It IS our Nation

It was a long, relaxing day as the nation witnessed the transition from King Donald to President Biden. One sensed that a great sigh of relief blew across the United States; even the hardened press corps seemed to relish in covering the inauguration. To reach for a metaphor, we had turned off the burner that was causing our pot to boil over.

President Biden was eloquent in his attempt to return the nation to its citizens. Perhaps that is his most important agenda. He has deliberately selected career experts for every cabinet secretary, for the military, banking, corporate America and has begun restoring the State Department and the Department of Justice to be competent, experienced, professional functions capable of interpreting the world in the best possible light for the nation.

As has been reported widely in the press, President Biden inherits the most strained nation since FDR. Many aspects of the American spirit have been abused for decades; most of them appear in the headlines on a daily basis. We have become calloused as we watch day after day the terrible news of our disheveled society.

But we must help this administration. We must watch our daily news looking for progress not only in the nation’s wellbeing but in the lives of everyday citizens who are weary after decades of government indifference.

Joe’s first job is to put stitches on the wounds and at the same time begin therapy and reconstruction. It is a tall job.

It was clear today that the nation does belong to its citizens. Get your positive spirit out of the closet and put it on. That is your job.

Ancient Mariner

January 6

The attack on the US Capitol was violent; it consumed news organizations, social media, professional politics, corporate behavior and fringe organizations primarily associated with white supremacy. Five people died.

For all the cacophony, it is just a small incident in the midst of massive changes in government, society, economics, technology and global warming. Add to these unrooted times an epic invasion of the entire world by Covid-19.

In the United States 400,000 people will have died by the time this post is logged. Just measuring deaths, 5 people chose to be at the Capital where they may be killed while the virus has claimed one of every 121 people across the country. Each death not wanted and each death ripping into a family’s happiness.

It is true that four years of Donald-power has been extremely troublesome. There is no question that Donald is the match that lit many fires in society – including the attack on the Capitol – not just with his race baiting but with regulations affecting environmental issues, health issues, economic issues and he was disruptive to fragile behaviorisms that underlie democracy.

But Donald is just another incident brought on by the universal disruption we experience today, a disruption we will continue to experience for the rest of this century. Human society is very fragile. Society can be knocked off balance by imbalances in power, technology, weather and basic human need. Just a short list of moments that have contributed to our tidal wave of change:

֎ Since 1942 life expectancy has jumped from 53 to 80. This extra generation is very expensive to maintain and often interferes with incidental changes in society that then lead to larger consequences – think abortion, plutocracy, evangelical religion, any lgbqt issue, etc.

֎ For forty years American labor has been cut off from sharing in the nation’s profits; labor income has not grown commensurate with inflation – think loss of the American Dream.

֎ Despite the best efforts of white supremacists, caucasians will become a distinct minority in the United States by 2070 – think a revamping of civil rights legislation to eliminate the class discriminations that favor caucasians.

֎ Because of rising sea levels, by 2050 300 million people will be forced to relocate to other locations in the US – think housing, job loss, agricultural and local economies.

֎ Artificial Intelligence will force a major change in the relationship between employment and income. Most futurist economists believe a family stipend provided by increased corporate taxation is likely. Interestingly, a stipend was advocated by Andrew Yang in the 2016 presidential campaign and today, the impact of the pandemic has forced the government to issue stipends to keep the economy functional.

֎ The world is running out of resources, causing many nations to fail economically. Even wealthy nations are being pushed to reinterpret long held capitalistic tropes about supply and demand. The current rise in dictatorships is the result of public dissatisfaction with government but cannot be the final correction; internationalism will be redefined by 2050.

Everyone prays, in these turbulent times when society is in disarray, that the machinations of change will not become violent. Let’s hope the attack on the Capitol is the last of it.

Ancient Mariner

It isn’t what goes around, it’s what has always been

The disarray, some may say discontent, that the United States suffers today has been around for a while. Mariner has said that the damage to the American Dream began with the Reagan administration when regulations and legislation were loosened to allow corporations to invest in foreign markets and at the same time diminished obligations to employees.

Over forty years of discontent in the labor classes yields social discrimination and the splintering of national unity. Labor class unrest led to the militaristic behavior found in the role of police today. The police brutality evidenced in the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota became the new emoji for an old problem.

Flash back to 1991 – 30 years ago:

In 1991, after a drunk-driving automobile chase, four officers struck Rodney King with batons fifty-three times. The LAPD initially charged King with “felony evading,” but later dropped the charge. On his release, he spoke to reporters from his wheelchair, with his injuries evident: a broken right leg in a cast, his face badly cut and swollen, bruises on his body, and a burn area to his chest where he had been jolted with a 50,000-volt stun gun. Three of the four officers were acquitted.

