Can Sovereignty be returned to the Citizen?

 

It was the great experiment: a nation without a king; a nation without a military junta; a nation of self-rule by its citizens. The history of the United States frequently has shown that the Republic can faulter. Each recovery is slightly different, provoking new interpretations of a democratic republic.

War certainly disrupts democracy. To name just a few nation-changing wars: Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, both World Wars, and the Viet Nam War. There are economic conflicts that affect democracy: The Panic of 1785 – 88 was an economic expansion that went bust when Great Britain would not participate in trade. The result was a stronger government that could influence economic parameters. The Panic of 1796 – 97 was strikingly similar to the recession of 2008, a collapse of real estate values and over extended banks. Many folks are still alive who remember the Great Depression of 1929 – 33.

At the end of these recessions and many others, legislation was passed that made the federal government less responsive directly to citizens in order for the government to maintain control of the economy. During the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the economic policy shifted to encouraging private enterprise and investment. As of today, the economic imbalance between rich and poor, salary constraint and diminishing labor stability are major issues.

Other changes associated largely with increased population and manipulated representation have distorted permanently the idea of one citizen, one vote such that not everyone has a vote, not every vote is equal and the subsequent reality often doesn’t reflect the voters’ intent.

Social abuses, most often financial disparities and less than patriotic treatment of citizens of every stripe creates strongly defined classes which, when the nation is under duress, quickly splinter national unity.

Finally, great shifts in agriculture, weather, science and technology throw society off balance. These changes are slow to move and often are subtle and ignored until the impact is troublesome. Establishment seems not capable of solving the issues of a changed ‘sovereign’ nation.

The democratic citizen has not held the reigns of sovereignty for a long time.

– – – –

It took half a century, suffragettes, significant labor conflict, two wars and an almost fatal depression to change the nation from what it was in 1900 to what it became in 1950. (‘nation’ means the whole kit and caboodle: how and why the government operates, the culture, economy and international role) In 1900 citizens bought the first automobiles and by 1950 they bought the first televisions. During that span the internal combustion engine launched the fossil fuel era.

From 1950 to 2000 (with the exception of the Kennedy presidency – which was stopped by three assissinations) the nation grew conservative in the face of the cold war, the Korean Conflict and the Viet Nam War. The stresses of a changing world were evident in McCarthyism, young people rioting at the Democratic Convention and, with the effort to pass the Civil Rights Act, conflict became physical between races; cities were looted and burned. Four college students were killed by the National Guard. Labor unions were targeted by conservative state governments. During the 1960’s the pressure of change erupted like a volcano.

By the 1980’s the national philosophy had begun to shift from strength in unity to strength in money – from labor and manufacturing to investment and corporatism. Riding a global wave of economic success during the 1990’s put aside issues of uncertainty among citizens and further exacerbated the stressed culture by starting wars in the Middle East. Old political conflicts from the cold war emerged again.

It would take literally a new generation of citizens who had no historical ties to the twentieth century before issues of a troubled society came to the forefront. The twentieth century Establishment had stayed too long. The government was trying to keep a dead horse on its feet. Quickly, populism emerged and Donald Trump was elected.

– – – –

Time is long overdue for an exercise to reconstruct what can pass as some version of the great experiment. The decades of delay have created many pieces lying about which must be fitted back together, very much like trying to figure out a complex tangram. One piece is lexicon. The verbal conflict is full of words that have changed nuance or even are no longer useful; many new words did not exist in 2000 that reflect a faster moving world society. What do conservatives mean when they espouse capitalism? Or socialism used by liberals? Another piece, since the beginning, is race. The nuance has changed even since the 1990’s.

Other pieces include privacy, security, voting parity, term limits, health, job, salary, taxation, financial and corporate regulation, dysfunctional lobbying and fund raising, foreign policy, freedom, equality, newly defined infrastructure, artificial intelligence, housing, environment, and not last, international economy. All these pieces must become a unified whole if new generations are to sustain the great experiment.

It is easy to define pieces but hard to define the tool that will reassemble the pieces. It is hard to define the tool because the tool is every every every American citizen. Forty-seven percent voting is not every American. The nation is not a set of Lego blocks that snap together. It is a viscous, surging mass that must continually adjust. Imagine a huge flock of birds soaring in the sky; each and every bird is constantly adjusting its own path to assure the flock remains whole otherwise predators will be able to focus on individual, vulnerable birds. Mariner suggests that already other nations are lurking closely, eager to kill the great experiment.

At the personal level, where one talks with family, friends and associates, there is an attitude that can be expressed by letting them know that their right to believe what they believe is an American right not allowed in most of the world and “regardless of differences, always know I have your back if you need me.” Mariner has used that sentence with great success. Unity is the goal.

