Cultural Gerrymandering

Before we get to mariner’s post, read the following statements:

From the Washington Post

By 2040, eight states will be home to nearly half (49.5 percent) of the country’s entire population. An implication of that bit of trivia: 30 percent of the American population will control 68 percent of the American Senate. “The House and the Senate will be weighted to two largely different Americas.”

Twitter From Norman Ornstein   @NormOrnstein

I want to repeat a statistic I use in every talk: by 2040 or so, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states. Meaning 30 percent will choose 70 senators. And the 30% will be older, whiter, more rural, more male than the 70 percent. Unsettling to say the least

Twitter from Paul Waldman @paulwaldman1

In the age of minority rule, a Supreme Court justice appointed by a president who got fewer votes is confirmed by a party in the Senate that got fewer votes, to validate policies opposed by most Americans.

– – – –

And we thought immigration was the largest political issue . . .

The imbalance of the two houses of Congress reminds mariner of the British system where the public elects the House of Commons but one must be appointed to the House of Lords. While the House of Lords does not carry nearly as much clout as the US Senate, it can slow down legislation by sending it back to the lower House.

If the United States is to remain a democracy in spirit, it may be that we face a whopping battle to rewrite the Constitution. Like the Second Amendment authorizing the right to bear arms for a good reason back in 1791, each state was granted two representatives as a demonstration by the Founding Fathers that the voice of state governments would have a direct role in the Federal government. Senators were appointed by state legislators until 1910.

At the moment, the issue of demographics may seem a fantasy game but, in fact, Paul Waldman is correct when he says the Federal Government is about to appoint a Supreme Court Justice while representing a minority of the general population – and 2040 is still 22 years away.

Regular readers know mariner is chary about social stratification whether they are super rich, giant corporations, doctrinaire religions, or undemocratic governments. A theme running through many nations’ cultures at the moment is decidedly not empathetic; populations are sensitive to financial insecurity. Nationalism, including the US and Europe, is a growing response that easily could prevail given the observations of the contributors about imbalanced voting. In other words, the 30% mentioned above may just leave things as they are: a minority ruling class.

This is the largest issue mariner has thought about recently. Fixing demographic imbalance will require a power-shaking war either by reconfiguring Congress or playing voting games with fractions to level the playing field. It is a conflagration that will include the super rich and the super powerful in our society; let’s hope it includes the common electorate as well.

Mariner hereby turns this issue over to his readers so they have something to ponder until 2040.

Ancient Mariner

 

Real

Mariner was sitting in his living room chair the other day taking a break from working outside in Iowa’s mid ninety temperatures and its supercharged humidity. He absentmindedly was looking about the room and noticed the dark television. He began to think about the fact that many of the people he knows as casually as he knows his family aren’t real.

Those people on television are not flesh and bone; they are electronic pulses flashed on a piece of glass. Nothing more than millions of sparks. Is Katy Tur of MSNBC real? It is quite possible today to manufacture human images from scratch. Is Katy nothing more than a script typed into a box that generates a talking Katy on the other side? Mariner is quite sure Larry King is not real. Many of the pundits on news shows are eerily similar to Statler and Waldorf and Sam the Eagle. Many decades ago mariner read a book about a newscaster who traveled the world following news but never sat for a broadcast; he was cut and pasted from old newsreels by a computer. He looked like he was in the studio but he wasn’t.

Being retired and not much engaged in small town activities, mariner has gone more than a week without speaking or listening to actual humans other than his wife and his neighbors. Taking a broad view of human interaction reveals that US society at large has more electronic acquaintances than real ones – especially if you count social media, Skype and smartphone conversations. How many people walking down the street can you count on to be real humans and not a Mr. Smith robot from the movie Matrix? Is that woman looking at you a real human or a hologram? Both these technologies are available today.

