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

Whence Compromise?

Below is a ‘two feet on the ground’ quote from the National Public Radio (NPR) website:

“….Democrats call them “American dreamers,” Republicans call them “illegal immigrants.” Democrats say they should be allowed legal status. Republicans say no, they are here illegally and need to go — or their status should be part of a larger immigration overhaul that limits and controls future immigration.

Who Will Carry The Blame For The Shutdown? Maybe No One.

Both sides say they have the American people with them as they struggle to end the government shutdown, and both are right — in a way.

Polls show at least three Americans in four agree the DACA population should have legal status to stay. But a clear majority of Americans also think it was not worth shutting the government down over DACA. That’s true too, and the shutdown is the issue of the moment, right?

Truth be told, neither party is ever in touch with all the American people, or even most of them. They are in touch with the people who voted for them or gave them money (or both) — or who are most likely to do so going forward.

They may say they hear America singing, but they are really only listening to their own section of the choir….”[1]

If we stand back far enough, we notice that the Federal Government is not capable of compromise; there is no dominance by a common-sense political center. From the end of WW II until about 1986, citizens were accustomed to common sense governance when the likes of Fulbright, Byrd, Kennedy, Baker, Humphrey, Dole, Biden, Rockefeller, Daschle, Bradley, Chaffee, LBJ, Dirksen and other moderates controlled the Senate. Deals were pragmatic, in the interest of the citizen majority, and (we may miss this more than anything) a half-hour breakfast between party leaders guaranteed a civic minded bill. It may be important to mention that until Nixon in 1968, Reagan in 1980 and Trump in 2016, Presidents were not demagogues.

Civic minded. Is that what is missing? It is true that an elected body reflects its electorate; are we not civic minded? We are not. We are cleaved by color, wealth, environment, entitlement, guns, religion, drugs, economy, war and basic human value. There is no common cause; there is no way to walk a straight line through all these differences – there is no common definition of America. It is no wonder other nations have begun to look askance at our leadership.

Today, as mariner writes this post, the Senate backed away from civic minded legislation. Both parties chose to salvage their party interests rather than step forward to a compromise that would move anything forward except a continuation of samo-samo: duck reality for another three weeks. The democrats caved rather than stand for moral principle; the republicans caved to the fringe right (Steve Miller) rather than stand for moral principle.

– – – –

Like changes in weather caused by global warming, government suffers increasing incompetency as it is overwhelmed by fragmented factions that do not represent the pragmatic center of our nation. Who is to draw the straight line across a fragmented populace? It is, of course, the citizens.

Start with state governments by eliminating gerrymandering. Political parties, as today’s news suggests, are not centrist in nature. The party comes first and any neutral process is challenged to serve the party’s best interest. Redistricting is severely abused by parties to control specific interests regardless of generic public interest. As a first step in restoring control of our democracy back to the electorate, and having the electorate at large decide what civil mindedness means, make redistricting an apolitical process.

Remove monetary influence from campaigns and from Congressional rules for appointment to important positions, which currently go to members who can raise the most party contributions to go along with length of membership. Monetary privilege will be difficult to stop. Like the proverbial snake, its head must be cut off. Eliminate political action committees; eliminate private donations from outside the district; require promotional advertising to be funded locally. In other words, force the candidate to come to the people, not to the special interests. This will stop corporate privilege in legislative processes and make citizens the more important influence.

Make voting tax deductible. As the leading democracy in the world, we are 27th in terms of voter turnout; only 47% of eligible voters voted in the Trump/Clinton election. Further, allow dropping voters from the roles if they didn’t vote in the two most recent sequential Presidential elections. Further, in addition to in person voting, permit 30-day early voting, voting by mail, email, and links to election sites.

Require civics education in high schools; require election overviews in community colleges; mandate universal holiday for all Federal and State elections. Prohibit campaign promotional sources outside the district.

