Yesterday, I Learned … III

Yesterday, I thought carnivores in the wild were mean bad guys. The cartoons we watched when we were young depicted lions, sharks, alligators, and bears with such jagged teeth and menacing growls that we all thought they were the bad guys of the wild. As we often do, we confused being scary with being mean or bad. Today I learned that they’re not mean, or bad, they’re just hungry, and like all other animals, they eat when they’re hungry. What they do to their prey, when they eat, might appear scary, but they’re not mean or evil in the manner we define such terms. Regardless what it does to their reputation as a wonderful, beautiful animal, wolves enjoys eating fluffy bunny wabbits. Today I learned that they don’t select their prey based on who’s naughty and nice.

Yesterday I learned that even if the animals at the top of the food chain are not the meanies we thought they were when we were kids, we should still consider doing everything we can to avoid one in the wild. After watching videos that contain animals biting humans, nature lovers qualify it by saying, “We are not on their diet.” The nature lovers then provide a number of theories regarding how these particular incidents often involve nothing more than a case of mistaken identity. These theories are true, of course, as most animals in the wild or in the ocean have never witnessed a human, and self-preservation is more important to animals than eating in most cases. Most of the time, most animals will pass on anything unfamiliar if they think they could get hurt in the process. Some of the times, they’re so hungry that they’re willing to eat anything that moves, especially if it moves slower than other prey.

Most animals don’t know what a human is, and that’s why they fear us, but we are also a point of curiosity for them too. Thus, when they see us walking around in their domain, or floating on the surface, they’re curious, and that curiosity is almost exclusive to considering whether they should consider adding us to their diet. Yet, seeing, hearing, and smelling something unfamiliar might not be enough to satisfy their curiosity, and they obviously cannot communicate with us, so their last resort is to try tasting us to try to figure out what we are to see if they might want to start adding us to their diet.

The nature lovers further their argument by opening up the belly of a bull shark. “When we open up the belly of a bull shark, we find everything from license plates to cans of paint to packs of cigarettes. They’ll eat anything they see floating on the surface of the water, even if it is a human on a surfboard.” Translation: They do not intend to devour us. They’re just curious. They just want to taste us to see what we are. I see them working here. I know they’re trying to relieve our fears about sharks, and in turn preserve the shark population, and I know wild animals are not bad or mean in the context humans define the terms, but it does not comfort me to know that all they want to do is taste me. If I happen upon one of these carnivorous beasts, and it’s clear that all they want to do is taste me, I’m still going to do whatever I can to get away. If that fails, I’m probably going to shoot it, because I have to imagine that even though they’re just tasting me, it’s still going to hurt like the dickens.

Yesterday I learned that I’m an old fogey. I don’t use hip, chic, or en vogue terms when I’m excited. My vocabulary consists of phrases I’ve said my whole life, and I’m old now, so some of my terms are outdated. Today, I tried using what others consider modern terminology, and I decided I don’t mind being an old fogey.    

Yesterday I learned that conventional wisdom plus uniformity equals conformity.

Yesterday I learned that the basis for our confusion with most people is a result of assigning our thoughts and thought patterns to them. It’s a little easier to spot when we do it to animals and kids, but some of the times, we accidentally do it to adults. Our world is all about our viewpoints and patterns, whether we care to admit it or not. Everyone we know thinks the same way we do, and they act the way we act. When others follow the first two steps of our process, we’re confused when they take a different third step. Today, I realized that to understand other people we need to remove ourselves from the equation. By doing so, we might minimize our confusion by learning how, and why, others think the way they do. It’s not as simple as it sounds, but it’s not that complicated either.

Yesterday, I learned to judge not lest ye be judged, and that we should be careful not to judge others until we put ourselves in their shoes. In other words, try to think as others might in a given situation. The problem with ridding our lives of all judgment is that we’re defining and redefining our own sense of morality on a perpetual basis. If we were in the same situation as the subject of the story, would we act in the same immoral way? Nobody wants to have another accuse them of being a hypocrite, but we have to learn from our errors and the errors of others. If we absolve others of immoral acts, is it our goal to receive the same absolution from them? Lady luck plays a role for some of us, as we’ve been able to avoid humiliation and tragedy. Perhaps we should amend the line and say, “We should use the lessons others learn to enhance our own life, but we should not judge them too harshly when they choose a different path, or end up on a different one due to circumstances they either can’t control or have trouble doing so.”

Yesterday, I learned that a huge corporation paid very little in taxes. Today, I learned that we should all be upset about this. Why do we care what anyone else, corporation or otherwise, pays in taxes? Why do we care what another person pays at a restaurant, in a drug store, or at a casino? It’s none of our business. If this corporation did something illegal, the IRS and the market will punish them, but if that doesn’t occur, the matter should be between the taxpayer and the IRS. Most of the critics qualify their disgust with, “I’m not suggesting that the corporation did anything illegal, but c’mon.” Unless we’re shareholders, or prospective shareholders, we shouldn’t care how much the corporation is worth, what kind of profits they make, or how much they pay in taxes. Nobody is saying that corporations shouldn’t report their tax returns, or that the media shouldn’t publish those records, but the general sense of outrage seems misguided. Rather than focus our outrage on the percentage of taxes a corporation pays, we should redirect the focus of our outrage on the percentage of our taxes that the federal government wastes, in fraud and abuse.

The inference critics make is that either the corporation cheated in some way, or the IRS turns a blind eye when it has the taxes of Big Corporations before them. Anyone who knows anything about the public sector versus private sector mentality knows that public sector lawyers and accountants pine for the day when they can beat a team of private sector tax lawyers and accountants at the game. The corporation’s accountants and lawyers also know that any attempt they make to cheat or defraud the government will form the lede of every news outlet and do great damage to the reputation of the corporation. Until someone can show us how anyone paying more in taxes benefits us, or the country, we should ignore these stories, because they’re none of our business. These stories are largely between the corporation and the IRS.