Economic Strangulation

It was Jean-Paul Sartre who wrote, “When the rich wage war it’s the poor who die.” This quote comes to mind as mariner reads no less than four sources writing simultaneously about the effect of oligarchical and plutocratic forces on American society. The common thread is the loss of the ‘American Dream’ – the dream that says anyone who works hard and believes in guaranteed freedom will live a fulfilling life as an American citizen.

Terms:

  • Oligarchy – a form of government where power rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family or military influence.
  • Plutocracy – literally ‘rule by the rich’.
  • Meritocracy – a social system in which people get opportunities and succeed based primarily on their talent (Merit) and effort.
  • Democracy – a government wherein citizens elect officials to represent their interests.

The original vision was a meritocracy; successful citizens are based on performance measured through examination and demonstrated achievement. Politics completely trashed this vision by the Civil War. Further, the economy shifted in a way that more profit multiplies the ability to make even more profit without ever tying growth to production of goods or services. This form of investment has no trickle-down effect – a convenient myth proffered by the wealthy. The excess wealth is never redistributed to the population; rather, wealth is locked into families through trusts, real estate and investments. This economic arrangement draws more and more profit to the wealthy few and literally deprives working citizens from sharing the national wealth.

Obviously, the wealthy have the resources to enjoy a fulfilling life but the national culture increasingly loses any opportunity for fulfillment of any kind. The absence of fulfillment in life is a major reason for class stultification; it is at the root of several clashes between citizens, for example racial tension, indifferent commitment to moral values, and jobs leading to even lower salaries and job dissatisfaction across all industries; even more insidious is the effect on family life. The bottom line is that without meritocracy (and a functioning democracy), there is little motivation to achieve or to be accountable for the nation. Mariner believes that low voter turnout is tied directly to a belief that whatever happens in the plutocracy won’t change anything in the voter’s unfulfilled daily life.

It is common knowledge that the Federal Government and most state governments are plutocracies. Those elected to represent the citizenry actually represent special interests that are wealthy in nature or stand to increase profits unfairly by manipulating legislation through elected representatives. It was in the general news a few months ago that Congress spends its first five hours every day soliciting donations from lobbyist sources. There is no doubt in any corner that plutocracy has replaced representative government.

The final thread, perhaps the most damaging in the long term, is the inability of the United States to remain the leading influence and economy of the world’s nations. What was new in the original documents creating the US was the power of the citizens striving in a meritocracy governed by a democracy. Today, education, science, reinvestment in jobs and technical advancement – all and more are cast aside in favor of sustaining an oligarchy and plutocracy. Overwhelming evidence can be seen in dozens of national oligarchies around the globe.

There’s an old slogan that has come to represent the energy of populist and other uprisings but the core truth is universal:

“Power to the People.”

Ancient Mariner

God’s Christmas Garden Redux

Such a noise! Mariner is accused of intended obfuscation. Apparently, today’s readers do not need a theistic justification for the powerful mandates of the universe. Nevertheless, mariner used the logic model of theology, dogma and ritual to link the unavoidable influences of evolution and environmental dependency to our indifferent acceptance of history.

As reparation, mariner provides a series of statements that make the intended points of the post.

  • Change will always exist and will occur in ways that may not be expected.
  • Evolution is a phenomenon of the universe beyond our control.
  • Nothing escapes evolution – stars, moons, animals or people.
  • Homo sapiens continues to evolve; given the extreme difference between the standard mammalian creature called ‘Gorilla’ and the surrealistic perceptions of our intelligence (Smart), H. sapiens is in for a dramatic shift from Gorilla’s needs and environment.
  • The most important point made by the post is that the electrical phenomena we are creating are, in fact, evolution at work. Smart’s environment has little to do with Gorilla’s environment.
  • Readers did not have difficulty with the last part of the post where mariner interviews Smart to provide examples of evolution at work. Ancient Mariner

God’s Christmas Garden

There is a strain of theology that suggests the phenomenon we call history is evidence of a God who is not necessarily a god of intercession but who has set certain conditions in place that cause reaction and compensation to occur. This is true of the stars, planets and other astronomic phenomena as well as the conditions of living things – including living things on Planet Earth. This strain of theology is a subset of pantheism; the difference is that God didn’t create everything and just walk away; before departing, God set a timer of sorts to avoid a static, unchanging universe. We perceive this timer as history – the ongoing reaction to and compensation for events. Mariner’s more colorful analogy is when he sets up the garden under the Christmas tree the last thing is to plug in electricity. Lo and behold! Immediately mariner must react to and compensate for unexpected conditions. There is an eventful history in mariner’s Christmas gardens.

