Some Thoughts

Mariner is a potential customer for switching from standard electrical hookup to solar. He believes it is one of the major constraints to the use of fossil fuels in the next decade and will be a cost saving strategy for typical home owners. Even Goldman Sachs thinks so:

Falling wind and solar costs are set to spur even greater investment in renewable technologies. Goldman Sachs Research’s Alberto Gandolfi forecasts that by 2023, renewables will be able to operate without government subsidies. From there, Gandolfi expects wind and solar deployment to accelerate, reaching $3 trillion over the next 20 years.

Picked up this apropos quote in the Atlantic Magazine:

“You are entitled to your own opinion,

but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

— Daniel Patrick Moynihan

And this one:

“We risk being the first people in history to have been

able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive,

so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.”

— Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to

Pseudo-Events in America (1961)

And this:

The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart … Face it, folks, we are a divided nation … divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart … Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

Kurt Andersen, the author of How America Lost its Mind, says it much better than mariner could:

…And if the ’60s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it.

Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control.

From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.

And this was all true before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.

Back to ‘reality’, On Monday, the President took time away from the lush fairways and greens at Trump National Golf Club, in Bedminster, New Jersey, to tweet insults at Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat who had the temerity to suggest that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, should be allowed to continue and complete his investigation. On Tuesday afternoon, Trump again interrupted his break, this time to attend a briefing in the Bedminster clubhouse about the nation’s opioid crisis. He took the opportunity to threaten a devastating nuclear strike on North Korea.

Is this our future?

Ancient Mariner

What hath God Wrought?

If you want to know what the special investigator, Robert Mueller, is investigating, the following article from New Yorker Magazine tells you where he is wandering. The powerful oil industry, long beyond the grasp of a nation’s legislators, is corrupt to the point that many smaller nations’ economies are sucked dry as if invaded by leeches.

Trump has been in the middle of the oil business with money laundering schemes (a criminal violation in US code) and bribery (also a criminal violation of US code) and in addition participates in a similar fashion using real estate to cover money laundering.

The Trump Administration Rolls Back Anti-Corruption Efforts in the Oil Industry

By Steve Coll August 10, 2017 – The New Yorker Magazine, Friday, August 11, 2017.

In Nigeria, one anti-corruption campaigner fears that if the era of U.S.-led transparency initiatives is over, the relapse will be stark.

In February, in one of its first acts of lawmaking, the Trump Administration, with the Republican-controlled Congress, rescinded a pending Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would have required oil companies to disclose details of their payments to international governments in connection with oil and gas production.

The rule, which was mandated by a law co-sponsored by former Republican Senator Richard Lugar, of Indiana, and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, of Maryland, was designed to combat bribery and corruption, especially in poor countries governed by kleptocrats. Thirty other countries, including Canada and the members of the European Union, had already adopted similar requirements. Yet the American Petroleum Institute and companies such as ExxonMobil, at the time when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was still its C.E.O., had lobbied against the rule. They said that it was costly to implement and gave unfair advantage to overseas competitors to which it did not apply. When Trump took power, the lobbyists got their way.

A month later, Trump’s Interior Department signalled that the Administration would also withdraw from a certification process of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The E.I.T.I. is another corruption-fighting effort in the oil and mining sectors that involves governments, corporations, and civil-society groups. The United States officially endorsed the initiative, in 2004, because the George W. Bush Administration believed that it could promote better governance worldwide. The E.I.T.I. standards for transparency in oil finance were initially imposed mainly on poor countries, but, under the Obama Administration, the U.S. agreed, along with other wealthy countries, to adopt the standards. Trump apparently intends to reverse that decision. This is one more area, among many, where the U.S. no longer leads by example.

President Trump frequently talks about repudiating Obama Administration regulations and “bad deals,” but in some fields of international policy he is moving with equal conviction to tear up programs promoting democracy and human rights that were embraced by the Bush Administration and congressional Republican internationalists such as Lugar. In effect, Trump’s nationalism and the example of his own indifference to ethics and financial disclosure risk incentivizing corruption abroad.

