Category Archives: History

A Thoroughly American Feast

Next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving, an annual food fest for family and friends.  The cuisine reflects our diverse culture. Most of us will eat New World foods like turkey, squash and cranberries.  These foods and the rest of the feast will be prepared from recipes handed down the generations.

The food may vary from kosher to halal; from tacos and burritos to pickled red beets and pumpkin pie; from sweet and sour pork to chutneys and curries. My family traditionally had ham with Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies like mashed potatoes doused in browned butter; shoo fly pie (like a chess pie made with molasses instead of sugar) and deep dish apple pie.

Thanksgiving is also a holiday of giving. Many people deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly or serve meals at homeless shelters.  Each year there seem to be new opportunities to help others who are facing adversity.

All of these activities follow traditions established at the first Thanksgiving. According to tradition, the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 when the Pilgrims sat down to a feast with Squanto and the Wampanoag Indian tribe. The meal was a celebration of surviving a hard year for the Pilgrims and recognition that they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wampanoag.

Thanksgiving is the most “American” holiday we celebrate.  It was multi-cultural from the beginning. It combines old and new foods that are prepared using both traditional and new fusion cuisine methods.   It reminds us that family means more than just our blood relatives.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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Filed under family, History

HOPE

My last post was pretty depressing, I know. The issue of plastic overtaking our environment, killing off wildlife, and affecting our health IS depressing. This post comes to you with hope for the future. As an ex-partner of mine would say, “Science created it and science can un-create it.” I’m counting on that.

Well, now, there is a lot out there about a “natural” remedy for the problem. Is it really possible that nature has provided “plastic-eating bacteria?”

“Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles,” a headline from The Guardian touts:

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

From another The Guardian post:

Nature has begun to fight back against the vast piles of filth dumped into its soils, rivers and oceans by evolving a plastic-eating bacteria – the first known to science.

In a report published in the journal Science, a team of Japanese researchers described a species of bacteria that can break the molecular bonds of one of the world’s most-used plastics – polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or polyester.

The Japanese research team sifted through hundreds of samples of PET pollution before finding a colony of organisms using the plastic as a food source. Further tests found the bacteria almost completely degraded low-quality plastic within six weeks. This was voracious when compared to other biological agents; including a related bacteria, leaf compost and a fungus enzyme recently found to have an appetite for PET.

Here in the U.S., Morgan Vague, Clinical Research Coordinator at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland, Oregon, presents a TED Talk about her research. She talks realistically about the problem we face and how “my bacteria” can help.

How about the solution presented here in an article from Fast Company discussing the enzyme used by bacteria to digest plastic and how it can be developed?

Around the world, several research projects are exploring the potential of enzymes, the part of the microorganisms responsible for digesting the plastic, to help. In the U.K., scientists studying the Japanese bacteria accidentally created a version of the bacteria’s enzyme that worked even better, breaking down plastic bottles in days rather than weeks. At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S., scientists are also working on the enzyme—called PETase, because it can eat PET plastic—to make it work faster. Researchers in Germany studied the structure of PETase to optimize it. And in France, a startup called Carbios has developed its own enzyme, which can fully break down PET plastic so it can be recycled into new, consumer-grade plastic of the same quality as virgin PET. Major corporations including PepsiCo and Nestlé are now partnering with the company, which plans to begin building its first demonstration plant this fall.

Like some other new recycling technology, using enzymes has advantages over traditional methods of shredding up old products. The plastic doesn’t have to be clean, and can be broken down completely. “We take these plastics back down to some of their precursor components, and then they are maybe in a better position then to be reused and reincorporated into new materials,” Hallinan says. Creating precursors for making plastic, rather than recycling whole plastic into a lower-grade material, might incentivize more recycling because there’s a better market for the final product. “There might be more economic appetite, more industrial appetite, for those types of materials.”

Then, there are the two students, Jeanny Yao and Miranda Wang, who have been studying and have invented bacteria that “eat plastic from the ocean and turn it into water.” Seeing a headline with their work is what got me looking deeper in this possible “miracle” cure.

