Intellectualism versus totalitarianism

If the reader is thirsting for pure 100 percent intellectualism, read Harper’s Magazine. The journal always has looked to the abstract reasoning behind society, writing about the contribution of those who already concentrate on the ideas of reality rather than reality itself. Featured online and in the print copy this month is an article by Rebecca Panovka about author Hannah Arendt. Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) was an outspoken critic of the trappings of totalitarianism.

Hannah’s most noted work, a book about Nazi totalitarianism, ‘The Horrors of Totalitarianism’, has been brought back into the popular mainstream because of its close similarity to Trumpist authoritarianism. Instead of a crooked government as Trump accuses, in Germany it was the crooked Jews but the effect was the same – to dismember social unity and fragment political influence. This fragmentation allows a small minority to control the direction of society’s ethos.

Further, The Guardian is a British newspaper that also published an article about Hannah Arendt. Apparently Donald’s brand of authoritarianism is similar to Adolf Hitler’s style for dismembering the collective authority of society.

Both publications speak to the incompetence of government and the unsubstantiated reasoning of populist movements when confronted by an elaborate, organized and well-advertised myth that has no foundation in fact. The myth blames the wrong source for the hardships of the people, allowing rebellion against legitimate, if inept, political processes.

The articles imply that there are only two processes to deconstruct growing totalitarianism: war or counter movements aimed at unity – neither of which can guarantee wholesomeness.

Yes, yes. It is up to the electorate and we know how that will turn out in 2022.

Ancient Mariner

How to have a balanced economy

֎ AXIOS distributed a concise and clear statement about why world population rates are dropping. It is a quality statement about a topic that doesn’t get much news coverage but can be a significant interpretation of social response to unsympathetic governments. It is typical that economic health is measured by GDP, inflation, and stock markets but the Axios article suggests that it is the condition of the population that determines the efficiency of a given economic philosophy. Some excerpts:

Why world population is slowing – Population growth is continuing to slow in the U.S. and China . . . Why it matters: Population growth spurs economic growth because it can increase innovation, workers and goods produced and consumed . . . What’s happening: U.S. immigration, life expectancy and fertility are all trending down.

We focus way too much on percent growth like quarterly GDP. We should think about what people want. What level of immigration people want. What age would people like to die.

Americans still want multiple children, but they’re worried about child care costs, their own student debt and a pause in their careers . . .

China has relaxed restrictions on the number of children families can now have. But the new policy seeks more to bolster the workforce than to promote population: The Chinese Communist Party is also raising the country’s retirement age, curtailing a key source of child care . . .

The bottom line: If countries want population growth to pick up, leaders must first fix underlying causes of the slowdown, including cost of child care and fear of immigration.

֎ From his lofty spot in the esoteric atmosphere, Guru suggests that the problems confronting nations in the 21st century will not subside until it is understood that political theories work best only in tailored economic situations. Guru said:

COMMUNISM works best in primitive conditions where authority is based on contributing to the wellbeing of other citizens and the economy is sustained solely by local labor and predictability. If one watches any of the homesteading shows on television they are watching classic communist behavior. Dictatorships that call themselves communist nations are misleading. Even the term ‘nation’ is stretching the concept. The reader may remember the commune movement in the US during the 60’s and 70’s but it failed because the surrounding economy was too sophisticated.

CAPITALISM works best when authority is based on assuring the freedom of all citizens to compete for available resources – but this works well only in economic conditions where there are plenty of resources to go around. The US was created at a time when an entire continent of unused resources was available and the expansion of worldwide economic resources was exploding as new places were discovered around the world. Capitalism was the perfect economy to scarf up resources at a geometric rate making the US the richest nation in the world. Alas, these resources have been depleted; in the 21st century there no longer are enough resources to go around for everyone. The population is too large to have everyone freely compete for resources.

SOCIALISM works best when authority assures equality among the citizens and the economy is stable and predictable. The Native Americans sustained a socialist economy for thousands of years because the resources, especially on the plains and seacoasts, were stable and predictable – until the capitalist authority killed all the buffalo, beavers, doves and destroyed important estuaries.

AUTHORITARIANISM works best when authority enforces social order in an economy that is inadequate or out of balance with the existing authoritative role. Once authoritarianism is in place it is difficult to remove; authoritarianism has no scruples other than power – just like Lord Acton said in 1887.