“I get a bit worried listening to the rollback that the current government of the United States is actually pushing around the issue of transparency and accountability,” Olanrewaju Suraju, an anti-corruption campaigner in Nigeria, said this week at a conference on graft and the oil industry that the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted in Washington, D.C. Nigeria has a growing middle class and pluralistic, if venal, politics. The country’s anti-corruption activists and some elected reformers have pioneered attempts to battle mass oil theft, through financial-transparency initiatives supported by Europe and America. If that era of transparency policy is over, Suraju said, the relapse will be stark. Under military rule, Nigeria witnessed what Suraju called “the mainstay of the economy operating like a criminal enterprise,” bloating billion-dollar accounts held in foreign banks. Things today are not wildly better, but at least there is a struggle over policy and accountability, and the occasional meaningful arrest. Still, the temptation to steal is great. Nigeria is a country, Suraju pointed out, “where it is possible for two hundred thousand barrels of crude oil to disappear on a daily basis.”

The problem is not just Trump’s indifference to promoting clean government and the democratic rule of law but the persistent and determined lobbying influence that the American Petroleum Institute and other arms of the fossil-fuel industry wield in Congress. “We won the argument about revenue transparency in 2003,” when Bush, no enemy of big oil, was President, Simon Taylor, a co-founder of the investigative and advocacy group Global Witness, said. “So what are we doing still talking about it? It’s because of the capture of politics by industry.” The American oil industry promoted transparency initiatives when participation was voluntary, and the numbers to be reported were more generalized, but it has balked at the kind of specific, mandatory reporting that Lugar and Cardin urged.

It’s not as if oil-fueled bribery or its corrosive effects on the citizens of poor nations were diminishing. In April, Global Witness published e-mails documenting the case of a payment of more than a billion dollars that Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian oil company Eni made to Nigeria through unusual channels. According to Global Witness, Shell “knew it was party to a vast bribery scheme,” and international investigations are under way. Shell has said that the payments were proper. In June, Human Rights Watch published an extensive report documenting how Equatorial Guinea, a small and impoverished oil kleptocracy in West Africa where ExxonMobil operates, has diverted national wealth away from investment in health and education, partly because of a lack of financial transparency. (ExxonMobil says on its Web site that its local affiliate has “dedicated considerable resources” to programs aimed at “improving education and health,” providing drinking water, and empowering women.) In July, the Justice Department announced civil-forfeiture proceedings to recover more than a hundred million dollars from two Nigerian businessmen whom the department accused of paying bribes to a former oil minister in order to win favorable oil deals. (The former minister has denied the charges.) The prosecutors are hoping to recover a fifty-million-dollar condominium at 157 West Fifty-seventh Street, in Manhattan, and an eighty-million-dollar yacht, the Galactica Star, which were among the men’s purchases.

There is something about oil production that fosters baroque corruption. Oil cargoes trade in a liquid global market in which it is relatively easy to mask ownership of an oil shipment or convert a stolen batch of oil to cash. In many low-income countries, oil theft presents a unique opportunity to obtain sudden transformational wealth, akin to drug trafficking.

In 2014, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a study of more than four hundred international bribery cases, dating back to 1999. The O.E.C.D. monitors a convention against bribery signed by forty-three countries, and the study sought to identify patterns in public corruption. It found that almost two-thirds of all foreign-bribery cases involved just four industries: resource extraction, construction, transportation and storage, and communication—all fields in which government contracts or licenses are often required. The schemes reviewed were often high-level conspiracies; in more than four out of ten cases, a management-level employee paid or authorized the bribe, and in twelve per cent of the cases a chief executive was directly involved. The Trump Administration, which celebrates chief executives as fresh and effective leaders of government, inherited imperfect but useful policies to combat this scourge. It evidently isn’t interested.

Steve Coll, a staff writer, is the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and reports on issues of intelligence and national security in the United States and abroad. He is the author of “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.”

When will Donald be gone?

Ancient Mariner

Pick a Degree

One thing about which every one of every political persuasion can agree is that the United States of America is dysfunctional. Even more critical is the slow but obvious move toward authoritarianism. Today, Sessions introduced procedures whereby the press can be sued – no longer a free press. Whether a Donald Drumpf follower, or Bernie the revolutionary, or Mitch the turtle, or Paul the vampire, or Jeff the leprechaun, or out in the oceans saving whales, one can agree that the US culture, its governments, and its economy are similar to a herd of horses that have escaped from a corral – running willy-nilly and snorting gleefully at their independence from accountability.

Mariner has written numerous times about the plight of our ethics, economics, and the tsunami future we face no matter what one believes. He will not iterate these circumstances here. If the reader wants detail, feel free to roam the library in the sections at the top of the screen.