I’m certainly not convinced these bacteria are the silver bullet we need, but, combined with limiting plastic production, returning to the days of re-usable materials like glass, and the biodegradable, sustainable materials paper and cardboard, even recyclable aluminum, we may be able to get some control of the situation. At least, we can hope.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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Waste

Navigating through Nashville is difficult these days with all the construction projects in various stages of completion. The skyline of downtown Nashville is dotted with more than a dozen giant construction cranes.  New hotels, businesses, apartments and condos are opening on a daily basis.

Growth is good. But there’s one thing the city’s cheerleaders aren’t talking about. Waste disposal.

New construction projects must include some infrastructure, such as waste water lines that tie into the sewerage system.  But the city’s sewerage system is outdated. Ancient water mains collapse with depressing regularity.  More pipes will collapse by next spring as the soil contracts over winter and expands with the spring thaw.

During the Great Flood of 2010, only one water treatment plant remained functional.  Since then, the city’s population has increased by tens of thousands of people.  With all that growth, the city should have built more treatment plants but hasn’t.  Meanwhile, thousands of new residential properties and hotels are tying into our decaying system.  Usage is expanding but the system isn’t.

I was reminded of these depressing facts of life recently when I received a notice from Metro Water Services saying that they would be asking for a rate increase.  As someone who grew up in rural areas where cesspits and outhouses were the only options, I place a high value on flushing toilets and safe drinking water.  This is one time I don’t think I’ll protest paying higher taxes.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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Filed under Business Savvy, History

No Going Back

I’m a news junkie and an avid historian so I feel compelled to read the news. I read a variety of sources in print and on-line to get different viewpoints.  Recently, I realized that the headlines are uniformly depressing.

Hate crimes are on the rise.  White supremacists continue their terrorist attacks on women, Jews, immigrants, blacks, school children, and any politician who denounces their racist beliefs.  Democratic governments are under threat around the world as their apathetic voters fail to vote and their elected leaders undermine their own governments for personal gain or to save their political lives.   International alliances are being sabotaged by politicians with dubious agendas, breaking down the support system that has saved us for 70 years from another world war.

But then I saw a news story that broke through the gloom.  Three cities just elected black mayors: Montgomery, Alabama, Danville, Virginia, and Richmond, Virginia.  What’s the significance?

All three cities were capitals of the Confederate States of America.   The CSA was formed to defend “states’ rights”, meaning the right to continue enslaving black people. White supremacists often wave Confederate flags to show their desire to return to a mythical past unsullied by multiculturalism.

White supremacists, corrupt politicians and haters have always been a part of history.  But on some level they know they can’t win.  Corrupt politicians are always replaced by reformers who strengthen democratic institutions.  The CSA lost the war in 1865 and the white supremacists have been losing the battle against equality since the 1950’s.  Violence is all they have left.

Then I thought of the scene in Stars Wars when Peter Cushing’s character refuses to leave the Death Star.  “Evacuate in our moment of triumph”, he asks a few moments before the Death Star explodes.

The headline stories about terrorism, failing democracies, and hate are like the Death Star just before it explodes.  Behind those grim headlines are a fresh batch of Luke Skywalkers, taking aim at government corruption, terrorist massacres, and the haters.  They are the types of people who just elected black mayors in three cities that were a symbol of a dead past.

There’s no going back.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Happy New Year: Asking for Forgiveness

Rosh-Hashanah-pomagranite

As I sit writing this month’s post, I am in a contemplative mood.  The Jewish High Holidays are around the corner, in fact as of the publication date, it is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  And the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, are also called “The Days of Awe.”  These are the holiest days for us and an opportunity to reflect on the past year, to take stock of ourselves and our lives and to think about how we can grow into better versions of ourselves in the coming year.

One of the most important things we do at this time is to ask forgiveness of those we’ve wronged or hurt during the year.  It is customary to do this in person but in these days of electronic communication, many accomplish this task via social media.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe it is always appropriate to ask forgiveness in whatever fashion is available.  But much like sending an email thank you note, to me it falls in the “better than nothing,” category.  In other words, not as personal and seems like the easy way out.  But…better than nothing.  There is also the mandate that if you are the person who is being asked for forgiveness, that you must try to accept.  If, after three attempts you cannot accept, the person doing the asking is “off the hook,” so to speak.