Ancient Mariner

 

Life Today is not your Father’s Life

In a recent post mariner cited many daily tasks that, in earlier times, were not automated as they are today; the reader may remember the reference to darning socks. These tasks took time, sometimes inordinate time, just to accomplish a day in one’s life. In the post, it was relatively easy to speculate on the differences in the industrial world and in daily materialism expedited by technology. What is more important both to self and to society is what twenty-first century speed has done to core values like religion and cultural ethos.

For Christians and sophists, has the reader ever read the Holy Bible cover to cover? If so, the reader is a rare individual. How long has it been since a Book in the Bible has been reread or a thread of parables has been revisited?

Do not chastise one’s self. It is how one must live in a time when the number of daily decisions and events is continuous compared to the recent life even of one’s parents. Further, via the Internet and satellite technology, today one’s decisions virtually affect many more lives and many more circumstances and immediately influence an entire world’s knowledge of reality. Simply turning on a television launches the marketing world into action.

It is hard to imagine a life when large amounts of daily time passed and there were no conversations, no interactive decisions and no interaction with society. It wasn’t so long ago; it was the life of a significant number of folks just seventy years ago. There was both time and need to belong to simple gatherings with people one didn’t see every day; the church picnic was an important event; specialized clubs existed to expand interests and share experiences: stamp club, coin club, knitting club, garden club, etc. There were service organizations like the Lions, the Masons and the Shriners.

True, many of these organizations still exist. However, in the past these groups were the main event in socialization, politics and religion – not to mention friendship, courtship and extended family visits during the holidays. Reunions were a central event. All these interactive examples suffer today. Church attendance has fallen mightily; the club phenomenon has been replaced by social media; special interests have moved from clubs to search engines. Vacant time that once was used for the chores of daily life has been replaced by time with the television, the Internet and the smartphone. Who needs to have actual face time with other people? There just isn’t time. Easier to turn on Facebook.

– – – –

What has this fast world done to one’s personal religion? Religion is the place where one becomes a member of the universe; it is an internal, personal experience that comes from believing not in the transactional world of electronics but in a world driven by love, emotion, compassion and respect for all that exists. It is the one true experience that makes one feel valuable in spite of worldly circumstances or a dead device battery.

There are many visions about religion and there are many religions. How does one truncate these beliefs into a straightforward, functional, brief but important part of the fast world?

As noted, public ritual, clubs and gatherings are not as central to society as they were in the earlier years of the last century. Yet these persons-to-persons activities are necessary for a wholesome life. Thumb punching and finger scrolling may be a successful distraction that does not require management of ethos, ethics, human bonding or even civility but most of the human brain exists to interpret meaningful and rewarding relationships – not with video games but with other humans.

If one were able to throw all the virtues of modern religions into a kettle and boil them down to a hearty stock, it likely would be rich in compassion. Compassion is the opposite of identity politics and tribalism. On the ground in everyday life, the current political, belligerent experience is caustic; prejudice breeds prejudice; fragmentation breeds elitism, racism and school shootings. It seems conflict is not a creative force.

Everyone knows that populism is strictly a destructive force. Its objective is to disrupt, damage and even destroy a conflicted social situation. But it is not populism’s job to restore. Populism exists purely in a transactional world, i.e., tit for tat, my way or the highway, this way only, dissidents are useless criminals (“Lock her up!”).

The prescription for curing transactional conflict is to make unity the first value. Unity is a religion word. Society’s job today is to uncover and elevate what is common among even the most contraposed individuals or groups. An individual human creature cannot be separated from eons of planetary life and environment. Humans are humans living the same reality, sharing the same three dimensions, sharing the same universe-given resources.

Even in unity’s simplest form, courtesy, one can sense personal comfort – that an individual has the confidence, perspective and commitment to be courteous even in the midst of consternation. Unity is a religion word.

Pass it forward.

Ancient Mariner

 

AI

Mariner doesn’t know how to say this but . . . Donald’s base is wiser than most of the US citizenry. The base understands the future and is trying its best to thwart it – in the nation’s behalf as well.

Every world citizen should view the latest FRONTLINE presentation on Artificial Intelligence (AI). It won’t be idle entertainment and it takes a couple of hours. But the reader’s existence in the future is revealed.

Click https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai/ . Pay attention, think, stay awake – it isn’t a sit-com.

