Charlie's latest musings. . .April, 2003

OK . Time to move on. I want to tell you all, those who agree with me and, especially, those who disagree, I have really enjoyed our discussion over the last few weeks. I think too many of us bemoan the lack of a place to air our thoughts and opinions. We need a forum, like that in ancient Rome, where citizens can go and hear the topics of the day debated in public. The Roman citizens could even join in themselves, if so moved. I hope my soapbox has gone some way toward addressing that void.

I want to thank you all very sincerely for your passion, thoughtfulness and courage. I want to wrap up this particular topic now and move on to something more general. I am primarily grateful that the worst of the bloodshed seems to be over for now and that, although there is still a lot of suffering and uncertainty in that part of the world, the cataclysm we feared never materialized. I am glad that Iraq faces a hopeful and brighter future. I hope from the bottom of my heart that they will respond wisely to this opportunity and rebuild their Nation to the glorious heights of civilization that they once represented to the rest of the world. I hope that a more stable and progressive presence in this key area of the Middle East will move the Palestinian Question back to the forefront of debate and facilitate a "coming-together" of both parties in a sincere and productive effort to untie this Gordian Knot. Finally, I hope we all have the courage and honesty to evaluate everything that has happened over the last few months, to learn the lessons offered, to give credit where due and accept responsibility where necessary. We should thank our brave servicemen and women for their sacrifices and resilience. We should honor the dead on all sides and, once again utter the fervent hope that such a price need never be paid again.

Over the last few months, while engaged in the rabidly political nature of the debate on Iraq, I have come to notice certain traits that always emerge at such times, and seem to "tag" the speaker as "Republican" or "Democrat." This moved me to examine the larger question of who exactly ARE Republicans and who ARE Democrats. First of all let's liberate this meditation from the confines of a confusing and contemporary label. Lets call the respective subjects of our enquiry: Righties and Lefties. I have always believed that to get to the bottom of a cultural, physiological, behavioural or philosophical characteristic, one can do well to start with the Cave.

How would this characteristic play out in a society of cave-dwellers? You see, our natural evolution has been far outstripped by our social evolution. Evolutionary change on the basis of Natural Selection takes hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions. That makes us only fractionally more evolved than our Neanderthal cousins. But, because of our large brains and ability to reason, our social evolution has progressed at a dizzyingly rapid rate. Strip away the trappings, however, and our cave dwelling instincts are not quite such a dim and distant memory! These instincts, these pre-dispositions if you will, helped us to survive and thrive back in the bad, old, Good Old Days when wooly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers were both predator and prey for our ancestors.

I believe the Righties and Lefties were alive and kicking each other even back then. You see, the tribe was divided even then between two distinct and oppositional traditions. There were those who were strictly "Goal-oriented." They saw things in black and white, and felt there were clear, pragmatic choices in any situation. Sometimes these choices would not have been popular with other caves. To increase the hunting grounds or living space of their own tribe, their choice may have been to take over a neighboring cave. Tough choices may have had to be made with regards to the old and infirmed. Survival of the group was at stake and precious resources could not be wasted on those that could not contribute to the well-being of the tribe. If the hunters were hungry or sick, they could not perform and the future of the tribe would be in jeopardy. Their mantra was: " Let us do what we do best, be it hunting, gathering, fighting, tool-making or child-rearing, and let us do it with minimum interference from anyone else. We will all then benefit from a lean, efficient, productive and independent society that takes care of itself. This closely harnessed energy will guarantee our survival and enrichment. These people were focused on the "here and now". They took their responsibilities very seriously, and demanded discipline and loyalty as the "sine qua non" of the tribe. Life was tough, survival always in doubt, there was no room for vague and fuzzy thoughts about altruism or inter-cave cooperation. Such a course would have inevitably led to exploitation by the lazier caves, and the gradual erosion of power and efficacy. Such a policy would have been seen as weakness and vulnerability by neighboring tribes who would have relished the chance to seize the advantage and threaten these people with extinction. This would have been their driving obsession. . .and they would not have been wrong.