Slowly, special interests have eliminated the common voter. If the voters want civic minded government, they must assure that their involvement in elections is the dominant influence.

Perhaps a strong moderate legislative process can return…

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] For full article, see: https://www.npr.org/2018/01/22/579397310/shutdown-question-who-s-out-of-touch-with-the-american-people?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20180122&utm_campaign=breakingnews&utm_term=nprnews

Our Life of Constant Upheaval

Many historians and political writers have identified the Bernie Sanders movement, the Donald trump movement, and the tea party movement, among many lesser movements, as populist movements. This is not a new phenomenon in US history. In fact, populist rebellions have emerged regularly since the founding of the nation.

Mariner has written many posts addressing populism. There are a few common issues that are present in all populist movements: Most common is the belief that ordinary citizens should have authority over the elitist class; the cause is common to many uprisings – Bernie, for example, is a rerun of the 1890’s uprising that protested the existence of an elitist class and income inequality. Donald Trump sounds exactly like the ‘Know-Nothing’ rebellion – in more ways than one. The rebellion was due to immigration and threats of job security.

In the 1880’s corporations were charging excessive fees to farmers and other labor level citizens (an issue that has a familiar ring in today’s world where corporations are excessively hoarding wealth at the cost of salaries in general) a situation that led to the creation of the ‘People’s Party.’ William Jennings Bryan led this movement through three presidential campaigns and is famous for the quote, “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

It is obvious that populist uprisings occur when significant change to the culture is necessary. It is also true that at the voting booth, populists always lose – almost always.

– – – –

Standing to the side of history and watching populism not as a process but what the impact is on about a fourth of the population, the disruption to stable daily life is not pleasant. To willingly suffer insecurity, a growing doubt about the future and a willingness to physically challenge authority with little rationality suggests maltreatment by the core society that gives them personal definition. Why does this happen? Why does society drift away from fairness and the psychology of teamsmanship?

Many will surmise that it is the innate nature of Homo sapiens to be competitive and possessive – two characteristics that improve security and survival. This suggests that mitigating these behaviors is why humans created governments. There are only three philosophies of government that can pretend to mitigate base behavior: socialism, communism and democracy. There are many cultural variations, of course, but why hasn’t the world mastered any of these philosophies?

Perhaps we never will. But the current conflict of change includes populism, capitalism, democratic authority, displacement by artificial intelligence, environmental constraint and a world population wavering on dysfunctionality. Governments will not reconcile this massive change by next Christmas.

What is new in context is that an informed and personally responsible electorate must take charge. Not the familiar party-driven, lobby-funded, class-defined society thus far. Not the faux citizenry of Robespierre. It will take management by collective population to stabilize government inadequacy. Unfortunately, we who are alive today will not see success in our lifetimes. Nevertheless, continuous improvement toward that day rides on you. Vote wisely.

Ancient Mariner

Fruited Plains

Guru is with us today to consider international roles, political leadership and global cultural influence in the 21st century. Guru, you may recall, is the futurist among mariner’s alter egos; very much a theorist, his conclusions often have no traceable documentation and often depend solely on logic and the limitations of reality.

– – – –

All Americans know the mantra about the new nation called the United States: Freedom, liberty, equality, justice for all, one person, one vote. Stated in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, this was in 1776 to 1791 – 227 years ago. The United States rapidly became a nation among nations; indeed, the United States became the nation around the world. The United States was unbelievably blessed: an entire continent to itself with two vast, profitable and protective oceans on its borders; fruited plains, temperate weather, majestic purple mountains, multinational migrations to energize its culture and economy, and a philosophy of government belonging to its citizens. No aristocracy, monarchs or dictators here – the nation belonged to its citizens. It was a democracy.

The nation is to be lauded for its ability to keep the ship of state on course despite wars (Revolutionary, American Indian, Mexican, Spanish-American, Civil, WW I and II, Korean, Vietnamese, and in recent years a multitude of incursions to protect the world and its capitalist economy, five major economic depressions and 13 notable recessions, two economically devastating droughts in the 1930’s and 50’s, cultural erosion caused by the industrial revolution, technical revolution and information revolution, and last but not least, the birth of investment capitalism in the mid nineteenth century.

