By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
“If you hire me, I am going to give 110 percent to my work!” “I am behind you 110 percent.” Do you ever wonder what people mean when they say that? Back in the day, before new, fuzzy math became the law of the land, when you had 100 percent, you had it all. If I had a pie, and I told you I was going to give you 100 percent of my pie, that meant when I gave you the pie; I would have no pie left. I would be pie-less. If I had pie after I gave you the pie, then it would be evident to you that I didn’t really give you 100 percent of the pie. And, if I told you that I had pie left over after telling you that I gave you 100 percent, then you would question my math or tell me that we are not talking about the same pie. By the way, I would never offer you my whole my pie.
I have a theory about the fuzzy math that causes us to be able to exceed the limits of normalcy. Part of it is that we have become a society of credit. As people and institutions began to realize that there was money to made in lending money, the reality of “once you spend your last penny, you are at 0 percent of your spending ability” no longer held. You could literally borrow against your future income (and your assets) and people began to look at spending power based on what they earned plus what they could borrow. Credit cards allowed you to spend beyond 100 percent. The standard used to be spending only what you have. The new rule is spending to the limit of your present and future economic worth.
In school, educators encountered students who needed extra help to pass their grade course work. In the old days, if you couldn’t pass it the first time, you failed (or to be politically correct, you didn’t succeed) and would come back to try, try again. So, they came up with “extra credit” projects for those who didn’t, wouldn’t, or couldn’t pass the material that most of the kids could pass. The kids who didn’t actually pass could do the extra credit work to pull their grades up to the standard met by most of their classmates. The extra credit material would usually be less difficult than the standard course work, but educators would “offset” the lack of complexity with volume. More work at a lower level would equal the same achievement. But, the educators created another monster for themselves. The kids who were already doing the course work and making “100” or “A” on their assignments were also completing the extra credit assignments. To justify their system, educators then had to “reward” those students. Those students (and their parents) felt entitled to some special recognition for their kid for going above and beyond. So, students began to get “105” or “A++” on their work. The standard used to be “do the course work” to pass the grade. The new standard is that if you cannot pass the established criteria, a more comfortable standard will be set for you.
With signals from society that there are loose or no standards to achieve, we are creating generations who are inept at time management, prioritizing, and goal setting. Indeed, there are exceptions, but the rule of the modern day is to resist organization and do your own thing. In other words, the rule of the day is that there are no rules.
From the world society to our tribal community, we struggle with the thought of an ethical code and moral standard. Notice the battle between political factions within our own Qualla Boundary. Without fail, someone on the far extreme of any side will blurt out a comment to the effect of “God knows I am right, and he is on my side” as a statement that declares that they have the moral high ground. These statements are usually made while they are calling the other side some of the ugliest names in the book and accusing them of wrongdoing. I often wonder how God reacts to this type of “using His name in vain” because two factions holding opposite sides of an argument are claiming the backing of the supreme being and cannot both be right. And, if I read my scripture right, God doesn’t take sides. He has his own side, and it doesn’t involve pettiness and conflict.
We, in the media, have played a role in bringing our society to what it is today. We create headlines and stories based on what will entice you to read, so what many of my colleagues will do is find the most sensational, most controversial tidbit of information, and expound on it. Sourcing of information for news editors is a tricky business and an area of news reporting that is easily manipulated. For example, statistical analysis is often twisted. A situation may look good or bad at the discretion of the person selecting which statistics to present. Government agencies are characteristically reluctant to share information, especially information that would put them in a negative light, so reporters will resort to getting information from ancillary informants who are not able to provide firsthand or official information but are willing to speak on the issue to the reporter. After speaking with several informants, a reporter may cherry pick their information to spice up their article. The old saying has borne out to be accurate; every piece of gossip and rumor has a bit of truth in it. Unfortunately, some media outlets have sacrificed the truth and their ethical standard for the increases in readership and additional revenue that an enticing headline will bring.
We live in a time when it is difficult to know where you stand because the moral landscape is so treacherous and confusing. Respect for authority is almost nonexistent because we are led to believe that there are no absolutes, and group goals and standards are okay as long as it doesn’t “harsh my buzz”. If an action conflicts with my individual opinions and lifestyle, then it must be evil, and I need to start an action committee to eliminate the possibility of me having to do it and taking away the privilege of doing it from anybody else.
The one old-time philosophy that has easily survived the chaos of this new normal is hate. There seems to be no end to our ability to express hate. Even those who claim to be open-minded and want everyone to enjoy life are quick to go into hate mode when the right buzz word, catchphrase, or image is placed in front of them. We live in a society of extremes, especially when it comes to hate. There are no longer degrees of disagreement. We can have a variance of the smallest degree on an issue between us, and it is enough reason for red hot hatred. The only trendy team sport in the political arena seems to be grudge-holding. When you commit a perceived act of malice or aggression toward someone, you create a feeling of resentment and hate that may last for decades and be communicated down through generations. We all want our government to be one that is thinking and moving forward for a better today and tomorrow for our people. Hatred and grudges are the ball and chain that slow down and stop the progress that we all seek.
A famous saying back in the day, and my brother loves to use it our weekend discussions on his front porch, is that there are always three sides in any argument. There is my side, your side, and then there is the truth, which usually lies somewhere in the middle. I think sometimes we are too morally and ethically deficient to see the truth that lies right before us; the common ground that we all say that we seek. If we can somehow find our way back to understanding that, we may find a way to put down our hatred. We will not say “I love you” out of one side of our mouths and “I loathe you” out of the other side. We, each of us individually, must make a conscious choice to stop it. We must admit that we have been led by societal norms to believe that there is no moral or ethical standard, but our self-created standards and they are causing us to hate. We must genuinely desire to get back to a real feeling of community and a universal moral code that our ancestors valued above all else. I am committed to it, and, if you are too, I will back you 110 percent.