Archive for ‘Nathan Hershey’

August 5, 2011

Truth May Not be the Whole Truth, But that Kind of Truth May be Best

by Nathan Hershey

[Alicia’s article on this topic: “Is it Safe to be Honest?“]

Truth and honesty are essential to individuals successfully interacting with others, where they have mutual involvement and recognizing that they may not necessarily agree on everything, or a good bit, or an important element or set of elements within their interaction or relationship. The fact is that there’s often a difference in a sense of empowerment between people, where one individual assumes that he or she has, and deserves to have, greater power than others in the particular area of interaction.

Truth is something that people see or behold. That which one may see as a truth, everlasting or limited, others may see as just the opposite of the truth, or as just a variation of the truth. Examples would be helpful. Sometimes a person’s perception of the truth is based on value judgments that arise from the experiences of the individual, including parental influences and influences of institutions such as schools. In other instances, people’s views and opinions and desires have been brought about by other kinds of experiences, such as a serious medical condition or service in the military. In short, there are many influences upon us in our relationship to the world, as well as our relationship in a close family situation.

The question of what constitutes truth involves a concept of accuracy, but also it suggests that sometimes it is better, in a particular situation, not to expect or attempt to force another to be completely truthful. Consider a very simple example.

Assume that a couple is dressing to go out for a period of time, with another couple – perhaps for a meal or to attend some kind of performance. One asks the other how he or she looks. If you were giving an answer to that, as an individual, you may have concern that your expressions might turn out to be a little bit hurtful if you say to the individual that he or she would look better in another attire, or that the individual perhaps should make some other alteration in the manner in which they appear. People put considerable stock in how they are appraised by people with whom they have a close relationship. While this is not to say that people should not tell the truth, there is a question as to how much truth or accuracy is necessary in a social situation.

I think that some people may feel that they have the responsibility, and the ability, to go further in being critical, assuming that they are objective individuals and therefore they must give the truth as they perceive it or be very close to the absolute truth. Others may be sensitive to the thoughts or feelings of the people with whom they interact, and therefore moderate their language and actions in view of the personality or interests of others, and others’ ability to accept certain kinds of critical comments. It certainly is true, in my opinion, in my experience, that women and men adjust their views partly in view of the gender of the other person. Sometimes, a person may express their self more critically than they need to, other times they may be more forgiving. The person requesting the statement or information may be seeking to hear something critical so that they may feel that they can trust the individual – their partner, perhaps – to answer a question honestly.

When individuals are asked to give their opinions, with regard to some behavior, the question comes up – how frank should people be? Do they have to be concerned with upsetting the individual, if they are very frank? Does it lay the basis for injury or destruction of a particular relationship because one is speaking very forthrightly and critically? Do we have, as individuals, the responsibility to tell others what they should do and say? It may be good to have a relationship with each other where both persons can feel that they can be frank and relatively explicit with each other. With people who are more in the realm of strangers, it may be considered discreet or tactful not to say too much about the other’s conduct as long as there is no danger or threat created by the behavior of the other individual.

Now, one other thing related to this is, if a fellow and a young woman break up, how much of the reasons for this change should be shared with the friends of the members of the couple? My view would be that one should not pass on information that has been guarded in a personal relationship, unless there is a potential for threat or danger to another individual. One might say the Hershey Rule would be: “If the fellow or the woman is going to interact with another person in the general social group, let the new member of the group find out for himself or herself the information that may be relevant to why the change occurred – if they want to explore it.” I think that there’s a great deal of information that would be kept between two of a couple and not shared with others unless there is a danger to life, finances or other things that would be considered very important. I might say that, looking at my own situation over the course of my life, I didn’t feel that it was anybody’s business what I learned about a person of the opposite sex, and if someone wanted to learn something about that person they should get to know that person their self.

There is personal life and there is broader life. I think people should be pretty restrained in the information that they pass out, and if they do pass information to others it should be shared with the understanding, or at least the firm belief that there’s an understanding, that the information won’t be shared with third or fourth, or 58th, parties.

– Nathan Hershey

20th Century Man

July 6, 2011


by Nathan Hershey

Alicia and I started talking about the term “Native American” – what does that phrase mean?  When the term “Native American” came up and I thought about it, it seemed to me that there could be several possible meanings.

Today, in 2011, instead of using the term “Indians” to refer to descendents of the members of tribes who lived here before the European colonization of what is now the United States, this use of the term has become unpopular, or politically incorrect – one term for these people is “Native Americans.”  That may have been a change for the better or a change for the worse, but it certainly contributes to the confusion, with regard to the meaning of those two words together.  If you look at the first generation who were “native” (born here), you’ll see a very diverse cross-section of people.

A “Native American” can be someone who is born in the United States if you use the word “America” to mean the United States and use the word “native” as a modifier to mean “by place of birth or origin” (according to the American Heritage Dictionary, 1973).  How is “America” distinguished from “the United States?”  You could argue that a Native American would be someone from North or South America because they would be people who could be defined or described as Americans.

Over time, various people have sought to better define who they believe Americans are, by virtue of place of birth, primarily.  A
person who is born on the land which is now the United States would be, presumptively, a citizen of the U.S. and eligible to hold the office of the presidency, under U.S. law.  “American” is used as a modifier for various foods, products and people, and could serve as a descriptor for almost anything (consider American cheese).

Is it "American?" Is it "cheese?"

