Posts Tagged ‘Society’

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Orwell or Huxley, Different Sides of the Same Coin

May 22, 2011

While many writers influence society, few if any, impact modern political thinking more than Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.  Born only nine years apart, both men grew up in the pre-World War I British Empire.  Moreover, Huxley, for a short time, taught French at Eaton College to a young Eric Blair who later took the penname George Orwell.  From this point on, their lives moved in cycles of circular motion rather than parallel, at times agreeing, at others times diametrically opposed.

Both men wrote about social injustice of sorts but approached it from differing directions.  In Orwell’s mind, government controls society in a totalitarian fashion.  In fact, the quote “big brother is watching” comes from his novel 1984.  Huxley, on the other hand, sees personal liberties eroded by a society jaded and overwhelmed with excess exposure and stimulation of unimportant issues.  Perhaps, in the end, we will find both are true with the multinational, multicultural society we have today.

It is common today to see comparisons of Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World boiled down to Orwell fear of a government that bans books and  Huxley’s fear of  a society that chooses not to read them.  While in a broad sense the comparison is true, it does lend itself to Huxley’s fear of people whom cannot be bothered with knowledge in-depth and satisfy themselves with the cursory.  In truth, both theories are intertwined and simply different parts of a larger perplexity.  That is, we as a society are satisfied with filling our minds with stupidly numbing trivia, all the while our freedoms erode.  It is the modern-day equivalent to Nero fiddling while Rome burned.  We are more interested in who Arnold Schwarzenegger screwed over a decade ago than the very serious issue of our national debt, or the wars we are fighting overseas.

Perhaps we are well on the way to the world Orwell predicted in 1984 and it is with the compliancy Huxley points out in Brave New World used as the roadmap.  For a government to control its citizens, as in 1984, they must be pacified.  Nazi Germany pacified its citizens through fear and intimidation but their primary passivity stems from a post-World War I government that simply degenerated into chaos.  This chaos created apathy and set the stage for a government with totalitarian goals.

With a different set of particulars, are we not on the same road today?  In Orwell’s thinking, such a government keeps the truth from its citizens.  In Huxley’s thinking, there is no need as its citizens are only interested in the superficial.  For instance, when the Cable News Network (CNN) began in 1980, it started the 24-hour, continuous news cycle.  As other broadcasters followed, competition required stations to via for ratings and advertising dollars.  Soon, daily news was more about keeping viewers with entertainment than news itself.  Soon, the line between the two blurred and now a valid news item becomes mixed with trivia and intrigue.  We no longer see the difference and our government freely hides information we need within the background noise we don’t.  We are setting the stage for an apathy that will allow our government to steal our freedom as easily as pickpocket unknowingly steals a wallet.  By the time we figure it out, the wallet of freedom is long gone.

That is not to imply some vast conspiracy on the part of governments or corporations.  No, it is our own unwillingness to seek information in-depth and question what we see that drives us to fulfill this Orwell-Huxley future.  If we watch shows like Jersey Shore instead of 60-Minutes, we will see more shows like the former and even the latter will change its format to include such fluff to remain relevant.  That is not the fault of government or broadcasters.  It is our fault; it is societies fault.

When we wake up and find an Orwellian government in place, it is because we now live in Huxley’s view of society.  We need to step back from our over-stimulated, under-informed lives and demand more from our government and news organizations in the way of valid information.  Otherwise we will go beyond Orwell’s bad dream and enter a Kafkaesque nightmare.

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Mr. Murphy and the Problem of Size

October 13, 2010

Even in life’s sad and most trying moments, humor finds its way in, not the Abbot and Costello “Who’s on First” humor, but the little things we did not see coming.  Maybe it is a way for humans to deal with heavy emotion; perhaps it is more luck.  Regardless, even years later, it is the lighthearted moments we often recall.  Soon after my father passed away, just such a moment occurred.