Ancient Mariner

The link between evolvement, anthropology, romance and politics

“Mariner has alluded in the past to the difference between Chimpanzees and Bonobos (essentially the same as Chimpanzees). Chimpanzees have some aggressive genes because during their evolutionary era food and space were an issue in northern Africa but the Bonobos lived in southern Africa during an era of plentiful food and space. Bonobos chill; Chimpanzees find reasons to be contentious.” (Post – Of Mice, Men and Power Aug 29 2018)

Also, bonobos live in a matriarchal society whereas chimpanzees live in a patriarchal society. In both groups, males are free to mate any female in estrus unless intercepted by a dominate male. Also in both groups, females are known to have an occasional rendezvous on the side – an evolutionary compulsion to sustain a strong genome. Unpleasantly, the males of human ancestors, the chimps, every once in a while will go on a rampage waging war with other breeds of monkeys brutally killing and eating them.

Making a left turn here, could populism be related to a chimpanzee rampage? The ethics are the same: take no prisoners. Presumably the behavior both in chimps and in humans is provoked by a situation that suggests something has to be done. Organized military action doesn’t seem to fit; war is planned and organized and seeks a worthy goal. Populism, however, seems to fit like a glove.

This correlation explains the disregard Donald’s base has for his behavior. When advocates are asked why they tolerate his many shortcomings, they simply say, “He’s doing what we want him to do” – take no prisoners and drain the swamp not of ne’er do wells but of establishmentarians, a different breed of monkey for sure.

Making another turn away from anthropology and considering the sociological phenomenon called populism, one may ask a number of questions:

What is populism?

History tends to remember populism as an angry crowd of dissenters who finally revolt, similar to the chimp rampage. Populism is more than an angry crowd; it is a symptom within a culture that reflects disarray and instability. Members of the culture begin to feel insecure and attempt to protect themselves from uncontrolled or unknown circumstances. Insecurity affects the entire culture. For example, political parties become combative rather than collaborative; religion loses inclusivity and replaces it with exclusivity; neighborhoods become reclusive and class conscious; hoarding of money and possessions is more important; individuals seek like-minded others and tend to form large cliques; ethos is replaced with transactional values.

In the realm of culture and politics, this behavior is known as identity politics. It continues to grow in hostility as the culture becomes less supportive.

What causes populism?

Anxiety. Not necessarily the surface, immediately felt anxiety but rather the deep, often unarticulated awareness that things aren’t well. Speaking to the US populist movement, the fact that salaries have dragged behind inflation for four decades threatens family solvency; many labor class workers can no longer afford what most would call a normal, satisfying life. This threat to family solvency has created a sense of crisis.

A notable benchmark was when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1993 and significant numbers of factory jobs began to move to Mexico and Canada. Since then, automation and international corporatism have added to the job/salary decline. Other factors that will cause populism: “We went to school, worked hard, followed the rules and now we’re unemployed.” Or, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

Another motive is that public support, access to medical and other services have become more difficult to deal with, and the social structure in general has shifted (for example the middle class is splitting in two with the lower half drifting into poverty). And another is corruption. Finally, a dysfunctional government, state or federal, leaves a feeling in individuals of being left out and unimportant. In the United States at the moment all these causes are in play.

How can we stop populism?

The causes of the current populist movement have been building for some time. This time it is not a matter of disgruntlement or a single segment of society; a good analogy would be a major hurricane. Repairing each one of the causes listed in the last few paragraphs will take years of restructuring. The solutions are not simply reparation through better salaries, ethical control over corporations and voting in a new government. Things are so bad today that fixes must be included that prevent further damage.

Some repairs are more urgent than others:

The macroeconomic model must be remodeled completely; the US has become a plutocracy – the rich run the government.

The social safety net must be reset to support massive job loss as artificial intelligence becomes implemented.

Taxes, benefits, health, and other institutional services must be supported strongly to assure functionality in the immediate future.

Society in an automated age will be strange to most citizens; extreme swings in wealth and opportunity as well swings in poverty and deprivation will occur. Effort to constrain these swings is necessary using taxes and guaranteed income.

Democratic processes must be restored to fair and meaningful representation for a population that has outgrown the image of an evenly dispersed population perceived in 1787.

In short, populism will be with US citizens for a long time.

Finally, the bogey man: climate change.

US readers should be glad they live in a democratic nation. There are eight western nations with populist uprisings; the authoritarian nations aren’t having it as well as the democratic ones.

