Hello 2012; An Avalanche of Change

Nancy and I are concluding the year 2011 at the home of her Mother, Marjorie Goodfellow, active and healthy at 90 years of age. She lives in Easton Ct. On New Year’s Eve day, we had lunch at The Dressing Room, a restaurant founded by Paul Newman, in Westport Ct., behind the Westport Country Playhouse. Our connections to Paul are many, and it was nice to be dining in his “Dressing Room”.

Today I put my Medicare Insurance Card into my wallet. Drat! It is a time for reflection, before we plunge into another busy year.

I never could picture myself this age, but now that I am here, I find myself looking backward and forward, with plenty of clarity and enthusiasm. I relish using what I have learned, for my practice and my private life.

This week I found yet another “lost cousin” on Facebook. We share a pair of great grandparents. I realize I will spend the rest of my life making and maintaining connections with family and friends, and preserving memories of our/their existence and our families’. I will be very sad if I ever lose the zest for that. Why? Innumerable reasons. Perhaps getting portrait quality photos of two great grandparents to download from FB is not important to everyone, but it is invaluable to me. And I can share them with our children and grandchildren.

My love for maintaining connections seamlessly exists with my desire to produce useful and creative writing and to maintain my “professional presence” on the Internet. Everyone needs to make a living, and everyone needs to eat, and I am a natural show off.

A perfect justification of why I will unapologetically project myself, my practice, my ideas, and my experiences into the ether is the way we made our way to “The Dressing Room” restaurant for New Year’s Eve.

I suggested to Nancy earlier in the week that we should consider taking her Mother, Marjorie, out to lunch on New Year’s Eve. I doubted we would be up for a big night out. She warmed to the idea and discussed the idea with her Mother on the phone. They remembered some familiar names but were not sure which restaurants were open.

Nancy, laptop already open, did a quick Google search of the area, found ten, narrowed to two, then one, potential choices, compared prices, ratings, travel distances, and reservation availability, and made reservations onlinw for four at “The Dressing Room” in Westport. We travelled from Marjorie’s home to The Dressing Room in 18 minutes, aided by our new Garmin GPS. There is even a dog park next to the parking lot, for Buddy and Duffy. That’s how people select services and products in the Age of Google.

It does not make sense to make such a serious choice any other way. The Garmin got us there ten minutes early and prompted us for a rating as we pulled away. Because of Nancy’s careful research, and great food and service and atmosphere, we happily gave it five stars.

On the way to Ct., we of course listened to our XM Satellite radio, with several terrific interviews, reviews of the year’s movies, current news, and lively music when Burt began to tire.

On other trips, we listen to books on cd, or a Nascar race, or a football game, or music of our choice. Many people download podcasts. I cannot imagine going back to searching for stations and losing them just when things get interesting. There simply is no going back.

From now on, even hikers on the Appalachian trail, mountain climbers, and ocean going adventurers, will have their technical devices. Why go anywhere without, GPS, streaming video, or a weather report?

Professionally, I am planning for another busy and productive 10-15 years. But, I have seen older lawyers, slowly winding down, learning nothing new, and doing things the “old fashioned way”, with a dwindling clientele who sense the lawyer has failed to maintain skills or learn “new tricks”. That’s not for me.

Although the people of North Central WV still often reflexively turn to the Yellow Pages and word of mouth, even people who use these methods are going to look up their potential lawyer online before hiring.

For my practice, I make sure that potential clients can find lots of valuable information, answers to their questions, informative videos, and personal information about me. Just as finding a good restaurant, hotel, or travel agency is enhanced by internet research, the task of choosing a lawyer is enhanced by using the Internet.

Having spent the last two years actively posting my views, photos, videos, and blog posts, I plan, in the first quarter of 2012, to publish my first book. Initially, it will be an Amazon Kindle e-book; around 200 pages.

I note that a colleague, a Facebook Friend, recently beat me to the punch with his own Kindle book. More power to him. Lawyers need to be more communicative and creative. It is inevitable that a person as chatty as I am, with strong views and things to say, will write about it. If you are afraid to be judged by others, how can you consider yourself a trial lawyer?

And, if your lawyer does not have strong opinions, is not on the Internet, is not learning how to do something differently every day, and is not “tech savvy”, you may fairly ask, “Why not?” I cannot think of a good answer.

As we begin the year 2012, I have formed certain conclusions that I will share here:

1. We are now in a full blown, high speed, consumer society. Our financial structure depends upon businesses selling stuff. We are, and will be more in the future, assailed with constant messages designed to motivate us to spend money. Much of the time, the products are harmful. They use up valuable resources, pollute the environment, heat up our world, make us fat, endanger our health, addict us to dangerous substances, induce us to spend money we do not have by borrowing, to be jealous of our neighbors, to be shallow in our thinking, and to be impulsive in our buying habits. Learning how to cope with this pressure will be a key skill for families and their children.

2. Our children are being assailed as never before. Playschool sells war toys. Disney produces movies “for the whole family at Christmas” but cautions they may not be suitable for someone under 13 years.

3. Big Business perceives our children as a huge demographic, not a resource to be protected, but one to be used, abused, and depleted.

