Saturday, February 25, 2017

remembering history

In honor of Black History Month, and at a time when the current government seems hell-bent on deleting every single thing our first African-American president has done, it's appropriate to remember some of the contributions the first African-American legislators in the 1870s made while they were in office.

Sen. Hiram Rhodes Revels fought against school segregation and other discrimination issues and supported amnesty for former Confederates as part of a general program of reconciliation, as did Rep. Benjamin S. Turner, who also worked against a cotton tax that caused hardship for poor farm workers. Josiah T. Walls introduced bills for education funding and veterans' benefits. Joseph H. Rainey and Robert Brown Elliot were instrumental in the passage of the Enforcement Acts against the Ku Klux Klan and in protection of voting rights and the 1875 Civil Rights Act.

By the way, they were all Republicans, which obviously meant something different at the time.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

resolutions, part 2: conquering habit

They say that forming or breaking a habit takes about a month of constantly sticking to it.

This may be true for new, pleasant or neutral habits, where the main challenge is finding the time to do it. It may even be true for breaking a bad habit that has no intrinsic reward.

But realistically, building a new, good habit that goes against character or against immediate gratification requires constant attention for the rest of your life and can be broken by neglecting it even one time. The same goes for breaking a bad habit -- one slip and it's back.

It can be done. Just don't expect it to be easy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

the obligatory new year's musings on resolutions

Perhaps a useful way to understand the nature of resolutions might be to divide them into categories:

Resolutions of being
Attempts to change character (or attitude, if you prefer to think of it more flexibly)
Popular examples:  I will stop being lazy.  I will be more compassionate.

Resolutions of action (or restraint from action)
Attempts to change behavior.
Popular examples:  I will exercise every day.  I will stop smoking.

Resolutions of result 
Promise to reach a specific goal by the end of the year.
Popular examples:  I will lose 100 pounds. I will make $1,000,000 dollars.
-- Fuggidaboudit. Life has to co-operate, and life is a non-co-operative beast.

Clearly, resolutions of action hold the higher possibility for success, as they by definition include the element of deliberate control. But wait -- many of these are attempts to change habits, and many, if not most, habits stem from character to some extent (e.g.,  the inherent trait of laziness is sometimes a reason for not  exercising every day).

So maybe the trick is to define the task as a specific action you can force yourself to do, despite your lazy, selfish, cowardly, bad-attitude self, and which is physically under your control despite whatever time-and-energy-sucking gotchas life throws at you.

Good luck finding a worthwhile resolution that fits that definition.