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

On Being a Shut-in – 2


Mariner thanks readers who responded with replies and emails. All were supportive. One reader suggested ‘shut-out’ would be a better term because the fact is there is no room for mariner in the state of the world. That term certainly has merit. There are many readers, also who are shut out; they know it and strive anyway at moving the world along by continuing their obligations as a member of a democratic nation.

Shut-in and shut-out both work. It may be the perspective of each individual that determines which term is appropriate. Mariner has focused on the shut-in experience. How does a shut-in adapt to a constrained reality? Each of us experiences an individualized slice of reality. If one had a job, family, and recreational activities, still that would be a narrow slice of reality at large. Could one ask, “Is Donald’s faithful base experiencing the life of a shut-in – constrained within a walled reality where changing economy, population and culture raise fears about the outside world? Is the life of a person of color a constrained reality that is just a shut-in version of greater reality? Could each of us, however liberated we may feel, be limited to a shut-in version of general reality?

Enough. Mariner ponders too much. Mariner is curious about how a shut-in adapts to the reality that is available. His personal experience suggests that all of us, shut-in, shut-out or otherwise, make adjustments to sustain an even, acceptable keel in our daily life however constrained. Not being God, the ultimate reality, all of us must find a balance that, if nothing else, allows us to wake up the next day and carry on.

It is difficult for physically and emotionally limited individuals. How does one find self-worth when one cannot participate in normal society? How does one pass a long, uneventful day? Mariner, having a very small and not discomforting challenge, found that filling the day requires deep emotional and intellectual thought. Depression is a constant threat; boredom is a sledgehammer disrupting problem-solving thought; time moves in slow motion making the day longer. Mariner quickly learned that, if each of us were to make a better world, it would be making a true, physically constrained shut-in have a better day.

Most of us, of course, are not physically or emotionally constrained. Still, we are shut-in, not allowing us to experience the full rainbow of life and, existentially, true reality. For the moment, mariner feels that constraint forces each of us to invent meaningful reality – a reality that provides personal worth and accomplishment as a human being. This can be holistic and gratifying or it can be disruptive, warlike and destructive. Whatever the outcome, we are challenged by being shut-ins.

Ancient Mariner


On Being a Shut-in

Each of us knows at least one person who is a shut-in. There are different reasons for being a shut-in. If one is infirm, disabled, or functionally incompetent, obviously one has no choice but to live in the small, contained space of their home, which may be limited to one small room.

Another reason to become a shut-in is fear; the outside world has become too onerous. One fears one’s own incompetence. The home is a safe haven requiring no responsibility or accountability to the outside world.

Another reason, the reason mariner chose, is disgust and helplessness. It’s not so much he chose to become physically contained but that he has shut off news of the world – entirely. Not even reading websites of excellent repute. Mariner subscribes to a few top-tier magazines that lie on the table largely unread.

Mariner has lamented countless times about an electorate he perceives to be absent of any intellect whatsoever, any tiniest bit of compassion or integrity, and chooses to dwell in a land of misinformation, prejudice based on nothing, and accepts as true only those opinions and facts that fit the needs of one’s personal hippocampus.

Then there is the feeling of helplessness. Mariner is an old sailor that has lived a lifetime tilting at windmills no one else felt were important. The presence of Donald and dysfunctional legislatures across the land have induced great frustration and anger in mariner. He lives in a nation that shot dead the leaders of unified government, the Great Society and Civil Rights yet today would rather believe religiously in unfounded, false information and support only the most base interpretation of human rights and dignity. All the while, a kleptocratic President feeds the oligarchical power of an economy that does not include 99% of the electorate.

Having become a shut-in is clearly a different experience. The days are pleasant and mild; one notices how well the lilies bloomed this year; one putters in the workshop learning new woodworking techniques; one follows with little interruption the progress of tennis tournaments.

True, a feeling of uselessness pops up once in a while. In a relatively short amount of time mariner has retired from his job, divested real estate holdings, sold the farm, and is aware that grandparenthood, however pleasant, means one is not on the first team anymore. But mariner’s frustration and anger subside. It is possible to feel ‘normal.’

Do not feel obligated to draw mariner back into the real world run by the electorate; no matter the result of any election or legislative act, it still will be the world that frustrates and angers mariner. Being a shut-in can be quite palliative.