A few days before, I had to face the fact Daddy was dying.  He had cancer and that is not a pleasant way to go.  I can sure understand how people, who are touched by this evil, feel drug companies are more interested in prolonging treatment for profit than earnestly seeking a cure.  Still, this was the situation we were in and the family was gathering as families do at times like this.

For me, I took a leave of absence from work and headed home.  One night, I was awoken by a phone call and by sunup, I had thrown a mixed bag of clothing together and was on the road.  I lived in North Carolina at the time and home, St Simons Island, was about a six-hour drive.  Perhaps it was my haste in packing, or maybe I just did not accept my father was dying and had my mind elsewhere, but for whatever reason – I did not pack a suit.  Basically, I had toiletries, jeans, and shirts, not much more.  Strangely, I did pack my dress shoes.  Since then, I’ve asked myself a thousand times how I could pack the shoes and not the suit to go with them.  I guess some questions in life never get an answer.

Coming home during a time like this is bittersweet.  The last thing my dad needed was a bunch of family members sitting around crying and feeling sorry about things.  It was enough to know we were there for a reason and enjoy the time left.  Besides, contrary to common thought, it is a very busy time; at least it was for me.  Every day some little project needed attention.  Being busy was a blessing of sorts as it kept my mind off the inevitable.

That is the way with things inevitable – they happen whether we want them to or not.  When dad passed away, all the emotion held inside found its way out and seemed to make up for lost time.  I have always handled stress, but this time, stress handled me.  Stress took me to a surreal world where seconds lasted hours and days seemed beyond measure.  Still, there was a lot to do so I marched on, it is what my father would have wanted, and the family needed everyone rowing in the same direction.

During this time, where my hour-long-seconds had control, a small seed took root.  It was more a feeling than something I knew but I was absolutely sure I had forgotten something.  As the time past, and my seedling grew into a mighty oak, the harder I tried to remember, the deeper in fog the issue slipped.  It slipped, that is, until late in the afternoon the day before my father’s funeral and the fog cleared and I understood what that oak tree had been trying to tell me all along – I had no suit to wear.

While it’s true the fashion police would certainly let me off with a warning, I was not about to show up to my own father’s funeral in a worn pair of jeans and a Crab Shack tee-shirt.  It’s not like the tee-shirt had holes in it or anything.  OK – the jeans might have had holes, but not the tee-shirt.  Still, having “Where the elite eat in their bare feet,” scrawled across my chest somehow just did not seem right.  So, off to town I went, surely I could find something “off the rack,” as it were.

Now, I’m as fair-minded as the next guy, but who gave this Murphy fellow permission to go around making laws to begin with?  Regardless of how I feel about Mr. Murphy, I discovered there is really no way around his law “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”  First store – closed.  Second store – everything required tailoring.  The drama went on and on, at each store, something stood between me and a proper suit of clothes.  All I purchased for my trouble was more stress on an already stressful day.

Finally, I went to Belks.  I figured I would throw myself on the mercy of the clerk and hope for the best.  There he was, the slim, well-dressed salesman with effeminate features and manners.  I have all the style sense God gave a bowling ball, so I was really happy to have someone other than a teenager with strange colored hair to help me.  Mr. Murphy must have been asleep on that point.

Within a few minutes, there were several jackets laid out.  We, well the salesman, decided I should go with a jacket and slacks rather than a suit as we could find pants that did not require hemming.  Still feeling stressed, I relied on his judgment completely.  Then it happened, we were selecting pants and he asked “what size?”  Guys tend to think of things like clothing size as if it were some sort of quantum physics, understanding it is just beyond most humans.  I would be happy if everything was small, medium, or large.

There I was, trying to figure out what size pants I wear.  Normally, I think it would have been an easy question to answer.  Certainly, I understood it.  Finally, after what seemed many more of my hour-long seconds, I knew I had to say something; I blurted out 32.  The salesman placed his hand on his hip, gave me that knowing kind of frown, and said, “Oh please, I’ll bring the 36s.”  I laughed and laughed.  I literally laughed until I cried.  I laughed so much the salesman started laughing with me.  There we stood, in Belk’s Department Store, laughing like two hyenas.