There was, however, another group in the same cave who saw many things differently. These were the Lefties. I believe that they carried a subtly different pattern of DNA. Buried in their genetic make-up was a sense of vision. They had a perspective on "what things SHOULD look like, even if they didn't." They tended to make up the artists in the tribe: the storytellers, the wall-painters, the priests and philosophers. They were probably not as good at the hunting and so relied on acceptance of their value to the tribe for food and shelter. They had a vested interest in "selling" their political story. They clearly needed the Righties more than they were needed themselves, so they had to convince the neutrals that their "vision thing" was both relevant and vital to the tribe's well-being. Once they had done this, and "Big Picture" concepts like cultural imperative and "welfare", and global inter-dependence (or the Neanderthal equivalent!) had been accepted into the Life of the tribe, they could relax and focus on building the foundations of their civilization.

There was and always will be a measure of distrust and resentment between these two groups. To the Righties, the Lefties look lazy and decadent: hiding behind high-minded, intellectual concepts and hard-to-grasp abstractions in the warm recesses of the cave, while they, the Righties, are out doing all the REAL work. To the Lefties, the Righties look like uncouth, selfish, mean-spirited, bullies, who can only see the short-term gain and have no respect for what propels us to a greater experience of the human condition. Now. . .here is my "Aha!" These two groups, separated by a completely different arrangement of DNA were then, and continue to be, equally vital to the ongoing story of our species. The one could not survive without the focused determinism of the other, nor could the other progress without the propelling vision of the other one!! We really do see things entirely differently. Neither is evil or wrong. We have completely different, yet equally valid ideas of what Patriotism means. We genuinely find it hard to fathom how the other can POSSIBLY believe what they say they believe. One values "means", the other "ends." One says: "Walk softly," the other insists on "carrying a big stick." This polarity is so ingrained, I bet you could guess what side of ANY argument a person would support, if you knew from the outset whether they had Rightie or Leftie DNA!

We are destined to drive each other crazy, seek to undermine and sabotage each other at every opportunity. . .but, truth is, we are the Yin and the Yang that makes the Human Race what it is and we sink or swim together. What do you think of that?!!

As always, I welcome your thoughts whether you agree with me or not.

Here is what you have to say. These are your opinions, that you have written in, as a reaction to what I have written above. I encourage you to use this forum to have your voices heard. . . .

From Ada in Argentina- charles lastest musings april 2003. . .

Dear Sir: Your new message is so wonderful as you are use to give us but in this oportunity Im in completly disagree with you when you said "the cataclysm we feared never materialized" . Perhaps not yet, perhaps not an enormous cataclysm, but the other cataclysm, is here. HUman lifes losted, an absolutely destroy country, thousands of people without resources (a lot of families have no means of support and U.S.A. also suffer a high percentage of unemployed, and the unemployed are more dangerous that a war when the looking for resources in the streets or in the houses of the others persons to give things to her relatives. Cataclysm may be in you own concept a generalizar war with terrible destruction, more and more deads, a lot of devastated cities, famine, human rights violated and various countries involved in the fight. In short: the third world war that many were expecting.

I was born in a country where without a war, a big war, you see, as the first or the second world wars were and in spite of the conflict with U.K. IN 1982. The people lives with fear, absolutelu insecurity, sectarianism, kidnappers,poverty, unemploy, corruption, etc. A lot of people in my country live in poverty and this is a way for all these others bag things that we suffer. During 70's we live some unsuccessful governments, where to break a law was easy from the Power many persons death or dessapeared. It was named "DIRTY WAR" I allways thought and said that a war ever and ever is so dirty. I never saw a 'CLEAN WAR'. Bloodshed is dirty. Rapes 'is' dirty. Dissapearred persons 'is' dirty. Kids with hungry 'is'dirty, kids without family 'is' dirty. All these points and more are a big cataclysm.

I don't know the scale of the problem of Iraqi people, because the information about it is scarce or non-existent in this moment. But I can imagine that famine is ravaging Iraq today. Destruction devastates this historical place and this is not a question of right or left. This is a fact, that we can not change.

