Soul Mates

Mariner has discovered a soul mate. He is an ex-computer person that has switched to social psychology and philosophy and now writes books about the abuses that we put upon ourselves in the name of modern communication technology. His name is Jaron Lanier. He has written a book: Ten arguments for Deleting Social Media Accounts Right Now. He has an interview on CSPAN that is enlightening[1]. Mariner must warn you that his sartorial splendor leaves much to be desired but his mind is clearly focused. No one that mariner has read has delved into the disruptive consequences of social media as Jaron has.

Jaron starts his presentation by reminding everyone of the science of behaviorism; he cites B.F. Skinner, the major personality of behaviorism. Stated as briefly as mariner can, behaviorism is a person’s response to feedback, that is, if it is rewarding, people tend to return and do it again; if it is negative, people tend not to do it again. Skinner proved in his experiments with animals that manipulating reward or negativity will modify behavior in a predictable way.

Jaron suggests that the Internet and the data manipulators using the Internet have created a negative loop in the communication cycle. This is because negative behavior is more reactive and, importantly, expands in the loop much faster than positive behavior. We can reference this phenomenon ourselves with the racist and Russian impact on the Internet. The negativity flows rapidly and expands until no one can tell the difference between truth and falsehood. Another example is Donald’s constant reference to fake news; the negativity spreads quickly, outrunning positive behavior that requires confirmation. The end result is no information can be trusted.

Jaron warns us that while only five or ten percent of the user group will adopt negative information that is enough to disrupt politics, society norms, and stable platforms for unity and ethical values. To wit: the 2016 Presidential campaign where Donald held forth with negative values thereby overwhelming informative dialogue offered by other candidates.

Listed briefly below are the ten arguments for deleting your social media account[2]. Exploring each one is a whole post. Mariner suggests the reader buy the book or watch the C-SPAN video.

1.You are losing your free will.

2.Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.

3.Social media is making you into an a**hole.

4.Social media is undermining truth.

5.Social media is making what you say meaningless.

6.Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy.

7.Social media is making you unhappy.

8.Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity.

9.Social media is making politics impossible.

10.Social media hates your soul.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] See: https://www.c-span.org/video/?447079-2/ten-arguments-deleting-social-media-accounts-now

[2] Courtesy of Christine Pennylegion at https://inthisordinarytime.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/jaron-laniers-ten-reasons/

Climate Change – Too Slow to Worry About

Actually, the title is inaccurate in that it suggests there is nothing to worry about. On the other hand, just because it is too slow to cause concern as if it were a tornado approaching, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

The current Atlantic website and magazine has an article presenting the latest findings of scientists who have new tools and insights into climate change[1]. It turns out that in Earth’s history, about 60 million years ago when mammals began to emerge, the atmosphere held 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO2 – the same amount we have in the atmosphere today. The last time CO2 was at 400 ppm (as it is today) was 3 million years ago during the Pliocene epoch, when sea levels were perhaps 80 feet higher than today. Scientists predict the sea level will catch up to the effects of CO2 around the end of the century – which may or may not reach 80 feet[2]. Mariner suggests a homework assignment: using Google Earth, determine how many major cities around the world have an altitude less than 80 feet above our current sea level (The entire shoreline of Florida including the Keys qualifies).

There is more science and environmental change in store, like palm trees in Scandinavia, and an increase in methane from very large swamps covering thousands of square miles. Methane is the chemical that slowly accelerates sea level rise. Mean temperatures in places like the Mediterranean and St. Louis will hover around the 104° mark and have no winter.

This climate future largely is out of our hands. The damage has been done and the results will play out. Interestingly, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wants to hold CO2 to 1,000 ppm – only 600 ppm more than what we have today. What’s an 80 foot sea rise when it may be possible to wipe out mammalian existence in a few hundred years?

Mariner often hears a common retort: “Well, we won’t be around then.” This response, besides pretending to be an ostrich with its head in the sand, is part of the fact that climate change is so very slow. Yet, the end of the century is just 82 years away. One’s grandchild still may be around to endure the slow, slow inevitable impact on world economy, health and survivability near ocean waters.

Given the current US political position on climate change (fake science – no, undesired science), younger voters will have more than racism and greed to worry about at election time.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/08/earths-scorching-hot-history/566762/

[2] There are so many variables, from the planet’s point of view, that it is difficult to predict actual sea level rise. What worries scientists is current annual sea level rise is increasing algebraically; small amounts now but increasing dramatically over time.