There are many other variations on the four basic economic philosophies. Corporatism is a style of capitalism; plutocracy is a form of capitalism; militarism is a variation of authoritarianism; Sheikdoms, China’s communist party and monarchies all are variations of authoritarianism. Tribalism, populism, classism, insurrection and other social movements can become significant and derail unbalanced economies – often allowing authoritarianism to emerge.

To use an allegory, consider the tight wire walker. The walker is authority, the wire is population and the long balance pole is economy. If the wire and the pole aren’t in sync, the situation becomes unstable.

Ancient Mariner

Another Road Metaphor

The authoritarian revolt of the belligerent right still deserves our attention and requires some serious effort to contain the movement. Whether the electorate understands that movement’s threat to the constitutional government known as the United States of America will be shown in the results of the 2022 election. Aggressive authoritarian behavior is a failed consequence of many different economic and cultural changes.

While we keep one eye on the fires started in the last century we must keep the other eye on the road to the future. Another form of authoritarianism is corporatism. If we don’t manage the road properly, the division between the few wealthy and the many poor will become wider and more adverse, perhaps even superseding the role of government – which many claim is already happening. Many of the business regulations and institutions that were created in the last century are virtually irrelevant in this new world of computers and instant communication. The entire perspective about antitrust must be reconstructed. Further, one nation can no longer control an international corporation. It will require a new set of international laws.

Riding the road into the future already is heavy laden with issues. One issue that should be left on the curb is racism. Many millennials and most Zs don’t have this issue. Older folk should just be done with racism and move on – there’s not enough energy for all the issues let alone worrying about skin color.

This is made more complex by domestic police departments which have been trained in abusive racism for generations. Decommissioning a militarized police force will be difficult. It must be done or a significant portion of our society will be stunted as we ride the road into the future.

Just as old or older than everything else is the concept of taxation. Mariner’s old saw about the plains indians whose hunters shared their hunting success with the tribe doesn’t exist in American capitalism. As a consequence the billionaires who hunt money sit on untold trillions of dollars that, from a societal point of view, simply gather dust. Taxation – especially in times when labor jobs are disappearing – should redistribute a significant amount of the hoarded wealth to help pave the road into the future.

So, let’s hop on our hover boards and get moving down the road. Uncross your eyes; it was a bad metaphor.

Ancient Mariner

Watching the social tide

Mariner has mentioned a time or two that, as we all are well aware, these are changing times, perhaps greater than any war that bookends changes in power or any historical unrest that transforms a social age, perhaps any technological transition since the first wheat was cast on open ground 11,000 years ago.

As we sit in the trenches with the storm of change exploding above us, around us and within us, it is hard to see the horizon; it is hard to know if the storm is passing; it is impossible to feel secure or happy in the maelstrom.

But the storm is moving. The seas are changing. Even as largely dysfunctional U.S. governments struggle with the traditions of the last century versus the unknown icons that are emerging in this century, still there are signs of change. The tide indeed is turning.

A visible measure is the transition of global economic theory already moving from nationally based trade and tariff to internationally aligned supply chains, notable corporate examples are large data firms like Amazon, Apple and Google and, unadvertised, military relationships; last century’s wars of occupation are failing as several technologies render borders irrelevant.

The relationship of jobs to wages is changing. The advances in data technology and automation just since the start of this century have disrupted the centuries old tradition of work for pay. As recently as the last presidential election, one candidate advocated a government-supplied stipend that was not associated with jobs. While upgrades in infrastructure, responses to global warming and new work derived from supply chain development will sustain ‘work for pay’, it is inevitable that working class jobs will diminish due to automation and computer intelligence; for example, 1.7 million long haul truck drivers will not be needed in a decade or two. This struggle between the giant philosophies of capitalism and socialism will not transition quickly but the tide will force continuous reexamination of the relationship.

On the same day that this post is written, the news reports cover a large condominium that has collapsed in Miami Beach, Florida. Miami Beach sits on a barrier island, one of many along the East Coast known as the Outer Banks. The geologic history of base sediments in this region is limestone and unconsolidated shelly sand. Given that Miami Beach has installed state-of-the-art pumps in its drainage system since 2014, that sea water has contaminated potable ground water and that every associated industry predicts that the city will be 1 1/2 feet under the ocean surface in 60 years, the condominium collapse is a sign of changing tides courtesy of global warming. Global warming could displace as many as 3.9 million US citizens by the end of the century; fourteen US cities could disappear.[1]

In just the last fifteen years medical science has made life-changing advances. The most significant are CRISPR, which enables genetic modification to individuals to repair or prevent virtually any disorder or tendency, and, courtesy of the response to Covid, the ability to create organic protein. Also notable is the ability to produce a molecule called NAD+ which extends cell life and slows the degradation of aging.