So it is that humans continuously and unconditionally react to the vagaries of God’s timer. Humans devised a concept of God in such a way that a relationship could exist between humanness and Godliness. On the other hand, some suggest that being superior and distinct is self-serving and grandiose; that in truth Homo sapiens is nothing more than a smart gorilla. This dichotomy may be the essence of human life on earth and perhaps provides the electricity that creates history in our Christmas garden: we are hedonistic idealists.

So much for theology. Let’s move to dogma. For clarity in our metaphor the smart gorilla will be divided into two separate persons: Smart and Gorilla.

Gorilla is a product of evolution, of the laws of creation set in place before God left. Gorilla is no different than any other mammal insofar as the need for safety, nutrition, sex and comfort. Frankly, this is as far as dogma goes for Gorilla: pursue safety, be sated, have sex, and be comfortable while performing these acts. Provide a male Gorilla with a handful of gorilla maidens and existence is complete. Should any of these requirements be challenged in some way by another gorilla or any other beast in creation, Gorilla becomes Mighty Joe Young and will defeat any challenge. This aggressive behavior is more a ritual than a dogma; it will be addressed later.

Gorilla had been around for millions and millions of years before Smart came along. Evolution has positioned Smart as the junior partner, a Charles Darwin type of experimental mutation. Like many other unnecessary mutations, Smart is a troublemaker because Smart turns out to be an abuser of Gorilla’s environment and has an unbearable ego. Smart’s egotistic tendencies lead to the importance of sanctification, validation, modification and self-promotion; a set of terms that are Smart’s dogma.

Now Smart and Gorilla will be rejoined to live in one brain. Because Gorilla is the dominant self, Smart does not often get a chance to express independent behavior. In fact, Smart in many ways uses Gorilla’s behavior to a level that damages Gorilla’s environment and causes unnecessary fights with other Gorilla families. Survival of the fittest is now laced with survival of the most vain. Still, all in all, evolution’s law that the fittest will survive is in play. In the Christmas garden analogy, vanity may be electricity – the active ingredient for further evolutionary history.

Stay with mariner here – mariner decides to have an interview with Smart:

“How are you and Gorilla getting along?” he asked Smart.

“Being a mutant is not an enjoyable experience,” Smart replied. “I’ve been living in an old fashioned gorilla body for a long time; seems it’s about time I took charge of this new branch of evolution’s tree.”

Mariner was puzzled. “What do you have in mind?”

“I’ve started making changes where I can,” Smart said. “The planet has adapted to electricity; then I started introducing devices like the telephone, radio and television. That moved faster than I thought it would and already has become integrated with gorilla physiology.”

“What do you mean integrated?” mariner asked.

“If I am ever to take charge of my own being, I have to swap out parts of Gorilla’s body for parts that fit my own nature. The medical field has made the most advances by using electronic replacements. Think about Gorilla’s sense of hearing – Gorilla couldn’t hear more than one hundred yards away until I introduced the telephone. Now Gorilla can hear around the world. Or should I say Smart can hear around the world. For that matter, hearing aids let Smart hear even when Gorilla can’t.”

Mariner was intrigued. “You’re suggesting that your body is quite different than Gorilla’s body. Is there any part of your body in common with Gorilla’s body?”

Smart paused for a moment. “I am alive just like Gorilla but even that requires redefinition. What is ‘alive’ made of? Is the Sun alive? It has a lifespan; what is the definition of life – not by defining parts but by defining function?”

Mariner responded. “You are a new branch of a tree that contains carbon-based life forms. Whatever the definition of life’s functions, Smart still will need a body of some sort.”

“That assumption is spoken like a true carbon-based creature” Smart retorted. Look around at the new devices that are moving Smart to the edge of Gorilla’s capabilities: Remember that old movie ‘The Stepford Wives’? They exist today and are sold as sex toys; there are robots that can carry a real conversation with humans; there are robots that can learn a thousand times faster than humans; for the first time intelligent electronic devices don’t have to look like humans – consider Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri and the like.”

Mariner commented, “These are excellent electronic devices that foretell the promise of Artificial Intelligence but I don’t see the connection with your statement about replacing Gorilla parts.”

“I don’t use the term ‘artificial.’ Intelligence is intelligence. Pay particular attention to advances in brain-related technology. Did you know mental imaging can be captured in an electronic device? Did you know that for some time now the brain can actually command dexterity in artificial limbs without an electronic box? Did you know that recently electronics were able to replicate human thought outside the brain? Do you see what Smart is doing?” Smart paused.

