Melancholy about lost times

Sincere moments reminiscent of our distant past sometimes occur today as if they were a fine artifact in an archeological dig. We have long forgotten certain attitudes and experiences that were moments to live by. Often, it may be recalling the good teen years or perhaps a person who became a good friend but has moved on. Many can recall tender moments with children and pets – those moments when emotions are full.

Mariner and his wife had such an experience. Recently, her sister passed away. The news traveled fast in town as well as all over the country through social media.

We received many email and telephone condolences and we received two visits from unrelated friends with fine food gifts in hand. Both were older and were doing what was expected sixty years ago. When mariner lived here sixty years ago and someone passed on, the entire community stepped forward to assist the bereaved family. There was a standing inter-denominational team of women who took over a church to prepare a memorial meal or otherwise provide support. Social clubs like the Lions, American Legion and Eastern Star would perform a service recognizing the deceased. To paraphrase a recent post, everyone knew everyone’s name.

Such deep communal affiliations are not common in our transient society today. The visits from our friends, one of which had greeted mariner and his wife on the first day we moved in, sparked old social memories that aren’t around anymore. We miss them. Will younger folks ever experience the personal commitments to communal living?

Ancient Mariner

On democracy

The premise of this post is to examine the impact of progress upon the cultural perceptions that existed in 1778 when the United States was born. Progress is not a bad thing; the benefits in comfort, health and functional prowess cannot be denied. What also cannot be denied is that progress has altered human behavior.

The ideals of democracy, its philosophy and manner of governing, is a product of the Great Awakening, the intellectual era that lifted Europe and America out of the dark ages. Similar to citizen behavior today, the public held a defiant resistance against the power structures of the Dark Ages. The transition to a new culture where each individual participated in society was led by religious liberation from the corrupt and powerful control of Roman Catholicism. The Reformation, led by religious leaders, preached that every person had an equal place in the eyes of God.

Sociologically, human behavior at the time still was constricted by the primitive forms of communication and travel. There were large cities where trading and governance occurred but generally the common citizen was bound to local and regional economics and self-reliance on a day-to-day basis. The term used to cite this culture is ‘communalism’. This was the nature of society in 1778.

What follows is the description of a series of historical moments that changed the economics and social behavior of the public. It can be argued that the troubles of the United States in 2023 are the unintended result of progress.

֎ In 1778 it was virtually impossible for a citizen to communicate with anyone even 50 miles away. Daily responsibility to sustain survival took an immense amount of time, which also limited communication. As a result, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution proposed a distributed form of governance that would allow every citizen to have a say in that governance. Hence the creation of a democratic republic divided into states, counties and districts.

The intent, philosophically, was to have each district contribute political or legislative needs and elected representatives that would be submitted to the county, then to the state. Each state then met with all the other states to pass legislation that accommodated local needs for the entire nation. In 1778, this process allowed each citizen, in principal, to participate in governing the nation in a way that accommodated a locally isolated society. The flow of information and decision making rose from the local communities, processed by the next level of governance and finally to represent national policies.

֎ In 1827 The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad opened its lines. The isolated nature of communal economics changed rapidly. Especially in agriculture, it was possible to integrate farm produce in quantities that required processing companies and much wider distribution to the end user. The local farmer was not dependent just on local markets to sustain his financial security. The bottom-up politics of communal economy had been displaced; processing corporations influenced many different districts, counties and states, often appealing directly to states and the national government. Further, transportation was a new political force that influenced national politics without the need to follow the bottom-up philosophy of democracy.

֎ From April 12, 1861 – April 26, 1865 the American Civil War caused severe damage to the idea of local self-sustenance. The war destroyed many communities and killed more than 600,000 soldiers (comparable to 7 million in today’s population). At the end of the war many did not or could not return home. Despite the truce that ended the war, the philosophy of a democratic republic continued to suffer because of racism and unwanted intrusion in Confederate states by the national government. Communalistic representation suffered a permanent change in daily life.