Narcissism versus the North American Union

This past Sunday Fareed Zakaria opened the subject of the tiff between Mexico and ‘the wall’. Fareed also could have had a discussion with Canada on the same subject of US contraction and isolationism battled via trade negotiations. The situation with Donald’s recipe of self-aggrandizement, racism and kleptocracy is one that interferes with a marketing/cultural dream that has been around for a long, long time. The integration of Mexico, the US and Canada is one of two current international concepts that can compete with emerging China internationalism. The other concept is TPP which seems to be passing by unrequited. To keep the post short, mariner quotes Wikipedia:

The North American Union (NAU) is a theoretical economic and political continental union of Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America. The concept is loosely based on the European Union, occasionally including a common currency called the Amero or the North American Dollar. A union of the North American continent, sometimes extending to Central and South America, has been the subject of academic concepts for over a century, as well as becoming a common trope in science fiction. One reason for the difficulty in realizing the concept is that individual developments in each region have failed to prioritize a larger union.

That last sentence is blatantly true under Donald’s administration. NAFTA, given its minimal impact in the labor market (unions would disagree – a good example of failing to see the value of an international union), was a first step toward the NAU. The electorate has failed to grasp the enormity of uniting the economic power of the first, tenth and twelfth largest economies in the world. Today such a consortium represents a gross domestic product of $22,192,248 million million ($MM) compared to China’s $12,014,610 ($MM).

Today’s circumstances, where the US is slipping and China is getting its act together, provide a new urgency for pursuing NAU. With unusual certainty, thoughts about internationalism will not exist under the present narcissist kleptocracy.

Obviously there is comparison with the European Union (EU). However, the EU was formed to avoid failure of economies in member nations. Further, the EU made the mistake of not making the Euro its only currency. In the case of NAU, economic integration likely would be more universal. As China grows economically, their relation with other nations follows the EU model, allowing local currency and independent oversight of local economic policy. The NAU represents the idea of a combined economic policy that oversees all members’ policies and a single currency – a stronger economic model.

Tangentially, NAU would be large enough and politically influential enough to compete with what today is runaway corporatism. Corporations gain their advantage by playing in the cracks between the economies of different nations and cultures that are not easily unified financially.

Frankly, mariner’s opinion is that the US is so screwed and dysfunctional that attempts at managing its future remain a fantasy.

Ancient Mariner

Changing Signs

Back in the early 60’s, there was a British comedy show called Beyond the Fringe. Eventually it toured in Baltimore where mariner and his wife saw the show. It remains one of the best comedy experiences of our lives. The entire show is online at https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=beyond+the+fringe+1964&view=detail&mid=2391A28FEE931C54B1142391A28FEE931C54B114&FORM=VIRE

Mariner often recalls many of the short bits in the show. One of his favorites is changing road signs around to confuse German troops should they invade Great Britain (it is at 53 minutes on the video). Two men are standing beneath a sign with arrows showing the directions to three towns. The dialogue: “Let’s put Lyme Regis where Great Yarmouth was, Great Yarmouth where Ipswitch was and Ipswitch where Lyme Regis was. . . Here, how do we get home?”

Mariner does not expect the humor to carry after such an elaborate explanation but it speaks perfectly to today’s situation in US politics and culture. Some pieces of news that show we are changing signs:

NPR interviewed an individual in West Virginia of all places who said quite seriously and without malice that we should eliminate the Senate. (Mariner mentioned a few posts ago that the electorate may face conflict leading to a Constitutional convention)

The Republican Party ended Reaganomics by putting the US into the deepest debt in modern US history.

Donald is seeing to it that recent Democratic Party accomplishments (should mariner say recent Obama accomplishments?) are trashed whenever possible. Donald also has put the US at risk by denying climate change and disrupting international relations politically, militarily and economically. Further, the momentum that carries the US as a global leader is diminished by Donald’s immaturity and simplemindedness.

As the Democratic Party ramps up for the coming elections, a platform plank advocates eliminating Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) added 43,000 new members in 2018. It seems millennials aren’t afraid of the ‘S’ word.

Culturally, we are changing signs as well. Women in particular have pushed their agenda into public awareness for everything from abusive sexism to equal pay for every job. What lies ahead, especially with a different Supreme Court, are heated battles over Roe v Wade, voting suppression, gun laws, gerrymandering, privacy and security, single payer health care, and significant reworking of all Federal discretionary programs especially in education, Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security. Last but definitely not least is the role of religion(s) in a state-run culture.