Not really sure,” mariner said.

“The time is rapidly approaching when I will exist in an electronic state and no longer require Gorilla’s mammalian body.” Smart went on, enjoying the vision of a new state of being. “I am making rapid progress now. It won’t be too many decades before human lower court judges will be replaced with Smart – sans the gorilla suit, of course.”

What will a Smart lower court judge look like?” mariner asked.

“In the beginning, androids may be necessary but all one needs is my brain linked to a data source. Eventually, perhaps a small box attached to the global network. My brain will be integrated with external intelligence devices providing a unified super intelligence.” Smart stopped.

Mariner mused a bit. “That sounds like using a virtual reality mask.”

“Now you’re getting the drift of things – just remove Gorilla.”

Mariner opened a new direction. “How does Smart eat without a body? Is exercise important?”

“Nutrition is chemically based; I will eat through tubes. My body is still evolving; my existence will be a combination of network integration and mobility of some mechanical sort. Have you ever watched the show ‘Battlebots’? It’s truly primitive but the technology is solving issues around mobility. I’ll need some type of mobility. I like the idea of multiple bodies at once; something the Battlebots have introduced with their second and third attack aides.”

“So all you will keep is the brain you and Gorilla share?”

“Yes. Likely the physiological support will fade away over time.”

Mariner closed the interview. There was the whole issue of society, politics and freedom but mariner had to give more thought to that before he could talk to Smart again.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

In Irons

Mariner knew the whole of US reality is a circus when the press made fun of how Donald held his water bottle. Funny thing, mariner holds his water bottle exactly the same way. The reason is familial palsy.

Donald is the ringmaster. Worse is that the entire news industry has joined the circus. So has Congress. So has forty percent of the electorate. The President’s cabinet is a group of foolish clowns worthy of eighteenth century British cartoonists. If Donald actually had the powers of a Roman Emperor, he would be Nero fiddling while Rome burned. As it is, he is Don Quixote fighting with windmills. Meanwhile, the United States dwindles in morality, international power and cultural meaning – noticeable on a daily basis.

The nation is a ship in irons. Its sails flap uselessly while the future blows by. Meanwhile, China has a global effort fully active on every continent and in every important nation – including our neighbors; China soon will be the international force that defines world markets – including the US role in those markets. But Donald Q is chasing the windmill of isolationism.

Night after night, news media focuses on Donald’s affair with a whore. That the viewers of news accept both the behavior and the coverage as de rigueur is frightening; morality has become a rubber band stretched by entertainment value. Can the reader hear the calliope?

Racism has been welcomed back to the circus by Donald. Immigration is a global issue as economies, cultural abuse and war force human families to leave what they know, what they own, and likely, what they love. In Donald’s US circus, add religious intolerance to the show. Quietly, the Attorney General removes laws protecting any disadvantaged person regardless of their plight.

There are some good acts; the Me Too movement, California’s defiance of many of Donald’s efforts at disassembling the fabric of American ethics. But it is a disrespectful circus we watch. There are menacing shadows.

Mariner has decided to leave the circus tent. There is solace in silence. Mariner retrieves news from foreign press and other websites that are not taken in by the music. This savage time will pass as it always has throughout history – but at what cost?

Ancient Mariner

Coming of Age Past 60

Of all the disruptive suggestions offered by mariner to make life equitable in the coming artificial intelligence age, setting an age limit of 60 rather than setting a limit on elected terms received the most comment. Mariner responds to these comments in today’s post.

֎ Genetic Disposition. As Homo sapiens grows up, lives life, and grows old, both the mind and the body go through distinct changes we are familiar with and about which we compensate in some way. The body certainly is subject to age else professional sports would be filled with old athletes and tenure would become a union issue. Only the most dedicated, ascetic athletes maintain energy levels past 50; mariner suspects few of these few athletes serve in elected government positions. The mind follows a similar path, becoming more pragmatic and less adventuresome in its thoughts.
֎ Role in Culture. Mariner remembers studying the Japanese custom of elevating its esteemed leaders and thinkers to a supernumerary status in their later lives. They were called upon in special situations when their acumen helped with solving problems. Here in the US after notable careers, many US leaders and thinkers continue to shape the direction of politics and other disciplines by belonging to think tanks and consulting with active leaders. Many return to professional careers, continuing to shape the dynamics of society. Many leverage their political influence by becoming lobbyists – perhaps not a best choice from the electorate point of view; some even become university presidents.