Your article, it's really well done. I can see a hint of your soul in each word. yOU REALLY WRITH WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and this is WONDERFUL. It's a mixed blessing but... your wise words and marrowed thinking are the first reason of my admiration. My country lived a shoddy history since the colonization up to now and... can you believe it?: The next May 18 all the people will vote in 'ballotage' for one of two men who come from ¡THE SAME PARTY!!! it's difficult for me to explain it and it's difficult for a lot of people to understand it!!!!!!!! The situation exposes the siste's unfairness in our political life. That prospect doesn't appeal to me at all. It's more than Righties or Lefties. The world is very incomprenhesible, today. We need an other kind of people, but is so hard and difficult to obtain news goods leaders who can be able to distinghish our YIN or our YAN. I think that tour wisdom well-founded in your british formation, is the best that you can give to your daughters as a big legacy of honesty. Really we are destinated to drive each other crazy. But I think that we can't reply madness with more madness. Your hope and wishes surely will be accepted by our beloved God in Heaven and I accompany them from the bottom of my heart. In some sense, to a certain degree we are all responsible for the madness in this world such as for a lasting peace.

From Dimphy in the Netherlands - Soapbox:). . .

I hesitaded a long time before I decided to post another respond to your soapbox. Basicly, I was just waiting for you, Charlie, to write something new but I guess you're awfully busy at the moment so I might as well try and come up with something myself...and maybe inspire the other, regurlar visitors who happen to write a lot in respond of your soapbox.

Just the other night my boyfriend took me to the movies. We saw X Men 2, a movie which I love since I used to watch the TV-series before they quit. Afterwards I bought the DVD of the first X Men film which included loads of extra stuff, including an intervieuw with Stan Lee, the original creator of X Men. This intervieuw made me think. X Men is probably the only comic which has a serious message to it's audience. It's about people, mutants in this case, who are disrespected, even feared, because of what they are.

I feel like that is very wrong! I mean, what's with all the civil rights when you're not allowed to be who you are, because the environment around you is to afraid to accept you that way! This is a situation took from life. People are murdered every day, discriminated every day because they are the way they are.

For instance, in the past ten years, a lot of Moroccan people have moved from their own country to the Netherlands. In the beginning that was okay but now they're causing a lot of trouble all over the country. In the beginning of this year, a boy was stabbed to dead by Moroccan boys because he was standing up for an old lady who was being mugged. The parents of the Moroccan boys claimed that the boy's death was Allah's wish, and that their sons were not to be blamed! Afterwards, Moroccan people all over our country were, I'd say terrorized by the Dutch people, as a way of showing their anger. That is so wrong!! These two boys were wrong and I can easily say they deserve death, instead of the good fellow who stood up for this old lady. But the rest of the people are not to be blamed! There are good ones among the crowd, it's only that people refuse to see that.

Something like this makes me wonder... Does this only happen in the Netherlands?

Ciao....think peace (PLEASE)

From Elvira in Berlin - Latest Musings. . .

Ave Charles Shaughnessy, ave Caesar, ave Bürger von Rom!

Hier stehe ich nun und muß gestehen, solch eine Abhandlung zu übersetzen war eine reine Freude. Ich habe sie mehrmals durchgearbeitet und immer wieder neue Erfahrungen gemacht.

Nach langem Hin- und Herüberlegen bin ich zu folgendem Schluß gelangt: Die menschliche Rasse ist irgendwann zum Aussterben verurteilt. Wo ich auch anfange, ich komme immer zum selben Ergebnis.

These 1: Es existieren Righties und Lefties - Beide Gruppen sind so unterschiedlich in ihrer Lebensweise und Weltanschauung, das sie nicht gewillt sind zueinander zu finden. Sie leben isoliert und lernen nicht voneinander. Isolation bringt den Tod. So wie die Neandertaler, die keinen Kontakt zu den Neumenschen suchten, ihr Lebensraum wurde immer kleiner und lebensfeindlicher, und auf einmal waren sie von dieser Erdscheibe verschwunden.

These 2: Es existiert keine Righties- und Lefties-DNA: Was wir sind, sind wir nur durch die Gene der Eltern. Von Kindesbeinen an wurden wir zu Righties oder zu Lefties erzogen. Was wir bleiben liegt manchmal nicht in unserer Macht. Zum Beispiel unsere Sklaven, Bürger von Rom: Unter ihnen befinden sich sicherlich einige ehemalige Lefties, die wir jetzt zu Righties gemacht haben. Uns so kann es uns auch einmal passieren. Die Gefahr ist, das es uns und ihnen nicht gefallen wird, es kommt zu Revolten, Sklavenaufständen und dann zur Vernichtung einer Art. Die Überlebenden, spezialisiert in ihrer Lebensweise und irgendwie abhängig von der vernichteten Rasse, stagnieren und sterben zuletzt auch aus.