The topic today is to explore to what degree you can, or are willing to, bring the horses back to the corral.

Mariner is reminded (from another time) of the chore of shining his shoes. It was not something he enjoyed. Shining shoes had nothing to do with the day’s reality. Shining shoes was tedious; it was messy and never failed to get shoe polish on his dress pants and shirt sleeves if he made the mistake of dressing first. Fortunately, general dress codes have shifted away from sharp looking leather. Make note, however, he still shines the few pairs he has when a shine is needed. He is blessed that he doesn’t wear them very often.

Do you have a chore you don’t like? Perhaps it’s a bothersome detail like balancing checkbooks or washing the dog; maybe finally raking the leaves out from the garage. There are more such meaningless chores – as many as can be imagined.

Well, imagine one more: cleaning out and fixing your nation. Not something one thinks about on a daily basis but wow does it have a lot to do with reality. The chore of cleaning out and fixing the government can be done with varying degrees of participation.

Before we start defining degrees of participation, let’s consider an overarching strategy: Bring ‘nice’ back. And ‘fair’. In other words, rebuild the center – both in legislation and with elected officials. Fixing the government will require cleaning out bad influences that over time destroy our centrist democracy: gerrymandering – a terrible malpractice. Redistricting committees should be made up of common citizens like a jury in a trial. Money – it has been analyzed many times and it always is the same: Congressmen and other Federal and State elected folks spend five hours a day soliciting lobbyists for donations so the officials can run in the next election. There are two things wrong with this: (1) lobbyists own our legislators; our laws have overwhelming phrases, words, regulations, etc. that make corporate interests happy – to our disadvantage. (2) Maybe if the elected officials could spend that five hours working in committees, something may get done! Further on the money issue, the communications industry makes a killing during elections. Sure it’s a business working to optimize profit but ads are the other side of why so much money is needed to run. What if contributions could come only from the district in question?

Finally, the Federal Election Commission needs some teeth so they can restrict folks like the Koch brothers from deliberately swamping a local election with endless money. This is a practice of the political parties as well.

Then there’s the whole blocking freedom to vote issue. Those who practice eliminating votes are prejudiced by race, class and power.

So that’s the strategy – eliminate practices that are bad for centrist democracy. Further, elect candidates that are nice and seem fair and intelligent. If a campaigner spends too much time talking about one-sided, special interest issues, be wary.

— Degrees of Participation.

Personal opinion – Not every person is an extrovert or has intense opinions. This degree asks only that you telephone your appropriate representative and express your personal opinion whenever you learn of a public issue about which you have a preference. This is not a bad experience; officials and their staff are always nice – after all, you are a vote. A good example is the mariner’s town: loose dogs were a nuisance. Townspeople called their town council members. This provoked a planned approach for dog ordinances.

Citizen Representative – You may feel that a group has more influence than one person. Besides calling your representative, you regularly attend meetings of local issue groups or a political party. Further, you may have a cause like clean water or a common cause group that expresses your views. Donate a stipend – even a dollar or two helps. Become active during election season; campaign for a candidate, vote in primaries and again, if you can, contribute a stipend.

Citizen advocate – besides calling your representative and becoming active during the election season, participate in ad hoc groups advocating a common cause. Visit elected official offices in Washington, DC, perform sit-ins, and attend rallies.

These are varying degrees of engaging in the task of fixing our democracy. The situation is so dire as to take the nation down dark roads if we don’t fix it now. Remember: rebuild the center.

Ancient Mariner

Populism is a Roll of the Dice

Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell define populism as an ideology that “pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice”.[1]

Populism is a natural phenomenon. It is spontaneous. It is disruptive. Unfortunately, it is mindless. Populism arises from emotional feelings having no base in logic or problem solving but expresses accurately a concern for personal wellbeing. Losing financial stability, due process, even survivability, is all that needs to be understood.

This explains why Donald still has a devoted base. His irrational behavior and disruptive style have value. It does not matter whether law is honored; laws are part of the problem. It does not matter whether fairness and equality exist for other citizens; there is no fairness or equality.

However, this brand of populism, one of intensely personalized feelings, does not take into account two-thirds of the US citizens who are willing to express discontent and are willing to rationally redirect the intent of elitists and socially abusive individuals in order to protect what good there is at the moment. ‘What good there is’ is usually intellectual in nature: abstract issues like equality, world leadership, status in the world economy, and security through reasoned and strong policy.

