Whatever Floats Your Boat…
By Jim Kuiken
MERRY CHRISTMAS! Happy Hanukah! These are the ones you hear a lot nowadays…but let’s look at a more complete incomplete list of “multi-cultural” December celebrations:
Everyone says America is the melting pot, and we all just have to get along. Not true. America is not a melting pot, and I don’t believe it ever was. It’s a stew pot…all the ingredients are dumped together in one pot, and it’s supposed to turn out pretty tasty – even though most of the ingredients don’t “melt”, but stay intact as separate ingredients (like potatoes, chunks of meat, etc). Anyone who cooks or who has ever eaten knows that’s not always true. Sometimes it doesn’t taste good at all, and sometimes it can even make you sick. Different people like different ingredients, and different cultures tend to clump together in pockets of ethnic identity.
So how do we please everyone? Should we hang on tight to the Judeo-Christian founding origins of the United States? Should we go with the flow of the changing face of America, and the cultures that have been incorporated…or at least, that are present…in the United States today?
Too deep for me. And that is a decision that each individual will have to make for themselves anyway, because we all will never agree on that front.
So what about Christmas? It is a national holiday. Do we do away with it, change it to something else, hold to the traditions?
I can’t speak for you, but here’s me…
I’m going to tell you Merry Christmas, unless I know you don’t celebrate it, because that’s the way I was raised. I will NOT be offended if you tell me Happy Hanukah, Festive Kwanza, Happy Winter Solstice, or anything else that shows that you are sincere in wishing me and mine a happy holiday.
What I really want you to know during this holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day) is that for me it is a time of honoring and remembering the past, and looking forward to a bright new year, and I hope it is for all of you, and that you enjoy the holidays that you celebrate.
For those of you who are angry or just contrary and don’t want that, or just have to be offended by the season and happy people, my wish for you is that you be able to let it go, let any anger or bitterness you may feel be replaced by peace and joy. Enjoy the spirit of the season, even if it is for a different holiday than mine, and respect others as they do you. If you insist on being offended, please see my post from December 9th.
All the rest of you (including those of you who are alone or hurting this year, know that I’m thinking of you in particular), I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Sincerely (and I actually mean sincerely)
Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo
You Cannot Think “Outside the Box”
By Jim Kuiken
You see commercials with people in front of blackboards, or standing inside a box, and their boss is asking for an innovative solution…and one guy steps outside the box. Another one tries, but gets intimidated and stays inside, while the rest of the “sheeple” (latest fad term) stand there inside the box looking uncomfortable or confused.
You’ve heard it on TV, in the social media, in office conversations, strategy sessions, in class, or just in general conversation. “You have to think outside the box!” Everyone thinks you need to think outside the box.
So what does that mean? It means that the increasingly stale fad is to talk about thinking outside the box…and since everyone is saying that, then thinking outside the box is being inside the box…
What the heck is “the box”? And why do I have to think outside of it? Someone coined that phrase to get someone else to think innovatively, look for new solutions rather than stay with conventional thinking. The very idea that you have to think in terms that use standard thinking as the reference point flies in the very face of innovation.
Do you think the Tesla thought outside the box? Einstein? Hawking? Sheldon? Your crazy aunt with a gypsy dress and an antenna headband? Nope.
When I decided to run for US Congress in Texas during the 2011-2012 campaign season, I put together a team to help me run, develop strategy, manage the campaign, etc. What I didn’t do was to ask them what platform I should run on. That was my responsibility, and was actually the very reason I ran – because of what I believed in, and a strong desire to better the lives of the people in the 15th Congressional District in Texas.
I had to decide which of the established political parties to run in, or to declare myself an Independent. My purpose in running was to win, so going independent was not a winning strategy. The two main parties were the ones that would have the base and recognition to garner enough votes to win an election.
So…the Democrat party (and yes, it’s Democrat…not “democratic” party – since both parties are democratic), or the Republican party.
As a constitutional conservative with Libertarian leanings, and some social views that mirrored some from the Democrats, and some government and defense views that conformed to the Republicans…and even a little Green party view thrown in just for fun…, what was I?
I ran as a Republican, because the bulk of my views lined up, or came close to that party’s platform, but openly expressed my personal views on any subject during the campaign – and we built a very strong following by being “just Jim”.
When folks from outside the campaign would talk about all the innovative solutions and say that we really thought “outside the box”, I would smile and say thank you.
When the campaign staff would talk about “outside the box”, I would stop them, and say…“What box? There is no box!”
That’s the whole point! To accept the concept of a box, and having to think outside of the box, is to accept someone else’s definition and restrictions – to place yourself inside their box so you can then “think outside the box”.
Those innovative thinkers I mentioned did not think outside the box. They did not recognize the concept of restrictions based on someone else’s definition. They had no pre-conceived restrictions to break out of…they were unfettered thinkers, limited only by their own imagination.