Now, as the Nation finds itself in the midst of global changes in economics, environment, computerization, shifting populations, and international transition, the ship of state sails on uncharted seas. The ship of state, like all ships, must endure active wear and tear and eventually take its place in its era to be replaced by newer versions and newer purposes. There are signs this moment approaches. It is time to stop looking backward to the way it was and longing for that time; it is time to reset the sails to fresh winds that will bring a new era.

– – – –

Always wealth has brought change. It was so in prehistoric times when the invention of the spear or mastering fire provided new levels of economic superiority over those without. On the first farm, the first field was planted with a crop that extended momentary security into future security; new wealth in agriculture created a massive change in human population and raised the need for a new polity to manage the wealth. It was the politics of nationalism. Speeding through the history of dynasties and empires, the Roman Empire often is used as a model that contemporary society can understand. The power to pursue more wealth came with a very important but subtle authority: the authority to change culture. Enough wealth existed that some could be spent on ancillary subjects like art, music, science, running water and sewer systems, religion, health, technical research from better Roman cement to American trips to the Moon. The ancillary subjects continue today to rewrite cultural understanding and expectation. But always, change rides on the back of wealth.

Wealth, despite its powers, is not well organized. Wealth has no bully pulpit, no respected military, and no ability to organize human motivation. Wealth is motivated only by profit, both real and perceived. Below is a list of nations ranked by their current gross domestic product (GDP) in millions of dollars – a measure of their ability to affect change:

1 United States                    18,624,450

— European Union                16,408,364

2 China                                11,232,108

3 Japan                                 4,936,543

4 Germany                            3,479,232

5 United Kingdom                  2,629,188

6 France                               2,466,472

7 India                                  2,263,792

8 Italy                                   1,850,735

9 Brazil                                  1,798,622

10 Canada                              1,529,760

11 South Korea                       1,411,042

12 Russia                                1,283,162

13 Australia                             1,261,645

14 Spain                                  1,232,597

15 Mexico                                1,046,925

16 Indonesia                               932,448

17 Turkey                                   863,390

18 Netherlands                            777,548

19   Switzerland                          669,038

20 Saudi Arabia                           646,438

Quick assumptions would suggest that the top five or six are the key players in how the future will be shaped economically and culturally. However, due to advances in computerization and telecommunications, wealth is no longer constrained by geography or nationalism. Members of this list are inclined to pursue consortiums of nations that will multiply their ability to pursue greater wealth. Further, a new phenomenon made available by instantaneous telecommunications allows corporations to pursue wealth independent of national influence – at least under current legislative policies. Will the independent wealth of corporations, many of which rank high in the above list, control political issues related to human rights, support of indigent populations and leveraging wars to their advantage? Will corporations even be interested in human issues beyond labor profitability? These questions are at hand today as corporations garner wealth at amazing speeds nations cannot match or control.

Addressing the US perspective, its old Democratic wealth and its culture have waned as corporate wealth drains the natural wealth of the nation, its fruited plains, etc. That Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from its privileged role as world cultural leader is detrimental to the US position among other nations already responding to the new economic game – and the right to lead cultural change in the future.

– – – –

Moving quickly down the GDP list, The United States still is the largest economy in the world but it is not growing very fast. Laxity in cultural discipline has led to business practices that are not beneficial to the US. Many tout the stock market as a sign of a robust economy but significant portions are owned by overseas interests. Further, very large corporations have expanded beyond the nation’s shores not only to pursue profits but to avoid taxes – not only in the US but in any nation around the world. Inside the US, the nation suffers from increasing inefficiency as Federal and state legislatures linger in economic perceptions designed in the 1980’s. These old perceptions do not work in a world of international consortiums, artificial intelligence and instant global markets.