You see, as much as Murphy would like to control things, perhaps divine providence uses him to set our lives up where something small and silly, like the salesman’s comment, is just the cure for horribly stressful situations.  In my case, it returned my mind to a sense of normalcy and allowed me to face the following day’s events.  I took my jacket and proper fitting 36s and went home.

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Nothing Can Destroy A Government More Quickly…

October 2, 2010

As Justice Tom C. Clark said in Mapp V Ohio, “Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws[i].”  Of course, he was composing the majority opinion in the landmark case that forced individual states to exclude evidence obtained without a proper warrant.  His warning goes far beyond the reaches of the Fourth Amendment[ii].

Everyone, at some point, find themselves in a situation wondering, “How did I get here?”  It is easy to understand the consequences of a car wreck.  Understanding the way a child from a “good” family ends up a delinquent may not be so apparent.  We have to look to a series of events to truly understand the situation.  It is the later example that illustrates the danger the United States faces with our moves ever closer to the tipping point since Justice Clark’s observations back in 1961.

Over time, our freedoms, as citizens of the United States, have eroded.  With small steps, a government that seeks to control the population rather than lead it diminishes each freedom held sacred.  People often use the analogy of a pendulum swinging back and forth when talking about changes to our freedom.  In other words, laws restricting freedom are passed, then over time, changed to restore freedom.  This analogy is simplistic and misleading as restoring freedom always falls short of where it began.

A better analogy is a “rising bottom[iii]” trend (Figure 1).  Stock analysts us it to describe a company’s stock where the price is going up and down but the overall tend is up.  The lowest price of a particular swing is higher than the lowest price of the swing before.

In much the same way, our freedom swings from more restrictive to less restrictive and back again, but the overall tend is more restrictive.  The restrictiveness of our law is more restrictive than its change before.  Changes to the Fourth Amendment are prime examples of this theory.

Since its adoption with the Bill of Rights[iv] in 1789, the Fourth Amendment has received over sixty[v] reviews by the Supreme Court, most within the last one-hundred years.  It is understandable given criminals use it to try to get out of trouble and law enforcement pushes it to its limits trying to put criminals in prison.  On its face, that level of review might seem like a good thing, but in reality, it makes for an unsettled situation where nobody understands just what the right covers anymore.  Regardless, the overall trend is the cases limits the protection of every citizen and increases the power of state and federal governments to intrude in our lives.

For example, in Mapp v Ohio, the case overturned because the police failed to obtain a search warrant and simply intruded into the home.  Another case, United States v. Leon[vi], the court modified the ruling in Mapp saying the police can use evidence seized with an illegal or invalid search warrant, if they acted in good faith.  The key being what constitutes good faith.  In other words, if there is a mistake on a warrant or it is not specific enough, a judge can allow the evidence as long as the offices did not intend to violate the principles of the Fourth Amendment.  Sort of a “trust me, would I lie about it?” statement from the police.

While the Leon ruling does limit the protection granted in Mapp, the findings in the Arizona v. Evans (1995)[vii] and Herring v. United States (2009)[viii], in truth, blow it away.  The Evans case found if the police obtain a warrant based of false information retained in police records, the search is valid.  In Herring, the court further found if the police rely on false information provided by a different law enforcement agency a search is valid.  The net effect being the police can simply allow data to remain active, even when it is not true or accurate and then later rely on that false data to obtain a warrant.  In other words, it creates an atmosphere that encourages bad behavior by law enforcement with little or no recourse by citizens.

For about 130-years the Fourth Amendment went without challenge.  After that, the court muddled its meaning with weak and vague findings.  In 1961, in the Mapp case, the court again place clear definitions on the amendment’s meaning only to have later cases again whittle away at our individual protection, just like the raising bottom chart illustrates.  It is easy to side with the government and law enforcement as most of the people in these cases were trying to get away with some illegal activity.  To do so is a mistake; supporting the erosion of our Fourth Amendment protections allows the persecution of individuals without the proper oversight of courts or a grand jury.  Further, it allows and encourages an atmosphere of corruption within the various law enforcement agencies.