These 3: Wir sollten uns nicht in Righties und Lefties auseinanderdividieren: Schwarz und weiß, Righties und Lefties, Römer und Goten, beim Jupiter, lernt doch miteinander zu leben. Wir sind doch alle denkende Wesen, denke ich. Wir haben nur diese eine Erde. Wollen wir sie wirklich in so einem katastrophalen Zustand unseren Kindern vererben. Wenn wir es nicht schaffen unsere Zwistigkeiten und unseren Hass zu unterdrücken, haben wir nichts mehr zu vererben, weil die Erde in einer nuklearen Katastrophe zugrunde gegangen sein wird.

These 4: Righties- und Lefties-DNA ist nicht kompatibel: Meiner Meinung nach ist GÄNZLICH verschiedene DNA (aus rein biologischer Sicht) nicht kompatibel. Die Nachkommenschaft wäre nicht lebensfähig und die Menschheit würde in einigen Jahrzehnten aussterben. Neandertaler-DNA wurde bei uns Menschen auch nie nachgewiesen. Das ist ein Zeichen dafür, daß sich die Neandertaler nie mit den Neumenschen vermischt hatten.

These 5, These 6, These 7 ... etc.

Letzte These: Bürger von Rom: Aber vielleicht liege ich ganz falsch. Es dauert ja noch ein paar Monde bis die Sonne zu einer Supernova wird. Vielleicht kommen die Menschen in der Zwischenzeit zur Vernunft. Ich hoffe für uns, das es so ist.

From Shauna in Fairbanks - Response to Soapbox. . .

Wow, this is quite an intellectual way to look at things! I think it quite awesome that a fan site discusses more than just "Ooh, I love this movie!!! Where do you think he looks the cutest?" Very admirable. I tend to agree quite a bit with you philosophy. After some thought, it really does make quite a bit of sense. Well anyway, I really like this idea and I do think Ill tell my history teacher about it tomorrow. Thank you for the thought provoking idea.

From Theresa in Denver - Leftie or Rightie?. . .

Dear Charlie,

First of all thanks for providing a place for these types of discussions! I have to admit I like the way you phrased this idea. The best that the lefties and the righties can hope for is agree to disagree. They will never see "eye to eye." I think that this is a good thing, one will keep the other one on their toes. This does help to keep a balance to our "structure."

I agree with Gayle that we are all to eager to jump on the politician (or whoever) if they even think of seeing the other side of ANY issue. It's a lot easier to say someone is wrong if they are on a different "side" of your thoughts.

From Gayle in Colorado - Thank You. . .

Dear Charles,

Thanks for a very thoughtful scenario. The dynamics of this idea is what has fueled all literature since people sat around the fire and shared their tribal histories. This duality is the center of all human fragility and folly and our strength and sensibility. I must admit I am very tickled to find this depth of discussion at a fan site.

I have always wondered why we, as people or constituents, find it hard to accept the fact that our leaders are never purely righties or lefties. The moment that they show that they can move between those sensibilities, we turn on them. It is as if we require somebody to do what we cannot do : ignore the other side of any argument that might niggle at us. Sometimes I must ask myself if I admire a leader's thoughtful position or is it his dogged single mindedness within an issue that appeals to me.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this, And thank you for a body of work that my family and I have enjoyed over the years.

From Jenn in Canada - Musings from a northern cave. . .

