Amoeba’s Lorica: The Ignorance of the Left Hand (A Thanksgiving Day Musing)

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was idly browsing the Internet on this US Thanksgiving Day 2018 (for which opportunity he is, as usual, indebted to the endless patience and forbearance of Quilly aka Dame Amoeba), when he came across a series of articles discussing the business of giving thanks. Yes, this is a thing. No, it’s not about merchandising the holiday. As if any holiday squeezed into the four weeks between Halloween and Black Friday has any chance of being profitably merchandized.

Some of these articles presumed to discuss the ‘how-to’ of giving thanks. One in particular held up, as a positive example, a prominent, long-serving executive who was credited with handing out (presumably not personally, but via analog or virtual letter carriers) some 30,000 thank-you notes during his career.

To which news, YFNA responded, “That’s nice. Some thanks is better than no thanks, I guess. Now tell me how the recipients responded to this not-tree-hugging mass of notes. Were they stoked to get a recognition from the boss/client/partner? Or did they go ‘yeah, yeah’, and trash/recycle the paper/bytes?”

If the latter, YFNA argues, the note-senders might be doing their cause more harm than good.

In case you missed it, it’s a common thing these days (as it has been for decades) for those who have profited handsomely from business to give thanks by donating a new construction of some sort, typically a building, to the university of their choice. Typically, the name of the donor goes on the building’s nameplate and into official university records. Just as typically, the gift covers construction costs but offers no relief from operating costs, saddling the university (and, still more to the point, the unit within the university that gets told that it will occupy the building) with those operating costs – which, typically, are far greater than those of the units to be replaced by the donated structure. Struggles to cover those costs add stress to occupants who are already struggling with the move to new space that is, too often, less functional than the cheaper space they vacated to accept the ‘gift’.

Is, then, the new building a thanksgiving gift? Or a billboard?!? Who is truly being served? The recipient? Or the donor?

What, then, about those thank-you notes? Especially the mass-produced kind with the faked signatures?

What about, instead:

Sales manager, phone call to distributor: “Hey. We’re really happy about your 15% increase in sales over the last quarter. The executive team has been talking about your performance, and is loving it. Thank you. Let’s talk about how you’re doing it, and what kind of feedback you’re getting from customers, so we can help you do even better.”

Supervisor, speaking personally to employee: “Yo. You’re doing great. Wonderful consistency, and that idea you had for safely speeding things up got noticed by the execs, and they want me to make sure you know this. Thank you. Let’s talk about what we can do to keep supporting you in your work.”

“OK, Amoeba. You asked, I’ll tell you. This kind of thanksgiving is hard. It requires somebody to communicate directly and personally with the person to be recognized. Which I, as the CEO, don’t always have time for, not if I am to do the rest of my job at the level the Board expects, never mind all the employees. And, as you know as well as I do, not all the managers in this company communicate with people as well as you and I would like, so trusting them to do this job is chancy. Worse, it runs the risk of promising those being thanked with concrete recognition for their efforts, such as a promotion, or a lower sale price, or an exclusive distribution arrangement, none of which may be in our interests or even within our power to deliver. Finally, it’s not from me! What recognition do I get for my initiative in thanking people?”

Yes, boss, giving thanks along these lines is hard. But YFNA argues that some things cannot be successfully automated. Like the handing out of 30,000 mass-produced thank-you notes with faked signatures is. Especially if the recognition you wish is something other than as a phony baloney, whose efforts are greeted with “yeah, yeah” and a tossing into the garbage.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba does not acknowledge the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, or of any other creation of human song and story. This declaration does not mean that the words attributed to these creations are without power or meaning. Especially in the West of the world where the words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth still inform, almost exclusively inform, our interpretation of the world and our codes of conduct within it. Even those words which are honored mostly in the breach.

Words such as these:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy [or, give thanks to others, which can be seen as a form of supplying a need – YFNA], do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The humanist will argue that “the Father who sees in secret” is, in fact, the mass of employees and customers who see that the bosses are truly thankful, by arranging for companies of people who are thankful and mean it – and who, in return, happily give their all for the success of the whole.