By no means is this action restricted to the Fourth Amendment.  Our freedom is under attack by the government our constitution seeks to limit.  The government takes our freedom in little bites we hardly notice and justify it with claims of national interest and serving the greater good.  We think of limitations, of the sort imposed after the terror attacks of 9/11, as temporary.  The government sees them as a windfall and will be hard pressed to ever return them to us.

This is exactly the point that Justice Clark tried to make.  You see, while the quote at the beginning is widely known, it leaves out most of the point Justice Clark intended.  Here it is in its entirety:

“Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence. As Mr. Justice Brandeis, dissenting, said in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 485 (1928):

Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. . .  If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.[ix]

This is the danger we face today.  In a misguided effort to allow law enforcement to prosecute criminals, we encourage criminal behavior by law enforcement and give up our rights in the process.  The time to stem the flow is now; waiting too long will lead to the anarchy Justice Brandies worried about.


[i] Mapp v. Ohio. Section V. Supreme Court. 19 June 1961. FindLaw. FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters Business. Web. 2 Oct. 2010. <http://laws.findlaw.com/us/367/643.html>.

[ii] “The Constitution of the United States,” Amendment 4, <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html>

[iii] “Rising Bottom Definition.” Investopedia.com – Your Source For Investing Education. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/risingbottom.asp>.

[iv] “Bill of Rights.” National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights.html>.

[v] “MediaWiki Talk:United States Constitution/Amendment Four.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution>.

[vi] “United States v. Leon.” LII | Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. 17 Jan. 1984. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0468_0897_ZX.html>.

[vii] “Arizona v. Evans, 514 U.S. 1 (1995).” LII | Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. 07 Dec. 1994. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-1660.ZS.html>.

[viii] “Herring v. United States.” LII | Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. 07 Oct. 2008. Web. 02 Oct. 2010. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-513.ZS.html>.

[ix] reference i

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Circular Logic

August 27, 2010

Circular Logic.

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The Prejudice of Theory

July 30, 2010

In life, we all must battle personal prejudice.  While obvious targets of prejudice, such as race and gender, dominate the debate, other more subtle ones influence everyone daily.  Moreover, as they affect deeply held beliefs, accepted as unquestionably true, most do not recognize them as prejudice at all.

Debates on subjects like evolution vs. intelligent design (or creationism) highlight the problems with subtle prejudices.  The belief closes the mind to ideas, facts, and theories that contradict the belief’s conclusion. People on the evolutionary side see the fossil record as definitive proof supporting Darwin’s conclusions in Origins of Species[i].  Others on the creationism side dismiss every bit of science that does not support their preconceived notion.  Produce a discovery that challenges Darwin and a supporter will automatically bombard you with numerous other discoveries to support him.  Dare to lay out the case for natural selection and a creationist will declare, “You might have evolved from monkeys, but I did not!”

While one side enjoys the support of a majority of scientists, the other side has the evangelical tradition firmly behind it.  This is a very public debate and passions are high among people from both camps.  What both sides fail to realize is they are prejudice against information and discoveries that go against their theory’s conclusions.  In other words, they only accept, as true, new information that supports their particular belief.

Galileo’s observations that Earth is not the center of the universe illustrates the danger of only accepting supporting information and excluding contradicting information.  Building on the works of Copernicus and Kepler, Galileo’s telescopic observations caused the Catholic Church to try him for heresy[ii].  The Church closed its mind to any information that contradicted its long-held belief that Earth was the center of the universe.

Even within the scientific community, prejudice exists.  A popular theory among archeologists in North America is the “Clovis First” theory.  The predominant hypothesis states that the people associated with the Clovis culture[iii] (around 11,000 B.C.E.) were the first inhabitants of the Americas.  The discovery of sites that predate the Clovis period were dismissed outright or thought to be misdated.  Sites that predate the Clovis period include Topper in South Carolina, the Paisley Caves complex in Oregon, the Monte Verde site in Chile, South America, and Channel Islands of California.  A discussion among archaeologists could soon come to blows over the topic.