Even today the political scars remain that cause the two-party system to operate inappropriately in light of the philosophy of a democratic republic.

֎ The next culture-changing advancement in progress was the telegraph and telephone. The first public network was organized in 1877. Before 1877, if one wished to talk to another, it had to be face-to-face. Today, in 2023, we can recognize this new telecommunication device to be the first version of the smartphone! One more reason not to harness the pony and ride a mile and a half down the road.

As with all types of progress that covered many voting districts, the job of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was removed from communal economics and was, politically at least, in the hands of corporations. Retrospectively, one can see that the nation was quickly replacing democracy with corporatism.

֎ The ultimate collapse of communalism and bottom-up democracy was caused by the internal combustion engine. No one needed to keep the pony around anymore. State fairs became popular and represented the local remnants of communalism – just as they do today. Still, it was a burden to travel too far on two lane roads that meandered from town to town having followed old roads from one community to another (Remember Route 66? It was started by Indians.). The two World Wars facilitated shifts in population to support industries needed by the wars, causing a breakup and redistribution of communal families. But the final blow came when Ike created the Interstate system. One could travel on roads that were not managed by states – only by national government contracts.

A ghost of the past is sustained by air travel. Remember your parents who still live in the old home where you were born? It takes an airplane to get there and back in a reasonable time.

So here we are today with an electorate that has no voting power. Political opinion no longer comes from dialogue within a community. The power lies with corporations and the wealthy class who fund very expensive campaigns most local people cannot afford and forces the communal person to pick from television ads, biased news programs and gaming strategies like gerrymandering and avoiding term limits. One recent suggestion is rank voting, which may help with the act of voting, but will not repair communalism, aka democracy.

It is time to have a constitutional convention. Yes, the mariner is as afraid of such an event as anyone. The reality is, however, that democracy doesn’t work anymore. What is the new equality? What is the new ‘all men are created equal’? How do we get there from here? Will wearing a gaming goggle help?

Ancient Mariner





Getting bored with the same old news?

The reader can probably quote the subject of the top four headlines without turning the television on. Give it a try. Here is a sample: Trump, Biden, climate disaster and cost of living; there are variations. The news is tiring so let’s get some new news:

Peak solar activity is arriving sooner than expected, reaching levels not seen in 20 years. The Sun’s flare-ups can threaten satellites and electric grids, highlighting need for better forecasts.

Corporatism has arrived. Crazy Elon Musk has the same power to redirect the Ukraine war as crazy Vladimir Putin.

Meet your new gossipy neighbor ChatGPT: In April, lawyers for the airline Avianca noticed something strange. A passenger, Robert Mata, had sued the airline, alleging that a serving cart on a flight had struck and severely injured his left knee, but several cases cited in Mata’s lawsuit didn’t appear to exist. The judge couldn’t verify them, either. It turned out that ChatGPT had made them all up, fabricating names and decisions. One of Mata’s lawyers, Steven A. Schwartz, had used the chatbot as an assistant—his first time using the program for legal research—and, as Schwartz wrote in an affidavit, “was unaware of the possibility that its content could be false.”

A special on PBS explored the phenomenon that many species of fish, amphibians,birds and mammals are morphing themselves to meet new requirements to survive our man-made biosphere. After all, they have to pay cash . . .

For more unique news, turn to your local newspaper – if you still have one.

Ancient Mariner

All over again

We live in a time of change, no doubt about it. Not just the normal change between generations or the systemic changes brought on by cyclical weather eras or the changes in economics brought on by political shifts. Today it is a time of change commensurate with the first time, about 15,000 years ago, when humans discovered economic trade and the political advantages that went with it; nomadic cultures quickly disappeared.

Today is a time of change commensurate with the technology of the printing press when, for the first time, ideas and history were available to the common citizen, not exclusive only to the tiny elite of theorists and theologists. At a time when the Americas were discovered, the Great Awakening, the Reformation, and the Industrial Revolution rapidly emerged and changed human life around the world.