Now we can take a look at people, for example, who come from central Europe, like Hungaria or Bulgaria.  They came and then they had children who were born in the United States.  Would we look at these children as Native Americans?  If they’re “born in the USA,” as Bruce Springsteen said, could we not refer to them as Native Americans?

Yet some people, for example the Irish, often prefer their original land, in their case Ireland, as their place of identity, based in part on their psyche.  They’re not born in Ireland, but they maintain a strong cultural link.  Even if people would be second or third-generation Americans by birth, some still want to be seen as connected with Ireland, even though the family first left the shores of Ireland a century or more ago.

Because of borders changing in Europe multiple times since the United States was created, some immigrants to the U.S. may have lived in three countries before coming to the U.S.  What term should we use to identify these people?

Also, we find that sometimes a descriptor is adopted by some people, indicating their religion as a modifier in their identity, as well as the nation that their parents left when they came to the United States.  For example, I have heard conversation, from time to time, that some Jews place serious focus on where in Europe, or elsewhere, that their family members came from.  Even though they were born in the United States, they might regard themselves as Hungarian Jews or German Jews
or some other kind of Jews to designate some location in a foreign country to which they link themselves, at least in some psychological sense.

One’s identifier may be, from different people’s views, either positive or negative, or even disparaging in the minds of others.  Two people could have the same identifying background, but choose the words they want to use as their identifiers quite differently.

– Nathan Hershey

20th Century Man

June 6, 2011

Finances Determine Even Educational Choices

by Nathan Hershey

While growing up in the 1930s, it was the goal of many young people to have the opportunity to attend college. Before I started college, my mother started attending college at night in 1940, in her 40s. Higher education became a much more important step in personal development and was considered increasingly necessary to enhance career opportunities.

The idea of college being the target of most young people did not come about, as far as I recall, until after World War II with the returning military personnel, many of whom qualified for higher education financial assistance because of the GI bill. The veterans were reentering civilian life, with the opportunity to have money to support college schooling and some attending living expenses. I was not in that category because I was too young to have served during WWII. By the time World War II ended in 1945, I was fairly advanced in high school.

After high school, my parents had sufficient funds to allow me to attend New York University without having to find full work opportunities (although I did work two summers during my college career). Tuition at NYU was $150 per year. The public colleges, such as Brooklyn, City, Queens and Hunter, were very inexpensive. These were institutions without dormitories – nuts and bolts colleges. They were good colleges with libraries, etc, but most of their students lived in the city.

There were some private religious colleges, such as St. John’s and Fordham, as well as some non-religious private colleges, such as NYU, which were also affordable for many lower-middle-class families.  The religious colleges were more likely to have dorms connected to and administered by the school.

Queens College, created in the late 1930s, was located in an attractive area in the borough of Queens. For young people who lived in Queens or others who could access decent transportation to Queens, it was considered a choice opportunity. Residents of Queens were wealthier, so the girls really wanted to go there. Tuition was the same level as the other city colleges in NYC.

While the amounts of tuition I’m describing may seem very small, the purchasing power of a dollar was almost unimaginable to people today. Bus and subway fare was a nickel, and there was uproar when fare was raised to a dime.

One of the questions that I have is: What is the range of education opportunities that young people have in the 21st century, particularly at this time? My sense is that, because of the high cost of higher education, unlike the situation that I had when I was of college age, many young people must borrow substantial amounts in order to support their college education. Many have more than five-figure debt by the time they leave college. For most parents, the understanding is that they will not be able to fully, or even substantially, finance their childrens’ education because of the cost and their middle-class income limitations.

It should also be noted that college education is not necessarily the end of formal education; therefore we now find young people creating further debt for graduate school and the cost of personal needs while attending school. I received a full tuition scholarship from Harvard for my second year of law school. It was $600. Sixty years later, in 2011, one year’s tuition at Harvard Law School is $45,450. I would like to better understand how many young people confront these potential costs that they would incur if they decide to further their education to the extent that I have mentioned.

Perhaps is it also possible for a young person to delay or avoid following the step-by-step approach of higher education by working to the extent possible, using and developing skills in the work force, instead of in additional school.

Alicia chose to end her college education, partly to avoid incurring massive debt. I wonder, if Alicia had had the finances necessary to continue attending college, whether she would have developed differently in terms of skills, interests and the decision of how to spend her available time. If she was a member of a family that could provide her with a considerable amount of financial assistance, without any obligations to return it at some future time, she may have continued attending college, and she may not have developed the capabilities she now possesses.

– Nathan Hershey

20th Century Man

May 9, 2011

Unions Are Not His Cup of Tea

by Nathan Hershey

An author can use her choice of words to create a picture which may please him or her but be considered by a more objective person as bias.  A fine example to demonstrate this is a column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday, April 24, in which Jack Kelly uses his choice of words to create a picture that suggests criminal behavior by unions.

In his piece, Mr. Kelly chooses to refer to the union leaders as “union bosses.”  Anyone with a grain of sense realizes that the choice of words here is meant to establish a negative view of the union leaders.  Mr. Kelly does not recognize that union leaders are elected by the members of the union and, while not all are ideal leaders, they are the choices of the union members who put them in office by a participatory process.

I don’t know whether Mr. Kelly is a member of a union, but my guess is that unions are anathema to him, perhaps because they generally take positions contrary to his political, economic and social beliefs.  Kelly is less a reporter than a promoter of his personal ideas.  I wonder how many readers of the Post-Gazette find Kelly to be a writer they look forward to reading on a regular basis.

– Nathan Hershey

20th Century Man