That same Jesus of Nazareth also is credited with these words:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, You fool! will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Here again, the humanist will argue that “the fire of hell” is the reaction of persons who receive mass-produced thank-you notes with fake signatures on Thanksgiving Day after a full year of pushing and prodding and snarling and general un-appreciation from the one sending the note, and the persons representing that one in their daily interactions.

Thanksgiving Day is every day. Or no day.

Speaking of hard.

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Reg and Syd: If You Can’t Stand the Heat …

Sydney: “Well, Reg, have you had a chance to review the climate report that was released last month?”

Reginald: “I leave that to you and those scientists you insist on hiring. I suppose you mean well, but I still find it disappointing that you cling to this tarbaby. Certainly, you divested any interests you have in facilities and businesses at risk from rising sea levels?”

Syd: “Long ago. Of course. But …”

What global warming?

Reg: “But what? How many times do we have to go through this? Remember five years ago, when I told you that no way in Hell were our fellow citizens and taxpayers going to put up with the lowered standard of living that addressing the climate change thing has to demand?”

Syd: “Um, yes …”

Reg: “Was I right, or was I right?!?”

Syd: “Sigh.”

Top: “40 cents more at the pump …”
Bottom: “2 degrees hotter across the planet …”

Reg: “And not just in our country. In case you missed the protests in France over the increase in gasoline prices. No doubt something that the politicians tried to impose on the citizenry because of the climate change garbage.”

Syd: “I suppose, if Mr Macron doesn’t wish to vanish into the wilderness like Mr Obama did …”

Reg: “… he will learn to listen to what his citizens really want, instead of what some of the noisy ones say they want. Precisely! Especially given the growth of the economy now that we’ve got political leaders in the USA we so dearly love who do just that. Namely, listen. To real people, not hypocritical useless eggheads. Like I hope your science employees are not.”

Syd: “They are customer-centered and profit-focused, like all the others. As they need to be.”

Reg: “Good. People want stuff. They are going to push for stuff, and more stuff, until it is proven to them that they’ve got all the stuff they’re going to get. And woe to the ones who have to deliver that message. Chapter 7 here we come. I’ve said for years, and you’ve heard me, that if the climate scientists think that people have to give stuff up in order to stop global warming, they themselves have to be first in line! Or regular people are going to spot their crap as the self-serving power grab that it is.”

Syd: “Of course, we help them think that!”

Reg:That’s the amazing thing about all this. You’re remembering the disinformation campaigns that we used to have to invest in. But that was before Facebook and all the rest of the social media onslaught. We don’t have to do that any more. Regular people do it for us! And since we are customer focused, and offer people what they want, it’s obvious that they will easily shout down the freaks who think that regular people should fry during the summer and freeze during the winter, and not go on their Thanksgiving travel junkets, because of this ridiculous global warming nonsense!”

Syd: “The IPCC thinks we’re past the point where citizens giving stuff up will do much good …”

Reg: “Because they don’t wish to get lynched en masse?”

Syd: “Probably. But they say it’s because we need massive machines in addition to that to make much of any difference in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.”

Reg: “Machines that will, of course, promote the interests of the same climate scientists that refused to practice what they preached in the first place? Machines that will work as well as Mr Musk’s mass-produced (he claims) cars?

Syd: “You make it sound like …”

Reg: “We will work our way out of our difficulties in the only way that makes any business sense. By adapting to what the planet does, and what our customers do in response to that, rather than try to force people into doing things that they hate in the name of stuff that they can’t see makes any difference to them.”

Syd: “And if the planet does do stuff that matters to them?”

Reg: “Then we put the Mars and Moon scientists to work proving that their tech can work on Earth. If they can pull that off.”

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Kris an’ Murphy: Pop (Goes the) Ulation

Kris: “Hey, Murphy, did you hear the good news?”

Murphy: “What? The President and VP will die in separate plane crashes on the 4th of January?”

Kris: “Making Nancy Pelosi, the likely Speaker of the House, President? Nice fantasy, but no, sorry. Speaking of women, though, they’re having fewer babies!

