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Professionally Speaking….

It is hard to bear the degradation of our language and the use of certain words or phrases due to the intrusion of popular media or so-called pop culture. Soon those subtle changes become embedded and even make their way into the dictionary of the day. One striking example of this is the modern use and abuse of the word “profession” or “professional”.

Historically, there have been only four recognized professions. That agreed consensus goes back for centuries. They are: doctor, lawyer, teacher and preacher. Those are the professions. Those are the only true professionals. Today all manner of folks are called or self-described as professionals. We have professional athletes, professional plumbers and hair stylists. At least we do as they are depicted by the media. Merely appending that word as an adjective to their work or trade does not make them professionals.

The best definition of profession or professional was given by a law school professor some time ago. He stated it was a calling requiring specialized skill and academic training; it was a calling that benefitted society generally and not merely the practitioner; it was practiced because of a passion for the calling and the compensation was coincidental to the calling. Sure there are doctors, lawyers, teachers and preachers who don’t live up to that standard but that doesn’t diminish the standard. This definition does not demean the work or worth of other callings, trades or labor. When I have a leaky water line I sure want a really good plumber to come fix it for me. I want my car to have been assembled correctly and with competence by the people on the assembly line. I enjoy watching some athletes perform on the football field or the golf course but none of that enjoyment or appreciation makes what they do a profession and they are not professionals.

Sinclair Lewis made a pretty good career writing about several of the professions. He covered three of them with Arrowsmith (doctor), Gideon Planish (teacher) and Elmer Gantry (preacher). All those characters certainly had their flaws just as he did with his own life. It is sad to think that such a good mind and great talent was squandered by his alcoholism which eventually killed him. I suppose some of us are too idealistic for our own good. No doubt many see nothing wrong with using the phrase “professional” when describing their car mechanic. I hate to see the erosion in our language and the precision it offers but we often ignore.

For every miserable lawyer around we must also recall that our history is replete with ones who advanced civilization and human progress. Moses was the original lawyer. He in fact is referred to as the “Lawgiver”. Cicero was a lawyer. Charlemagne is remembered for his laws. John
Adams was lawyer. Thomas Jefferson was lawyer. Jonas Salk didn’t get rich off of his discovery of the polio vaccine. He gave it away. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates were all teachers. Billy Graham brought great good and solace to literally millions during his career. Remember him every time you see one of those PTL type money grabbing pulpit thumpers.

At one time or another you have probably used the phrase “False colors” or flying under false colors. It means of course a deception or a deceptive act. It comes from the nautical lexicon. For more centuries than we know, it was common for all navies to use flags to identify themselves and their foes, just as armies wore uniforms that could be recognized by their countrymen so they wouldn’t shoot each other. Sea captains would sometimes fly the flag of another nation as a ruse to get in close and launch a surprise broadside into their opponent. That has been done countless times over the last few centuries by navies of all stripes and the privateers hired by sovereign nations. It happened during the first and second world wars. It was always considered not gentlemanly and not cricket to do that. That is why captains would use their scopes to carefully view any ship approaching them to see if they could detect anything that didn’t match up with the flag (colors) being flown. Even the worse offenders would almost always lower the false flag and rise their true colors right before they opened fire. That way they could maintain that they didn’t take hostile action under “false colors”. http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Some Things I Miss

We have many marvelous gadgets, tools and devices these days to make our lives easier and I enjoy having most of them.  We have changed the way we do business in our personal lives and in industry.  I suppose many of those changes are useful but I am not so sure.   They in theory make our work more efficient and that is true is some instances but might be an impediment in others.  Socially the changes are quite large over the last 60 years and regarding those I have serious doubts as to their social effacacy.  I am not sure we are a better society for the alleged improvements due to social engineering and the brute force of political correctiness.  There are some things from the past that I feel strongly about.  Some gadgets, processes and systems were better then than the replacements that have evolved.  Below I list some of those I miss. 