Why all this focus on forgiveness being asked for and granted?  I don’t have a rabbinic answer, but I do have my answer.  To be honest, I have a very difficult time admitting when I’m wrong.  I know I inherited this from my dad and try as I might, it’s probably the thing I struggle with the hardest in relationships (ask my husband for more on that).  But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that admitting you’ve been wrong and asking for forgiveness is one of the strongest things a person can do.  Taking responsibility for our actions, I believe, is fundamental to fostering and maintaining healthy relationships.  Not only that, but granting forgiveness when asked is also fundamental.  These behaviors serve to level the playing field between people.  Recognizing our basic, common humanity, moving beyond our mistakes and even loving each other in spite of it all is perhaps the trickiest, and yet, most rewarding thing in a relationship.

This coming year, I hope to become better at admitting when I’m wrong, asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness to others.  And while I can’t actually ask each of you in person, I’ll take advantage of this forum to ask for forgiveness if I’ve hurt or wronged you in any way.  To those I can ask in person, stay tuned.  And to everyone, here’s wishing a happy, healthy and sweet New Year, whatever your faith, tradition, practice or belief.  Because who couldn’t use a little more happy, healthy and sweet?

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Plastics.

‘Trash islands’ off Central America indicate ocean pollution problem

“Floating masses of garbage off some of the Caribbean’s pristine beaches offer grim evidence of a vast and growing problem of plastic waste heedlessly dumped in the ocean, local residents, activists and experts say. These “trash islands” have been captured in images by photographer Caroline Power, who lives on Honduran island of Roatan.” This, from Phys.org.

I know it’s depressing, but, people, we’ve got to talk about this. We have created a debacle probably much worse than any war – and in a VERY short time. This is something that is universally affecting us, all of us.

I met up with some old friends of mine recently. One friend is a Marine Biologist in Florida involved in Ocean studies. We got into a conversation about the plastic problem she is studying. She told me that they have found micro plastics in the bottom of the ocean. The bottom of the ocean! If you’ve seen the 60 Minutes exposé on plastic, then you are probably as mortified as I am. In that documentary, they talked about the introduction of plastic items into our lives. Commercials touting the wonders of plastic, which, by the way, (in case you don’t know) is a petroleum product, and stating excitedly that “it will last forever!” Yes, indeed it will. It is proving itself so. Obviously, no one considered the consequences of such a material and we have embraced it in nearly every aspect of our lives. 60 Minutes Overtime offers more.

Who remembers the 1967 movie The Graduate? The elder corporate guy at the party wrapped his arm around the shoulder of young Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and advised, “Plastics, son. Plastics.” Hmm…

According  to an article from National Geographic, “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Marine debris is litter that ends up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. The patch is actually comprised of the Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California. These areas of spinning debris are linked together by the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, located a few hundred kilometers north of Hawaii. This convergence zone is where warm water from the South Pacific meets up with cooler water from the Arctic. The zone acts like a highway that moves debris from one patch to another.

About 54 percent of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia. The remaining 20 percent of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from boaters, offshore oil rigs, and large cargo ships that dump or lose debris directly into the water. The majority of this debris—about 705,000 tons—is fishing nets. More unusual items, such as computer monitors and LEGOs, come from dropped shipping containers.

While many different types of trash enter the ocean, plastics make up the majority of marine debris for two reasons. First, plastic’s durability, low cost, and malleability mean that it’s being used in more and more consumer and industrial products. Second, plastic goods do not biodegrade but instead, break down into smaller pieces. In the ocean, the sun breaks down these plastics into tinier and tinier pieces, a process known as photodegradation. Most of this debris comes from plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, and Styrofoam cups.”

From Wikipedia: “It is estimated that approximately “100 million tons of plastic are generated [globally] each year”, and about 10% of that plastic ends up in the oceans. The United Nations Environmental Program recently estimated that “for every square mile of ocean”, there are about “46,000 pieces of plastic”. The small fibers of wood pulp found throughout the patch are “believed to originate from the thousands of tons of toilet paper flushed into the oceans daily”. The patch is believed to have increased “10-fold each decade” since 1945.”

More from National Geographic; ‘Huge Garbage Patch Found in Atlantic Too’

“Akin to the Texas-size garbage patch in the Pacific, a massive trash vortex has formed from billion of bits of plastic congregating off North America’s Atlantic coast, researchers say. The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia (see a U.S. map).