Ancient Mariner

 

It’s a Fifty State Election, er, Six State Election

Don’t listen to the gossip on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, etc., nor listen to the scary fake news on Fox and Sinclair-owned stations. Don’t even listen to the cleanest news broadcast NEWSY. Don’t listen because none of these news stations report the reality of state by state polls.
It isn’t a national election. It’s fifty states voting their parochial politics, that is, red states, purple states and blue states. These polls don’t vary much because they are indigenous to state politics, not national politics.
The truth of the matter is the state polls suggest Donald may win again. Eerily, the statistics of favorability are identical to the 2016 election. The presidency may be determined again by the Electoral College where it took only six states to ignore their state-wide popular vote and flip the balance to Donald: Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The vote in just a few purple states, which state-by-state polls suggest hasn’t changed much, will determine the next president.
In similar fashion, state polls indicate that only a few switches from republican to democrat are likely in the Senate. Even if democrats secure a majority, it is likely they will not secure 60 Senate seats. Hence, all the progressive plans of the democratic House will die in the Senate.
Every vote is important, of course, but gerrymandering and regional divides between large populations and rural populations will disregard the nonsense that news media puts out every day.
2020 will be another close election.
The impeachment process is highly saturated with politics rather than focusing on the destruction of the Constitution. Donald has used the power of the presidency to dismember the democratic and Constitutional structure of the US – not only by way of administrative confusion but in his promotion of Russian and Saudi interests – as well as his own pocket. Over the next twenty-five years global power will be redistributed around the world. Every day that Donald is in office weakens US opportunities to participate in that redistribution.
On a similar international slant, the immigration issue, stirred by Donald into a big mess, has distracted futurists from realizing that the US must be aggressive in becoming a political force in Central and South America. Russia already is active on the African continent and China is focusing on everything except perhaps a few European nations. China has targeted Mexico and South American nations adjacent to the Pacific Ocean.
In other words, the US must invest in and “save” its southern neighbors in the Western Hemisphere instead of issuing inhumane and divisive policies based on racism. Frankly, such an investment may be a less expensive way to resolve immigration issues and may be more effective than Donald’s wall.
Ancient Mariner

God receive you, Elijah

If one is as old as Elijah Cummings, one knows in their heart he was a warrior, a champion and good for his word through calamity, obfuscation and threat. The House will be less for his absence.

Regular readers know mariner is fond of short, meaningful poems. A poem by Parren Mitchell, a US Representative from Maryland in the 1970s and 80s has been in the news because Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) recited it on his first day in the House. It was repeated in the news in light of Representative Cummings death on Thursday. It is a classic short poem with profound meaning. Just in case the reader missed it, here it is:

‘I only have a minute, 60 seconds in it. Forced upon me, I did not choose it, but I know that I must use it. Give account if I abuse it, suffer if I lose it. Only a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.’

Rest well, Congressman.

– – – –

Something mariner’s generation must turn over to the millennials and Zs is climate change. If an elderly person, especially an elected person, has savings and investments to live on, odds are there is oil stock in it somewhere; being realistic, one would not want to compromise one’s financial future unnecessarily. But it is necessary. What the old timers should do is pass the torch by electing millennials to government positions whenever possible. The nice, old, mannerly, gray-haired senator one knows and loves has become a detriment to the world’s population. Not because the senator is evil but, like all other new worldly situations, his generation doesn’t relate to the day-to-day future about which millennials are acutely aware and know it will affect them greatly.

One way to permanently fix the generation problem in government is to have term limits. Mariner would base them specifically on age; most, however, measure term limits by number of terms. Only one presidential candidate has specifically advocated term limits as a platform: Tom Steyer.

– – – –

Shadows

There are two shadow governments worming in and around this Constitutional Federal Republic. The first is public knowledge: the corporate lobbyists. They are better organized and better funded and get much more done than Congress ever will. The second shadow government is Donald’s coterie of thieves, easily bought opportunists and antiestablishment troublemakers. Only in recent days has the public learned how much Donald has twisted foreign policy into a personal agenda uninfluenced by the Federal bureaucracy. Now, he has performed a blunder he cannot hide in his distracting roadshow: He has upset the Middle East in an irreparable manner. Nancy Pelosi is right: all roads lead to Putin (or existing Trump Hotels). It shouldn’t take many more revelations before Donald may be eligible for charges of treason.

Parren Mitchell’s poem holds true. That minute when one casts one’s vote is a minute that may be lost if abused and the nation will suffer – for eternity.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

It is Time

Subtle changes cannot be ignored. For example, some of my family and friends think I’m crazy; some mollycoddle me; my associates in life consider me eccentric. The sensual Adonis that was here a little while ago has left, leaving behind only that which is diseased and broken.

Too often, my rational thought doesn’t square with the rational thought of others. Sometimes I want to try something new that already has been tried – I just have forgotten it.

Writing the post has been fun and even invigorating at times. I’m sure I’ve said everything I wanted to say, maybe more than once. Most subscribers never received sent email notifications anyway.