After dozens of international agreements beginning in 1909, the European Union created a visionary, international powerhouse in 1992 when 28 European nations combined their markets and cultural practices, military obligations and political clout. Unfortunately, the EU was not able to unify its economics. Individual nations did not benefit from a combined marketplace and several nations like Greece and Great Britain suffered recessions alone. The fragmented economy cannot respond easily to modern trends in global economics. Like the US, the EU economy is not growing at competitive speeds; individual nations like Germany have had growth but their association with the cultural commitments of the EU will interfere with Germany’s economic future. Germany is taking steps to seek new consortiums to sustain future growth – excluding the Trump-led US.

Similar to the United States in the 1700’s, fate has delivered to China a global advantage in today’s economic world. China has human resources of immense magnitude, a large land mass, the focus of a communist state, and a geographic archipelago of small contiguous nations with which to launch the world’s largest economy. Even at today’s level of wealth, China is investing significant amounts in the aforementioned areas of cultural growth. China likely will be the largest provider of infrastructure services in the world (mariner mentioned in a previous post that China is building Chicago’s new subway system) and has the labor force to build super highways and rapid transit as a means of linking China to Eastern nations including Russia. (China’s Belt and Road plan is a multi-billion initiative aimed at linking Asia with Europe and Africa, and the countries in between.) China is moving rapidly to the top of high tech markets, e.g., the nation already is the largest exporter of drones and competes aggressively for each airline contract. Finally, China is a sophisticated player in world politics. In today’s news, North and South Korea are willing to try peace talks without the United States – something North Korea would not do except with China’s urging.

India is a sleeping giant but is so far behind in culture, infrastructure and government sophistication that it will take time to become a top international player. Some futurists calculate that as India grows in economic power, it may be the nation that unifies nations like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia but that consortium is highly speculative. India also has interests in Africa.

Japan, long dependent on its relationship with the US, must seek an economic relationship with a major consortium in order to spread its productivity across other markets. The US remains the primary nation if a rewrite of the twelve-member Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) can be reintroduced successfully.

Russia pretends to be a world player but it lost the ability to play with super nations when the USSR collapsed and some key nations affiliated with Europe. Still, fate has cursed Russia with troublesome leadership for centuries. The economy in Russia today is thwarted by oligarchic domination led by Vladimir Putin. Without true economic power, Russia can only meddle in the success of other nations. Russia has agreed to participate in China’s Belt and Road initiative which may benefit Russia in the short term but long term Russia increasingly will be dependent on the Chinese economy.

Aside from Australia, South Africa and a few lesser nations, the Southern Hemisphere did not live the history of the Northern Hemisphere. It benefited from early contributions during and after the exploration age during the 14th-18th centuries but seems not to have escaped Colonialism. Southern Hemisphere countries soon will benefit from consortium relationships – which may be similar to colonial times.

– – – –

The silent partner in all this is artificial intelligence (AI). AI will change current perceptions of assets, national intelligence, description of work, and the ways of daily life – but that’s another post.

Ancient Mariner

Governance in Flux

Like many, many folks around the world today, mariner notices not just a few but a majority of nations suffering from disruptions to their cultural and national ideology. Examples of disruption are environment, technology, computerization, population, globalization, shifts in energy sources, and other international product markets affected by political and entrepreneurial winds.

Mariner asks the reader to indulge the following description of nations and their status in the world of nations.

With 197 nations in the world, government concepts could be a real jigsaw puzzle. But it isn’t. If the nations can be categorized only by overall philosophies of government, there are not too many concepts. Consider:

Democracies – United States and many other nations. Mariner found that democracies in general are struggling with competing philosophies of governance. In the US, the nation is very close to being a cross between democracy and corporatocracy wherein a republic form of government exists with legislators and judges but the direction of policy is controlled by corporate interests. Further, many democracies struggle with succession, for example the collaboration of democracies called the European Union, independents like Syria, Turkey, and Iraq in the Middle East, and all the sub-Saharan nations of Africa.