Left cave person? Right cave person? Should you embrace your passion for drawing wildebeests on the cave walls or give in to your urge to venture out of your cave to hunt them? After giving my head a shake and re reading your latest soapbox commentary a few times Charles, I pondered how to respond to a topic which might actually have potential as the next hot selling self help book: "Understanding your inner cave origins: a primer for interpreting modern politics"

I decided that after my decidedly serious responses to previous soapbox topics, it was time to cut loose and have a bit of fun with this one. First a few questions for Charles' wife Susan: Has he been acting oddly lately? Does he make primitive sounds in response to being asked if he wants to go grocery shopping? Does he have a fever (possibly brought on by reading socio-anthropological novels with more than 1000 pages)? Has he watched a Charlton Heston movie on TV in the past week? Do you think that gently clonking him on the head with a shank bone from the family roast might restore him? Hopefully we aren't too late but if he's gone off to the art store to purchase drawing chalk, I'd keep an eye on the walls in the family room. Kids, you'd better hide your markers too.

All right then, assuming that the left and right cave socio political theory has merit, where do we go from here? The butcher shop or Martha Stewart's house? Oops sorry, I was about to get serious when I was distracted by images of George W. Bush wearing some sort of furry Flintstone outfit and wielding a spear. Are the White House pets safe tonight? Oh well Martha can always do some charming taxidermy centre-pieces for the Bush Easter table.

Speaking of Martha, what about her cave tendencies? Is she a lefty or a rightie? She's got a distinctly soft artistic side and a love of all "good things" in the best lefty tradition but she's also exhibited some fearsome rightie "take no prisoners" business manoeuvres in her rise to supreme domestic diva status. Rumour has it that Martha may be holding Julia Child hostage after a failed quiche coup in the Martha test kitchen. If Martha had been sent to lead the US troops into Iraq, Sadam would have been efficiently diced, sautéed and served on a platter with a lovely rosemary garnish.

Perhaps many of us begin with a blend of left and right but one side eventually becomes dominant as we travel through life? This could explain Bill Clinton. A man who rose brilliantly through the political ranks to the Oval office, only to succumb to his left cave urges to play the sax in public and ummm... express himself artistically with the staff. It could also explain Ronald Reagan who began his career as a gentle actor only to embrace space weaponry and the NRA as the years went by.

Quite truthfully I don't know what to make of all this Charles. You might be on to something but I suspect it needs a bit of fine-tuning before the manuscript can be sent to a publisher. In the meantime if you need my help, I'll be expressing my left cave origins by painting a mural, depicting my on going hunt for new shoes, on the side of my potting shed.

From SD in Northern California- Charlie's Latest Musings. . .

Hello again Charlie!! When I stated before that you were a man of sense and education I believe I hit the nail straight on the head. Lefties and Righties, Yin and Yang, the cave man equivalent of global interdependence...Charlie...I truly believe you've missed your calling! You are a very wise man, and I am proud to count you as one of my fellow citizens. Please do your new country a big favor...when you are finished 'playing' consider a career in public office.

I am one of those rare people who fit comfortably in both the right and the left shoe. I have a head for business and heart for the arts, and am combining the two in my current career endeavor. Since you did such a fantastic job in your descriptions of the subtle differences in our 'DNA' structure, I won't belabor the point. What I will say is that there are sensible people out there with a combination of both genetic strains, who consider it their duty to be a bridge between the two. I hope that in my lifetime I will be able to close the gap in some significant way, since as you say one cannot survive without the other. In many ways this right and left philosophy is not unlike the differences between men and women. Each inherently unique and significant in their own right, each with important characteristics that give the human race its beauty, yet both must inevitably face the absolute truth that one cannot survive without the other. In most cases such a revelation become quite pleasant. Let us hope that on the whole the Righties and the Lefties reach an equivalent revelation, and most especially with the more pleasant outcome. Cheers,

p.s. Just to clarify...please know that my 'playing' reference in no way suggests that I do not value your career choice, as it is in the same industry that I work in. It is truly wonderful to play.

From David in France - Response. . .

Dear Charles,

A dear friend of mine once said "don't you just hate politics?"... And I abide by this statement! Like you so rightly wrote, the "righties" and the "lefties" always tear themselves appart on this or that and cannot seem to find a common way. After several attempts at politics myself, I am now in a wiser disposition, and I sometimes think with nostalgy to a certain time in France, when Charles De Gaulle was President. I was one year old when he died, so all I have really are a few historical facts and several biographies by different authors. He did some things right and some wrong, of course, but what I want to recall of him, is his profound notion of "service". Charles De Gaulle was a soldier first, and he had devoted his life to his country.