With good leadership, populism is a valuable phenomenon. Consider names like Joan of Arc, a teenage girl who almost liberated France from British domination; Cesar Chavez leading the farmworkers in the 1960’s; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, ‎Susan Brownell Anthony and ‎Matilda Joslyn Gage who led the women’s suffrage campaign from the 1840’s to the 1920’s; Martin Luther King, who led the Civil Rights movement.

It isn’t always true that there are good leaders. Populism has similarities to a cattle stampede – rationality and thoughtful planning do not exist. This is the case today. Populists have chosen a wholly dysfunctional leader. The base finds comfort in the destructive behavior that rankles the status quo. The populists are comforted that elites have been interrupted in their routines – but to what avail?

The abstract qualities of democracy, rule of law, and world leadership are draining away. The government is no longer governing; social communication has become slipshod and misdirected; advancements in immigration, prejudice, and criminal justice are being dismantled – issues that have meaning to the populists. The elitists and abusive others have greater opportunity to abuse as the government wallows in distraction.

Frankly, mariner takes umbrage at the distraction that erodes what little grace there is in the US today. Populists had no right to take that away. Grace is fragile; dealing with real issues raining down on our society – including populist issues – is deferred and disadvantaged by the leader the populists have chosen. Perhaps mariner takes umbrage because he knows neither the leader nor the base will ever know the damage they caused or have any awareness of responsibility for their incompetence.

Ancient Mariner

[1]Populists in Power, Daniele Albertazzi, Duncan McDonnell

Routledge, Feb 11, 2015 – 218 pages

The Fullness of Time

The phrase, Fullness of Time, is an official term among historians depicting great expectancy in history that goes beyond the norm. Sometimes one waited hundreds of years with expectation as in the 600 years describing the plight of Israel as it waited for the fullness of time when God would send a mighty king to save the citizens of Jerusalem.

We don’t have to wait 600 years this time. Unfortunately, God isn’t the Great Decider – it is Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, two egomaniacal leaders who cannot prevent the demise of civilization. With regard to the Korean Peninsula, China has a block of influential politicians very similar to the GOP Congress in the United States: they are from another time; they remember the brutality of the Korean War and the threat to their homeland if MacArthur had had his way and bombed across the Yangtze River. This time, it isn’t Harry holding the reins, its Donald.

Mariner is reminded of Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who walked a high-wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. This time, it is civilization walking the high-wire with Donald and Kim each holding an end.

An intervention that would eliminate the bravado between the dysfunctional leaders is hard to imagine. It would require Xi Jinping, President of the Communist Party, to imagine and execute an intervention that could literally take Kim’s finger off the button for good. The same is true of the US Congress and the Department of Defense, which must literally remove Donald’s authority and ignore his command to attack or retaliate.

Many would think retaliation is justified. It would be the end of mankind. This is a nuclear war, not Syria. Every human being would be affected whether they wanted to be or not.

Of all the nonsense our President causes, the North Korean issue is one he should not have the authority to engage. It is up to China to save civilization with the full acquiescence of the US. Making that possible requires China overcoming something similar to Congress resistance to immigration, racism and voter suppression in the US.

It is the fullness of time…

Ancient Mariner

 

Cultural Resistance

Having presented Gar Alperovitz’s idea that if a democracy is to sustain itself in the future, citizens must become personally and physically active in supporting their policy issues – whether local or national. Mariner feels this is a tall order for today’s common culture. There was a time in the past when a telephone line was the only door to the outside world. In rural and exurb areas, a caller shared one line with four or five neighbors. Individuals could learn a bit about what was going on by listening to the radio and reading newspapers but to communicate with one another was more difficult than we may remember.

Consequently, “clubs” were common. Churches, too, played a role as a central location where neighbors could gather and talk to one another. When mariner moved to a small Iowa town in the 1960’s, he had a choice of a stamp club, coin club, VFW, Masons, Eastern Star, Lions, garden club, American Legion, playing card club(s), Rotary, sewing club, bars (where everybody knows your name) and informal groups that met regularly in hardware stores, gas stations and morning coffee shops. Outside activities were frequent and included ice cream socials, dinners, corn festivals, lunches, baseball, a larger county fair (larger inclusion than today because of the farming community and forgotten homemaking skills along with as many local booths on the midway as professionals). Size of the town? Nine hundred, tops.