Murphy: “This is good news?”

Kris: “C’mon, Murphy. You know as well as I do that, all propaganda aside, reducing the human population is the only way to keep the planet fit for anybody to live on! At least this is a beginning!

Murphy: “You’re sure of that?”

Kris: “Data look solid to me.”

Murphy: “Not to me. There’s a shortage of bays, you know.”

Kris: “… whut?”

Murphy:Especially since the Boomers, who aren’t having children any more, have successfully locked up all the choice properties by the bays, so that the people who can have children have to have them somewhere else. Like the suburbs, for instance, or even, shock horror, the countryside. So, of course the data will show that the number of baybies is going down. Now, prove to me that the number of burbbies and countrybies has been accounted for in those totals. Plus the farmbies and the ranchbies and the …”

Kris:Murphy! Geez. Buck up!! I know things are tough, the students are tougher, and the university’s nothing but a pandering service center any more. But don’t flake out on me now! We’ve still got a month to go in the first semester!!

Murphy: “Alrightalright. Let’s accept the numbers. Fewer children per woman are being borne, on average, worldwide. For half the nations on Earth, the number born per woman is less than that needed to replace those who have died. That number, if it continues, will eventually start bringing down the number of humans on Earth, and that will eventually start bringing down the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the air, and the amount of plastic being dumped into the oceans. And this is good. Yes?”

Kris: “Yes!”

Murphy:Who is going to be paying your salary? Or mine?? Speaking of pandering service centers. The universities are already desperate for enough students to fill seats and pay fees. If the pool shrinks … And now multiply that across the entire economy, which depends on growth for prosperity, and has no prospects for growth if the number of customers is, perforce, shrinking!”

Kris: “Yeah, well, good luck getting any of today’s women, whom we’re assiduously training for professional careers, to give up or even delay those careers for the sake of bearing and raising children. Good luck getting today’s males to get off their fat asses and do anything, especially child-rearing. Not that any of the women I’ve spoken with lately would trust any male with the job.”

Murphy: “Yeah, don’t even ask how many times I’ve been told by women, ‘I look at the man I stuck myself with, asked about having children by him, and said to myself, no way it’s happening.’ That neither grows the economy nor gets us paid.”

Kris: “But fewer children means more investment in each one. Perhaps that will mean, eventually, that each one will be as highly intelligent and efficient as they’ll need to be to keep standards of living up.”

Murphy: “Do you know of any of our administrators who would be happy to see class sizes shrink? Regardless of how able each student in those shrunken classes was?!?”

Kris: “Only if we were all living out of our cars.

Murphy: “Precisely. And since when can we presume that all of those individually coddled students will be healthy enough to achieve the necessary levels of intellect and productivity?”

Kris: “What? Surely, with modern medicine …”

Murphy: “Dan over in Biology would be screaming at you. He sure screamed loudly enough at me over this last week at the faculty seminar. Apparently, there’s this estimate that about 80% of the human DNA is ‘functional’, it’s doing some work, it isn’t just sitting there.”

Kris: “So?”

Murphy: “So, Dan calculates that, if this 80% figure is accurate, and it’s a goal to keep the human population genetically stable – that is, without increases over time in the percentage of those in the population with, let’s say, hay fever, or peanut allergies, or autism …”

Kris: “Yes?”

Murphy: “Then each woman, in her lifetime, should have a dozen kids, only two of which – the ‘best’ performers, and those most free of bad gene juju – ever get to have kids of their own. Otherwise, the mutations that lead to things like autism increase, and eventually overwhelm the population.”

Kris:OMG! This is surely ridiculous!

Murphy: “It’s elementary population genetics, according to Dan. Which we assiduously and rigorously apply to every sexually-reproducing species of life on Earth, except our own! Dan uses this calculation to argue that the 80% figure is wrong, and a lot of money’s being spent to get a better number. Meanwhile, the number of cases of autism is increasing, and the only thing that’s been even partially reliably tied to that increase is the number of tiny mutations (‘single base pair changes, or SNiPs’, I’m told) in those affected. Which Dan would predict is resulting from the low number of children being born, and the high survival and reproductive rate of those that are.”