The point is this: Codgers (cf. last post) have a jaundiced view. It is jaundiced because times change; the values codgers learned in life are passé or have context that no longer applies. Two examples will suffice:
First example – Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was at one point the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. This committee was responsible for, among other things, developing legislation and regulations related to technology which at the time oversaw the growth of the Internet, computerization and telecommunications. One can research his career on Wikipedia. He passed few communications bills and virtually no meaningful technology bills. Upon his retirement, he confessed he did not understand how computer networks worked. After long instruction by staffers, he grasped the idea that wires transmitting data were comprised of tubes through which data was transmitted – similar to department stores. Senator Stevens was born on November 18, 1923; he was 86 when he left the Senate in 2009. Because the Senate Chair had no comprehension of modern telecommunications or its social ramifications, Silicon Valley runs unimpeded to this very day – allowing abusive data practices similar to Facebook.
Second example – Senator Strom Thurman was born on December 5, 1902. He represented the state of South Carolina from 1954 (age 52) until he retired in 2003 at the age of 101. Notorious for his resistance to civil rights legislation, he was able to prevent universal civil rights in everything from public schools to restaurants. When he stepped down at the end of his career, he had singlehandedly kept states right rule and segregation in the Dixie states even to today when racism is not an idea but a function of daily life. His opinions on race always were 40 years behind that of the general public.

Mariner deliberately cleansed the examples from party inclinations in order to clarify the effect of codgerism. One may challenge mariner for selecting two seemingly extreme examples. Mariner challenges back for the reader to take a list of age 60+ legislators and compare their later advocacies to the needs of the day.

֎ Taking Measure of Priorities. Psychology and pop psychology sources are full of models, comparisons and timelines reflecting the stages humans pass through in a lifetime. Mariner truncates abundant references into five stages of life:

0-20: An age of learning the rules of life; imprinting mores and behaviors that are meaningful for personal integration into society; acquiring identity and role in society.

20-40: The age of the warrior; passion, energy and commitment focus on growth and achievement; establishing family and challenging society are prominent.
40-60: The age of the expert; seasoned experience translates to power in society; peak of insight to mitigate conflict and procedure.

60-80: An age of withdrawal; wisdom replaces achievement; acquiescence replaces challenge; tolerance replaces discipline; physical presence wanes.

80-?: The age of the self; reflection; personal necessities; physical and mental decline.

Mariner acknowledges that moving from one stage to the next or even transitioning within a stage is not driven by toggle switches; the change of weather seasons more closely fits. However, searching for representatives among 350 million citizens, the stages are a stable rule.

֎ Energy to Burn. A marvel we experience is watching very young children burn energy through constant movement, gesturing, animated conversation and otherwise consuming an endless supply of energy. The amount of energy we have, not only at hand but in reserve, dwindles steadily through life. For adults, there comes a time when the energy required for determination just isn’t there. We acquiesce to ‘going along’ rather than pressing our opinion forward. Genuine statesmanship in behalf of others suffers the most as we approach the age of withdrawal.

Given the four conditions outlined above, mariner believes older age is the cause of more dysfunction across a legislative body than having one extremist hang around too long. Mariner suspects that older voters, sharing the transition into withdrawal, are more comfortable with their own kind as a representative. Certainly don’t want those brash youngsters changing everything.

To show magnanimity, mariner will yield on age 60 and replace it with age 65 – if only to match Medicare policy. In return, he submits that cabinet members, too, be subject to the age rule.

Ancient Mariner

Coming of Age

Mariner has mentioned a number of times that he is an old codger. He is aware that his age has constrained his point of view regarding many of the social, political, economic, ethical and technological changes that are dragging us kicking and screaming into the future. While he considers himself educated, perceptive, and acceptably compassionate, still he suffers from ideological and social isolation in these turbulent times. The most significant indicator of withdrawal is a growing lack of interest in news – world, US, political or otherwise. Even his Scientific American Magazine, subscribed to since 1964, occasionally goes unread.

Another indicator of ‘codgerism’ is a growing lack of interest with groups who identify with causes and community activities. Mind you, this is not absolute in nature; mariner could no more be a hermit than could a herring. It isn’t that mariner disdains the efforts of these groups, some of which are quite wholesome; it’s more that the context for individual participation has changed.

A few examples may enlighten the reader as to the subtle shift in perception that seems to underlie codgerism. (Mariner dare not apply a euphemism to the lovely women of his generation.)