As to the alter egos, Chicken Little is in a rehab center; Amos, complete with a very hoarse voice, has gone to Mallorca to do some sailing. Guru can visit another universe at any time.

I worry a lot, though. I’m concerned for the future of my children and their children. I’m concerned about a democracy whose citizens do not want to share the work of maintaining a responsive democracy. I’m concerned that the planet has decided to move on, leaving the mammalian age to go it alone. And allowing Artificial Intelligence to infuse with our lives as if we were genetic twins; coupled with uncontrolled data corporations, is to think our lives are as real as those of the humans locked in their caskets in The Matrix.

Along with my fellow oldies, the world we know is rapidly disappearing. Scruples, economics, human interplay, even courtship is changing; I recently saw a middle-aged couple sitting in a restaurant booth; for an hour she was engrossed in her smartphone while the husband just sat there. So much for intimacy. But the oldies aren’t changing. They don’t relate to the new culture very well.

So it’s time to retire the Ancient Mariner.

It’s time to hang up the cleats (John Unitas’ high cut type, you know).

Ancient Mariner

AKA Skipper

(skipper@iowa-mariner.com)

Update on the Democratic Hoard

One of the hoard (Elizabeth Warren) caught mariner’s attention when she announced an overhaul of the money issue in Washington:

“The goal of these measures is straightforward: To take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of the people.”

It strikes down the whole lobby relationship and puts constraints on legislators who mix with private consortiums to discuss legislation. There is no doubt she will restore the Consumer Protection Agency to its role as a watchdog over bank behavior before Donald castrated it.

Mariner has not found a preferred candidate among the hoard but Warren’s direct style of planning separates her from Biden and Bernie, one a traditionalist and the other an ideologue. At least one can picture the legislation in her descriptions.

Another interesting comparison will be between Buttigieg and Steyer, both scholars of notable degree (Tom Steyer has qualified for the October debate). While Warren has taken on the plutocratic issue, Steyer is targeting term limits, the Electoral College and other structural issues.

The military is behind Tulsi Gabbard; she is a classic progressive and distinct from other candidates in her Hindu religion. Like Warren, big banks must be dismantled.

Beto O’rourke would make a great preacher. His appeals to moral integrity are meaningful.

It’s probably mariner’s old ears but Cory Booker never targets his motives; a master of rhetoric.

Kamala Harris is a forthright candidate and would “set things right” at the White House but many men may not like her style.

Conversely, Bill Maher may have said it best that Amy Klobuchar may be the sole survivor in a conflicted and destructive battle. Amy has firm views but a smooth manner.

Andrew Yang and Julian Castro would make excellent cabinet secretaries. Marianne Williamson must be a truly interesting candidate to talk to but her spiritualist manner won’t control the gang in Congress.

The rest should run for other federal offices or cash out.

Ancient Mariner

 

How to Herd Cats

In lieu of civics not being taught in public school systems, and in light of the immeasurable importance of a presidential election at this point of social and political change, mariner will remind readers of the ease and indeed the right for them to communicate their opinions to their elected representatives – state as well as federal.

Expressing one’s opinion to a representative is as simple as using a telephone, email and text or more deliberately, a face-to-face at a town hall event or visiting the representative’s office. And always there is a handwritten or typed letter, seemingly old fashioned but surprisingly influential. Do not be intimidated; these folks are sensitive to a voter’s influence on their job security – a voter is a member of the Board of Directors.

Aside from the vote a citizen has, communication directly with their representative is a very important activity. It is how a citizen manages their democratic government.

A voter can communicate indirectly with their representatives by attending legislative hearings, attending political party meetings, and in Iowa, at least, attend the caucuses. See to it that one’s name is on the mailing list of all direct representatives and the mailing list of one’s preferred local party committee. Always vote at every chance for everything from dog catcher to school board to primaries and elections. Even vote for the judges.

Be aware of and participate in current petitions, referendums and activities by related unions, education, housing, seminars and social presentations of cultural or political issues.

All this sounds like a second job. It is. Certainly one’s own career and life experience comes first but herding political cats is as important as going to the grocery store. Make time!!

A warning: social media and television news are as convoluted as walking through an endless swamp of alligators. It is very, very important for a voter to have a personal compass that reads motive. These sources, every one, have ulterior motives. The activity isn’t herding cats, its hunting cougars.

As to donating money, contain it to causes as much as possible. Donating to one’s specific jurisdictional campaigns is okay but put one’s money where it will do the most to promote the voter’s opinions – typically large organizations promoting the voter’s perspective.

Every citizen must realize that they are as much a part of a democratic government as any elected official. There are four branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial – all who work for the fourth: the citizen.

Ancient Mariner