‘Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. ‘But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic.’

As with the Pacific garbage patch, plastic can circulate in this part of the Atlantic Ocean for years, posing health risks to fish, seabirds, and other marine animals that accidentally eat the litter.”

Many years ago, I read the 1976 novel Woman On The Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy. It is an intense commentary on many aspects of 70’s society as seen through the experiences of the book’s heroine who “communicates” with “a figure from the future.” I was struck when I read it, and, in my recollected words, I offer the thought that has stuck with me to you now; On one “visit” to this “figure’s” Utopian world, the heroine asks where they throw away their garbage. Perplexed by the idea, the reply is, “Throw away? How can you throw something away? The world is round.”

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit.  Thanks!

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The Stupidity of Unintended Consequences

I recently saw a news article about a federal criminal prosecution in Arizona that reminded me of an unwritten law which should be called The Stupidity of Unintended Consequences. Or to put it another way, short term thinking will rise up and bite you.

In the Arizona case, Scott Warren was accused of conspiring to harbor and transport illegal aliens, a crime carrying a 20-year prison sentence.  Mr. Warren spends a lot of time hiking in the Arizona desert. During his backcountry hikes, he has buried the bodies of individuals, most likely illegal aliens, who died in the desert from dehydration or starvation after becoming lost.  He was prosecuted for helping a couple of illegal aliens avoid that fate.

The case is currently in limbo after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.  The prosecutors must decide soon whether to start over with a new trial.  They have already watched their case boondoggle once due to the Stupidity of Unintended Consequences.

The unintended consequences began back in 1993 with a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  This law was originally intended to carve out a narrow religious exemption to federal drug laws that would allow the Native American Church to use peyote during their services.   The RFRA prohibits the federal government from creating a substantial burden on an individual’s religious freedom unless the government has a compelling interest to do so.

In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court said the RFRA applied to the states. The states began passing their own unique versions of the federal law based on the culture wars.  Most of the state versions of the RFRA allow conservative Christians (and so far only Christians) to ignore or break anti-discrimination laws they don’t like in the name of religious freedom.

In Mr. Warren’s case, his supporters argued that the RFRA protected him from prosecution because he followed his conscience and a higher authority in giving aid and comfort to the illegal aliens.  Although unsuccessful, the argument was apparently sufficient to cause the trial to end in a hung jury.

The irony is extraordinary.  A law intended to reduce discrimination is now the basis upon which a segment of the population is authorized to discriminate.  Liberals are now embracing a law they once loathed in order to support Mr. Warren.  And Mr. Warren would probably be a convicted criminal today if the religious right had thought about the long-term consequences of ignoring Jesus’ commandment to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That’s the Stupidity of Unintended Consequences.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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The Power of False Doctrines

 

The earth does not revolve around the sun, proclaimed the Catholic Church leaders in the 1633 trial of Galileo Galilei.  Galileo was on trial for heresy, accused of reinterpreting the Bible which was forbidden. If convicted he would be executed.

Galileo had scientific proof that the earth revolved around the sun. The Church leaders had their own experts who cited the Bible and Church doctrine to support their earth-centric theory.  Why did the Church leaders cling to their false doctrine long after it was proven to be false?

The Catholic Church faced an existential threat in the 17th century on two fronts. On the scientific front, experiments conducted by European scholars were exposing fallacies in Church doctrines.  Meanwhile, the Protestant Reformation challenged the religious authority of the Catholic Church by exposing the Church’s corruption.

If the Catholic Church admitted that Protestants were right about corruption and Galileo was right about the earth’s orbit, what else was it getting wrong?

The Catholic Church leaders reacted as anyone would who faces a loss of prestige and therefore power.  They ordered Galileo to stop experimenting and to not talk about his discoveries on pain of death. Protestants were tortured and murdered in a forlorn effort to stop the spread of their teachings. The Church clung to its discredited doctrines in hopes of preserving its power, only to find its power and authority permanently diminished.

Now let’s fast forward to today’s debate about climate change.

The climate change deniers have staked their personal and professional reputations on the idea that climate change is a hoax. Over the years, several administrations and Congress have ordered government agencies to stop collecting and publishing data that might undermine their arguments denying climate change. They intimidate their opponents by withholding government research dollars.