How important is it to address reality by talking to actual people? There was a time when the only way to solve an issue was to visit another human being and talk together. Today, one can shop for anything under the Sun including a spouse and not have to talk to a salesperson; one does not necessarily need to go to a movie theater and ask a bona fide human for a ticket – wait for Netflix. Grocery shopping is next in line for humanless resolution; banks long ago put banking online; does anyone miss chatting with tellers?

Mariner has no deep speculations about having electronic friends; at least they take the place of talking to human friends. Don’t they?

Ancient Mariner

 

 

UBI

No sooner had mariner posted the last post about a new stratum, within minutes his wife handed him an article in the latest New Yorker magazine about universal base income (UBI)[1]. UBI is a concept where everyone, working or not, wealthy or not, young or old, socially accepted or not, receives the same base income from the government. Typically, it isn’t a lot of income; maybe enough to not starve.

The concept has been tested in small experiments in several countries. The testing arises from a concern that receiving a guaranteed freebie from the government may affect how or whether an individual will participate in the workforce and whether the stipend will affect employment regulations. By and large, it doesn’t alter the lifestyle of the individuals; they continue to participate in society as they did before receiving the stipend. In harshly deprived economies like many in Africa, UBI has worked well because it puts cash into a nonexistent economy; people react by using the stipend in responsible ways in order to escape abject poverty as much as possible.

Inadvertently, the United States has practiced UBI in a few labor markets. For most of the twentieth century school teachers were grossly underpaid because teaching, a female occupation, was considered a second income to the husband’s income. The teacher’s salary, in context, was treated like a universal base income outside the real source of income for a family.

Today, especially in small businesses or in larger service industries like convenience stores, the practice of requiring an employee to work only 38 hours to avoid benefits and fulltime labor regulations is the same rationale as UBI but for business profit instead of personal wellbeing; the business owner will claim that it is expected that a part time employee has other sources of income. These two examples suggest the reduced income was considered a stipend on the side rather than a fair, competitive salary.

However, in a government-distributed UBI, labor market income does not affect the stipend – or does it? Will labor class jobs slowly fall behind in salary because the government in effect is helping to pay the employee?

UBI relates to the last post about meritocracy; the New Yorker article uses the term as well. Meritocracy will mean every individual has the right to receive a stipend regardless of class, race, etc.

In several past posts, mariner has said that the true issue is not stipends; it is the definition of the word ‘job’. Pinning words similar to ‘equality’ and ‘justice’ to a universal dole is a false gesture insofar as human dignity is concerned; feeling justified in being a human takes more than a few dollars. With UBI will certain citizens continue to say, “They ought to get off their butt and get a job”?

REFERENCE SECTION

Mariner must share with readers a fascinating quote he discovered. He was reading a book review by Ron Elving of Dan Kaufman’s book, The Fall of Wisconsin. In his final chapter, Kaufman returns to the quotation that begins his book. It is from Edward G. Ryan, who was Wisconsin’s chief justice in 1873 and foresaw the protracted struggle of the next century and a half with striking clarity.

“The question will arise … Which shall rule: wealth or man? Which shall lead, money or intellect? Who shall fill public stations, educated and patriotic freemen or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?”

1873!! And still we haven’t straightened it out. A wonderfully articulate and insightful statement.

Ancient Mariner

[1] “Take the Money and Run,” The New Yorker July 2018, by Nathan Heller.

A New Stratum

The planet Earth has many layers of rock that have accumulated over eons of time. Each new layer sits atop an older layer. One layer is called a stratum. We who live on the surface are not aware of the many strata that hold our land masses together. We simply know what we see at the surface and form expectations about the surface environment. Ideas have strata, too. Over human history many layers of ideas have formed and together support our expectations in this present time.

A stratum lies beneath and supports our expectations about fairness, our expectations about equality, and our expectations about justice. We expect American society to have a set of scruples and we expect, without explicit definition, everyone to live by these scruples. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution plus the Bill of Rights promote scruples and guarantee a system of jurisprudence that assures a set of scruples. The stratum that lies beneath our sense of fairness, equality, justice and cultural scruples has a name: meritocracy. In the current meritocracy, all citizens have the opportunity to be recognized and advanced in proportion to their abilities and accomplishments. But meritocracy is subject to reinterpretation.