The incident invoked the LA riots which eventually killed 63 people.

In 1992 Rodney became famous for saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Before the Nation’s cultural breakdown can begin healing, Congress must repair the Reagan policy that split the American Dream. Until then the xenophobic organizations will not subside; racial injustice will not be cured; economic fairness among the Nation’s citizens will not occur.

֎ Restore the unions.

֎ Raise minimum wage to be commensurate with inflation since 1980.

֎ Provide universal health care.

֎ Significantly raise taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to release privately stored, useless cash to the government so it can restore the middle and lower classes who live desperate lives today.

֎ Significantly increase the job market by utilizing opportunities offered by inadequate infrastructure, growing damage from climate change and by firm enforcement of antitrust laws.

֎ Repair a dysfunctional housing policy that locks out first time buyers and lower income families.

֎ Promote international economic participation with agreements similar to the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Some critics may claim these suggestions are a promotion of new-age socialism. In fact, it is a restoration to a time in history that ceased existing forty years ago.

Ancient Mariner

What do You Believe?

That is not an easy question to answer today. There are no clear hints about what is absolute or true or real. It used to be easier way back in the very old days. For example, if you lived 75,000 years ago, the only source of belief was one’s experiences with the natural environment. What was true was simply an anthropomorphic existentialism (Yes, writing about philosophy invokes the use of philosophical words – which is why novels dominate the retail book market). What ‘anthropomorphic existentialism’ means is that nature had its motives and you had yours. The interaction with nature was not always predictable; after all, nature thought for itself just like you did.

Interestingly, anthropomorphic existentialism easily lends itself to a way to measure whether you are a successful thing or not by the way nature, an uncontrollable power, treats you. This method of measuring success still exists in today’s world. Just one example among many, it is how monetized religion works today – if you give enough money to the television evangelist, you will be rewarded in kind by God (AKA nature). Speaking cynically, this con was developed by religious middle men from the beginning. Remember having to pay the church so your family could get out of purgatory? How about sacrificing your child in exchange for a good rainy season (AKA nature)? Given this perspective, it is understandable why military leaders pray to a supreme influence before going into battle.

Given some thought about it, one realizes the tit-for-tat relationship that even today requires some sacrifice or commitment on our part before a deal can be made. If Nature (God) is to be served today, what is our modern tit-for-tat? Is it global deforestation or contaminating air and water? Just food for thought; that’s what philosophy is good for.

Jumping forward a lot of years, humans learned enough about nature to define how nature thinks differently than we do. Nature says all living things are created and survive according to the rules of evolution – nature’s measure whether you behave well or not and deserve a tit-for-tat. Our species will thrive and be successful simply by following nature’s evolutionary playbook. Unfortunately, this is hard for us to do.

After 90 million years of evolving the hominin branch of living things, one hominin, Homo sapiens (us), began to do well using an extra amount of intelligence. We figured out a way to consume nature without participating in a tit-for-tat. In other words, instead of surviving like other life, which is living in balance with nature’s rulebook, we figured out a way to make a profit from nature without the balance part.

Nature is not petty or judgmental. The evolution rulebook was written in the very beginning; astrophysicists named the event ‘the big bang’ – the beginning of nature itself. So nature lets our existentialism play out. That means sooner or later, nature will claim its tit-for-tat.

So maybe anthropomorphic existentialism is the right belief. Functionally, what’s the difference between one child sacrificed and civilization sacrificed, functionally speaking. Quite like a reverse mortgage, don’t you think?

Ancient Mariner

 

Where is the Road?

It was Robert Frost who wrote the familiar poem about two roads diverging in a yellow wood and at the end of the poem the author is pleased to have taken the road less traveled. Or perhaps Yogi Berra’s version, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Mariner has known many older, older folk, some born before 1900, who, when deciding whether to attend college, followed the advice of both gentlemen. If one wanted to be nothing more than to be a polished, genteel and astute person, there was only one path: enroll in college. Just as absolute, if one wanted to work in a pleasant job that paid more than union labor or walk-in hiring rates, one took the only road – graduate from college.

During mariner’s time this option prevailed; one had to go to college to be recognized as smart and to be a participating contributor to the greater human experience. A college degree was the discriminator between being a cashier or an accountant; a store clerk or an entrepreneur; a salesman or a lawyer. Mariner had to make this choice in his own life: sustain the simple joys of youth by working for an income that would allow that lifestyle to continue or go to college and have the opportunity to be creative and tackle new responsibilities. It was a difficult choice that mariner made only belatedly in his mid-twenties.