Ancient Mariner



Just the Facts, Ma’am


‘Fake News,’ conspiracy theory facts, salesman facts, politician facts, personal experience facts, in fact, any facts are not sacrosanct. They are subject to interpretation, pejorative evaluation, dismissed with prejudice, distorted, and otherwise abused to the point that a fact is an indisputable fact only in few circumstances. For the record, Merriam-Webster says:

1 a : something that has actual existence ·space exploration is now a fact

b : an actual occurrence ·prove the fact of damage

2 : a piece of information presented as having objective reality ·These are the hard facts of the case.

3 : the quality of being actual : actuality ·a question of fact hinges on evidence

4 : a thing done: such as

a : crime ·accessory after the fact

b: archaic : action

c obsolete : feat

5 archaic : performance, doing

— in fact

In the day, a fact was straight forward: did it work or didn’t it; my daughter’s name is Elizabeth; how much does it cost, etc. Then, however, there weren’t many facts to fathom – just what made the day work. There were times when one would have their guard up, e.g., listening to politicians, salesmen, the neighborhood gossip, even on occasion the preacher. These distortions are part of human nature; who among us hasn’t used hyperbole to make a point instead of laying out detailed, factual information. Distortion is an important affect when speaking a fact. The fact can be expressed as less significant than it may be or more so simply by changing one’s tone. Expression may imply how important a fact is or conversely how insignificant a fact is without changing the fact.

What is different in the current world is that we are overcome by facts. Compared to the day when most facts were found in the neighborhood, today’s facts are from all over the world, from every culture, from every scientific and educational subject, from every strain of historical events, from 12 billion humans – and that’s just for one day. That’s a lotta yotta (1024) – many more facts than we can handle.

Meaningful, verifiable facts tend to be local if not firsthand. An astronaut riding in the space station can verify first hand that the world is in fact a sphere. Yet a flat earth advocate, using their own collection of facts, would disagree. A friend of the mariner, not a sailor, sailed with mariner during a heavy downpour with dramatic thunder and lightning. He believed absolutely that we were going to sink and was visibly disturbed. We didn’t sink and were never in danger of sinking but there’s no doubt that sinking was a fact to the friend. Mistakenly, he credits mariner’s extraordinary sailing skills as the reason we did not sink (of course mariner softly demurred but let the credit stand).

What these examples expose is that facts don’t always represent truth. A fact may be a fact but may not reflect an implied truth. A simple example was given on national news a few days ago when Donald discussed pardons for some political individuals who had been found guilty and, considering he already had pardoned Sheriff Arpaio (charged with abusive, racist treatment of jailed Mexicans), seemed self-serving. Doris Kearns Goodwin was interviewed and made the point that past Presidents had issued pardons to unify the attitude of citizens and avoid unpleasant moments that otherwise would linger. Donald’s use of pardons deliberately set citizen attitudes further apart. However, as a fact, a pardon is a pardon.

Not wanting to burden the reader with other elements (opinion, ulterior motive, greed, prejudice and other ‘soft’ arguments for truth), we are left with the chore of validating facts before we assign value to them. No one wants to add investigative time or delay when gathering facts or truths. But the truth is that facts are so voluminous and still so important that our gut feeling truthometer is defective. Here are some tools to fathom genuine truth as opposed to Stephen Colbert’s acceptance of ‘truthiness.’

Focus on both sides of an issue. Our gut truthometer really, really wants to see only one side.

Search for sources that are more dependable for presenting facts and truths. This is a shortcut to having to search two sides of an issue. For example, PBS Nightly News may be more responsible to identify facts and truths than Rush Limbaugh. Still, you are responsible for the quality of any information.

Read. Mariner knows many people don’t want to read but these are critical times. Daily newspapers still have reasonable op-ed information; read more than one widely distributed magazine; if you have a computer with Internet access, sign up for free emails from well-known magazines and legitimately educational websites.

Every once in a blue moon, attend a city council meeting just for the heck of it or a political event where you can get free barbeque.

Donate to a cause. Cash, labor, or just hang out to see how things work. This helps immensely in sharpening your skills at interpreting facts and truths. Otherwise, there may be whole areas of important facts and truths that may not reach you through normal channels.

Mariner hopes this helps. It is a huge task these days to know what’s really going on outside the neighborhood.

Ancient Mariner