Dictatorships, including variations on the theme such as totalitarianism, Plutocracies, autocracies, and Anarcho-capitalists (Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan). Africa is overrun with dictatorships preventing affected nations from stabilizing and establishing institutional functions.

Stratocracies (ruled by military) – As one would expect, nations under severe duress often are taken over by military juntas. Recently, a duly elected government in Egypt was thrown out by a military coup. It ruled until another election could be held. Myanmar (Burma) has become a stratocracy where the military has taken control of a powerless government still in place.

Communist Republics – Like democracies, the few communist nations that remain (primarily China) are experiencing philosophical changes in governance. China, while still ruled by one party and one very powerful president, struggles with socialist policies in an effort to improve society enough to compete in the new age of the 21st century.

Socialist Republics – Socialism was a common philosophy at the turn of the 20th century but today only a few socialist governments remain among the Nordic nations. Otherwise, the criterion for being a socialist nation is self-determined. Virtually all active socialist countries actually are variations on communism (Russia and China) or awkward descriptions claiming the rights of citizens as the primary goal of government (Albania, Viet Nam, Laos, Afghanistan and other –stans.

Theocracies – The Holy See or Vatican City is not the only theocracy. Also governed strictly by religious doctrine are Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. In a muted way, religious influence exists in most nations and frequently can cause difficulty in governance. The United States has an active minority hardening against the secularist nature that pulls the nation into the 21st century. Islamic nations suffer even more difficulty as 8th century dogma fails to fit modern cultural demands.

Aristocracies and monarchies – Great Britain is a democracy that retains a very weak role for a national monarchy. Monaco is free of French control as long as the royal family in Monaco can produce a male heir. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy but the monarchy has little authority in legislative processes. There are several other nations that have this pattern.

Corporatocracies and oligarchies – In every case where this category has a presence, it is conjoined with another philosophy of government; it doesn’t stand alone because it needs an organized source of cash. Nevertheless, Corporatocracies and oligarchies have a growing advantage as global markets emerge. The new world economy can easily lose nationalist authority as traditional rules of commerce and outdated concepts associated with Gross National Product lose meaning.

Beyond this list, one wanders into heavily crossbred variations.

– – – –

Mariner thanks readers who suffered reading this litany about the changing philosophy of most governments in the world. It is a necessary task to grasp the unbelievably large phenomenon that is washing away old standards of authority in governance and, amid unending change in technology, international relations, free range economies and shifting populations, there are neither precedents to follow nor a part of the world stable enough to be an example for troubled nations.

Always through the history of nations, destabilizing change was local. Even the Roman Empire and the Ming Dynasty were local compared to today’s universal, planet-wide upheaval.

Add to the high storm waves that wash over a nation’s culture the battle for supremacy among the giant nations, e.g., Russia, United States, European Union, China and, in the near future, continental consortiums like Mexico, Canada and the US, or China, South America and the Pacific Rim, or Russia, Brazil and Eastern Europe, or India and Africa.

Then add economic wars like oil versus alternative energy, international control of information, and dozens of money versus culture conflicts (Greece et al). Finally, add the gross changes in jobs and family sustenance affected by artificial intelligence and the control of thought represented by the novel 1984 and the movie, Matrix – already beginning to control our personal decision-making. Beware that piece of candy called a smartphone – it’s the Matrix connection to your life. Yes, mariner is old fashioned but he is intellectually independent.

Well. Don’t expect a solution from mariner. This conundrum reminds him of a gift he received during Christmas. It’s a nine-piece puzzle with imagery so highly redundant that there are over 50 million possible placements for each piece – but only one solution for all nine pieces.

As Roy used to say, “Happy Trails…..”