“Kuiken, you’re a weird dude…” Do you know how many times I’ve heard that? All my life. “Where do you come up with all this stuff?” “What the heck are you doing now?” And one of my favorites, “Kuiken, you’re crazy.” Probably all true, but I’ve been highly successful in almost every venture I’ve ever been involved with – the military, public service, international diplomacy, corporate leadership, etc.
When it comes to dealing with serious issues, solving problems, developing winning strategies, and being successful…who are those individuals people turn to? Those who don’t “think outside the box”. Those who do not accept other people’s restrictions and concepts of how to think or innovate.
Don’t let conventional thinking box you in. As Neo learned…don’t try to bend the spoon. There is no spoon…
Splinters and Factions and Groups, Oh My!
By Jim Kuiken
It seems like you can’t go five minutes without hearing about or seeing someone claim that something is “offensive” nowadays. You see it on Facebook especially, but also on many other outlets…even national news broadcasts. Someone is always offended about something.
It’s racist. It’s reverse racism. It’s male chauvinism. It’s feminazis. It’s homophobic. It’s a red cup. It’s a nativity scene. It’s the name of a sports team. People not speaking English in the US. People not making accommodations for other cultures. God. Allah. Atheism. Christians. Muslims. Jews. Fascist Conservatives. Communist Liberals. Etc, etc, etc…(ad nauseam).
I get it that words matter. I also get it that words and actions are offensive to people and groups. Sometimes (and probably more now than ever), they are intended to be that way. You’ve all seen the “trolls” on various social networking sites…just sitting there waiting for someone to say something or express opinions so they can jump out from under the bridge and say something offensive to get everyone riled up. Some do it for fun, but it is my opinion that most do it for attention. That’s sad, that they feel so worthless that they need the attention, even negative attention… I ignore them and let them crawl back under their nasty little bridge.
It’s ironic that the very culture, the very laws, and the very constitution that gives those rights to speak freely – and the very people who step up to defend those rights for all in the United States are also found offensive by people who live under those protections.
It’s as if by ensuring the rights to freedom and free speech, we implant a self-destruct mechanism that allows for those free people to openly express themselves and act in a way that brings about the destruction of that very system.
Well…that’s the way it rolls. Under our system, we are allowed to express our opinions, even if they offend someone else – and they will.
It also appears that the very fabric of our society is fracturing and splintering into many increasingly divergent groups, moving farther and farther away from each other – and increasingly hostile to other’s opinions and positions. The liberals seem to be more liberal (or progressive), the conservatives seem to be more conservative (or regressive), and the middle is more and more isolated from the extremes. And each of these splinters and factions and groups is more and more vocal and strident with their rhetoric. Many are becoming hateful, directing nasty personal attacks against those they don’t agree with, rather than debating or discussing the policies, issues and philosophies.
This leads to a whole lotta folks being “offended”. That seems to be the big thing, as if not being offended is a right. “That’s offensive” or “I find that offensive” is supposed to squash the opposition, stop them in their tracks. Since when does someone have the right to not be offended?
If you can stop other’s opinions and arguments by being “offended”, and they then have no right to express that opinion, that’s curtailing free speech. The very first amendment to the constitution guarantees that right of free speech.
Political correctness does not trump the right of free speech…although it seems to be doing so at an alarmingly ever-increasing rate. On college campuses. On social media. On many news media outlets. In public. On comedy shows. Hell (oops…sorry, didn’t mean to offend you), just about everywhere!
The antidote to that is multi-layered. Do not allow others to squash your free speech (expressing opinions) by enforcing Political Correctness over your 1st Amendment Rights. Do not deliberately offend others, but do not shy away from meaningful discussions.
I don’t like foul language in public. There is no place for nasty language in a normal conversation, especially in public areas. Others may feel differently. I find it uncouth and ignorant. Use respectful language with others. That does not preclude you from making your point – sometimes vehemently.
I believe in discussing policies, beliefs, cultures, and pretty much anything…I do NOT believe in attacking the person expressing their beliefs, or in using deliberately foul or offensive language in those discussions. That shuts down any meaningful dialogue, and ensures a permanent divide.
Other people offend me all the time. I don’t jump up and say “that’s offensive”, with my lower lip pushed out in a pout, and feeling all hurt. If it’s not worth my time, I ignore it and move on – which is the majority of the time. If I disagree in a substantive way, or feel the need to voice my opposition, then I speak up. At the substance of the statement, argument, opinion, etc…not at the person themselves. If someone directly attacks me intending to do harm, I defend myself or my opinion. I don’t back off, cower or whine because I’m “offended”.
Am I going to offend some people? Absolutely. Am I going to do it deliberately? Absolutely not. But I am not going to hide my opinion, beliefs, or anything else because I might offend someone or not be politically correct. If someone is offended, they can bring it to my attention, and we can talk about it in a civilized, rational way. If they don’t like that, I don’t care. Grow the (“h” word again…sorry) up.
The long and short of it is, if I offend someone we can talk it out, they can suck it up and move on, or they can petulantly tell me “that’s offensive”, expecting me to kowtow to the almighty PC. The first two work for me. Not so much the third.