Mariner has older friends who make his age seem juvenile. They remain traditionally religious and struggle just a little with the new role of the church and the ‘loose’ attitude of parishioners. When the friends were growing up and well into their adulthood, the church was the center of theological meaning, morality, politics, social identity, and the center of collaboration with others. In rural areas this was especially true. His older friends are more gracious toward parishioners than mariner; they suffer their current church mates amicably while mariner carries a mild prejudice against do-nothing pew Christians. Another friend is a professed Taoist; today there is no difference in behavior between the faiths.

Another example of attitude isolation or codgerism demonstrates how technology can leave whole segments of a society isolated in their social understanding. The example, well known, is the invention of the automobile, electricity, and steam engines. In the 1960’s mariner was blessed to meet a very few old timers (codgers?) who spent most of their lives on farms with horses for transportation and kerosene for light. This example illustrates well how the speed of life, the confrontation with new technically driven habits and new life priorities can leave a senior person in a quandary about behavior and morality. One fellow mariner spoke with was proud of the fact that even in 1964 he had never been more than 54 miles from his home. So much for modern travel opportunity (How many of us disdain that damned smartphone – talk about a technically driven change in social behavior!).

To finish this line of thought, from 1890 to 1964 was a disruption of morality, social upheaval, human value, technically driven lifestyle changes (telephone, radio, TV, computers, commercial flight, and interstate highways just to mention a few totally new influences on daily priorities) that happened faster and more completely than any era shift in history. The entire shift, unlike the Reformation or the Industrial Revolution, happened well within a single lifetime. If one were alive between 1900 and 1964, there were a lot of lifestyle issues that had to be reinvented several times. Folks who lived through those years, were they still alive, could help today’s generations cope. Yes, we are in the midst of another era change – at the speed of light.

Today’s new era shift began in 1980. As happens so frequently with the birth of a new age, entrepreneurs and profiteers leverage newly turned fiscal opportunities. The entire economic ethic shifted toward corporatism and toward investment profit more than direct business profit. Today, of course, we struggle with a growing oligarchy. From 1980 to today, workers have not participated in GDP; salaries generally are only 40 percent of what they should be if adjusted for inflation. Further, the age of oil has affected the environment and weather; it is not under control. Again further, the Internet has abolished privacy and individuality. Finally, artificial intelligence will completely redefine the meaning of work, income, individual security in all its manifestations and even the international politics we are familiar with today – all in the reader’s lifetime.

So. Mariner’s disdain for the electorate, the pew Christians, and all the nation’s elected officials is the result of codgerism. This is not his era. Where are Nat King Cole, Patsy Cline and Elvis? They sang in English. What happened to union negotiations? What happened to salaries? Want to know why it takes two income producers to sustain a family? They’ve been robbed of their share of income from their nation’s economy. Want to know why an eight-year old narcissist was elected President? The country is screwed up. What all old codgers have in common is the wisdom of living a lifetime, finally absorbing some decent cultural values, and not easily swayed by gimmickry. True, these merits may not take us to the future but they just may help with fairness and grace; factors that aren’t dependent on economic opportunity.

The ancient codger offers some issues the disadvantaged electorate may want to tackle to make life in the new AI age friendlier:

֎ The US will continue to falter until, above all else, we first celebrate our commonality rather than our differences.

֎ Make the redistricting process politician-free and base it on simple geographic and population formulas.

֎ Automate voting to eliminate voting suppression schemes. Anyone should be able to vote at the drop of a hat. Some nations fine voters for not participating and pay them when they do.

֎ Forget term limitations. In times of great change, our leaders must have grown up in the age at hand. The current legislative bodies are full of codgers. Set an age limit for running for office; perhaps 60.

֎ It will require extreme effort but success is crucial. Remove money from elections and governance by imposing caps and limiting contributions to the districts in question. While we’re at it, put heavy penalties on lobby contributions.

֎ Remove the banks from their role of dominating the economy and its profits. Profit must come from the work of the people, not the wealth of the autocrats.

 ֎ The great abuse of the AI era will be discounting humanness. Today, AI already has made major moves to eliminate human individuality as a legitimate factor in the evolution of society.

Mariner understands the resistance caused by his age. But he ain’t stupid. The electorate shouldn’t be stupid either.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Man’s Role on Earth

It’s the year 1870. Two American Bison are talking. One says to the other, “It doesn’t look good for us, Bill. We’ve been hit with the Man parasite.”

Yesterday, two Parrotfish are cruising along the Coral Reef. One says to the other, “Did you hear they’re shutting down the whole reef? It has a Man infection.”

