Category Archives: General Articles

As it Turns Out, America’s Racial Problems Are Not All That Bad

 WHAT REALLY DIVIDES US IS PREJUDICE

A meme with a man talking to son about racism and prejudice

 

Stated simply, prejudice is pre-judging another person for their values, looks, or behaviors. Humans use these judgments as psychological placeholders. We categorize people to help us evaluate their inner character and estimate their intentions toward us. As such, there is a whole range of prejudices one may harbor, as people commonly prefer to be around people who are like them (homophily) and, thus, not as keen to hang out with people who are different (heterophily).

In light of recent events, some have found great advantage in re-labeling all prejudice as racist. Activists have loudly argued that racism is a systemic, compelling—yet often unconscious—prejudice against people wearing other skin colors. Taking their cue to do some soul searching, I have only found that as a white male, I do not regularly practice bias against others based on the color of their skin. But you will have to take my word for it.

Nevertheless, I discovered that I am prejudiced. I freely admit it—I practice discrimination against other people every moment of every day.

And so do you. We all do.

Like every other human on earth, there are things I like and other things for which I do not care. For example, I enjoy my property, and I am highly prejudiced against anyone who would take from me what is rightfully mine. I worked for it—they did not.

Similarly, I harbor prejudice against selfish people. In fear of being judged the same way, I try to practice generosity so that no one will easily discriminate against me on that same account. Furthermore, I am prejudiced against people who find ways to avoid hard and honest work. That goes for the rich wall-street investor and the bum alike, white-collar or blue.

As I self-examine, I see that I also harbor extreme prejudice against bullies and thugs—those folks who demand their way and throw temper tantrums when people try to stand up to them. I discriminate especially against those who would use coercive and violent force to marginalize others. I disrespect people who disrespect the law and our elected authorities.

These days, I am also annoyed by people who think they can read my mind or believe they are more qualified than me to determine what I like or dislike—and those who think they know all about the privilege I've enjoyed (brother, your envy is showing). I am biased against those who tell me I am merely like the fish in the ocean that is too stupid to realize he is all wet. If you knew me, you would know that I am not a clueless enabler of some hate group (sister, your prejudice is showing).

Last time I checked, bullies come in all skin colors, from many cultures, and are of various ages; they can be Democrat or Republican, college-educated, or drop-outs; they can be rich or poor. Oddly enough, I am more willing to tolerate the differences of ideology, class, culture—and yes, even race—much more comfortably than I can tolerate a sharp contrast in personality.

On the other hand, I am positively prejudiced toward those who like calm dialectic and reasoned responses to refine our best practices in a free society. I respect those who have endured many slings and arrows and still manage to carry on with grace and forgiveness and without any notion of revenge. You are my heroes!

We are all prejudiced. (I write that last sentence with some irony in that even my grammar check program just now suggested that I substitute the word racist for the word prejudice.) It is impossible not to discriminate as we bridge life's gaps and try to make sense of the world.

The real problem is that we often keep using our prejudices long after their expiration dates. A healthy soul will reconsider, re-evaluate, and check their signals before they reapply a prejudice in a new situation. Is it still valid? Does it reliably help one make sense of others' values and behaviors?

Here is the truth, my deepest confession: I will hopelessly continue to be highly prejudiced against jerks. So reprimand me if you have taken offense. Shut me down. Silence my voice. Do what you must. But know that at least I am one white male citizen who can freely admit his real prejudice.

©Philip J. Hohle, Ph.D.

The Curative Serum

An Allegory About Disease

©Philip J. Hohle, Ph.D.

With all the talk about the disease de jour, we should never forget that there is another disease still running its unstoppable course, the most nefarious malady of all time. While one seldom hears in the news about its spread, this disease is fatal in that it deprives the infected of life. And yes, it is highly contagious due to our shared genealogy—all humans everywhere are at risk since it is transmitted at birth. It is impossible to avoid catching and spreading it.