Words like freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness, be all you can be, anyone can be President – all are expressions supported by meritocracy. When we look back to the thirties and forties, when the Great Depression, World War II and the years that followed established the current definition of meritocracy, we realize that a new stratum is forming; a new layer that will support a different set of expectations about the scruples of our society. Aware that a new definition is forming raises serious questions. How will existing scruples, fairness, etc., be reinterpreted? Will a new meritocracy support the ‘opportunity to be recognized and advanced in proportion to their abilities and accomplishments’? Importantly, “What will happen to me?”

Meritocracy is very malleable. Meritocracy is the flour in baked goods of every type, flavor and texture. The analogy of flour is apropos even to the event of having to rise; just because meritocracy is proclaimed, as in the Declaration of Independence, doesn’t mean it exists. Unlike baked goods, there is no given recipe – spices and additives are endless and often do not bake well.

In a final colorful analogy, meritocracy is like a toy top spinning on the floor. Spinning is wobbly and unstable in its direction but the fact that it seems to defy imbalance and stay spinning provides a good feeling and provides a sensation of success. This analogy is apropos of any ideal. Ideals by their very nature are unachievable; once fallen, ideals must be rewound and thrown again – and again. Each new definition of meritocracy is a new stratum in history; meritocracy is the flour of society; meritocracy, in the end, never will be permanent.

– – – –

What follows are general waypoints in the emergence, practice and transition of meritocracy.

What do Caligula, Henry VIII, Harold Hardrada, Napoleon, Hitler, Yeltsin, Erdogan, and Donald have in common?

Each of them, more by the power of their personality disorders than anything else, are the final blow that brought an end to an old stratum; government and culture were weak; mores, scruples and social expectations were in disarray. External status quo, that is, the world in general had changed but old internal assumptions held on until international conflict occurred and provoked the rise of new sources of power through overthrow of government, populism, or in some cases, war.

What do rice, wheat, corn, barley, and potatoes have in common?

The first significant shift in meritocracy was when early man discovered farming. Each of these crops in their own circumstances around the world created a totally new social order. Any significant change in economy or how economy works will trigger a new stratum – a new definition of human rights. The same can be said for inventions, communication, chemical advances and, especially until the entire world was mapped, exploration. Expectations about economic fairness, opportunity and confidence are life-changing in any regard and dissatisfaction quickly will challenge current perceptions of meritocracy.

What do Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, Moses and Muhammad have in common?

Obviously, each is the spiritual center of a major religion. Philosophical and theological contributions by each established codes of behavior and expectations which influenced all aspects of culture – even economics. Each religion straddles many strata and is an active force in changing the definition of meritocracy. Today, the impact of global economy, instant global information, and worldwide instant communication has brought various religions into conflict because global standardization does not mix well with the idiosyncrasies of different religious principles. This conflict in itself suggests a new definition of meritocracy is emerging.

Transition from one definition of human rights to another is messy and must pass through a hodgepodge of events and probabilities. No one can actually predict turns of events if one is living in the midst of stratum change. Below are some contemporary existential phenomena.

֎ Remember when . . . name any subject. If things are different today than they were a decade or two ago, meritocracy is undergoing redefinition.

֎ The economy is out of balance to the point that citizens are not sharing in the profits (remember the Luddites?). As alluded to earlier, nothing jumpstarts a new stratum like economic dissatisfaction.

֎ Populism emerges as a potent political force. The 2016 election was clear evidence that government was not meeting meritocracy’s expectations.

֎ New technology modifies cultural values and behavior. This began to accelerate when an individual could buy one’s own computer; then amplified by cellular phones and now aggravated by smartphones and social media to the point that normal interpersonal behavior is a matter of electronic potential instead of human potential. Need a spouse? Find them on the Internet; who wants to bother with socializing and honing one’s interpersonal skills?