Now, it seems one of the most popular theories of the 20th Century stands challenged, the Big Bang Theory. Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, professor of physics and astronomy at the Catholic University of Louvain, first put the theory forward.  As observations supporting the theory have multiplied, the scientific community has generally accepted it.  Still, problems with the theory do exist.  Recently, an associate professor at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, Wun-Yi Shu put forward a new model that has no bang at all[iv].  Time will surely tell if Professor Shu is right but at the very least, his work does deserve to be explored without the prejudice received by the scientists that disputed Clovis.

Regardless of its source, an irrational belief that suppresses observations, discoveries, or rational thinking is dangerous to the progress of humanity.  It is arrogant to place limits on subjects not understood.  We do it anyway.  In religion, we place restrictions on God based on our feeble ability to understand God.  In science, we restrict possibilities to well-defined parameters and dismiss data that does not fall within.  It is only when a genius, like Galileo, dares to contradict, our preconceived notions change.  Even then, that change can take years, even centuries.

It is best to accept that the knowledge we have not discovered is infinite and our understanding is limited to the small bits we think we know.  We are better off understanding that new information does not diminish the truth; it only changes our perception of it.  It is not an insult to God to place our planet within a solar system and not at the center of the universe, nor is it an insult to understand the method by which our existence took place.  In the end, everything we know, understand, or believe is simply a theory based on the best information available.  Always keep an open-mind and put aside prejudice in all forms.  This way you will improve your personal theories.


[i] Darwin, Charles, and Gillian Beer. On the Origin of Species. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

[ii] “Galileo Affair.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 30 July 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair&gt;.

[iii] Hirst, K. Kris. “Clovis – The History of Clovis.” About Archaeology – The Study of Human History. Web. 30 July 2010. <http://archaeology.about.com/od/clovispreclovis/qt/clovis_people.htm&gt;.

[iv] Shu, Wun-Yi. “Cosmological Models with No Big Bang.” National Tsing Hua University. Web. 30 July 2010. .

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Where is the Service in Customer Service?

July 29, 2010

We’ve all heard Marshall Field’s saying, “The customer is always right.”  While it makes for a nice catch phrase, businesses rarely practiced it.  Worldwide markets tend to devalue the importance of the individual customer resulting in a William Vanderbilt attitude of “the public be damned.”

Many industries meet the general needs of consumers.  Take the automakers for instance, they provide a rich selection of feature on their various makes and models.  Still, they provide the features thought to appeal to the mass market rather than the desires of individual customers.  It makes sense; Ford Motor Company should not be expected to provide a flushing toilet in a car just because one person asks for it.  On the other hand, time proved Henry Ford wrong with his famous quote: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black[i].”  The company soon realized it had to meet the basic wants as well as the basic needs of people to sell its products.

While we understand the limits in production, that in no way limits good customer service.  I remember my dad always wanted to own a Jaguar XKE.  For him, it was the ultimate sports car.  Not until I was an adult he have the financial means to buy his dream car, but by then, of course, the XKE was more a collector’s item than a car for daily driving.  He settled for one of current production models.

At the time, my dad drove a Ford F-150 Lariat with just about every extra possible.  It was a very nice truck.  He drove to the Jaguar dealership in Savannah and talked with the salesman for over an hour deciding on one from the lot.  It was a done deal really; my dad was going to pay for it outright.  All he wanted to know was how much the dealer would give for his truck in trade.  “Oh, we don’t take trucks here,” was the curt reply.  “You can go down to the corner, there is a used car guy there that will take it,” he further said as if shocked at the suggestion and that added insult to injury in my father’s eye.  The man was serious; they would not take the truck in trade.

