Governments and Citizens – Who Maintains the Norms?

Maybe too often mariner addresses circumstances about the future of mankind. Typically, the circumstances are beyond the focus of contemporary politics and culture. Nevertheless, the future presents dilemmas about which we are unaccustomed and we fail to recognize their importance in a timely manner – let alone prepare to deal with them as current political situations.

Even at this moment, the United States is struggling. It is struggling because we are not prepared to deal with global issues that did not exist when our Constitution was created. Suddenly, our leadership among world nations seems inadequate. Why?

In just a few years the attitude of the American Citizen has changed from tolerance to intolerance. Congress suddenly is drawing attention from its constituents. The Presidency has been struck a fateful blow by a wary and vulnerable electorate. Populism has emerged. The American Citizen senses a change in the wind.

Speaking in broad terms, eighteenth century capitalism is insufficient to support the moral obligations of global society. As corporatists and oligarchs leverage international markets which did not exist before the Internet and as data storage capacity expands to unimaginable size, common citizens are left behind in shrinking, community-based markets and economies whose norms, ethics and responsibilities are irrelevant to global economics.

When mariner was a much younger man, he lived near a small town in rural Pennsylvania. A town business, not very large as businesses go but the largest employer in the area, closed. Mariner stood looking at the empty buildings one day wondering why the business owners didn’t sustain their community responsibilities – they owed the town. If the business failed, go into another business; if it was a single-owner business, why not sell it to the community? The point was that the business owed the community something. Certainly the community gave to the business through its workers. The region’s economy failed. The personal obligations of commerce were ignored. The town be damned. Tough luck, folks.

Today, it isn’t a small business in a small town. It is Ford, Aetna, A.G. Edwards, 3Com, Amazon.com, Bank of America, Black and Decker, Cooper Tire… thousands of businesses. Leveraging modern technology, even if the business does not relocate to another country, it outsources jobs overseas or operates out of tax haven countries. These options are new because of computerization. These options have no ties to small towns or big cities or a community’s expected norms. And, to their benefit, corporations and oligarchs are no longer constrained by one nation’s regulations or one nation’s economy or one culture’s expectations; that means they are beyond the imposition of unions, worker benefit regulations, labor regulations in general and especially even paying taxes to support any national activity that may be of benefit to the nation or its people.

The governments of the United States, Federal, State and local, identify themselves in turn as keepers of the economy, of state-centric solutions to economy, and of infrastructure. None feel obligated to be champions for people – just economies and infrastructure. The citizenry senses a change in the wind but the governments are not addressing human exposure to international and global changes already occurring.

The changing wind is the source of the great schism between conservatives and liberals that exists today. Conservatives want to reduce the role of government, even take it back to the role of government in the middle of the last century. Liberals want to regulate corporations and wealth in behalf of the common man, even to the extent of using the economy as a tool to protect citizenry from new abuses occurring in the global economy. Speaking broadly, it is a conflict between capitalism and socialism. Speaking to readers, neither word is bad but they are different. It’s a question of functionality. Which is needed most to provide shelter for community norms, mores, and sustenance?

Ancient Mariner

 

Coming of Age

Many years ago, when mariner was learning about world religions, he learned that the land called Turkey today in another time was the origin of virtually every political and religious principal in the western world. Even revered early Greek poetry and Greek philosophical wisdom is rooted in the Hittite Empire.

The land of Turkey is also called Asia Minor or Anatolia. Anatolia, the cultural name for the area, has been the intersection of civilizations since the beginning of political organization. Babylonian documents note Hittite dominance in the region as early as the 17th century BC. Anatolia was the first region in the world to use iron tools, transforming its culture from Neolithic to Iron Age. These changes occurred between 4500 and 2000 BC. Given the Hittites existed at least by 1800 BC, we’re talking really ancient history – which is the point of this post, that aside from not assassinating each king to make room for another one, generally speaking, there isn’t much that’s original in politics. The last somewhat original idea was in the 18th century when the United States decided to let the citizenry run the country.

Today there is an urgent need to reinvent human culture; computers are forcing us into the future. We have no choice: we are facing new rules, new attitudes and new definitions, ergo new politics. When iron was mastered, it changed war, it changed agriculture, it changed politics, and it changed day-to-day life.