4. Decent folks are afraid of the avalanche of change, so they turn to old fashioned, simple, solutions. They turn from science and reason, partly because our educational system is so flawed that it does not produce well-rounded, morally fit, critical thinkers. In their fear and confusion, they turn to simplistic solutions, and to fundamental religious teachers to tell them what to believe, how to act, and who to mistrust and fear.

4. Different societies have different solutions. America and Europe, being products of The Age of Enlightenment and of revolution, purport to support religious freedom and faith in science, but radical, or fundamental, religion, seems to be increasing all over the world. To me, it is cancerous that groups of people have faith in messiahs and prophets who they believe make them superior to other “faiths”. Such thought leads to be belief that they must proselytize or impose their beliefs on others. Right now, the worst seems to be radical Islam. But it is growing everywhere.

5. Something we seem to have welcomed with very little critical thought or insights by our news media is “The Arab Spring”. As strong, often repressive, leaders are toppled, a “new democracy” is supposed to emerge. Where are the people with learning and perspective to help us understand what this movement is and what its potential for good, evil, and chaos is? And, why did the strong leaders gain power? Perhaps to overcome the superstition and deleterious effects of societies bound by fundamental religious teachings. I just read that “The Moslem Brotherhood” in Egypt is forming ties with Hamas in Palestine. This cannot be good for Israel or America.

6. My friend David has guided me to a Jewish blogger, named Barry Rubin, who views changes like the Arab Spring with apprehension, if not dread. Perhaps by reading him, listening to thoughtful commentators like Fareed Zachariah, and reading topical books by knowledgeable people, we can sort it out. For now, I have great concern about whether new democracies created by desperate people who are driven by fundamentalist religious views can ever lead us to an age of enlightenment.

7. By the time this is posted, since I have no Internet Service here, we will have learned the results of the Iowa Caucus. We will probably learn that a somewhat reasonable fellow is headed towards being the Republican presidential candidate. This may be simply because there were so many conservatives to his right who split up the Christian Conservative and Tea Party voters that they aided his selection. The fundamentalists are very determined.

8. As for the Democrats, many liberals are disappointed in our President. As a moderate Republican who keeps threatening to register as an independent, I feel relief that President Obama has been exactly as promised, moderately liberal. I am surprised he has avoided major gaffs, and pleased he has been steady at the helm, happy he has killed a number of bad guy leaders, including Osama, relieved he did not pull out of either Iraq, or Afghanistan, precipitously, and am also relieved that his support of the revolution in Libya did not backfire, yet.

9. But, it is tragic that “First Term Obama” lacks imagination, guts, and creativity. He is presiding over the cowardly retreat of our country from its adventure in space and the incalculable benefits a strong space policy can provide. His efforts to placate the Palestinians and Mid-eastern countries is causing fear, anger, and mistrust with our strong ally Israel without any apparent progress or benefits in return for his efforts to be “in the middle”. And, he is blocked by Republicans on tax reform. There is a disparity in incomes that is creating great resentment and anger. “The Land of Opportunity” is failing the middle class.

10. Without doubt, Barrack Obama lacked the credentials to be President when he was elected, but now he has the credentials. The question is, if elected President, can he somehow act decisively and imaginatively enough to make any real progress on our country’s and world’s major problems? I do not think so. Few people have a hint of how badly we are injured by the burst bubble of our financial system, and the pending shortfalls in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. My tendency is to give him a chance because I am so disgusted with the alternative.

11. Currently, the balance of political power seems to mean that neither side can implement its espoused ideas. We lack the leadership we had with Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and others. Washington’s leadership lead us to a balanced government that respected the rights of individuals. This is a miracle considering that Washington was a slaveholder who did not even free his own slaves in his lifetime, but the benefits of Bill of Rights has eventually been spread to most Americans. Without the strength and wisdom of Washington, our colonial America might have been just as fractious and partisan as we are now.

12. In this age of instant communication, it is probably going to be up to small groups of brilliant thinkers, and pockets of parents, teachers, institutions, and governments to try to hold together our fractured society. The wisdom of the ages is a fingertip away, but so is all the baloney and crappola our foolish cultures can generate.

13. Only our technological progress can prevent the chaos that many smart people predict. Increases in the speed that information is disseminated and processed, and breakthroughs in medicine, genetics, economics, transportation, and the sciences may save us. That is where I am placing my hope. And in persons of wisdom and good intentions.

14. With luck, China, Japan, and Russia will succeed brilliantly in their space programs. Only fear of their domination, jealousy, or our inherent competitiveness, will get us back in the game in time to get colonies on the moon, Mars, in space stations, and elsewhere. Right now, ALL OUR EGGS ARE ON ONE BASKET.

15. We can pray that the essential resourcefulness of our people, who were once driven by a desire to explore, and succeed, will reappear in time.

16. Finally, back to my own little world, I intend to write, call, and visit, family, friends, and colleagues on a regular basis, to be the best lawyer I can be, to be the best husband, father, grandfather, and son in law I can be. I will continue to set out my views and invite others to contribute or criticize.

17. Since I love technology, new devices, new tools, and new ideas, as long as my mind is strong, I will exercise it. This is the last part of my first book. I hope it makes some sense.

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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