After explaining that if he drove his truck off the lot, he would not be back, the dealer did not budge.  My dad drove his Ford F-150 Lariat with just about every extra possible off and headed to the Jaguar dealer in Atlanta, four hours away.  He asked the salesman one question, “Will you take my truck in trade.”  The salesman replied, “Of course we will.” To which my father told him “Son, you just sold a Jag.”

Ultimately, that car proved to be nothing but trouble for my father but he never forgot the salesman that “treated me with respect,” as he put it.  To the day my father passed away, he told the story of the salesman in Savannah that would not take his truck.  Moreover, he sang the praises of the dealership in Atlanta that did.  He would take his Jag to them; they would work on it, give him a loner car, take him to lunch, and generally make him feel he was important to them.  Even with a car that was problematic, their customer service kept my father coming back.

That is the lesson for people when they do business with any company, select one that treats you, as you want to be treated and avoid the ones that do not.  Your vote is with your dollar.  Had that dealer in Savannah simply done a little legwork, such as call the guy down the road and make the deal, he would have had a loyal customer for life.  As it is, that dealership closed long ago while the one in Atlanta goes on.  Could the arrogant attitude of the sales staff have something to do with it closing?  You bet!

If you allow yourself to be treated like one of a million cattle heading off to slaughter, that is exactly what you will be.  You will be used, processed and forgotten.  There is rudeness in the nation’s retail business because we, the customers, allow it. If a sales person, checkout clerk, store manager, or any other employee is rude to you, simply walk out.  Leave your buggy of groceries right there at the checkout stand and go.  Make a loud statement that you will not pay to be treated that way so everyone can hear.

It does not matter what a store thinks; if they want your money, it’s your rules.  You do not need to buy a Jaguar to have the respect of a sales staff.  As my dad’s case demonstrates, buying one in itself, does not guarantee that respect. I think my father would have gone down the road and sold his truck if only the salesman did not act insulted at the suggestion of taking it in trade.

Today, we deal with huge companies with automated customer service phone systems designed to frustrate the customer into simply dealing with their particular problem rather than deal with the hassle of receiving the support they pay for.  Cellular phone and cable/satellite companies come to mind.  They have a national strategy dealing with support that has little accountability to individual customer.  If your cable is not working and you talk with a service center across the country, just how vested are they in solving your problem?  While choices are limited regarding cell phones and TV connection, the one that provide service at a local level with provide better support.  Their livelihood depends on it.

In the end, the customer may not always be right but the customer has the money companies want, which makes them right by default.  Make companies earn your money, demand service, and hold them accountable when it’s not provided.  Sooner or later, if enough customers vote with their dollars, they will get the hint.  Either that or they will join the trash heap of companies that rode poor customer service into oblivion.


[i] Ford, Henry, and Samuel Crowther.  “Chapter IV.” My Life and Work,.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Pages 71 & 82, 1922.  Print.

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We’ve all heard Marshall Field’s saying, “The customer is always right.”  While it makes for a nice catch phrase, businesses rarely practiced it.  Worldwide markets tend to devalue the importance of the individual customer resulting in a William Vanderbilt attitude of “the public be damned.”

Many industries meet the general needs of consumers.  Take the automakers for instance, they provide a rich selection of feature on their various makes and models.  Still, they provide the features thought to appeal to the mass market rather than the desires of individual customers.  It makes sense; Ford Motor Company should not be expected to provide a flushing toilet in a car just because one person asks for it.  On the other hand, time proved Henry Ford wrong with his famous quote: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black[i].”  The company soon realized it had to meet the basic wants as well as the basic needs of people to sell its products.

While we understand the limits in production, that in no way limits good customer service.  I remember my dad always wanted to own a Jaguar XKE.  For him, it was the ultimate sports car.  Not until I was an adult he have the financial means to buy his dream car, but by then, of course, the XKE was more a collector’s item than a car for daily driving.  He settled for one of current production models.