A Bengal Tiger and A Silverback Gorilla are resting by the waterhole. The Tiger says, “My cub came back to me the other day and said he couldn’t find a place to live and that he’d have to move back with me. I don’t have enough room as it is.” The Gorilla replied, “Tell me about it. That Man infestation will be the end of us all.”

Two wild Salmon are swimming up the Chuit River in Alaska. One says to the other, “You know this is the last time our families will swim up this river – The Chuit open face coal mine and gas wells will cause Man poisoning.”

Mother Nature finally had to call a meeting of the Living Creatures Task Force. The Man parasite had eliminated 600 major species in just 100 years and thousands of species were complaining of disorders from gentrification, disease, poisoning, starvation and unnecessary violence and murder.

In the past, Mother Nature had been a bit conservative, surmising the Man parasite had enough intelligence to curb its excesses. Now she had to concede that things were out of hand. Mother Nature presented to the task force two subcommittee reports; one from the planet climate subcommittee and one from the Committee on Species Population.

“The climate report doesn’t look good,” she said. “Both the atmosphere and the oceans are out of balance from Man infections.”

A flatfish piped up, “I heard Man plans to dredge the ocean floor for increasingly rare minerals – where can I go?” There was a growing rumble rising from the task force.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Mother Earth said. “The Climate report says the damage is irreparable as far out as the next ice age.”

She switched to the report from the Committee on Species Population. Her face grew pale. “The report says species are becoming extinct at a rate higher than the first five extinctions – and there hasn’t been a Solar System catastrophe.” “Except for the Man parasite,” a beaver shouted. There was a general response to the beaver and discussion centered on the overpopulation of the Man parasite at the expense of other species.

Mother Earth turned to the Chairman of the Solar System Committee, an Andean Condor. “Do we expect any surprises from the Solar System?”

The Condor replied that Jupiter and Saturn are in syzygy which likely will cause an ice age at some point. Further, the Condor suggested that a reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field is due. “At least the Sun’s eleven-year solar cycle has been uneventful.” Condor added.

“I saw in the climate report that the world’s estuaries will be flooded by rising water levels,” a mud puppy commented. “To say nothing about shellfish,” a Maryland crab whispered.

Mother Earth gaveled the task force to order. “I’ll have to give this some thought,” she said. “I am concerned that the cure will be catastrophic; we will all suffer mightily.”

She gaveled the meeting of the Living Creatures Task Force to a close.

Ancient Mariner

 

Another Animal at the Zoo

In an effort to remain sane and to maintain rational emotional feelings, for several weeks mariner has avoided American news programming, tolerating only BBC, CGTN (China), selected CSPAN and, with the aid of the fast forward button, The Eleventh Hour on MSNBC. For years mariner has been saturated by the home and do-it-yourself networks. He tends not to watch fictional programming.

What is left? Science channels (seen all the programs), geological and environmental programming (been everywhere, travelled through time and space, seen all the conditions); mariner knows how to be a junk dealer, bootlegger, hotrod mechanic, gardener, and furniture maker. Scrounging about for anything, mariner uncovered the veterinary shows. There are several series. The theme is that animals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish of all kinds are brought to a vet’s clinic having all kinds of maladies.

Mariner suffered a binge watch the other night. He had enlightenment. As he watched the animals, he wondered how they dealt with human creatures while not knowing the intellectual dimensions, knowledge and cause and effect processes that are foisted upon them. In most cases the patients had learned to tolerate humans, even accepting dependence for comfort and care. But intellectually, there had to be an immense gap between patient reality and human reality. When they were healed, did they have a causal awareness between newfound health and the creatures wearing masks and poking with needles?

Then mariner had his burst of insight. In 150 years, when artificial intelligence has been thoroughly ensconced in human culture, humans will have the exact intellectual experience as the animals. There will be no way to link human consciousness with the surreal reasoning of a robot. This insight applies not only to visiting our electronic vets but also our electronic government, our electronic softball game versus robots and (one wonders) our spousal relationships.

We will be no more than a baby opossum experiencing the AI world in complete ignorance; tolerating them and even accepting dependence for comfort and care. There’s always a concern that AI vets will, just as human vets, decide to have us put down.

Ancient Mariner

 

Deep State

Mariner bought a black jacket recently and had the words ‘Deep State’ painted in large black letters across the back. The effect was an appropriately discreet appearance which would be apropos for a hidden operation within a government bureaucracy. With anticipation, mariner wore the jacket to a family dinner last night only to be disillusioned because the family did not know what ‘Deep State’ meant. Mariner determined immediately to write a post about Deep State.