Virus cells, man sneezing

The good news is that it is curable.

Centuries ago, the authorities issued a 10-part protocol on how to keep the disease at bay, but no one was able to live out those rather strict rules for hygiene and health. In more recent times, a new treatment has proven to be 100% effective, and it costs the patient nothing. The serum comes from the rare blood of one single Donor. It is so rare that no one can find a match. Records show that so much blood was drawn from this man that he died—though those who take the cure seem to come under the impression that he has been regenerated somehow. This may be true because, despite the rarity, the supply of this curative serum seems strangely unlimited.

There have been reports by those cured that the treatment is remarkably painless and enjoyable—but they can only realize this truth after the procedure is finished. In the moment, most people report an agonizing discomfort and a burdening sense of shame.

As such, there are many infected people who are hesitant to take the proven treatment for various reasons. The untreated may perceive such a cure to be worse than the disease. Others will claim the procedure is too naively simple, too inconvenient, or even unnecessary.

Still, there are even others who still bet on their ability to meet the standard protocol. On the other hand, there is a growing number of infected who just simply give up and embrace their disease—even to the point of proclaiming that their hopeless and joyless choice is actually more healthy and satisfying.

Meanwhile, scientists continue spending billions of dollars in research to bring expensive synthetic treatments to market. There are a host of medical salespersons who tout everything from exercise, to special diets, to a range of psychotherapies as the real cure. Meanwhile, those who suspect they are infected will often find ways to self-medicate. People become so immersed in such homeopathic remedies that they begin to experience a common hysteria—the impression that they are well and immune.

All these rumors are perpetuated in the news as well as in many of our pop-cultural narratives. Still, only in death will the true course of the disease be made known. And only in death will those remedies be found inadequate.

As stated before, the procedure is rather uncomfortable. One must be in the presence of the Doctor who requires one to disrobe completely—no clothes or adornments can hide one from His probing examination. The examining room is cold and lit brightly. It is common for patients to report that they sense other people watching as they stand before the Doctor, judging every flaw in their ridiculously pathetic naked body. Others resist the Doctor's commands to bare themselves. As such, there are many stories of long struggles with the Doctor who must forcefully take away everything the patient brings into the examining room.

The symptoms of this disease are varied, but the most common one is that the infected have no joy or hope. And even many among those treated with the cure will report the lingering or recurring symptoms of this disease for the rest of their lives. Oddly enough, infected people often don't realize that there are treatment centers scattered almost everywhere across the globe. Even the cured come in for regular treatments, even though their presence serves more of a reminder to the fact that they have already tasted the serum. This booster is particularly helpful when the ghost symptoms of the disease cause doubt.

The fact that many tend to put on their old clothes after undergoing the procedure is likely the cause of the lingering ghost symptoms. A clean new wardrobe is offered to every patient after treatment, but some think they can't afford it. Others simply prefer the fit of their old clothes. In spite of one's choices, people should know that the treatment centers remain open to address both the real and ghost symptoms of this disease.

With other diseases, social distancing is a way to contain the virus. Yet with this disease—this, the most contagious, most terminal disease the world has ever known—the Doctor commands his cured do just the opposite. We can never distance ourselves from our family, friends, and neighbors who are infected.

In all cases, the cure works. The serum is powerful. It always has been, and it always will be effective against whatever new strain is discovered—though it is unlikely any new virus will be discovered under the sun that hasn't already been tested and destroyed.

On the Move to Fight Cancer

New Non-profit Hosting Benefit to Help Get Patients to Treatment Centers.

By Philip J. Hohle, PhD

Cancer is a tough enemy to fight. Recent statistics from the American Cancer Society show that in the United States, an estimated 125,000 cancer patients needed help with transportation to their treatment appointments in 2017. In Texas alone, the Society provided 2,223 cancer patients with rides, but 16,247 additional requests went unmet.