Climate deniers face the same existential threat that the Catholic Church faced less than 400 years ago. If they are wrong about climate change, what else are they getting wrong?  Since the climate change debate is now inextricably entwined into our political debates, climate deniers fear an irreversible decline in power and authority.

The fear of lost prestige and power keeps doctrines alive long after they are proven to be false.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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A Confluence of Commemorative Events

On Saturday, Passover begins and Jews around the world will commemorate their liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt.  On Sunday, Christians will celebrate Easter Sunday, remembering the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Saturday is also the anniversary of the 1889 birth of Adolf Hitler.  Neo-Nazis will surely celebrate this event with a stream of hate and rage at their “enemies”.  The confluence of these events leads to reflection on the world that was and the one we live in today.

In 1933, the world was in the middle of the Great Depression and German democracy was weak, similar to some of today’s eastern European countries or Central American countries.   Weak government coalitions fought incessantly, oligarchs fought to preserve their economic privileges and political extremists fought in the streets.

Then an opportunist appeared promising law and order, the restoration of national pride and economic prosperity.  In 1933, as in any year, most people were not political extremists. But after watching the career politicians bicker themselves into deadlock, they were willing to vote for a political outsider while ignoring his hooligan supporters and his more outrageous rhetoric.

Besides, rhetoric that blamed an enemy whether Jews (Nazi Germany), democratic Western Europe (Putin’s Russia), Imperialist America (Nicolaus Maduro’s Venezuela), or Jews, Muslims, blacks, Hispanics, women and independent journalists (today’s America), made sense to people who were angry.  Angry people want to lash out against their perceived impotent inability to change their circumstances.

All they need to fan their sense of injustice is a seemingly strong leader blathering hate that feeds their anger. But populists aren’t strong; they are cowardly schoolyard bullies. They incite others to violence. They stay in power as long as they can shower their closest associates with money and privileges. Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria) and Omar al-Bashir (Sudan) were recently deposed when they could no longer guarantee wealth and privilege to their inner circles.

Today’s populists will cause untold misery before they too burn out. But they will fade away because hate is a dead end.  As people around the world celebrate the confluence of this weekend’s commemorative events, it’s important to remember that two of those celebrations are of hope.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Telling Time

We recently adjusted our clocks to spring forward into daylight savings time.  This annual ritual reminded me of the cultural assumptions that underpin how we tell time.  What year is it?

In the western or Christian European tradition, it is 2019 AD. The AD is Latin for “in the year of our Lord” and is based on the birth year of Jesus. Of course, no one really knows when Jesus was born so early church leaders simply selected a year.  The centuries of human activity pre-dating the birth of Jesus were dubbed Before Christ (BC).

These designations are being replaced with the Common Era (CE) and Before the Common Era (BCE).  These terms were first used in the 17th and 18th centuries by European scholars of the Enlightenment who wanted to remove overtly religious symbolism from scientific study.  Today CE and BCE usually signify an attempt to be more culturally inclusive.

For observant Jews, we are currently living in Year 5779.  This date was calculated by rabbinic scholars who added up the ages of people in the Bible back to the time of creation.  Rabbinic scholars know the universe is older than 5700 years but establishing the age of the universe is not their goal. Their goal is measuring time from the beginning of Judaism.

Muslims base their calendar on a traumatic event in the life of Prophet Mohammed.  In the Christian year of 622 AD/CE, the Prophet Mohammed fled from persecution in Mecca and moved to Medina. This event is known as the “hijra” or emigration and every year since is designated as “after Hijra” (AH).  In the Hijri calendar, we are living in 1440 AH.

Whether Christian, Jew, or Muslim, our calendars are linear, anchored to a designated point in time.  For the Chinese, time is cyclical following a 12-year zodiac cycle. This is currently the Year of the Pig.  This calendar system is credited to the emperor Qin Shi Huang who unified China and founded the Qin dynasty in 246 BCE.  He is best known today for his magnificent terracotta army that guards his tomb.

When we tell time, we immediately signal to others our cultural affiliations and assumptions. Accepting these differences makes the world a much more intriguing and exciting place.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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