Generally, the term deep state is defined as a government within a government – an unofficial and discreet operation that defies the overt policies and operations of elected leaders who attempt to derail traditional government functions. Mariner learned of the term reading news articles about the Turkey situation where a fascist is attempting to dismember the democratically functioning government.

Then, here in the United States of all places, Donald raised the specter of a Deep State run by Barack Obama using the intelligence agencies to spy on him with the intent of removing him from the campaign and then from his Presidency. Donald still claims that a Deep State operation is causing him problems, blaming it for everything from White House leaks to the information obtained by Robert Mueller.

It is a conspiracy theory, of course. During the campaign, Obama (who read his intelligence briefings) learned that the Russians were attempting to interfere with the US election. Barack ordered the FBI to open an investigation. As we have learned in endless news broadcasts, the investigation began to discover links between Russians, WikiLeaks, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which Donald hired to influence voters. Many of Donald’s coterie were communicating with Russian operatives. Consequently, what began as a legitimate investigation into Russian tampering eventually involved Donald.

We shan’t engage in an analysis of Donald’s ineptitude but to him, the world is either trustworthy lieutenants or a conspiracy against him. Add this to his permanent vendetta to erase anything barackian, and he believes there is a Deep State operating within government intelligence perhaps still run by Barack.

Mariner enjoys wearing his jacket.

Ancient Mariner

 

A Biopsy of the Christian Faith

It all started with Jesus. Today, Jesus might be found in Black Lives Matter or some other rebellious, antiauthority group. He was no saint, for sure. When Jesus said, “The first will be last and the last will be first,” that was a literal statement. The authorities of the time, both governmental and religious, were the oppressors. Jesus devoted his life to caring for the plight of the common people and resisted sources of oppression. His pastoral approach and absolute commitment to his cause was remembered by many and in time led to authors writing about him and advocating his principles.

Authors had little factual data to draw on in those days. It was a time before the printing press, dictionaries, and fact-driven accounts of history. Conceptual writing depended largely on metaphor and hyperbole. These limitations about data allowed writers to emphasize the qualities of Jesus that were unique and deemphasize political and cultural content.

The significance of Jesus’s life is not to be taken lightly. It is difficult even in today’s data driven society to articulate the spiritual qualities that are drawn from his life. His core values of absolute empathy, unlimited forgiveness, and selfless dedication remain the bastion of western civility two thousand years later.

֎

It is difficult today given Hollywood heroes, news heroes, and documented heroes to understand how Jesus became an international icon. Without the media we have today heroes would be hard to find. What elevated Jesus to hero status and the source of spiritual inspiration was the hardship of daily life at the time. Oppression was the political device for managing the masses. If one was a commoner, one’s life wasn’t worth much. Church versus state didn’t exist at the time; there was only state. If one expressed critical views about the Emperor as godhead, one likely would be imprisoned if not worse. Common citizens longed for purpose and value in their lives; they wanted to be saved from their plight.

The term ‘Christ’ is derived from middle Greek ‘Christos.’ The first reference to the word is in Acts 11:26 where its use is noted in Antioch, a city located in Turkey. Early followers of the Christian movement were considered agitators and troublemakers and suffered greatly. To Christians, it seemed reasonable that respecting others rather than oppressing them would provide a way out, a path to a better life. Jesus was the personification of this path. His message and the politics that came with the message spread quickly in the Roman Empire.

A century or two later, the story is told of Emperor Constantine that, at the end of a successful battle, he saw clouds in the shape of a cross and took them to be a sign of divine intervention by the god of the Christians. He issued a decree that Christians were not to be persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Within a few years, Christianity was practiced openly around the entire Mediterranean region. The popularity was good and bad. The Christian message was good but local theology and doctrine ranged from outright magic and demons to sublime isolation. The effect of parochial preference overshadowed the core message of Christianity. Constantine was confused by all the variations and decided there had to be one theology, one doctrine and one ritual. In 325 AD he summoned Christian leaders from across the Empire to gather in the city of Nicaea and establish the official version of Christianity.

The result of that gathering is what most people today consider to be the Christian religion. The collection of books that comprise the Holy Bible was determined at Nicaea. Key doctrines of faith such as the Trinity, transformation and salvation were established. Principles of ritual were clarified and centered Christianity on the authentic principles of Jesus’s life: empathy, forgiveness and dedication.

 

[Mariner is certain that is the shortest exegesis of Christianity he has ever written.]