Television was new. Areas contiguous to the town didn’t have electricity until after the war (1946-54). Television provided something to do at home besides darning socks, sewing buttons, crocheting, canning, playing cards and working jigsaw puzzles… and going to meetings.

The Internet and powerful multipurpose telephones that need no wires have crushed face-to-face group participation. The closest thing to a club is a special link of users many of whom have never met one another and frequently don’t share a common neighborhood or state.

The reader gets the point. Today’s culture is fast; it is comprehensive in content; it is dismantling not only human contact in neighborhoods but even the need to visit a retail outlet where humans used to gather – Amazon takes care of that.

Alperovitz suggests our survival requires us to reverse this trend. Civility, fairness, honesty and all the other virtues unattended by corporations et al, are in our hands. However, culturally today’s folks are unaccustomed to physically leaving home to have discussions with other humans. That requires a lot more overhead than watching CBS News. Has the reader ever accompanied a group to visit their state legislator’s office? Governor? US Senator?

It is refreshing to see organized groups who fight for ownership of their policies. Can we turn the cultural norm? Even if wildly successful, it will take time – maybe even a new generation.

Ancient Mariner

Phoenix in the China Shop

Forgive the mixed metaphor but it seems appropriate. The phoenix, burned to an ash, arises to live yet again. In the process, the current status quo will undergo a bit of thrashing about and much will be broken.

Mariner has been in a quandary for some months about the approaching tsunami of economic failure. He is one of the tiniest voices expressing concern as giant corporations, think tanks, the United Nations and many global prognosticators share the mariner’s concern. In recent days mariner has been blessed with two very cogent and focused sources that have resolved his quandary. The sources don’t have all the answers but importantly, they are wise and have promoted new concepts of government beyond capitalist piracy and socialist complacency.

The first, a book brought from the local library by his ever vigilant wife[1], describes the current status quo as one caused by shifting demography mixed with competition for a positive trade balance – a strategy put in place at the end of the Second World War[2]. Zeihan blames this economic philosophy, among other things, for stagnant wages and higher prices. Zeihan suggests that the American economic crisis is accelerated by the retirement of baby boomers that largely stop generating products and marketplace cash flow upon retirement and instead draw down on savings. The imminent retirement of the boomers (and the same in other nations) has led to one of the highest savings percentages in history. Recognizing only current economic practices, that is, sustaining positive trade in a fading world market, spending is more important than saving – even for indebted governments. But one cannot blame those nearing retirement for self-protection in a roiling capitalist environment as the world moves to global economics.

For many reasons – from a better demographic spread of young people to the fact that our trade economy is spread across the continent because of eleven navigable rivers (far more than any other country) to the fact that the continental trade picture already is in place (Central America [CAFTA], Mexico, US and Canada [NAFTA]) – free trade AKA Bretton Woods already is fading. As the rest of the world’s nations scramble to seek stability within the old economic order, America, that is, a united trade market covering North and Central America, is set to emerge as the leading economic power by 2030.

A good example of the plight of stand-alone trading nations is Germany: Germany has a large trade surplus making it the prominent economy in Europe. However, the side effects of maintaining a strong free trade position keep paychecks low, leading to a declining domestic economy and therefore less imports. Free trade is a two-way game.

Peter Zeihan’s book falls short of describing a new economic philosophy. His content covers the broad world of economy and suggests that economic power alone will solve America’s problems. There is a human side to economics that must change significantly. For that information, mariner turns to Gar Alperovitz and his online organization, TheNextSystemProject[3].

In the introduction (see footnote) Alperovitz suggests not only is the political system failing but the capitalist economy is collapsing as well. Evidence is the expanding gap between wealthy and poor; it breeds pain, decay, disillusionment and discontent that call for a new form of government. Alperovitz suggests that already the transition to new systemic processes has begun in spite of the presence of Donald.

To keep this post from becoming a book, mariner will reduce a large amount of data to a paragraph or two. If the reader is interested in more clarity or connectivity, see the footnote below, go to the website and enjoy. The scope of Gar Alperovitz’s future is comprehensive. Mariner will mention a word or two about each area. Each area is available on the website in the footnote.

“If the design of corporate capitalism is unable to sustain values of equality, genuine democracy, liberty, and ecological sustainability as a matter of inherent systemic architecture, what systemic ‘design’ might ultimately achieve and sustain these values?”