In 1940, he fled to Britain to organize the French resistance and try, with what little means he had then, to kick the Germans out of France (which was actually achieved with the arrival of the American troops - no, we haven't forgotten at all...).

In 1947, he launched what was then called "Rassemblement du peuple Français" ("reunion of the French people" would be the closest translation), which was intended to be just that: a reunion of French people whatever political ideas they had. It was not as successful as he had wished, but at least, the idea was there: use the best of all parties and make it an asset for the country.

In 1958, Charles De Gaulle was called to be the leader of the French governement, undergoing a huge crisis at the time. He created a new constitution and submitted the idea to the vote of the people... During all his years as President, he had right wing ministers, as well as left wing ministers, and from 1958 to 1970 he tried to govern France with one single goal in mind: work for the country, not for himself.

In 1970, after the French people had rejected one of his reforms, voting "no" at a referendum, Charles De Gaulle resigned: the French people had disapproved of his policy, he felt he was no longer the leader they expected.

I will end this short biography by now... This was to stress out the idea behind the man. Once again, of course he also made mistakes, every one does, but he tried to be faithful to his country, and for that, he used all the advantages from - roughly - both parties. Maybe it was the general economical atmosphere of the time, but France has never been better as when Charles De Gaulle was President. To go back to what you were saying, I really think politics are becoming more and more annoying to the "down to earth" people who elect those men/women in charge with our respective governments: they promise things they don't give/do, they try to seduce us with foul words, etc... But once they reach "the seat", all is forgotten, and they are faced with the reality of the job, the difficulties it brings, but also the disastrous effects "power" can have on a human being... Politics now need radical changes: it's not a matter of who is more conservative or liberal than who, it's a matter of what the people wish, and what their governments do. We've just had a sad example with the recent international events: some governments didn't give a damn of what their voters wished!

Maybe Charles De Gaulle was ahead of his time, maybe I'm too much of an idealist, but I'd rather dream of what it could be if our respective governments worked more for the interest of the country and the people...

From Dimphy in the Netherlands - soapbox respond 01. . .

phew. . .so you really felt like writing, didn't ya, Charlie? Okay, after a LOT of re-reading I finally understood what you're getting at. Basicly it's about the human race, splitted in half: the Righties and the Lefties. Well, if it's about politics, there's really nothing I can say since I know not much about the U.S. politics and it's not like I'm really up-to-date or something. . .

I do believe there are two diffrent groups, in a certain way. You've got the richer ones, with the big houses and everything. I think they're mostly Righties, since being right in our country means that you're more into the richer people, you know. . .like: everybody has to take care of themselves and well, it's a whole selfish kinda thing. And of course, you got the poor people. I hate that phrase: poor people. When are you poor? But to get back at the subject: these people stand togheter: they're Lefties and here in the Netherlands it means that you're for the people as one group. Everybody takes care for each other, sickness and in health. . .bla bla bla. . .

Ever since the beginning there have been fights between these two groups, like you mentioned before. I mean, back in the old days, the mid-ages or something (that's way back) the people that were in charge, were the rich ones. They became king or queen or duke or whatever because they had the money. They were the Righties. . .and the Lefties had nothing to say. . .

But when do you decide that you are a Leftie or a Rightie? Charlie, I like the example you gave with the tribe. The Righties were the hunters and they took care of the Lefties, who were the artists. But I don't say that it's DNA predicted that you're a Leftie or a Rightie. I mean, when there are elections here, I usually agree with the things the Righties say but according to your example, I'm a Leftie because I'm an artist. I mean, I paint, I write and tell story's and I'm an actress, an entertainer. It's just a way of agreement with whatever Righties or Lefties say. I do think that these groups are more then needed in our life. I mean, everybody is a diffrent person but when you all share the same feelings, it's not funny anymore. There will be nothing left to discuss, 'cause everybody feels the same way. So basiscly we are the Yin and Yang and if we wouldn't be, the Human Race would have died a long long time ago.

And Charlie, how the hell do you get all these ideas and story's? God, I love them and I wished I knew my english even better so I could understand them without reading it like a hundreth times!! this is it for now and I'm waiting for anybody's response. I really love these forums :)

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