1. The old school savings account–When I was a child you could save money in your own savings account at a bank at school.  Many of us did that.  You could save literally a nickel or dime or dollar every week in school.  It was a regular part of the home room period.  The amounts were small but it gave a sense of responsibility to the kids.  After a couple of years those nickels and dimes added up to 20 bucks or whatever.  The teacher would help you do the deposit each week.  Wish we still did that.  I wonder if any school districts still have that program?

2. The Series E savings bond–There was a time when you could buy these bonds issued by the Government.  They paid a low rate of return but they were solid and could come in various time frames.  You could get a one year, 5 year or 10 year bond.   They may have had even more of them than that.  They were advertised on the radio, TV, at school and in the papers.  You could buy them at any bank and I believe they were even sold at the post office.  Many a kid got a $10.00 savings bond from old aunt Milly as a birthday gift; they were also popular as a graduation gift from High School.  The Government got the use of the money and the kids learned to delay gratification for a while.  Not a bad thing to learn.   Today everyone seems to think they are entitled to instant gratification for anything they want.

3. The standard 30 year mortgage–You got a loan to buy your house after putting up 15 to 20 per cent down and then that same savings and loan held your mortgage till maturity.  It wasn’t repackaged and sold.  That same s/l also serviced the loan.  They were who you did business with until the mortgage was paid off.  It made them pick good customers and was a very stable if not glamorous industry. 

4.  School leaders–I loved it when the teacher was the boss.  She might be wrong sometimes and overbearing but more often than not she was right and did a pretty good job educating you if you did your part.  They darn sure weren’t glorified babysitters.  They had real authority in the classroom.   If the teacher was the boss, then the principal was God himself.  He ruled the school with an iron fist and had almost total control like the Captain of a ship at sea.   Again, they might have messed up on occasion but not very often.  That authority made us toe the line which is not a bad thing for kids to have to do.   Lots of life is about toeing the line.   Kids were safe at school and you had an education provided and you learned something about authority and how to “play nice” or else you paid the price.

5. Two mail deliveries a day–During my childhood we had a morning delivery of mail then another in the afternoon.  This was true for private residences and businesses.  You could communicate with another business on a same day delivery if the addressee was in your city.  My memory is they stopped doing this in the early ’60’s.  Of course the postmen were much more efficient then.

6. Two daily newspapers–There was a time when every major city and even many mid size cities had at least two major daily newspapers.  Usually one would be a morning paper and the other an evening paper.  Now it appears that newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  So many are already in bankruptcy or in severe financial straits.  I liked having my morning paper, then coming home in the evening to see what the latest news was. 

7. Latin–There was a time when that was the foreign language requirement in most schools.  Some would take Spanish but they were the same guys taking metal and wood shop classes.  If you were on a college prep course then latin was the language you took.  It is great mental exercise and a great way to develop an understanding of Western culture.  Plus it was very useful in learning English and grammar.

8. Posted grades–Today I know lots of folks would faint at the idea of their grades being posted outside the class room for all the world to see.  In our politically correct world it would be anathema.   It might hurt some one’s self esteem.  When I was in college and law school it was de riguer.  Our grades were posted with the exact numerical grade.  Not only that but you would be ranked with you classmates.  If you were at the bottom of the barrel, it was right there for all  the world to see.  In our modern pass/fail world it must seem barbaric to actually let everyone know how you are doing in school.  But facts are facts, you rate where you rate.  It is a competitive world, or at least I think it should be, and truth of your performance is vital information for future employers.

Many may think these are ramblings inspired by nostalgia and maybe some are but I ask you to think about whether some of these old things are an improvement over the “advances” of the last 60 years.

“The first destroyer of the liberties of a people is he who first gave them b0unties and largesses”.  Plutarch.  With our current political envoirnment and the grotesque growth and reach of our Government, I urge you to ponder that quote from a man smarter than you or me.

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