֎ Those in power show signs of abuse when dealing with due process. We in the US certainly suffer this but virtually the whole of South America suffers big time.

֎ Allegiance to a common value disintegrates into partisan bickering; the big issue today is the one Russia is manipulating; Americans are not united in their expectations; the stratum of meritocracy is unstable.

֎ Compound all this by our knowledge that another significant change lies just a few years down the calendar: artificial intelligence. We have no idea what that will do to our human rights, our definition of meritocracy, our new stratum.

The point of all this is that we are living lives of unusual stress because our expectations about our role in society, our sense of fairness, our sense of protection, our sense of justice – all are without a stable foundation. Meritocracy, the foundation concept that provides order for these issues, is shifting.

One last analogy: we are sailing in stormy seas. We must take control of the helm to assure that what we still think is fair, equal and just will guide our course.

Ancient Mariner

 

Unplugged as Metaphor

There was discussion about mariner’s self-imposed ‘isolation.’ It was perceived that mariner had separated himself from society by blocking channels of communication and information. It was suggested that, while there may be abuse by communication corporations, the tradeoff is having access to more information and a better sense of what’s going on – a quid pro quo so to speak.

Mariner suggests the issue is not one of information but one of control. The insight he has while in communication isolation is a feeling that he is not dancing to an imposed melody. Mariner knows he is beating a tired horse in his posts but the issue of not having control of one’s life or personal values, and not being in a position to do a lot about it – and not being aware this is the situation – is no different than citizens in the book 1984 and in the movie Matrix (one was put into a coffin at birth and fed an artificial reality directly to the brain).

Recently mariner posted a short post saying privacy and choice were two sides of the same coin; can’t have one without the other. That relationship cannot be denied. Homo sapien history is full of continuous rebellion against someone else dictating one’s choices. Most often it has been countered by war. It can be countered by collective bargaining whether that means unions, voting, cultural separation, or individual isolation. Success in changing things, however, can’t be done in isolation; it takes a large representation of the affected society.

Mariner is concerned that populations around the world are not prepared for the control that can be had by governments and especially by corporations with the use of powerful computers and privacy-draining data collection. Somewhere along the way, society must develop a rule that says humans will approve modification to culture, law, economy, and quality of life. Otherwise, human life may not be worth more than an imaginary life in a coffin.

– – – –

On a distantly related note, the new European restrictions on international telecommunications has severed mariner from 40% of his readership.

Ancient Mariner

 

Unplugged

Mariner continues his elimination of television viewing. Except for tennis tournaments and a few PBS shows, the television sits dark. This attitude spreads to other means of communication. Noting that Verizon’s fine service in his town requires him to use the cell phone outside because there is no signal inside, the phone lies unused as well; mariner makes a point of carrying it only when he and his wife are apart.

There are no newspapers; this, too, is not hard to establish because mariner lives in a small prairie town in Iowa. Newspapers are small at best and lack the editorial clout and information of big city newspapers. Mariner still receives three or four good magazines; his wife, an insatiable reader, enjoys reading them. Further, the magazines are donated to the local library.

Typically, mariner finds plenty to fill the day with gardening, woodworking, property maintenance and travel to nearby small cities for shopping; the closest ‘city’ with commercial and entertainment services is 15 miles away. However, the summer heat is unbearable with humidity high enough to use as paint. Of late, mariner is kept inside by the Sun. This leads to moments of boredom – a sensation that is amazingly powerful. One must be creative to avoid boredom; mariner fills these gaps with online research about numerous interests and pursues better woodworking skills. He even writes a blog.

This experiment in isolation has several psychological reactions. Foremost, peace is at hand because whatsisname rarely is mentioned. A shift in the sense of self occurs which makes one more self-sufficient; one no longer needs to be fulfilled by communication technology. Another feeling is restlessness; mariner is out of the mainstream, workday world and, like the old draft horse in the barn, misses the morning harness.