One change within the trench itself is an impact on socialization. Everything from dating websites to smartphones to Zoom education to online shopping to church services online and more have one thing in common: decreasing socialization. The future impact of decreasing socialization is unclear but some studies have begun tracking the effect on society in general. The nuclear family has been around long enough to know that slow cultural change can alter life significantly. What about decreased socialization in addition to nuclear families? The shelter-in from the pandemic perhaps may be basic training for future lifestyles.

Ancient mariner

 

[1] See: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/global-warming-flooding_n_3799019

Trends

Folks tend to look for clues about climate change in weather patterns. It is true that climates are shifting but on a seasonal basis it is hard to measure how much is change and how much is typical variability. The global indicators, melting glaciers, ocean temperatures and melting permafrost are a more direct way to measure change. All indications are that global warming is accelerating, to wit:

The Washington Post reports that Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, a river of ice large enough to raise sea levels by 1.6 feet, was already among the fastest-melting glaciers in the world. Now scientists have found that the ice mass is flowing even more rapidly.

Further, Siberia is experiencing active permafrost melt on a grand scale. Some prognosticators suggest that by the end of the century Russia will make more from wheat exports than it does from oil today.

– – – –

Mariner has mentioned often that the United States is in the long, painful death throes of Reaganism. Causes are a changing world, changing environment, changing technology and new economic structures. What is trending at the moment is Republican autocracy. Will manipulation of the elections be enough to sustain the twentieth century into the twenty-first?

– – – –

Speaking of economics, a growingly obvious trend is the shrinking of Europe’s role in world economics. Europe has tended toward smaller business models; for example, Apple has a larger net value than the top 30 firms in Europe. Perhaps its history of smaller nations and many economies has led Europe to this preference but as a result, there will be only two global business leaders: China and the United States – perhaps, with luck, India. The global trend definitely is toward international, multimarket corporations who will anchor worldwide supply chains similar to Amazon.

The government role is to develop supply chain style arrangements between nations. One new example of this is an agreement by the G7 to levy a worldwide 15 percent tax on corporations to prevent corporations from avoiding taxes by moving operations to the nation with the least tax.

– – – –

Several news items have been about seafood. It seems the warming oceans have had an effect on everything from seals and whales to lobsters and commercial fishing species. From Science Magazine:

“… basically what we found all over the ocean, wherever we had data, is that the abundance of large fish, in terms of numbers and weight, were ten times higher originally than they are now. That is, that what we’re left is one-tenth of the original number and weight of large, large fish.”

Here in the United States it already has been noted several years ago that the ‘Maine’ lobster has moved on to other locations.

Ancient Mariner

Teaching is changing

There are two very prominent moments when how students were taught changed dramatically. Today, a third seems to be emerging.

֎ The first moment was when the ‘University’ of Bologna was created in 1088. It was a defensive legal gesture to protect young people who were not citizens who otherwise would be charged with reparation fees. As the university became a permanent institution over the next decades, instructors were hired to teach many of the subjects that still exist in today’s curricula. Today the University of Bologna remains one of the premier universities in the world.

֎ The second moment occurred when the first grades were issued at Yale in the year 1785, when President Ezra Stiles, after examining 58 seniors, recorded in his diary that there were ‘Twenty Optimi, sixteen second Optimi, twelve Inferiores, ten Pejores.’ By the 1850’s what a student learned was defined strictly by their grades, not by what they may have actually learned in terms of usefulness and applicability. The pejorative term for learning something just to get good grades is ‘bullimic learning’ loosely interpreted as “compulsive studying usually followed by self-induced test taking”

Everyone is familiar with contemporary grading from primary to post graduate studies. Refinements include grade averaging with GPA, SAT, and even social accomplishment as a comparative. Disparities have grown reflected through race, class and prestigious selection.

֎ Today, however, things are changing. The transition has been gradual, more an effort to accommodate the psychological wellbeing of pre-schoolers; recently the new approach has seeped into primary grades. Speaking very broadly, students are taught in small groups and the group is “graded” on its accomplishments – which often are not strictly about the ABCs – and students are not individually graded.