Today is a time of change commensurate with the invention of the internal combustion engine in a global moment when natural resources were unlimited – allowing global trade and global warfare, and the quick dissipation of tribalism replaced by a new wave of politics called colonialism.

Today, computer-based communication replaces the printing press; today, advances in travel, technology and economics have released a new age of exploration – not across the oceans but from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere.

Today, global politics enters a new age when nationalism will be replaced by corporatism.

Today, an uncontrolled warming of the planet replaces cyclical weather eras.

Today, the number of humans on the planet exceeds the limits of the planet’s environment.

Today, the era of European white dominance will shift to a non-white majority, leaving the United States in a disadvantaged position because of its intense racism.

One wonders what the next era of change will look like, starting all over again.

Ancient Mariner

Time Travel

If you remember the melody, sing the lyrics – out loud with enthusiasm!

[Verse 1]
Oh Stewball was a racehorse
And I wish he were mine
He never drank water
He always drank wine
[Verse 2]
His bridle was silver
His mane it was gold
And the worth of his saddle
Has never been told
[Verse 3]
Oh the fairgrounds were crowded
And Stewball was there
But the betting was heavy
On the bay and the mare
[Verse 4]
And a-way up yonder
Ahead of them all
Came a-prancin’ and a-dancin’
My noble Stewball
[Verse 5]
I bet on the grey mare
I bet on the bay
If I’d have bet on ol’ Stewball
I’d be a free man today
. . . .
Peter, Paul and Mary, 1963
. . . .
Ancient Mariner

Let’s all get together

Mariner visited his primary care physician yesterday. He is an excellent doctor and has become a friend. The first thing he wanted to do in his office was show mariner photographs he had taken at the annual West Point Military Academy reunion where graduates return every year for a large get together that includes a hike of many miles. The photographs suggested there were thousands at the reunion. The doctor’s pictures reflected that he had a great time and really enjoyed meeting again with fellow compatriots, officers he had served under, and the professors at the academy. It was obvious that the experience reaffirmed his sense of self, of his image as equal among many.

The doctor’s enthusiasm led mariner to remember the good times he had when, as a teenager, he was a lifeguard at a church camp. The camp had five-day programs for various ages where students stayed in camp cabins for the whole program. On Monday, most students didn’t know one another; there were obvious cliques from the same church but the whole group did not reflect unanimity or familiarity. By Friday, the students had become animated, gregarious and liked nothing more than the camp-wide marshmallow roasts, free time mingling on the beach and having a camp-wide lunch on the lawn on Friday. Clearly, the campers experienced the same affirmation as the doctor did.

Mariner also was reminded of Ted Danson’s show ‘Cheers’. The theme for the show tells it all:
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

All those nights when you’ve got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by its tail;
And your third fiance didn’t show;

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee’s dead;
The morning’s looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn’t even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl;

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

There is a special affirmation that can only be experienced in a common, unified group. After all, we are a tribal species!

What creates the opportunity for reaffirmation is twofold: everyone is subject to a common discipline; the Academy and the camp staff set the rules. The lesson is this: Democracy is a bottom up philosophy. The common experience is each individual at a voting station. Democracy fails to provide reaffirmation when it is no longer a common experience and unity is no longer available. Today, democracy is weakened by top down, fragmenting actions caused by a government run by money and TV advertising instead of citizens gathering to discuss issues in a place ‘where everybody knows your name’. Weakened democracy is also caused by authoritarianism and excessive capitalism – practices where nobody cares what your name is. Forget the television and talk to neighbors and citizen groups, in a place where everybody knows your name.

Ancient Mariner



Who is guaranteed to vote for Donald?

Ranchers because the ‘government’ keeps replenishing wolves in their pastures.

Moralists who think ‘government’ isn’t doing its job when a woman chooses to abort her pregnancy.

States Rightists who think ‘government’ is too nosy when it says things like “everyone must wear a mask”.