Only since the GI Bill has this singular path begun to have a different objective. For the most part, a college degree no longer represents a genteel and polished person; completing a Liberal Arts major doesn’t provide much after graduation. In fact, many small ‘liberal arts’ colleges are dropping that major altogether.

At the same time, however, the higher the cost of a college degree, the more exclusive will be the job opportunities. The divide between labor jobs (including white collar labor jobs) and educated jobs has risen to whether one wishes to be middle class or upper middle class. Just ask Lori Loughton (found guilty of bribery trying to register her daughter in the proper college).

What has changed is the number of students pursuing college degrees. In 1940, 5 percent of the US population had college degrees; in 2017, 33 percent had college degrees. As an economic market, one could say demand is greater than supply – hence the endless increase in college tuition. It follows that the higher the cost, the more return is expected by students. This has led to a new relationship where colleges have turned to skill training and collaboration with corporations for job placement. Today, it isn’t one’s book learning and genteelness, it’s the job skill one has at graduation.

The new line of discrimination is whether one has a graduate degree. Jobs known as STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) are the new discriminator for being ‘educated’ as well as the traditional ones, medicine, law and business. The graduate level is required increasingly because there are so many Bachelor graduates that exclusivity requires an additional degree.

Mariner is reminded of an old joke from a British comedian describing the need for a few good soldiers during WW II: a man walks into a recruiter’s station and says, “Please, sir, I’d like to join the few.” “I’m sorry” the recruiter says, “There are far too many.”

Mariner apologizes for too many nuances. A summation will say:

  • College is socially discriminatory. It takes extra money to go to college. Those without money are greatly disadvantaged and will not participate in the fringe benefits of a more comfortable lifestyle.
  • As a percentage of population, if the number of college graduates increases, the privileged status diminishes. Elitism becomes more important defined by certain colleges, e.g., Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, etc. Further, it requires a graduate degree to sustain an educated persona.
  • Culturally, the purpose for attending college has changed dramatically from a time when going to college was limited to the elite/intellectual class and was more or less a finishing school. Today, going to college is a virtual necessity to obtain a job with growth potential and decent wages.
  • As a means of rounding out maturity, college still helps but the tone has become less erudite and more commonplace primarily because of the high percentage of students versus the general population.

As to the future, mariner suspects college will become the fourth step in public education behind elementary, middle and senior schools. This is just as well because the entire society, the definition of jobs, income and employment rights are changing dramatically. It is likely that both the government and business interests will oversee cost and content.[1]

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] In past posts mariner described the education system in Taiwan. All education through college is paid by the government. College seats are limited and filled competitively using an entrance exam similar to the US SAT score. A choice other than standard college, everyone attends a buxiban (bushyban) which provides trade and developmental education. Interestingly, buxiban is available to any citizen at any time in life from kindergarten through adulthood.

We are slow Learners

Most everyone (including mariner) points at the pandemic as an expediter, an accelerator of cultural change. Mariner checked out other cultural shifts that have occurred in history; it turns out big-time change takes a while. It obviously is true that the pandemic has shut down twentieth century values by forcing adaptation to emerging artificial intelligence, exploding corporatism and by causing an economic blip because of the shutdown of so many supply chains and services – an economic blip that forced the nation to look anew at racism and the growing population of indigent citizens.

So stepping on the brakes, quite firmly, has brought about discordant oddities like a President who is incompetent and a wannabe dictator, a totally collapsed morality in the GOP political party, trillions of dollars made by corporations who monetize what should be uncompromised social behavior and just to add an unusual spin, a planet that is not pleased with human behavior.

Now the question is how long it will take to establish a new era with new economics, new social behavior, new lifestyles, new international collaboration and a new sense of normalcy and confidence across the world.

THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

It took 131 years (1517-1648) before the open conflict between Roman Catholicism and the protestant rebellion came to awkward but agreeable terms. The role of today’s pandemic was played by Henry VIII, Martin Luther and John Calvin. In short order Henry said nations are not bound by Roman Catholic judgments; Martin Luther said the Holy Bible was the only source of Divine authority and proclaimed that every Christian is a priest in their own right; John Calvin stressed God’s power and humanity’s predestined fate.

Reminiscent of today’s republican-democrat standoff, treaties were hard fought, physical agreements that took decades to settle. It wasn’t until 1530 that the Lutheran Denomination was able to document its approach to Christianity by publishing the Augsburg Confession, a document that settled differences between Protestant sects and was presented to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

A thirty-year war raged until 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. Another comparison between then and now is the opportunity to use new technology. The new technology during the Reformation was the printing press, giving dissenting views a new, quickly distributed tool with which to fight entrenched authority. Today, in 2020, the new technology is social media – having the same disruptive effect.

