Pedaling for Peace

On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

“You Get What You Play For!” - 2016

Although I have tried hard not to get sucked into the ongoing dramas of Election 2016, I have enough friends who are posting about it on Facebook and Twitter, and the topic has come up in the break room at work as well, so that my efforts to resist have been futile. This morning I awoke with my brain generating ideas that I felt needed to be shared, so here I am, sharing them, in spite of my resistance. 

Back in 2014 I wrote a post here entitled, “You Get What You Play For!” In it I made a distinction between what I called a “Social Moral Code” and an “Individual Biological Moral Code”.  As an example, one could say that “The Ten Commandments” are a type of social moral code in that they establish certain rules regarding how people should interact with one another (and with “God”).

By contrast, an “Individual Biological Moral Code” only applies to individuals. I proposed that the "rules" of such a “code” might be, “If it feels good do it!” and “Survival of the fittest!”

If you take, for instance, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” from “The Ten Commandments,” it’s pretty easy to understand how this applies in a “society” or “community” of people:  For very primal reasons, as well as for legal ones (regarding the transfer of property to one’s legitimate/blood-related offspring), both husbands and wives might take issue at having a third person’s DNA brought into that mix!  Resulting interpersonal conflicts could in turn be disruptive to the stability of the affected families and to the larger community. In fact, seven of the ten commandments address issues of interpersonal and community relationships. That’s what makes “The Ten Commandments” a type of “Social Moral Code”. Contrast that with, “If it feels good do it!” and the distinctions are clear. Whether married or not, if it “feels good” for me to have sex with another person, so be it! 

Furthermore, if it “feels good” for me to drink until I’m so intoxicated that I can’t see straight, but I want to drive anyway, so be it! If it “feels good” for me to speculate recklessly on the stock market with other people’s money, so be it! If it “feels good” for me to eat my way into disease and disability and expect “the government” to pick up the tab, so be it! If it “feels good” for me to have unprotected sex all the time, with one partner or many, and bear children that I cannot otherwise afford to raise, and expect "the government" to pick up the tab, then so be it! If it “feels good” for me as a man to act in a sexually aggressive way towards women, because it satisfies a deeper biological drive to increase this species’ chances of reproduction, then so be it! The list goes on and on and on, and ALL of these things can be justified as “moral” under an Individual Biological Moral Code, founded on the principle, “If it feels good, do it!”

As I have suggested above, the second principle of this Individual Biological Moral Code is “Survival of the Fittest”. In this culture, “fitness” is usually recognized as celebrity and/or material wealth. Once again, those who achieve greatly in either or both of these categories, no matter how they actually got there, can justify their positions because they are simply “playing by the rules”. There are no greater measures of “fitness” required – like personal integrity, honesty and fairness in one’s business dealings, voluntary care for the health and welfare of one’s employees, let alone members of the larger whole of society. Consequently, just like in the natural world, this adherence to an Individual Biological Moral Code leads to a highly skewed distribution curve with a few “apex predators” at the top and the vast majority of “feeder species” comprising the bottom of the curve. It should come as no surprise then, that that is exactly what the "wealth distribution curve" looks like for our society!

Nevertheless, if you are thinking it is time for a “revolution” – think twice! If all the “revolutionaries” want to do is Trade Places with the current “apex predators”, without a fundamental change in The Moral Code Itself, then that Distribution Curve Will Not Change! Sure, it might change for a generation, but if we persist with the same Individual Biological Moral Code guiding us, we will eventually be right back where we started!

So it is not the players that have to change, it’s the real, underlying moral code that we've agreed to that has to change. Furthermore, it is my contention that in order to create such a new and better code, we first have to come to an agreement that a) Human Beings are SOCIAL not Solitary creatures, and b) Our ability to function cooperatively with larger and larger groups of individuals has been a hallmark of our evolutionary development. Therefore, an Individual Biological Moral Code WILL NEVER WORK for the Social species that we are! Consequently, we have to develop and agree to a different code, a Social Moral Code.


In his book, Peaceful Revolution: How We Can Create the Future Needed for Humanity’s Survival former Iraq war veteran turned peace activist, Paul K. Chappell, discusses seven “muscles” he feels we need to learn to “exercise” and strengthen in order to create a better future for all of humankind. These “muscles” are as follows: (realistic) hope, empathy/respect, appreciation, conscience, reason, discipline, and curiosity. The development of these muscles helps us develop our full potential as mature human beings, human beings who are capable of interacting more functionally and peacefully with one another.

Along with our own "Bill of Rights" and  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, these could form the basis of a new Social Moral Code.

Another principle to consider is that expressed in the title and elaborated in the book, Extreme Ownership… by Navy SEAL Officers Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. “Extreme Ownership” is not one of those things that “feels good.” It demands both vulnerability and courage to acknowledge and accept full responsibility for one’s decisions and actions and their consequences. It is especially important for those in positions of leadership, but it has implications for every person’s life on a day to day basis as well.

It has been my observation that there are many in the world today who, for various reasons, are waiting on “God”, “Jesus”, “The Government”, “Extra Terrestrials”, etc., etc. to either swoop in and solve all of our problems or bring an apocalypse. In other words, they are not accepting “Extreme Ownership” for any of these problems themselves. I’m afraid that is the “double-edged sword” of “faith” – for some it makes them feel more responsibility and accountability, for others, it relieves them of responsibility and accountability. Like the underlying “Individual Biological Moral Code” that I believe is currently guiding us, this dual aspect of “faith,” when it comes to responsibility and accountability, is another foundation of our culture that needs to be reconsidered with respect to how it might aid or compromise establishing a more beneficial “Social Moral Code”.

To summarize: We might change the players, but the outcome, the “skewed curve” of wealth distribution in this society and others, and all of the “inequalities” that it perpetuates, will not change until we actually change The RULES of the Game we are playing! In my mind that means we have to change from an Individual Biological Moral Code to a new and better Social Moral Code.

In either case, it bears repeating, “You Get What You Play For!”