Ancient Mariner

Philosophy of Health Management in the United States

Mariner is really old. He is a prime example of why the fiscal conservatives in government don’t like him. He is a drain on the world of dollars. One is not worth existence if one doesn’t generate dollars in some way. Insurance companies and the health industry have found a way to generate dollars in unhealthy people – especially old unhealthy people; the health industry has developed a cash producing model even for useless, expensive old folks like the mariner.

The model is: keep old folks alive for a few more years until their disabilities exceed insurance coverage and they must spend down their assets to continue treatment. Once the health industry has all the patient’s money and the patient is bankrupt, treatment ceases and the patient, who perhaps lived another few years than they might have, dies. After all, the patient is no longer a source of dollars.

Mariner recently had the experience of being prescribed a medicine that would slow the advancement of his disability, giving him another few years before the end. The prescription was administered in a matter of fact way by the physician with no warnings about the prescription being irregular in any way. Mariner and his wife stopped by the pharmacy to have the prescription filled.

“We can’t fill this prescription,” the pharmacist said. “It must come from a special pharmacy.”

Turns out the prescription will cost ten thousand dollars each month! That’s right – $10,000.00 each month. This is a good service because now the mariner can accurately project his life expectancy by dividing $120,000.00 per year into his total assets.

Even Big Pharma realized the cost was a bridge too far. A special charity will pay the monthly fee less copay. Mariner was advised by his insurance company that the copay is just under $3,000 each month. Whew!

To the mariner, this is blatant disregard for human value and respect. Jimmie Kimmel had it right when he admonished the health industry and Congress for making dollars more important than human life. Mariner researched the annual salary of CEOs for Big Pharma. They receive an average annual salary of $42 million. Apparently, health management has reverted to its mid-19th century practice of applying leeches.

Because of religious reasons, that is, believing in human life as the measure of supreme value, he will not take this drug – especially he will not allow anyone, charity or otherwise, to send this many dollars to prop up a leech’s salary.

Ancient Mariner

Witness to the Acceleration of Change

Addressing the older folks for a moment, remember when . . .

Reality was dependable. It was familiar. There was time to pause. Weather was the common conversation. Religion had been around a long time and played a stabilizing role in the community. Families lived through generations without much change between them. Without giving it a thought, jobs lasted a lifetime and often multiple generations worked at the same place. Daily life was stable and dependable – so much so Norman Rockwell could freeze American life on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Music was friendly and fun. Dancing was ebullient and expressive, or a slow, romantic melody that left time to share feelings with a partner. It was the forties and fifties. It was the last time American culture stood still. Considered only an irritation to the public at the time, the public did not realize that McCarthyism ignited the fuse of change, separatism and social divisiveness that would last to the present day.

Innocently, society wandered into the sixties: Kennedy was shot. King was shot. Bobby was shot. Civil Rights stirred prejudice and violence that hearkened back to slavery; whole neighborhoods were set afire. The Cold War increased. Then the Viet Nam war; college students were shot on campus for protesting – by the National Guard! No one talked about the weather anymore or had time to pause and enjoy reality. Reality couldn’t be trusted anymore; it was full of angst, prejudice and social conflict. By the seventies, ‘one nation indivisible’ no longer existed.

The seventies finally eradicated the memory of that stable culture back in the post war years when Ozzie and Harriet seemed a reasonable interpretation of America. The seventies were dominated by Russia, the cold war, a viable threat of nuclear war, Richard Nixon, and US inflation climbed to 17%. George Wallace was shot. America was growing weary of conflict not only in war but in society as well. The role of religion was under attack by secularists. It was the end of Jimmy Carter and the beginning of Ronald Reagan.

In the eighties, Ronald introduced policies that diminished the influence of a citizenry over their government. Ronald fathered an economy that favored entrepreneurship and capitalization as the power of change. While these policies quieted the populist nature of the citizenry, only today is the Reagan Doctrine declining. As a result of Ronald’s economic policies, assets and income of the citizenry no longer grow at the same pace as the nation; assets began to assimilate unevenly toward the elite classes.