So here we are 3,800 years later. We suffer the end game of two ages at once: fossil fuel and a stable mammalian age, and the beginning of a new age – not iron, computers.[1]

Simple ways a new computer age will be noticed:

Today in 2017, 40 out of 100 car drivers drive alone. Almost as many use transit. Only 4 in 100 carpool. Some say the electric car will save the single passenger preference. Some say the electric car will be controlled by the highway just as traffic lights control traffic today. Cars using major highways may be little more than a seat, a cab and some wheels and be hooked electronically to the car in front and the car in back. Toot-Toot!

Another option mentioned is that a driver will pick up a specially built car at a depot like Hertz. Otherwise, one can drive the old clunker but not very far before one must take light rail.

Already emerging are neighborhoods or converted small towns that are designed to accommodate all the needs of a resident. Cars will be unnecessary within the confines of the neighborhood. Any storefronts that still exist will deliver to the home. Amazon will provide everything else.

One of the significant changes will be the definition of work. We aren’t making all these computers for nothing! Several books have been written about this subject and every significant magazine has published articles. A common observation is a description of the dream of every human being: independence and financial security. The way computers are taking away jobs, we all may be independent so financial security can’t be based on human labor or clock time. Whence one’s income?

Hmm, will one be able to vote from home? Miracles can happen….

Ancient Mariner

[1] Fossil fuel is widely assumed to be the cause of climate change. Carbon emissions certainly have exacerbated global warming but the planet has its own life to live and is by itself growing warmer. Much more damaging, and far enough along that it is irreversible, is the mammalian issue – caused entirely by human practices of blatantly destroying habitat and over consuming food sources like fish. Compared to air pollution, the ocean is in worse shape. We are living our way to the Sixth Extinction.

Dear Mister Trump

Dear Mr. Trump:

It is hard to steer a boat in stormy seas. The nations of the world, each and every one, are sailing in extraordinarily stormy seas – each and every one including the United States.

It is especially hard for the United States. Intentionally, the nation was founded with importance given to the spirit of freedom and equality – a new perspective on governance by law that evolved over many centuries of European history. The new perspective paid off with the United States becoming the premier nation of the world – the most powerful, the wealthiest, and the leader of all nations. Some say that the golden years occurred in the middle of the last century. Too soon we have discovered these troubled seas.

We learn from history that humans reorganize themselves according to the circumstances at hand. Some say that in a natural environment we are happiest being members of a tribe. But reality drives a hard bargain. Soon humans had to reorganize into territorial kingdoms. After that, problems were too sophisticated for simple kingdoms. Nations had to be formed usually with authoritarian leadership like Russia and Turkey have at the moment.

However, reality now calls the people of the world to smudge the edges of a nation’s independence. Reality calls not for authoritarians, and not for personal riches that temporarily protect the super wealthy. Reality calls for a global mentality because the problems are too big for individual nations to solve.

Collaboration in economics, population management and planetary behavior is the solution today. Nations are linked together according to the issues they have in common. Today, many issues truly are global – no country can stand alone anymore. The Earth is moving into a new planetary age. It will take all of us participating together to survive.

Blog of the Ancient Mariner

 

Arrived.

Ancient has arrived at an intellectual state not unlike running out of gas in the middle of nowhere; or it may be similar to arriving where one intended but there is nothing to be found; or it may be like arriving in a country ready to have a rich experience but no one speaks your language or cares to communicate.

In a word, Mariner, as Amos before him, euphemistically is retreating to shepherd his sheep.[1] The works of Amos in the Old Testament show that he was influenced by a very large Earthquake (8.0) that occurred north of Israel around 760BC. Amos 3.13-15 states the view of Amos about the collapse of the world:

13 “Hear and testify against the House of Jacob,” says the Lord God, the God of Hosts, 14 “that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground. 15 I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great house shall come to an end,” says the Lord.RSV In further verses, Amos makes it clear that no one will survive God’s wrath.

Today, we have no impending earthquake that will end civilization; perhaps a volcano may but none of the major volcanoes are due for thousands of years. Nevertheless, something is happening because God’s wrath has begun and moves ever faster.

 

The Dark Age

The model which defines the relationship of the present era to its future is the model of the Dark Ages, which lasted from the fall of Rome to the early years of the Middle Ages (450AD – 1000AD). It was a time when the social structure and ethic of the known western world had fallen into disarray. Governments (and the Church) disavowed responsibility for the underclass and anyone, for that matter, who could not participate in authoritarian power or its oligarchy. In that time, the general public lived a truly impoverished and brutalized life. The wealthy did not feel obligated to care about common folk. Food was scarce and never adequate; disease ran amok; the simplest barter economy was impossible because of abusive taxation; one third of all children died before age five; adults had an average life expectancy in the thirties; common land, where the populace lived, was treated as a permanent war zone where the powerful played constant war to improve personal power and wealth.