Ironically, for many decades in the corporate world employees are made part of a team whose job is to accomplish some new goal or function. The team gets the credit while individuals benefit by being a member. The experience almost entirely is one of learning useful and applicable knowledge.

The future of higher education will use integrated, multi-subject classes, job-focused education and move beyond the two or four year model to provide lifelong learning. Successful universities must aggressively prepare their institutions to avoid further disruption.

It is likely that the line between corporate employment and college enrollment may become a continuously integrated relationship. Collaboration with unions, trade associations, libraries and other peripheral organizations is likely.

Ancient Mariner

You are supposed to go first

No one denies the confrontational identity politics that prevails today; no one denies the emotional disruption of fifteen months in virtual isolation; no one denies the insecurity of a disappearing lifestyle that eliminates storefronts, careers and every day family security; no one denies the utter absence of a life of contentment, quiet comfort and satisfaction. How do we stop this hellish train to nowhere?

You go first. What are some tricks to escape the gravity of society today? The issue is, after all, how you feel as an individual. How everyone else feels is abstract; what makes YOU feel better and thereby improves life in these times, at least for yourself?

What follows are a few examples that seem to work at an individual level.

֎ Mariner’s wife rises early in the morning to prepare a simple but tasty breakfast. She eats this breakfast outdoors on the back deck just as the garden, birds, insects and other creatures are waking up and the Sun is rising on a new day. Human intervention doesn’t exist; there are no responsibilities, no reason to account for the human world, no thought of chores. In her backyard, at least, all’s well and peace is at hand.

This moment is more powerful and more rewarding than it reads. It arms the reader with confidence at a subconscious level. It is easy to imagine the difference between a morning coffee while watching morning television and a morning coffee in a pleasant, reassuring moment of solitude. It may take some practice to shut down the angst of facing the outside world but it is worth it.

Besides the magic of internal peace, its magic will soften your approach to others during the day and permit you to be less confrontational. Isn’t this an example of how to ‘pass it forward’ in an effort to slow that hellish train?

֎ Mariner lives in a small corner of town where ten homes are clustered in a manner that encourages collective activity. The residents of these homes have political and economic differences that are quite measurable. The political philosophies range from Trump allegiance including conspiracies to extremely progressive socialists. Careers range from retired tradesmen to nurses to master mechanics to systems consultants to truck drivers to school administrators to retired pilots.

In order to sustain civility, sharing, caring and the many other little behaviors that make neighborly life pleasant, everyone practices oppressed confrontation. Neighborly bonding with each other and maintaining an “I’m here if you need me” attitude requires a rule that no one talks about political, religious or philosophical mandates or condescending comments about other neighbors.

It is obvious that unity is more important than ideological supremacy. Isn’t this, too, one small step?

֎ A third exercise is to share, that is to share in a way that would not qualify as every day sharing. The secret is to keep the logistics simple but make a large impact on the recipient(s). Typically the recipient has a hardship of some kind; perhaps being a shut-in, or an invalid or a family suffering a recent death or a family who is in a state of economic hardship or maybe just a special occasion in the recipient’s life. It’s your turn to share some concern and relief to your acquaintances who are in need. Cash not allowed; put yourself and a few friends into it – show sharing, caring and compassion.

Like the first two suggestions, sharing is more powerful and more rewarding than it reads. The common result from all the suggestions is the creation of unity. It is unity that is the antidote to the nation’s infection of identity politics.

It’s your turn.

– – – –

On the side, Mariner and his wife were talking about this post. As is her wont, she quickly wrote a poem to reflect on sitting on the porch:

This garden would be perfect
The old man thought
As he leaned on his hoe

And scratched his ear
If it weren’t for that damned young rabbit.

This garden would be perfect
The young rabbit thought
As he munched on lettuce
And scratched his ear
If it weren’t for that damned old man.

This garden is perfect
The poet thought
As she ate breakfast on the deck and enjoyed the view
Having neither the work of maintaining it
Nor the necessity of surviving in it.

MKM 6-4-2021

Ancient Mariner

Everything is the same but different.

Last Friday on an early, Way To Early, news show there was a piece about how manufacturers were resizing products to compensate for rising production costs rather than raising prices and lose customers. It has a term: ‘shrink-flation’. Demonstrated were toilet paper, potato chips and ice cream, which had fewer sheets, less weight and smaller capacity respectively. Shoppers have been taught to read labels for health reasons; now they must school themselves on size by learning how many grams in a quart or a pound and beware of count in artificial sugar packets; the price doesn’t change.