Finally, there is a subtle feeling of independence; one need not spend the day dancing to the tune of overwhelming information and the feeling of helplessness brought about by a troubled world just the other side of the TV power switch; there is no need to thumb-punch the day away on a smartphone. Mariner is in charge of his day.

Nevertheless, peace being at hand, one still has civic responsibilities and must remain informed; mariner has sources – just not on television. Very little meaningful news is reported by whatsisname.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Immigration and the Church

In the days when Jesus was around, Israel was a theocracy. A theocracy is a nation run largely under the control of religion. The same was true in western culture when the Holy Roman Catholic Church dominated political entities and nations in Europe.

In Matthew 12, there is a confrontation between Pharisees and Jesus because he and his disciples are picking grain and eating on the Sabbath:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

It wasn’t until the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 that state was declared independent of church and had rights beyond the King (titular head of the nation who endorsed the idea of a state church). In its Constitution, the United States took the idea of separating state from church as a mandate. Today, church and state still are separated by legal and ideological arguments but few lawmakers and citizens are able to properly separate the two. Admittedly, there is conflict in interpretation not only between the US Government and the several religions but also between the religions themselves.

Trumpian religious groups (largely evangelical) have the attitude of the Pharisees claiming that religious principles trump state principles (enjoyed the pun). It is easily seen that Trumpians would prefer a theocratic rule of law.

Other religious institutions support humanistic and compassionate ideals as the higher ethic. Jesus’s rebuke of the Pharisees is right on the mark for today’s immigration debate:

“…If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”

The separation of church and state works best when the state manages state responsibilities and the church manages spiritual and ethical responsibilities. It is a tough choice for conflicted citizens: should we sacrifice immigrant’s lives because they violate state law or should we seek compassion and mercy as a separate influence on the matter.

Trumpians are Pharisees.

Ancient Mariner

 

A Top Down Look

Regular readers know that for several weeks mariner has been in spiritual sequestration. He deliberately retreated from any news source and ceased reading and searching for the latest tragedy, nonsense, and threats. Retreats of this nature are beneficial. We are familiar with the idea of a vacation, today’s version of a retreat, taken by a family or individual retreating to a holy shrine like Disney World, a spa, or a cruise somewhere. Some people have hobbies that provide sanctuary; for example, climbing mountain faces without rope; surely that releases any other thoughts in one’s mind. The underlying premise is an attempt to clarify mind and spirit and to erase callousness that blocks sensitivity and perspective.

Mariner knows with certainty that his thought processes are top down, bottom up – a 1980’s pop psychology term. The term implies that one must first have a grasp of broad generalities from which values can be taken; these values are validated or rejected by collecting detail relevant to the general values. This is a lot of jargon to express the term we all use: intuition. What forced mariner’s retreat is that his intuition, his top down bottom up analysis had become broken. Yes, blame it on Donald, the purveyor of distorted reality.

Fresh from respite, mariner’s three alter egos are ready to take on reality. Mariner must warn readers that at this moment in time it’s like opening the front door and finding molten lava at your doorstep. Calling on Guru to provide a fresh perspective, Guru states that Donald, as destructive as he is to the American ethos, is not where the greatest danger lies. There are two major players that threaten in the most absolute terms the future of the US in particular and the whole world in general.

The first major player is the US Government. Over many decades the legislative and regulatory responsibilities of legislators and government officials have weakened continuously to the point that responsibility for the public good is disregarded. Both Federal and state governments are dysfunctional and largely irrelevant to the electorate. The fact that an irrational, authoritarian President can literally tear at the flesh of American democracy shows more weakness in government than strength behind the antics of an 8-year old narcissist.

The remaining major player is corporatism. Government’s lax sense of responsibility for the public good has given corporations a liberty to do what they will to manipulate or eradicate not only procedures and interpretations of law but to usurp the independent ethos of a nation that once led the world in governmental righteousness. In an age where Internet and cloud technology create international opportunities, it is difficult for any single nation to control commerce. Corporations have become Pandora; putting corporations back where they belong in the human order of things will be difficult.