As Christmas grows near this year, a genuine gift is the vaccine – developed in such a short time it seems miraculous. This leaves 2021 as the year to start rebuilding the American Dream, redesigning new economics for the world and to see what we can do about Planet Earth’s complaints not only regarding fossil fuel but the heavy price on the biosphere caused by human indifference.

Only 130 years left . . .

Ancient Mariner

It’s Time

Regular readers are aware of mariner’s belief that, generally, changes in society reach a moment of significant pressure to change every sixty years. The basic pattern that encourages the sixty year cycle is the generational influence in the social framework. For example, each generation grows up learning different values than their parents; the parents in turn learned different values than their parents.

Because of the natural, familial authority structure, grandparents hang on to the world they grew up in, parents manage the humanist influences of day-to-day life and the youngest generation is absorbing a world relatively unknown to the grandparents.

Significant world events can disrupt and force a restart of the sixty year cycle. For example, two world wars, a massive economic depression and, more subtly, the Cold War, prevented normal cycles of change to occur – although in rural America, the sixty year cycle continued primarily because of advances in farm machinery and real estate cycles.

– – – –

Mariner was ruminating about society with Guru the other day. It was sixty years ago that the 1960’s occurred. Those alive at the time may remember the following events from that era:

John Kennedy assassinated.

Bobby Kennedy assassinated.

Martin Luther King assassinated.

Four white college students murdered on campus by National Guard.

Racial uprising caused major fires in many larger cities, requiring in Baltimore a permanently posted, armed National Guard soldier at every intersection.

Disruptive rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Rebellion against Vietnam War with protesters burning draft cards and bras and causing a small migration of young people into Canada.

Lyndon Johnson was forced not to run for a second term.

Oh, the memories . . .

The overriding effect of this pressure to change began with new liberal ideas about government and individual rights that began with FDR solutions to the Great Depression. But in the seventies, to regain control of an unruly society, resistance by the oldest generation led to a series of conservative election cycles that shut down liberal change until the emergence of the Millennials at the beginning of this century.

Today, the same generational influences are at play – except this time around there is a fourth, even older generation clinging to authority (Baby Boomers). Despite the overwhelming changes brought about by the Internet, shifting international economies, climate changes and population shifts, governmental authorities are plagued by this extra burden of really old officials remaining in power who are unaware of the new world their grandchildren and great grandchildren are experiencing.

Then along comes the pandemic. The sixty-year model is stopped dead in its tracks. Whatever changes were slowly to be introduced as the oldest generation passed away, suddenly were demanded immediately. A short example: work from home. Another: the political power of social media. Another: Within twenty years, six of the largest cities on America’s coasts will be forced to relocate or constrict real estate economies because of rising seas. But last-cycle politics from the very conservative clog the effort of government to keep up with new demands from society.

It is time for term limits based on age. Bring back the normal Homo sapiens life cycle of three generations of power – sixty years, more or less.

Perhaps it is good that the common citizen must shelter-in while the sixty-year cycle goes to war.

Ancient Mariner.

Beyond Covid-19

Similar to its addiction to Donald, the press has been consumed with Covid-19. Not that this is unwarranted but the world continues to live and breathe, to live day-to-day and to place each day into a continuing history of nations, nature, and the experience of individual lives.

The pandemic is a fog that prevents clear observation of human activity at every level. But reality still exists beyond the virus and certain policies and philosophies lay waiting as the fog clears.

֎ Most newsworthy has been the interest of the Congress in Big Data – not necessarily for the right reasons but still, Big Data is on the agenda for sweeping changes in antitrust, net neutrality, privacy, accountability, taxation and social responsibility. The Biden doctrine seeks to make high speed Internet available to every American – a source of new jobs.

֎ Every nation around the world is confronted with an old concept of economy that dates back to Adam Smith (1700s). The politics of world commerce is sensitive to how resources are leveraged. The fact that the stock markets of the world still seem to create earned income in the midst of worldwide economic suffering grows ever more fragile. At some point, corporate manipulation will no longer be able to support a profit that doesn’t exist at street level.

The leading thought is for nations to share the confrontation of dwindling resources by joining a common market where several nations agree to share an economic plan together. China is well on its way to creating a number of these international contracts. Economic philosophers use the term hegemonic economy.

֎ Climate change continues to be poo-pooed by the fossil fuel industry and others who would be resistant to enforced behavior by their governments. Nevertheless, like Covid, nature is not political. The sea level, the storm intensity and the rapidly shifting weather patterns forebode hardship on economies, regional disasters and personal tragedy. Forecasters have noted the years of 2030 and 2070 as times of irrevocable confrontation.

