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Ecclesiastes 04


Ecc 4:1-3 . . I further observed all the oppression that goes on under the sun: the tears of the oppressed, with none to comfort them; and the power of their oppressors— with none to comfort them. Then I accounted those who died long since more fortunate than those who are still living; and happier than either are those who have not yet come into being and have never witnessed the miseries that go on under the sun.

I'd be curious to know just exactly when, where, and how Mr. Born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his mouth king Solomon was exposed to the "tears" of the oppressed. Maybe he was talking about all the hapless Jewish men he conscripted to work like slaves in his stone quarries and logging camps.

Some people really are better off dead, and also better had they not been born. I mean, for some people, what's the point of living at all.

It's difficult for the average American to appreciate the misery of people in other countries living in poverty, want, squalor, tyranny, despotism, and oppression. When I was a little boy living in San Diego back in the early 1950's I went on a trip with my parents to Tijuana. As we walked across a bridge over the Tijuana River, I looked down below at a pitiful community just like the community filmed in the movie Slum Dog Millionaire. The jam-packed homes (rudimentary shelters actually) were constructed of cardboard, sheets of plywood, corrugated tin, and sign boards. The children were all barefoot and there were no streets and sidewalks; just riverbed soil. I have no clue what they did for sanitation. It's my guess all their offal went into what there was of the Tijuana River as raw sewage.

Those people down in that riverbed weren't living; they were existing, and that with no more dignity than a hog in a wallow. (In later years, the community was washed away by unusually high water and subsequently the site permanently closed to squatters by the government.)

Hafez al Assad, deceased father of the current dictator of Syria, Bashar al Assad, was ruthless towards his political opponents. In the early 1980's, he dispatched his air force to bomb the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's densely populated neighborhoods in the area of Hama. (I'm talking about Syrian citizens in a Syrian city; not foreigners in a foreign country). Afterwards, Hafez had his army bulldoze the smoking remains. Between 10,000 and 40,000 people were killed, and thousands more were jailed, tortured, and left to languish in prison. Protests from human rights organizations bounced off Hafez like a BB off of depleted uranium plating.

Ryan Crocker, a US ambassador who served in Damascus during the transition from Hafez to Bashar, said of the son: "Any suggestion that Bashar is a push-over is an illusion. He's so personable that it's easy to underestimate him. But rest assured, he is his father's son." Mr. Ryan is so right. It isn't unusual this very day to be dining out in Damascus while at the same time having to listen to dreadful screams coming from a second-floor window of the Bab Touma police station. In the street, people cast each other knowing glances but nobody says a word because someone might be listening.

There's little to no justice in China. Fully 99 percent of all trials result in a guilty verdict. If you're executed with a gun, the state sends your family a bill for the bullet.

In North Korea, three generations of a family can be punished for one member's alleged crime. As of 2008, an estimated 200,000 North Korean citizens were detained in labor camps: and don't get me started on Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

Ecc 4:4 . . I have also noted that all labor and skillful enterprise come from men's envy of each other— another futility and pursuit of wind!

Most of us are reasonably satisfied with what we have until we see someone with something better. Just because the Devil wears Prada, is it really essential that everyone else does?

They say money is the root of all evil. Well, I would have to say that envy is money's kissing cousin. Both are very strong motivators.

Ecc 4:5 . .The fool folds his hands together and has to eat his own flesh.

Just the opposite of those who strive to get ahead, is the lazy good-for-nothing, who can't be motivated to go out and find work or start a business. The others have it all, while he has nothing at all. At least the greedy and the envious have food on the table and a place to live. The fool is homeless and probably lives out of dumpsters, or worse, panhandles and mooches off friends. One of my all-time favorite panhandler's makeshift cardboard signs said: Dreaming Of A Cheeseburger.

Ecc 4:6 . . Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

In between the go-getters, and the homeless bums, are the moderate people. They don't have to have the best that life has to offer, nor the most money, and they don't want it. Their motto is: Better isn't necessary when adequate will do. These are happy with what they have and make do with what they can afford.

Moderate people aren't lazy, but then again, neither are they achievers nor overly industrious. They don't need a lot, they're easy to please, and are usually very content; e.g. when they shop for diamond jewelry, the stones don't have to be flawless; just sparkly and pretty. They might splurge on a consumer-priced Bulova or a Seiko, but won't shell out the extra dough for a Breitling or an IWC even though they're the better timepieces. They prefer cars that are economical rather than cars that are cool, fast, and fitted out with the latest electronics. They eat at ordinary buffets and restaurants rather than fancy, black-tie supper clubs; and their back yards are likely to have just as many weeds as ornamental shrubs. While others chase status, moderates prefer to chase sales and clip coupons.