Does this sound relevant today?

The characters are the same. The failing cultural morality seems not to be restrained. War with inadequate purpose seems rampant. Governments ever increasingly seek to avoid responsibility for the growing underclasses. The Church lingers in the twentieth century with very little influence on twenty-first century society.

But ‘God’ is not waiting for an ultimate collapse. Even as the US Government denies the reality of global warming, the Earth is moving on to an environment that may not be suitable for humans. It certainly is not suitable for other species. Global leaders and the wealthy may grudgingly recognize that ocean levels are rising enough to be a nuisance. They do not acknowledge that as the Arctic Ocean and its accompanying permafrost melt, a rise of ocean levels to several feet is projected by the end of the century and that will not be the end of it – rising further in future centuries.

The weather is changing as well. The warming oceans evaporate unmeasurable amounts of water into the atmosphere – causing larger and more damaging weather patterns as well as drought zones that occur seemingly without reason.

‘God’ does not patronize authoritarian and otherwise imbalanced societies that disregard simple moral behaviors – behaviors that have deep genetic roots in a species with strong tribal social structures. The current US government reminds the mariner of a group of people grabbing as much wealth as they can before the end comes. ‘God’ will not be deterred.

There are too many humans. Far too many. Why is this? Give credit to man’s inventive abilities which produced the Iron Age, Industrial Age, the Fossil Fuel Age, the Technological Age and the current Age of Automation. Were humans still bound to the nature from which they evolved, there is no question that nature itself would oversee disproportional population. Man often is his own demise.

Even at this moment the US is fading from its leadership of the modern world. China understands global economics and is investing in newly defined trade and financing relationships with other countries that will ease transition from the twentieth century era. The US is doing its level best to return to cultural and fiscal values as they existed in the mid-twentieth century. True, that was the golden age but nothing escapes entropy.

Aside from the biosphere, world economies must change in concept if any country is to survive financially and culturally. Most critical is the relationship between jobs and income. The eight hour work day began in 1856. Accompanied by a concept of hourly wage, it has been the core device for redistribution of wealth ever since. But its role in the economy is waning. If the world population is to survive in any quantifiable measure, job and wage must be separated.

Mariner is confident that we approach dark times. Dark times will prevail longer than we will like; let’s hope not as long as the model from the Middle Ages – 550 years. For the last four years, mariner has probed endless subjects, admonished many for lax insight, and promoted newly required ideas drawn from modern but ignored commentary. Were that we could describe the collapsing world; perhaps even glimpse the edges of our dissolution as we can see the edge of a storm cloud – but each of us is an integral piece of the storm…. We are the storm.

We, the electorate, are the storm and we have no intelligence with which to steer ourselves to pleasant weather. The human species denies several global issues that may well end as Amos predicted.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Apocryphal works say that Amos was killed by the son of Amaziah, priest of Bethel. It further states that before he died, Amos made his way back to his homeland and was buried there.

Belt and Road

Something which has not been covered very well by American press is a China initiative (including Russia’s participation) called Belt and Road. The term does not mean much in terms of the objectives. It is China’s way of attempting to avoid an economic crisis in the near future.

In concrete terms, the Belt and Road initiative is an immensely ambitious development campaign through which China wants to boost trade and stimulate economic growth across Asia and beyond. It hopes to do so by building massive amounts of infrastructure connecting it to countries around the globe. By some estimates, China plans to pump $150bn into such projects each year. In a report released at the start of this year, ratings agency Fitch said an extraordinary $900bn in projects were planned or underway.

China is struggling to find an economic solution to many problems looming as the world moves to a global economy. The US faces similar issues. Whatever the US faces, multiply the problem by 1000 to understand China’s issues.

Nevertheless, the planet’s occupants are at a crossroads. Too many assets are locked within oligarchic structures where they are of no use to the world’s population. Corporations are sucking dry the profits of an antiquated economy based on labor. Human population continues on its path to 12 billion by 2200. Whatever economic theories carried us through the industrial age and the early technological age, they will not suffice to manage the near future of a global economy. In personal terms, everyone faces a diminished future.