Gun aficionados who are afraid the ‘government’ will outlaw guns.

Technical corporations who don’t want the ‘government’ to have access to their records and algorithms.

Pharmaceutical corporations who don’t want Medicare negotiating prices.

Isolationists who believe the ‘government’ has one function: print money.

Wealthy citizens who back the above antagonists so ‘government’ won’t be able to restructure taxes on the wealthy.

“Government’ neglect of a labor class that has lost everything since 1980.

NIMBYs who don’t want the ‘government’ to loosen housing regulations to let multiple family housing in their neighborhood.

Anti-democracy opportunists who like plutocracy and authoritarianism so the ‘government’ can forget discretionary funding.

This collection of voters will dominate policies until the Z generation can take over.

Ancient Mariner

Regarding the Apocalypse


Mariner’s alter ego Guru, responsible for wide ranging philosophical and futuristic insights, claimed in a recent post that the Apocalypse already has begun. There have been queries about definition.

From his safe house in Chicken Little’s hen house, mariner will lay out the timeline implied by Guru.

It all began innocently 2 million years ago when a new species evolved that had a growing brain. The species was Homo. 1 million years ago, Homo began splitting into variations. Many failed to sustain themselves and became extinct but a few with names like Neanderthal, Habilis, Australopithecus and Erectus survived into the age of humans. Together they would become Homo sapiens.

In those days, Homo had no choice but to live within the natural confines of their habitat. Living a plenteous life in an agreeable environment, a typical lifespan was about 40 years. Homo’s predators were meat eaters, infections and serious injury.

These characteristics are similar to the few indigenous tribes that still exist in remote areas of Africa and South America. These tribes to this day sustain themselves only with the restorative resources their environment provides.

About 10,000 years ago, Homo discovered how to grow more grain than he needed, hence the beginning of commerce by acquiring more grain than would be consumed by a local tribe. In a subtle way, this is the first abuse of the natural relationship between Homo and the environment.

Centuries roll by and Homo learns more ways to consume the environment beyond his natural relationship with nature. Homo extracted from nature other creatures like donkeys, horses, and wolves that would help expand the ability to acquire excessive amounts of Nature’s resources. Then Homo discovered iron, tin, lead and carbon-based energy. Now Homo could consume many times his need from Nature. Homo was consuming Nature faster than Nature could replenish itself.

This imbalance was the seed that has grown into the apocalypse we have today.

After I million years of living in accordance with the rules of Nature, in the last 1,000 years, Homo has trashed Nature; Homo has trashed the basic tribal society; Homo has trashed multiple generations that cohabit as a protective wall against difficult times. Homo quickly learned to ignore Nature and lived by the rule ‘If you can do it, do it’. He developed elaborate tools which, at every step, diminished the evolutionary potential of every Homo. For example, the use of coal and gasoline in the last 150 years has destroyed the security provided by extended family and tribe (town economy). Its method was to produce trains, automobiles, mechanized, oversized farms, superhighways and national and globally based industries.

In just 150 years the apocalypse gained speed. Isolated nuclear families became the norm – left defenseless without the human support of multiple generations and tribal support. Giant corporations became the norm, slowly eliminating local economies, local jobs and the existential satisfaction found in smaller towns and cities.

In the last 175 years, the apocalypse has shifted into a higher gear. 16,000 species are extinct because of Homo indifference. Around the world potable water is becoming scarce. Seafood from the oceans is 20 percent of what it was 100 years ago. And obviously the excess use of fossil fuel has launched serious changes in air quality and of the planet generally.

But in this century the chains are off. What easy transportation did to tribes, the Internet is doing to society. Communication technology makes war easier and more horrific; interpersonal skills and rewards are replaced by artificial behavior that dismisses 1 million years of evolutionary sophistication; privacy and security are fallacious assumptions.

Now a new age is upon us: artificial intelligence (AI). AI can emulate the entire reality of Homo. The final bridge to the apocalypse is that AI can reproduce itself. Who needs Homo?