“Further, how specifically might it be possible to move forward, especially in difficult political times, to lay foundations for a transformation in the direction of a serious new systemic answer?”

It is suggested that change already is happening. New institutions, that is, officially formed groups that are part of the political landscape, have begun to form. Alperovitz mentions Black Lives Matter, the women’s movement, global warming, and other special cause organizations. The term ‘institution’ implies more than just incorporation; it means a group of citizens who own political policy on the political scene. One can only affect change through membership in an institution. At the turn of the twentieth century, organizations such as Grange and trade unions ‘owned’ their politics rather than being controlled by traditional government parties. Consequently, elected officials had to consult these institutions when creating legislation that affected them.

Alperovitz suggests that the current institutions, corporate policy, wealth management and banking, do not feel obligated to represent the ideas of democracy, life, liberty and equality. The underlying point is if democracy is to flourish, citizens must belong to meaningful institutions with sway. Democracy does not take care of itself. One immediately thinks of the rebellion to changes in health care. Incumbent officials don’t know how to deal with an active electorate and struggle with allegiance to their party at the peril of losing their next election. At the moment, the rebellion owns its politics.

Mariner opines that local institutions may be diverse and influential enough to overcome gerrymandering whether that practice is eliminated officially or not. District majorities may have to be formed by coalitions of institutions – very much like parliamentary majorities.

Mariner will stop at this point to avoid ideological drowning. He will draw from Alperovitz’s book over several interspersed posts.
Ancient Mariner

[1] The Accidental Superpower – The next generation of American preeminence and the coming global disorder, Peter Zeihan; published 2014 by Twelve Hachette BookGroup; ISBN 978-1-4555-8366-9.

[2] The chief features of the Bretton Woods system were an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate (± 1 percent) by tying its currency to gold and the ability of the IMF to bridge temporary imbalances of payments. Also, there was a need to address the lack of cooperation among other countries and to prevent competitive devaluation of the currencies as well.(Wikipedia)

[3] Principals of a Pluralistic Commonwealth, Gar Alperovitz. See: http://thenextsystem.org/principles-introduction/ Also use search engine to find other sources on CSPAN, YouTube, video and lectures.

The Art of Giving – III

The Art of Giving – I defined the key emotional verbs that underlie gifting[1] as a part of one’s life: sacrifice, sharing and compassion. The Art of Giving – II identified how difficult it is to deploy gifting into one’s lifestyle because of prejudice and an ingrained sense of self. Nevertheless, the future will require sacrifice, sharing and compassion if humanity is to remain civil.

The Art of Giving – III will examine sample practices that can be used as models to emulate in one’s personal effort to participate in the art of giving.

Many efforts at gifting fail because the individual does not consider the skills and resources that are available to them. Bill Gates, for example, has wealth; it is obvious that his personal success in sustained gifting is financing the efforts of others. Further, gifting is supposed to make one feel happy and content; an outstanding accountant may find it difficult to incorporate Habitat for Humanity construction into his lifestyle, even increasing his frustration instead of finding satisfaction and happiness.

Another misconception is to join a gifting organization without first finding in one’s self something that is meaningful and raises personal feelings because something is missing the quality of life it should have. For example, many people are concerned about the hardships and abuse of pets. They find reward in doing whatever they can to improve the situation dog by dog, cat by cat; it is an emotional commitment. If that person had joined the Lion’s Club to participate in the organization’s gifting programs, a sense of gratification may not be present – similar to the minimized reward many parishioners feel about their worship contributions.

There is a woman who is skilled at baking bread. She takes pride in providing the bread for meals at a soup kitchen and a shelter. One can see her gift is not taken lightly. Sacrifice, sharing and compassion all are present. And, by the way, she is very happy with her life. Similarly, many hobby gardeners would feel remiss if their vegetables didn’t find their way to free outlets for those who need food. A hobby furniture maker contributes all his projects to gifting outlets supporting the indigent.

For the exceptionally altruistic, usually younger folk and retirees, one can uproot one’s life and join AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, several United Nations programs, and religious missions around the world.

Often understated or ignored is the need for leadership. In small town and neighborhood gifting, the good intent frequently is overwhelmed by organizational disarray. Skilled managers are always needed –especially those managers who have a moral commitment involving sacrifice, sharing and compassion.