– Corporatism

We shall examine corporatism first because the danger to normal human participation in the future hangs in the balance. Further, the abuses of corporatism will provide perspective on the failure of government and the loss of democracy that is critical to sustain human control of ethos.

A quick metaphor is helpful: The Dark Ages. History skips over the Dark Ages largely because nothing happened for 525 years. It was a time of warrior kings, dukes, lords, and other titles associated with military prowess. Common people did not participate in the economy; they did not participate in organized society; they did not have the right to vote, ownership of any kind, and no due process because there were no courts of law. Life as a commoner in the Dark Ages was not much better than today’s forgotten hoard of homeless and starving Africans.

Now substitute today’s players: Corporations are warrior kings. Economy is run by corporations. Organized society quickly is becoming a rich man’s game; today who your parents are is many times more important than your vote; a Dark Age commoner class is emerging. Voting is close to being irrelevant, ergo no right to vote that counts. With great assistance from data mining corporations, an individual citizen will have possessions only on paper; the bank will tell you what they think you can afford and perhaps what neighborhood you can live in and will not make it easy for an individual to seek alternatives, merchandizing corporations will offer goods and prices that are not driven by public supply and demand but according to the corporate license to tell commoners what they can or can’t purchase from homes to socks. The primary tools in this dehumanizing process are, mariner is sorry to say, the smartphone and social media. Finally, what takes the place of government and justice is the warrior king’s court; Donald would feel at home with such a court.

Overall, especially with artificial intelligence on the horizon, the loss of decision power at the level of the common citizen is at great risk. Computers smarter and more knowledgeable than humans will greatly influence if not control economy, culture, equality and justice. At the moment, there is no human control over this evolution except for the very few tech corporations who own the computers. Are these the new warrior kings?

– Government

Evaluating government is difficult. At the moment, in principle at least, the US government functions as a democracy. People, however wise, foolish, prejudiced or enlightened, own the government by virtue of those they elect to put in charge of the government. This arrangement, a sort of controlled populism, is quickly vanishing. Today’s headlines speak to the common causes that induce collapse (all a reflection of growing corporatism): lobbyists, money, elitism, distorted tools of democracy such as gerrymandering, voter restrictions and imbalanced voter processes, and on an on – pick your headline. The caveat is, do not let Donald interfere with legitimate evaluation of our democratic government; Donald is as irritating and as destructive as the plague of Japanese Beetles that destroyed whole trees and gardens last year. Today, there are a few but the plague is gone. What is important is to restore the trees and gardens.

It is mariner’s opinion that the democratic process elects representatives that are a lot like us, have the same attitudes and prejudices. The issue with this is that the result is the blind leading the blind. No elected official in our government understands one iota of the impact, ethics or authoritative imbalance of modern communication technology. Lack of regulation allowed Facebook to help the Russians; massive mergers of communication corporations reveal to the world every last bit of information about an individual – the foundation of freedom for corporatism. It used to be that a city could determine how many people were in the city by measuring water usage from toilets and showers. Today, a corporation knows you’re using the toilet because you stopped pecking the smartphone – at least most of us stop.

The most important cure is a full vote of the citizenry – not 47%. Next in importance is to elect representatives who appear above the typical gut issue lamentations of political campaigning. It was a tough election for mariner when he was told in his primary that he could not vote for Maryland’s Martin O’Malley even though the Governor was on the ballot. O’Malley already had demonstrated success as Maryland’s Governor and was a person of discretion. Instead mariner had Donald . . .