Ancient Mariner


Possession is nine tenths

Does the reader feel a slight comforting breeze? Just for a second, nothing that will turn around climate or political heat. Whoops, it’s gone. Nevertheless, being able to see a cloud in a blue sky through bomb smoke can give hope for survival.

The breeze he mentions is the slowly shifting opinions of the electorate regarding the economy (inflation fading and a stable job market) immigration (least in two years), and the lowest crime rate in two years. Surely this is enough to cause a small breeze in these cynical times.

It seems this subtle improvement in democratic party performance has chopped the toenails off republican assaults on old man Biden.

Poor Joe. He’s almost as old as mariner. He has trick knees just like mariner. His accomplishments, just like mariner’s battle with rabbits, are an uphill battle.

But what would the electorate prefer – comfortable old, worn out slippers that have earned their trust or a pair of hard leather slippers with a sole of thumbtacks? (that means Joe versus the big D)?

Given a disease-infected republican party, given the lawsuits dragging on about Donald’s veracity, given the religious fervor of the anti-wokes, Joe’s old-style legislating may be a cloud in the blue sky until the rabid right fades.

The liberal side of the democratic party has chosen, wisely, not to go to war with the conservatives; they are waiting for a shift in political wind. That shift undoubtedly will come as Mother Nature continues to wreak havoc with human behavior.

Neither party knows what to do about AI or an economy without fossil fuel. Mariner suggests the electorate stay with Joe, a man who by himself overcame stuttering.

Mind you, this is the ONLY exception to mariner’s first rule of voting – given a choice, always vote for the candidate under 35 years of age.

From his apartment in Chicken Little’s hen house,

Ancient Mariner

About Fabric

Has the reader noticed that among cloth generally, there are many different fabrics? Each has a unique feel to it. For example, one can clearly tell the difference between silk and denim, or suede and wool, or nylon and hemp. What if, in fact, all cloth felt the same? Would that not really matter? Cloth is cloth and it’s the fashion that is important; it’s usability for whatever; it’s the style that counts; it’s what is popular that matters more.

In virtually every fiction book and film where mariner has observed ‘the future of mankind’, the plot is about humans becoming nondescript, that is, the fabric of life changes. It happens in a piecemeal way. Consider what effect the internal combustion engine had on daily society: Towns no longer had to be only twenty miles apart because that was the limit of a day’s horse ride; agriculture shifted from local market to national market; shared resources among large, stationary families shifted to independent career income no longer bound to the home town or the family.

Even the fabric of riverside cities changed from river shipping to rail, leaving dozens of river towns with dwindling resources. Today local business, the enjoyment of life, the vitality of society is a pale remembrance. Perhaps it could be said these towns lost their fabric.

Readers will quickly challenge loss of fabric versus endless increases in the economy, freedom of new life opportunities, better health services, etc. After all, it’s not about fabric, it’s usability, fashion and style that counts.

Several months ago he read a book, ‘The Way Home – tales from a life without technology’ by Mark Boyle. It is an accounting of Boyle, an economist, who deliberately spent three years without money – zero dollars. The only economy he had was what he could muster with his own hands. What gave him the idea to retreat from industrial society was that he was aware of what it took to pump a glass of water from the ground; it required steel, copper, plastic, dams and endless pipelines including what to do with wastewater. It wasn’t about Mark Boyle being thirsty nor was it about any other individual being thirsty. Individuals were nothing more than a device used to discharge water from a very large, self-important industry.

His key discovery was that the farther away a human is from his core, natural environment, the more damage is done to that environment. His second discovery was that the few families that were close enough to his cabin to interact, were genuinely friendly and willing to help Boyle survive in his stark environment. He and his few neighbors came first instead of last. They had human fabric.

For more philosophical insight into the idea that humans are at the center of life, not abusive corporate trashing of the biosphere, read Gandhi.

Ancient Mariner