We are dependent on leaders with modern insights, modern ethos, and modern rules of existence. The US cannot face this alone. For the first time, all nations must rise above personal and corporate desire for wealth and create an international government that determines the distribution of assets around the world. Frankly, there are just too many people.

Check out Belt and Road. It is China’s way of confronting the very issue that the US must face but ignores. The current administration sets the US at an extreme disadvantage; time is of the essence.

There are plans for pipelines and a port in Pakistan, bridges in Bangladesh and railways to Russia – all with the aim of creating what China calls a “modern Silk Road” trading route that Beijing believes will kick start “a new era of globalization”.

REFERENCE SECTION

The mariner grew up in Baltimore; many of his friends and relatives still live there. Edgar Allen Poe is a Baltimore icon. His afterlife is haunted and mysterious aficionados leave gifts. Nevertheless, Edgar is a famous poet in the hall of poets. Mariner need only say, Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’ He reread “The Raven” with more pleasure than he expected and continued on to “Annabel Lee,” one of mariner’s childhood favorites.

However, Poe has another poem, “Eureka,” his last, discounting Annabel Lee which was published after his death. He focused on the cosmology of the universe and described its behaviors in his own vivid style – including a personality for the Big Bang itself. An interesting and pleasant sidetrack – especially if you like Edgar Allen Poe.[1]

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] See: https://aeon.co/essays/edgar-allan-poe-visionary-of-big-bang-cosmology

Racism et al.

It seems that racism has been in the news on a regular basis for some time. Pick any starting point – perhaps something obvious like the murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Since, there have been a number of race riots similar to Ferguson, the Trump racist movement, citizen backlash to the Muslims just in principle, and now the Boston treatment of black baseball players. Donald is doing his best to stir anti Mexican racism but that seems to be limping along. Still, unfair treatment of Hispanics runs deep in American culture.

Another prejudice raising its head is among conservative religious movements. There is an obvious attempt to make the US a theocracy. Why our representatives don’t stop this on Constitutional grounds is a quandary. We should never have put “In God We Trust” on our money. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” Can we agree we don’t need money in heaven?

Third, there is a violent class war going on and the common folk are losing big time. To save space, mariner will just mention Bernie – and Donald’s proposed tax reform – which doesn’t seem too out of line to the Republican representatives.

All this commotion seems elevated. In a decade or two, our economy is likely to fail; our role as an influential cultural influence around the world will dwindle; automation will decimate the workforce if redefining the relationship between income and jobs has not occurred.

It is like a home overrun by fleas which preoccupy us while the house burns down unattended.

Prejudice, of course, is more potent an interruption than fleas. Yet must we reconcile these ancient misbehaviors before we notice our burning nation?

Mariner takes the position that both can be addressed at the same time:

An intelligent, internationally balanced immigration policy will quell or at least placate the paranoia against foreign immigration – something the US desperately needs to help with its future economy.

Black racism is as strong as it ever was. Mariner doubts this deeply ingrained class structure will diminish until all the white guys in the victory photo for health reform are dead. As to Dixie, it’s more a money issue. If the South had tried manufacturing earlier instead of trying to grow crops without the slave economy, maybe things would be slightly different today. We tend to forget the intensity of this racial divide – intense enough for southern states to secede from their nation and suffer a civil war. A growing rate of interracial marriages seems to be the only positive strategy.

The severely imbalanced economy is the most dangerous issue. Combined with automation and international corporatism, the US could be an economic has been by 2050. Knowing that it takes a decade or two to significantly modify an economy, 2050 is frighteningly close. A real, undeniable statistic researched and declared many times is the fact that from 1939 to 1980, the wealthiest 10 percent of the population received 30 percent of income growth while the remaining 90 percent received 70 percent of income growth. Economically, things seemed to be working fine.

From 1980 (Reagan) to 2017, the wealthiest 10 percent of the population received 90 percent of growth income while the remaining 90 percent received less and less over that time. Today, 90 percent of the US population receives 40 percent less in gross adjusted income than they did in 1979.

This issue of a balanced sharing of the economy continues to be buried by all US governments – Federal, State and Local. Especially during the eight year filibuster of Barack by a do-no-business Republican Congress and now by the same Congress and an authoritarian, ignorant and immoral President.