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Share First, Bicker Later

Will Rogers is mentioned from time to time in past posts. He is a member of mariner’s “Heroes of Human Life Hall of Fame.” In today’s post, mariner draws from Will’s life an example of genuine compassion and true insight into the rules of survival for the human race. Will was a world famous humorist with a sharp, deeply exposing wit. If one reads any of his material or his biography, one is taken with the realism, clarity and depth that lay behind his humor. His primary target always was the abuse of power to the disadvantage of the average person. Needless to say, government was a favorite target. A few joke lines will bear this out:

֎Every time Congress makes a joke it’s law, and every time they make a law it’s a joke.

֎Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.

֎I can remember way back when a liberal was one who was generous with his own money.

֎Anything important is never left to the vote of the people. We only get to vote on some man; we never get to vote on what he is to do.

֎If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone, ‘America died from a delusion that she has moral leadership.’

֎Liberty don’t work as good in practice as it does in speeches.

Born November 4, 1879 in Oologah, Indian Territory, USA [now Oklahoma]

Died August 15, 1935 near Point Barrow, Territory of Alaska, USA (plane crash)

Will was born on a Cherokee Indian reservation. He carried the social philosophy of the American Indian with him his entire life and lived by it. Simply, the American Indian did not have a profit-based culture. If a hunting party returned with three elk or gatherers returned with vegetables and fruit, it was shared equally among the tribe members – without challenge or prejudice. Native Americans may have bargained for improved benefits but not for the sake of profit. Will was the breadwinner for his family and farm workers; he shared his income across the board. It was sharing that drove his and the Native American’s economy – not profit. The hunter, gatherer, breadwinner, entrepreneur, whatever it is called, seeks value-added resources that are shared – not hoarded. One’s individual value as a human is not based on who is richest. Will would not say, “I’m more worthy because I drive a new Lincoln and you don’t.” Will would not say, “I will not share with you because you did not hunt today.” This last comment is a reflection on mariner’s favorite, all time most frequently heard comment: “They ought to get off their butt and get a job!” Is that sharing or what?

– – – –

What is obvious at this point is our heritage, our most common assumptions about what is right or true, and our automatic reflexes in political situations – they carry our past as though our history was tagged to our genes. The white man’s western culture echoes the Greek and Roman dynasties and the rights and privileges of power; the western religion echoes the stringent and highly organizational Holy Roman Church; the Dark Age morality and the evolution of business into massive profit centers evoke modern capitalism.

Conversely, the Native American had no experience with Greece or Rome or capitalism. Their world began and ended with Mother Earth, the source of life and the end in death. In 1604, Native Americans still lived in the Stone Age – unmarked by the genes of history engrained in the white man. Native Americans, by some miracle, had a balanced faith, stable social culture and a neutral relationship with the environment.

No, they are ignorant savages said the white man. Where is Rome? Where is power? Where is class stratification? Where is wealth? The overwhelming presence of European ethics and morality, along with the tools of power and its abuses, led a genocide comparable to Myanmar today.

Will Rogers had a foot in both worlds. He struggled through most of his life trying to find a role for himself in a society that did not recognize idiosyncrasy or unsophisticated behavior as a value. Not until Will was discovered in classic Hollywood or YouTube tradition was he able to walk the white man’s world at the same time preaching through humor his ethical roots carried from his Cherokee background.

We cannot step away from 2,000 years of accumulated western influence. We are of the west. But like a ship in heavy seas, we can work the rudder to find a safer and more productive way to survive. We can reason with ourselves: why take from ourselves? Why abuse nature instead of building it so we and nature can survive together. This is more important today because the grandchildren of today’s millennials will live in a world we cannot imagine. Western culture will transition to a new ethical standard; what’s true or right or justifiable will not follow the rules of European history. If our society does not trim its sails and man the rudder, our fragmentation will not survive with any discernable ethical base. In other words, the future will not be a nice place; there will be little intellectual difference between a human being and a robot.

The keyword given to us by Will is ‘share.’ Do not judge first – share first. Do not measure wealth or class, measure sharing. There will always be political and ethical issues among us. Deal with them after all of us have shared our circumstances. Sharing is participating in the two great commandments. After all, sharing came before Greece and Rome invented hoarding.

Ancient Mariner