– – – –

Turning to a more sociological vein, everyone agrees the United States is having an identity crisis. It is difficult to know how to handle the situation. For the common citizen, it seems only to be a mish-mash of conflict and pointing fingers. The citizen truly is in the depths of the trenches and even trenches within trenches. How does a citizen gain perspective so that reasonable evaluation can be made?

Learn some facts. Mariner knows this is a tall order for the electorate but if a rational path to recovery is to be available, one must check history for similar situations. Sorry, electorate.

In place of buying textbooks, use Wikipedia to collect information – and make a donation while you’re at it. Search for information on the cause of the French Revolution, the Magna Carta, the Luddite rebellion and the rise of Nazi government (including persecution of Jews) in Germany. Clues for why there were national identity issues may involve financial security of the masses, oppression, racism, power wars and concentration of wealth.

For starters find something in these events comparable to wage freezes for forty years; find something that represents too much cash for the well-to-do; find something that erased major chunks of job availability; find something where power blocks competed too much for the good of the nation. Once historical information has been gained, how were these issues resolved?

Vote accordingly.

Ancient Mariner

In God We Trust – sort of

This information, taken from an Axios newsletter, shows the insidious and very serious threat of the conspiratorial right – in mariner’s own church a parishioner said “The American Flag comes first!!”

“QAnon infects churches

LEFT BARS – The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation

CENTER BARS – There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites of power and restore the rightful leaders

RIGHT BARS – Because things have gotten off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country

 

Poll: 5,625 U.S. adults. Margin of error for full survey: ±1.5%. Graphic: PRRI

QAnon conspiracy theories have burrowed so deeply into American churches that pastors are expressing alarm — and a new poll shows the bogus teachings have become as widespread as some denominations.

  • Why it matters: The problem with misinformation and disinformation is that people — lots of people — believe it. And they don’t believe reality coming from the media and even their ministers.”

With all the confrontations of culture change, economic change and dysfunctional government, the most serious issue is the insurrectionist. They are not just militant, armed groups. More ominously, it is anyone still adhering to Trump irrationality and his intent to destroy democracy; it is the legislators doing everything they can to distort the public vote so their minority opinion can win elections; it is our relatives, friends and community associates.

Science can offer solutions to weather, economists can offer solutions to economics. Dysfunctional issues of society and government, however, are in our hands. Is it the United States versus God or is it versus Satan?

Ancient Mariner

The Way Out

Every so many generations a tumultuous time arises. Everyday life is less pleasant, less secure and society is destructive to many social norms. We live in a time like that today. Life is not fun and for too many, not even possible. There were similar times in the past – the 1960s when racism erupted, the Democratic Party was in conflict, national leaders and college students were assassinated. The 1930s suffered unbelievable economic tragedy that affected everyone; the turn of the century suffered riots and prejudice as suffrage and labor rights disrupted daily life. The greatest example of disruption included a deadly civil war that occurred in the 1860s. Further back in US history is the shame of genocide against the Native American.

The telltale signs are present today. Way too frequently innocent people suffer death by gunfire. Riots and protests are daily events. Government at the same time is imperialist and authoritative and otherwise dismissive to the need of its citizenry; justice is served by the flow of cash and favoritism.

Each tumultuous time posed a threat to the high minded principles of a democratic republic based on equality, personal freedom and the right to happiness.

It is time to reintroduce humanism as the rule of society. How the nation emerged from those tumultuous times was not by the wisdom of a great orator or a magic pill that settled society. Emergence occurred because there was just enough faith, just enough opportunity, just enough public intelligence that individual citizens took command of daily life; humanism became the influential judgment.

Humanism is the belief that a human is the most important form of existence on this planet. Humanism implies equality for each human for no other reason than that person is a human. Humanism as a philosophy promotes unity and promoting the rights of humanness. Humanism induces oneness instead of identity politics and populism.

Humanism is not competitive between humans. It is allegiance to the principle that every human has inalienable rights. If a human is disadvantaged, that is not acceptable – after all, they’re a human. Many historic sources allude to the fact that humans are made in the image of God; where is someone willing to take on God?

There is a common phrase that can be used as a first response to general wellbeing. It is required to be the first emotional reaction to any and every human despite political or class differences. It is “I have your back if you need me.” Live by that statement with conviction and a surprising phenomenon will occur: the tumultuous time fades away.

Ancient Mariner