Here, how do we get home?

Ancient Mariner

 

UBI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFERENCE SECTION

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

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

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

Ancient Mariner

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

A 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

Corporatism – the Overlooked Enemy

PBS news covered a story today about the National Football League setting rules for how football players must behave, the issue being whether the players can kneel in protest of racial and law enforcement abuse during the National Anthem. This may or may not be challenged in court (mariner has little confidence in US citizens being concerned about freedom, rights, ethics and morality) even though the act clearly is protected by the First Amendment.

This NFL mandate is so simple, so clear, so unobstructed and so much an example of how corporations increasingly are setting the nation’s moral standards. The protectors of our rights and the interpreters of our cultural image are supposed to be our legislators, our religious leaders and our independent court system. Woefully, all our protectors are easily swayed by corporate influence. It is more important for the NFL to sustain profit levels than to honor an individual’s rights under the Constitution.

The takeover of American justice by corporations is accepted as the norm. Consider the following cultural v. business situations:

Net Neutrality – the right of all individuals to share equally in public speech and information. Communication Corporations want to destroy this ethic in order to increase profits by charging individuals for faster access. To add insult to injury, these corporations intend to block an individual’s access to sources that may be detrimental to the corporation’s control and profit.

The Facebook fiasco is typical of Silicon Valley shaping cultural behavior and leveraging innocent participation as a source for additional profit – at the cost of privacy and security.

Mariner was opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership not because it was a new approach to international trade but because it was rife with rules about how nations should treat employees, the rights of employees and governments and other cultural impositions – under the guise that these rules would balance participation among disparate nations. It should be noted that corporate teams wrote TPP while national representatives provided signoff. When does a corporate platform have the right to dictate culture and ethics to any country, let alone 12 or 16?

Labor unions have many faults and are subject to abuse. Still, unions are a mechanism representing employees (AKA citizens just like football players) when a corporation imposes on fair practices similar to income, working conditions, and other behaviors that affect the cultural presence of employees in the society.

We all know US governments have failed and are the direct cause for the malignant populism that has delivered Donald. The governments have failed because they take their cue from corporations rather than the electorate.

US corporate taxes would be funny if the issue wasn’t so important. Corporations pretty much can handle profits any way they wish – even to the extent of hiding profit in blind banks. Is this behavior ethical? Is it a freedom? Is it the primary cause of an oligarchical government?

Mariner must remind himself not to watch the news.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

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

Immigration is not a one-thought issue

The growing proportion of older adults throughout Europe, many parts of Asia (particularly Japan, South Korea and China) and North America are outpacing the population of young people. This gray population explosion is due, in part, to extended longevity, but also due to dramatic declines in fertility – the number of children per female. Fertility rates in many nations are well below the necessary level of 2.1 children per female to simply maintain the population. For example, Australia and Brazil share a fertility rate of 1.7 children per female, China has dropped to 1.6, Japan and Germany are at 1.4, and even the relatively young United States is at 1.87. In short, the world’s most industrialized nations as well as many of the planet’s developing economies are witnessing an unprecedented drop in the number of children. While fewer children presents a number of social questions such as the availability of a robust workforce and general economic growth – the birth dearth also portends a troubling future of caring for an aging society.[1]

Mariner has come across a number of websites and magazine articles that have raised the issue of imbalanced demographics. It is proven and certainly true across the industrialized world. Which leads to mariner’s puzzlement as to why the United States – especially Congress and the President – seem so determined to prevent immigration. The truth is the US needs young people even if they aren’t white Christians. The President brags about the unemployment rate being low; this is due to two phenomena: (1) good jobs are disappearing and workers are taking jobs at a fraction of their former salary, which removes them from the unemployment number (2) the US is running out of workers.

The American workforce is in a downward spiral. Many politicians tout retraining the US workforce but no plan and no funding are available. Further, the public education system has been financially starved for generations and requires immense intellectual and financial improvement to even be able to address the issue.

Perhaps some time in the future under the guidance of a different President and a different Congress, we may properly address the issue of immigration, job readiness, and education.

Today’s Congress is too busy garnering personal wealth. Today’s President is incompetent.

Ancient Mariner

[1] http://bigthink.com/disruptive-demographics/will-robots-replace-our-children