I was waxing philosophical the other day, explaining how I would solve all of the world’s problems with my superior intellect and unrivaled wisdom, when it occurred to me that I don’t know what’s what.
A friend and I were discussing the cost of government and the added cost of working with labor unions and, suddenly, I realized I was arguing on the basis of 30-year-old data. Maybe it was 40 years old, or worse. Didn’t matter. I was applying outdated insights to a current situation and I was probably wrong in my assertions.
What, for example, are the current stats on labor unions? I know many, many people who believe unions are the reason for pretty much every malady in the economy. Government bloat? It’s the unions’ fault. Foreign company cost advantages? It’s the unions’ fault. Underperforming schools? No question, it’s the teachers’ unions. But was any of that ever true, and is any of it true today?
The world is a complicated place, much more complicated than memes and bots would lead us to believe. There’s almost never a single cause of any major trend; rather, the trends flow from multiple sources acting over time.
We can find an anecdote to “prove” any point we want to make, of course, but I started to realize that I do not have a fact-based grasp of some seriously critical issues. I knew, overall, that the percentage of Americans in labor unions has declined along with manufacturing jobs and that public employee unions are a larger part of the total unionized work force than was the case when I was a kid. Beyond that, my grasp of the facts was pitiful. Has education improved in right-to-work states? Have manufacturing jobs increased as union wages and benefits diminished? I knew the slogans, but I realized that I don’t know the facts.
The same awareness hit me when we were talking about welfare programs, immigration, pollution levels, and other issues that I am uniquely qualified to resolve as soon as I am Michael the First, emperor of the United States. I read newspapers and news sites regularly, but I’m reading characterizations, mostly. I’ll read a fact that is inserted into an op-ed to make a point, but I won’t know if that fact is a true indicator of the overall trend or status quo.
Is there still a “marriage penalty” in the tax code? Do Medicare recipients still deal with “The Doughnut?”
It’s relatively simple to check out the data, even though it means spending more time looking at my phone when I should be engaging with other people. Fortunately, everyone else is staring at their phones all day, so I will fit right in with the cool kids.
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I am confused by many things, but I’m too busy watching television to answer my own questions. Desperately seeking clarity this week about...
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I must apologize. It was all my fault.
Wasn’t that great? I feel so much better now.
When I was a child and spoke as a child, I worried that someone might discover I had made a mistake, that they would think less of me because I had gotten something wrong. Boy, was I a dope. It turns out that admitting my mistakes is both liberating and empowering. “I was wrong,” is right at the top of my liberation mantra, along with, “My fault,” and the all-powerful, “I’m sorry.”
Some people think I apologize so much that it’s insincere, which it isn’t, but I must admit that it gets addictive after a while. Owning up to my mistakes is as close as I’ll get to absolution and it makes me almost invulnerable to follow-up chastisement.
“You screwed up.”
“Yes, I admitted that. What else do you want to add?”
“You shouldn’t do it again.”
I used to think it was dangerous to drop my defenses, but the opposite is true. Keeping up defenses is hard work and it requires all kinds of mental gymnastics, especially when you know you are wrong. Now that I’m old and weak, who has the energy??
I know a few, um, friends who seem incapable of admitting to any mistakes. They’ll cop to being human in the abstract, but they’re pretty much flawless when it comes to specifics. Once in a while, one of them will admit to making the “mistake” of thinking a political enemy did something right, hah hah, but that’s about it. After a while, they get to be a bit tiresome and, now that I’m old and weak, I don’t have the energy to deal with it.
Even when I haven’t made a mistake, I still enjoy admitting my limitations. After, “I’m sorry,” one of my absolute favorites is “I don’t know.” Not only is my ignorance remarkably blissful, but admitting to it puts me on the path to wisdom. Also, it takes way too much jumping through hoops to fake it and, did I mention, I’m too old and weak for this stuff?
Incredibly, admitting to mistakes and limitations has made me feel much stronger, more independent, and more secure. Things have been going so well, in fact, that I’m actually screwing up intentionally to give myself more apology opportunities. Friends think I am sinking into my dotage, but really I am building my self esteem.
Which reminds me, did I ever tell you about the time I changed my name to D.B. Cooper and kidnapped Jimmy Hoffa? Those were youthful indiscretions and I am very, very sorry.
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I might be off by a few years, but I think my generation has seen more substantial change than any generation that preceded it. People who lived through the Industrial Revolution might quibble with that assertion, but they’re all dead now, so hah hah on them.
Certainly, my grandchildren will be amazed at the stories I can tell them about the ancient and shrouded past when I…
Of course, I’ll also have to tell my grandkids about all the ways the world has let me down since I was a lad. I still don’t travel by jetpack, my phone calls aren’t holograms, and I am still waiting for a response to my job application at U.N.C.L.E. (I keep calling about it, but they won’t let me open Channel D.)
I’d add the Coronavirus to the list, but that’s an experience that my grandkids will share. How will that change them, change me, change our relationships? The ink isn’t dry yet, so we’ll have to wait on that one.
In the meantime, I think I’ll focus on the strange-but-true stories from the past. The present isn’t nearly as much fun.
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After couple of months of tipping people 50% to deliver my pizza and toilet paper, I’m reconsidering the entire concept of tipping. Why am I tipping some service providers but not others, and when did a lagniappe become a requirement? For example:
Meanwhile, I’ve noticed that nobody in a position of authority chooses to work for tips. Maybe there’s a lesson here, if only I could figure out the hidden meaning.
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Silence is golden in home movies, and how many spatulas do you need to make a PB&J? We tackle the explosive issues no other blog dares to touch…
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Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.