions?

The newly elected Republicans say that one of their goals is to repeal the Health Care Legislation.  It’s easy to be against it from such a safe distance…so far removed from those who so desperately need this reform.  Consider these Congressional stats:

  • 16%: the collective annual increase in wealth for member of Congress, 2009 over 2008
  • $2.38M: median income for Senators
  • $765K: median income for House Reps

So, for those of you who agree with this stance…who want to see the health care legislation repealed…I hope you have the courage to say that, face to face, to her:

Looking for Someone to Blame…

Talk to the handWe can all understand a national angst around a number of life-altering issues, from our woeful economy & jobs outlook, to food that makes us sick and a growing number of crazed individuals who want to see all of us blown to bits.

And when we get scared, or angry, or feel out of control, we want to pinpoint the source of the problem – we want someone or some entity to blame.

Is it Congress?  Is it one political party or the other?  How about the media, issuing  inflammatory stories, whether ultimately true or not, to keep their market share from falling?

Or, is it that we as a nation, and we Boomers as the current leaders of it, have lost our “moral compass” – that our society as a whole is disintegrating, causing much of what’s wrong with our nation today – as we hear more and more often these days?  How about our own unwillingness to make tough sacrifices thus keeping ourselves reliant on extremely unstable parts of the world?

It’s really tough to resist the natural temptation to look everywhere else but in the mirror for the root cause of our problems.  But here’s the cold truth of our distresses:

  • A bad Congress continues to be bad only because we let them get away with it…and I don’t mean just keep voting ’em out…I mean we don’t hold them accountable when they’re in.  Admittedly that takes time…to write them…let them know consistently what you want them to do – but that is the pesky part of a “representative government”
  • Sensationalism in the press continues because it works…we watch/listen/read it
  • Political parties respond to their loyal and most extreme base because they’re the most vocal; moderates are the least, which is the majority of Americans
  • The disconnect that is now the norm in our communities (our lack of involvement), our spread-all-over-the-world families, or our use of technology more often than face-to-face, makes life a tad surreal, moving ever closer to an imitation of it; this may make life easier, but it doesn’t make it better…
  • Companies that do bad things rely on us forgetting about their bad behavior in short time…and we do.  The best example of this over the past year has been the toxic food that’s made it’s way into our homes as a result of agribusinesses’ unsanitary conditions (being humane and clean takes too much out of the profit-margin).  They also know that we simply do not use our consumer clout to send them a clear message of discontent – refusing to buy from companies with poor track records is a tad inconvenient (shopping elsewhere…keeping track) and they rely on us being too busy, or apathetic, to do so

As the song puts it so well:

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

Here’s the link: Sing along with Michael Jackson, and perhaps we’ll finally take seriously the powerful message of this song from so many years ago, that is even more relevant today.

NIMBY

  • Congress … they’re all crooks!  Except my representative…
  • Government entitlement programs need to be cut!  Except my Medicare/SS…
  • I’m totally against “pork-barrel” projects!  Except for the ones for my community (that keeps me voting for my legislator who “brought home the bacon”)
  • Bullying and drug use in the schools is becoming rampant…just not in my school, or by my kids (or kids they know…)
  • The people who got mortgages they knew they couldn’t afford need to be held responsible for that as part of fixing the housing problem…except in my case…
  • We need to move from our dependency on oil to cleaner and more renewable energy sources…except don’t ask me to pay a little more at the pump to make the move a reality

See it?  There’s a clear pattern of deflecting responsibility for what we know is wrong and needs to be changed….but not by “me”…by someone else.

And there lies the crux of our stagnation…our gridlock.  You see, Congress, your school board, and all other democratically elected bodies, are in fact a reflection of us, as it was meant to be.  When you look at them, and what they’re doing badly, or not doing at all, you are looking in the mirror.

Once we get that, we’ll get change for the better.