Kris: “So, the one-child model many folk who have any kids at all are adopting …”

Murphy: “… is potentially disastrous, on many levels.”

Kris: “Gene therapy?”

Murphy: “In a world that’s screaming ‘NO GMOs?!?’ Get real. Y’see, there are reasons why China has abandoned its one-child-per-family policy.”

Kris: “So it can put a new fuse on the population bomb and light it?”

Murphy: “Well, there’s always global war, famine, drought, or pestilence.”

Kris: “Gah!”

Murphy: “Humans have always preferred that ‘acts of God’ be the instruments that force us to accept lowered standards of living. Just like every other species on Earth.”

Kris: “Right. And we work in higher education for why?

Murphy: “So that, for now, we can continue to meet at the faculty club, while we still have one, at the end of the teaching day, and drink wine.”

Kris: “Shall I pour?”

Murphy: “Please do.”

          *          *          *

“And this, then,” Mother Alyusha concluded her lecture, “is why the Selective Service operates as it does. Each Mother produces numerous offspring, who are then evaluated in the Cohorts. After weaning, no contact or identification with any Mother is permitted, lest a Mother succumb to the temptation to be overprotective of any child, but especially of one that she bore. The best and brightest, the strongest and healthiest, are recruited for the next generation, while the remainder contribute their labor to, and their removal of deleterious genetic elements from, the population. All this is accomplished while gradually bringing population numbers down to planet-safe levels. The economy is adjusted to fit the population size, by fiat. So-called ‘growth models’ are inappropriate for our circumstances, and those who advocate for such models, in contravention of the evidence but in hopes of short-term personal gain, are reeducated, or removed from society.

“How does this set with you, Cynthia Stalwart Steadymind?” There was just a hint of sneering lift in Alyusha’s recital of Cynthia’s full name.

Cynthia received the gibe with outward calm but inward turmoil. The inward part, riding the tiger of incipient puberty, wanted to lash out. The outward part, though, recognized how that incipient puberty, plus the mass of information being thrust at her as part of her initiation into Motherhood, was putting her name attributes, the ones she had earned at LaConner Cohort, under pressure. Alyusha was pushing and prodding her into recognizing the new pressures within herself, achieving mastery over them, and acknowledging when and how she had, on individual occasions, fallen short of mastery.

“One thing puzzles me”, Cynthia said serenely, as if she had never heard the belittlement in Alyusha’s voice.

“And that is?” Alyusha brusquely inquired.

“The narrative is presented, not by today’s computers, or humans, but by males, evidently archaic ones from the video quality. How is that?”

Alyusha nodded; apparently, the question was a good one to ask. “The original medium, from which you saw a digitized excerpt, was prepared some decades before the Righteous Revolution. Leilani, in Documents, did a wonderful job restoring the file and converting it to digital format.”

“But … males?!

“Yes. It’s against dogma, but, as you have expressed both interest and an aptitude for science, I will share with you the data, and ask that you be cautious with your inferences, especially at this early stage in your training and with your first period due. Some males during the run-up to the Righteous Revolution were intelligent and sensible. Had they gained ascendancy, it’s possible that males could still be an acknowledged partner in our society. As things are now, though, we can only assume, from the history as it has unfolded, that these males were unable to gain or maintain influence over the great mass of loutish males who, in the end, led the country, and the world, to ruin.”

“A shame”, Cynthia said.

“Hm?”, Alyusha asked.

“They’re kinda cute, especially the tall one, Kris I think that was. They must have been really cute when they were younger. Wish I could have met them.”

Alyusha, whose tastes were more orthodox, and had found intimate companionship with Mother Anastasia for the past twenty-five years, sighed and shook her head. ‘Perhaps’, she said to herself, ‘Cynthia will outgrow what’s beginning to look like a male fascination. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. I guess we’ll all soon find out.’ Aloud, she said, “Break time. In 15, we’ll review hygiene.”

“Again?”, moaned Cynthia.

“It’s important. Trust me”, Alyusha replied, curtly.

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