At the time, my dad drove a Ford F-150 Lariat with just about every extra possible.  It was a very nice truck.  He drove to the Jaguar dealership in Savannah and talked with the salesman for over an hour deciding on one from the lot.  It was a done deal really; my dad was going to pay for it outright.  All he wanted to know was how much the dealer would give for his truck in trade.  “Oh, we don’t take trucks here,” was the curt reply.  “You can go down to the corner, there is a used car guy there that will take it,” he further said as if shocked at the suggestion and that added insult to injury in my father’s eye.  The man was serious; they would not take the truck in trade.

After explaining that if he drove his truck off the lot, he would not be back, the dealer did not budge.  My dad drove his Ford F-150 Lariat with just about every extra possible off and headed to the Jaguar dealer in Atlanta, four hours away.  He asked the salesman one question, “Will you take my truck in trade.”  The salesman replied, “Of course we will.” To which my father told him “Son, you just sold a Jag.”

Ultimately, that car proved to be nothing but trouble for my father but he never forgot the salesman that “treated me with respect,” as he put it.  To the day my father passed away, he told the story of the salesman in Savannah that would not take his truck.  Moreover, he sang the praises of the dealership in Atlanta that did.  He would take his Jag to them; they would work on it, give him a loner car, take him to lunch, and generally make him feel he was important to them.  Even with a car that was problematic, their customer service kept my father coming back.

That is the lesson for people when they do business with any company, select one that treats you, as you want to be treated and avoid the ones that do not.  Your vote is with your dollar.  Had that dealer in Savannah simply done a little legwork, such as call the guy down the road and make the deal, he would have had a loyal customer for life.  As it is, that dealership closed long ago while the one in Atlanta goes on.  Could the arrogant attitude of the sales staff have something to do with it closing?  You bet!

If you allow yourself to be treated like one of a million cattle heading off to slaughter, that is exactly what you will be.  You will be used, processed and forgotten.  There is rudeness in the nation’s retail business because we, the customers, allow it. If a sales person, checkout clerk, store manager, or any other employee is rude to you, simply walk out.  Leave your buggy of groceries right there at the checkout stand and go.  Make a loud statement that you will not pay to be treated that way so everyone can hear.

It does not matter what a store thinks; if they want your money, it’s your rules.  You do not need to buy a Jaguar to have the respect of a sales staff.  As my dad’s case demonstrates, buying one in itself, does not guarantee that respect. I think my father would have gone down the road and sold his truck if only the salesman did not act insulted at the suggestion of taking it in trade.

Today, we deal with huge companies with automated customer service phone systems designed to frustrate the customer into simply dealing with their particular problem rather than deal with the hassle of receiving the support they pay for.  Cellular phone and cable/satellite companies come to mind.  They have a national strategy dealing with support that has little accountability to individual customer.  If your cable is not working and you talk with a service center across the country, just how vested are they in solving your problem?  While choices are limited regarding cell phones and TV connection, the one that provide service at a local level with provide better support.  Their livelihood depends on it.

In the end, the customer may not always be right but the customer has the money companies want, which makes them right by default.  Make companies earn your money, demand service, and hold them accountable when it’s not provided.  Sooner or later, if enough customers vote with their dollars, they will get the hint.  Either that or they will join the trash heap of companies that rode poor customer service into oblivion.


[i] Ford, Henry, and Samuel Crowther.  “Chapter IV.” My Life and Work,.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Pages 71 & 82, 1922.  Print.

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The Good ol’ Days… Really?

July 25, 2010

Often conservative news organizations promote the idea of returning the United States to the values held decades ago.  Liberals are quick to point out the inequity in civil rights of that time but in fairness to conservatives, that is not the aspect they put forward.  No, it is the improving social and economic situation of the middle-class back then conservative talking heads promote.

Let’s take them at their word.  The question is understanding the values of the times.  Unless you lived through the daily turmoil, it is impossible to fully grasp the nuances that motivated the conversation.  We can however, look at stated conservative objectives.  To that end, the Republican Party’s 1956 national platform[i] sheds some light.