Having reviewed the above examples, one can understand that the art of giving must be expressed in very personal terms. Gifting must be a one-to-one involvement. One must ‘get their hands dirty’ to quote an old phrase. To most who are engaged in gifting, gifting becomes a primary motivator because it engages very personal emotions. One is willing to sacrifice to sustain giving; one is willing to share in an attitude of full teamsmanship with recipients; one has an active and motivating compassion that sustains gifting.

Be vigilant about prejudice constraining your giving.

End of series.

Ancient Mariner

[1] The reader may notice the use of ‘giving’ and ‘gifting.’ Giving implies a broad approach to the subject. Gifting is the actual act of presenting a personal contribution.

The Art of Giving – II

The last post, The Art of Giving, introduced the key elements of giving: sacrifice, sharing and compassion. It is not enough to understand the definition of the three words; the words must be integrated into one’s code of living; the experience represented by the words must become an objective that pays a conscious reward. In other words, giving must become a priority experience beyond prejudice.

This sounds irrational but in practice it is more like a commitment similar to healthful practices: committing to walking every day, dieting – even commitment to going to work every day. The responsibility to sustain a viable lifestyle is not set aside. Rather, it is more like adding flavor to a recipe. If one can interpolate adding flavor to a recipe to adding happiness and fulfilment to one’s life, then one understands how the three words function.

However, interpolation is not easy. Consider the following:

Most US citizens decry taxation. Taxes are an imposition. Taxes are misspent by idiot legislators. Taxes do not do anything for one’s immediate situation. How difficult it is to switch one’s attitude from decrying taxation to one of personal satisfaction gained by sharing the load of national need. The three words must be deployed in order to change one’s attitude. To be sure, sacrifice is personal in nature but it also is collective. Democracy, in the hands of idiot legislators (prejudice), is an overhead that must be sacrificed as well. No act in any endeavor is free of inefficiency and inadequacy. But the key is to capture the personal satisfaction gained from sharing instead of paying – belonging to the team rather than being a victim. Compassion is the elixir that drives toxins from one’s spirit.

Prejudice is the worst sin. Prejudice is disruptive to the art of giving more than any other act or opinion. To focus the discussion of prejudice a bit, two of the common prejudices in the US are race and laggardness. Racial prejudice is easily defined; laggardness is widespread but ill-defined. Laggardness can be interpreted as someone who doesn’t appear to want work hard, doesn’t have a job but accepts ‘handouts’, or simply has a lax attitude about cultural worth. It is debatable that the working class has a more intense prejudice against laggards than they do against skin color. The darkest African American can gain respect through hard work; a laggard will never be respected.

If someone has a desire to recognize a need and provide a gift to that need, in many people an unconscious prejudice steers the individual away from nonwhite charity or providing aid to the unemployed. Many will give to abstract charities similar to wounded veterans, orphans, animals, diseases, and other charities that do not focus on race or laggards.

It must be said that in Africa alone 20 million humans are bereft of health and face death by starvation and common disease but are disregarded by those who are better off. This prejudice is associated with economic class. In the US, the world’s most intensely capitalistic nation, this prejudice is the most irrational and most dehumanizing of all prejudices: The successful deserve to be successful; the unsuccessful deserve to be unsuccessful. In other words, if one is lucky, that is their role; if one is unlucky, that is their role. Tough luck, kid.

Sadly, in the US it is this class that is opposed to government providing discretionary funding to their fellow citizens or even providing health care regardless of social circumstances. In other words, government is for the lucky. Otherwise, tough luck, kid.

Having defined these three common prejudices, one realizes how difficult it is to implement the three words sacrifice, sharing and compassion. One would have to suffer a massive change in their attitude and social identity. We can’t all walk the road to Damascus with Saul.

What can we do? What act will help the most? Where do I sacrifice and share to provide a meaningful gift?

It takes a godly intervention to change deeply rooted definitions of self. Fortunately, humans are of different social persuasions. If one were to elect to government candidates that first accepted the role of government to emulate intervention above espousing a commitment to serve your best interests and instead of being an economic hawk, you may have an amazing influence in promoting sacrifice, sharing and compassion as an element in the government’s gestalt.

Hints about a candidate’s understanding of the art of giving are reflected in the candidate’s lifestyle. Is the candidate a racist? Is the candidate an elitist? Is the candidate one who can afford to campaign but otherwise has no redeeming social qualities? Unfortunately, the common answer to all these characteristics is yes. The best gift will be to find a candidate that understands the art of giving.

Ancient Mariner