The nineties were a sort of halftime, a pause to enjoy an amiable President and to enjoy the growth in entrepreneurship that led to a relatively strong economy. It was a time to catch a breath in the unending changes society had passed through since the forties. Beneath the respite, however, corporatism and governments diseased by excessive cash from the new entrepreneurs began to damage the culture in a new way. The idea of a job for life was disappearing; regulations controlling the business environment began to protect corporations over the wellbeing of human beings. By 1998, computers and artificial intelligence threw their own wood on the fire that was reducing middleclass comfort, security and identity. John Henry would roll in his grave.

So here we are in the new millennium. Our lives are jammed into a splintered information age stuffed into devices and databases that rapidly take control of that thing called ‘personal freedom.’ The old societal watch guards like religion, human value, the common good, trust in our nation, and equality among the populace, all are gone. Today our society struggles mightily to gain control of rapidly changing cultural values; we seek protection from raucous abuses in an uncontrolled society. To add insult to our injury, we have Donald.

Anyone care to stop over to binge watch some old Ozzie and Harriet episodes?

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Migration – the Great Culture Changer

Mariner was watching the weekend television information shows, which are informative shows, not news shows. He noticed a comment, just one sentence on GPS, the Global Public Square with Fareed Zakaria, that today virtually the entire planet suffers the pressure of large migrations of humans.

The comment prompted mariner to remember migration as a major culture changer. Humans have had major migrations since prehistoric times. 60 thousand years ago a great migration of early humans left Africa likely due to a major climate shift. It was responsible for starting populations in every direction in Europe, the Middle East, and east into India and Southern Asia. That migration certainly brought change to Europe as immigrants overwhelmed the resident Neanderthal population and essentially replaced them. In the process, newer hunting methods and different social capabilities brought a different culture to Europe.

15 thousand years ago, a short ice age caused another migration into Northern Asia and eventually across the Bering Strait to populate North and South America.

10 thousand years ago improved farming induced a population explosion that added more immigrants into Europe and Asia and down to Australia.

Migrations are launched because of imbalances in safety, food, disruptive weather and overcrowding. The Middle East has suffered two great droughts – suffering the latest one since 1998. Today’s drought in the region is 50% drier than the last drought 500 years ago and the driest in 900 years.

Today’s drought shows no signs of letting up and continues south into Northern Africa where government conflict and social unrest continue to grow.

As a result, migration continues to grow.

Given the patterns of migration in human history, natural drought patterns are the most common cause and likely are intensified by climate change. Cultural stress disrupts governments leading to revolution, terrorism and rampant populism. Unlike Sub-Saharan Africa where 20 million face starvation, the Middle East has oil. The vagaries of imbalance as seen in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and Iran have launched a migration from that region. Combine the Middle East migration with other migrant groups from South and Central America and cultural change seems a certain experience in our future – virtually guaranteed in Europe.

The US is experiencing homophobic behavior because Donald promotes it. His base, those who feel they are being pushed out, easily adopt homophobic behavior. However, immigration is not a bad thing. In fact, the US is far better off as “the great melting pot” than it would be otherwise. Besides, in a nation of 350 million, even a million immigrants will not have a disruptive effect but they may, as in past US history, contribute to positive change. If for no other reason than rebalancing the lopsided US demographic profile, they should be welcomed.

– – – –

Don’t blame the turmoil of cultural change just on immigration. Toss in computerization, the internet, and the devious smartphone. The smartphone is eliminating the rich culture based on human-to-human contact and virtually eliminates group processes like clubs, community service, a strong sense of self and an absence of accountability to one’s community. The net result is a culture of blasé. From whence do we derive our ethics, morals, compassion and empathy? These are the energies that make us human. A photograph on Facebook does not make one a living, incorporated human being.

Perhaps being responsible to care for our new immigrant citizens will reset our human values.

Blasé is bad.

Ancient Mariner