It is not fair to paint all conservative with the Republican brush, but the platform does point to the majority conservative view held.  While it has many parts we would recognize today as purely republican, there are many points that show how far right the Republican Party has moved.  The below bullet points are taken from the published platform.

 

From their declaration of faith:

  • We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations.
  • We hold that the major world issue today is whether Government shall be the servant or the master of men.  We hold that the Bill of Rights is the sacred foundation of personal liberty.  That men are created equal needs no affirmation, but they must have equality of opportunity and protection of their civil rights under the law.

These two statements do not reflect were the conservative movement is today.  Conservatives tend to loath and fear the United Nations.  While they do stand for individual rights, the current conservative trend is to sacrifice civil rights in the name of national security.

On taxes:

  • Further reductions in taxes with particular consideration for low and middle-income families.
  • Continual study of additional ways to correct inequities in the effect of various taxes.

While conservatives of today still seek lower taxes, the focus on low and middle-income families is lost.  Moreover, anyone addressing “inequities” today receives  bombastic tirades from Rush Limbaugh, Glynn Beck and other commentators that are closer in belief to fascism than a Republican political policy.

On business and economic policy:

  • We have eliminated a host of needless controls.  To meet the immense demands of our expanding economy, we have initiated the largest highway, air and maritime programs in history, each soundly financed.  [emphasis added]
  • Legislation to enable closer Federal scrutiny of mergers which have a significant or potential monopolistic connotations;
  • Procedural changes in the antitrust laws to facilitate their enforcement;

Yes, our big-government, federalized national highway system was dreamed up by Republicans.  Imagine trying to undertake the national highway system in today’s political environment.  These same Republicans sought to limit corporate influence and power.  If only it worked, perhaps today’s government would not be owned by corporate and special interests.

On Labor:

  • Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;
  • Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;
  • Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;
  • Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;
  • Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;
  • Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;
  • Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public.

Conservatives of today would run a candidate out on a rail if he or she dared promote such socialistic “welfare” programs and pro-union laws.

 

On Human welfare and advancement:

  • Republican action created the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President’s Cabinet.
  • Republican leadership has enlarged Federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased Federal aid for medical care of the needy.
  • We have asked the largest increase in research funds ever sought in one year to intensify attacks on cancer, mental illness, heart disease, and other dread diseases.
  • We demand once again, despite the reluctance of the Democrat 84th Congress, Federal assistance to help build facilities to train more physicians and scientists.
  • We have encouraged a notable expansion and improvement of voluntary health insurance, and urge that reinsurance and pooling arrangements be authorized to speed this progress.
  • We have strengthened the Food and Drug Administration(FDA), and we have increased the vocational rehabilitation program to enable a larger number of the disabled to return to satisfying activity.
  • We have supported measures that have made more housing available than ever before in history, reduced urban slums in local-federal partnership, stimulated record home ownership, and authorized additional low-rent public housing.
  • We initiated the first flood insurance program in history under Government sponsorship in cooperation with private enterprise.
  • We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system.

Republicans created: the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education), the program that grew into the National Flood Insurance Program 12-years later, fully funded the FDA, increased funding for medical research and hospital construction, funded low-income housing and sought to extend the social security system.

The platform is full of ideas that today we label as liberal.  With the relevant names removed, the document seems more Democratic than Republican in thought.  Any fair-minded liberal could easily support a candidate promoting such ideals. So there it is, Democrats today are the Republicans of the 1950s.  There is no good definition to describe the metamorphosis the Republican Party has endured.  The creature it has become is beyond words.  The best I can put it, when I hear pundits like Anne Coulter push the Republican message of today, I am reminded of the Sinclair Lewis quote “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

In looking at it, we might be better off if we follow through on the thoughts of our Republican leadership from decades ago.  Of course, to do that, it seems Rush, Glenn, Anne, and the rest of the conservative talking-idiots are suggesting support for the Democratic Party.  As much as they would like to deny it, the ideals Democrats put forward today are the same ideals of Republicans in the “good ol’ days.”


[i] John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25838.

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