The undeniable truth is that the real holdup in improving racism, balancing the concepts of freedom of religion and the existence of state authority, the clash between working classes and missing income, is the US Congress. It is a Congress dominated by the Reagan philosophy of culture and economics – imposed 37 years ago and by any measure clearly defunct today.

Until the Congress is completely revamped with modern politicians who understand 2017 racism, religious conflict and class struggles will continue. The fact that Donald is still around is another indicator of the antiquated Republicans stonewalling – their only Standard Operating Procedure.

Ancient Mariner

The New Elephant

It has taken a few days for mariner to restore his awareness of the major themes of society and world events. Surprisingly, his attention is drawn not to irritating politics or immoral economic behavior or disregard for the meaning of life – his attention is drawn to demographics. Global population patterns have become the elephant in the room and will dictate the quality of national life in every nation – not in the future but already – now!

US citizens already have a sense of the demographics issue caused not by population alone but by the emerging wave of joblessness caused by automation. There will be too many people not contributing to the economy but still dependent on it for survival. Economic solutions aside, there simply will not be enough employed younger people earning and spending dollars to sustain a robust economy.

The US is not alone. Every nation in the top twenty GNP has a similar issue: the shape of the population leans toward older citizens and the younger generations are not plentiful enough to sustain either the economy or the older citizens. China, Japan and Germany, in particular, face an almost instantaneous shift between generations in about 30 years that surely will affect their economies. Demographically, one country stands poised to expand its economy many times over during the next 100 years: India.

Some numbers:

In 1965 the world population stood at 3.3 billion; today it is 7.3 billion.

In 2011 the average age of the world population was 32; by 2100 it will be 42.

Because China played with population via national mandates (first, grow the largest population, then one child per family), the nation will have difficulty sustaining a world-leading economy. In 2026, China will have 316 million citizens over age 60. That’s close to the entire US population.

America’s population is growing because more people are being born than are dying and because immigrants, most in their late teens or early 20s, are still coming to the United States. This combination means that the American population is younger than in other developed nations. In 2001, 21 percent of the population in the United States was under the age of 15. This compares with 18 percent in Europe and 15 percent in Japan.

To consider US immigration policy in a different light than racist invasion, the immigration policy should be liberalized and made part of a demographic plan for the nation’s future. Still, other forces like capitalistic oligarchy must be forced to participate more rationally in the nation’s economy. Further, the definition of work and the link between ‘earning’ and ‘working’ will have to be redefined otherwise the impact of automation will have a devastating effect regardless of demographics.

Stephen Chan, an international expert on population and demographics, states that immigration (perhaps a better term is ‘migration’) will continue to be a large event in international life (he refers to the current immigration out of the Middle East and Northern Africa). Consider Africa – the entire continent including central, large primitive areas where culture is still based on iron-age tribalism. These populations have no national economy to help them so their only solution is to immigrate (migrate) to nations where there may be a better opportunity to survive.

One of the more important areas of policy that must be expanded and modified to prepare for immigration-supported populations is education. The mariner suspects that the whole framework of familiar grades, secondary schools, trade schools, and colleges, is not capable of supporting the new requirements by which populations are to be educated. The slate chalkboard cannot compete with the Internet and modern technology. Nor will it prepare students and retirees for the new world of work.

So, whenever it happens that the US has representatives that understand today’s world and are making rational plans to manage it; until we have a statesman President; until we have a liberal Supreme Court; until we have state legislators who don’t keep their head where the Sun don’t shine – hold on to that slate chalkboard.

Ancient Mariner

 

Different Takes on Economics

Mariner is fortunate to have among the selection from his television network provider several channels from foreign countries. Only occasionally, usually in news coverage, will there be differences in the interpretation of events. This is most often true with Aljazeera (Arab countries) and Russian Television (RT). It is least true on British television (BBC) and China Global Television Network (CGTN); The China network has a discipline similar to PBS in refraining from broadcasting controversial content. CGTN has a rich selection of western programming about western philosophy, politics, economy and culture; similarly, a lot can be learned about China’s philosophy, politics, economy and culture.

A recent broadcast of the CGTN show ‘World Insight’ had a panel of four Nobel Laureates for economics (Stiglitz, Spence, Phelps, and Pissarides). The dialogue was fascinating as these four gentlemen wandered through the world’s economic issues providing surprisingly simple concepts which could, if adopted, remove many of the seemingly unresolvable economic troubles in the world today. Of course a simple spoken concept from a Nobel Laureate does not carry much weight in a highly politicized and conflicted world.