According to the Patient Advocate Foundation in 2015, 15 percent of all cancer patients reported problems accessing care due to transportation conflicts, and the greater the distance they have to travel, the more likely they will miss or delayed treatment. It is no wonder that the cancer survivor rate is remarkably lower in underserved areas.

Driving Hope LogoDriving Hope of Texas is a new startup that aims to put a dent in those statistics. The non-profit organization is the vision of a veteran professional truck driver Michael Hohle of Moody. “Several years ago, my uncle came down with cancer. I saw the trouble my aunt had in getting him to his treatments. They were from your typical small Texas town, and driving in the big city was quite intimating for her. Because of the situation, going to treatment was as hard on my aunt as it was for my uncle—who never really trusted her driving. I thought, ‘they needed me to do the driving.’” Hohle added, “Ever since then, I’ve been wrestling with how to help people who have to go through the stress of getting to their treatments. After all, just knowing you have cancer is stressful enough.”

Continue reading On the Move to Fight Cancer

Is Democracy Dead—or is it just Obsolete?

Lesson Learned on the Road to Waco

It is a bright Texas afternoon and Interstate 35 is not so crowded. I set the cruise control—that sublime moment when driving to Waco becomes an actual joy. Driving a few of clicks above the limit, it is not long before I found myself gaining on a slower car, and I realize that I will have to pass. In my driver’s side mirror, I see another car approaching at a much faster speed. I have to make my choice quickly: Do I move into the left lane at my current speed and force this guy to slow down as I pass the car? Do I hit the gas and race around the slower car as fast as I can? Or do I hit my brakes and stay in my lane until the driver speeds past? I select the third option. Afterward, I began wondering why had I deferred to the driver in the fast lane. Then I realized this road encounter had revealed something profound about democracy.traffic

Thomas Hobbes and other 18th century Enlightenment thinkers outlined our social contracts, the mutual sacrifices members of a community make without hesitation. This willingness became fundamental to the establishment of our democratic government. In light of recent events and trends in the news, I am fearful that our democracy has died, or at the very least, it appears somewhat obsolete. Citizens are beginning to abandon the lumbering deliberations that a democratic process requires. We no longer seek to engage in tedious duels of logic to uncover truth.

Instead, we crave a fast-food version. The true statesman has been replaced by the sophist, who publically shames and demonized the opposition until they can no longer speak. Those who influence public opinion are simply those who command attention while talk shows seldom feature those who practice serious dialectic. On defense, these ideologues tightly drape their identities around the issue, making it impossible to counter without inflicting personal offense. The truth uncovered by these methods is most often a mirage as such politicking denies the community the opportunity to use rational dialectic in deciding the issue.

It is difficult to practice dialectic today because a mutual appeal to authority is no longer possible. Postmodern apologist Jean-François Lyotard observed that our great institutions have lost their credibility. Democracy itself is certainly not immune from this penetrating critique. In the new democracy of public opinion, the only appeal with credible density is the appeal to self and the ultimate limit to your opponent’s authority is your right to take offense: “Freedom for me means freedom from you.” To say the least, this is not a very hopeful foundation on which to build a better community.

Civic order requires more selfless engagement and democracy has always maintained an inherent imbalance in this regard: the majority always wins. When outvoted, the collection of offended selves finds the democratic process tyrannical, and the courts often seem fixated on reversing this reality. The law has lost its sting, and you can sense it even when driving our highways. Liberal or conservative, the problem lies in all segments of American society. If the lawmaker is proven unjust, the lawbreaker becomes free to act without restraint. Like the driver who hopes to change lanes, those who still obey the law must make way for those who fearlessly enjoy their freedom from social contracts.

Let us become more intolerant of those who selfishly disregard our contracts, regardless of their age, race, or ideology, including me. A militaristic police state is not the answer, but a citizenry that respect the laws of community—those generated by honest dialectic in a democratic process—will make such policing unnecessary. The sacrifice is honorable and healthy. May we all enjoy the security that comes from the true practice of democracy.