But the sad part is; those greedy, leveraged-to-the-hilt hedge-funders are the very ones ravaging the moderates' retirement plans. And if the fund goes belly up— as many did in the last sub-prime blood bath —what do they care? It wasn't their money that was lost; it was yours while they escaped with a bail-out and/or a golden parachute. And the bail-outs? Who pays for those? Duh . . . the moderates; via federal taxes, of course.

Ecc 4:7-8 . . And I have noted this further futility under the sun: the case of the man who is alone, with no companion, who has neither son nor brother; yet he amasses wealth without limit, and his eye is never sated with riches. For whom, now, is he amassing it while denying himself enjoyment? That too is a futility and an unhappy business.

That surely describes people like Ebenezer Scrooge— Charles Dickens' friendless loner in A Christmas Carol —the prince of misers. The man has great wealth, and sees the amassing of wealth as the only justifiable reason to be alive. He despises family life, shuns circles of close friends, and regards charitable causes as theft. The man won't even spend his money on decent food to nourish himself; let alone wood or coal to heat his dismal home. His fortune does neither him nor anyone else any real good at all except provide him with questionable old-age security.

Ecc 4:9-10 . .Two are better off than one, in that they have greater benefit from their earnings. For should they fall, one can raise the other; but woe betide him who is alone and falls with no companion to raise him!

Webster's defines "synergism" as: interaction of discrete agencies, agents, or conditions such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects.

John Nash put that principle into his Nobel Prize-winning economic theory. He felt that it is possible to not only do yourself the better good, but at the same time to do it in such a way that your efforts mesh with the efforts of others so that all benefit.

Marriage is a synergic arrangement. Partners are more secure, and usually accomplish much more together than an individual on their own; and they look out for each other too. When a wife gets a muscle spasm in her back, and can't walk, then the husband can put her on a blanket and drag her down the hallway to the bathroom. When the husband's car blows a heater hose on the way home from work, the wife can use her own car to come and get him at the repair shop and bring him home for dinner. Plus, if both work, their combined income makes it possible to carry a mortgage instead of throwing money away on rent.

Ecc 4:11 . . Further, when two lie together they are warm; but how can he who is alone get warm?

To be warm, as in Ecc 4:11, implies more than merely warding off a chill. It means to be comforted. There is very little solace to be found in solitude. Loner type of people often end up plagued with feelings of isolation, depression, and dark thoughts.

Ecc 4:12 . . Also, if one attacks, two can stand up to him. A threefold cord is not readily broken!

All he's saying there is that a single strand of hemp by itself is weak; but when woven together in multiple strands, becomes very strong; viz: the combined strands become force multipliers.

In the darkening days in which we live in America, jogging, hiking, and bicycling alone can be very dangerous in a City, State, or National park; especially after sundown. It's far more sensible to mingle with others; even if they're strangers. People alone are easy marks for muggers and wilding attacks. Nobody's invincible. Even tough guys like Chuck Norris and Jason Stathan can be taken down. As Arnold Schwarzeneggar said in the Hollywood movie Predator, "If it bleeds, we can kill it".

Ecc 4:13-16 . . Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer has the sense to heed warnings. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king's successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

That passage observes the instability of political power, and the fickleness of popularity. The incumbent ruler may have at one time heeded his advisors' input and lead his country wisely. But when he got old, he stopped listening to them. As a result, a younger generation despised him for being egotistic, out of touch, and insensitive to his countrymen's feelings. His arrogance and egotism made him a prisoner of his own foolish mind and eventually, he was either deposed, or voted out of office.

A younger man, unknown till now, an underdog, whose platform preached political reforms, a hope you can believe in, environmental improvement, and economic recovery; made impressive speeches and won the people's hearts. He took over, led his country out of economic depression and to great victories over their enemies. His country enjoyed worldwide prestige and great prosperity.

But the younger leader's popularity didn't endure. He himself aged and stopped listening to the voice of the people and his advisors' input, and he too then became unpopular with a younger generation; who then began clamoring for his overthrow just like his own generation had done to his predecessor. It's an endless cycle. Politicians are loved when they are voted in, and hated when they are voted out.

Oliver Cromwell, who took the British throne away from Charles l, and established the commonwealth, said to a friend: "Do not trust to the cheering, for those same persons would cheer just as much if you and I were going to be hanged."

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