One of the major topics was automation (Robots, as Pissarides referred to it). The German approach was used as a prospective model by which the impact on the labor force could be controlled using fair labor policies. In short, as ‘robots’ did more work, the work day became shorter for employees – some worked only three hours per day. Salary, however, did not drop. In fact, as profits rose due to automation, salaries benefitted to various degrees.

Spreading profits among workers is anathema to American Capitalism. Intentionally paring payroll overhead is de rigeuer. Stiglitz said either way, the worker receives what he wanted: free time and independence except one way the worker has no financial security and the other is financially secured.

Mariner was impressed that these four distinguished economists felt no need to incorporate political nuances of conservatism or liberalism, or theories of Keynesian or Adam Smithian economics. They were pragmatic and sought to solve economic problems – plain and simple. It was a refreshing broadcast.

It was painful afterward to refocus on the US philosophy of government advocating no minimum wage, passing right-to-work legislation which undercuts unionism, cutting government employment to weaken government union benefits and cutting aid to the marginally employed. Further, the oligarchs show no intention of sharing with the world that worked to make them wealthy.

 

 

REFERENCE SECTION

Here’s an article from The Nation that targets cultural change among intellectuals. It claims that the wealthy snap up the progressive ideas of traditional intelligentsia and convert the ideas to the purposes of the well to do. The key reference is the ideas in a book by Daniel Dresner, ‘The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats Are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas’. The article is entitled:

‘Thought Leaders’ and the Plutocrats Who Love Them

The wealthy have taken over intellectual culture, and it is devastating progressive politics.

By Eric Alterman

—-

For the few who linger to hear Richard Muller’s description of NOW, he provides the following argument: The Big Bang created an eternally expanding universe. Space continues to fill new voids as they are created. Time, too, expands to fill the voids. NOW is the leading edge of time expansion. Yes, mariner understands. Leave it to a theoretical physicist to make things clear. Mariner suggests a nap.

—-

For those living in North America near the fortieth parallel and below 3,500 feet altitude, it is now time to plant vegetable gardens.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

One Nation, One God, One Answer.

Originally, 15 thousand years or more ago, religion, politics, cultural norms and common behavior among neighbors, all had one source of evaluation – one undeniable power that dictated the rules for ethics, politics, religion, even dickering with a neighbor. Fallible but relatively consistent, the source was a designated priest of sorts. The priest interpreted what was acceptable, right, timely, or not. Having a local ‘judge’ of proper morality was very convenient – very much like shopping at Walmart.

This model of maintaining morality and ethical behavior still exists in parts of the world and still is convenient. In truth, however, it is uneven in application and so dependent on unproven myth and prejudice that it can be as brutal as to condemn women and children to death as presumed witches on the whim of the priest. In perspective, this practice is more sacrificial than judgmental.

Singular authority to pass moral judgment exists in modern times as well. Excluding cultish movements that come and go, covens and the like, there are a few places where ethics and morality are meted locally. For example, in many common Amish parishes, the local parish is led by a local team comprised of a bishop and two or three ministers – all drawn from the local congregation. The interpretive power of this leadership is far ranging and covers virtually all behavior and beliefs of parish members. Further, to sustain the culture, the state has little if any authority under normal circumstances.

An irregularity in Amish practices made the news several years ago. It seemed an older brother was regularly raping his younger sister. When caught and brought before the leadership, the brother confessed his sins, was forgiven by the leadership (as God would forgive) and allowed to return to his family. As you might expect, the boy, forgiven of his behavior, resumed raping his sister. This forgiveness loop was exercised often and resulted in the state interfering – a far greater sin not worthy of forgiveness.

Today, Western Culture is in turmoil. No one, it seems, is responsible for ethical behavior, the meaning of fairness, or protection of human rights. The two largest religions, Christianity and Islam, remain embroiled in antique rituals and are preoccupied with property rights from gold plated art to the clitoris of young women. The religions have been left without moral leverage by extremely rapid changes in technology that have stripped the gears of normal cultural change.

What remain intact are the false religions of capitalism, corporatism and authoritarianism. None have moral constructs for human wellbeing. It is the nature of our technological improvements that it grows easier to skim massive wealth from old, labor sharing economies – leaving hundreds of millions of people with questionable survivability.