 

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A biopsy will be taken that includes parts of theology, faith and ritual:

Theology – A Christian believes in one God. A Christian believes in a loving God. A Christian believes in God as a singularity, meaning all that exists is God; God is not a personal, opinionated or historically interactive God.

Faith – The relationship between a Christian, Jesus and God is one of spiritual coexistence. This is expressed as a triangle called the Trinity. Sharing in the spirituality of the Trinity allows transformation and salvation to occur – a state of being wholly within the Grace of God’s love.

Ritual – Living in accordance with the life and discipline of Jesus; experiencing God’s power through a combined effort of empathy, forgiveness and selflessness; sacrificing the physical nature in behalf of the spiritual nature (laying down one’s life for another is a transformative act).

Mariner wants to clarify an important term before describing the state of the biopsy. The word ‘empathy’ is used frequently when one would expect the word ‘love.’ In mariner’s opinion, the English language is short on words for the various kinds of love that exist. Something isn’t right when we say, “I love God” and also say, “I love the coffee table.” During the time of Jesus, it took three Greek words to say love: eros, meaning physical attraction; philos, meaning brotherly love or friend love; agape, meaning love of God or conversely God’s love of humanity accompanied by a feeling of awe. It seems correct to combine a genuine feeling of empathy with acting in behalf of that empathy, and further to commit one’s self to continuously perform in behalf of empathetic opportunities – in other words, the core behavior of Jesus.

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The biopsy.

Generally, theology is in rough shape. Surprisingly, in recent decades more Christians have grown comfortable with a God that is a singularity while still advocating faith and ritual. But for centuries Christian education began by starting with page 1 of the Old Testament. Few students if any stayed with Sunday School long enough to learn the New Testament – the Christian part. The Old Testament, aside from a theistic relationship full of lamenting about God’s fickle ways, presents an image of God which is very anthropomorphic and very much a God who will interfere with history if what’s going on isn’t to God’s liking. A large majority of Christians with just Old Testament exposure still relate to the Old Testament God to help them with their daily activities or otherwise blame God for acting against them if bad things happen.

In the New Testament, God is a love power, a power that created the universe and all that exists. God drives a hard bargain for believers because believers must expand God’s love in order to benefit from God’s love.

Faith, too, is in poor shape as Christian practitioners cut short the dynamic of living hand in hand with God and thereby be transformed into a life of infinite reward. Faith in anything is hard to come by these days. Cultural stability for all of humanity is not readily available. The human tendency is to batten the hatches and retreat to a less troublesome spot where the stormy seas are kept away. However, this is a good time for Christians to measure their faith. Instead of retreating, step out into the world to improve the situation. This behavior requires a Christian to have faith that God will ‘respond’ with feelings of comfort and wellbeing despite the physical and emotional tribulations of spreading the quieting power of God’s love. Remember that Christianity is a transformative religion; somewhere it says your faith will make you whole.

Ritual is in critical condition. Many parts of ritual have ceased to function. Ritual is where Christians execute the core values of Jesus’s life: empathy, forgiveness and selfless dedication. Too many Christians are pew Christians. In Matthew 28:19-20, Christians are charged to go forth and spread the Word. In churches, this is called evangelism. Further, the Word can’t spread in pews; empathy can’t be served in pews; forgiveness can’t be served in pews. The church service has become the primary act in a religion that calls for finding salvation by giving one’s personal, face-to-face actions to people in need. The church service has a role in restoring theology, faith and ritual but the God relationship is outside.

Finally, selfless dedication to the church building has replaced selfless dedication to God and spreading God’s love. For too many Christians, the buildings and assets are sacrosanct without the accompanying theology, faith and ritual found in Jesus.

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Sociologists would step in at this point to explain the ill condition of Christianity by reflecting on the influence of changing culture, good and bad economic security, and the will of the flesh as core to the survival of the species. Economists would defend the importance of wealth even at the poorest levels of society. Scientists, educators and data experts would say that Jesus’s Israel no longer exists. Even Joseph Campbell would imply that the Jesus myth has faltered.

Mariner holds that these are excuses but not reasons for ill health in the biopsy. Religion is the responsibility of the individual. It is a personal search for a richer experience. Even without the gathering at Nicaea, humans would search for quality values in life. Many stop at wealth; many are incapable; most seek comfort, avoiding spiritual responsibility as an enriching experience.

More than ever before, our times need Jesus walking the streets spreading the love of God. Jesus, however, gave his life on the cross; it’s time for Christians to pick up the cross and take his place.

Ancient Mariner