֎ Social institutions are forced to be at a crossroad as much as economy and social culture. Whether it is schools, shopping, health, labor policy, employment benefits or housing, there is inadequacy at every turn. The fact is that the very core of family behavior is at risk. How do families sustain themselves? How do families engage in normal behavior similar to education, childcare and achievable lifestyles? How do families prepare for elderly care?

Donald may be out of office but the tsunami of reality in his wake leaves a lot of work for each human being seeking to survive in these historic times of change.

Ancient Mariner

The Ethical Divide

Watching the news today is not pleasant. It is wearing as a virulent war wages across civilization, as political collaboration collapses into populist and plutocratic conflict, as millions of families experience layoff, job loss, mortgage foreclosure and eviction. If it isn’t the virus, it is stagnant racial conflict, it is the collapse of European democracy into authoritarian abuse, it is the elimination of whole societies as wars that should have ended long ago drag on for decades. If not these issues, it is the collapsing educational system, the disrespect for Constitutional government, the incompetence of elected officials who do not understand the path of history as it evolves into an unknown future. And it is the dwindling of global resources that is ignored by eighteenth century economics.

But there is good news. A movement is emerging. The first newsworthy awareness of this movement began in 2017 when José Andrés (full name, José Ramón Andrés Puerta), a famous chef with a chain of restaurants in Spain and the U.S., organized a charity kitchen to feed survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. He fed hundreds of thousands. In 2019, Andrés repeated his charitable miracle in Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas when Hurricane Dorian devastated those islands. He established World Central Kitchen as a permanent organization that provides aid to victims of natural disasters.

Of course not everyone has the wherewithal to underwrite charity at such a scale but the better news is the hundreds of special efforts emerging to extend support to those in need. The characteristic of this movement is its local, unincorporated approach consisting of local volunteers and independent leaders, who have stepped up not just for hurricanes but for first responders, victims of the virus, job loss, and the generally needy who have no resources because of today’s disruptive world.

A good example is The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church located in Conneaut, Ohio where a female parishioner organized fellow church members to set up a free kitchen on Saturdays to feed the public so they would have food for the weekend.

Lisa Baker, a volunteer with the Food4Life Atlanta Survival Program, said she’s encouraged by the number of people who are volunteering their time to help. “The first couple of days, I kept hitting refresh on our database, and it was kinda scary watching how many volunteers signed up,” she said. “We have more than 900.”

Other examples are endless. It is clear that common citizens of every class, every religion and every community have stepped out of normal life to help others. Mariner’s term for this is ‘pass it forward’ but these compassionate folks are passing it forward in giant doses!

If you want relief from the terrible news broadcast, distract yourself by participating in the one real, valuable and progressive movement – helping today’s economic victims. Contribute cash, better yet jump in – it’s restorative.

Ancient Mariner

On Being a Stick

A stick always has two ends – if it has been broken from its tree. When it is attached to the tree, it is part of a larger presence, something that has evidence of a higher calling as part of nature. It is true that the branch (it is not a stick until it is separated) or even the entire tree may be dying or dead. Still, there is an aura of purpose, a part of the grand scheme for the planet’s biosphere.

Is the human species a stick or a branch? There is much evidence that humans have ceased being a branch; humans do not enhance the growth of the biomass, its natural balances or its evolutionary progression. The only human value to the world’s natural environment is species decomposition as mulch for the planet’s grand scheme, the same as a stick.

Unfortunately, on its path to mulch, the human stick exudes bile and poison and extinction to any environment around it. As Roundup is to vegetation, humans are to the environment.

The mariner, in spirit at least, has evolved into a minimalist. Three cheers to the ten million homestead families in the United States alone who have chosen to escape from the grist mill of human economies and who have returned to living only as the world around them will tolerate. Three cheers for the Amish who have sensed a limit to what nature will tolerate. There is no profit in nature, only balance. Ignored by the human species in pursuit of profit, the planet will tolerate only so much. The human species may end up being mulch, like a stick.

It is proven that humans alone are responsible for the extinction of 16,000 species since 1850. It is the combustion engine and energy production that has led to climate change, with seas rising more rapidly every year and forcing devastating shifts in weather patterns around the world. Human efforts in chemistry have improved war to the extent that a nuclear bomb can eliminate life, human and otherwise, in an entire city in one day.

Finally, artificial intelligence, a human contrivance, likely will eliminate the independent spirit of the human species. As independence fades, mulching grows nearer.

Ancient Mariner