As a consequence, across the western world populism has emerged as the disrupting force it should be – rising only in the midst of highly imbalanced wellbeing and fairness. As usual, the populists want a ‘person’ to be able to straighten things out; the status quo abusers are not to be trusted.

It feels nice to have a priest with moral authority in place again. It’s nice to have a Walmart in town again. Alas, the simple solution never works. The old priest method ‘solves’ problems quickly and authoritatively but, as suggested above, the singular priest in charge is a questionable choice – especially today when singular authority over a planet, nuclear war, cultural values with no roots, and millions of uncared for humans around the globe are not the type of issues left to one priest’s whim.

But history will repeat itself at the visceral levels of human behavior. So here we are.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Wisdom of Frugality

The Wisdom of Frugality is the title of a second book in a group of readings that may provide a general understanding of today’s world, its philosophical, financial, social, and moral incentives.[1]

Harari was tough reading.

The reader will have a completely different experience reading Emrys Westacott’s The Wisdom of Frugality. Emrys’ writing style is smooth, his points are philosophical, and his descriptions of frugality are expressed pleasantly.

An Evelyn Wood instructor once described Evelyn’s specific method for reading as “consuming and spitting out the book drained of all its information.”

One of Wood’s steps in quickly reading nonfiction and comprehending it as well is to read the author’s outline within the text. This means discovering which sentence in a paragraph contains the primary thought, read that sentence (habitually almost all writers designate the same sentence in every paragraph) then move to the next paragraph. Mariner uses this technique most of the time – not going back afterward to the beginning to read the text normally except to check some point in the text. However, Emrys’ book was so entertaining and filled with small gems of insight that mariner frequently found himself falling off the outline routine to read every word.

– – – –

In Emrys Westacott’s book, The Wisdom of Frugality, Why less is more, more or less, he examines why, for more than two millennia, so many philosophers and people with a reputation for wisdom have been advocating frugality and simple living as the key to the good life. He also looks at why most people have ignored them but argues that, in a world facing environmental crisis, it finally may be time to listen to the advocates of a simpler way of life.

The early chapters are definitional as any good philosopher starts an analysis. Living frugally is a surprisingly diverse subject. One must first distinguish between moral reasons and prudent reasons for advocating frugality. If we tell a child to share a toy, that is a moral reason, that is, it is right to share or a duty to share – that reasoning stands on its own and is moral in nature. On the other hand, if there is motive to share, perhaps we want the other children to like her and then they will share their toys with her. There is an ulterior motive in the reason to share. That is prudent in nature.

Westacott says that morality or prudence must be clear in one’s mind to sustain a clear sense of purpose for our frugality. Natural rules of behavior and implementation go astray and frugality becomes misguided if one does not understand why they are being frugal. Westacott goes on in his book to provide many illustrations of moral and prudential frugality that are full of refinement and further define frugality.

From Socrates to Thoreau we are told that ‘the good life’ is a moral and prudent life. This behavior is seen as beneficial to ourselves and wise, benevolent and trustworthy by others yet we consciously choose not to be seen as having these qualities. In a culture lacking in these qualities, society becomes weakened by greed, pride, and the degradation of its institutions. Inevitably society becomes fragmented and suffers the ignobility of economic classification that creates haves and have-nots.

Perhaps more than any other element of our culture, the issue of morality and prudence – frugality – lies at the base of our difficulties. Even on a quote calendar, the presence of morality and prudence pops up:

From Wednesday March 17 2017:

…On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. David Foster Wallace.

When you finish reading Westacott’s book, truth will mean something real and valuable.

The Wisdom of Frugality, Why Less is More – More or Less

By Emrys Westacott

published 2016 by Princeton University Press, 41 William Street

Princeton NJ 08540

ISBN 9780691155081

Mariner recommends giving to Princeton that which is Princeton’s and unto Amazon that which is Amazon’s. Order directly from Princeton at

www.press.princeton.edu

or visit your public library.

Ancient Mariner

[1] [The first was Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari. It is a book about the future as Harari sees it. While the author is straight forward, logical and takes into account H. sapiens’ history and achievements, he offers little solace from a world chained to a primitive part of the human brain; we are not as morally flexible as we think when it comes to survival and domination in behalf of self. Contemporary greed witnessed in autocracies, oligarchies and growing separation between classes reflects Harari’s view of humankind. He believes the common man will be cast off because he is useless in an automated world.]